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Old 03-09-2014, 12:12 PM   #1
lbb
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What would you say to a new student?

I'm putting together a draft of some materials for my dojo to give to new students, to try and answer questions students might have on several topics. Some of these, I have to admit, are questions that they don't always ask but that we wish they would (such as "how can I help out around the dojo?"). The rest are ones that we get a lot, but that are worth addressing in a straightforward fashion (what's the deal with rank, when/how do we test, etc.).

I've got a good list of high-level topics to start with, I think. These are:
  • Welcome
  • About our dojo/our senseis/our organization
  • Training (why it's important to train regularly, on-mat eqiquette -- I'm not sure where to fit off-mat etiquette -- and general health and safety)
  • Being a dojo member (responsibilities, how members sustain the dojo)
  • Rank and testing

Where I'm stuck right now is on the proverbial first page -- the welcome. I want to say something along the lines of "congratulations, you've started your aikido journey", and some stuff about the journey ahead, but I'm not coming up with anything. Given that the details of training concerns will be addressed elsewhere, what would you say (by way of welcome) to someone who's just had their first experience on the mat?
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Old 03-09-2014, 01:29 PM   #2
SteveTrinkle
Dojo: Aikido Kenkyukai International
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Re: What would you say to a new student?

hello, what's your name?

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Old 03-09-2014, 04:04 PM   #3
lbb
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Re: What would you say to a new student?

Quote:
Stephen Trinkle wrote: View Post
hello, what's your name?
Hey Stephen, those words below the subject line? Well...

Ah, never mind. Clearly no point.
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Old 03-09-2014, 04:35 PM   #4
Cady Goldfield
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Re: What would you say to a new student?

Mary,
Maybe instead of "congratulations," (which I think of as more something you'd say after someone passed their dan ranking...), just saying "Welcome!" (with the exclamation point to emphasize how happy you collectively are to bring this new student into the dojo) would be a very ... well, ... welcoming first line.

So, perhaps:

Welcome! We at the (YOUR DOJO NAME HERE) are (happy/pleased/delighted) that you have joined us to begin your journey in Aikido. The path can be lifelong if you choose, and we hope that you will enjoy the challenge, growth and joy that Aikido training offers.

If at any time you have questions about your practice, progress, dojo etiquette, or any aspect of Aikido, remember that we are a very supportive community here. Ask! Your sensei and sempai once stood where you now stand, at the threshold of the art, and we are happy to share what we have learned.

(Here's where you can sneakily slip in a line about what the new student can do to help out...):

Likewise, we hope that you will soon feel at home here. In fact, we encourage all new members to take pride and have a stake in their school, as we do. Please feel free to ask what you can do to help out around the dojo. Trust us, it will be appreciated, and you will feel good!

....etc.

Just some off-the-top of my head, but I think the main point is to keep it light and friendly in the Welcome section... all the "meat and potatoes" serious stuff comes after in the body of the material.
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Old 03-09-2014, 04:37 PM   #5
Michael Hackett
Dojo: Kenshinkan Dojo (Aikido of North County) Vista, CA
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Re: What would you say to a new student?

One of our initial conversations always seem to revolve around frustration. We often tell newcomers that aikido is really simple, but not easy and one of the hardest athletic endeavors they will probably ever try. With that we explain that they will likely feel frustrated at "not getting it" immediately and to just relax (no, not the usual "relax", but rather the idea of don't worry) - it will come to them. If not today, maybe tomorrow and maybe next week, but it will come and we've all suffered the same frustration. Basically, a general hang in there type of conversation.

Michael
"Leave the gun. Bring the cannoli."
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Old 03-09-2014, 05:10 PM   #6
Cady Goldfield
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Re: What would you say to a new student?

Michael,
I was thinking of that too but thought "don't want to scare them away before they even know what they're in for..."
But you're right, the "plateau" thing should be mentioned, I just wouldn't put too much emphasis on it. Maybe one or two sentences next to the one about feeling free to ask questions about their practice, etc. would be enough to let them know that there will be days when they feel like they can't put one foot in front of the other correctly... and that everyone has those days, and they get through and past them.
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Old 03-09-2014, 05:59 PM   #7
lbb
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Re: What would you say to a new student?

Cady and Michael, thanks so much for the great ideas! I think that frustration definitely needs to be addressed, to let them know that they're not alone in this -- maybe a brief reference in the "Welcome" near "Your sensei and sempai once stood where you now stand" (because I agree with Cady about presenting something that sounds too daunting right up front), and in a little more depth in the "Training" section. And then, maybe a new section, called something like, "Now that you've been training for a month..." to address the frustrations and the "what next" after someone's gotten past those first few classes. What do you think?
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Old 03-09-2014, 06:49 PM   #8
Cady Goldfield
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Re: What would you say to a new student?

