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Old 05-17-2004, 11:32 AM   #1
kensparrow
Dojo: Methuen Aikido
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Ask not, what your dojo can do for you..

Two recent events have raised a question in my mind. The first was a story a fellow student told me, about how when he started, he walked into the dojo and asked Sensei (whom he refers to by his first name) why HE should study aikido. The second event relates to a voluntary donation fund created by students at our sister dojo to help pay for a new mat. An anonymous poster on our message board was (somewhat irately) questioning why dues could not pay for this.

My question is, what (if anything) do people feel they are owed in return for the dues they pay? What level of obligation beyond dues to people feel they owe their dojo?
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Old 05-17-2004, 12:17 PM   #2
p00kiethebear
 
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Re: Ask not, what your dojo can do for you..

What is taught in many dojo's is priceless.

You at the very least owe it to yourself and others to keep the facility clean (this is your building, you clean it) and running smoothly. Collecting payments for sensei, answering basic questions for new people. Respecting the dojo and the people in it outside it's walls. Encouraging others to check it out and see what's there ( i don't mean chase them down and beat them up, but if it comes up in conversation ask them if they want to drop by) and to go along with that, KNOWING YOUR DOJO'S ADDRESS AND THE PHONE NUMBER (something that was on one of my first tests = D ). Organizing parties, if that's the kind of thing you do.

Did i miss anything? I'm sure i did, i typed this up pretty fast.

"Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity"
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Old 05-17-2004, 12:32 PM   #3
paw
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Re: Ask not, what your dojo can do for you..

Quote:
Ken Sparrow wrote:
My question is, what (if anything) do people feel they are owed in return for the dues they pay? What level of obligation beyond dues to people feel they owe their dojo?
It depends and it varies. I do not believe there's one universal, correct answer.

I also see it as a two way street. While "the dojo" may have expectations of me, it's also fair and equitable for me to have expectations of "the dojo".

Regards,

Paul
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Old 05-17-2004, 01:38 PM   #4
Erik
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Re: Ask not, what your dojo can do for you..

Quote:
Ken Sparrow wrote:
My question is, what (if anything) do people feel they are owed in return for the dues they pay? What level of obligation beyond dues to people feel they owe their dojo?
Ken, this is an unanswerable question because it depends on the dojo and the implied expectations therein. For instance, no one walks into a 24 hour fitness center and expects to mop the floors or show up on a Saturday for a gym cleaning. You pays your money, you use the gym, and the obligation stops there. It's a very clean relationship and often, but not always, less personal. At the other extreme is the small club where everyone has a hand in keeping the school open and so it's reasonable to expect everyone, including the head instructor, to clean up the mats and the like. In this situation, excepting rank, most everyone is pretty much equal and the head instructor may not even be paid.

Most dojos tend to operate in a messy middle ground. They are owned by a head instructor, who is hopefully making some money, and subsidized by students cleaning mats, greeting students, sales, etc. The problem that I have with this methodology is that it tends to screen a dojo from financial realities, which if faced more openly, might encourage a school to operate more professionally lessening the need for the student subsidies. I don't really like a situation where a dojo is owned by the instructor but then he/she expects students to do a lot of work around the place.

By extension, I, mostly, don't like the organizational constructs used in our art where students pay fees to parent organizations while deriving no obvious benefit other than a membership card and the honor of supporting a shihan. If people want to run an organization then they need to run an organization and not do it for prestige or as a revenue source.

Anyways, I guess what I'm saying, minus the minor digressions, is that there are a million different structures in the in-between realm. What is expected, or should be expected, is an almost unanswerable question in the way you asked it.
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Old 05-17-2004, 03:21 PM   #5
Lyle Laizure
 
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Re: Ask not, what your dojo can do for you..

I understand that it can be frustrating for students to pay dues and then be asked for additional donations for events or expendatures, such as mats.

The difference between a dojo and a gym though is its structure of operation. This is something that the sense and other students should educate newcomers to.

Lyle Laizure
www.hinodedojo.com
Deru kugi wa uta reru
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Old 05-17-2004, 04:09 PM   #6
kensparrow
Dojo: Methuen Aikido
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Re: Ask not, what your dojo can do for you..

PLEASE DON'T MISUNDERSTAND my reason for starting this thread! I try to be as proactive as possible in supporting my dojo. I very much enjoy doing it and am not the least bit frustrated by it. As Nathan put it "What is taught in many dojos is priceless". I could not agree more. I was simply curious how much time and effort other folks out there put into their dojos and if they found this to be rewarding or not.
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Old 05-17-2004, 05:23 PM   #7
SteveTrinkle
Dojo: Aikido Kenkyukai International
Location: Ambler, Pennsylvania
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Re: Ask not, what your dojo can do for you..

