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Old 10-31-2004, 12:30 AM   #1
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Poll: How important is running an aikido dojo as a business?

AikiWeb Poll for the week of October 31, 2004:

How important is running an aikido dojo as a business?
  • I don't do aikido
  • Critically important
  • Very important
  • Somewhat important
  • Not very important
  • Not at all important
Here are the current results.
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Old 10-31-2004, 08:27 AM   #2
Tharis
Dojo: Chicago Aikikai
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Re: Poll: How important is running an aikido dojo as a business?

I guess it depends on what you mean by running a dojo as a business. On one hand, it's not necessary for a dojo to make a profit. On the other hand, it is essential to have good bookkeeping, maintenence, liability protection, etc.
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Old 10-31-2004, 02:08 PM   #3
Larry Feldman
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Re: Poll: How important is running an aikido dojo as a business?

It is important if you want a place to practice.
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Old 11-01-2004, 07:21 AM   #4
p00kiethebear
 
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Re: Poll: How important is running an aikido dojo as a business?

I think it also depends on WHERE you're running your dojo.

In the west where capitalism reigns supreme, people associate value with money. As noble as it is to want to run a dojo with little or no "business" we have to be careful not to give people the idea that what we teach is not worth anything.

"Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity"
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Old 11-01-2004, 08:02 AM   #5
SeiserL
 
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Re: Poll: How important is running an aikido dojo as a business?

IMHO, if there were more Dojo runs as a business, there would be more Dojos and people we could practice with. Too many people think that spirituality and business don't mix, but that is a very limited view of spirituality. Let's think abundance and prosperity as spirituality.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 11-01-2004, 09:50 AM   #6
ian
 
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Re: Poll: How important is running an aikido dojo as a business?

I think this is the only time I have ever disagreed with Lynn. Admittedly Dojo's need to ensure they do not loose money, however I believe that they should be run as non-profit making and costs to students should be kept to a minimum to retain inclusivity (ideally free). In the past I saw many karate clubs which were run just to make money - the teachers started as soon as they could (and therefore were pretty poor standard) and they just went for numbers, usually kids.

In John Stevens excellent book 'the sword of no-sword: life of master swordsman tesshu", tesshu said something like "better to have one student who will understand my swordwork, than 1000 poor students." I believe this whole heartedly. We should be looking at quality and not quantity. Ueshiba's dispute with tokada was over finances (as far as I am aware ueshiba refused to pay the fee due from each of his students).

Instructor who are not teaching for financial gain are teaching for another reason; hopefully this is to transfer their knowledge. People may believe that because it is cheap it is not worth anything - but that is their problem. I believe aikido has instrinsic value and if people cannot recognise that they shouldn't be training.

Money is made by selling something for more than it cost to make it or by paying people less than they are worth for their services. Business and spirituality don't mix, because (profit-making) business requires overriding self-interest. I'm not saying it's 'wrong', just that we have to be aware of where our abundance and prosperity comes from, and what we are really aiming to achieve.

Last edited by ian : 11-01-2004 at 09:56 AM.
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Old 11-01-2004, 10:44 AM   #7
Qatana
 
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Re: Poll: How important is running an aikido dojo as a business?

I think people are confusing the terms "business" and "profit".

Even non-profits are "businesses". any organisation which includes the exchange of currency or like value is a "business". Somebody has to keep track of where the money is and pay the bills, regardless of any personal compensation.

If the dojo is the instructor's only source of income, one would hope to be making agreater profit than if one were teaching for love and has another source of income outside the dojo.

Q
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Old 11-01-2004, 10:45 AM   #8
Amendes
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Re: Poll: How important is running an aikido dojo as a business?

In a situation where the teachers primary job is teaching at his/her school for 8 hours a day 6 days a week as my teacher does, how are they supposed to eat if their business does not generate a profit.

I agree with making a profit since I wish to one day have a dojo. I want to make the dojo a primary job as my instructor does. This can put food on my table and a roof over my head and security, so I can focus 100% on my teaching. The dues should cover overhead for the busienss and enough to live on the essentials if you own it.

On the other hand, there is an extreme to be considered as well. By this I mean greed, if I start my own school you won't see me driving around a Ferrari and living in a huge house when I make my school. I won't have a 20 inch plasma television with surround sound.
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Old 11-01-2004, 12:54 PM   #9
siwilson
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Re: Poll: How important is running an aikido dojo as a business?

