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Old 04-11-2006, 10:36 PM   #1
Man of Aiki
Dojo: Aikido By The Bay
Location: Portland Texas
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Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

promoted by Glenn R. Premru.

You see, I signed on and joined a dojo in Corpus Christi, Texas after a long layoff in training in March of 2005, just over a year ago. I attended for just over one 'semester', at which time Shihan Dan Vella was charging:

$70/year Association Fee
$250/semester fee (A semester being 3 months)

At the time he was calling his school the Kuden Shugyo Dojo (and also the Sanban Kaigan School of Aikido), and was claiming Affiliation with the Hombu Dojo in Japan.

The registration form and release of liability I signed to join the school stated in many places things like "Any and all payment to SKAA (Sanban Kaigan Aikido Association), Hombu Dojo and Chief Instructor/Headmaster, Dan Vella Shihan that I make.....yadda yadda yadda.

The words 'Hombu Dojo' and 'Dan Vella Shihan' appear in this release form about seven times.

Now I mostly enjoyed my time training there. It was fun to be doing Aikido again after such a long layoff, and Sensei Vella was a really nice guy and I liked him.

But I found out that he has no affiliation with the Hombu Dojo whatsoever, and he very likely isn't really a 5th Dan.

My 3rd month training with Sensei Vella, I had a young Hispanic fellow I was training with that was a brown belt under Dan's system that often had to stop and try to remember basic steps to an Ikkyo or a Gokkyo.

I saw that several times, and I was out of shape so I just went along with it, happy to be training again but by the 4th month I was there it was becoming apparent these younger kids I was training with who were brown belt level couldn't even do 3rd Kyu level Aikido.

They kept telling me to 'slow down' and 'not so hard'. I was actually going half-speed with them. They were like robots. My previous instructor, Hector Chavez, with whom I trained for about 4 years, taught me to flow through the techniques with an unbroken rhythym, but these guys had been taught to mechanically stop after each step.

Shiho-nage: I'm used to full power, full speed yokomenuchi that's coming right for my temple. Time and time again they are throwing some half-hearted swipe about a foot in front of my face. In slow motion no less.

So I start the technique and in one motion take their arm, unbalance them, lock the elbow, step in, pivot and bring the arm over and take them down.

And they hop up and go 'Too fast! Slow down!"

So then it's my turn to receive the technique, and as I've been taught for over 4 years, I go slow for them, but my hand really is coming for their temple, and there is some force behind it.

"Too hard! Not so hard!"

And they don't blend at all, they just reach out, yank my arm down without unbalancing me, stop,,,,pivot...stop...bring the arm up and over....stop.....then cut down.

These were BROWN BELTS?

I was having serious doubts by now and did some checking. That's when I discovered that Dan Vella's Sensei was Glenn R Premru.

And I did some checking on-line.

And found stuff like this:

http://www.viewusedcars.com/smoka-usa/premru2.htm
http://www.viewusedcars.com/smoka-usa/premru3.htm
http://www.azalmanac.com/AzMostWanted031304.htm
(That's right - Dan Vella may have been promoted by a wanted felon)

Yeah, it's the same guy all right
http://www.collectivesociety.com/teachers/premru.html

Gee, and he's in Arizona, too (look halfway down the page and notice how just about everybody named here is a 'GrandMaster' of some kind)

http://www.bushido.org/whfsc/whfsc14.htm

http://216.109.125.130/search/cache...&icp=1&.intl=us

BTW, here's a copy of an e-mail in which Premru impersonated a bank fraud investigator, something that was probably part of his scam that led to his being arrested by the U.S. Postal Service:

http://www.goldhaven.com/discussion/messages/1401.html

(Take a close look at footnote #7 on this page.
http://webhome.idirect.com/~glska/page_42.htm

"In November 2002, Glenn Robert Premru was arrested for mail fraud in connection with bogus martial arts certificates issued under an elaborate mail order scheme. As a result, the credentials of every member of the Okinawan Karate Federation and affiliated organizations under Premru have been discredited."

Yikes.

And all that happened in 2002, about 3 years before I walked into a dojo where the Sensei claimed to have been elevated to 5th Dan by this guy.

