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Old 09-23-2015, 08:04 AM   #1
Alister Gillies
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Ethics in Aikido

I recently had occasion to dismiss a couple of students. Actually they dismissed themselves, which I think has its own kind of Aiki irony.

I dismissed them because their behaviour demonstrated a complete lack of integrity. They will continue in Aikido, of course, and I am afraid that anyone who associates with them in the future will have to find out about them the hard way.

That is unfortunate, but I began to think about the importance of ethical behaviour and the way in which it provides (or doesn't) protection for people who join Aikido groups and organisations.

Some might think that Aikido, an avowedly spiritual martial art, should be intrinsically ethical. After all it is about love and peace, isn't it? Yes, well....It is of course also about dojo income, grades, status, power, money and lots of lovely politics. In amongst that salad, love and peace can get tossed around and find itself at the bottom of the bowl.

To recruit new dojo members we all take a risk, although in the cases I am referring to above the individuals concerned had been in Aikido for a while. Their original organisation - both parties shared the same lineage - did not provide references, which is normal in Aikido.

Both parties had one thing in common, they were set up to take but not to contribute. One even had the audacity to refuse a reasonable request to thank an awarding Shihan (who graded him) and acknowledge the support of his fellow dojo members and their input into his training.

The other, the teacher of this student at an affiliated dojo, agreed to the same student (above) going under cover to another organisation without disclosing to his new teacher that he trained in another style. He was there under false pretences - presenting himself as a beginner in the new style, and getting back into his hakama later in the week at his other dojo - a kind of aiki bigamy.

In Aikido we tend to take people at face value, and if it all works out - fine. But what about when it doesn't? What safeguards do we have in place to ensure that we are taking on reputable people with integrity?

Most organisations should have at the very least a constitution, a code of conduct and some disciplinary procedures. Small unaffiliated dojos may not.

It seems to me that those of us running dojos have a responsibility and a duty of care to our dojo members, and the wider community, to ensure that we have mechanisms in place to manage the risks involved in recruiting people into Aikido. We cannot assume that because we are engaged in Aikido that those attracted to Aikido will be more moral than the average Joe/Jane.

We might think that training should enhance personal integrity, but what about when it doesn't? I would be interested to know about similar experiences of ethical misbehaviour.
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Old 09-23-2015, 09:25 AM   #2
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: Ethics in Aikido

I was expecting a story about drug selling or children molestation.
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Old 09-23-2015, 11:47 AM   #3
Janet Rosen
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Re: Ethics in Aikido

Aikido is a martial art and available to the public in most settings. While it can be used as a tool for personal or spiritual growth, it should be abundantly evident that's a "your mileage may vary" phenomenon.

I'm also not clear how or why the above behaviors are particularly egregious as opposed to just not meeting specific norms of etiquette.

Janet Rosen
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Old 09-23-2015, 12:15 PM   #4
Alister Gillies
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Re: Ethics in Aikido

If duplicity, dishonesty and misrepresentation is acceptable behaviour and not egregious in your estimation, fine. But I don't see what is unclear about it.
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Old 09-23-2015, 12:22 PM   #5
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Re: Ethics in Aikido

Quote:
Demetrio Cereijo wrote: View Post
I was expecting a story about drug selling or children molestation.
Sorry to disappoint you, this is just a plain old lack of integrity story
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Old 09-23-2015, 12:42 PM   #6
kewms
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Re: Ethics in Aikido

Quote:
Alister Gillies wrote: View Post
If duplicity, dishonesty and misrepresentation is acceptable behaviour and not egregious in your estimation, fine. But I don't see what is unclear about it.
Refusal to thank one's teachers and dojomates is certainly rude, but I wouldn't put it up there with, say, injuring one's training partners.

Some say that wearing a white belt and behaving as a beginner when visiting other organizations is in fact more polite than claiming a rank that the other organization might not recognize.

Clearly there is more to this story than you have chosen to share. But without those additional details, others may not share your sense of outrage.

Katherine
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Old 09-23-2015, 01:06 PM   #7
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Re: Ethics in Aikido

Quote:
Katherine Derbyshire wrote: View Post
Refusal to thank one's teachers and dojomates is certainly rude, but I wouldn't put it up there with, say, injuring one's training partners.