Quote:
Ian Dodkins wrote:
I think this is the only time I have ever disagreed with Lynn. Admittedly Dojo's need to ensure they do not loose money, however I believe that they should be run as non-profit making and costs to students should be kept to a minimum to retain inclusivity (ideally free). In the past I saw many karate clubs which were run just to make money - the teachers started as soon as they could (and therefore were pretty poor standard) and they just went for numbers, usually kids.

In John Stevens excellent book 'the sword of no-sword: life of master swordsman tesshu", tesshu said something like "better to have one student who will understand my swordwork, than 1000 poor students." I believe this whole heartedly. We should be looking at quality and not quantity. Ueshiba's dispute with tokada was over finances (as far as I am aware ueshiba refused to pay the fee due from each of his students).

Instructor who are not teaching for financial gain are teaching for another reason; hopefully this is to transfer their knowledge. People may believe that because it is cheap it is not worth anything - but that is their problem. I believe aikido has instrinsic value and if people cannot recognise that they shouldn't be training.

Money is made by selling something for more than it cost to make it or by paying people less than they are worth for their services. Business and spirituality don't mix, because (profit-making) business requires overriding self-interest. I'm not saying it's 'wrong', just that we have to be aware of where our abundance and prosperity comes from, and what we are really aiming to achieve.
Ian

I agree whole heartedly. The line comes when the money coming from the students gets in the way of maintaining standards. Do you stop the students grading because they are not ready and risk losing income that puts food on your table?

If you are getting in to the business v profit definition, then Jun please clarify.

I would refer to profit making as a business and non-profit "for the members" as a mutual.


Osu!
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Old 11-01-2004, 06:52 PM   #10
Joe Bowen
 
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Re: Poll: How important is running an aikido dojo as a business?

Instructors have to eat, rent and utilities have to be paid, building and mats have to be maintained, weapons and other training aids have to be purchased. While we've all seen the movies of the wise old Sensei imparting his wisdom onto the young student for free, we live in a harsher reality. Your full-time instructors need to be paid, and reasonably well. Salary-men Sensei's (people who have jobs other than teaching Aikido), while not necessarily inferior instructors(I am one myself), have to divide their attention between what they need to do to earn a living and teaching. Things are even more complex, if your instructor is married and trying to support a child. Aikido instructors are not clergy; O Sensei did not mandate a vow of poverty or near-poverty for Aikido instructors. In the US, I would imagine that it is difficult to support a family and raise children on what the Sensei makes from one single dojo. That is why you have larger organizations that provide a business structure to help the Sensei survive.
Having trained in Asia for the past seven years, I've seen various organizations thrive and succeed, and others struggle and fail. The formula that seems to work well is to entertain those members that are not too serious about the Aikido as well as feed the dedicated true-believers. The "not too serious" folks provide sufficient funds while your true-believers keep the faith. And, sometimes one or two of your "not too serious" folks may transition to be one of your true-believers.
As far as profit requiring an overriding self-interest I think your being a little short-sighted. By turning a profit the Dojo as a whole can seek to renovate, grow and expand providing a greater opportunity for others to experience the intrinsic value of Aikido. Spirituality and business mix on a daily basis, just look at any organized religion. What you're worried about is the Sensei running the dojo solely to make him rich. Not many successful Aikido instructors that believe they can get rich teaching Aikido, but they can do fairly well. This is provided they have a clear "business" plan. The dojos that I've seen that are successful are run very much like a business with weekly/monthly meetings to ensure the dojo is progressing and moving in the desired direction. Sound business practices are not intrinsically evil, only when they serve the greed of one person do they become subject to scrutiny. Keep the faith, but eat well……

joe

Last edited by Joe Bowen : 11-01-2004 at 06:55 PM.
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Old 11-02-2004, 02:25 AM   #11
siwilson
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Re: Poll: How important is running an aikido dojo as a business?

Joe

The issue is not the making money, but the quality. I would rather train in a dojo of 5 or 6 martial artists than 100 health clubers. There is nothing wrong with having the health clubers, but there is when they become the schools focus because they pay the bills. That way you lose the martial artists from the dojo because you spoil their practice.

