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Old 09-13-2002, 11:37 AM   #1
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Cheap Aikido

Some people consider cheap, as in inexpensive, aikido to be good since it brings in people who might otherwise not have the money for it.

But, do you think aikido, overall, has a feeling of it being TOO cheap?

If you take a look in other fields, people with comparable experience like 40 years receive a much larger compensation. Noted professors giving a one hour lecture receives how many tens of thousands of dollars? I'm sure people have also seen taiji seminars running hundreds of dollars for a weekend.

Why does aikido have this cheap feeling to it? Why does it seem like the aikido cmuunity has this general feeling that it's wrong for aikido teachers to charge enough to make a living off or even a profit from teaching the art?
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Old 09-13-2002, 11:49 AM   #2
MaylandL
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I can't speak for other instructors only for those whom I train under. Teaching and practicing aikido for them is not a business venture but its done becasue they are passionate about doing an activity which they truly enjoy and wish to share with others. The level of their renumeration is in no way related to their expertise. For them all they need is to cover some of their out of pocket expenses.

All the best and happy training

Mayland
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Old 09-13-2002, 01:01 PM   #3
Erik
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Re: Cheap Aikido

Quote:
() wrote:
But, do you think aikido, overall, has a feeling of it being TOO cheap?
Yes!
Quote:
If you take a look in other fields, people with comparable experience like 40 years receive a much larger compensation. Noted professors giving a one hour lecture receives how many tens of thousands of dollars? I'm sure people have also seen taiji seminars running hundreds of dollars for a weekend.
So do pro athletes who know nothing about nothing.
Quote:
Why does aikido have this cheap feeling to it? Why does it seem like the aikido cmuunity has this general feeling that it's wrong for aikido teachers to charge enough to make a living off or even a profit from teaching the art?
Because we are enlightened spiritual beings and we have transcended the need to degrade ourselves by accepting or giving money. We are really living in Star Trek time but the world has not caught up with us yet.

Also, I think this comes somewhat from Ueshiba himself. He didn't take money because it messed up his spiritual attunement or something like that. Of course, that meant his wife had to go around and collect the money/donations which to my understanding she did like a dutiful Japanese wife should.

Dry, sarcastic humor aside, Ueshiba was getting paid to my understanding. It just wasn't obvious to us outside of the culture and didn't necessarily show up in so obvious a way as monthly dues. I think a little bit of the problem here is attempting to merge different cultures without understanding both cultures.

Of course some people just want to share their art and that's also fine.
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Old 09-13-2002, 01:42 PM   #4
Deb Fisher
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As an artist, who is currently spending about $30,000 on a masters degree that by no means will guarantee ever making money as a "professional", I find that I have at least one thing in common with my sensei - who spent probably just as much (more?) in dojo dues over the years, along with the sacrifices of being uchideshi, etc etc... only to now own a dojo that pays for itself but does not earn him a living.

Yes, this myth keeps creative people stressed out and poor - it is not romantic to suffer for ones' art or to transcend the need for filthy lucre. No one is spiritually superior enough to transcend money in a capitalist economy, and just as I must buy materials (I spend at least $3 or 400.00 a month on art supplies/materials), each dojo has overhead.

At least "fine art" has a market that puts a huge markup on a few objects/paintings/whatever, and the artist gets usually 40% of the original sale of each work of art, which is something if say a painting sells for $3000.00...

It seems like a real minefield to me - how to make enough money to keep doing your art without 'selling out' (mcdojo has definite equivalent in fine art world...)

Oh, don't get me started. I could talk all day about this.

Deb

Deb Fisher
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Old 09-13-2002, 03:03 PM   #5
Paul Smith
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Money is nothing more than a means of exchanging perceived value between a buyer and seller about the thing or service sold.

It is known that O'Sensei paid handsomely for access to the "hiden" of daito-ryu, and that he could do that, in part, because of his family's wealth. The idea that Sensei are somehow otherwordly, spiritual beings who, by passionately living for their art, have transcended this nefarious world of money is, I think, a sadly misguided notion. Sad, because many who have the talent to teach full time, to give themselves completely to owning and running a dojo in order to professionally transmit the gift they received, may not do so if the idea generally holds sway that by earning a living they debase themselves, their art and their students.

