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Old 05-06-2007, 06:33 AM   #1
Steve Butler
Dojo: Kinokawa
Location: Mount Airy, Maryland
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Starting a dojo

I am considering starting my own dojo. My experience in Aikido began in 2001 and I received my Shodan rank last year. For some reason I feel the need to "move out of the nest" and start my own dojo. Although, I do have a nagging feeling that I may be doing this for the wrong reasons. I think the one major factor in my decision to start my own dojo is that at 57, I feel either I start my own dojo now or the window of opportunity will close soon, given my age.
For those that run their own dojos, I would like to ask you why you started your dojo and perhaps to provide me with your thoughts on "why one should start their own dojo" and "why one should not start their own dojo". Thank you in advance for your input.
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Old 05-06-2007, 06:45 AM   #2
ficklampa
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Re: Starting a dojo

shodan last year...sounds to soon to open a dojo for me.
why should someone come to practice at your dojo rather than the one where you practice now?
one opportunity would be to start teaching at your present dojo perhaps to get som experience?
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Old 05-06-2007, 07:02 AM   #3
Mark Uttech
Dojo: Yoshin-ji Aikido of Marshall
Location: Wisconsin
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Re: Starting a dojo

You are asking for input, so that shows some doubt, which is normal and good. You need to seek the input and support of your immediate sensei or senseis. If they advise against it, take their advice.

In gassho,

Mark
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Old 05-06-2007, 07:27 AM   #4
crbateman
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Re: Starting a dojo

Your journey has only just begun. It is probably too soon for you to competantly guide others along on theirs. Be patient.
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Old 05-06-2007, 07:39 AM   #5
rachmass
Dojo: Aikido of Cincinnati/Huron Valley Aikikai
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Re: Starting a dojo

Very young (aikiwise) to be starting a dojo. I tried it once as a sandan with my fukushidoin certification and over 20-years experience at that time and failed. That said, if the area you are in has no viable places to practice, it might work, but if you are in an area with other aikido dojos you would be advised to wait.

6 years is nothing in aikido. Why not simply keep practicing where you are? Being older won't stop you from opening a dojo eventually if you really want to do it, but you would have to really question yourself as to why you want to do this (really).

Best wishes whichever route you go.
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Old 05-06-2007, 10:44 AM   #6
Avery Jenkins
 
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Re: Starting a dojo

I would think long and hard about that one. If you feel the need to teach, talk to your sensei and ask if you can teach a class or two. At 57, I can't imagine why you would want the headaches of starting a dojo from scratch. (This written by a man who has started 2 businesses, is 50 years old, and wouldn't do it again on a bet).

Frankly, I started training in 1995, and I only have a few lessons to teach anyone, chief among them being:

1) Don't throw up on the mat. If you must throw up, get off the mat first. If you can't get off the mat first, throw up in your gi.

2) Make sure your bokken is lighter than sensei's. No point in just asking for pain.

Actually, I have about 17 of them.

Avery
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Old 05-06-2007, 11:32 AM   #7
tedehara
 
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Re: Starting a dojo

Quote:
Steve Butler wrote: View Post
...perhaps to provide me with your thoughts on "why one should start their own dojo" and "why one should not start their own dojo"...
You should start a dojo if you have no other choice. You should not start your own dojo if you have other options.

If you're serious about this, talk to your instructors and fellow students and see what their opinions are. Start doing research on martial arts/fitness businesses in your perspective area. You might want to take a look at Starting and Running Your Own Martial Arts School by Susan Lynn Peterson and Karen Levitz Vactor (Paperback - Nov 2002), then sit down and write a business plan. Double check your numbers and see what you'll need to break even.

It is not practice that makes perfect, it is correct practice that makes perfect.
About Ki
About You
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Old 05-06-2007, 12:28 PM   #8
tarik
 
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Re: Starting a dojo

Quote:
Steve Butler wrote: View Post
Although, I do have a nagging feeling that I may be doing this for the wrong reasons.
Trust your gut.

