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Old 09-11-2004, 07:58 AM   #1
"Anonymous"
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Dojo loyalty or personal gain?

OK, here's my dilemma boiled down to as simple a story as I can manage. I have been training at the same dojo for about a year now and have managed to avoid becoming involved in any of the "politics" I know have been occurring. This has never been a problem until recently. Several high ranking senior students have left and either started their own dojos, or completely quit training ( I don't know why they left). Sensei has tried to maintain regular class scheldules and seminar attendance for the rest of us, but without his senior students to help, I think this has become increasingly difficult for him. As a result, classes have lost some of their energy and flow, and I don't feel like I am getting the most out of my training. So my question is this: If I leave my current dojo to go practice with someone else (maybe one of the runaway sempai) am I committing a huge breach of protocol? I feel like I would be insulting sensei to do this, but I also feel like I need to find someplace where I get positive energy when I'm on the mat. Any suggestions?

Thanks
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Old 09-12-2004, 10:57 PM   #2
Richard Elliott
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Re: Dojo loyalty or personal gain?

My suggestion would be to ask some of the former students what happened. If it is something relevant to you as a student consider it. There may be a substantial reason the dojo seems to be disintegrating. If it doesn't seem like something that affects you as a student i.e. it seems to be an issue confined to the teachers, you might ask your Chief Instructor if there is anything you can help with or be of service for. This might be a great opportunity for you to get experience in dojo admin or some other thing you might have talent at and enjoy. Sometimes with political or personal problems that infect any group, after a while it is sometimes hard to find out the causes or who's to blame. If no one seems to want to talk about it or you get vague responses, let it go. If you think your Sensei is o.k. offer your services.

This might not be relevant to your dojo politics, but I've been an Episcopalian for almost 20 years and I know these things can be pretty painful. I almost had a nervous breakdown one time--for goodness sake!
God bless ya

Respectfully, Richard
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Old 09-13-2004, 01:59 AM   #3
"Anonymous"
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Re: Dojo loyalty or personal gain?

Quote:
OK, here's my dilemma boiled down to as simple a story as I can manage. I have been training at the same dojo for about a year now and have managed to avoid becoming involved in any of the "politics" I know have been occurring. This has never been a problem until recently. Several high ranking senior students have left and either started their own dojos, or completely quit training ( I don't know why they left). Sensei has tried to maintain regular class scheldules and seminar attendance for the rest of us, but without his senior students to help, I think this has become increasingly difficult for him. As a result, classes have lost some of their energy and flow, and I don't feel like I am getting the most out of my training. So my question is this: If I leave my current dojo to go practice with someone else (maybe one of the runaway sempai) am I committing a huge breach of protocol? I feel like I would be insulting sensei to do this, but I also feel like I need to find someplace where I get positive energy when I'm on the mat. Any suggestions?

Thanks
Dear friend,

Your post is so similar with my position it felt as though we could be in the same dojo. But this event happened to me almost 2 years ago. I made my decision to leave, and it was made on the ground of personal gain. I look out for my own interest first, protocol or loyalty second.

Whenever I meet my old sensei, I still confer to him my upmost respect, I have even attended some of the seminars that his organization/dojo organized.

Truly,
Mr XXX
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Old 09-13-2004, 02:52 AM   #4
Hanna B
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Re: Dojo loyalty or personal gain?

Quote:
So my question is this: If I leave my current dojo to go practice with someone else (maybe one of the runaway sempai) am I committing a huge breach of protocol? I feel like I would be insulting sensei to do this, but I also feel like I need to find someplace where I get positive energy when I'm on the mat. Any suggestions?
It is your choice. You decide. As it seems the senior students who left did not create a new dojo jointly but several small ones, I do not suppose your old dojo energy is anywhere to be found though.
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Old 09-13-2004, 06:52 AM   #5
Janet Rosen
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Re: Dojo loyalty or personal gain?

