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Old 01-03-2006, 08:15 AM   #1
bob molerio
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 1
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Private vs. Public Dojo: Your thoughts

I've been teaching/training/running a aikido club for a number of years and one thing I've noticed is the change in the types of folks that walk in to observe and maybe train. There doesn't seem to be the "spark" in these folks like there used to be when I started back in the 80's. While my group has shrunk from 8 to 3 over the last two years, I'm wondering if I'm just better off taking the club "private" and just concentrating on my own training and that of the few that may join and hopefully remain.

Thank you,

Bob Molerio
Aiki Study Group
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Old 01-03-2006, 09:45 AM   #2
Jorge Garcia
Dojo: Shudokan School of Aikido
Location: Houston
Join Date: Jun 2001
Posts: 608
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Re: Private vs. Public Dojo: Your thoughts

That's an interesting question Bob. It involves a lot of different factors. In your case, it seems you are weighing the success or appeal of your group and your hopes for it vs. just doing it for yourself. I have often wondered why people teach martial arts at all because it involves a lot of responsibility, both financial and otherwise. As I have thought about it, I have come up with a few things.
1) Some people teach because of ego. They want to be "the leader". They may like being up front or having others do what they say or call them Sensei. At some point, that allure wears off and they are off to the races.
2) Others may be really gifted and talented and need an outlet for that expression of their gift.
3) In my case, I came to a place where I couldn't continue where I was and starting a dojo was the only way I could continue what I had been previously trying to learn.
4) A few do it for commercial reasons. They love martial arts and want to make a living doing something they love.

I mention these points because they bear on the ultimate problem in having a dojo at all - finances.
Many martial artists are forced to open and have a commercial dojo so they can practice what they want to practice. One teacher once said that he started teaching so he could control the training. To do that though takes money. That's where the commercial part comes in.
Back to your point. When it comes to finances and a commercial operation, the doors are open for everyone and things take on a certain attitude. You also put up with some things that you wouldn't ordinarily tolerate. A private dojo then becomes a dream. Maybe even a fantasy.
In a private dojo, you are there for the training and that alone and I would say that it may be inherently more self centered by nature because it's more about you.. What you may miss is the opportunity to help others that may not even know what martial arts are and what they can do for a persons life. That's more about others.

I would say that a private dojo may be good toward the end of your martial career - after a lifetime of giving. That's when it's time to cash in some stock but it's nice if in the prime of your life, you can give by being open and letting your gifts be for everyone.
Best wishes,

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
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Old 01-03-2006, 11:36 AM   #3
crbateman
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Re: Private vs. Public Dojo: Your thoughts

Jorge, your #4 may be wishful thinking in most cases. Most I've seen who can make a decent living teaching do so by being around long enough and large enough to get a reputation and do some seminars, or by renting mat space to teachers of other arts. Most of the rank-and-file guys are just getting by, or are regularly going deeply into their own pockets to keep their dojos afloat. There are no doubt many other occupations where one can work less hard to be this broke...
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Old 01-03-2006, 02:07 PM   #4
Fred Little
Dojo: NJIT Budokai
Location: State Line NJ/NY
Join Date: Apr 2001
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Re: Private vs. Public Dojo: Your thoughts

In practical terms, what would be the difference between a "public" and a "private" dojo?

Do you have expenses as a "public' entity that you wouldn't as a "private" entity?

Is three people a large enough group to insure sufficiently intense and varied training?

Is there a compelling reason for maintaining your own dojo, rather than training in a more established school?

I don't know the answers to those questions. But a few years back, when my dojo dropped below eight, I put it on hiatus and spent a year dojo-hopping just to see what had grown up around me while I'd been tending my own garden.

In the course of that year, I met a lot of new folks, got a new perspective on why I was practicing, and got enough critical distance that I was able to see the possibilities around me.

Sometimes, momentum is just another word for not enough imagination to change.

FL
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Old 01-03-2006, 02:52 PM   #5
Jorge Garcia
Dojo: Shudokan School of Aikido
Location: Houston
Join Date: Jun 2001
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Re: Private vs. Public Dojo: Your thoughts

Quote:
Clark Bateman wrote:
Jorge, your #4 may be wishful thinking in most cases. Most I've seen who can make a decent living teaching do so by being around long enough and large enough to get a reputation and do some seminars, or by renting mat space to teachers of other arts. Most of the rank-and-file guys are just getting by, or are regularly going deeply into their own pockets to keep their dojos afloat. There are no doubt many other occupations where one can work less hard to be this broke...
I agree. Mt statement though was one of fact. Some people do become teachers and start a dojo for financial reasons and they love martial arts. It is extremely difficult in Aikido terms to make money if you have a facility you are responsible for. The use of the word "impossible" might be too much but not far off the mark. I have never been around a money maker myself and have been a witness to the many hardships of those who tried.

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
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Old 01-03-2006, 10:22 PM   #6
Ed Shockley
Dojo: aikikai of Philadelphia
Location: philadelphia
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 84
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Re: Private vs. Public Dojo: Your thoughts

I'm sure that we all have seen financially solvent dojos. There's a karate school across the hall from us with a huge after school kids program that makes more in a week than we make in a month. The complication of Aikido and space requirements make it more difficult but it also is a great "product" and a good Wharton mind could sell it in sufficient numbers to make it go, especially in cities without staggering real estate rates. Still, the question of this thread is private versus public dojo. I'm going to repeat Jorge Garcia's initial comment in different words. A Sensei is someone who has something to give to the art. Their understanding of technique and ability to inspire and instruct drive them to open a school for the advance of Aikido and the principles that are inseparable from the art. This is why so many do so poorly financially. Their focus is not on the business but on the teaching. Unless they have sound partners, great Sempai a rich spouse or luck then the business suffers. The question that I pose to Bob is, "Do you have something worth giving to Aikido that warrants enduring the struggle to keep a school open?" If someone is Saito, Tohei, Sugano, Saotome, Yamada or a talented disciple of a shihan then nearly any price is worth paying to spread the movement encoded message of Aikido. I am not being in the least snide. I have met many Sensei who fit that bill, in fact most do. Skip Chapman is only a third Dan I believe but walk into his dojo and you are lifted up both technically and spiritually. My two Sensei, Henry Smith and Nizam Taleb, both come from completely different lineages and their interpretations of movements are different as can be and yet both are born to teach and challenge each student to grow on and off the mat. Donovan Waite, Shihan captured his interpretations on tape in order to challenge Aikidoka to closely examine classical movement principles. Do you have something comparable to share? If you are developing an idea then that seems perfectly suited to a private dojo. It's a laboratory to collectively explore concepts. If you already have a vision or can translate a vision of your teacher then the issue is not private dojo but how to get more students. Good luck whichever road you take.
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