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Old 01-31-2008, 10:57 AM   #1
mathewjgano
 
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Business and Budo

Hi folks,
I'm curious about how traditional Budo relates to running the business of teaching it. Somewhere I've picked up the notion that fees charged should be minimal and that the primary effort should be the spreading of this useful practice. I'm not saying this is necessarily the way it should be and I can understand as much as anyone about the need to support oneself, so i don't want to come off as overly idealistic.
I'd really like to hear from the folks who already run a dojo (or have run one), what are your views on this relationship? Do you think capitalism should be the primary drive (ie-making as much money as possible) or should it only serve the bottom line?
Sincerely,
Matthew

Gambarimashyo!
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Old 01-31-2008, 11:36 AM   #2
Will Prusner
 
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Re: Business and Budo

With the possibility of sounding overly idealistic:

I feel that anybody with pure and righteous intentions, who is motivated and desires to improve themselves in any way should be able to do so, regardless of their financial situation.

p.s. - i clearly do NOT run a dojo.

Last edited by Will Prusner : 01-31-2008 at 11:37 AM. Reason: added info

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Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration...

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Old 01-31-2008, 03:01 PM   #3
kironin
 
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Re: Business and Budo

Quote:
William Prusner wrote: View Post
With the possibility of sounding overly idealistic:

I feel that anybody with pure and righteous intentions, who is motivated and desires to improve themselves in any way should be able to do so, regardless of their financial situation.
As one who does run a dojo,

First, before you make this proclamation, find me a space with no bills.

Second, invent a device that allows me to instantly detect all such students with such qualities that are worthy of a free ride. That includes them sticking around for years and paying back by teaching future generations for free, etc.

------------------------

There is at least one thread on aikiweb that discusses this in much detail. I have actually had students that profess poverty to get a financial break that I later learned exaggerated their situation. Sad situation but it happens. As long as fees are within reason, I would say if it is really important to you, you will find a way to pay even it means a second job, etc. I am not terribly sympathetic. Learning aikido or any art/passion is not a right.

------

Now if you really want to talk about traditional budo, first go back one step from Aikido (not traditional), to Daito Ryu, my understanding is that Takeda Sensei charged per technique. It was also fortunate that M. Ueshiba Sensei had a wealthy family member to bankroll him, training with Takeda Sensei for an extended period of time meant housing and feeding him everyday.

Go back to really traditional, well you better be family or my clan, and the feudal system means in the clan the teacher got a healthy payment of rice per year.

-------

IMO, these ideas of not compensating the teacher are not traditional at all.

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Old 02-01-2008, 06:51 AM   #4
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Re: Business and Budo

It's my understanding that a security consultant teaching self defence can charge 250-300 a day so the commercial value of these kinds of skills is far in excess of what instructors actually charge.
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Old 02-02-2008, 04:09 AM   #5
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Re: Business and Budo

Quote:
Craig Hocker wrote: View Post
IMO, these ideas of not compensating the teacher are not traditional at all.
I agree that compensation has always been there. One way or another, people have always had to feed and shelter themselves and to take time to teach another person takes time away from those basic needs. When I haven't been able to afford training dues at my dojo I have done work as trade.
What do you think about where the line should be drawn regarding surplus income? I know many economists would argue that as long as enough people are willing to pay an amount, that amount is the correct one. I tend to disagree with that idea pretty strongly, but I tend to be more socialy minded too. I wouldn't call myself a socialist, but i do feel that everyone within a society owes a certain debt to the society in which they live and that they ideally should do what they can to help the people around them since it's through proximity that any individual directly interacts with society at large. This is where I start to find myself agreeing with the idea that certain forms of education ought be available to everyone. I don't think it's some kind of natural law people must obey, simply that it's better than the alternative.
I'm tired and probably not making much sense so I'll head off to bed now.
Take care folks, and thanks for the food for thought.

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Old 02-05-2008, 11:48 AM   #6
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Business and Budo

Quote:
Alex Lawrence wrote: View Post
It's my understanding that a security consultant teaching self defence can charge 250-300 a day so the commercial value of these kinds of skills is far in excess of what instructors actually charge.
I make $1000 / day plus expenses on those occasions when I conduct law enforcement or security training. I make half that when I teach Aikido.

I have spent countless thousands on my own training to get to the point at which I can get this. It's taken 31 years of training, flying all over the country to seminars, hosting seminars that in many cases didn't pay for themselves etc to get to the point at which I am not in the red as a professional instructor. I have been teaching professionally for over twenty years. The dues at my dojo are $105 per month which is 40 - 50 % less than the national average for martial arts instruction.