Quote:
If I leave my current dojo to go practice with someone else (maybe one of the runaway sempai) am I committing a huge breach of protocol? I feel like I would be insulting sensei to do this, but I also feel like I need to find someplace where I get positive energy when I'm on the mat.
Many folks do change dojos, for a variety of reasons.
It's not "insulting" in and of itself--people come and go-- but you may find that you''ve burned a bridge and can't return to the original dojo, depending on how you make your exit.

Janet Rosen
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Old 09-13-2004, 09:51 AM   #6
Pauliina Lievonen
 
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Re: Dojo loyalty or personal gain?

Quote:
As a result, classes have lost some of their energy and flow, and I don't feel like I am getting the most out of my training. So my question is this: If I leave my current dojo to go practice with someone else (maybe one of the runaway sempai) am I committing a huge breach of protocol? I feel like I would be insulting sensei to do this, but I also feel like I need to find someplace where I get positive energy when I'm on the mat. Any suggestions?

Thanks
Depends on what you want out of your training, doesn't it? Did you start at this dojo because of the energy and flow of the classes, or because of the sensei having to teach you something you wanted to learn?

No committed teacher is happy to see their students leave -I'm a teacher, I know!- but it's their problem, not yours. You can choose the manner in what you leave, though.

I've watched the energy at my dojo ebb and flow, but I stay, because I believe in the training and in my teachers. YMMV.

kvaak
Pauliina
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Old 09-13-2004, 10:03 AM   #7
NagaBaba
 
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Re: Dojo loyalty or personal gain?

I experienced such situation once. I didn't know what happened, so I stay in a dojo after many blackbell left. After few years such situation happened again. It looks like sensei did some errors in jugement. He is one of finest aikidoka I know, but is not able to keep high ranking students with him.
However, those blackbelts weren't able to create new dojos or even maintain regular practice in other places. In the end they all stopped training.

With time, I presently think, there are senseis with kind of personalities that make even very high ranking student stick with them very many years. There are also other personalities, that can have only relative beginners in their dojo. I still can't figure out the reason for it.

Nagababa

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Old 09-13-2004, 10:12 AM   #8
happysod
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Re: Dojo loyalty or personal gain?

One thing I meant to ask before, why would you consider one of the "runaway sempai" as being a better choice than your current (and their previous) sensei?

Stay/go to where you're happiest and only ever train for yourself. Committing to a dojo is like any other relationship (complete with fetish gear, toys and your own intimate terms for one another), if you stay only out of a sense of duty, resentment can start and you'll end up souring not only your own training, but those who may have come to depend on you.
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Old 09-13-2004, 12:19 PM   #9
"Anonymous"
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Re: Dojo loyalty or personal gain?

I considered the "runaway sempai" b/c they had some of the qualities in their training that drew me into the dojo in the first place. I was wondering if the energy that I enjoyed left with them.
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Old 09-13-2004, 12:43 PM   #10
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Dojo loyalty or personal gain?

Quote:
considered the "runaway sempai" b/c they had some of the qualities in their training that drew me into the dojo in the first place. I was wondering if the energy that I enjoyed left with them.
Consider creating your own energy, rather than depending on that of others. Easier said than done though. I've been in similar situations, and no matter what you do, it probably won't be easy, or make everyone happy. Try to figure out what the right thing to do is, then stick with it. Best of luck...

Quote:
With time, I presently think, there are senseis with kind of personalities that make even very high ranking student stick with them very many years. There are also other personalities, that can have only relative beginners in their dojo. I still can't figure out the reason for it.
I know what you mean...seen this several times, and still don't understand it. I think ego may be part of it...but I'm still not sure.

Ron

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Old 09-13-2004, 02:36 PM   #11
AsimHanif
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Re: Dojo loyalty or personal gain?