Some say that wearing a white belt and behaving as a beginner when visiting other organizations is in fact more polite than claiming a rank that the other organization might not recognize.

Clearly there is more to this story than you have chosen to share. But without those additional details, others may not share your sense of outrage.

Katherine
There are more details, but for various reasons I prefer not to divulge them. In this instance wearing a white belt is not a matter of choice, it is mandatory. Not telling the new teacher about your other dojo and affiliations is a matter of choice.

I don't believe that I am conveying a strong sense of outrage, just asking what experiences people have had. I am sure my story is fairly mild in the great scheme of things.
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Old 09-23-2015, 01:51 PM   #8
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Re: Ethics in Aikido

Quote:
Alister Gillies wrote: View Post
If duplicity, dishonesty and misrepresentation is acceptable behaviour and not egregious in your estimation, fine. But I don't see what is unclear about it.
Well, certain aspects of it are definitely ambiguous, based on the information that you are able to divulge. So I'm sure you'll understand if it doesn't seem quite so black and white to us.

My own first thought, when I read the title and started reading your post, was somewhat like Demetrio's -- this is gonna be something pretty nasty, like sexual harassment or sexual misconduct. My second thought was that even egregious(!) offenses like that are a lot harder to deal with than us armchair generals think they'll be. For example, I know some (many? most) aikido organizations have sexual harassment policies. But if you were harassed, or you witnessed an incident of harassment, or you heard about it, would you know what to do, and would you be able to do it? Would you be able to simply act? Think carefully before you answer, and try to imagine yourself in the situation. Do you think you would act immediately? Do you think it would be easy?

So there's a gap, or at least a lag, between a policy (which is where you have to start) and what actually happens -- even in a matter where the degree of moral ambiguity is a lot less than the (subject to interpretation) expression of disrespect towards a shihan or the organization. It took a long time for modern societies to develop our current understandings of sexual harassment and why it's wrong, and there's still resistance to that idea. There are still people not on board. How much further are we away from developing some kind of universal standard of "respect" and being able to enforce it?

I'm not dismissing your issues. I am suggesting that if you want even the smallest organization to come up with consensus definitions of "ethics" for such relatively small matters, you've got an uphill sled ahead of you. Frankly, there are more pressing matters of ethics where we're still not there yet.
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Old 09-23-2015, 01:59 PM   #9
Fred Little
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Re: Ethics in Aikido

Quote:
Alister Gillies wrote: View Post
There are more details, but for various reasons I prefer not to divulge them. In this instance wearing a white belt is not a matter of choice, it is mandatory. Not telling the new teacher about your other dojo and affiliations is a matter of choice.

I don't believe that I am conveying a strong sense of outrage, just asking what experiences people have had. I am sure my story is fairly mild in the great scheme of things.
Dear Mr. Gillies,

The story is fairly mild in the great scheme of things, except to the extent that the portion of the story you tell suggests a) an extremely over-the-top response to offenses that are so minor in the larger scheme of things as to be inconsequential and b) that the title of the thread should be Etiquette in Aikido.

Of course, I may be jaded, as a former practitioner who is a former practitioner in significant part because I concluded long ago that most of what passes for ethics in aikido is little more a system of etiquette that has as its express intention support for the right of the seniors to abuse and/or take advantage of their juniors. In this case, you must excuse me for jumping to the conclusion that you have, however unintentionally, provided a sterling example of one of the problems at the core of the art's social organization.

Not that I'm asking for more details, because really, I don't think it will help your case to go there and I defer to your judgment that there are sound reasons not to do so. But I would suggest that you think on the extent to which what seems entirely meet, right, and proper inside the bubble may look very different from outside.

Best,

Fred Little

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Old 09-23-2015, 02:28 PM   #10
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: Ethics in Aikido

Quote:
Alister Gillies wrote: View Post
Sorry to disappoint you, this is just a plain old lack of integrity story
No problem. Anyway, the "aiki bigamy" made me laugh... even if I think chosing that comparison hints to something worth looking at.
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Old 09-23-2015, 02:33 PM   #11
kewms
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Re: Ethics in Aikido

FWIW, the last person who was banned from our dojo had been consistently failing to pay dues, while claiming to whoever happened to be teaching that day that he had settled his account. (Senior students teach a number of classes, but don't have direct access to the dojo's financial records.)