Yeah. That sounds like it would work very well - just a small mention in the Welcome, then go more in depth in the section about training. The whole thing about "Welcome" is just that - welcoming a new student, not heaping too much info too soon on someone who's just coming in the door.

You know how when a person buys a big-ticket item like a new car, they constantly validate their decision for weeks after? It's part of the ritual of having made a Big Decision, and the person wants to remind themselves they did the right thing. Along with enjoying the new-car smell. The "welcome" section of a student manual/brochure is kind of like that. Letting them feel good about their decision, knowing they're welcome and not to worry... and giving them a chance to enjoy the new-keiko-gi smell for a little bit before getting into the heavy stuff.
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Old 03-09-2014, 07:41 PM   #9
Michael Hackett
Dojo: Kenshinkan Dojo (Aikido of North County) Vista, CA
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Re: What would you say to a new student?

Mary, that sounds like a good array of thoughts. I haven't found the frustration conversation to be all that intimidating, but again, it is based on conversation and not the written word. Essentially what we tell them is that all this new and different and foreign stuff will soon become second nature.

Where I see it first is in the aiki taiso exercises we do at the start of every class. We slow them down if we have new students on the mat, but they seem to always be a little confused the first few times and then they pick up on it and it starts to click. I remember trying to do happo undo (eight direction exercise) the first few times and feeling pretty silly and I see that today with new students. We try to emphasize that they WILL get it and not to get discouraged.

I think in writing though, it would be wiser to gloss over the subject.

Good luck with your project!

Michael
"Leave the gun. Bring the cannoli."
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Old 03-09-2014, 10:11 PM   #10
jurasketu
Dojo: Roswell Budokan
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Re: What would you say to a new student?

I always tell new people "Be gentle with yourself". I mean that physically, mentally and emotionally.

All paths lead to death. I strongly recommend taking one of the scenic routes.
AWA - Shodan - Started Aikido training in 2008
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Old 03-10-2014, 04:10 AM   #11
Walter Martindale
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Re: What would you say to a new student?

how about something like:
Please be patient with yourself and with us. If you've been highly skilled in another activity such as a different martial art or a sport, it helps to remember that you took a while to develop that level of skill. You may not have realized when you were starting that you weren't automatically as skilled as you are now. It takes most people several years to acquire the skills displayed by the senior members of any dojo. You may be faster than most, average, or slower than most, but we are delighted to have you with us, so we can share our learning with you.

As well, discuss how aikido can have some dangerous movements, and how senior members have the responsibility to help newbies learn safely. We don't want to cause injuries to the people we train with, because if they're hurt we can't train with them. you'll be exploring the limits of your range of motion in several joints in your arms. Sometimes this can be painful. Because you're new and you may not have experienced these movements (such as "nikkyo" or the "second technique" please note that it takes very little force to be very effective, and it is important that you a) submit (by tapping the mat, for example) before it gets very painful when you are having a technique applied to you, b) move slowly (initially) when applying the technique on others so that you can stop when they "tap out". If you are patient, and learn well with slower movement at the start, you can speed up later after you've learned the "correct" way to move.

or something like that....
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Old 03-10-2014, 06:50 AM   #12
Malicat
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Re: What would you say to a new student?

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
Where I'm stuck right now is on the proverbial first page -- the welcome. I want to say something along the lines of "congratulations, you've started your aikido journey", and some stuff about the journey ahead, but I'm not coming up with anything. Given that the details of training concerns will be addressed elsewhere, what would you say (by way of welcome) to someone who's just had their first experience on the mat?
Mary,

I would add a bit of Aikido history to the welcome page. Just speaking from personal experience, while I knew Aikido was a Japanese martial art, I didn't know much of anything beyond that. Additionally, after some background information about Aikido in general and who O'Sensei was, I would also include specific lineage info. While all new students may not know enough to ask about lineage, some of them will want to know.

--Ashley
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Old 03-10-2014, 07:39 AM   #13
lbb
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Re: What would you say to a new student?

Quote:
Ashley Hemsath wrote: View Post
I would add a bit of Aikido history to the welcome page. Just speaking from personal experience, while I knew Aikido was a Japanese martial art, I didn't know much of anything beyond that. Additionally, after some background information about Aikido in general and who O'Sensei was, I would also include specific lineage info. While all new students may not know enough to ask about lineage, some of them will want to know.
Not the welcome, I think. If you start putting all the stuff you think they ought to know or might like to know under "welcome", it's just like marking all your tasks as "top priority". We all know what happens then. A separate section about aikido, or just a paragraph on the "about our dojo" section, should be sufficient, with references if they want to read further.
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Old 03-10-2014, 08:44 AM   #14
dps
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Re: What would you say to a new student?