I strongly agree with Pauliina's statement above. I would also echo Ron's point but add it is also important that the energy you put out, you get in return.
I went through the same thing. I left because I wasn't getting what I wanted in my practice. I talked it over with the instructor because we have a personal as well as professional relationship. I still practice there occassionally and some of the people from there come and train at my club.
But my decision was not based on what other people did, it was solely a personal decision. Try talking over your feelings with the instructor and if you feel you still can no longer stay then at least you have been up front about the situation.
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Old 09-13-2004, 02:49 PM   #12
MaryKaye
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Re: Dojo loyalty or personal gain?

I had a teacher (not in Aikido but in another area where teacher/student relationships are important) who was awesome with beginners: she could take a newcomer, teach them the ropes, nurture their talents and get them to quite a good level. I learned a lot from her. Then we had a terrible falling-out and ended up hardly on speaking terms.

We were both part of the same organization for over a decade, and I got to watch her go through this same cycle with three more protegees: wonderful relationship at the initial level, horrific breakup later on. It seemed to me that at the point where the student started to develop her own opinions and style, and to disagree with her teacher and back up that disagreement with actions, the relationship was inevitably doomed.

The teacher didn't see it this way, though: she kept feeling that if only she got the right student, she'd be able to maintain the relationship.

We eventually asked her to leave, because the whole thing was getting too painful, and her feuds with her ex-students too disruptive. It was sad: she really was an excellent teacher up till the point of no return.

I wouldn't be surprised if the same dynamic goes on in some aikido schools. I wish I knew what to do about it; we never found a useful approach.

Mary Kaye
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Old 09-13-2004, 03:08 PM   #13
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Dojo loyalty or personal gain?

Quote:
wouldn't be surprised if the same dynamic goes on in some aikido schools. I wish I knew what to do about it; we never found a useful approach.
I think it does
I wish it didn't
I have no clue what to do about it

Ron

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Old 09-14-2004, 11:13 AM   #14
Lyle Laizure
 
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Re: Dojo loyalty or personal gain?

It sounds like you enjoyed practice up til now at your current dojo. Maybe go to your Sensei and ask him if there is anything you can do to help out.

Changes like this happen and it may take a while for the "magic" you once experienced to re-emerge.

Regarding why the other sempai left; does it really matter? I only ask because you mentioned that you have been there for a year and you said you have stayed out of the politics although you are aware of what is going on.

Lyle Laizure
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Deru kugi wa uta reru
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Old 09-14-2004, 12:37 PM   #15
Jorge Garcia
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Re: Dojo loyalty or personal gain?

I was once a member of a church where all the leading elders, the associate pastor and many of the top members left. There was a reason. About ten years later, I ran into one of the clueless members that was still there and he said to me, "Brother Jorge, when you, the associate pastor, all the elders and the top members of the church left, was there something wrong?" The only thing he didn't say was "Duh".
Friend, might I suggest to you that there is always more present than meets the eye and maybe some of the people that left did so quietly so as not to be dojo dividers.I can tell you now that the real truth might be way more than you thought it was. Don't look for what's wrong. Don't dig up dirt. Just follow your heart. Go check out the place where some of that energy went. You might find it again.
Best always,

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
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Old 09-23-2004, 10:09 AM   #16
David_francis
 
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Re: Dojo loyalty or personal gain?

I think your sensei needs you right now, if you stick with it the energy will come back.
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Old 11-27-2004, 10:29 AM   #17
Rocky Izumi
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Re: Dojo loyalty or personal gain?

Being the head instructor in a dojo is a lot like being a parent. While you want to keep the top students with you forever, it is neither possible nor good for all involved. Think of the few cases where children have lived with their parents all their lives and it was a successful relationship for all involved. Mostly, if such a case happens, it is not the best thing for the child but it is nice for the parent who doesn't want to let the child go.

At some point in an Aikidoist's life, they have to leave the old dojo and start their own. That is how Aikido grows and comes up with the many different and wonderful interpretations of Aikido that now exist. Remember, requisite diversity from ecology, genetics, and business.