It's a great thing that there are thousands of dedicated folks out there who have regular jobs and then turn around and pour every spare dime and every spare moment into Aikido. It's a labor of love. But it's a labor of love for all of us.

I have had people tell me that "Aikido is for everyone", that I should be out there doing what I do out of the goodness of my heart. I love how Aikido folks in particular seem to think that running ones dojo on a decent business model is somehow less spiritual than being broke all the time.

This "money is evil" attitude was fine when Aikido was an expanding market. But Aikido and the traditional martial arts are not growing any more. The only part of the martial arts market that seems to be expanding is the mixed martial arts due to the exposure on prime time cable.

I see dojos all over the country (and Doran Sensei said he sees the same thing in Europe) which are marginal at this point. I see dojos going back to community centers which had managed to find their own locations. I see dojos closing. In the Seattle area where every Tom, Dick and Harry opened a dojo during the expansion years (21 dojos at the peak in the immediate metro area) many dojos are now barely getting by.

What happens when a dojo gets marginal? If the teacher has other employment, the first thing that goes is his training. I know a large number of teachers who either have cut out seminars altogether or have cut back attendance drastically because they don't have the money to go. This hurts their training and it hurts their students.

If the teacher is a professional, he may find himself unable to support himself. If he goes back to working another job he will put a fraction of the time into his training which he was previously able to do.

People should be supporting their professional instructors. not judging them because they are too "commercial". When you have a professional you have someone who has staked everything on being able to deliver the goods. There are all sorts of marginal and even incompetent teachers out there whose dojos survive because they only need to cover the rent and utilities to stay open. A professional, on the other hand, has to actually deliver the goods. I need to have people come to me because they want specifically to train with me. A huge part of my income is from seminars. I get invited one time on faith so to speak. If I don't deliver the goods, if I don't finish the seminar on Sunday night with the folks already wondering when I can come back, then I haven't done my job. I have to be VERY good at what I do or I don't eat.

I have a developing video business. The majority of my sales come from repeat customers. Repeatedly I see the pattern that someone buys one title and the returns to buy all of the rest. If I am going to supplement my income with videos I have to make sure that they deliver value or they don't sell. Simple as that.

Basically, there is a certain competition that exists for the training dollar. Rather than thinking that this is a negative I prefer to view this as a positive force for raising the quality level of the art. Teachers who don't deliver, don't get invited back. Videos that don't deliver value don't sell. Events that don't live up to the billing, which do not deliver value in the eyes of the students, will have trouble repeating.

There are a ton of very mediocre instructors out there. I don't know of a single professional teacher in Aikido who isn't top notch. You simply have to be. If developing high level instructors is facilitated by so-called "market forces" I am all for it.

Instead of the students feeling as if they are "owed" something, perhaps they should be looking for ways to support their teachers. If a teacher gets to a seminar and learns something, everyone in the dojo benefits. If the students in the dojo support the events held at the dojo, then they can have great instruction brought right to them rather than having to pay hundreds of dollars to train with them elsewhere. Once again everyone benefits. If my students don't support an event, I pay out of my pocket. It costs thousands of dollars to host a top instructor. If the seminar doesn't pay for itself, I can't hold it again.

This whole Aikido is for everyone so it should be made as affordable as possible thing makes me crazy. The folks who say this are folks making their living doing other things. I haven't noticed that I can get my body work or chiropractic for free. The healthy food I want to buy costs money. The clothes I wear cost money. In fact pretty much everything costs money. When you see something offered for "free" you are simply seeing something that someone else is paying for, not you. Why Aikido folks take such pride in being bad business people, as if that makes one more spiritual on some level is beyond me.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 02-05-2008, 12:37 PM   #7
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Re: Business and Budo

George, I'll preface my comments with this: I *really* *genuinely* sympathize with your position as someone who makes a living teaching budo.

I can't help but point out however that while there is a common conception among practitioners that access to training is a right regardless of ones financial ability to pay for that training, I would also put forward that there's also a perception among Aikido teachers, that they somehow have a right to be paid for what they do. Obviously, you've worked very hard to offer enough value that you can get paid for what you love, and I admire that.

