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Old 12-30-2001, 06:53 PM   #1
guest1234
Join Date: Jun 2000
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welcoming new students

Reading another thread made me think back to my first few weeks as 'the new student' in the dojo, and so I thought I'd ask if any of you do anything to help the newbies settle in, or if you are new was there anything helpful/painful, or if you even think it is necessary.

I think my first dojo changed quite a bit of these practices since I've left, but one thing students were taught was to use a certain greeting phrase upon entering or leaving the dojo, or if you saw someone entering/leaving. I found it prevented me from just quietly slinking into the change room, and artificial though it may have been, made me feel like the older students were glad to see me, and noticed that I was leaving and wanted to bid farewell.

Another thing, which I was terrified of at first (as were most new students) was at the end of class, once Sensei had ended it and left the mat, the students all thanked and hugged each other. Coming from a very nondemonstrative family, this was easily much more scary than rolling. Again, the seniors were good about not letting the newbies kind of shuffle away to the change rooms...hard to get used to, but you can't keep hugging people and not start to feel like part of the family.

I realize these things were artificial, and yet, they worked to make me feel like I belonged sooner. Other dojos I've joined did not do this, but by then I felt more at home in Aikido itself, so I didn't have the same 'do I really belong here' feelings I recall as a real beginner. So does anyone else have an opinion on this? Is it up to beginners to reach out, or the older students?
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Old 12-30-2001, 07:30 PM   #2
Erik
Location: Bay Area
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Re: welcoming new students

Quote:
Originally posted by ca
Another thing, which I was terrified of at first (as were most new students) was at the end of class, once Sensei had ended it and left the mat, the students all thanked and hugged each other. Coming from a very nondemonstrative family, this was easily much more scary than rolling. Again, the seniors were good about not letting the newbies kind of shuffle away to the change rooms...hard to get used to, but you can't keep hugging people and not start to feel like part of the family.
Hugging! By The Great Pumpkin! What is wrong with you and those people.
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Old 12-30-2001, 07:35 PM   #3
guest1234
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Strong words from one who sits alone in a pumpkin patch on All Saints' Eve...
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Old 12-30-2001, 07:59 PM   #4
deepsoup
Dojo: Sheffield Shodokan Dojo
Location: Sheffield, UK
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Re: welcoming new students

Quote:
Originally posted by ca
So does anyone else have an opinion on this? Is it up to beginners to reach out, or the older students?
Well, I'm not sure about the group hugs, but I definitely would say its up to the more experienced students to do the reaching out.

Its easy to forget how daunting it can be for a beginner sometimes, just to walk into a dojo. Stepping on the mat for the first time is a pretty brave thing to do, compared to that it doesn't take any effort at all to at least smile and say hi.

Sean
x

ps.. I thought All Saints Eve was the one night of the year you're never alone in a pumpkin patch!
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Old 12-30-2001, 08:08 PM   #5
guest1234
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Oh great, another one of those 'believers'?
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Old 12-31-2001, 07:09 AM   #6
Edward
Location: Bangkok
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Actually I have practiced several times at one of these dojos where they do the post-training hugging. Honestly, not only have I felt uneasy hugging all these people, but I also found it a little caricatural, as obviously there were no true feelings behind it. I myself prefer to stick to oldfashioned bowing.

Cheers,
Edward
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Old 12-31-2001, 09:19 AM   #7
guest1234
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So is there anything that you do to welcome new students into the dojo, or is it not necessary? Anything you liked when you were new? Or would have liked?

Off the topic, interesting thing about hugging, in some cultures it would be the equivalent of bowing, seen only as a friendly greeting between friends and not the same overtones places on it in the States.
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Old 01-02-2002, 08:31 AM   #8
Largo
Dojo: Aikikai Dobunkan/ Icho Ryu Aikijujutsu
Location: Indiana
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In my old dojo a fair number of us would go drinking afterwards... but I can't think of anything else specific.
(pre-flame note: 1) this was a karate dojo 2)This was a college club, and we were all about the same age, and were legal. I know this probably wasn't a typical dojo.)
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Old 01-02-2002, 08:50 AM   #9
Edward
Location: Bangkok
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In our dojo, we have no special ways of welcoming new comers. However, Thais are very friendly people (and discreet), and usually beginners and visitors alike feel at home.

