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Old 12-17-2009, 11:15 PM   #1
BJohnston
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Checking out a new dojo

Hey all, I'm a newbie. Not only to the art, but also to this forum. I've been searching for a place to study Aikido and have found a place to sit in on a class or 2. I don't have a ton of experience. A little Kenpo when I was a kid. A little Tai Chi a few years back. I've been reading and doing as much research as I can about Aikido. It strikes a chord within me and I'm ready to take the next step. However, don't really know what to look for in a good dojo. Could someone be so kind as to let me know what I should look for or be aware of while I'm there? Thank so much for your time.

Barry
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Old 12-17-2009, 11:52 PM   #2
Janet Rosen
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Re: Checking out a new dojo

You might start by looking at aikiweb articles, like for instance
http://aikiweb.com/training/witt1.html

Janet Rosen
http://www.zanshinart.com
"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 12-18-2009, 05:52 AM   #3
crbateman
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Re: Checking out a new dojo

This topic comes up here often, so a subject search will be revealing to you. Here's a short list of my personal suggestions:

1) Relax.
2) "Sit in" at as many dojos as you can within a comfortable distance.
3) Try out a class or two when you can.
4) Check out reputations online for instructors and their "styles".
5) Relax some more.
6) Make the choice that "feels" right to you.
7) Don't be afraid to make a change if it turns out you need to.
8) Enjoy the journey.
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Old 12-18-2009, 07:20 AM   #4
Mark Uttech
Dojo: Yoshin-ji Aikido of Marshall
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Re: Checking out a new dojo

Onegaishimasu, I would say that a good dojo welcomes you to come and watch a class and doesn't have contracts.

In gassho,

Mark

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Old 12-18-2009, 09:36 AM   #5
BJohnston
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Re: Checking out a new dojo

Thank you very much for the advice. I'm really looking forward to getting involved and taking the journey.
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Old 12-18-2009, 11:37 AM   #6
heathererandolph
Dojo: Kokikai Aikido Boston
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Re: Checking out a new dojo

This article gives some insights on selecting a dojo: http://www.kokikai.org/articleDetail.php?recID=16
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Old 12-18-2009, 12:25 PM   #7
chillzATL
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Re: Checking out a new dojo

First, know why you are training. Do you want to have fun, do you want to socalize, do you want to know learn to defend yourself?

Second, go watch a class. Does what they're doing appear to match your reasons for wanting to train? If so, next step.

Third, try a class and again, is what they're doing matching your reasons for training? If not, move on and find a new dojo. If so, you've probably found a dojo.

Don't be afraid to constantly reassess your reasons for being there and whether or not you're getting what you intended.
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Old 12-18-2009, 07:03 PM   #8
RED
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Re: Checking out a new dojo

Certified teacher, from a known federation. (NOT billy-bob's federation of awesomeness, where billy-bob names himself grand shinhan master-dude. lol) With a reliable active class schedule, and dues that are reasonable.
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Old 12-18-2009, 11:29 PM   #9
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Re: Checking out a new dojo

Quote:
Maggie Schill wrote: View Post
Certified teacher, from a known federation.
What about the galactic federation in a galaxy far far away?

p.s.
So the title of grand shihan master-dude is already taken?

Last edited by dalen7 : 12-18-2009 at 11:31 PM.

dAlen [day•lynn]
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Old 12-19-2009, 11:47 AM   #10
Kevin Flanagan
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Re: Checking out a new dojo

Ditto to all the above.

My number one consideration, do you feel inspired to come back for more?

Aikido has been called "the never ending path." Inspiration and guidance are two of the most important parts of a good dojo.

Good luck and keep in touch.
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Old 12-19-2009, 01:57 PM   #11
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Checking out a new dojo

Quote:
Barry Johnston wrote: View Post
Hey all, I'm a newbie. Not only to the art, but also to this forum. I've been searching for a place to study Aikido and have found a place to sit in on a class or 2. I don't have a ton of experience. A little Kenpo when I was a kid. A little Tai Chi a few years back. I've been reading and doing as much research as I can about Aikido. It strikes a chord within me and I'm ready to take the next step. However, don't really know what to look for in a good dojo. Could someone be so kind as to let me know what I should look for or be aware of while I'm there? Thank so much for your time.