I will however offer the following list:

Don Angier
Toby Threadgill
Takeda Yoshinobu
Kondo Katsuyuki
Anno Motomichi
Hiroshi Ikeda
Mifune Kyuzo
Akuzawa Minouru
Otake Risuke
Mochizuki Takashi

What do they all have in common? They all have or had jobs outside of budo instruction. To be perfectly clear, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with making a living teaching martial arts. I do think that if the folks listed above, with all they had/have to offer, find/found it necessary to find income elsewhere, I know I certainly have no business even toying with the idea of hanging a shingle and expecting that to even cover my gas money.

Again, to be clear, this is not intended in any way as not a dig at you George. Just throwing that out there.

Chris Moses
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Old 02-05-2008, 07:35 PM   #8
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Business and Budo

Quote:
Christian Moses wrote: View Post
George, I'll preface my comments with this: I *really* *genuinely* sympathize with your position as someone who makes a living teaching budo.

I can't help but point out however that while there is a common conception among practitioners that access to training is a right regardless of ones financial ability to pay for that training, I would also put forward that there's also a perception among Aikido teachers, that they somehow have a right to be paid for what they do. Obviously, you've worked very hard to offer enough value that you can get paid for what you love, and I admire that.

I will however offer the following list:

Don Angier
Toby Threadgill
Takeda Yoshinobu
Kondo Katsuyuki
Anno Motomichi
Hiroshi Ikeda
Mifune Kyuzo
Akuzawa Minouru
Otake Risuke
Mochizuki Takashi

What do they all have in common? They all have or had jobs outside of budo instruction. To be perfectly clear, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with making a living teaching martial arts. I do think that if the folks listed above, with all they had/have to offer, find/found it necessary to find income elsewhere, I know I certainly have no business even toying with the idea of hanging a shingle and expecting that to even cover my gas money.

Again, to be clear, this is not intended in any way as not a dig at you George. Just throwing that out there.
I understand that no dig is intended... not a problem. I just want folks to consider how really quality teachers are developed and realize the place they have in supporting that process.

I have either trained with or actually hosted some of the folks on that list. I don't recall any of the seminars being free. Certainly the teachers I hosted were not; not by a long shot.

All of us started with jobs. I worked for many years as a men's wear buyer for Eddie Bauer. But when i had a family it became clear that between family, career, and Aikido, I could not do all of them well. So I made my career Aikido and focused on just two. That was hard enough.

If you look at the folks you mentioned, a good portion of them are Japanese. Effectively that meant that someone else took care of the home front. They could do the job thing and train daily and their spouses would handle everything domestic. None of them were divorced due to lack of attention to the spousal unit that I know of but I would bet that I couldn't have duplicated their work / training schedules and remained married - oops! I didn't remain married anyway...

In the Aikido world, the Aikikai trains its own professional instructors at the Hombu dojo. They are supported in this and then sent wherever the Hombu folks wish to send them around the world. We have no training program of that type here. No one paid me to train; quite the opposite. For me to match the kind of mat time that the uchi deshi put in, I had to go professional. I was working 50 to 60 hour weeks before I quit. That just didn't allow for the kind of time it takes to match the uchi deshi.

For folks doing koryu, being a professional really isn't an option until you retire from a regular job. There simply aren't enough folks who train to support dojo rent and expense and a professional teacher. That's true in Japan and it's true here. The typical koryu in japan doesn't offer daily classes either, that's why most of the Americans who trained there did multiple arts.

Every high level teacher in Aikido with whom I am familiar spent some substantial period of his or her life training 6 or 7 days a week, often multiple classes a day. It's quite difficult to do this and have a career... you either have a nothing job that more or less leaves you alone but pays badly, in which case training is difficult because you don't have any money, or you have a good job, in which case it is impossible to find the time to train as you would like, even though the money is no longer an issue. The only way I could see to resolve this dilemma was to make my living doing the art. Even then it took decades to get to the point at which I was no longer in the red each month.

Some folks dispense with the family part of this. That's why so many martial artists have no relationships that last. They work a job, then they go to the dojo. Makes it difficult to even meet someone, much less give them much time.

It's all a trade off. Unless you are independently rich, you are stuck trying to support yourself. If you don't wish to die alone, then relationships take some of your time and effort. So you basically see different combinations of elements when you look at the list you provided. Some of those listed had wives that would take care of all home and family related issues and would also not demand much attention from their spouses as long as the bills got paid. This is the standard Japanese model. It allows for work and training, just not much family time. Some of those folks had no families. Or they had wives but no kids making time and money demands.

