Re: Dojo loyalty or personal gain?
Being the head instructor in a dojo is a lot like being a parent. While you want to keep the top students with you forever, it is neither possible nor good for all involved. Think of the few cases where children have lived with their parents all their lives and it was a successful relationship for all involved. Mostly, if such a case happens, it is not the best thing for the child but it is nice for the parent who doesn't want to let the child go.
At some point in an Aikidoist's life, they have to leave the old dojo and start their own. That is how Aikido grows and comes up with the many different and wonderful interpretations of Aikido that now exist. Remember, requisite diversity from ecology, genetics, and business.
I have had students who wanted to stay but I had to kick them out to start their own life and own Aikido career. I usually try and have them leave on their own when they are ready. If they stay at the dojo, they will stagnate and the dojo will stagnate with them. The best time for them to leave is when their energy is the highest and they are in the mood to start their own dojo. On the other hand, it is sometimes a matter for their own growth to go and do something else for a while. I never worry about those people because if they were meant to come back to Aikido at some time, they will come back. Right now, I am trying to get my son to go and take up Hapkido for a while to develop some skills that he is lacking. He will come back to Aikido and/or Kendo when he is ready.
This can be confusing for the lower ranking Kohai who see their Sempais leaving for some unknown reason. If there is a good Sempai/Kohai relationship, I would expect the Kohai to go with his/her Sempai and help them develop the new dojo. If the Kohai has no strong relationship with any of the leaving Sempais, the student should stay with the old dojo.
I remember being told about some of the Shihans when a dai-Sempai left the Aikikai. His Kohai had a choice and some of them went and others stayed in Aikikai. One of his closest Kohai stayed. And the Kohai of that Kohai went with the dai-Sempai. The problem was, the lower level Kohai then left the dai-Sempai and went out on his own. It was the view of the upper level Kohai that the lower level Kohai should either have stayed in the Aikikai or stayed with the dai-Sempai instead of heading out on his own. It made the lower level Kohai look like someone with little loyalty to anyone and one that just wanted to get a higher rank quickly by moving into a vaccuum.
The problem of the Sempai leaving is that it often creates an unstoppable leakage of dojo members. If the dojo is used to having the Sempai leave after a while, everyone gets used to the leakage and the dojo doesn't break up. If the dojo never gets used to it and there is a massive migration and quitting each time some Sempai leave, it becomes a closed loop problem system, a self-reinforcing cycle and the dojo dies out. My solution was to constantly be sending people out to keep people used to the ebb and flow of dojo life.
In a similar vein, I have begun to think that it is not a good idea to leave a dojo to any one student. I tend to favour a process now, when leaving a dojo area to move somewhere else, where I simply kick everyone out, close the doors and have the Sempai create their own new dojos. I have found that trying to leave a dojo to one student results in infighting among people who think they deserve to have the leadership of the dojo (and I don't know why anyone would want this if they knew what being a head instructor entails), or the slow death of the dojo.
A head instructor leaves much of their personality in a dojo. The dojo is his/hers and carries the stamp of that head instructor's personality. It is extremely difficult for any student to come and pick up where that Sensei left off because the new Sensei cannot be the old Sensei. The new Sensei has to slowly change the dojo until it takes on his/her character. It is quicker and easier to just shut the old one down and start up a new one that embodies the blood, sweat, and tears of the new Sensei. If you don't the old dojo just starts to bleed people who wish to hold on to the memories and feeliings of the old dojo. Kill the old dojo and grow a new one in the character and spirit of the members of the new dojo. Of course, there will be several new dojos that have different feels about them as the different Sempai create very different dojos from each other. This is natural and the way that Aikido grows. From the ashes of one old arises two or more new dojos that grow and rise to the level of the old one.
To do this, it requires students who are willing to sacrifice their blood, sweat, tears, and finances to start that new dojo. Hopefully, the Sempai will have learned from their old Sensei how to develop Kohai in this manner and will have the membership power to develop that new dojo in their mould.
To the Anonymous user: what you feel is the natural ebb and flow of the life of a dojo. There is nothing wrong with you or your dojo. What you have to do is figure out who you are most loyal to and go with them. If it is one of the Sempai who left, be loyal and go with them. If it is the old dojo, be loyal and stay with it. Just don't go hopping from one place to another trying to find what you lost. You won't find it. What you have to do is now re-build the energy in the fashion you want it, either in a new dojo or in the old one. As the Sempai have left, new Sempai will have to take over. Maybe you are one of them? You now have a chance to re-create the dojo in the manner you want it to be.