Barry
1) Check out the senior students. Any teacher can talk a good line and sound impressive when you are new. Watch the seniors train. Do they look like the kind of people you want to be like. Are they arrogant? Do they train well with each other? Is there abuse going on towards the juniors or do the seniors seem interested in the progress of the folks under them? Are these folks you would want to hang out with. I don't care what the teacher "says" he is doing... the seniors reflect what is really being taught at the school.

2) talk to the students after class. get a feel for how often they train, how hard they train, etc. Ask yourself whether you can make that kind of commitment. Some schools expect more than others. Some are not much more than social clubs and others are "hard core". If the commitment you want to make is out of kilter with the school, you won't be happy. If you want to train hard and get really good you won't be happy with the "social club" school, nor will they be happy with you. If you want a nice place for a fun hobby once or twice a week and you join a hard core school, the fit won't work either. You will always feel like you aren't "measuring up" and you won't get the respect you'd like.

3) Finally, look at the Teacher and his qualifications. Do some research about who he trained with and for how long. Is he associated with a legitimate association? Independent can be fine as well but ask if they hold seminars and get regular input from outside the dojo group, otherwise the school will tend to be isolated. I would stay away from a dojo that has no associations and doesn't have outside input into the training (just my bias).

I'd beware the Martial Arts Hall of Fame people... Aikido doesn't have Sokes, Menkyo Kaidens, etc. I'd stay away from the 30 year old who has any 8th Dans, much less numerous high ranks in several arts.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
AikidoDvds.Com
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Old 12-19-2009, 03:11 PM   #12
Linda Eskin
 
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Re: Checking out a new dojo

In addition to all the excellent advice you've already gotten, do a little searching on YouTube. I was very impressed with the informal videos I saw of the dojo I chose. (Here's my playlist for our dojo, for instance.) Everyone appeared to be working very comfortably with each other, and having a good time. Having only had experience in a harder style art years ago I was surprised to see everyone laughing. I suppose I would've been impressed with any sort of Aikido (since I knew virtually nothing), but what I saw on the videos looked like what I wanted to be doing.

I didn't follow as diligent a process as others have suggested (although it probably would've been wise to have done so). I read everything on the Web site, saw few videos, and learned about the association/style affiliation, watched one class, and signed up. An iffy process, perhaps, but the right choice.

Good luck!

Linda Eskin - Facebook | My AikiBlog

"Heaven is right where you are standing, and that is the place to train." - Morihei Ueshiba
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Old 12-19-2009, 03:22 PM   #13
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Re: Checking out a new dojo

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
1) Check out the senior students. Any teacher can talk a good line and sound impressive when you are new. Watch the seniors train. Do they look like the kind of people you want to be like. Are they arrogant? Do they train well with each other? Is there abuse going on towards the juniors or do the seniors seem interested in the progress of the folks under them? Are these folks you would want to hang out with. I don't care what the teacher "says" he is doing... the seniors reflect what is really being taught at the school.

.
I think you need a lot of years of aikido training to distinguish between abusing juniors by seniors and pushing juniors beyond their limits. The same going for arrogance. Even the juniors in their own dojo can't judge it correctly.

So this advice to somebody who never practiced aikido is useless, sorry.

Nagababa

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Old 12-19-2009, 03:45 PM   #14
RED
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Re: Checking out a new dojo

Quote:
Dalen Johnson wrote: View Post
What about the galactic federation in a galaxy far far away?

p.s.
So the title of grand shihan master-dude is already taken?
I'm a rebel myself.

Yes, that title is taken... so is "Master Shihan 3rd-level half orc-paladin awesome-guy"-- that's me!
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Old 12-19-2009, 05:07 PM   #15
Shannon Frye
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Re: Checking out a new dojo

Quote:
Maggie Schill wrote: View Post
Certified teacher, from a known federation. (NOT billy-bob's federation of awesomeness, where billy-bob names himself grand shinhan master-dude. lol) With a reliable active class schedule, and dues that are reasonable.
Oh jeeees, more of that "karate' mentality of "I train with a 5th degree from Federation X, cause a 3rd degree from Frederation Y is lower and can't possibly be as good."

While you don't want to train under someone who has declared themselves "grand master", don't overlook instructors who teach good art. Sometimes "FEDERATION MEMBER" means nothing more than politics and annual membership fees.

