at the moment I have the impression that our dojo is doing fine. What does "fine" mean?
I have seen dojos with much better attention, more students, several classes per day, lots of fantastic teachers and high graded students. These range from non-profit to professional ones; to count three - www.aikimode.com
in Turkey, the Aikido Federation of Azerbaijan (www.aikiaz.ru
) and last but no ways least, the Cercle Tissier (www.cercletissier.com)
. We are lightyears away from them, no way to compare.
But then in Brussels there is an aikido dojo at every street corner (alone four aikikai dojos in 10 min biking distance from my house), fees are very cheap and teachers are generally good. I've never seen dojos with the main instructor being 1st kyu or things like that. So, there is lots of competition, and in consequence most dojos are quite small. It's by the way the same for other martial arts.
So, for us, doing fine is having more than half of the students wearing a hakama, all of them being at our dojo for years, and also most of the lower kyus being permanent. Turnover and awol rates are quite low. We got five new white belts with the begin of this season, and all of them purchased a gi (token of commitment...). At normal classes, 10- 15 people show up. There are six kids coming permanently to kids classes, including one of my daughters. And we have four instructors/ assistant instructors between shodan and yondan, which is also fine. We have four classes per week, two for adults/ advanced students, two for children/ beginners. No one is very much in a hurry for passing exams, and there is neither exam stress nor exam fees (for the kyu grades, that is). Some people are not satisfied with training "only" four times per week and complement by training in another dojo. That's also fine.
I remember having dire straits with at first our dojo being under construction (renovation of the university sports complex we belong to) for 18 months, then our main instructor falling ill and having to give up after some months. That cost us something like half the number of students, and there were times we showed up for training with two people, the highest ranking being 4th kyu or so. So at that times I thought our dojo was menaced with extinction, but luckily we got over this, fusioning with another dojo that had problems with the place it rented.
And since then, I'd say, it's improving slowly but continuously. I hope it'll remain like that and if maybe some day we could host more seminars it would be even better. I wish the same to you all!