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Old 03-22-2007, 11:00 AM   #26
GBiddy
Location: Victoria, BC
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

Great and thoughtful replies. The Ki is certainly flowing; too bad about the unwarranted judgements.

However perhaps I am at fault: I didn't clearly explain myself. What I am referring to is poor technique, not techniques which are different from what I may be used to.

This distinction makes a world of difference.

As I said, I will continue to respect this sensei. And I know all about training to what the sensei teaches, regardless of how different it may be from what one is used to learning. Long ago I abandoned the idea that anything I had been taught was superior to something I had yet to learn.

And like most students of Aikido, I revel in the differences of technique; in many ways this is the essence of Aikido. As we progress, the diversity of this art becomes more and more breathtaking (in more ways than one).

My dilemma in the dojo is that I don't know how to diplomatically and effectively point out poor techniques to students and instructors who may out rank me by belt, but not by depth and breadth of experience.

So again I pose the question, this time hopefully more clearly and with apologies for wasting anyone's time: how best to address this?

Yes, I could run to another dojo that 'suits' me. How does this serve the Art? How does this help other students? And how does this give back to Aikido that has given so much to me?

It does none.

As I said, I will try to lead by example in the dojo as I do in life; effecting change from within.

GB
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Old 03-22-2007, 11:10 AM   #27
Ron Tisdale
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

Dude, why should YOU be the one to teach in someone else's dojo??

If you want to teach, get the rank in their organization, and teach.

Or open your own place.

Or be a student.

Full stop.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 03-22-2007, 11:25 AM   #28
Basia Halliop
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

I think I see what you're getting at, but disagree... the students at that dojo have chosen that dojo and are paying that instructor to teach them, they have not chosen you as a teacher, even if you are right and you really are better (entirely possible). If they are impressed by your technique or notice that you do something well, and come and ask you, that's one thing, but if they aren't asking, they may simply not want you as a 'teacher'. And unless the sensei has hinted otherwise, I doubt he wants you as a teacher either.

If you are interested in teaching I would find a dojo where you can learn from the instructor and help him or her with his support, and where the students there will be there by their choice, or start your own dojo. Other then that you could try tentatively commenting on something (I've found it useful to..., someone once showed me a way to...) and seeing if someone seems interested, which they may be if they find your comments genuinely helpful to them, but I wouldn't go much further than that, and even that might be too much if you're basically going against what the dojo instructor has taught and promoted them for.

But my concern isn't just a matter of whether it 'suits you' or not -- it doesn't sound like a place where you are learning, and if those people are higher ranked and do truely have poor technique then, well, the sensei has chosen to pass them, so it reflects on the instructor as well. However, he has a right to run his dojo how he wants, and his students are free to come or go, they don't need rescuing.

Personally, I think you will help 'Aikido' more by finding a teacher whose technique and teaching you admire.

Obviously I can only go by what I understand from what I read, so I could be wrong and take that for what it's worth.

Last edited by Basia Halliop : 03-22-2007 at 11:27 AM.
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Old 03-22-2007, 11:42 AM   #29
Erik Calderon
 
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

Quote:
Gordon Biddy wrote: View Post
My dilemma in the dojo is that I don't know how to diplomatically and effectively point out poor techniques to students and instructors who may out rank me by belt, but not by depth and breadth of experience.

So again I pose the question, this time hopefully more clearly and with apologies for wasting anyone's time: how best to address this?

GB
Give a sincere attack, if technque doesn't work, don't take ukemi. If it works, then it might not be that weak after all.

www.shinkikan.com
aikido shinkikan
Erik Calderon.

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Old 03-22-2007, 12:03 PM   #30
mriehle
 
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

You say this:

Quote:
Gordon Biddy wrote: View Post
As I said, I will continue to respect this sensei. And I know all about training to what the sensei teaches, regardless of how different it may be from what one is used to learning. Long ago I abandoned the idea that anything I had been taught was superior to something I had yet to learn.
But then you go on to say this (in apparent contradiction of the above):

Quote:
Gordon Biddy wrote: View Post
My dilemma in the dojo is that I don't know how to diplomatically and effectively point out poor techniques to students and instructors who may out rank me by belt, but not by depth and breadth of experience.
The answer to the question above is "Don't".