The person before that had been making inappropriate and unwelcome advances to another member, and continued this behavior after being warned that it was inappropriate.

There are aikido instructors who have gone to jail for assault, for inappropriate relationships with minor students, and similar behavior. Now *that's* egregious behavior. Being rude to a shihan? Not so much.

Katherine
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Old 09-23-2015, 02:38 PM   #12
Alister Gillies
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Re: Ethics in Aikido

Quote:
Fred Little wrote: View Post
Dear Mr. Gillies,

The story is fairly mild in the great scheme of things, except to the extent that the portion of the story you tell suggests a) an extremely over-the-top response to offenses that are so minor in the larger scheme of things as to be inconsequential and b) that the title of the thread should be Etiquette in Aikido.

Of course, I may be jaded, as a former practitioner who is a former practitioner in significant part because I concluded long ago that most of what passes for ethics in aikido is little more a system of etiquette that has as its express intention support for the right of the seniors to abuse and/or take advantage of their juniors. In this case, you must excuse me for jumping to the conclusion that you have, however unintentionally, provided a sterling example of one of the problems at the core of the art's social organization.

Not that I'm asking for more details, because really, I don't think it will help your case to go there and I defer to your judgment that there are sound reasons not to do so. But I would suggest that you think on the extent to which what seems entirely meet, right, and proper inside the bubble may look very different from outside.

Best,

Fred Little
Hi Fred,

You are right of course. Outside the bubble all of this is inconsequential. I am understating the case, deliberately. But you do touch on a wider issue, that much of what passes for ethics in Aikido is simply etiquette that preserves the status quo - various forms of abuse as you say.

However, outside of Aikido we live in different types of communities where we operate within accepted norms and conventions about behaviour and conduct, moral or otherwise. Should such norms be ditched once we enter the dojo, and in what sense do we stop becoming moral agents simply because we practice Aikido?

The etiquette is there for a reason and is part of the training. In my view, and it is only my view, personal integrity is either present or absent. If it is present then it becomes part of the training and can even be completed within the training. So, for example, when you bow it is sincere and heartfelt. If it is merely paying lip service, then would tend to reinforce a superficial attitude and not amount to a great deal.

Last edited by Alister Gillies : 09-23-2015 at 02:44 PM.
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Old 09-23-2015, 04:19 PM   #13
jdm4life
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Re: Ethics in Aikido

People sure are strange. Why on earth would someone pose as a beginner just to cause trouble? ??
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Old 09-24-2015, 07:01 AM   #14
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: Ethics in Aikido

We have had similar circumstances happen on 2 different occasions. Both times we were caught by surprise until we looked at it as it was instead of how we thought it was.

Ron and I feel that we hold out space in a certain way and people that are attracted to that will stay and other people will leave.

We address each circumstance as it comes. In one of the incidents we had to step in because it involved one of our university classes with a one of our student teachers.

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Old 09-24-2015, 07:37 AM   #15
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Re: Ethics in Aikido

Quote:
Stephen Irving wrote: View Post
People sure are strange. Why on earth would someone pose as a beginner just to cause trouble? ??
It may be uncommon but it is not unheard of and trouble is in the eye of the beholder.

A number of times I have been visited by people from another style who wanted to test the waters so to speak. Some really did not want to make waves or put me on the spot, others (and this is the trouble) came with an agenda.

Mary's point is very correct and probably the biggest lesson I eventually learned. Train how you want your dojo to be. People will come and go for various reasons - they will stay because they are gaining what they want. I never had to ask someone to leave and I think my particular ethics would be the worst reason to do so. One should lead and impart my example if at all.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 09-24-2015, 12:42 PM   #16
lbb
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Re: Ethics in Aikido

Quote:
Alister Gillies wrote: View Post
However, outside of Aikido we live in different types of communities where we operate within accepted norms and conventions about behaviour and conduct, moral or otherwise. Should such norms be ditched once we enter the dojo, and in what sense do we stop becoming moral agents simply because we practice Aikido?
In my "outside community" I don't encounter codes of behavior regarding conduct towards martial arts teachers or display of martial arts rank. YMMV.

