Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: How One Can Run a Successful Independent Dojo
Reflections on Operating/Owning an Aikido Dojo
Part III: Self-Reflection and Assessment Exercise
Since the aim of this writing is to go beyond mere understanding and to instead fully manifest the aforementioned changes in the real world as a practice, I am going to halt the theorizing for a bit and provide you the reader with some actual things to look for, to observe and identify. I am going to give you an exercise to do, a practice in self-reflection: A dojocho and dojo self-assessment. This exercise goes back to something I said in the first part:
“Now, I’m sure that every Aikido dojocho already believes him/herself to be doing these things, but such is not the case. This is because most dojocho are relying on a certain number of fallacies that actually keep them from being a truly traditional dojo, keep them from catering to the right population market pool, keep them from not prioritizing keeping students over getting new students, and that have them following popular (and inappropriate) commercial trends.”
And, this exercise also goes back to something I said in the second part:
“People by nature and out of fear often come to misidentify the arbitrary and the subjective as the objective and the universal. Restructuring a business, just like structuring a business, requires acts of commitment and bravery. Commitment and bravery is what keeps one from misidentifying the subjective and the arbitrary.”
Please ask and answer:
- Does your dojo smell? Is a foul or any kind of unpleasant odor that a person walking through the door for the first time would detect?
- Is there any clutter in your dojo?
- Is there any damaged property in your dojo?
- Are your dojo bathrooms clean/spotless?
- Is your dojo dirty or dusty?
- Are there cobwebs in your dojo?
- Do deshi follow personal hygiene without reminders?
- Do you or your dojo senpai feel embarrassed or guilty or hesitant when notifying members of etiquette breeches?
- Do deshi leave their uniforms, equipment, and personal belongings in your dojo?
- Do deshi forget their uniforms, equipment, and personal belongings in your dojo?
- Does your dojo have a modern lobby (e.g. chairs or benches and a partitioned off area)?
- Does your dojo have a large lobby? (e.g. 20% of your mat or larger)
- Are your men’s and women’s dressing rooms the same size and of equal access?
- Do all the adult members and mature teenagers in your dojo have a key to your dojo? Do these deshi have access to the mat 24/7?
- Does at least 90% of your current deshi train six to seven days per week?
- Does your deshi core (not the top 10%, not the bottom 10% - however you define that) train four hours or less per day?
- Is your deshi population generally and evenly divided across gender lines or are is there more of one gender than the other?
- Are the following deshi populations in your dojo minority populations in your dojo: People with poor strength-to-weight ratios (e.g. cannot do a pull-up), people with poor mobility (e.g. cannot immediately change levels), people that train four days per week two hours per day or less?
- Do you use membership contracts?
- Do you utilize a ranking system?
- Do you use testing fees?
- Do you host seminars?
- Do you take walk-in deshi?
- Do you use collection services?
- Do you use electronic deposit for your membership dues?
- Is your etiquette fully followed without incident?
- Do new members do their own thing or do you observe them immediately following suit with other deshi?
- Is there talking on your mat while training?
- Do you have people on the mat in classes that provide instruction to their partners?
- Do deshi appear fine with stopping during training?
- Do you have people in the lobby of your dojo that provide instruction or assistance to people on the mat?
- Do your deshi call you by your first name?
- Do you deshi refer to you as “sensei” outside of the dojo when speaking to you?
- Does your dojo have a teaching cadre for your adult and advanced teen program?
- Is your dojo financially surviving on your children’s program?
- Is your children’s program geared around or includes entertainment and daycare aspects?
- Do you hold kids program sleep-overs in the dojo?
- Do you have or sell dojo merchandise?
- Do you mark up wholesale discounts to retail prices?
- Does your children’s program consist of over 30 kids?
- Are parents of child members self-inclined to interact with you as if they were a deshi?
- Does your dojo offer classes seven days per week?
- Does your weekly Adult schedule include: Mediation; Striking; Ne-Waza; Kihon-Waza; Live Training Environments; Weapons (traditional and modern); Strength and Mobility-Oriented Body Conditioning (separate from all other classes); Required Readings, Studying of Strategy, Tactics, History, Philosophy, and Religion; and Topical Discussions?
- Are there striking bags, pads, and makiwara in your dojo?
- Do 90% of your adult deshi own a suburito?
- Are your mats filled during most of your classes (think 90%)?
- Do you have weekday evening classes regularly attended by less than five deshi?
- Are your classes drill-oriented/practice-oriented or are they discussion and analysis oriented?
- Do deshi keep a committed training schedule and make it known to you?
- Are there black belts in your dojo that you don’t believe should have a black belt?
- Are there deshi in your dojo that feel they are martial able but you feel are not?
- Do deshi notifiy you beforehand if they are going to miss a class they regularly attend?
- Do deshi train more regularly regardless of the calendar or do they train more periodically? (e.g. for an exam, on the weekend, during the work week, during a vacation, etc.)
- Is your dojo religion free?
- If there is a religious aspect in your dojo, is it tribal based or universal?
- Do deshi see injury as being caused by uke or by nage or by both?
- Are your classes organized thematically and in an integrated fashion according to attendees or do you decide topics by other means (e.g. kihon lexicon, testing requirements, etc.)
- Do you have self-defense classes?
- Do you have women’s or men’s classes?
- Do you have advanced classes?
- Are your children’s classes attended by your adult members?
- Do your advanced teens also regularly attend your adult classes?
- Do your deshi go to train in other dojo or do students from other dojo come to train in your dojo?
- Does your dojo culture survive fully intact at dojo parties and gatherings outside of classes and off of the mat?
- Is 10% or more of your instruction verbiage addressing what is done in other dojo or in other arts?
- Are nutrition (low-carb, low-cal, anti-inflammator, performance driven, etc.), sleep discipline (8-9 hours per night), operational fitness (strength and mobility oriented), and worldview (i.e. East Asian – Yin/Yang, Tao, Emptiness, Self-reliance, Confucian, Zen, Purity/Pollution, etc.) part of your deshi’s daily practice?
- Do the children of your adult members train in the dojo?
- Do people visiting your dojo feel your deshi are open and kind?
- Do your deshi bring in members or do they almost never bring in new members?
- Are you accepting new dojo members throughout the year?
- Are you receiving new dojo members throughout the year?
Start here, answer these. Then, in the next segment I will let you know what I hold certain answers to be, whether they are conducive to our goals or contrary to them. Some may seem very obvious in that regard, but others are not so obvious and/or are totally beyond initial considerations. Following that, I will briefly take us back to some theory, including defining key words as “martial,” “Budo,” “Aikido,” etc. From there, I will provide you with several actual policies and practices we use at Senshin Center – which is what prompted these writings in the first place.
More to follow…