Quote:
Steve Butler wrote: View Post
"why one should start their own dojo" and "why one should not start their own dojo". Thank you in advance for your input.
You start a dojo because you have no place to train the way you want to train or because your teacher told you to start a dojo. IOW, you start a dojo when you have no other choice and you still want to train. A dojo is not generally a business venture, IMO.

If I wanted to go into business in a related fashion, I might start a gym for general martial arts training; hire teachers from various styles and systems to teach; and if I had no place to train the way I wanted, use the space for my own dojo/training. But the dojo would have nothing to do with the business, really.

Tarik Ghbeish
Jiyūshin-ryū AikiBudō - Iwae Dojo

MASAKATSU AGATSU -- "The true victory of self-mastery."
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Old 05-06-2007, 01:55 PM   #9
Just Jamey
Dojo: Aikido of West Bend
Location: Wisconsin
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Re: Starting a dojo

Just speaking from my Aikido experience, which began in 1999, I would not consider starting or running a dojo on my own. I'm competent to lead class should no instructor be available, to demonstrate basic movements and techniques so that practice can be conducted. However, I would not and do not consider myself an instructor by any means. I've scratched the surface of Aikido.

Speaking from my experience in running day-to-day operations for my Sensei and the dojo where I train, I would have to say that you should very carefully examine your reasons for wanting to start your own dojo. Be prepared to incur a lot of expenses because operating in black ink is going to probably happen only in a dream.

I agree with others who stated the only reason to start your own dojo at this particular juncture would be if your training options are limited. I would also agree with speaking to your Sensei to see what his/her thoughts on the matter are. This might be a "window" you are better off just "window shopping" through.
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Old 05-06-2007, 04:06 PM   #10
Aiki1
 
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Re: Starting a dojo

Quote:
Avery Jenkins wrote: View Post

1) Don't throw up on the mat. If you must throw up, get off the mat first. If you can't get off the mat first, throw up in your gi.
Best advice I've seen in years! :-)

LN

Larry Novick
Head Instructor
ACE Aikido
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Old 05-06-2007, 05:56 PM   #11
Steve Butler
Dojo: Kinokawa
Location: Mount Airy, Maryland
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Re: Starting a dojo

Thank you all for your comments. Please allow me to clarify several points that I did not mention in the post. First, my Sensei and Sempai are supportive. Also, I have been tentatively offered the use a karate dojo currently in operation and located 18 miles from where I train now. There is no rent, rather the owner would get 30% of the fee I charge for each student (to cover the insurance). This would be more of a satellite dojo, where I would train new students and continue training once a week at my current location. I do agree, six years may not "qualify" me.
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Old 05-06-2007, 06:50 PM   #12
mwible
Dojo: Aikido of Suenaka-Ha in Greater Richmond
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Re: Starting a dojo

Quote:
Avery Jenkins wrote: View Post
I would think long and hard about that one. If you feel the need to teach, talk to your sensei and ask if you can teach a class or two. At 57, I can't imagine why you would want the headaches of starting a dojo from scratch. (This written by a man who has started 2 businesses, is 50 years old, and wouldn't do it again on a bet).

Frankly, I started training in 1995, and I only have a few lessons to teach anyone, chief among them being:

1) Don't throw up on the mat. If you must throw up, get off the mat first. If you can't get off the mat first, throw up in your gi.

2) Make sure your bokken is lighter than sensei's. No point in just asking for pain.

Actually, I have about 17 of them.

Avery
wondering if you could share the other 15 ? sounds good so far, and i am always in the mood to learn
-in aiki
-morgan
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Old 05-06-2007, 07:12 PM   #13
tarik
 
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Re: Starting a dojo

Quote:
Steve Butler wrote: View Post
Thank you all for your comments. Please allow me to clarify several points that I did not mention in the post. First, my Sensei and Sempai are supportive. Also, I have been tentatively offered the use a karate dojo currently in operation and located 18 miles from where I train now. There is no rent, rather the owner would get 30% of the fee I charge for each student (to cover the insurance). This would be more of a satellite dojo, where I would train new students and continue training once a week at my current location. I do agree, six years may not "qualify" me.
That sounds quite a bit different and more like the second reason I described.