I was speaking with a TKD practitioner about this yesterday. He told me of a full-time TKD school in the UK where it has moved away from being purely about the martial art, and now is a bit of TKD, a bit of aerobics, a bit of boxercise, a bit of self defence, a bit of this and a bit of that. Diluted and not a martial arts dojo any more. Why, because it pays the bills by keeping students in the (Mc)Dojo.

It doesn't have to be like that, and there are great full-time schools which refuse to lower the standard, so they have to accumulate the martial artists, and when they are that good they will. To balance income, many have side-lines, some don't need too.

There is nothing wrong with making money, but there is with trashing the martial art in the process. I would hate to see an Aikido McDojo, and hope I never do.

All the best,

Si

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Old 11-02-2004, 06:19 AM   #12
Olaf
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Re: Poll: How important is running an aikido dojo as a business?

Well, we've all read and heard the same arguments over and over now.
Still, I have yet to come to read or hear one reason that would convince me that an alomost-for free group with a leisure-time teacher (who spends 90 % of his time at living-earning-work, with family or sleeping) is inherently immune to dilution of teaching/Aikido standards or supports a higher-quality teacher.
The best teachers I know do Aikido full-time, as did O-Sensei (besides spending just as much time on religion). And since they do not enjoy wealthy sponsors like O-Sensei did, they have to charge their students. And then, the line is indeed drawn when greed and excessive profit come into the game.
To sum it up, there are good and bad teachers and Aikido groups in both worlds. I personally prefer the atmoshere of a private school being more like a traditional dojo (compared to a gym place). That's why I always trained in such dojos, and now founded my own. And I did not get wealthy so far...
Best regards
Olaf
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Old 11-02-2004, 10:58 AM   #13
siwilson
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Re: Poll: How important is running an aikido dojo as a business?

Quote:
Si Wilson wrote:
There is nothing wrong with making money, but there is with trashing the martial art in the process. I would hate to see an Aikido McDojo, and hope I never do.
There is also nothing wrong with not making money, but there is with trashing the martial art in the process.

The other thing is that it is unfair to say that Aikido teachers who have another job and don't make their living from Aikido, don't do Aikido full-time. There are Aikido teachers who make their living from Aikido who don't do it full-time!

Some martial arts teachers who have taken it on as their business have said to me that they train less because of it. Running the business gets in the way of their practice. I also know Aikidoka who train every day, but have a day job. I have been there and still am, although not all my training is in the dojo. There is mental and physical practice, as well as solo and partnered.

I think it is more the question do you live your martial art than do you make a living from it.

Regards,

Si

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Old 11-03-2004, 06:35 AM   #14
Amelia Smith
 
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Re: Poll: How important is running an aikido dojo as a business?

Joe -

Clergy also need to be paid, but they are paid through donations to the church in a way that may not be obvious to people outside of the churches. I would say that in general, professional aikido teachers are less well-paid than clergy.

As for running a dojo as a business, I think that it is important, but that it should be done with a very long-term, aikido-centered view. That is to say, the dojo is in the business of teaching and promoting aikido, and making money should always be subservient to that goal. If increasing dues shuts too many people out of the dojo, it's probably not a good idea, but if it's not too much, and allows the dojo to invest in a better practice space, new mats, etc., then it might be worth it. I think that the biggest danger in having professional instructors is that they can lose balance and perspective in their world-views, and become too wrapped up in the petty politics of aikido, and forget what the non-aikido world is like. Also, there's not a whole lot of money in it. For those who teach in addition to a regular, full-time job, exhaustion, burnout, and lack of contemplative time could be problems. In general, the issues balance out, but it's up to individual instructors to make that decision for themselves. It also doesn't necessarily reflect how business-like the dojo is.

--Amelia
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Old 11-04-2004, 12:13 AM   #15
Joe Bowen
 
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Re: Poll: How important is running an aikido dojo as a business?

Good points. I honestly don't know much about how the Clergy makes it money. Your idea of the "long-term, aikido-centered" view is spot on. The dojo must survive, thrive and grow for the sake of the art, not to serve the interests of the instructor. The politics unfortunately comes anytime people try to work together. Aikido organizations exist in order to help individual dojos survive by providing support systems and legitimacy to the practice. There are some organizations that apply strict guidelines on the member dojos and other organizations that do not. But, the politics is involved in all of them, and has to be dealt with. You are quite correct about the "burn out and exhaustion" that comes with trying to maintain a fulltime job, teach Aikido and maintain a healthy family. Somehow, it all works though.