Just goes to show folks, even in Aikido people will lie and misrepresent themselves to you. Know who your Sensei's Sensei is and what their affiliations really are. I wouldn't say I wasted that entire 4 months, but it does irk me somewhat that I put money into the pocket of a nice guy that misrepresented himself to me because he wanted to play Shihan.

Brian Cates
manofaiki2003@yahoo.com

Last edited by Man of Aiki : 04-11-2006 at 10:49 PM.
 
Old 04-12-2006, 07:11 AM   #2
Richard Langridge
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Wow, scary stuff. Amazing how long something like that can go unnoticed...
 
Old 04-12-2006, 07:20 AM   #3
Mark Freeman
Dojo: Dartington
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

I always feel sorry for the students of these 'inflated grade' teachers. They think they are getting something that they are not, as your practice with them proved.

regards,
Mark

Success is having what you want. Happiness is wanting what you have.
 
Old 04-12-2006, 08:21 AM   #4
Ron Tisdale
Dojo: Doshinkan dojo in Roxborough, Pa
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Just a couple of days ago, someone was asking about e-budo, and the 'atmosphere' there. The story above is exactly why e-budo forumites are as tough as they are. Cheats like these rip people off, lie, sometimes injure people...sometimes worse. Then their supporters come on and make excuses (his technique is good, he's a nice guy, etc.). Blarney. THey are crooks and belong in jail.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
-----------------------
"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
 
Old 04-12-2006, 08:57 AM   #5
Jorge Garcia
Dojo: Shudokan School of Aikido
Location: Houston
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

This has all been mentioned in a thread that came up a while ago. I may have posted that "wanted notice" here. As I said before, in 1995, Dan was wearing a white belt and had no rank to my knowledge. His teacher told me at that time that Dan didn't believe in testing. When my teacher, Hiroshi Kato, 8th Dan form the Aikikai Hombu Dojo was in Corpus Christi in 1997, Dan came to the seminar and watched but I was told by three of his students who attended the seminar that Dan had proclaimed to them that they should not attend Kato Sensei's seminar. I wonder why? They came anyway. Look for my previous posts on the subject.
I know Hector Chavez. He is my sempai and was an outstanding aikidoist.He was a lot better than Dan was in 1995 but I know Hector isn't claiming a 5th dan today!
Best,

Last edited by Jorge Garcia : 04-12-2006 at 09:06 AM.

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
 
Old 04-12-2006, 08:57 AM   #6
SeiserL
 
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Be careful when trying to expose frauds. The general public tends to shoot the messenger, defend the underdog, and generally criticize you for publicly making them aware that they just may have been taken.

BTW, nice investigative work.

Compliments and appreciation.

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!
 
Old 04-12-2006, 09:05 AM   #7
Jorge Garcia
Dojo: Shudokan School of Aikido
Location: Houston
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

There is a legitimate instructor of Aikido in Corpus Christi at the Academy of Asian Martial Arts. He is Joel Molina, 2nd Dan, Aikikai. Here's his web page and info about his affiliation.

http://www.academyofasianmartialarts...an_bao_008.htm
http://www.shudokanaikido.com/module....php?storyid=6

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
 
Old 04-12-2006, 09:17 AM   #8
Ron Tisdale
Dojo: Doshinkan dojo in Roxborough, Pa
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Hi Lynn,

That shoot the messenger thing is bullocks. That is the problem...people try to make all sorts of excuses for the bad behavior, and try to project all kinds of nonsense on the person speaking up. It's the victims that need support...not the perpetrators.

That said...we all do also have to keep in mind that what some charlatan does half a continent away does not really affect our own practice. Moderation in all things is best.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
-----------------------
"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
 
Old 04-12-2006, 09:44 AM   #9
justinmaceachern
Dojo: St. george
Location: new Brunswick
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

You know it appears to me that once you become a sodan, most devellop there own organization. i know a fellow that is supposly a fourth degree, but is only reconized as a 2nd in japan. This shows me that a lot of these "masters" are "selling out". Thats why we have to be carefull who you train with. I wouldnt even put my freinds black belt up against a white belt from a real school. That is all for me. have a good day
 
Old 04-12-2006, 10:48 AM   #10
aikidoc
Dojo: Aikido of Midland
Location: Midland Texas
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Some time back, I had a rather large thread on the issue of frauds and a sokey dokey organizations awarding inflated ranks. A result was a section I have put up on my web site here: http://members.cox.net/aikidoc1/ChoosingInstructor.htm. All things being said, there is some reasonable advice in the section that should keep most people out of such schools.