Tarik Ghbeish
Jiyūshin-ryū AikiBudō - Iwae Dojo

MASAKATSU AGATSU -- "The true victory of self-mastery."
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Old 05-07-2007, 09:05 AM   #14
David Shevitz
Dojo: Aikido Kokikai South Everett
Location: Seattle
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Re: Starting a dojo

I agree with what many folks here have said: one of the best reasons for starting a club is because you haev no choice--you either start a club on your own, or you stop training.

I was a shodan when I started my dojo. It was way too early for me, in my opinion, despite the fact that I had been teaching at my Sensei's dojo for a couple of years. However, my wife and I wanted to start a family, and we had moved out into the suburbs of our city. Training at my sensei's dojo became a five-hour time committment three times a week--something that I knew would not be sustainable when we had a child. So it was either start a club, or stop training.

It sounds like you have the support of your instructors, which is excellent! And it even sounds like you have a situation in which you can start a club without much financial risk. In light of that, I'd say you'll do fine whichever path you choose to follow.
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Old 05-13-2007, 07:14 AM   #15
lbb
Location: Massachusetts
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Re: Starting a dojo

I'll add some thoughts on a different aspect of starting a dojo. I'm a very new aikido student who's training at a new dojo (just two years old). I started here when the dojo was one year old, and I'm here to tell you, a new dojo is a lot of work. Caring for and improving the space is less of a chore for a renter than it is for an owner (we've done a massive amount of work on our building, which you would not have to do), but there will still be some work -- and then there's the really time-consuming parts like finding students and oh, yeah, teaching classes. Who are your students going to be, and what do you know about them? Are they working people, college students, what? Are they people who currently train at your current dojo, but who live closer to the new location? What will their schedule constraints be, when will they be able to train and how will that dictate how you structure your class schedule?

Martial arts schools, in general, have a low retention rate (I studied two other styles for a number of years before I moved here, so I've had plenty of opportunity to observe this). My opinion is that while a lot of people find the idea of martial arts training to be exciting, the reality of repetition and hard work weeds out all but a very few. Of the people who really want to train, you're going to lose some more as life intervenes. Thus, to keep a school viable, you need to be constantly be bringing in new students. Are you willing to do this constant promotion and outreach? Do you have a population base that will supply enough new students?

Finally, assume you can do all the above and you're wildly successful. Are you willing to commit to keeping the dojo going indefinitely? You're asking students to commit to the dojo -- are you going to commit to be there for them for the next ten or twenty years? In the United States, anyone can hang out a shingle, call themselves Sensei and make any claims to martial arts skills they want. When you do that, though, you're making a statement. Are you really prepared to live up to it?

It's a big, big step. Regardless of your experience and your ability or inclination to teach, there are other considerations that could add up to an answer of "No".
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Old 05-13-2007, 10:33 AM   #16
jennifer paige smith
 
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Re: Starting a dojo

Quote:
Rachel Massey wrote: View Post
Very young (aikiwise) to be starting a dojo. I tried it once as a sandan with my fukushidoin certification and over 20-years experience at that time and failed. That said, if the area you are in has no viable places to practice, it might work, but if you are in an area with other aikido dojos you would be advised to wait.

6 years is nothing in aikido. Why not simply keep practicing where you are? Being older won't stop you from opening a dojo eventually if you really want to do it, but you would have to really question yourself as to why you want to do this (really).

Best wishes whichever route you go.
There is really no definite time limit that any of us can consistently rely on as a measure of 'readiness'. I've practiced with people who have trained many years longer than I, yet in life and technique they are not my Sempai. They do not exemplify what I hold as valuable( still I respect their years of practice) .Maybe 6 years is a very short time in aikido, but you also came to this art with some experience in your life (Steve). Especially a man who is an elder in our society and who has had the benefit of life and maturity in your own particular way.

