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Old 05-20-2004, 10:44 AM   #23
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: Ask not, what your dojo can do for you..

What is a "dojo"? It literally means "Way Hall" or a Hall in which one pursues the Way. In the case of a martial artist the Way is the Path of Budo. This is a Path that demands total commitment and dedication. It is how you structure your life. The people you share this with are an extension of your family.

A gym is not normally a Dojo, it's a place where you work out. You can make friends there but they are not normally a kind of family. Most gyms are commercial businesses, the owners aren't the peopel who are training you. The trainers are employees who are there specifically to be trainers. There's no particular personal investment either way. It's just about the money.

A dojo is not "just about the money". Anyone who thinks that they are paying for lessons doesn't get it. I am a professional Aikido instructor. I make half in a year what I would have made in my previous career which I gave up to focus on my training. In fact, if I were at the place in another profession which I am at in my Aikido, I would make three or four times what I make running a dojo and teaching. What little I do make I tend to spend on my practice. Camps, seminars, videos, books, video production equipment, etc.

A student who pays his dues isn't even coming close to paying for my time. What he is paying for is the opportunity to be part of a community of like minded folks who are serious about pursuing a Path which demands far more commitment than writing a check each month. The money from dues pays for the basics of keeping the doors open in a dojo. It covers the rent, utilities, the advertising which keeps the new folks coming in, etc. In addition it supports me in my training. By being a professional instructor I am able to spend far more time on my training than I ever could have when I had an outside career. My students benefit from that. They benefit when I go off to Camp and come back with new things to work on. They benefit when I have time to read another book about O-sensei etc.

The dojo may be the way I support myself (in part) but it is a place that on a spiritual and emotional level belongs to everyone in the dojo. I came back from Christmas break a couple years ago and found a ribbon on the door. As my Christmas present (it was the ten year anniversary of the dojo) the students had literally remodelled the dojo. There was a new mat cover, UV coverings on all the windows, a new pergo floor on the walkway, new storage closets in the back room, new coverings on the benches and dressing room doors and more. I hadn't done a thing. It was all done by the students over the break. There's no way I could ever have done something like this myself; it took a collective effort of folks who really care about the space they train in. In fact each year the student have done something to improve the space themselves with no input from me.

Now I am blessed with wonderful, commited students. They know the difference between a gym and a dojo. The dojo is a place for your personal practice. You will get out of the place no more than you put in. Pay your dues, train and go home and it won't make a noticeable impact on your life. But really put your heart into the place and your training and the dojo will be a place that occupies a space in your heart that is unlike any other. If you don't feel like you are getting enough out of your training or your teacher, the first thing to ask yourslef is how much your are putting in. Paying your dues and showing up for class is just providing the opportunity, what you do with the opportunity goes way beyond that.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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