I have had students who wanted to stay but I had to kick them out to start their own life and own Aikido career. I usually try and have them leave on their own when they are ready. If they stay at the dojo, they will stagnate and the dojo will stagnate with them. The best time for them to leave is when their energy is the highest and they are in the mood to start their own dojo. On the other hand, it is sometimes a matter for their own growth to go and do something else for a while. I never worry about those people because if they were meant to come back to Aikido at some time, they will come back. Right now, I am trying to get my son to go and take up Hapkido for a while to develop some skills that he is lacking. He will come back to Aikido and/or Kendo when he is ready.

This can be confusing for the lower ranking Kohai who see their Sempais leaving for some unknown reason. If there is a good Sempai/Kohai relationship, I would expect the Kohai to go with his/her Sempai and help them develop the new dojo. If the Kohai has no strong relationship with any of the leaving Sempais, the student should stay with the old dojo.

I remember being told about some of the Shihans when a dai-Sempai left the Aikikai. His Kohai had a choice and some of them went and others stayed in Aikikai. One of his closest Kohai stayed. And the Kohai of that Kohai went with the dai-Sempai. The problem was, the lower level Kohai then left the dai-Sempai and went out on his own. It was the view of the upper level Kohai that the lower level Kohai should either have stayed in the Aikikai or stayed with the dai-Sempai instead of heading out on his own. It made the lower level Kohai look like someone with little loyalty to anyone and one that just wanted to get a higher rank quickly by moving into a vaccuum.

The problem of the Sempai leaving is that it often creates an unstoppable leakage of dojo members. If the dojo is used to having the Sempai leave after a while, everyone gets used to the leakage and the dojo doesn't break up. If the dojo never gets used to it and there is a massive migration and quitting each time some Sempai leave, it becomes a closed loop problem system, a self-reinforcing cycle and the dojo dies out. My solution was to constantly be sending people out to keep people used to the ebb and flow of dojo life.

In a similar vein, I have begun to think that it is not a good idea to leave a dojo to any one student. I tend to favour a process now, when leaving a dojo area to move somewhere else, where I simply kick everyone out, close the doors and have the Sempai create their own new dojos. I have found that trying to leave a dojo to one student results in infighting among people who think they deserve to have the leadership of the dojo (and I don't know why anyone would want this if they knew what being a head instructor entails), or the slow death of the dojo.

A head instructor leaves much of their personality in a dojo. The dojo is his/hers and carries the stamp of that head instructor's personality. It is extremely difficult for any student to come and pick up where that Sensei left off because the new Sensei cannot be the old Sensei. The new Sensei has to slowly change the dojo until it takes on his/her character. It is quicker and easier to just shut the old one down and start up a new one that embodies the blood, sweat, and tears of the new Sensei. If you don't the old dojo just starts to bleed people who wish to hold on to the memories and feeliings of the old dojo. Kill the old dojo and grow a new one in the character and spirit of the members of the new dojo. Of course, there will be several new dojos that have different feels about them as the different Sempai create very different dojos from each other. This is natural and the way that Aikido grows. From the ashes of one old arises two or more new dojos that grow and rise to the level of the old one.

To do this, it requires students who are willing to sacrifice their blood, sweat, tears, and finances to start that new dojo. Hopefully, the Sempai will have learned from their old Sensei how to develop Kohai in this manner and will have the membership power to develop that new dojo in their mould.

To the Anonymous user: what you feel is the natural ebb and flow of the life of a dojo. There is nothing wrong with you or your dojo. What you have to do is figure out who you are most loyal to and go with them. If it is one of the Sempai who left, be loyal and go with them. If it is the old dojo, be loyal and stay with it. Just don't go hopping from one place to another trying to find what you lost. You won't find it. What you have to do is now re-build the energy in the fashion you want it, either in a new dojo or in the old one. As the Sempai have left, new Sempai will have to take over. Maybe you are one of them? You now have a chance to re-create the dojo in the manner you want it to be.