Look, I believe you, the technical abilities at the dojo are sub-par (okay, maybe I don't actually care whether they actually are, I believe you believe it). So, either find a better dojo or start one of your own. Didn't you say there was a small group training to their own standard and that the instructor has asked the group to disband (or something to that effect)? So, get this group to go train on their own somewhere.

If you are really motivated by a desire to train at a high standard and not by one-upmanship you will find a way.

Every dojo has a couple of yudansha who can privately complain to the sensei about things he is doing and he will listen. Usually this is because they've proven to be people whose judgement he trusts. If you are one of these people, then have a private meeting with him. If you are not, then get over it or move on.

You don't have to embarass the sensei or create any kind of acrimony between the two of you (it isn't even a good idea). Just do what really needs to be done. Either train or move on.

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Old 03-22-2007, 12:04 PM   #31
crbateman
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

Quote:
Gordon Biddy wrote: View Post
As I said, I will try to lead by example in the dojo as I do in life; effecting change from within.
I'll say it again: This is not your place. You have not been asked to do this. It is up to the chief instructor to decide your responsibility and sanction your conduct in his dojo. For you to do otherwise, regardless of your personal motivations, is both disrespectful and presumptuous. Want to be the engineer? Get your own train. Otherwise, there will be a wreck.

And I would be careful about labeling peoples' judgements as "unwarranted". If you hang your laundry out in here, you're going to hear what people think. Your real concern should be that the reaction you have gotten from the majority who have offered here is so opposed to your own judgement (which I am assuming from the tone of your comment is the "warranted" one). Even those who understand and/or sympathize with your situation have advised that your perceived right to do as you please in someone else's dojo is misplaced. You will probably be just as put off by the reactions of those in the dojo to your personal crusade to correct them.

Horse has died. Bowing out.
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Old 03-22-2007, 12:09 PM   #32
mriehle
 
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

Quote:
Erik Calderon wrote: View Post
Give a sincere attack, if technque doesn't work, don't take ukemi. If it works, then it might not be that weak after all.
Normally I'd agree with this statement. Okay, actually, I still do.

I just question the sincerety of an attack which is intended to demonstrate that the instructor doesn't actually know what he's doing. A sincere challenge is one thing (as an instructor I can tell you that sometimes they're cheap entertainment and I learn from them even when they aren't), but active attempts to embarass the instructor are another.

Understand, I'm not accusing you of anything. I'm only suggesting that some people might attempt what you are saying with the wrong motivation and do more harm than good. In other words, they might think they are attempting your suggestion but are actually doing something else entirely.

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Old 03-22-2007, 12:26 PM   #33
Fred Little
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

I've heard it said that when Sugano Sensei was at Aikikai Hombu Dojo, one of the things that made him stand out was that whoever he trained with, whatever their level, he always trained in such a way that he was just a smidge better than they were.

That's worth emulating.

FL
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Old 03-22-2007, 01:22 PM   #34
Karen Wolek
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

Quote:
Gordon Biddy wrote: View Post
However perhaps I am at fault: I didn't clearly explain myself. What I am referring to is poor technique, not techniques which are different from what I may be used to.

This distinction makes a world of difference.

GB
I certainly can't (and won't) speak for anyone else, but I personally understood perfectly what you meant. Therefore, my advice still stands.

We have an unofficial motto in my dojo, "Shut up and take ukemi."

If you don't want to do that, then you should find another dojo. Or start your own.

But as others have said, YOU aren't the teacher in the dojo. There is only one Sensei on the mat. And that isn't you.

I guess this isn't what you wanted to hear.