Anyway, I had a family so i dumped the job. That allowed me to be on the mat, one way or another, 20 plus hours per week doing Aikido or DT, then i was able to train in Iaido, two styles of Koryu, escrima, etc. If I hadn't been combining my training with my profession that could never have happened.

I am not saying that there aren't top notch teachers that aren't totally professional, as in self supporting. I am saying that in the absence of subsidized Aikido training programs in the States, the only way we can match the type of training experience the Japanese uchi deshi get, is to be professionals.

While it is true that there are folks I know who are superb teachers who still have jobs. I don't know many successful professional teachers who aren't fairly excellent at what they do. They simply have to be to survive. I have no problem with the expectation that teachers have that they should be paid. The market place takes care of that issue quite nicely. Those who offer value will get paid what they want and those that can't won't.

There are a lot of mediocre dojos out there that wouldn't be functioning if their instructors had to be better at what they do. While the folks on your list are absolutely the top tier of teacher and they also have had jobs to support them throughout much of the careers, I would say that there are far more folks who have set themselves up with dojos and get by only because they have other work but would never be able to get by if Aikido was all they did.

While it is true that the part time, amateur (in the positive meaning this term used to have) has been responsible for most of the growth of our art and these folks deserve to be recognized for their devotion to the art, it is also true, as is so often pointed out on these forums, that there are far to many unqualified folks out there teaching. If someone has a job to support them, almost anyone can open a dojo and find some students. After all, even Mark Tennenhouse had students... I am sure he wasn't doing that in a self supporting fashion...

George S. Ledyard
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Old 02-06-2008, 05:47 AM   #9
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Re: Business and Budo

IMHO, there is a difference between individuals who practice Budo as an idealistic intellectual code within a specific context and those who accept it as their identity (i.e. there are those who practice martial arts and there are martial artists).

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
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Old 02-06-2008, 06:10 AM   #10
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Business and Budo

Quote:
Lynn Seiser wrote: View Post
IMHO, there is a difference between individuals who practice Budo as an idealistic intellectual code within a specific context and those who accept it as their identity (i.e. there are those who practice martial arts and there are martial artists).
Hello Lynn,

I can accept your division, but in Japan it covers both budo professionals (income only from budo) and budo amateurs (stable income, but not from budo).

In your opinion which category would George fall into?

Best wishes,

PAG

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Old 02-06-2008, 09:06 AM   #11
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Re: Business and Budo

Some people teach full time, some people teach part time and work full time, some people teach full time and work part time, and so forth. None is "better" than the other. They are what is appropriate for the individual. I'm not sure that one's business model has much to do with one's budo ability or committment and visa versa.
For me personally, I like the idea of operating as a non-profit entity.
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Old 02-06-2008, 09:21 AM   #12
Chris Parkerson
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Re: Business and Budo

Ledyard Sensei,

I understand your position. Your work is well worth its wage. You have devoted your full time and energy to preserving traditional curriculae. Without that signpost, Bugei arts will be lost in the mesh of globalization and cosmopolitan fusion.

I do think Moses Sensei forgot to include Mr. Myagi in his list.
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Old 02-06-2008, 09:36 AM   #13
ChrisMoses
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Re: Business and Budo

Hey George, good post.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
I have either trained with or actually hosted some of the folks on that list. I don't recall any of the seminars being free. Certainly the teachers I hosted were not; not by a long shot.
It was a carefully chosen list! To be clear, I'm not remotely implying that it's not ethical to be paid for teaching budo. But there is a big difference between making some money, and making ALL of your money by teaching budo. I know a number of teachers (not just Aikido) in Seattle that teach less than 20 hours a week and expect that to cover their expenses. I make pretty good money as an IT Admin, but if I worked 15 hours a week, I'd still be broke. My first Sensei, we'll call him Donnie, was a "professional". He'd gone through an uchi-deshi program and was licensed to teach. It was his primary or sole source of income while I trained with him. He constantly bemoaned the fact that his students drove better cars/wore nicer clothes etc. than he did. He outright said that we should consider if we felt we should do something about that. The dude taught/worked for a grand total of 14 hours a week. At the time, I was a college student and almost a third of my *total* monthly income went to training in Aikido. So here I am, going to school full time, working 25 hours a week and doing 14 hours of aikido training a week, and he's trying to guilt trip me that he can't buy a new Buick because his students don't appreciate him enough. Freakin' wah...

