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Old 06-21-2010, 07:23 PM   #1
"gullible"
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signing a contract

I am new to aikido and observed classes at two dojos in the town I live. The first dojo seemed a little better organized, the senseis taught all the classes and seemed to take an active interest in all of the students. The second I was more on my own, with whoever the senior most person who showed up teaching classes each night and no one looking out for the new folks. So I signed up for a 6 week introduction at the first dojo. I was told that after six weeks, I could join the dojo as a member and that they used a "service agreement" with a "thrid party billing agency". I guess I should have asked exactly what this meant because after six weeks of training and making friends at the dojo, the sensei presented my with a year long contract which stated only that I could not break it for any reason and that I would pay dues for 12 months regardless of anything. I don't feel comfortable with this and am wishing I had gone to the second dojo (where they accept dues by the month and advertise "no contracts"). Two questions: Was I misled by the first dojo, or should I have been more inquisitive before signing up for the 6 weeks? Are contracts like this typical in the aikido world?
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Old 06-21-2010, 11:34 PM   #2
sakumeikan
Dojo: Sakumeikan N.E. Aikkai .Newcastle upon Tyne.
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Re: signing a contract

Quote:
Anonymous User wrote: View Post
I am new to aikido and observed classes at two dojos in the town I live. The first dojo seemed a little better organized, the senseis taught all the classes and seemed to take an active interest in all of the students. The second I was more on my own, with whoever the senior most person who showed up teaching classes each night and no one looking out for the new folks. So I signed up for a 6 week introduction at the first dojo. I was told that after six weeks, I could join the dojo as a member and that they used a "service agreement" with a "thrid party billing agency". I guess I should have asked exactly what this meant because after six weeks of training and making friends at the dojo, the sensei presented my with a year long contract which stated only that I could not break it for any reason and that I would pay dues for 12 months regardless of anything. I don't feel comfortable with this and am wishing I had gone to the second dojo (where they accept dues by the month and advertise "no contracts"). Two questions: Was I misled by the first dojo, or should I have been more inquisitive before signing up for the 6 weeks? Are contracts like this typical in the aikido world?
You have answered your own question-you should have been more inquisitive before signing up for 6 weeks.In my experience most aikido dojo do not have contracts.While the sensei may be ok some guys are now teaching people aikido as if the people were conveyor belt chickens ie lets get them in , get the money ,
quantity not quality of training.
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Old 06-22-2010, 05:26 AM   #3
Carsten Möllering
 
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Re: signing a contract

In our dojo you can test four weeks for free. You don't have to sign anything in that time. And we tend to see "four weeks" generous.

If you want to join the dojo, you sign a contract. It says, that the membership lasts at least one year. After that year you can resign every three months.
Contribution is 12 € (~ 14,71 $) per month.

Most dojo I know have such a "at least one year"-clause.

Carsten
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Old 06-22-2010, 06:29 AM   #4
David Maidment
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Re: signing a contract

Some people need to run dojos like a business or else they can't run them at all; it's not always the sign of a bad place to be.

Do you enjoy what you learn in the dojo? And do you think that the sensei know what they're doing?

"Never escalate a battle unless forced to do so by your enemy" - Zordon
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Old 06-22-2010, 06:43 AM   #5
osaya
 
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Re: signing a contract

i think there are many types of dojos, e.g. some are "clubs", some are commercial entities and some are personal passions.

aikido clubs tend to be (but not always) not-for-profit, and they run with regular AGMs etc., and may have relatively cheap training fees. they don't usually have a "contract" as such, although it would be common to have annual membership fees, which again are usually quite reasonable.

i don't know if there are m/any, but imagine there are some personal dojos which are run passionate senseis who have enough money to teach for "fun" and not worry about fees, contracts and stuff like that.

it sounds like the first dojo you went to was a commercial dojo, and they are running like a gym-type business/scheme. as the others have mentioned, it doesn't necessary mean that the quality is bad, it just means that it is - well, a commercial dojo and the owner(s) need to make ends meet.

however, the thing you should really be worried about is if if they have a 'black-belt contract', saying that if you sign up for X amount of months/years of training fees, you'll definitely get a black belt. that time, you should be running to the hills!!
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Old 06-22-2010, 06:46 AM   #6
Eva Antonia
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Re: signing a contract

Hello,

in our dojo in Brussels we had for a long time the custom that people paid monthly and there were no contracts at all. If someone had exams or was traveling for work and couldn't come, he wouldn't pay. The contribution had to cover only the dojo rent, and when there were many students, this random payment was never a problem. But then we started to have some problems, at first due to a never-ending construction/ renovation of the dojo, and the number of students went considerably down. I think at the end our teacher paid most of the dojo rent out of his pocket, but he never complained or told us to pay more.