I understand Si's reservation's about diluting the art, but you have to be careful you don't denigrate into what I like to call "Martial Snobbery". No martial art is fixed. Even the stalwart, venerated "Koryu Bujutsu" evolve and adapt as the times change or they fade out. There are some Aikido folks that disparage the 1st Doshu Kissomaru Ueshiba primarily because he opened Aikido to all people, and some believe "softened" the techniques. But, it is Kissomaru Ueshiba who is responsible for the spread of Aikido internationally. Many people walk through the Dojo's entrance for many different reasons. I agree with Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei's belief that Aikido is a very individual thing, when you practice Aikido your practicing "your" Aikido, not "THE" Aikido. Aikido was developed by O Sensei but it belongs to everyone.

I have some very specific and grounded ideas about Aikido, the techniques, and how practice should be conducted. That is how I teach, but when someone joins the dojo with different ideas about Aikido, I don't exclude them from the class. Everyone is there to practice, and there is plenty of room on the mat. You cannot even begin to hope to influence another person if you exclude them completely from the class. If your fitness-minded students come, let them on the mat. You don't change the practice, but you allow them to join. You don't harass them to "do it my way or else get out". You teach them the beauty of the art. If they don't get it they'll leave on their own. If you accept them with an open mind and honest effort, you might actually ignite the same desire for the art that you have. Don't pander to the rich, sycophantic clientele. But, don't kick them out either. Accept them, and you might influence a change in them. If you don't, they'll go their own way and you can go yours.

Just like you maintain your center in your technique, you need to maintain the center of your dojo. The dojo is more than a school, it is a community. It provides a social setting for people to come together and practice a shared interest. Often dojos have more that one instructor, or perhaps a "board of directors" which help to maintain the Dojo's center.

As for the cliché of "living your marital art", I live my life. My "martial art" is part of that life. The philosophical principles of Aikido are not novel, nor is the use of a martial discipline to help shape our lives. People who have never even heard of Aikido employ "aiki" principles every day. While it is nice to feel special or privileged to be practicing aikido, we are neither. While I live my life, I practice my Aikido, and make my living. It is all part of an integrated whole. But, now I'm getting too philosophical and will stop.

One last thought, if Aikido is a way to "reconcile the world", how can you exclude people from the practice…..


--joe
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Old 11-04-2004, 01:51 PM   #16
Hanna B
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Re: Poll: How important is running an aikido dojo as a business?

I voted "not at all important" but I must confess I do not really understand the question. Important to whom and/or what? To a person who runs his dojo as a business, it is of course of critical importance. In my nick of the woods, hardly anyone teaches aikido or other martial arts for a living, and very few teachers get any kind of monetary compensation for their teaching - it is common that the dojo pays part of teachers's seminar costs though, as a means of getting the teacher further education and more to teach. I heard Endo sensei saying at the end of a seminar, "Noone of you will be professional aikido teachers - but you are better than many strange aikido teachers out there" (OK I heard the translator but I have no reason to mistrust him). Painters who gain success often get stuck in the style that got them famous - why change a winning team? and so their progression is hampered. Teachers who do not need their aikido to make ends meet might have more possibility to take their aikido whereever they feel is a good way for development, regardless of what the customers (students) think.

I'd say the nonprofit way of running a dojo has some merits. So, importance of running it as a business? No, not really.
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Old 11-04-2004, 03:12 PM   #17
redsoxfan
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Re: Poll: How important is running an aikido dojo as a business?

Running your dojo as a business is really the only smart way to do it. Let me give two scenarios, I started Aikido in 1994 at a small dojo so small theat my sister and I were the first and only students. It was great b/c we had 100% of our Sensei's attention and learned new techniques quickly. It was like having our own personal Aikido tutors. After six months the school closed down and we could no longer train. A year passed and I began taking Karate at a very well run school. My new Sensei ran his school like a successful business, he advertised, he got involved in community events such as parades, all to promote his school. He did however maintain excellent standards in martial arts instruction and was by no means a Black Belt factory as so many schools become. My Shodan test was conducted over two days four hours each day. I have since returned to Aikido training and would eventually like to open my own school, probably not as my only source of income. If I do open my own Dojo I certainly would model it after my Karate instructors dojo just to ensure it stays open so that people can come and train.
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Old 11-05-2004, 02:41 AM   #18
Hanna B
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Re: Poll: How important is running an aikido dojo as a business?