I do not think passion and getting paid for it are mutually exclusive. I believe that to transmit this art we need full time, professional instructors, who in addition to devoting their lives solely and completely to teaching budo, must do so while being able to feed their families on what they do. A centralized, established and true "place of the way," a dojo, requires, in my view, just such a person, and just such a condition.

Paul

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Old 09-13-2002, 03:21 PM   #6
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Quote:
Paul Smith wrote:
I do not think passion and getting paid for it are mutually exclusive. I believe that to transmit this art we need full time, professional instructors, who in addition to devoting their lives solely and completely to teaching budo, must do so while being able to feed their families on what they do.
Then why doesn't this happen?

I've heard many people whine over the cost for weekend seminars with teachers some of who were uchideshi with O-sensei. We're talking eight to ten hours of training with these people who have devoted their lives to aikido for 40+ years. When the seminar fee goes up above $100, people start whining that it's too expensive.

What is it that makes aikido so 'cheap'? Why are many of us unwilling to give compensation for these people who are our teachers? I'm not talking about giving them enough money to become rich, just enough to let them live comfortably instead of scrounging for cash?
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Old 09-13-2002, 06:30 PM   #7
Deb Fisher
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CheapCheap wrote:

"What is it that makes aikido so 'cheap'? Why are many of us unwilling to give compensation for these people who are our teachers? I'm not talking about giving them enough money to become rich, just enough to let them live comfortably instead of scrounging for cash?"

American culture is just soaking in puritanical judgements of what qualifies as work, and is therefore worth money. Work should be seen as "necessary", and for some crazy reason is often better to justify if it is boring and unfulfilling drudgery. Budo, like many arts, doesn't qualify as work *because* it involves doing what one loves or playing for a living, which is really annoying to a culture that priviledges shutting oneself up in an office all day and attending to tasks that just don't matter. Budo is also not deemed "necessary" in a culture that priviledges short term fixes, like shopping or taking medicine, over long-term approaches to health, well being, emotional growth, the life of ones soul, etc etc.

In this busybusy quick-fix culture, arts like Budo are relegated to the status of "hobby" - unnecessary luxuries, fluff that occupies people who aren't busy enough. The sensei is, in this model, arrogantly proclaiming that the culture is wrong, that one can play for a living, that there is a better answer to the nagging existential question than the word SALE! At best he is Prof. Harold Hill, gently fleecing wholesome people who suffered for their dime. At worst, he is a parasite, fattening himself without doing anything valuable in return.

Problem: who comes to your dojo (or buys your art, or whatever) if you don't temper the arrogance of your choices? The sensei in this model has no choice but to adopt the values of the rest of the culture, albeit in a different way. He proclaims himself in word and deed "beyond money". He makes choices that devalue the role of money in his life, he makes aikido cheap, and puts himself into debt, because if he didn't he would be unmasked as an arrogant, grifting bastard who for whatever reason thinks he's too good to hold down a useful job.

I'm not saying that the sensei in this example is really an arrogant bastard. I'm saying that culturally speaking, anyone who decides not to buy into our puritanical cultural ideal of what is worth money has to figure out some way to fit into a culture that seems to hate the very idea of "the useless profession". I think people who choose to live as artists, to work part time, etc, can fall into a nasty self-deprecating trap, in which the "useless" individual is constantly cheapening his/her own talent, experience, and very real contributions.

Who cheapens aikido? We all do it to ourselves by believing that work should be drudgery and is more important than aikido, a playful diversion. People who are earning money for something that is culturally considered "play" should go ahead and arrogantly claim their due. The consumers of art, music, budo, etc, should fully understand the value of what they are buying and pay accordingly.

I think it's interesting that this doesn't happen very much in yoga circles. I have never heard anyone whine about the price of a yoga class or seminar, and I personally have spent WAY more on yoga than I spend on aikido. I think it's because yoga teachers talk a *lot* about how valuable yoga is, in effect, about what you're getting for your money.