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
If you look at the folks you mentioned, a good portion of them are Japanese. Effectively that meant that someone else took care of the home front. They could do the job thing and train daily and their spouses would handle everything domestic. None of them were divorced due to lack of attention to the spousal unit that I know of but I would bet that I couldn't have duplicated their work / training schedules and remained married - oops! I didn't remain married anyway...
Kinda posted my response for me there! While I certainly recognize what you're saying and do recognize the cultural differences, I'll just say that it's been my experience that the difference between us/them isn't as great as a lot of us think. I work in the Financial industry, and there are plenty of guys here who work the same kind of hours (with the same amount of post-work binge drinking) that we all hear about the Japanese sallarymen.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
In the Aikido world, the Aikikai trains its own professional instructors at the Hombu dojo. They are supported in this and then sent wherever the Hombu folks wish to send them around the world.
And yet, when *I* look at the folks I actually want to train with, who I feel I'll get real value from, it's not those guys. It's the guys in gyms and basements.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Every high level teacher in Aikido with whom I am familiar spent some substantial period of his or her life training 6 or 7 days a week, often multiple classes a day.
Not that I was able to match the kind of hours that the uchi-deshi did, but I was able to (baring injury) train 6-7 days a week for the better part of a decade. I would wager you did too. Like you said, it's possible, it just requires sacrifice. But then, going to live at a dojo with a bunch of stinky guys is kind of a sacrifice too. Those guys are definitely getting off of the standard employment model even in Japan.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
While it is true that the part time, amateur (in the positive meaning this term used to have) has been responsible for most of the growth of our art and these folks deserve to be recognized for their devotion to the art, it is also true, as is so often pointed out on these forums, that there are far to many unqualified folks out there teaching. If someone has a job to support them, almost anyone can open a dojo and find some students. After all, even Mark Tennenhouse had students... I am sure he wasn't doing that in a self supporting fashion...
Absolutely. Again, I'm not saying that there's something intrinsically better about an 'amateur' instructor. I will point out however that there are some advantages to *not* needing to support yourself from teaching (and this begins to graze the transmission and inheritance theme). The biggest advantage that I have seen, is the ability to really regulate what your student population looks like. In my iai school, we can keep the training as watching-paint-dry boring as it's always been without any temptation to spice it up to draw in more people. Those who come and stay are drawn to the art for what it is. It does not need to change to be more approachable. At Neil's we don't let just anybody train with us. Further we've actually kicked out a couple people just in the time I've been there. One had an attitude problem, the other was a nice guy but just wasn't a good fit for what we were doing. He paid his dues on time, bought drinks at the bar. He was a good guy. But, since he wasn't a fit with the feel of the place, he was asked to stop coming. You can't really do that at a commercial dojo. The temptation is always there to adjust things to draw or keep more people on the mats and paying dues. Now whether or not you act on that temptation is another story, but it's there.

I also realize that it's pretty easy to be an expert at running a dojo from this here arm chair of mine. Everyone's perspective changes when they actually step up and try to do it themselves. I'm quite happy with my student status these days.

Chris Moses
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Old 02-06-2008, 09:42 AM   #14
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Re: Business and Budo

Quote:
Chris Parkerson wrote: View Post
I do think Moses Sensei forgot to include Mr. Myagi in his list.
Just "Chris" please.

I tried to only include folks who I had mat time with. Never trained with Mr. Myagi, although Chozen has made me dinner.

Chris Moses
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Old 02-06-2008, 11:00 AM   #15
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Re: Business and Budo

Quote:
Christian Moses wrote: View Post
I tried to only include folks who I had mat time with.
I wanted to point out the notable exceptions to this statement on my list, since it was not my intention to mislead or overstate my training. I have never trained with Mifune Kyuzo or Otake Risuke and my interaction with Kondo Sensei was in the context of a very large seminar.

Chris Moses
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Old 02-06-2008, 01:30 PM   #16
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Re: Business and Budo

If I were to charge people the opportunity cost of my time (say at an hourly rate equivalent to what I could make in computer industry), they wouldn't be able to afford it. You might say there should be some discount since teaching martial arts is more "fun" than other work, but how do you figure what that discount is? I'd rather just say that I don't care about the money at all.

Pretty much every teacher I know teaches out of love for the art, basically giving away their time either free or very cheaply because they care about what they are doing. To the extent that there is a sense of entitlement among martial arts students who think that training should be free or very cheap, it is fostered by the fact that are so many instructors out there who will accommodate them.

And I also don't agree that these instructors are deficient in some way because they don't make a lot of money teaching martial arts. I don't think how much money a teacher makes is a good metric for that teacher's martial arts skill or even teaching ability. The only thing it tells me is how good he is at turning martial arts instruction into a profitable business, which is an entirely different skill.