As a recent dojo cho who has not been able to rely on the support of the seniors in this area ( because of violently immature politics, another measure of practice) I have had to really ask myself what is it that I feel the need to communicate or provide by opening my own dojo.? One of the reasons is so that OTHERS WOULD DO THE SAME. So someone like Tarik (HI Tarik ) could be encouraged to step outside of an old box, look to his deepest heart of training, look to his personal preference in expressing his 'wa', look to the community abroad for a gap and fill it. So, I might not be the technically superior artist in the area( although that could be argued, no humility here ) but I am the person who is inspiring others to ask good questions of themselves and their teachers and to act from their hearts and gut and training. This is my personal gift ( or curse ) to the art. This is a quality I brought to my training when I first started and it is a quality I have developed through practice; integrity and courage.
You sure the hell aren't going to get rich financially. But our richness lies within and with each other. So I say, If you still feel it, Go for It. If you lack vision, backbone, or quality of training the larger community ( not just aikido) will vote you out.

You can always go back to the blue pill.

Last edited by jennifer paige smith : 05-13-2007 at 10:39 AM.

Jennifer Paige Smith
Confluence Aikido Systems
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Old 05-13-2007, 10:47 AM   #17
heathererandolph
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Re: Starting a dojo

Some things to consider -
What will you charge? Will you give a discount to those who also join the other dojo? Will one day be enough for your customers who do not want to train at the other dojo?

Who will teach in your absence?

I think if the Karate studio can take money from the students, that would simplify things for you. Is the Karate studio going to take the money from the customers and give you the remainder? How will you know what has been paid? Do they have an on-line system where students can pay by credit card or can they take payments when you are not there? Will they let you put a sign in the window?

Does the studio have any expectations as far as number of students? If it is not enough, will you have to make up the difference? Better to iron these things out before embarking with that studio.

Do you need to purchase mats? Always a big expense in a new dojo if they don't have them. If they do have them, great!

Do you have some friends who can help populate your classes while you are getting started?

While you are young in the Aikido process, we are always still learning. Since you do have rank, your instructors thought enough of your skills to give you rank. Good luck!
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Old 05-15-2007, 07:56 AM   #18
Stefan Stenudd
 
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Running an aikido dojo

I would say that if you start that dojo, you should commit to it, for the sake of your students.

I wrote a text on "The ups and downs of running an aikido dojo" that you might find useful:
http://www.stenudd.com/aikido/aikido-dojo.htm

Stefan Stenudd
My aikido website: http://www.stenudd.com/aikido/
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Old 05-15-2007, 08:49 AM   #19
arjandevries
Dojo: Ima Juku
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Re: Starting a dojo

I started with my own group in january 2005. I did it in a gym in another place I lived and practised. The members were not mine but from the gym.
In august 2006 I started another group in another town. I left my old dojo because of unresolvable issues with the teacher (and his wife). With the first group I got on in febr 2007 on my own. So now I have 2 locations with one group of (27) people. I am a Nidan and started Aikido in 1994.
The only idea I had was to bring Aikido to a larger public and my Sensei was not happy about it (his bad luck..)
So I had to go on my own.

Good luck and take the advise from others above!

http://www.imajuku.nl
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Old 05-15-2007, 08:59 AM   #20
jennifer paige smith
 
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Re: Starting a dojo

Quote:
Arjan de Vries wrote: View Post
I started with my own group in january 2005. I did it in a gym in another place I lived and practised. The members were not mine but from the gym.
In august 2006 I started another group in another town. I left my old dojo because of unresolvable issues with the teacher (and his wife). With the first group I got on in febr 2007 on my own. So now I have 2 locations with one group of (27) people. I am a Nidan and started Aikido in 1994.
The only idea I had was to bring Aikido to a larger public and my Sensei was not happy about it (his bad luck..)
So I had to go on my own.

Good luck and take the advise from others above!

http://www.imajuku.nl
Great post!

Jennifer Paige Smith
Confluence Aikido Systems
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