It's so easy to make yourself look impressive.
1. High rank-awarded by someone of high rank-whether fraud or not.
2. Use misleading terms: aikikai, hombu, shihan, etc. Even if you use them in such a way they are technically accurate, they can be made to sound or make you sound impressive.
3. Secret stuff-the military connection, secret or non-verifiable instructors.
4. Lots of awards-it doesn't matter the source. Just post them on your website.

I could go on and on on this one.

My recommendation. It's your hard earned money, spend the time to check out what you are buying.
 
Old 04-12-2006, 11:50 AM   #11
aikidoc
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

[quote=Ron Tisdale] Then their supporters come on and make excuses (his technique is good, he's a nice guy, etc.).

These guys always seem to have their share of supporters. Probably because they get inflated grades as well or the instructor is a charismatic BS artist.
 
Old 04-12-2006, 12:52 PM   #12
crbateman
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

I think some of the confusion happens when people toss around the term "hombu dojo". This literally means "headquarters school". By itself, it does not mean Aikikai headquarters, Yoshinkan headquarters, Ki no Kenkyukai headquarters, or any other headquarters in particular. Anybody can name his own system, give himself rank, and call his dojo "hombu dojo". This is unfortunate, but it, in itself, is not the core problem. The problem is that the uninitiated might buy into it, because they don't know the difference, and the dishonest instructor might encourage that misunderstanding for his own gain. It's simple enough for anyone to ask an instructor WHICH "hombu dojo" he/she is affiliated with, and then check him out. There is no need to be deceived. Become more informed. Caveat emptor.
 
Old 04-12-2006, 12:58 PM   #13
SeiserL
 
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote:
Hi Lynn, That shoot the messenger thing is bullocks. That is the problem...people try to make all sorts of excuses for the bad behavior, and try to project all kinds of nonsense on the person speaking up. It's the victims that need support...not the perpetrators.
That was absolutely my point.
I have been the messenger.
Buyer beware.
Do your homework.
Choose wisely.

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!
 
Old 04-12-2006, 01:13 PM   #14
crbateman
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

I think some of the confusion happens when people toss around the term "hombu dojo". This literally means "headquarters school". By itself, it does not mean Aikikai headquarters, Yoshinkan headquarters, Ki no Kenkyukai headquarters, or any other headquarters in particular. Anybody can name his own system, give himself rank, and call his dojo "hombu dojo". That is unfortunate, but in itself, is not the core problem. The problem is that the uninitiated might buy into it, because they don't know the difference, and the dishonest instructor might encourage that misunderstanding for his own gain. It's simple enough for anyone to ask an instructor WHICH "hombu dojo" he/she is affiliated with, and then check him out. There is no need to be deceived. Become more informed. Caveat emptor.
 
Old 04-12-2006, 01:34 PM   #15
aikidoc
Dojo: Aikido of Midland
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Even though listed on the aiki-web dojo listing, the site is no longer valid. Did they just disappear or did they get so much flak from e-budo that they removed themselves from the internet.

To echo Jorge, Joel Molina is a good instructor and part of our organization under Hiroshi Kato sensei, legitimate aikikai 8th dan (aikikai number is 6).
 
Old 04-12-2006, 06:39 PM   #16
Man of Aiki
Dojo: Aikido By The Bay
Location: Portland Texas
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

I must humbly admit that I attended two sessions at Sensei Molina's Aikido By The Bay dojo at the time I was looking for a school to attend last March.

I liked what I saw, but the '5th Dan' and 'Hombu Dojo' affiliation that Sensei Vella talked about misled me. Also, he did have about 9 or 10 students per class, while Sensei Molina only had 3 regulars that I saw both times I attended.

Whoops.

So I ended up making a bad decision based on false claims and gave a guy claiming a false Dan rank over $400 of my money in a 3 1/2 month period.