For example, it's quite well known that the easiest way for the typical martial artist (ie someone not born into a position where he will inherit a huge organization and its dues) to make good money teaching martial arts is turn their dojo into a babysitting service for kids. I don't have a problem with people who do that, but I certainly wouldn't consider them to be the best martial artists in the world.

It seems to me that there is an inherent conflict between between making money and being a serious martial artist. I think trying to do both at the same time will involve compromises that will likely make it difficult to do either particularly well.
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Old 02-06-2008, 02:40 PM   #17
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Business and Budo

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
Hello Lynn,

I can accept your division, but in Japan it covers both budo professionals (income only from budo) and budo amateurs (stable income, but not from budo).

In your opinion which category would George fall into?

Best wishes,

PAG
Hi Peter,
Until recently (4 years ago) I fell into the budo professional category. But now I am a member of a third and as yet undiscussed group... budo professionals whose spouses have a "real" income. (My wife is a business lawyer) I suspect that quite a few "budo professionals" fall into this category here in the states. Always a good thing when at least one of you has some practical skills...
- George

George S. Ledyard
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Old 02-06-2008, 03:05 PM   #18
ChrisMoses
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Re: Business and Budo

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George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
But now I am a member of a third and as yet undiscussed group... budo professionals whose spouses have a "real" income.
Reminds me of an old joke from my days in a rock band:

Q: What do you call a drummer with no girlfriend?

A: Homeless!

But seriously, in response to Giancarlo, I'd disagree that there is an inherent conflict of interest between making money and being a serious martial artist. I do think that it can be a delicate line to walk though.

Chris Moses
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Old 02-06-2008, 03:11 PM   #19
SeiserL
 
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Re: Business and Budo

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Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
In your opinion which category would George fall into?
From my personal experience with Ledyard Sensei, I believe his Budo is identity based (who he is) rather than behavior (what he does). Though these are related, their origination and integration is very different.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 02-06-2008, 03:33 PM   #20
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Business and Budo

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Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
If I were to charge people the opportunity cost of my time (say at an hourly rate equivalent to what I could make in computer industry), they wouldn't be able to afford it. You might say there should be some discount since teaching martial arts is more "fun" than other work, but how do you figure what that discount is? I'd rather just say that I don't care about the money at all.
The "discount" works itself out. There is an inherent limitation imposed by the market. There is a going rate for instruction, you can't exceed that by much and have any students. Given the square footage requirements for Aikido, there are a finite number of students a given space will accommodate. The space in a given market costs a certain amount. If you can figure out how to use your space more efficiently, you can make more but since most people train during the prime time hours at night, there is still an effective limit. Once you know your costs and your income you have what you can make from a dojo alone. Until you are quite senior you probably cannot augment that with videos or seminar income. So the dojo is it. Take your dojo income and subtract it from what you'd be making if you had a real job and that's your discount if you are trying to be full time. If you only teach part time and support yourself with another job, then you can choose whatever "discount" you feel like, including losing money on the dojo and subsidizing its operation out of your other income. Many folks fall into this category (not so many with spouses I suspect).

Quote:
Pretty much every teacher I know teaches out of love for the art, basically giving away their time either free or very cheaply because they care about what they are doing. To the extent that there is a sense of entitlement among martial arts students who think that training should be free or very cheap, it is fostered by the fact that are so many instructors out there who will accommodate them.
Absolutely.

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And I also don't agree that these instructors are deficient in some way because they don't make a lot of money teaching martial arts. I don't think how much money a teacher makes is a good metric for that teacher's martial arts skill or even teaching ability. The only thing it tells me is how good he is at turning martial arts instruction into a profitable business, which is an entirely different skill.
In no way am I trying to say that these instructors are necessarily deficient because they don't make money. Most of my non-Aikido friends in the arts are koryu teachers and they don't make diddly. They build dojos in their yards, support themselves with other jobs, their own businesses, etc. The quality of their teaching is top level.

My point in saying what I have is to point out that there is nothing inherently wrong with teachers who do manage to make money. My Aikido is not compromised by the fact that I make my living doing this.