Then we got a new sensei; the initial dojocho retired at the age of 81. Fees still remain more or less the same; I pay 48 €/ month for the whole family (mum + 4 kids), but the teacher asks us to pay at least for three months so that he has some planning security. I think that is only fair.

But when training in Turkey I pay for the time I am there, not as a regular member, but as a paying guest. That is equally okay, so I don't have the feeling I'd abuse their hospitality (when training in Abidjan they refused to take any contribution but insisted on inviting me to eat & drink after training, so after the third training I felt very awkward).

Still I think the practice of having at first six weeks of trial and then being confronted with a one year contract is not exactly what I'd call transparent.

Best regards,

Eva
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Old 06-22-2010, 07:12 AM   #7
Rabih Shanshiry
 
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Re: signing a contract

A year committment would be very hard for me to do even though I am passionate about my training. You just never know what curve balls life is going to throw you.

If you love the trainng and think you'll get your money's worth, then don't worry about the contract.

On the other hand, if you feel uncomfortable with it, don't feel like you've been suckered into anything. You've spent six weeks there, learned something, made some friends. Sounds like time and money well spent. Nothing is obligating you to sign the 1 year contract.

You might even try talking to the sensei and explaining that while you love his dojo, you're not able to committ to a year. Ask whether he would consider a 3 month or 6 month contract.

Hopefully, he'll be wise enough to realize that 6 months with the possibility of renewal is better than losing you altogether.

...rab
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Old 06-22-2010, 07:53 AM   #8
Marc Abrams
Dojo: Aikido Arts of Shin Budo Kai/ Bedford Hills, New York
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Re: signing a contract

If you found a dojo where there is a good teacher, who is always teaching and is truly concerned about the students, then you have found your answer.

Almost all Aikido instructors are significantly underpaid for their services. Just look at what you pay for monthly dues at a good gym, your plumber, electrician, ..... I can understand that a good teacher would want to free up time by utilizing a third-party system that utilizes yearly contracts. In the grand scheme of what we pay during the course of a year for things such as vacations, movies, drinks at the local watering holes, I would think that the money for year at a good dojo in an excellent investment in your future.

I personally do not have a contract system and people pay monthly. I will let a person train for free for up to two weeks before deciding to sign-up as a regular student. I am not the cheapest or most expensive dojo in town. I teach about 98% of all classes taught. What my dojo brings in is like a hiccup to my "real" other full-time job. Good teachers teach their passion. Few if any, can ever retire, let alone live off of what the dojo brings in.

At the end of the day, Ushiro Sensei summed it up by saying that it is better spending three years searching for a good teacher rather than spending three years training with a mediocre teacher. You talked about one teacher being significantly better than the other. You get what you pay for (usually). Support the better instructor while investing in your future. The investment just so happens to come in a one year chunk.

Marc Abrams
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Old 06-22-2010, 09:09 AM   #9
ChrisMoses
Dojo: TNBBC (Icho Ryu Aiki Budo), Shinto Ryu IaiBattojutsu
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Re: signing a contract

Don't sign a contract. If they need a contract, they're worried about losing you. My first Aikido school went to contracts after I was already a brown belt, so I signed (not feeling I really had a choice) and within a few years, some stuff changed that made it so that I no longer felt safe training there. A bunch of us all left and they sent us to collections and small claims court. You don't need that crap clouding your training.

That said, my current dojo does *offer* auto payment through an ACH program and I love it. Keeps people paying on time (many folks just forget the check) and students can cancel or postpone their payments at any time.

Contracts are for Gyms and Oom Yung Doe franchises.