Introduce who you are, brief welcome, ask if they have any questions. Keep it short and simple.

dps
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Old 03-10-2014, 09:57 AM   #15
PeterR
 
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Re: What would you say to a new student?

You have to love the internet - so - simple and linkable.

If you pass too much information at one it will not get read but a well designed web page will get you everywhere.

Brief intro and links to history and expectations - keep the verbal speeches to a minimum.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 03-11-2014, 12:44 AM   #16
Currawong
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Re: What would you say to a new student?

What I would have liked, which I couldn't get back when I started was: A link to some Youtube videos showing the basic techniques. Just watching them and imagining doing them could be quite helpful.

Suggesting a couple of basic movements they can practice at home, even just standing in hanmi might be good too.
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Old 03-11-2014, 06:34 AM   #17
lbb
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Re: What would you say to a new student?

Hello Amos,

I think that's an area I want to stay away from. Although I recognize that new students frequently want (and ask for) some reference that will help them with the techniques they're learning, I think that videos are more likely to confuse than enlighten. It's Sensei's job to teach technique, and class is where we learn it. This document is only to welcome students to the dojo and to tell them some things that aren't braindead obvious about being a dojo member. In re: techniques, I think the best thing this document can do is encourage them to come to class, ask questions there (that's where they'll get the correct answers), be patient with themselves, and ask for help when they need it.

Last edited by lbb : 03-11-2014 at 06:37 AM.
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Old 03-11-2014, 09:48 AM   #18
Janet Rosen
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Re: What would you say to a new student?

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
Hello Amos,

I think that's an area I want to stay away from. Although I recognize that new students frequently want (and ask for) some reference that will help them with the techniques they're learning, I think that videos are more likely to confuse than enlighten. It's Sensei's job to teach technique, and class is where we learn it.
I agree. The curious can and will find this on their own. What they can only find out from the dojo they are joining is the specific nuts-and-bolts of things that really DO vary from place to place like
is there a way we line up and bow in?
is it ok if I show up late because something happened?
is it ok if I show up 15 minutes late every Thursday because of a work commitment?
if I show up late, how do I bow in?
is testing done on a set calendar schedule or "as needed"?
is there anything other than demonstrating techniques that is expected when testing for rank? If so, what?
how is a dojo not a health club or gym? is there something I should be doing?

Last edited by akiy : 03-11-2014 at 10:33 AM. Reason: Fixed quote tag

Janet Rosen
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Old 03-11-2014, 09:51 AM   #19
lbb
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Re: What would you say to a new student?

Yup, Janet, that's exactly the sort of thing I'm looking for -- the information that makes you feel uncomfortable if you don't know it, and feel more at home if you do.
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Old 03-11-2014, 11:51 AM   #20
Dan Rubin
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Re: What would you say to a new student?

Have you asked for suggestions from your beginners?
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Old 03-11-2014, 02:00 PM   #21
lbb
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Re: What would you say to a new student?

Quote:
Dan Rubin wrote: View Post
Have you asked for suggestions from your beginners?
Yup. I've asked for suggestions from many sources.
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Old 03-11-2014, 06:47 PM   #22
jdm4life
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Re: What would you say to a new student?

I think there should be less emphasis on grading and ranks in general in true martial arts, especially aikido.

Last edited by jdm4life : 03-11-2014 at 06:54 PM.
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Old 03-12-2014, 12:12 AM   #23
Janet Rosen
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Re: What would you say to a new student?

Quote:
Stephen Irving wrote: View Post
I think there should be less emphasis on grading and ranks in general in true martial arts, especially aikido.
Whether or not this is true....entering students are curious about the dojo policy and norms and it saves everybody a lot of trouble to just provide the info up front.

Janet Rosen
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Old 03-12-2014, 06:29 AM   #24
lbb
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Re: What would you say to a new student?

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
Whether or not this is true....entering students are curious about the dojo policy and norms and it saves everybody a lot of trouble to just provide the info up front.
Agreed. I'm planning to have a separate section on rank and testing -- not everything about it, just the information needed to answer typical new student questions.
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Old 03-12-2014, 05:42 PM   #25
Steven
 
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Re: What would you say to a new student?

I typically say "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

Oh wait, never mind. Wrong forum....
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