Look at who the teachers are who dominate the Aikido scene in America. First, you have the former uchi deshi, the Japanese instructors who were trained via professional teacher training programs in Japan. These people were trained to be professionals from the start. Then you have the senior American teachers. The majority, whereas they had jobs early in their training careers, chucked those jobs as soon as they had reached the point at which they could support themselves doing Aikido. This has allowed them to put in the time to take both their technique and teaching skill up to a high level. Consequently, these are the people whom the general Aikido public invest in as instructors. When they are gone, who will be the next generation of replacements? It isn't going to be a bunch of folks who are relatively unknown, who have been quietly teaching Aikido in their won dojos and not getting out much. The next generation will be the folks who have on some level tried to duplicate what their teachers have done. If we don't develop and support those folks now, I guarentee you that Hombu dojo will be happy to send over another generation of professional teachers, graduates of the training program at Hombu.

Quote:
For example, it's quite well known that the easiest way for the typical martial artist (ie someone not born into a position where he will inherit a huge organization and its dues) to make good money teaching martial arts is turn their dojo into a babysitting service for kids. I don't have a problem with people who do that, but I certainly wouldn't consider them to be the best martial artists in the world.
No question... to make a good living just from a dojo will involve compromising the content. That's why none of the folks at the top of the teaching profession make the majority of their income from their dojos. I certainly don't. I could have a much larger dojo if I were willing to compromise the training but I won't. So the growth of my dojo is limited by that decision.

Most of the professionals I know get the majority of their income from teaching seminars. It requires a grinding work schedule; many travel 2/3 of the weekends every year. But that's the income that takes you over the top as a pro. Some have video businesses. Valdimir Vasiliev makes most of his money from videos...

But with seminars and videos, you pretty much have to deliver the goods. People will go to a seminar once, buy a video once, but if they don't feel like they got value, they won't do it again. If you want to be successful, you have to deliver value.

The exception to this is the teacher who has a "captive audience". I was at a seminar with a teacher who is the head of a major organization. It was awful. He was going through the motions. He'd do a technique and then stand off the mat watching the clock and then repeat the process. The folks at the seminar simply did the technique in question precisely the same way they knew how to when they came in the door, nothing changed. Yet the folks who invited this teacher did so again the next year because he is the one from whom all power and recognition flow.

Most of us simply can't get away with that. I HAVE to deliver the goods or I don't pay the bills. No one will ask me again if the seminar wasn't what they'd hoped for. There are plenty of other teachers they can invite if I can't do the job. That's what you get with a professional. I am not saying that you don't get that with a part time teacher... they can be top level as well. But very people can survive as professionals without being good at what they do.

Quote:
It seems to me that there is an inherent conflict between between making money and being a serious martial artist. I think trying to do both at the same time will involve compromises that will likely make it difficult to do either particularly well.
If I had an independent income stream from somewhere which didn't require a 50 hour work week and only allow me a couple weeks of vacation a year, I'd say you are right. Much of what I have to do to be a professional does not directly contribute to my skill level. But I don't have that. Compared to what I would be doing if I were working at a job like the one I had back in the 80's I can put in twice the time on the mat, read three times the number of books, write far more, and attend far more seminars and camps than I could have if I weren't doing Aikido full time. I would be a fraction as good as I am if I hadn't gone full time back in 1986. It wouldn't even be close.

That doesn't mean other folks are fantastic and that other ways can't work. But is there anyone who would maintain that having been able to put more time and effort into their training wouldn't have allowed them to be better? I don't think so.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 02-06-2008, 03:58 PM   #21
Chris Parkerson
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Re: Business and Budo

For several years, I taught a (1) one unit security course at Grossmont Community College. It barely paid me anything. I was given no per diem or sabbatical funds for my own preparation. There was no way I could come close to the skill, experience and resources available to a tenured professor at a major university.

This is a major rub. Funds, time and resources. Again, cudos to you Ledyard Sensei. Cream floats to the top in the world of business competition.

I had a dojo for several years... in an effort to to play the 40-50 hour training game. So much of that time was administration. I hated to teach beginners... especially when I knew how many were wasting my time, i.e. willing to treat it as a modern contract where they would drop out on a whim.

I finally found another way. I work as a contractor making great money. Then I go home for weeks or longer. I train all day to stay in shape for my next job. I go out and find Yudansha that want to train like I want to train. Of course, I do have that great wife with a government job.
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Old 02-06-2008, 05:10 PM   #22
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Re: Business and Budo

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George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
My point in saying what I have is to point out that there is nothing inherently wrong with teachers who do manage to make money. My Aikido is not compromised by the fact that I make my living doing this.
Thanks for the detailed reply. I think you raise a lot of interesting points. The reason I think there is a conflict between serious martial arts and making money is that there is such a limited market for the best quality training. This is due to the fact that such training is very challenging, often physically but more often psychologically and emotionally. And while this training can be very personally valuable, it tends to produce little or nothing in the way of tangible results that are validated in our current social paradigm.