Chris Moses
TNBBC, "Putting the ME in MEdiocre!"
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Old 06-22-2010, 11:17 AM   #10
Marc Abrams
Dojo: Aikido Arts of Shin Budo Kai/ Bedford Hills, New York
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Re: signing a contract

Quote:
Christian Moses wrote: View Post
Don't sign a contract. If they need a contract, they're worried about losing you. My first Aikido school went to contracts after I was already a brown belt, so I signed (not feeling I really had a choice) and within a few years, some stuff changed that made it so that I no longer felt safe training there. A bunch of us all left and they sent us to collections and small claims court. You don't need that crap clouding your training.

That said, my current dojo does *offer* auto payment through an ACH program and I love it. Keeps people paying on time (many folks just forget the check) and students can cancel or postpone their payments at any time.

Contracts are for Gyms and Oom Yung Doe franchises.
Chris:

The larger issue at hand is what dojo has the better instruction. The dialogue regarding issues related to a contract should be secondary to the level of instruction.

I understand your emotional opinion regarding what happened to you and as a generalization, I would agree with your opinion. However, given the choices that this person has, I would opt for the better instruction.

Marc Abrams
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Old 06-22-2010, 01:11 PM   #11
RED
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Re: signing a contract

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Anonymous User wrote: View Post
I am new to aikido and observed classes at two dojos in the town I live. The first dojo seemed a little better organized, the senseis taught all the classes and seemed to take an active interest in all of the students. The second I was more on my own, with whoever the senior most person who showed up teaching classes each night and no one looking out for the new folks. So I signed up for a 6 week introduction at the first dojo. I was told that after six weeks, I could join the dojo as a member and that they used a "service agreement" with a "thrid party billing agency". I guess I should have asked exactly what this meant because after six weeks of training and making friends at the dojo, the sensei presented my with a year long contract which stated only that I could not break it for any reason and that I would pay dues for 12 months regardless of anything. I don't feel comfortable with this and am wishing I had gone to the second dojo (where they accept dues by the month and advertise "no contracts"). Two questions: Was I misled by the first dojo, or should I have been more inquisitive before signing up for the 6 weeks? Are contracts like this typical in the aikido world?
I don't like the idea of contracts... it's not a health spa, it is a dojo. I understand why some dojo would in this economy. It guarantees payment to help keep the doors open regardless of attendance. However, like I said, not a big fan, it puts off certain students, I don't like putting people off.

But, if you pay for it I'd plan on using it. I'm cheap. One of the reasons I go to as many classes as I do is because I paid my monthly dues! lol..might as well get as much out of my money as I can.

MM
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Old 06-22-2010, 01:23 PM   #12
lbb
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Re: signing a contract

Quote:
Marc Abrams wrote: View Post
The larger issue at hand is what dojo has the better instruction. The dialogue regarding issues related to a contract should be secondary to the level of instruction.

I understand your emotional opinion regarding what happened to you and as a generalization, I would agree with your opinion. However, given the choices that this person has, I would opt for the better instruction.
Yeah, but the problem with going with the dojo with "better instruction" is, how does a beginner judge that? Obviously OP found things more to his liking at one dojo, but that was based on short acquaintance and no knowledge of aikido. With six weeks of training under his belt, who's to say he'd look at the two dojos today and see the same thing?

Here's another reason to avoid the contract: it's because OP is very unlikely to get his money's worth, i.e., a year's worth of training. I don't know OP or this dojo, but statistically, most beginners wash out before a year is up. It's just not possible to tell that martial arts training is right for you until you've had the training experience, and that means more than one class or even a short series. A lot of people will take an intro course and enjoy it, but when it sinks in that training = giving up several evenings a week, they find that they just can't sustain that commitment. Some people think that a contract will make them follow through, but it doesn't seem to work with gyms -- I don't know why it would work with a dojo either.
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Old 06-22-2010, 01:29 PM   #13
Larry Feldman
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Re: signing a contract

I was told in 1973 never to sign a contract from a Ju Jitsu school, and I took the advice to heart.

I don't offer any contracts, and only offer month to month dues, with a small discount for experienced students if they prepay 3 months. I think this is typical of Aikido schools.

