Re: Poll: How important is running an aikido dojo as a business?
Good points. I honestly don't know much about how the Clergy makes it money. Your idea of the "long-term, aikido-centered" view is spot on. The dojo must survive, thrive and grow for the sake of the art, not to serve the interests of the instructor. The politics unfortunately comes anytime people try to work together. Aikido organizations exist in order to help individual dojos survive by providing support systems and legitimacy to the practice. There are some organizations that apply strict guidelines on the member dojos and other organizations that do not. But, the politics is involved in all of them, and has to be dealt with. You are quite correct about the "burn out and exhaustion" that comes with trying to maintain a fulltime job, teach Aikido and maintain a healthy family. Somehow, it all works though.
I understand Si's reservation's about diluting the art, but you have to be careful you don't denigrate into what I like to call "Martial Snobbery". No martial art is fixed. Even the stalwart, venerated "Koryu Bujutsu" evolve and adapt as the times change or they fade out. There are some Aikido folks that disparage the 1st Doshu Kissomaru Ueshiba primarily because he opened Aikido to all people, and some believe "softened" the techniques. But, it is Kissomaru Ueshiba who is responsible for the spread of Aikido internationally. Many people walk through the Dojo's entrance for many different reasons. I agree with Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei's belief that Aikido is a very individual thing, when you practice Aikido your practicing "your" Aikido, not "THE" Aikido. Aikido was developed by O Sensei but it belongs to everyone.
I have some very specific and grounded ideas about Aikido, the techniques, and how practice should be conducted. That is how I teach, but when someone joins the dojo with different ideas about Aikido, I don't exclude them from the class. Everyone is there to practice, and there is plenty of room on the mat. You cannot even begin to hope to influence another person if you exclude them completely from the class. If your fitness-minded students come, let them on the mat. You don't change the practice, but you allow them to join. You don't harass them to "do it my way or else get out". You teach them the beauty of the art. If they don't get it they'll leave on their own. If you accept them with an open mind and honest effort, you might actually ignite the same desire for the art that you have. Don't pander to the rich, sycophantic clientele. But, don't kick them out either. Accept them, and you might influence a change in them. If you don't, they'll go their own way and you can go yours.
Just like you maintain your center in your technique, you need to maintain the center of your dojo. The dojo is more than a school, it is a community. It provides a social setting for people to come together and practice a shared interest. Often dojos have more that one instructor, or perhaps a "board of directors" which help to maintain the Dojo's center.
As for the cliché of "living your marital art", I live my life. My "martial art" is part of that life. The philosophical principles of Aikido are not novel, nor is the use of a martial discipline to help shape our lives. People who have never even heard of Aikido employ "aiki" principles every day. While it is nice to feel special or privileged to be practicing aikido, we are neither. While I live my life, I practice my Aikido, and make my living. It is all part of an integrated whole. But, now I'm getting too philosophical and will stop.
One last thought, if Aikido is a way to "reconcile the world", how can you exclude people from the practice…..