I myself am quite shy and prefer to be left alone to find my way slowly. I feel a little intimidated by being introduced to every one or to have to introduce myself to the class formally at the beginning or end of the training.
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Old 01-02-2002, 11:59 AM   #10
michaelkvance
Dojo: Aikido Center of Los Angeles
Location: Montrose, CA
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Well, we have new students train alone with a senior student for a few classes before they're introduced into the general practice. Basic tenkan, ukemi, ikkyo, etc. However, they do line up like everyone else, and after class, everyone thanks the instructor, and then we finish by thanking every other person who trained by bowing and saying "thank you, First Name". If you don't know their name, you ask and then maybe shake their hand.

m.
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Old 01-02-2002, 12:44 PM   #11
Mike Allen
 
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Dojo: Ki No Kawa
Location: Eastern PA
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Re: welcoming new students

For the last 6 months or so most of our new students have come because they are friends of someone who already practices or are members of the karate dojo where we train. That makes things just a little easier.

For the most part someone who is interested in us will watch a class first. Whoever is teaching that night will generally start a technique and then go talk to the person/people watching just to give them an idea of what we are about. Sometimes they come back and sometimes they do not.

If they come back and take a class they immediately get paired with one of the 2nd or 1st kyu's for the basic exercizes and ukemi. After the warm ups they switch off just like every other student. With a new student on the mats the technique tends to be a little lighter and not as "fancy", at least for the first few classes

After most peoples first class most wear a kind of an information overload look on their face Most of the regular students are really good about talking to the newbies and offering help or even time to work on the basic motions and or ukemi if the new person so wishes.

We also have a student handbook that gives a nice history of Aikido and of our style in particular along with terminology, etiquette and general dojo rules.

One of our Sempai runs a college club (where he teaches) and was thinking that it would be a good idea to have each new person who showed up have a "mentor" who is a regular student. Of course when the club started he had 6 or 7 regulars from the main dojo helping him out and well over 20 students so that idea never really panned out Sounded like a good one though, anyone ever do something similar?

peace
mike
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Old 01-02-2002, 12:57 PM   #12
guest1234
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Those all sound like great ideas...

The mentor thing sounds like something my current place does, each student, if they are going to test, must have established a 'sempai', not just in general, but a particular senior who should be bringing them along, so to speak. I think most grumble at having to ask someone, but it is good to have a person who can help you, and feels responsible for that.

My first dojo it was more of a sempai in general thing, and we had several...which was fine, but sometimes I'd get conflicting advice. My last dojo was great, in that the first club practice I went to was three instructors, one ist kyu (who was long overdue to test for shodan), and me . Needless to say, it was easy to figure out what was wanted in that situation.
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Old 01-02-2002, 01:10 PM   #13
guest1234
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Oh, and at my current place, a sempai can---and often does--have more than one kohai, so that might still work in the 20 to 7 ratio your club had...
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Old 01-02-2002, 01:38 PM   #14
deepsoup
Dojo: Sheffield Shodokan Dojo
Location: Sheffield, UK
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Quote:
Originally posted by Largo
In my old dojo a fair number of us would go drinking afterwards... but I can't think of anything else specific.
(pre-flame note: 1) this was a karate dojo 2)This was a college club, and we were all about the same age, and were legal. I know this probably wasn't a typical dojo.)
I dont think you need to worry about getting flamed for that one. For quite a few of us, having a beer or two together after training is normal. Its a good chance for people to get to know each other better, and talk about stuff (aikido and otherwise) that you wouldn't really discuss in the dojo.

(And coming back to the 'welcoming beginners' theme, at the dojo(s)where I practice, we're always sure to mention to newbies that we usually have a drink together in the pub, and cordially invite them to join us.)