Obviously, this topic completely incenses me, I have been thinking about it all day... just my opinions though.

Deb

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Old 09-14-2002, 05:00 PM   #8
giriasis
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I think the proper question isn't what cheapens aikido rather than who cheapens aikido? People pay for it, and people demand a certain price for the supply. And the "people" is us -- each of us.

Anne Marie Giri
Women in Aikido: a place where us gals can come together and chat about aikido.
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Old 09-17-2002, 06:49 AM   #9
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Where I come from (Denmark) the problem is basically that if you want to make a living out of teaching Aikido you cut away any possibility of support from the city funds and since housing costs and tax levels are so high you would need a student body much higher than what you should be able to gather even in the largest cities.

Therefore allmost all martial arts activity in this country is based on 'non-profit' clubs with funding from official sources.

- Jørgen Jakob Friis

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Old 09-17-2002, 06:57 AM   #10
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Just a thought: perhaps the solution would be to have rich people adopting Aikido dojo's as 'pet projects'. After all I believe that many VIP's help O-sensei getting the right contacts and perhaps fundings as well, and I have heard rumors that both judo and kendo have been supported by rich people - some even thought to be connected to the Yakuza.

Think about it! In the US there should be a lot of potential in that idear. eg 'The Baldwin brothers Aikikai' or 'Jack Nicholson Yoshinkan'

Perhaps large companies could be pursuaded as well - for example 'IBM Aiki' (blue belt for yudansha's) or 'Starbucks Aiki dojo chain' where everybody have to wear brown gi's and hakamas.

Sorry - got a bit carried away there.....

- Jørgen Jakob Friis

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Old 09-17-2002, 11:30 AM   #11
Deb Fisher
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That's funny

Deb Fisher
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Old 09-17-2002, 11:37 AM   #12
Hanna B
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Quote:
Jørgen Jakob Friis (JJF) wrote:
Where I come from (Denmark) the problem is basically that if you want to make a living out of teaching Aikido you cut away any possibility of support from the city funds and since housing costs and tax levels are so high you would need a student body much higher than what you should be able to gather even in the largest cities.
Or you need to raise your prices substantially, which is difficult when everybody else is teaching for free.

But is this necessarily a bad thing only - that the clubs are non-profit?

I heard a Japanese shihan saying at the end of the seminar, "none of you will become professional aikido teacher. But you are better than many strange teachers out there". Well, I don't suppose he referred all of us.

People say that after many years of training, it gets harder and harder to continue developing in your aikido. If aikido makes your bread and butter, maybe there's yet another reason not to change your pedagogics and methods as a teacher risking losing students while trying new things out... but rather to stick with the recipe that you found works.

I suggest that there are good things in keeping aikido as a hobby rather than a profession.

Just a thought.

Regards

Hanna
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Old 09-17-2002, 11:39 AM   #13
opherdonchin
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So, there is certainly a culture of martial artists who really do try to make a living out of it. We get glossy magazines from them and their ilk at our dojo all the time. It's very interesting to look at, but it's easy to see why a lot of sensei's would shy away from that culture.

There is also a lot of greed that masqueredes as self-help of various varieties. Again, something I can see a sensei wanting to stay far away from.

A lot of sensei's have a full work and home schedule that they are as committed to as they are to AiKiDo. I was actually 'brought up' in AiKiDo on the idea that the art (and the way) are properly part of a full life and should not take over your life.

Yoga is kind of funny, though, isn't it. I'm never quite sure how they manage to maintain such a aura of selfless devotion to the art at the same time the prices are so high. One thought I have had is that the particular segment that yoga originally appealed to in the united states was one that had a fair amount of disposable income and valued things in proportion to their cost. Perhaps the original AiKiDo audience was poorer and/or more frugal. Another thought is that AiKiDo is necessarily a community activity, where most advanced students of yoga do most of their yoga on their own at home. AiKiDo would get pretty expensive if I had to pay $10 per class instead of paying by the month. I honestly wouldn't be able to afford it.