I think a real dojo (both the space itself and the group) is different from a gym. I think things become sticky when the dojo becomes a business. A larger sized space or organization is perhaps more complex, but the principles should be the same. I think it works best when the students want the aikido so much, that we provide the dojo space for our sensei, not the other way 'round.

Ideally we want to handle all the financial and detail work of the operation so that all our teacher has to concern himself with is teaching us. Our members' privileges include publicity, running the children's classes, setting up gasshuku and embukai, and maintaining the dojo space. Sensei never handles dues or dojo money matters. The quality of his aikido, his experience, and his teaching make this all worthwhile to me.

I think that this attitude is extremely selfish of me. The only way I can ensure my own personal growth in aikido is by doing my best to ensure the growth of the dojo I choose to be a member of. Our dojo is very, very fortunate in having our teacher. And we are very fortunate in the larger organization that supports our local club. Without dedicated senpai and eager kohai, our club would not exist.

Anyway, this is what I think and what I like.

S. Trinkle
Aikido Kenkyukai International
Pennsylvania Dojo
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Old 05-17-2004, 05:39 PM   #8
Erik
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Re: Ask not, what your dojo can do for you..

Of the six relatively local aikido schools: one is run out of a fitness center; one is run on a basketball court; and one is run in a shared space with a TKD dojo. The local fitness centers, the one's I can think of immediately, all have some sort of martial arts program associated with them. A local Karate instructor taught for years out of the YMCA facility.

I guess those wouldn't be real schools or that somehow they differ from a gym although I doubt any of you could make a reasonable argument for that.

From what I've seen of these places, the Karate instructor, by far, ran the tightest ship although one of the aikido dojos, which has it's own place, is run very well. The Karate instructor was professional, had a good spirit, knew his stuff and he handled all the financials, marketing and promotion of his school. Of course this is a small sample.
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Old 05-17-2004, 06:17 PM   #9
stuartjvnorton
 
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Re: Ask not, what your dojo can do for you..

I think the biggest difference between a dojo & a gym is that the gym is just a place. The dojo after a while becomes like your family.
If people have a skill that can benefit the dojo, then they tend to help out.
If we need extra money for a demo or something, we hold a raffle. Someone usually has an item or a service they can offer as a prize & people are usually more keen to buy tickets because it's for the dojo.
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Old 05-17-2004, 06:30 PM   #10
Jeanne Shepard
 
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Re: Ask not, what your dojo can do for you..

I think most people at our dojo have the attitude that we all get out of the dojo what we put into it.

Jeanne
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Old 05-17-2004, 10:13 PM   #11
Lan Powers
Dojo: Aikido of Midland, Midland TX
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Re: Ask not, what your dojo can do for you..

With our local dojo, we have the instructor who is the dojo-cho (unpaid, teaches for the love of the art)
and we pay fees for the space we share with a Tae Kwon Do studio.
The aikido club maintains and cleans the mats. A couple of us sweep and mop the dressing room and bathroom on occasion.
Working there is not a big strain, and it helps the group. Hopefully we will raise extra money for more mats, and stuff like that.
It seems that we are kind of an extended family... each gives, all benefit.
Lan

Play nice, practice hard, but remember, this is a MARTIAL art!
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Old 05-17-2004, 10:21 PM   #12
Erik
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Re: Ask not, what your dojo can do for you..

Quote:
Stuart Norton wrote:
I think the biggest difference between a dojo & a gym is that the gym is just a place.
And a dojo is not a place? What is it then? Why should a dojo hold a higher place in the world than a gym?

Last edited by Erik : 05-17-2004 at 10:24 PM.
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Old 05-18-2004, 05:24 AM   #13
paw
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Re: Ask not, what your dojo can do for you..

Quote:
Stuart Norton wrote:
I think the biggest difference between a dojo & a gym is that the gym is just a place. The dojo after a while becomes like your family.
Then you are training at the wrong gym. The gyms I have trained (and train at) at are much like the "dojo" atmosphere you describe --- It becomes a family. If that were not true, I wouldn't make the trip to the gym, I'd work out at home.

Regards,

Paul
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Old 05-18-2004, 11:08 AM   #14
Bronson
 
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Re: Ask not, what your dojo can do for you..

When I was going to the gym it was just a place I went to. But to be honest I didn't make the effort to make it more than that. We have people in our dojo who also do not make the effort. They take class and leave, don't show to dojo functions, and don't put in extra effort. If that works for them, fine I guess. I want more so I do more.

Bronson

"A pacifist is not really a pacifist if he is unable to make a choice between violence and non-violence. A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence."
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Old 05-18-2004, 07:04 PM   #15
stuartjvnorton
 
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Re: Ask not, what your dojo can do for you..