Sean
x
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Old 01-03-2002, 04:10 AM   #15
Abasan
Dojo: Aiki Shoshinkan, Aiki Kenkyukai
Join Date: Oct 2001
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Malaysia
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That welcoming smile can really make the difference. Most of the time though, old timers would stick together and form an impenatrable ring around them, laughing and winking at private jokes. So much so that newcomers find it hard to join in. I guess thats the nature of things since part of the reason some of us go to aikido is to meet up with friends.

Anyway, my old dojo used to have the familiar pub sessions after class. Sensei never joins though, so its strictly a student privilege.

They also handed out guides for the basic moves and terminilogy of aikido. I guess part of the difficulty in learning aikido is understanding the japanese terms that comes hand in hand with it. There was also a guide for the 6th kyu grading and what was expected of the beginner. I think these guides made aikido very accessible to a newcomer.

Unfortunately though, our present dojo is not very big. So seperating the class is not really doable. Beginners learn right next to seniors. The pace of change of techniques is quite fast so information overload exists for the first several months... perhaps more. Us seniors would be more than willing to help the beginners after class, but the problem is, these beginners are the first to scoot off after class. I've noticed though that there are some new comers who do make the effort to join in with the old crowd; practising with them after class and hanging around for the after class coffee. These same newcomers progress much faster.

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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Old 01-03-2002, 09:59 AM   #16
Anat Amitay
Dojo: Nes- Ziona, "the red house"
Location: Israel
Join Date: Dec 2001
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Israel
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Hi there all!
I think there are two different parts in the contact with new students.
First and important, is what kind of feeling the 'regulars' give a newcomer.
Second, is the newcomers personality.
For me as a new student- first time I got right on the mat, yes it was scary, and I was the only female in an all male dojo, but I came knowing that from looking I'll learn nothing, including the fact that I like the art or not.
I know a lot of newcomers sit outside and watch, but I still think it's important to give them a nice feeling of welcome. say hello, intuduce yourself maybe... After class usually a higher ranking student or the teacher would talk with the newcomer, answer questions anything that interests the newcomer.
When a newcomer comes to train, he will be paired up with a higher ranking student. We start with a warm up, so any un-understood movements would be explained by the other student. When we start training, sometimes the same student will work only with the newcomer, sometimes the higher ranking students will take turns with him/ her.
In our dojo we do alot together. We sometimes meet for a drink after training, we have group evenings at different students houses, we arrange our own camps (aikido weekend in some nature area), etc...
So we tend to give newcomers a good feeling, there is a strong center of people in the group.
Of course it's their choice how much they care to open up to the group, but they are not pressured in any way.
We do hug (at least some do) and it's with affection (no, it does not mean there has to be anything personal between us) but the students that train longer are also friends, even outside the dojo. A newcomer will not be hugged, it does irritate, but will be bowed to and maybe shake hands. those who like the group and stay might just come to train or make stronger friendships with the other students.
But I guess it has to do alot with the personality of the people or even the culture.
Anyway, train and enjoy aikido!

Anat
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Old 01-03-2002, 05:30 PM   #17
shihonage
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Hugging instead of bowing would seriously freak me out.

That's just a bit too new-agey and too fake for me to absorb.
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Old 01-03-2002, 05:51 PM   #18
Erik
Location: Bay Area
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Quote:
Originally posted by shihonage
Hugging instead of bowing would seriously freak me out.

That's just a bit too new-agey and too fake for me to absorb.
Hugging has actually been one of the most profound parts of my experience in the art.
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Old 01-03-2002, 08:25 PM   #19
Arianah
Dojo: Aikido of Norwalk
Location: CT
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Quote:
Originally posted by shihonage
Hugging instead of bowing would seriously freak me out.

That's just a bit too new-agey and too fake for me to absorb.
I feel the same way. Had my dojo required hugging, I most likely would not have come back for a second class. That's what you get when you don't come from a touchy feely family I guess. A regular old bow is more than ample for me.

On the subject of being welcomed etc., one also has to respect those who (like me) like to meet people at their own pace. I always do my best to smile and be friendly to new-comers, but I think that much more than that would seem overbearing. Some people (like me ) are freaked out by that.