Karen
"Try not. Do...or do not. There is no try." - Master Yoda
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Old 03-22-2007, 01:49 PM   #35
GBiddy
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

It's surprising, and reflects rather poorly I must say, that on an Aikido forum the prevalent attitude seems to be "my way or the highway."

The aggression in some of the responses to my questions seems especially out of place. To the authors I say ask yourself how far off the path you are and how much further you have to go.

A point of note: at the three dojos I practiced at in Japan, I noticed that the more senior the student or instructor, the more talkative, friendly, welcoming, and approachable they were.

This contrasts sharply with what I've experienced at most of the dojos I've trained at in North America, where senior practitioners are too often aloof, arrogant, silent, and unwelcoming.

I'm think starting to understand why.

Nevertheless, I'm going to try to work for positive change at my dojo. If my sensei is half the man he appears to be, I'm certain he'll either welcome my input or set me on a path towards deeper understanding (as he should).

Given the interest this topic has generated, I'll certainly let everyone know how it goes.

GB

Last edited by GBiddy : 03-22-2007 at 01:52 PM.
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Old 03-22-2007, 01:56 PM   #36
Ron Tisdale
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

Ah, yeah, good luck with that...

I've trained a fair amount with two Japanese instructors. Neither one would tolerate what it seems you are suggesting. Open, friendly and welcoming...not a problem.

Act up...take the ukemi.

As I said...good luck with that.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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Old 03-22-2007, 02:20 PM   #37
Robert Rumpf
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

Quote:
Gordon Biddy wrote: View Post
First of all, hello from a new member. This site is a fantastic Aikido resource, and I look forward to participating and contributing to the discussions.

I'm relieved to find this forum because I have a problem that I'm not sure how to address.

I've been practicing for about 12 years now, and spent the last 3 years studying in Japan. I'm now back in North America, and at the dojo I'm attending I've been really surprised by the lack of martial knowledge and 'presence' of many of the shodan+ students.

Since I'm a lower 'rank' I have no right to suggest technique improvements or point out mistakes, but my time in Japan taught me much and I'd like to share it. But I don't know how to make suggestions without offending or coming across as arrogant.

Usually I would simply discuss this with my sensei or the students individually, but at this dojo our sensei is so incredibly aloof (to the point of not even saying a word to students, from change room to mats) that I'd like to get some other opinions on how to proceed.
I think this is where you have to decide for yourself what type of Aikido you're interested in practicing. If you're interested in the spiritual practice of Aikido, you may end up losing out on some of the physical practice. Likewise with the converse.

You're running into a massive contradiction, which is inevitable and common.. How much "wrongness" are you willing to accept to blend with the harmony of the situation? There are some who accept none, and so they cannot abide others except as students. There are some who will accept anything. Most people are in-between.

Do you look for the truth in yourself and your understanding (and its apparent antecedents), and choose to spread that, or do you starting looking for the truth in other people's understandings (no matter how flawed or inferior) and embrace that? Or maybe you do a bit of both.

There is this great Zen quote to the effect of: "A great actor appreciates any part, no matter how small, while a poor actor has nothing but complaints." Damn.. I need to look that up, to avoid misquotes.

Regardless of what these people say on Aikiweb about propriety in a dojo, or about the importance of correct and robust Aikido technique, you need to design your training for yourself and decide what your priorities are. That decision will have consequences with respect to your future relationships (or lack thereof) with others in the dojo (and in real life), with whether or not you are even training there, as well as with your Aikido technique, both physically and otherwise.

The only other thing I can say is specific complaints about a dojo or persons can be touchy. You perhaps should have posted anonymously, so that this doesn't come back to haunt you later in case you say specific things that you might regret in terms of hurting people's feelings or something like that. There's not much of a delete function on Aikiweb.

Good luck,
Rob
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Old 03-22-2007, 07:56 PM   #38
Mark Freeman
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

Quote:
Gordon Biddy wrote: View Post
It's surprising, and reflects rather poorly I must say, that on an Aikido forum the prevalent attitude seems to be "my way or the highway."