So Matthew, my excellent teachers in extremely stable non-professional dojos who even get invited to the States to teach seminars don't count? :-o

Things just don't operate like that here. You can't run your dojo as a business; too few people will want to pay much more than they do in other places, where excellent teachers teach for free.

There must be examples of reasonably big ans certainly stable, non-disapperaing non-professional dojos in the States also. Does someone have an example or two?
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Old 11-05-2004, 05:51 AM   #19
Olaf
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Re: Poll: How important is running an aikido dojo as a business?

Well, now Hanna has touched a very important point.. in many countries, esp. in Europe, and definately so in Germany where I live, public (=non-profit) sports clubs (offering many sports under one roof) and gyms are heavily subsidized.
Which..
1) makes it not really necessary to open a private dojo, if you can put up with the restrictions of operating as one group of many within a bigger club, and
2) makes it so much harder to open a private dojo because of the subsidized price-dumping of aforementioned clubs.
In effect, once your dojo does earn you some money, it is then taxed, from which then (among other things) your local public sports club gets public funding, which can then offer cheaper classes than you can. Isn't that perverse, if you think about it??

To make one thing clear: nobody can escape economics, and nobody can teach for free... somebody is always paying for it (unless you teach outdoors in a park, but even that is maintained by the city, I guess).
So again, politics everywhere..

Cheers
Olaf

P.S. Of course, economics also come into play when a private dojo is only used so and so many hours per week for Aikido classes and stands empty the rest of the week.. that is an inefficiency many choose intently for the "pureness" of the dojo, sub-letting to other sports would improve the situation (similar to the sports gym model), but is often not wanted.
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Old 11-05-2004, 11:02 AM   #20
Roger C. Marks
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Re: Poll: How important is running an aikido dojo as a business?

When I started teaching martial arts here in the UK, the local authority paid for the facility including the venue and equipment were generally available. This may have appeared to be good for MA but the downside was that if you wanted to provide your own facilities you were in direct competition to the subsidised clubs and it was very difficult to get a realistic fee to cover rent, tatami and all the myriad items of overhead that running an efficient organisation requires. When, as inevitably happened, the local authorities no longer supported the 'minor' recreational activities but increasingly used their funds to provide for the more mainstream activities such as football, athletics, gymnastics and, in the UK, cricket, martial arts clubs were often unable to adjust to the changed situation and many closed. Politics and economics as always were main factors, the winning of medals was and is seen as the purpose of funding, not the benefit to the average individual seeking something less tangible such as self development. There is also the problem of cronyism, especially where local government is concerned. For example, there is substantial funding for outdoor bowls, which requires extensive land and upkeep. Why? well, it may be coincidental but local councilors include a great many elderly retired individuals, the demographic who feature strongly in the membership of bowls clubs.

I am well aware that I have to compete with the myriad of other activities on offer and to provide the service that my students expect requires that they pay a realistic fee. I now pay rent to run my judojo within a small commercial facility offering aikido, judo, rehearsal space and classes for contemporary dance and sundry other activities including yoga. I am free to teach what I believe in and fortunately my students appreciate this.
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Old 11-05-2004, 12:14 PM   #21
redsoxfan
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Re: Poll: How important is running an aikido dojo as a business?

Hanna,

I would never say that any teacher does'nt count. What I meant is that to ensure that your dojo remains open so that people can train you should operate it in such a way that you are at the very least not loosing money. I liked and respected my origonal Aikido teacher very much, but he didn't run his school very well from a business perspective. In the end he had to close it down and then I had no place to train. I by no means am endorsing people who go out and start up meaningless Black Belt factory schools. I do feel that you can run your school in a smart cost effective way and still teach high quality Aikido.
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Old 11-08-2004, 12:37 PM   #22
Hanna B
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Re: Poll: How important is running an aikido dojo as a business?

I stand corrected. I guess I misunderstood how you used the term i.e. running it as a business if it inedde is a business, as opposed to teaching professionally/on an amateur basis.
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