Yours in Aiki
Opher
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Old 09-17-2002, 02:18 PM   #14
Neil Mick
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Quote:
Jørgen Jakob Friis (JJF) wrote:
Perhaps large companies could be pursuaded as well - for example 'IBM Aiki' (blue belt for yudansha's) or 'Starbucks Aiki dojo chain' where everybody have to wear brown gi's and hakamas.

Sorry - got a bit carried away there.....
You are a scary man...Starbucks Aikikai,,,there'd be little kiosks in front of the dressing rooms.

brrr
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Old 09-17-2002, 02:42 PM   #15
Deb Fisher
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Re: the yoga connundrum...

I honestly think it has to do with the perceived "usefulness" of yoga. Ask anyone who does pay (as I have and I am POOR) $10 a class five or six times a week and they will tell you that their yoga solves a lot of problems in their lives, from constipation to injuries from other sports to anxiety blah blah blah...

When I was spending a quarter of my monthly income on yoga, I thought it was worth every penny, and I was reminded of that during every class, when my teachers would ennumerate the benefits of each asana.

Aikido seems to have a very different mindset. We all know it's good for us, in a lot of the same ways yoga's good for us, but for reasons I don't quite understand we don't **value** it in the same reflexive way.

Deb Fisher
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Old 09-17-2002, 02:49 PM   #16
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Maybe this has to do with yoga being very directly about immortality, staying young forever, preserving the body (I think of yoga as a very ancient egypt kind of thing)... whereas any budo is kind of about the opposite, about embracing mortality, about understanding that our bodies are breaking down right now, etc.

Maybe it's easier to pay through the nose for something that delivers the promise of long, preserved life than it is to pay for something that is kind of specifically about death.

Which makes Starbucks Aikikai (or a Virginia Slims/MacDonalds-sponsored seminar) make more sense? Or is that too much?

Deb Fisher
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Old 09-17-2002, 03:54 PM   #17
Erik
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A few random thoughts. Ok, it got long.

Anytime you ask someone if something is too expensive the answer will be? Pretty obvious isn't it. If you look at the thread on the guy in Texas he's gotten reamed by a few people for wanting around $400 up front. Too much money the audience screams. Of course, not one of them has ever been to a class of his. They've never seen the dojo. Hell, maybe he offers valet parking, a weight room, sauna and 3 private lessons a month. Maybe $65/mo is extremely cheap after you get the massage from Helga.

Another thing I've seen done is what I'd call a sign up for 4-years (or however long) and get a black belt after it. Horrors. Shudder! It's too awful to behold. Errr, isn't that what you do in college? Sign up, expect to work 4-years and at the end you get a degree? Martial arts are different from this how?

On sales. Every profession I know of requires sales. That means asking someone to sign up, handling their objections when they don't want to sign up and going forward with promotional and marketing efforts. Of course, the minute you do any of this you become a McDojo and end any remaining purity in the martial arts which frankly never really existed anyway. And, of course, in the Aikido community your ki will extend to the masses and it's purity will cause people to show up by the hundreds, or dozens, well maybe a couple of them will show up.

And don't forget the obligatory Aikido sales closing technique. "Please check out all the other dojos in the area." Never, and I mean it, NEVER ask someone to sign up when they visit. They must ask because only then will you maintain your purity of being.

Just remembered one more Aikido sales technique. When someone calls and asks how much it costs, be sure to get mad at them, mutter your price and slam the phone after talking to them. All they cared about is money anyways. They should have recognized your enlightened state from the sweet dulcet tones of your voice. A pox on them for not recognizing our aikiness.

Hey, ya know what, if someone wants to come into your dojo for 3 months and pay you $X/mo then who gives a crap as long as they don't hurt anyone. Frankly, I'll take 300 of those impure, greedy people, starting tomorrow.

Another horror. Black belt mills. This is kind of related to the above but this is one I've never gotten. If rank doesn't mean anything, and to the good Aikido Puritan it must have no meaning beyond holding up one's pants which frankly it does a very poor job of, then who gives a crap about the guy putting out black belts in 2-years?