Quote:
paul watt wrote:
Then you are training at the wrong gym. The gyms I have trained (and train at) at are much like the "dojo" atmosphere you describe --- It becomes a family. If that were not true, I wouldn't make the trip to the gym, I'd work out at home.

Regards,

Paul

I've trained at gyms where everyone is happy to spot you & all of that, but the sempai-kohai system seems to make a difference, at least from my experience.
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Old 05-19-2004, 05:21 AM   #16
paw
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Re: Ask not, what your dojo can do for you..

Quote:
Stuart Norton wrote:
I've trained at gyms where everyone is happy to spot you & all of that, but the sempai-kohai system seems to make a difference, at least from my experience.
Substitute sempai-kohai with "workout partner", "personal trainer" or "coach". Now what difference is there, exactly?

Regards,

Paul
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Old 05-19-2004, 06:52 AM   #17
happysod
Dojo: Kiburn, London, UK
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Re: Ask not, what your dojo can do for you..

My understanding has always been that a dojo was just somewhere to practice? So an off-the-cuff answer would be I have no obligations to it whatsoever if I'm already paying dues for it's upkeep. If the place was being provided free or at a discount because of what a great bunch of people we were, then I would reconsider my obligations to the owners of the practice area out of basic politeness.

My interest in the answers given so far is a blurring between place to practice and the people there (covers both dojo and gym answers). Any obligations I feel are always between myself and other people, so are based on my relationship between them and me.

Picky I know but I always get nervous when places are the foundation of respect rather than people.
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Old 05-19-2004, 08:00 AM   #18
SeiserL
 
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Re: Ask not, what your dojo can do for you..

IMHO, you get what you pay for. Dues are the basic requirements to help pay for the rent, utilities, and insturctor's time. As in the class, you get out of it, what you put into it. Low investment, low returns. Higher investment, usually higher returns. A sense of particpation and contribution can really add to make a Dojo "home" versus an empty "gym" as someone said. There are a lot of way that students can get involved and contibute to their Dojo and training. I encourage it. But, to each their own level.

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 05-19-2004, 08:35 AM   #19
MaryKaye
Dojo: Seattle Ki Society
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Re: Ask not, what your dojo can do for you..

I have trouble relating to "the dojo is a place" after helping move ours. Old place, new place, but same group of people. It's the group of people to whom I feel an obligation, but "dojo" is our everyday word for that.

We have one of the arrangements where no one gets paid: the dues go to pay rent and expenses. Almost everyone above beginner rank does something to help out, whether it's cleaning up at night, showing up to help move the dojo (that was a big time investment), subbing in for classes when the instructor can't make it, coaching kohei, printing t-shirts, whatever. I'm really comfortable with this arrangement; I don't feel as though I'm being cheated by both paying dues and doing volunteer work, since I see everyone else doing so as well, and since it contributes to keeping this wonderful group afloat.

I've also found that I learn from working as well as from training. If I ever have to build a raised tatami floor, I now know something about how to do it. I learned that you use a power drill by moving from one point same as you do a pin. I learned some hard lessons about a volunteer-based organization's need for consistent communication and publicity (we lost more people duirng the move than we should have). It's all bound to come in handy sooner or later--not necessarily in aikido, though it might, but I've been involved with other volunteer groups in the past and doubtless will again.

My experience in those other volunteer groups, incidentally, was that people who pitched in and did work got a lot more out of the experience than people who dashed out as soon as the event was over. They tended to stay with the organization longer, too.

Mary Kaye
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Old 05-19-2004, 07:18 PM   #20
stuartjvnorton
 
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Re: Ask not, what your dojo can do for you..

Quote:
paul watt wrote:
Substitute sempai-kohai with "workout partner", "personal trainer" or "coach". Now what difference is there, exactly?

Regards,

Paul
"Workout partner" isn't very relevant, IMNSHO. Most workout partners don't feel a kind of duty to improve the gym as a whole, to give back what others gave to them. It's merely a mutually beneficial arrangement between 2 members.

Substitute "personal trainer" or "coach" with "big brother". You tell me the difference.
(Hint: you don't have to _pay_ your sempai to give a damn about your development.)
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Old 05-20-2004, 06:57 AM   #21
paw
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Re: Ask not, what your dojo can do for you..

Quote:
Stuart Norton wrote:
Most workout partners don't feel a kind of duty to improve the gym as a whole, to give back what others gave to them. It's merely a mutually beneficial arrangement between 2 members.
Then I'd find another workout partner if you desire to have one that feels a duty to give back to the gym as a whole. Where I train, that is the norm. Someone who doesn't feel that way is as common as someone in aikido who deliberately hurts others in the course of training.

Quote:
Stuart Norton wrote:
Substitute "personal trainer" or "coach" with "big brother". You tell me the difference.
I don't have to pay a "coach" or "workout partner" and they do feel an obligation to give back to the community. That's why I go to the gym I go to. Otherwise, I'd work out at home as I said previously.