I am the cheapest classes in town.

That said - it is not the alternative you have in front of you. As much as it pains me to advise you to sign a contract - you are getting far better instruction from that location. That should be the focus. Just be sure there are no other alternatives in town. Use the dojo finder on this site. The odds do not favor you staying 12 months, their is a relatively high drop out rate.

As Aikido instructors, many of us have consigned ourselves to poverty, maybe this is the sign of the times.

That said, I would seek a shorter term on the contract, and amend the contract that if I was transferred out of the area, I would no longer be libel for payments. I would ask to suspend payment if injured and unable to practice, and seek a penalty clause of no more than 2 months dues if I terminated the contract early - hey if it is a business, then negotiate with them like any other business.
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Old 06-22-2010, 01:32 PM   #14
Jonathan
Dojo: North Winnipeg Aikikai
Location: Winnipeg, Canada
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Re: signing a contract

Personally, I agree with those who understand that life can take turns you aren't expecting. I think it is quite unreasonable to expect a person whose life has interfered with their training to continue to be on the hook financially for training fees. I had a student who developed a heart infection that has taken him permanently out of training. He was the toughest (he survived five open-heart surgeries to remedy his infection), most devoted student I have ever had. Losing him was a great blow to the dojo. The thought of having him under contract paying for training he was forced by serious illness to give up is repugnant to me in the extreme! I can't see any good justification for pressing students into such an arrangement. Certainly, in light of the fact that other shorter-term contracts can be used just as well, a year-long, irrevocable contract seems nothing but avaricious to me.

"Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."
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Old 06-22-2010, 02:52 PM   #15
Marc Abrams
Dojo: Aikido Arts of Shin Budo Kai/ Bedford Hills, New York
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Re: signing a contract

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
Yeah, but the problem with going with the dojo with "better instruction" is, how does a beginner judge that? Obviously OP found things more to his liking at one dojo, but that was based on short acquaintance and no knowledge of aikido. With six weeks of training under his belt, who's to say he'd look at the two dojos today and see the same thing?

Here's another reason to avoid the contract: it's because OP is very unlikely to get his money's worth, i.e., a year's worth of training. I don't know OP or this dojo, but statistically, most beginners wash out before a year is up. It's just not possible to tell that martial arts training is right for you until you've had the training experience, and that means more than one class or even a short series. A lot of people will take an intro course and enjoy it, but when it sinks in that training = giving up several evenings a week, they find that they just can't sustain that commitment. Some people think that a contract will make them follow through, but it doesn't seem to work with gyms -- I don't know why it would work with a dojo either.
Mary:

I am simply going on this person's description, which clearly identifies the better training atmosphere. Further, this person has six weeks to give it a try. If after six weeks this person cannot figure out whether or not to invest in that year, then I would be very surprised. I would do not advocate the contract system but can understand why some schools choose to do so. Typically most states do allow for withdrawal periods and a place would be hard pressed to justify no allowing for medical leaves. I frankly would be more comfortable with a month-to-month system, but to me the larger issue is the better training atmosphere. If you can somehow describe to me why you do not believe that this person is running a better dojo, then please share it with me. My mind is always open.

Regards,

Marc Abrams
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Old 06-22-2010, 05:35 PM   #16
lbb
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Re: signing a contract

Quote:
Marc Abrams wrote: View Post
If you can somehow describe to me why you do not believe that this person is running a better dojo, then please share it with me.
Actually, I didn't express an opinion one way or the other about which is the better dojo, and I don't have an opinion about which is the better dojo. OP mentioned an initial decision on where to train based on a)who was teaching, sensei or senior students and b)how much attention newbies got. My point is that as a newbie, you may not be getting the full picture. Things that seem one way may turn out not to mean what you thought, things that you took for "the way things are here" may be nothing but a fleeting occurrence, and things that seem important at first may turn out to be less so. That's all.