The aggression in some of the responses to my questions seems especially out of place. To the authors I say ask yourself how far off the path you are and how much further you have to go.
Interesting,

you asked for opinions, you got some!

You are proposing that some of the opinion/advice givers ( many of whom I agree with ) need to examine their own position in relation to the aikido path. Mainly on the basis that you don't agree with them.

I think you really would benefit from opening your own dojo, you will only really appreciate a student like yourself when you have one to teach.

Good luck

Mark

Success is having what you want. Happiness is wanting what you have.
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Old 03-22-2007, 08:16 PM   #39
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

Quote:
Gordon Biddy wrote: View Post
It's surprising, and reflects rather poorly I must say, that on an Aikido forum the prevalent attitude seems to be "my way or the highway."
Gordon,
It's not that people aren't supportive, it's just that you are pretty much ignoring what's been said because it conflicts with what you want to hear.

I have had my own dojo now for twenty years. I have periodically had people come in who had the proverbial "full cup". They were so busy trying to show everyone what they knew, they couldn't take in anything I had to teach. There is simply no point in doing that.

A dojo is not a democracy. You don't go in there intending to set the teacher right... As a student you have absolute power to find a teacher. You can check things out and if it doesn't suit you leave. if that isn't convenient for you then shut up and train. You don't get to go in and change things no matter how misguided you feel what they are doing actually is.

As I said before, it is quite possible that the dojo you have found isn't for you. You may be absolutely right about the various faults in their practice when compared to what you did in Japan. But at their place it is the job of the dojo cho to set the agenda and not up to you. Perhaps after quite a long time training at and investing in that dojo, you might have earned the right to have an opinion and express that to the teacher. But as a new guy you have not done that yet.

One of my former students moved away and went to another dojo out of state. I heard later that he was making it hard for the teacher there because he didn't feel the training measured up to ours. I called him up and let him no in no uncertain terms that he was to do what they did as long as he chose to be there. It reflected badly on me that he didn't know how to behave in someone else's house. And that place is someone else's house until you have been there long enough to earn a place in the family.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
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Old 03-22-2007, 09:25 PM   #40
Nick P.
 
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

Your clarification is much appreciated, thank you.

IMHO, just train, and as you said, lead by example.
The act of simply being there and doing your best to follow the sensei's teaching will likely be all the catalyst required to effect the change you think is required. Most everyone knows when they are in the presence of someone they can learn from, junior or senior, and rarely is that moment of learning augmented by words; it usually just happens while training.

If the changes don't occur, fine.
If they do, fine.

Best,
-Nick

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Old 03-23-2007, 11:18 AM   #41
charyuop
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

The other day I was doing a kata and did a movement different....not because who knows why, just didn't remember the correct one (I am just a beginner).
I guess Sensei thought I was trying to go my way and he told me that the movement I did was not wrong, but it was not the way he teaches it. Being in his dojo I have to learn his movements being him my Sensei (perfectly fine with me hee hee coz I got nothing to teach him...not even how to blow my nose).

I perfectly agree with this way of seeing things. After all if you opened your dojo and a student from your Sensei comes to your dojo you wouldn't want him to keep doing the techniques the old way.

That is way in my previous message I suggested to face the situation in a comparative way instead of a "teaching" way. If you go up to your Sensei and compare the way you do your techniques and his way I am sure that will awake your Sensei interest in the way you do them. That doesn't mean he will say ok teach them in my dojo, but at least he will be more open to your Aikido and not see as errors some things that might come out in your practice from the things you learnt in Japan.

P.S. Ledyard Sensei, if you are as good in Aikido as you are in finding the right words to express your wise thoughts I give you a 10th Dan ad onorem. I always enjoy reading your posts. Thank you for giving us some of your time.

Last edited by charyuop : 03-23-2007 at 11:25 AM.
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Old 03-23-2007, 06:41 PM   #42
tarik
 
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

Gordon,

Quote:
Mary Eastland wrote: View Post
How noble of you.