On a more serious note...wow, is this "moral agent" business ever a red herring. Before you can act as a "moral agent" in any context, there needs to be some consensus definition of what that would look like. You simply don't have that, and on niggling matters like this, you never will. So don't gussy things up with a lot of fancy words. You have a club, you made some rules, someone broke 'em, you kicked them out, end of story. I don't get why you're calling on "the aikido community" to somehow back you up with a universal moral code over matters on which there is considerable legitimate disagreement.
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Old 09-25-2015, 02:42 AM   #17
Carsten M÷llering
 
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Re: Ethics in Aikido

Quote:
Stephen Irving wrote: View Post
Why on earth would someone pose as a beginner just to cause trouble?
I did not get the point, why this is important to the teacher?
When I teach class I'm not interested in the Background of the participants. They move the way the move, the practice the way they practic. I see them working, I feel them when throwing them and when being thrown by them. I feel there technique and I watch their behaviour.

What else do I need know during keiko? If they want to tell me, where they come from, what they are looking for or why they visit our d˘j˘: Fine!
But if not: So what?

In which way is this important to you? Why do you thinkt to need to know?

---

When I visit a d˘j˘ of a different style or when I visit a d˘j˘ of the same style but with fundamentally different way of practice and executing waza, I refer to myself as a beginner. I even ask whether I should wear my belt or hakama.

When I once visited a certain d˘j˘ of the Iwama ryű, I had to wear my black belt. And I was openly declared being sempai to the other students. There was no way that one of the students would explain me the waza. Which they knew - but not me. Instead, I had to explain them waza performed in a way I had never done before.
Veeeery interesting situation! Not that funny, to be honest. I learned a lot ...
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Old 09-25-2015, 05:07 AM   #18
Alister Gillies
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Re: Ethics in Aikido

Quote:
Carsten M÷llering wrote: View Post
I did not get the point, why this is important to the teacher?
When I teach class I'm not interested in the Background of the participants. They move the way the move, the practice the way they practic. I see them working, I feel them when throwing them and when being thrown by them. I feel there technique and I watch their behaviour.

What else do I need know during keiko? If they want to tell me, where they come from, what they are looking for or why they visit our d˘j˘: Fine!
But if not: So what?

In which way is this important to you? Why do you thinkt to need to know?

---

When I visit a d˘j˘ of a different style or when I visit a d˘j˘ of the same style but with fundamentally different way of practice and executing waza, I refer to myself as a beginner. I even ask whether I should wear my belt or hakama.

When I once visited a certain d˘j˘ of the Iwama ryű, I had to wear my black belt. And I was openly declared being sempai to the other students. There was no way that one of the students would explain me the waza. Which they knew - but not me. Instead, I had to explain them waza performed in a way I had never done before.
Veeeery interesting situation! Not that funny, to be honest. I learned a lot ...
Hi Carsten,

The situation I am referring to concerns, not just visiting a dojo, but registering with another organisation on a full time basis while not disclosing a full-time commitment to a different organisation, dojo and style. That organisation, understandably in my opinion, prefers their members to not mix style since it can be confusing for the student, especially a beginner. The styles involved are at opposite ends of the Aikido spectrum and have been since the early 70s.

Alister
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Old 09-25-2015, 05:27 AM   #19
Carsten M÷llering
 
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Re: Ethics in Aikido

@ Alister:
Thank you very much for explaining!
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Old 09-25-2015, 11:29 PM   #20
rugwithlegs
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Re: Ethics in Aikido

Many shades of white belt. I was at a seminar a number of years ago, and a shihan from a different association (and disavowed by his own) showed up wearing a white belt, which is what his teacher used to ask him to do. He was moving better than the average beginner, but he was so uncomfortable being on the mat and it showed in everything he did. He also tried to lie about his rank, which I don't get but I just laughed it off.

I did put on a white belt when I attended a Shodokan Aikido seminar for the first time, not thinking that they used colored belts and I was used to wearing white until I wore black. I stuck out a bit, but I tried to just be a sponge and enjoy myself. I decided the attitude to learning mattered more than the clothes.