Finally, if you read the trade mags, you'll see that they all think we charge too little. Whenever they write about some guy with a big school it seems like they are always charging something on the order of $100+ per student. I can't speak for the quality of student or teaching in any of them but some things seem like common sense to me.

1. A big school can support full-time teachers. A full-time teacher is probably better than a part-time teacher for obvious reasons.

2. They can afford better facilities.

3. They can afford to train and better themselves.

4. No money worries equals a peace of mind not always found in some instructors I've known.

Oh well, I think I'm about done for now.
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Old 09-17-2002, 03:56 PM   #18
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Quote:
Deb Fisher wrote:
Which makes Starbucks Aikikai (or a Virginia Slims/MacDonalds-sponsored seminar) make more sense? Or is that too much?
Deb, this sort of thing makes a lot of sense actually. I think, but could be very wrong, that Hombu is supported by, shall we say, private entities. I think the same thing also applies to the Yoshinkai as well but I could be wrong about both of those. Taking the next step doesn't seem all that illogical to me at all.
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Old 09-17-2002, 10:07 PM   #19
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Oh Eric, I was mostly reflecting on the death-embracing nature of the greasymeat/cigarette/skim latte product. You have good thoughts. They are rooted firmly to reality. I was going off on an existential tangent.

I know from personal experience how unromantic and unenlightened poverty is. I agreed with your post.

Deb Fisher
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Old 09-18-2002, 01:42 AM   #20
Hanna B
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Quote:
Erik Haselhofer (Erik) wrote:
A full-time teacher is probably better than a part-time teacher for obvious reasons.
You have not convinced me.
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Old 09-18-2002, 08:31 AM   #21
ian
 
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Someone who charges a lot of money will only retain students if they think it is worth it - thus they can only survive if they are very good. However this does not mean 'cheap' dojos are neceaarilly worse, though it is likely that cheap dojos will still survive with a much worse standard of tuition.

Ian

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Old 09-18-2002, 08:35 AM   #22
ian
 
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P.S. One reason why I retain our dojo as a free dojo, rather than charging, is that progress in aikido can be very slow, especially at advanced levels. However the continued practise is worthwhile since it is body conditioning rather than learning. Also, long term students actually give alot back to the club, free of charge.

If you've ever tried to start a club from scratch you'll know that the level of training is heavily dependent on the capabilties of the students. I think this is not as pronounced in many other activities which are fixed and not dependent on uke/nage interaction (e.g. yoga).

Ian

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Old 09-18-2002, 09:50 AM   #23
opherdonchin
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I've been around and visited different dojos. The ones I've most enjoyed visiting have been ones where there has been more of a sense of an 'aikido community' than a central sensei who was engaged in teaching. Similarly, dojos where I've felt most comfortable are ones where you get the sense that the fees (dues or mat fees) are there to keep the dojo and the community going. I don't know why this is exactly, but that would be the kind of dojo I would like to run if I ever did run one.

Yours in Aiki
Opher
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Old 09-18-2002, 03:59 PM   #24
Deb Fisher
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Ian wrote:

"

------------------------------------------------------------------------

(Post #22)

P.S. One reason why I retain our dojo as a free dojo, rather than charging, is that progress in aikido can be very slow, especially at advanced levels. However the continued practise is worthwhile since it is body conditioning rather than learning. Also, long term students actually give alot back to the club, free of charge.

If you've ever tried to start a club from scratch you'll know that the level of training is heavily dependent on the capabilties of the students. I think this is not as pronounced in many other activities which are fixed and not dependent on uke/nage interaction (e.g. yoga)."

Good point - I never thought about this angle.

Deb Fisher
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Old 09-19-2002, 06:25 AM   #25
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Quote:
Eric wrote:
1. A big school can support full-time teachers. A full-time teacher is probably better than a part-time teacher for obvious reasons.
I'm not so certain. I can think of at least one shihan who has been emphazising that one should have a life (both professionally and personally) besides Aikido. I believe it to be an important part of growing like an individual and something that you can hang your hat on, if training for some reason fails your for a while.

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