My feeling is if you want to teach, open a dojo.
Don't come to mine and show how you are better....because you are not. You are just different.

If you want to train at our dojo you should practice what we are teaching to the best of your ablity....otherwise go somewhere else.
Mary is quite correct. While I disagree with her assessment that different is just different and not necessarily better, no one should be required to practice in a way that doesn't suit them.

Speaking from direct personal experience, I'll just say that if you honestly feel that there are issues with training in the dojo, you must speak with the head of the dojo and try to fit into his or her intentions.

You can try to be a sincere and positive example and assist in improving the training, however this can be impossibly challenging and it really is something that, done silently, becomes a passive aggressive invitation to bigger trouble.

Talk to the dojo-cho, be open about what you want to do, and if it doesn't work out for any reason, find another place to train or start your own dojo.

Regards,

Tarik

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Old 03-23-2007, 10:49 PM   #43
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

Quote:
Gordon Biddy wrote: View Post
I've decided to instead practice the way we did in Japan.
I find this approach to be terribly disrespectful. If someone in my dojo were to act in this manner and refused to do things our way, I would "ask" them to leave and not return. The teachers and seniors in my dojo are all of the same mind on this matter.

You don't have to like how I arrange the furniture in my home, but certainly you don't have the right to start moving things around. If where I place my couch really bothers you, the only choice you have is to find a new place to hang out.

I understand wanting to honor what your teachers taught you and continue to work on it. But someone else's dojo is not the place to start interjecting your own ego. In my mind, the only proper thing to do is to create your own practice partners and pass on what you have learned in another setting.

Michael Hacker
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Old 03-30-2007, 01:21 PM   #44
Largo
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

I agree with Michael. I couldn't imagine anything more frustrating to a teacher than that kind of attitude. I would wonder why you are continuing to come and "learn" from me. If you want to quit because the teacher isn't that great, then quit. If you want to challenge him, then challenge him. If you want to learn from him, then learn.
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Old 03-30-2007, 01:39 PM   #45
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

In my dojo we have an "agreement." If a student can "stop" my technique then they can feel free to critique it and we will analyze it for weaknesses and I will allow them to demonstrate how it might be improved upon. If they can't stop my technique then they simply shutup and train. Personally, I would never presume to correct anybody's technique in someone else's dojo. It is not my place to do so. That is the responsibility of the dojo cho, not mine. That is one of the reasons I enjoy visiting other dojo's so much. It alleviates me of the burdens of being "sensei."
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Old 03-30-2007, 01:56 PM   #46
Largo
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

Nice agreement. You don't happen to teach in Ohio do you?
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Old 03-30-2007, 02:12 PM   #47
gdandscompserv
 
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

No, Paul, I don't teach in Ohio, but if you're ever in Barstow, feel free to stop in. And if you stop my technique I'll turn the class over to you.
I hope you don't think that I think my technique is unstoppable. I have trained with some real aikido wizards that have had no problem stopping my technique. In fact, I wish they were all at my dojo and I wouldn't have to teach another class. I could go back to being a student again.
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Old 03-30-2007, 02:17 PM   #48
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

Quote:
Ricky Wood wrote: View Post
I have trained with some real aikido wizards that have had no problem stopping my technique.
Would you explain what you mean by "stopping technique" and why you think this is a good/bad thing?

Michael Hacker
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Old 03-30-2007, 03:01 PM   #49
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

Quote:
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Would you explain what you mean by "stopping technique" and why you think this is a good/bad thing?
No
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Old 04-07-2007, 11:23 AM   #50
Shannon Frye
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

My suggestion would be NOT to say a thing. I've found that most people within the art do not take kindly to help from anyone other than the head instructor. I'm not saying that your info isn't valid and valuable. It just probably wont be welcomed.
I saw it was suggested to form your own club, based on your training and experience. Either that or keep searching till you find a dojo like my current one - where experienced input is welcomed, and even the higher ranks are humble enough to say "tell me if you see something wrong or different, I'm human and I make mistakes".
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