I fully intend to return to Sensei Molina's school and continue training there.

And yes, it is true that the aikidothirdcoast site is now inoperative. I haven't been by Vella's school in over 10 months, so I suspect he closed down.

What hurts is that he was a nice guy, and I liked him, and he does have skill at Aikido. So did Larry Salazar, the first Aikido Sensei I had back in 1998. But I discovered two late neither one had the rank they claimed, and neither one was really affiliated with anyone genuine.

The end result is I have almost 5 years of Aikido training and no official standing or rank with any organization anywhere.

So, learn from my experienc, guys.
 
Old 04-12-2006, 08:28 PM   #17
crbateman
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Brian, many will say that the acquisition of rank is secondary to learning. If you have benefited from the training, then your time was not wasted. You don't wear your belt outside the dojo, and inside the dojo, it is covered by your hakama. A belt is just a thing. What's more important is who you are, and how you benefit yourself and others.
 
Old 04-12-2006, 09:06 PM   #18
aikidoc
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Brian-does have a valid point though. You pay for something that you expect is legitimate. Then you find your rank or training is of little value outside the limited world of that dojo. THere are many arts that have gone that route-rank is meaningless except for your own school. Yes, the training is training and hopefully you did learn something of value.

A while back, there was a thread on E-budo along the same lines. A guy thought he was getting "aikikai" training and then when he went to California and tried to go into an aikikai dojo he was basically told what he learned was not aikikai level or even remotely related. Needless to say he was pissed off. One cannot really blame him as the instructor in question did claim a high rank and did put aikikai style on his website.

So along the buyer beware line of thought, here are some things I'd suggest:
1. Check out the lineage and see if it goes anywhere legitimate.
2. Check out to see if the person actually studied under the claimed lineage. There are those that go to a seminar and suddenly claim to be a student of the shihan even though the shihan has no clue they even exist.
3. When in doubt go with what you can verify. Someone claiming a non-verifiable rank, even though higher, may not be any more skilled than someone with a lower legitimate rank.
4. Beware of ranks awarded by people who are not legitimate aikidoka-sorry but sokey dokey organizations are awarding ranks even when no one has legimitate aikido credentials. One guy is even doing ranks up to nidan on video-he was doing 5th dan until I called him on it. He then backed down that level to only the nidan level-still bs in my opinion. The guy he has doing the rank training is not involved with a traditional school.
5. Some independent organizations are very good and come from legitimate lines. However, realize that your rank-especially at the dan level-is likely to not be recognized by anyone else other than the organization awarding it.
6. I would not sign any long term contracts when checking out a school.

Just some thoughts. The frauds are out there. When in doubt go with something safe. If the instructor is not willing to talk about his or her credentials or are evasive about affiliations-run.
 
Old 04-12-2006, 10:34 PM   #19
Jorge Garcia
Dojo: Shudokan School of Aikido
Location: Houston
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Here in Houston, one of my instructors was called to teach in a mixed martial arts dojo. They have had a sign that says Aikido on it for years but when he went in and taught there for a few weeks, he found out that they didn't know any Aikido. The students caught on too and they didn't like it. They realized that they were taken for idiots. They walk in to a place that says, Aikido, Tai kwondo and Judo. They say they want to sign up for Aikido and then are taken aside and taught Judo. You realize later they just wanted your money so they poked your eyes and took you to the cleaners. Some of them are thinking of leaving there because of that.
If character counts, would you really want to have someone like that as a teacher?

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
 
Old 04-12-2006, 11:43 PM   #20
crbateman
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Quote:
Jorge Garcia wrote:
If character counts, would you really want to have someone like that as a teacher?
No, you probably wouldn't. But as the consumer, it's still ultimately your responsibility to judge for yourself and do your own research. You cannot control what someone else says about their qualifications. You can only control what those claims mean to you.
 
Old 04-13-2006, 08:16 AM   #21
Richard Langridge
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

What scares me is that there are these fraudsters out there teaching a very physical and potentially dangerous art with conviction, and that people trust them. It's deeply wrong.
 