Last edited by Shannon Frye : 12-19-2009 at 05:12 PM. Reason: clarification

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Old 12-19-2009, 05:11 PM   #16
Shannon Frye
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Re: Checking out a new dojo

Quote:
Szczepan Janczuk wrote: View Post
I think you need a lot of years of aikido training to distinguish between abusing juniors by seniors and pushing juniors beyond their limits. The same going for arrogance. Even the juniors in their own dojo can't judge it correctly.

So this advice to somebody who never practiced aikido is useless, sorry.
Sorry - I disagree. Stuck up is stuck up - regardless of rank.
A teacher will tote the 'company line". Perhaps senior students will as well, as they have a vested interest in "being senior", but it's a start. There's nothing wrong with seeing how personable, approachable, and humble the seniors can be (before joining). Might also want to chat with students who have been there a few months - to get their perspective as well.

But remember, in the end it's what YOU perceive and want that should matter most to you.

Good luck!

"In the end there can be only one"

www.AikidoFellowship.com
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Old 12-20-2009, 12:31 AM   #17
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Checking out a new dojo

Quote:
Szczepan Janczuk wrote: View Post
I think you need a lot of years of aikido training to distinguish between abusing juniors by seniors and pushing juniors beyond their limits. The same going for arrogance. Even the juniors in their own dojo can't judge it correctly.

So this advice to somebody who never practiced aikido is useless, sorry.
Szcepan,

Surprise, surprise! You and I differ on this... I think you actually have to train a few years to be stupid enough to suspend your common sense as to what is abusive and what is not. A brand new person who has not trained before will recognize it immediately. It's like the Emperor's New Clothes...
"Oh, that teacher is an abusive psycho..." "Oh. that 5th Dan is an arrogant asshole." It's actually very simple.

In the words of the great Bob Dylan, "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."

Hope you have a great holiday season!
- George

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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Old 12-20-2009, 07:48 AM   #18
Shadowfax
 
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Re: Checking out a new dojo

When I was interviewing for my current job the one thing I made sure to do before I accepted toe position was to chat with the employees and observe them at work. Their general attitude told me a lot about the person they worked for.

When I was looking at joining a dojo for the first time I carefully observed the general spirit and attitude of the other students there as well as that of the teachers.

I'm more sensitive than most to the emotional state of people but, the majority of people can pick up the general feel and attitude of people around them enough to know if a place is the right atmosphere for their needs. It does not take training to use what is actually very much a part of our human instinct.
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Old 12-20-2009, 09:16 AM   #19
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Re: Checking out a new dojo

Quote:
Maggie Schill wrote: View Post
I'm a rebel myself.

Yes, that title is taken... so is "Master Shihan 3rd-level half orc-paladin awesome-guy"-- that's me!
Orc-Paladin??? Omg, you play WoW? Which server?
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Old 12-20-2009, 09:51 AM   #20
Amir Krause
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Re: Checking out a new dojo

Quote:
Maggie Schill wrote: View Post
Certified teacher, from a known federation. (NOT billy-bob's federation of awesomeness, where billy-bob names himself grand shinhan master-dude. lol) With a reliable active class schedule, and dues that are reasonable.
How is he supposed to know which federations are "known" while he is a beginner?
You do know this criteria may force him to miss great teachers who are independent or belong in "less known" federations?

While there are some frauds out there, the above criteria is way too restrictive and favors those with better connections to some other teacher over one who may be more knowledgeable but disconnected (possibly even just at current time).

Amir
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Old 12-20-2009, 12:16 PM   #21
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Checking out a new dojo

Quote:
Amir Krause wrote: View Post
How is he supposed to know which federations are "known" while he is a beginner?
You do know this criteria may force him to miss great teachers who are independent or belong in "less known" federations?

While there are some frauds out there, the above criteria is way too restrictive and favors those with better connections to some other teacher over one who may be more knowledgeable but disconnected (possibly even just at current time).

Amir
Hi Amir,
I agree with you that association with an organization means little or nothing. It might if there were a requirement that a teacher attend a certain amount of training with the top teachers of the organization in order to stay certified...

The Systema folks do this. Pretty much anyone can set up a Study Group. But if you see their group listed on the website, you know they are getting up to Toronto to train with Vlad and attending seminars around the country with his senior students. If they don't see you at the training events, they take your name off the list of approved groups.

As far as I am concerned, the Aikido organizations should do this. Ours, for instance, requires attendance at some events for promotion. That's fine, but often teachers who are content to remain at the same rank for years at a time, don't get out to train much. I think anyone running a dojo should be required to attend a camp every year and attend a certain number of seminars or they get de-certified.