Far more people are going to be interested in the type of training that is easy to do, clearly structured, and offers frequent socially-valued rewards in the form of ranking, which makes people feel like they are making progress even if they are not. It seems very clear to me that the farther one goes in the direction of giving large numbers of people a feel-good but watered-down experience, with lots of encouragement and pats-on-the-back about how much progress they are making, the more money you can make. The farther you go in the direction of unadorned, serious training in the deeper and more challenging aspects of the art, where progress comes slowly and with little fanfare, the less money you will make.

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George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Most of the professionals I know get the majority of their income from teaching seminars. It requires a grinding work schedule; many travel 2/3 of the weekends every year. But that's the income that takes you over the top as a pro. Some have video businesses. Valdimir Vasiliev makes most of his money from videos...

But with seminars and videos, you pretty much have to deliver the goods. People will go to a seminar once, buy a video once, but if they don't feel like they got value, they won't do it again. If you want to be successful, you have to deliver value.
Many people have questioned how much can really be learned or taught in a seminar or video environment anyway. The way most aikido seminars work, the instructor stands up at the front of the room, shows some techniques on his favorite uke, and then everybody finds another student to work with. Most people get little verbal feedback from the instructor and often no physical feedback at all. Even with the exceptions to this, like Endo, who walks around and at least gives everybody who paid their fee a chance to feel his technique, most people will usually only get to work with him for a maybe a minute or so at most out of a several hour seminar. It's like martial arts tourism -- you can see the sights and learn a little bit about another culture, but it's not the same as actually living there.

As you point out, the people who make the most money off seminars do so not because they are the best teachers, but because their political position guarantees them a repeat customer base. I don't know what you teach in your seminars, but I suspect that you benefit from this also since I can't beleive that you would get nearly the same amount of invitations as you do now were it not for your ranking within your organization. What percentage of your seminar invitations come from dojos outside of your organization? The difference between you and the guys a rung or two higher up the ladder is that you have more other people within your organization at the same level as you with whom you are competing, and so you have be at least as good as them to be invited back. The guys higher up just have less competition (and that's by design, of course).

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George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Compared to what I would be doing if I were working at a job like the one I had back in the 80's I can put in twice the time on the mat, read three times the number of books, write far more, and attend far more seminars and camps than I could have if I weren't doing Aikido full time. I would be a fraction as good as I am if I hadn't gone full time back in 1986. It wouldn't even be close.
But did you make as much money during that time as you would have if you had stayed at your other job? And if you had wanted to make more money teaching aikido during that time, would you have had to sacrifice the quality of your instruction or training during that time? I'm guessing to these questions are no and yes, respectively, which is why I say that there is an inherent conflict between making money and high-quality martial arts training. I'm not saying that there should be, just that given the current market forces, there is.
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Old 02-06-2008, 09:42 PM   #23
Rocky Izumi
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Re: Business and Budo

There is the teaching of Budo that exists only for the teaching of technique. Then, there is the teaching of Budo that exists to teach not only the technique but the philosophy, culture, structuring, organization, management, control, coordination, transmission of ideas, the evolution of, and marketing of that Budo. That is also Budo teaching. It seems the teachers who do the best financially teach more than just the techniques but an entire way of life and business. And, there are those who teach other things using the principles of Budo. Could that also be teaching Budo? It certainly is about teaching a way of life based on Budo. Then, there are those who teach how to do things using Budo. For instance, there are people out there who instruct other professionals how to better use their Budo skills to accomplish their jobs. Are they also Budo teachers? Does their financial abilities count?

Rock

Last edited by Rocky Izumi : 02-06-2008 at 09:46 PM.
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Old 02-07-2008, 09:23 PM   #24
Chris Parkerson
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Re: Business and Budo

I just thought of a fifth model of Budo. My current training partner Moe Stevens, let the county provide the money, time and resources. He was a high school wrestling coach. He got paid to train and teach during the day, then went home and practiced Judo and Aikido.

Now retired, the county pays his retirement where he has a giant dojo at his home, sponsors seminars in Aikido, Judo and wrestling and has a great following.
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Old 02-10-2008, 12:33 PM   #25
mathewjgano
 
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Re: Business and Budo

Thanks folks. It's hard to argue with experience.
Take care.

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