Last edited by lbb : 06-22-2010 at 05:39 PM.
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Old 06-22-2010, 09:48 PM   #17
Adam Huss
 
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Re: signing a contract

I would say be very careful about dojo with contracts. It should be an indicator, but not a deal-breaker of a McDojo. That being said, the best dojo I've been to had contracts/belt programs. I don't think they do anymore, but they did for a long time. Their belt program didn't guarantee rank...it was not a bad deal actually, if you didn't mind fronting the money...and I don't think it was required to pay that way. The fee included all testing fees, even if you failed a test (and that dojo does occasionally fail students, something that can be a very good sign of a dojo dedicated to quality learning), monthly training for unlimited classes, annual fee, initial uniform and patch, bound training manual, Aikido History book, and discounts on certain items/events. Heck, there was a large seminar about 7 hours away from our dojo and after we signed up sensei said he would pay for everyone's seminar fee (like over $100 each and there were about 13 of us...we had to pay travel, hotel, and food of course). Anyway, just saying these things are not always bad..they just need looking into carefully...very carefully. I would say 8/10 times a contract is a bad sign.

You should not decide where you are going to train based on one or two classes; whether observed or participated. All dojo have exceptionally slow/bad days, and exceptionally great days of training. Some dojo have different teachers on different days/times. when I first started training at my dojo there were two main teachers who taught on different/opposite days and have very different styles of teaching...some only went to one or the other, but most went to both. Just saying maybe you connect with one of the instructors better than others. Maybe its 'championship' season or 'play' season at local high schools and most of the students were not there because their kids have events they wanted to attend (my dojo just got over this).

You might find contracts more common at full-time dojo and monthly payments more common at part-time dojo...I've kind of noticed that in my limited time training around the US.

Ichi Go, Ichi Ei!
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Old 06-22-2010, 10:18 PM   #18
Rob Watson
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Re: signing a contract

I've only been a member at 2 dojos (university club don't count) and no contracts. Did get a nice discount for paying a year in advance.

I figure I'm in for the long haul unless something serious changes so I would not mind a yearly contract.

These days it seems most folks show up all interested to join but 1/3 don't show next week for class and 1/3 pay the registration + two months in advance (our basic new student package) then don't show up again (go figure) and 1/3 stay for a few months then vanish. A statistically insignificant number actually stay on as regular member for and extended period.

"In my opinion, the time of spreading aikido to the world is finished; now we have to focus on quality." Yamada Yoshimitsu

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Old 06-23-2010, 12:02 AM   #19
Adam Huss
 
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Re: signing a contract

True Robert, and as an aside there are always the "got my black belt and now I'm out" people...which baffles me. You'd think they'd be more pumped about learning after shodan shinsa, but I guess they figure they have the whole aikido think on lock.

Ichi Go, Ichi Ei!
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Old 06-23-2010, 08:53 AM   #20
RED
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Re: signing a contract

Quote:
Adam Huss wrote: View Post
True Robert, and as an aside there are always the "got my black belt and now I'm out" people...which baffles me. You'd think they'd be more pumped about learning after shodan shinsa, but I guess they figure they have the whole aikido think on lock.
I was told once that shodan rank simply means you've learned enough of the basics of the principles to finally begin a serious study of Aikido. I've taken that advice to heart.

MM
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Old 06-23-2010, 12:38 PM   #21
"gullible"
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Re: signing a contract

Quote:
Larry Feldman wrote: View Post
I was told in 1973 never to sign a contract from a Ju Jitsu school, and I took the advice to heart.

I don't offer any contracts, and only offer month to month dues, with a small discount for experienced students if they prepay 3 months. I think this is typical of Aikido schools.

I am the cheapest classes in town.

That said - it is not the alternative you have in front of you. As much as it pains me to advise you to sign a contract - you are getting far better instruction from that location. That should be the focus. Just be sure there are no other alternatives in town. Use the dojo finder on this site. The odds do not favor you staying 12 months, their is a relatively high drop out rate.

As Aikido instructors, many of us have consigned ourselves to poverty, maybe this is the sign of the times.

