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Old 03-25-2006, 04:11 AM   #7
Young-In Park
Location: Santa Ana, CA
Join Date: Oct 2000
Posts: 60
Re: Beginners Retention Rates

A former instructor said if students "don't know how to roll, there's no one to party with."

It took me a couple of years to develop a systematic way to teach ukemi to beginners. I took beginners to a corner of the mat and taught them how to roll.

I first practiced teaching with children. When I started, there were about five to ten children enrolled in the children's "program." When I stopped teaching, there were about thirty children, of various ages and ranks, enrolled.

When I tried to implement the same teaching strategies with adults, I met fierce resistance. Not from the beginners, but from other instructors. In spite of their resistance, I singlehandedly taught all the beginners in the dojo how to roll. I was even able to teach those (even the most reluctant ukes) already in the dojo how to do breakfalls.

Since I wasn't the most politically correct person in the dojo, I was passed up for promotion. Then I was constantly reminded that I had to listen to those who were ranked higher than me, although they had less experience. I was expected to listen to an instructor who taught kumitachi to beginners who were on the mat for the first time for their first ever aikido class.

About three years ago, I told the chief instructor that the dojo was losing beginning students because they were being thrown into the fray too quickly. He wanted to survey the former students as to why they left the dojo...

During the time I was teaching beginners in the corner of the mat, the dojo made a modest profit every year. Due to a difference of opinion, I left the dojo about a year and half ago. At a recent meeting, it was noted the dojo is now breaking even. When speculating as to the reason, someone said the beginners are not sticking around as long as they used to because no one is teaching them.

Although it isn't as bad as it was before, the adult program has a lot of white belts (beginners), very few mid ranked students (6th - 3rd kyu) and a lot of high ranked students (2nd kyu and above).

I thought this was a peculiar situation unique to this particular dojo. However, I've seen variants on the same operating philosophy at other dojos.

Basically a dojo should teach beginners how to stretch, roll and some exercies (ie aiki taiso & how to punch) before throwing them into the general dojo population.

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