Thread: Aikido Frauds
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Old 12-20-2004, 05:52 PM   #24
Dojo: Seattle Ki Society
Location: Seattle
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 522
Re: Aikido Frauds

The difficulty with invoking lineage is that anyone can lie about lineage, and it's going to be *really* hard to educate the public to tell the difference between a legit organization and a fictional one. (I subscribe to a charity rating report, and one of the recurring patterns is bogus charities with names very similar to legit ones.)

One pleasing thing I learned when I started subscribing to this report is that I'd never given money to any of the organizations they downrated. I was looking for warning signs in the solicitations, and apparently always managed to spot them. Perhaps we would do better to focus public education efforts on things that people can observe for themselves when they visit a school:

--Is the teacher generally respectful of other styles and organizations, and open to his students studying elsewhere, or is he dismissive and disparaging? Will he let students attend seminars elsewhere? I know that there are legit schools which prefer their students not to cross-train, but even they should be willing to suggest comparison-shopping to complete newcomers.

--Do the claims sound too good to be true? I recently looked at a dojo website which said "We guarantee that you will not be injured." Common sense should suggest that where there's one unreasonable claim, there will be others.

--Does the sensei come across as trying to sell you something? Does he use high-pressure tactics, extravagent promises, etc? Does he ask for unreasonably long initial contracts or high initial expenses? In my experience, reputable schools start off with fairly modest dues (dollar amounts vary by area) and may increase the financial committment for senior students, but fly-by-night schools often want the money up front--for obvious reasons.

--Are the students relatively happy, confident, and open? Or do they seem afraid of their teacher or each other, demoralized, sullen, or secretive?

--Are you allowed to watch classes before signing up?

This is stuff that if people knew it, would help them with more than aikido; and I suspect it will weed out most of the questionable aikido schools pretty well. And it doesn't get into issues with legitimate and excellent independent dojo (I've visited several of these) the way that pure tests of lineage and/or organizational membership do.

It's a sad truth, though, that if someone is ripe to be scammed, someone will come along to scam him. (I lost $125 to a scammer who managed to catch me half an hour after I had all four wisdom teeth pulled. They have an amazing nose for vulnerability.) In some ways the best we can do is to run our own dojo with the utmost responsibility and honesty, and try to shine by contrast. We can't really protect the public from itself.

Mary Kaye
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