Rock
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Old 12-03-2004, 11:07 AM   #18
sunny liberti
 
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Re: Dojo loyalty or personal gain?

Ron and Rocky,

Thank you for sharing your insights! You have helped me understand a lot.

Sunny

A brave man dies once; cowards are always dying." --Moanahonga, Ioway
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Old 12-05-2004, 06:05 PM   #19
"Anonymous User"
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Re: Dojo loyalty or personal gain?

I was in a similar situation to this however I was one of the senior sempai who left the dojo. I didn't make a big issue about me leaving becuase it wasn't my place to "rock the boat" and affect the dojo and students. It was my sensei's dojo so for me to make it public as to why I was leaving seemed inappropriate to me. I told those I was close to (the other high dan ranks) and then just disappeared. Unfortunately, it was in a situation very similar to this one in which other sempai quit and others left to start their own schools. Err...I hope we're not talking about the same dojo. If so, sorry!

I agree with the above post that when someone starts they are similar to a child and "grow and mature" in the art. It can become difficult when the student becomes an "adult" in the art to stay with their instructor, who had acted likk a parent. Not to mention it is very easy for some instructors to fall into that "parent" role, they feed off it, and to try and keep it even when the dynamics of the relationship are no longer the same.

One thing I don't agree with is that students always have to go off and start their own schools. That always seems to come up in Aikido, moreso than any other martial art. There is always this push to start your own school, start your own school! No thank you, I just want to train please. I don't mind helping out, even teaching and running a class here and there, but don't act like it is a forgone conclusion that I desire to have my own dojo.
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Old 12-05-2004, 06:18 PM   #20
"Anonymous User"
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Re: Dojo loyalty or personal gain?

Also, I suppose I should have thrown in my two cents on the question (that was me above.)

I would say go where your gut tells you. The concept of unyielding loyalty to one dojo is one that I think should be tempered with common sense. If you're tired of training there, not enjoying the training, found somewhere else that you like training better or hell you find a different martial art; go for it as long as you've given some serious time and commitment at one place. Variety is the spice of life, y'know?
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Old 12-06-2004, 10:58 AM   #21
Rocky Izumi
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Re: Dojo loyalty or personal gain?

Quote:
One thing I don't agree with is that students always have to go off and start their own schools. That always seems to come up in Aikido, moreso than any other martial art. There is always this push to start your own school, start your own school! No thank you, I just want to train please. I don't mind helping out, even teaching and running a class here and there, but don't act like it is a forgone conclusion that I desire to have my own dojo.
Many of the Shihans have pointed out to me that by the time a person is at Sandan, they should have developed their own "style" of Aikido. To do so requires that the person either leave the dojo so that they can practice their own style more easily and consistently without disrupting the consistency of Aikido training in their old dojo or that the dojo have separate classes for each of the instructors who do their own thing. It is not only impolite but also very confusing for students to have several different styles and ways of doing things during one class and the lower rank students are trying to emulate one style when there are several different styles working out on the same mat.

It is inevitable that in open seminars, that there will be several different styles all practicing the same technique differently, but even there, the people on the mat should be trying to do things the way the person instructing the seminar is doing them. Several times, I have been sent by a Shihan to either talk with or do something about a senior rank that was doing things differently in a seminar. The seminar is there to allow you to learn something different, not practice your own thing your own way. This becomes very difficult if the person I have to talk to is of a higher rank than me. But then, that is my job as a Shidoin.

Getting back to the quote, if you find that as a senior rank, you are starting to do things differently from the Sensei, it is time for you to leave rather than disrupt class. Everyone has different bodies and different ideas about Aikido. This is natural. So it is natural to develop different Aikido. There is nothing wrong with this and it is the way of creating the wonderful diversity of Aikido that we find on this website. But, in the dojo, during the Sensei's teaching time, everyone should be trying to do things in the same way. This is the responsibility of the Sempai to their Kohai to keep them from becoming confused. It is not about desire to start your own dojo or not. It is about maintaining good etiquette in the dojo and training correctly and wanting to train to the best of your abilities.

Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the Sempai to help the old dojo grow by starting new dojos with affiliations to the old one. A dojo can only grow so large. It is limited in space and time for practice. The only way for it to grow quickly and without crowding is to develop a new dojo. That is why all social animals have groups that separate from the main colony or hive to develop their own. It is the way of nature to protect the balance of resources to population while still allowing the herd, colony, hive, or dojo to grow and prosper.

Rock
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Old 12-14-2004, 10:19 AM   #22
David Humm
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Re: Dojo loyalty or personal gain?

I am one such student (Yudansha) who disliked the personal politics of the Sensei to whom I studied.

I also make no secret that I distrust the Sensei due to a personal issue that happened some years ago between he and I.

I spent a considerable amount of time thinking about my options as a student (then of some 15 years) I eventually ended up quitting aikido because :

A) I didn't feel I had the experience to run a class of my own
B) I knew that starting another dojo would cause further strife between the Sensei and I

So I chose to quit. Bad choice in hindsight.

I spent some time away from Aikido but the longer I was away, the more I wanted to come back so, I formulated a strategy. That was to return to aikido and study hard to bring myself back up to my privious standard, in doing so take all the required steps needed to put mysel in a position where I would never again be directly under the control of the Sensei (although I was training as a guest at the time on his mat)

Eventually I realised that things hadn't changed, the politics were still politics (along with some other BS) so I sought the support of my organisation to start a dojo... And that is exactly what I did. Much to the annoyance of the sensei I might add. LMAO

Loyalty is a two way aspect of the martial arts, it's like respect, people have to earn it before it is freely given. I hold no loyalty to that sensei because he lost that and my trust in him several years ago. My move was for personal gain... To ensure I continue to study aikido free from petty BS politics.

Dave
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Old 12-14-2004, 11:25 AM   #23
Mark Uttech
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Re: Dojo loyalty or personal gain?

"And that's exactly what I did, much to the annoyance of the sensei I might add. LMAO" Gee whiz, what goes around will come around, so I hope you stay tuned. In gassho, tamonmark
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Old 12-14-2004, 11:52 AM   #24
David Humm
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Re: Dojo loyalty or personal gain?

Hey Mark..

Take a chill pill mate and wind your neck in. unless you know ALL the facts (Which you don't) your not in a position to express an informed opinion on the choices I made and the reasons for them.

You are of course correct "what comes around" And that's EXACTLY what "came around" for the sensei in question who used me (one of his students) as an unwitting alibi for his activities.

So please, when you cast opinions, it might be prudent to consider what you don't know, first.

Kind regards

Dave
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Old 12-14-2004, 12:25 PM   #25
jonreading
 
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Dojo: Aikido South (formerly Emory Aikikai)
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 894
United_States
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Re: Dojo loyalty or personal gain?

Hmmm. This doesn't seem to me a simple question. As a student, your role is to learn from the instructor and work with other students to learn aikido. Yet, you are interested in leaving because your seniors left and your instructor is having difficulty keeping class energetic and fresh by him/herself.

Rocky made several great points about growing in aikido, and even though you are new to training, I have a feeling this is your first growing pain. If you leave, you may go to another dojo and continue to train much as you have been. Or, you can stay and help your instructor rebuild the dojo with new sempai and new energy.

Your obligation to your dojo is to help others learn aikido. The question is can you help others best at your current dojo, or by moving? I once asked my instructor why he taught class and invested time in our training. He replied, "Because someone invested time in me."

If you have a good relationship with your instructor, my advice is to buckle down and start learning how to help others in your dojo, including your instructor. If you do not have a good relationship, you may have chosen the wrong dojo to train at and should consider another location. Neither of these solutions breach etiquette with your instructor.
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