Arianah
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Old 01-04-2002, 11:33 AM   #20
Chuck.Gordon
Location: Frederick, MD
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Hugs, beers and flames

Quote:
Originally posted by Largo
In my old dojo a fair number of us would go drinking afterwards... but I can't think of anything else specific.
(pre-flame note: 1) this was a karate dojo 2)This was a college club, and we were all about the same age, and were legal. I know this probably wasn't a typical dojo.)
Eh? Why should that be flamebait? If it is, I suggest, quite humbly, that the folks who'd flame you are wearing their shorts way too tight.

At The Dojo (http://www.the-dojo/com/) we try to get together as a group once a month (at least!) for snacks and beer and bad budo videos. And yes, we have a couple of folks who don't drink. Fine by 'em, too. They bring sodas or juice or tea.

It's not at all unsusual for members to get together to hike, catch a film, hang out, whatever. And yes, beer flows rather freely, having as we do, an excellent homebrewer amongst us.

We are very much a family and tend hug each other often, but hugging, individual or group, is not a part of our on-mat reishiki.

When we acquire new students, one of the things we DO look for is that spark between them and the folks already in the club. We don't really have any casual students (folks who drop in for training and disappear). We're a very small club and very intimate in terms of the training and in terms of our interactions.

Some of ya'll (including the Aikiweb meister, Jun) have been here and trained with us and you know what I mean.

Chuck

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Old 01-04-2002, 01:34 PM   #21
Jonathan
Dojo: North Winnipeg Aikikai
Location: Winnipeg, Canada
Join Date: Oct 2001
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The dojo where I instruct is very small. There are no special introductory classes for newbies. This means that for the first three weeks or so (sometimes much longer) beginners spend most of their training time learning to fall and practicing katate-tori shihonage over and over. As well, three practices a week is the minimum standard for training. No one is permitted to train less than this consistently. This means we tend to have only seriously interested people join us. These sort don't require alot of encouragement or support. They know what they want and aren't impeded by a lack of a sense of inclusion.

Fortunately, my dojo is a prime example of the "birds of a feather" principle. While we train hard, we do so in a lighthearted and pleasant manner. Laughter is a common and valued occurence during practice; though it never diminishes the intensity of training. This is a result of the generous and fun-loving nature of the people who train. When I have questioned new students about why they have decided to join our dojo inevitably they cite as a reason the sense of fun that permeates practice. Happy people generally tend to be friendly people and so feeling included and accepted in our dojo as a new student is not a problem.

"Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."
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Old 01-04-2002, 02:57 PM   #22
deepsoup
Dojo: Sheffield Shodokan Dojo
Location: Sheffield, UK
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Re: Hugs, beers and flames

Quote:
Originally posted by LOEP

At The Dojo (http://www.the-dojo.com/) we try to get together as a group once a month (at least!) for snacks and beer and bad budo videos. And yes, we have a couple of folks who don't drink. Fine by 'em, too. They bring sodas or juice or tea.
Hi Chuck,

You have a typo there, theres a "/" where there should be a "." (I've corrected it in the 'quote' bit above.)

Very interesting site, I particularly liked "It May Not Be Opera But Its Culture, Baby!"

If you were within a couple of hours travel I would almost certainly be turning up on your doorstep wanting to train with you guys. (Unfortunately you're not within a couple of hours, even if I had my own Concorde. )

Sean
x
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Old 01-07-2002, 11:50 PM   #23
gi_grrl
Dojo: Institute of Aikido Australia
Location: Perth
Join Date: Dec 2001
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Australia
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Quote:
Originally posted by ca
So is there anything that you do to welcome new students into the dojo, or is it not necessary? Anything you liked when you were new? Or would have liked?
Hi Colleen,

My first impression of aikido was that I'd found a place where all the people around me were making enormous efforts to teach me something that seemed unbelievably difficult. Our dojo has no formal or even informal ways of welcoming new students, but I remember feeling very welcome - everyone was bending over backwards to help me. Some years down the track, I try to pass that feeling on to newcomers and help them feel comfortable in other ways, for instance by staying after training to help them practice ukemi.

Cheers, Fiona.
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