While I may have to pay a "personal trainer", I get personal attention 100% of the time when I do. In contrast, when I pay dues to the dojo, I might get the sensei's attention, or I may not, depending on the dynamic of the school. In either case, I don't get the sensei's personal attention 100% of the time.

The point is there's a relationship between people that varies depending on the needs and attitudes of the people who are involved. I fail to see how there is one correct standard of behavior that dictates what obligations one person "owes" to the dojo besides adhering to the rules of the dojo and paying any applicable fees.

Further, I fail to see how the distinction you're drawing between a dojo and a gym is anything but artificial. Frankly, you seem to hold your dojo in a special "elevated" position in your heart. I do not. For me the dojo is somewhere I go to have fun with friends, just like the gym.

Regards,

Paul
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Old 05-20-2004, 09:27 AM   #22
giriasis
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Re: Ask not, what your dojo can do for you..

I take the view that the dojo is more than just a place, especially when my sensei would rather see me on the mat than not come at all because of financial reasons. Someone who is that generous of spirit is the kind of person I want to return that generosity. Of course no one at out dojo says you must help sweep or clean the mats, but most people do and most will help out with the planning for the annual Winter Camp that we host each year. Most in our dojo choose to help out in some way, but no one is required to do more than pay their dues. So if your of the feeling that you pay your dues, train and leave then you can.

I just want to add that the things I like to give back to my dojo is helping out and coaching the beginners, help with the children's class if I can, have a welcoming spirit to new people or just those coming in to watch, teach if on one else is there to teach, help with seminars, and taking care of the mats.

Last edited by giriasis : 05-20-2004 at 09:32 AM. Reason: added last paragraph

Anne Marie Giri
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Old 05-20-2004, 10:44 AM   #23
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Ask not, what your dojo can do for you..

What is a "dojo"? It literally means "Way Hall" or a Hall in which one pursues the Way. In the case of a martial artist the Way is the Path of Budo. This is a Path that demands total commitment and dedication. It is how you structure your life. The people you share this with are an extension of your family.

A gym is not normally a Dojo, it's a place where you work out. You can make friends there but they are not normally a kind of family. Most gyms are commercial businesses, the owners aren't the peopel who are training you. The trainers are employees who are there specifically to be trainers. There's no particular personal investment either way. It's just about the money.

A dojo is not "just about the money". Anyone who thinks that they are paying for lessons doesn't get it. I am a professional Aikido instructor. I make half in a year what I would have made in my previous career which I gave up to focus on my training. In fact, if I were at the place in another profession which I am at in my Aikido, I would make three or four times what I make running a dojo and teaching. What little I do make I tend to spend on my practice. Camps, seminars, videos, books, video production equipment, etc.

A student who pays his dues isn't even coming close to paying for my time. What he is paying for is the opportunity to be part of a community of like minded folks who are serious about pursuing a Path which demands far more commitment than writing a check each month. The money from dues pays for the basics of keeping the doors open in a dojo. It covers the rent, utilities, the advertising which keeps the new folks coming in, etc. In addition it supports me in my training. By being a professional instructor I am able to spend far more time on my training than I ever could have when I had an outside career. My students benefit from that. They benefit when I go off to Camp and come back with new things to work on. They benefit when I have time to read another book about O-sensei etc.

The dojo may be the way I support myself (in part) but it is a place that on a spiritual and emotional level belongs to everyone in the dojo. I came back from Christmas break a couple years ago and found a ribbon on the door. As my Christmas present (it was the ten year anniversary of the dojo) the students had literally remodelled the dojo. There was a new mat cover, UV coverings on all the windows, a new pergo floor on the walkway, new storage closets in the back room, new coverings on the benches and dressing room doors and more. I hadn't done a thing. It was all done by the students over the break. There's no way I could ever have done something like this myself; it took a collective effort of folks who really care about the space they train in. In fact each year the student have done something to improve the space themselves with no input from me.

Now I am blessed with wonderful, commited students. They know the difference between a gym and a dojo. The dojo is a place for your personal practice. You will get out of the place no more than you put in. Pay your dues, train and go home and it won't make a noticeable impact on your life. But really put your heart into the place and your training and the dojo will be a place that occupies a space in your heart that is unlike any other. If you don't feel like you are getting enough out of your training or your teacher, the first thing to ask yourslef is how much your are putting in. Paying your dues and showing up for class is just providing the opportunity, what you do with the opportunity goes way beyond that.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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Old 05-20-2004, 05:54 PM   #24
stuartjvnorton
 
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Re: Ask not, what your dojo can do for you..

Thank you George: once again you cut to the heart of what I've been trying to say & nail it.
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