However, I am unaware of any major organizations that do this. So membership doesn't mean much. Ask how often they hold seminars with high level instructors from outside. How often do the teacher and instructors go off to the various Camps? This directly impacts their teaching.It's really about whom one train ed under and for how long.

Additionally, you can look at the program. Is it in a community center or do they have an actual dedicated dojo space? How long have they been there? That will not tell you much about their technical skill, but it does say something about the teacher's ability to create a viable dojo community. There are some technically excellent teachers around who aren't good businessmen or good motivators. There are some technically mediocre teachers around who are fantastic organizers and motivators. Larger doesn't necessarily mean better, just more popular. That may be ok with you, it may not.

How long has the teacher been teaching? How long has the dojo been there? Is the teacher professional? All of these factors come to play. None is of critical importance alone but they create an overall impression. The highest level teachers are often known outside their dojos. You can look on-line to see if they are teaching seminars around the country. That tells you something about their technical ability, in some cases about their teaching ability, but it's not necessarily all positive. A teacher with a strong national following travels a lot. That means you have to look at who is holding the fort while he or she is gone... so you are back to looking at the seniors once again. As a Beginner you are likely to be spending more time with them anyway. I don't actually teach the Beginner level classes at my dojo; I have some really excellent instructors who do that. I am fortunate to have some very experienced students who can do that.

But no, organizational affiliation is about the least important factor I think. Shop for a teacher, not a style, not an organization, but a teacher. That's the best way in my opinion.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
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Old 12-20-2009, 02:11 PM   #22
lbb
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Re: Checking out a new dojo

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Szcepan,

Surprise, surprise! You and I differ on this... I think you actually have to train a few years to be stupid enough to suspend your common sense as to what is abusive and what is not. A brand new person who has not trained before will recognize it immediately. It's like the Emperor's New Clothes...
"Oh, that teacher is an abusive psycho..." "Oh. that 5th Dan is an arrogant asshole." It's actually very simple.
And yet, given how training in a dojo differs from its closest analogs in popular culture (a gym or an exercise class), isn't it also quite possible for a novice to err in the other direction? Gyms don't expect their members to help clean the building; exercise classes don't have a hierarchy of rank. How often does a novice misunderstand these practices as arrogant or abusive?
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Old 12-20-2009, 02:24 PM   #23
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Checking out a new dojo

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
And yet, given how training in a dojo differs from its closest analogs in popular culture (a gym or an exercise class), isn't it also quite possible for a novice to err in the other direction? Gyms don't expect their members to help clean the building; exercise classes don't have a hierarchy of rank. How often does a novice misunderstand these practices as arrogant or abusive?
Well, I am assuming that, like any place I have trained, someone goes over and talks to the prospective student and explains how these things work and why. If they still feel they shouldn't have to clean or they don't wish to respect the seniors, I don't want them anyway. They can go be someone else's problem.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
AikidoDvds.Com
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Old 12-20-2009, 02:25 PM   #24
Shadowfax
 
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Re: Checking out a new dojo

Well....speaking as a beginner.

One would hope that the person would do some research and get to understand what practicing a martial art is all about. I mean personally, I talked to some people who have had experience in MA. Did a lot of reading and research on line and asked questions for weeks before I ever went out looking for a dojo. By the time I went I had a pretty good idea what the basic principles were behind Aikido, what basic etiquette might be expected and what questions to ask the sensei teaching the class. I corresponded with Sensei Jones several times by email before attending my first class and I took an introduction class and several regular classes before I made the descision to join the dojo.

One should hope that all beginners ( really taking on anything new not just a MA.) would do this sort of thing. Considering he joined Aikiweb and asked the question that began this thread I think that might be what our OP is also in the process of doing.

I was fortunate to have a good friend who also runs a dojo who gave me a lot of the information and tools I needed in order to find the right place for me to train. In the absence of that I would hope that the experienced members here on Aikiweb could fill that role.
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Old 12-20-2009, 04:25 PM   #25
Shannon Frye
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Re: Checking out a new dojo

I know it's more targeted towards "children's programs", but there is a great book that I recommend to my student's parents called :
The Parent's Guide to Martial Arts.

http://www.amazon.com/Parents-Guide-.../dp/1880336227

A lot of the info in that book can easily be applied by an adult seeking a dojo.

"In the end there can be only one"

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