I can tell who has some training when they show up without their gi or hakama. I happily lend my old hakama out, and I encourage students to be honest.

Unethical - this is just rude behavior. Lying to someone in any other situation probably isn't cool either. Perry Dodson did have deceit listed as a valid Aiki strategy though.
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Old 09-26-2015, 04:02 AM   #21
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Re: Ethics in Aikido

Quote:
John Hillson wrote: View Post
Many shades of white belt. I was at a seminar a number of years ago, and a shihan from a different association (and disavowed by his own) showed up wearing a white belt, which is what his teacher used to ask him to do.

I did put on a white belt when I attended a Shodokan Aikido seminar for the first time, not thinking that they used colored belts and I was used to wearing white until I wore black. I stuck out a bit, but I tried to just be a sponge and enjoy myself. I decided the attitude to learning mattered more than the clothes.
I remember when I was a regular at Shodkan Honbu that a very well know uber-dan grade from a jujutsu style came from the States (he was Japanese). He insisted to wear the white belt but the thing was everybody (except me apparently) knew who and what he was. I got over my ignorance pretty quick but to him (and the lesson I took away) is that it is a signal as much as to yourself as to anyone else, is that you are there to absorb what they have to offer.

Most groups are small enough that everyone knows your background and you don't need a belt colour to show it.

With regard to ethics - is it non-ethical not to declare your background clearly to all around you. Not at all.

Last edited by PeterR : 09-26-2015 at 04:16 AM.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 09-26-2015, 08:59 AM   #22
rugwithlegs
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Re: Ethics in Aikido

Quote:
Peter Rehse wrote: View Post
I got over my ignorance pretty quick but to him (and the lesson I took away) is that it is a signal as much as to yourself as to anyone else, is that you are there to absorb what they have to offer.

With regard to ethics - is it non-ethical not to declare your background clearly to all around you. Not at all.
I completely agree that the signal is to myself as well. I did find there was a brief conversation with every training partner at some point as there was the reasonable concern from them that I might not know how to fall or had no framework to understand what I was seeing. Beyond answering that question honestly, no one cared. People were relaxed and open with an outsider and I had a great practice and a great time.

The other teacher from the first story I told - he was lying to everyone he trained with, trying to hold back any information in some cloak and dagger game but he was plainly uncomfortable being treated as a beginner. Even small things, like his partner getting attacked first or giving him genuine accurate points of feedback had his face turning red and his eyes twitching. He would have been happier and still well received if he had just come clean.
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Old 09-26-2015, 01:27 PM   #23
kewms
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Re: Ethics in Aikido

I visited my old dojo recently. I hadn't come prepared to train, so I had to borrow a uniform and white belt. All the senior students knew me anyway, and the junior students caught on pretty quick that I wasn't actually a beginner. It worked out, although I was gently chided for not at least bringing my black belt.

That's a bit different from visiting a strange dojo, it's true. But I figure anyone who can't get a general feel for where I am in five minutes is someone whose opinion I don't need to worry about anyway. I'll explain my background to anyone who asks, and I'll wear a white belt to avoid stepping on the toes of people who care about such things.

Katherine
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Old 09-26-2015, 01:33 PM   #24
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: Ethics in Aikido

Motives matter.

Anyone is welcome at our dojo. They can tell us their experience or not...totally up to them. You can tell by how someone moves anyway.

Visiting another dojo for training is one thing...trying to take over a class or to undermine the teachers and cause problems is another.

Trusting one self is so important here. If something feels shady...it probably is.

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Old 09-26-2015, 07:57 PM   #25
Michael Hackett
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Re: Ethics in Aikido

I visit dojo all the time when I'm travelling. I contact them ahead of my arrival by email (usually) and explain when I will be there and what my background is. I carry a white belt, along with my black belt and hakama and ask which the instructor would prefer and then follow the instructions. If asked, I will gladly tell the individual about my background. If not, I just try to follow the class instructions and replicate what is being shown by the instructor. Each dojo is a little different than home, and certainly other styles are. I'm there to meet new people and steal every cool thing they do on the mat. Personally I think being upfront and honest is appropriate. To date, I've been invited back to each dojo I've visited and made a bunch of new friends.

Michael
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