Old 04-13-2006, 08:33 AM   #22
aikidoc
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

This level of misrepresentation is ,as pointed out, about the almighty buck. I know of one situation where the instructor is teaching a credit college class. Unfortunately, the college does not realize or fails to check out anything other than a credential most likely made up by the instructor. I've thoroughly checked the person out based on claims made and I have been unable to even substantiate that his instructor even exists. I even tried mailing everyone I could find with the same last name to see if they heard of the instructor's instructor. Zero.

What is unfortunate is the college students are coming away thinking they learned aikido. Most could not even roll after 1 or 2 semesters of college "aikido". Having lived in Southern California for years and attending a lot of seminars, I have seen a lot of different styles. If this guy's style is not either out of a book or jiu jitsu or some techniques learned in hapkido then I would be amazed. If he was told it was aikido, he was duped. If he was, I do feel sorry for him and his students. However, the college is being either intentionally or unintentionally defrauded. What is even worse, is he is not even qualified by degree to teach given the colleges own criteria (requires a bachelor's degree). He is riding on the credentials of someone else. Another element of fraud.

Unfortunately, the legal ramifications make it difficult to do anything about it. With modern computers, people can print up fancy looking certificates and fake about anything.

Last edited by aikidoc : 04-13-2006 at 08:36 AM.
 
Old 04-13-2006, 12:44 PM   #23
Marc Kupper
Dojo: Aikido of Diablo Valley / ASU
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Quote:
John Riggs wrote:
This level of misrepresentation is ,as pointed out, about the almighty buck. I know of one situation where the instructor is teaching a credit college class. Unfortunately, the college does not realize or fails to check out anything other than a credential most likely made up by the instructor. I've thoroughly checked the person out based on claims made and I have been unable to even substantiate that his instructor even exists. I even tried mailing everyone I could find with the same last name to see if they heard of the instructor's instructor. Zero.
Something I've wished for is that organizations (Aikikai, Yoshinkan, Ki no Kenkyukai, etc.) and also federations (USAF, ASU, etc.) would posts lists of all the dan grades they have issued. Ideally for each person listed you could then pull up a list a when they were awarded each rank, circumstances, etc.
Quote:
Brian Cates wrote:
They kept telling me to 'slow down' and 'not so hard'. I was actually going half-speed with them. They were like robots. My previous instructor, Hector Chavez, with whom I trained for about 4 years, taught me to flow through the techniques with an unbroken rhythym, but these guys had been taught to mechanically stop after each step.
There are teaching systems for Aikido that deconstruct the techniques and work on getting the student proficient in the pieces before it's all put together. Another teaching system will use flow from the beginning and accept that the technique's overall efficiency will improve with practice. Both are valid instructional systems but a student from one visiting or moving to a dojo that uses the other will feel pretty out of place and may feel that things are being done "wrong." Thus for that dojo they were right -- you apparently needed to slow down and work on learning things their way to practice in their dojo.

Overall -- it does seem like an unfortunate situation. From what I can see on his web site, Dan Vella is a USAF shodan than for some reason hooked up with Glenn R. Premru who "promoted" Vella to 5th dan. Vella did not try to hide any of this and now seems to be out of business.
 
Old 04-13-2006, 12:51 PM   #24
giriasis
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Well, the USAF does list all their fukushidoin, shidoin and shihan on their website. And all new dan promotions are listed, too.

Anne Marie Giri
Women in Aikido: a place where us gals can come together and chat about aikido.
 
Old 04-13-2006, 12:58 PM   #25
giriasis
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Also, my first school was with people who part of a "everyone becomes a soke organization." I was told it was very unusual for someone to become a 'soke' then I went to a seminar and each head instructor was a "soke." That was after about 6 months of training with them when I realized they were full of it.

Oh, this problem is the reason I'm a big advocate of newbies of asking the instructors background. If they get all out of joint "like how dare you ask" or "how rude it is to ask about my background" then my advise is to steer clear of such people. Also, my advice is if they list about ten different high ranking ranks then they need to be suspicious. If you haven't been duped then your lucky. But putting off airs that you people should not ask about your rank, background or lineage (even if you come from a decent well known association/ style) makes it easier for these kinds to pull off their fraud.

Anne Marie Giri
Women in Aikido: a place where us gals can come together and chat about aikido.
 

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