Re: Need advice/new guy to area's dojo
There is some very excellent aikido down here in South Florida. I'm not sure who you are talking about or where you are (you mentioned Key West? So you are in South Florida somewhere), but if you are a little further North than Key West there are two very good USAF dojos in the Miami area -- Miami Aikikai and Gold Coast Aikikai. (There are a couple of others down there but I'm not familiar with them.) They both focus on hard training and people from those two dojos have some very strong aikido. Eliot Rifkin is the main sensei at Miami Aikikai and won't admit to being head instructor in deference to Nelson Andujar. I've noticed that the folks in Gold Coast Aikikai are very close knit and the Sensei, Weewow Dumlow, has very strong and centered technique. In Ft. Lauderdale you have Florida Aikikai, my dojo and Iwama-style Aikido of South Florida with Stephanie Yap. In West Palm Beach, there is Palm Beach Aikikai under Richard Wagner. The folks at Palm Beach Aikikai are pretty close knit, too. In Boca Raton there is Josh Drachman with the ASU. Josh used to teach at our dojo, but decided to start his own school. His aikido is great, and I believe he trains rather closely with Saotome Sensei.
At Florida Aikikai, we have two beginners and two basics classes. The basics are at higher pace than the beginners but not as intense as the regular mixed classes where you'll find more yudansha. However, all senior students are expected to go at the pace of the junior and to help them out -- especially in the basics classes. In the mixed classes, sensei does often demonstrate and then sit back and watch. He seems to really only step in if we are having a real problem otherwise he will let you work things out. If everyone is having a problem and we are demonstrating "group-cluelessness" then he will stop the class and explain in more detail.
If you are in Key West driving to Miami will be tough as it's about a three hour drive, but please try to come up for seminars. Palm Beach Aikikai is hosting Yamada Sensei in February and Gold Coast Aikikai will have one tenatively in May. We'll probably have another one (we just had Claude Berthiaume Sensei) in August/ September some time.
Also, I want to say that switching dojos can be difficult as you are entering another "culture". Consider yourself in "dojo culture" shock and keep an open mind. I switched dojos because of a move after starting aikido for six months, and I found it a little hard to adapt as I went from a very small to a rather large dojo and from a "soke-aikijutsu" style to a "traditional" Aikikai school. I found that starting over and just training anew was my best bet. Now, I'm in pretty close with the sensei and folks in the dojo.
Last edited by giriasis : 01-20-2005 at 08:22 PM.