That said, I would seek a shorter term on the contract, and amend the contract that if I was transferred out of the area, I would no longer be libel for payments. I would ask to suspend payment if injured and unable to practice, and seek a penalty clause of no more than 2 months dues if I terminated the contract early - hey if it is a business, then negotiate with them like any other business.
Thank you for writing this. You helped me understand my problem. The sensei at the contract dojo is "The Sensei". I don't feel comfortable asking him for any of these things because he is "The Sensei". It's also why I didn't ask for more clarification. On the mat, he is above questioning and carries the ultimate authority. The relationship is entirely one sided (as is the contract), so I don't even feel comfortable asking him what would happen if I got injured and couldn't train, etc.
Also, and this is just my impression as a new person, I feel I can't trust him with business negotiations because he was not up front about the one year commitment, and because he hold himself above questioning. I don't know now what other obligations might be waiting that I haven't been told about. Will I be pressured to attend seminars at other dojos or here that I don't feel comfortable going to or can't afford? Will the dojo have fundraisers that I am pressured to contribute to? I also don't feel that I can be truthful with him about why I will not be joining the dojo. I will spend a month or two at the second dojo and tell him only that I am thinking over my decision and exploring other options.
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Old 06-23-2010, 01:21 PM   #22
RED
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Re: signing a contract

Quote:
Anonymous User wrote: View Post
Thank you for writing this. You helped me understand my problem. The sensei at the contract dojo is "The Sensei". I don't feel comfortable asking him for any of these things because he is "The Sensei". It's also why I didn't ask for more clarification. On the mat, he is above questioning and carries the ultimate authority. The relationship is entirely one sided (as is the contract), so I don't even feel comfortable asking him what would happen if I got injured and couldn't train, etc.
Also, and this is just my impression as a new person, I feel I can't trust him with business negotiations because he was not up front about the one year commitment, and because he hold himself above questioning. I don't know now what other obligations might be waiting that I haven't been told about. Will I be pressured to attend seminars at other dojos or here that I don't feel comfortable going to or can't afford? Will the dojo have fundraisers that I am pressured to contribute to? I also don't feel that I can be truthful with him about why I will not be joining the dojo. I will spend a month or two at the second dojo and tell him only that I am thinking over my decision and exploring other options.
Not to bash the dojo you're at, I don't know them, they don't know me; however I would not be comfortable with having that sort of relationship with my sensei. It would stunt my ability to learn from them, understand them, and disable my willingness to serve them and my wanting to please them.

MM
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Old 06-23-2010, 01:41 PM   #23
ChrisMoses
Dojo: TNBBC (Icho Ryu Aiki Budo), Shinto Ryu IaiBattojutsu
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Re: signing a contract

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Thank you for writing this. You helped me understand my problem. The sensei at the contract dojo is "The Sensei". I don't feel comfortable asking him for any of these things because he is "The Sensei". It's also why I didn't ask for more clarification. On the mat, he is above questioning and carries the ultimate authority. The relationship is entirely one sided (as is the contract), so I don't even feel comfortable asking him what would happen if I got injured and couldn't train, etc.
Also, and this is just my impression as a new person, I feel I can't trust him with business negotiations because he was not up front about the one year commitment, and because he hold himself above questioning. I don't know now what other obligations might be waiting that I haven't been told about. Will I be pressured to attend seminars at other dojos or here that I don't feel comfortable going to or can't afford? Will the dojo have fundraisers that I am pressured to contribute to? I also don't feel that I can be truthful with him about why I will not be joining the dojo. I will spend a month or two at the second dojo and tell him only that I am thinking over my decision and exploring other options.
This sounds really familiar. Don't train there. Find somewhere healthy to train.

Chris Moses
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Old 06-23-2010, 01:55 PM   #24
Keith Larman
Location: California
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Re: signing a contract

Yeah, I find the whole discussion kinda odd. If you're uncomfortable, go somewhere else. I don't see it as a particularly difficult decision. If you intend to train in an art like Aikido for a long time, take the time to find a place where you feel comfortable.

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Old 06-23-2010, 02:01 PM   #25
Adam Huss
 
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Location: Ohio
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Re: signing a contract

Maybe the level of comfort is synonymous with being in an unfamiliar situation...maybe. Anyway, the problem with a 12 month contract is that I would never spend that kind of money/time to find out. If it was a monthly place you could go there for a month or two then decide for yourself. Oh well. Just one of the many reasons I wouldn't do contracts if I ran a dojo.

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