The lights are on but – June 25, 2014, Kim Taylor, Renshi, CI Sei Do Kai Guelph ON, Nanadan

Nobody’s home. It hasn’t happened for a while but last night I went to class and nobody showed up. Since my back was killing me and I was tired to boot I went to the bar early. An aspirin and a couple pints of muscle relaxant helped quite a bit.

I don’t feel too guilty about not practicing myself, we had a good rip through Niten on the weekend and I did a class with the two aikido enthusiasts that are around this summer. In other words, I’ve played with enough folks lately to feel like I’m accomplishing something.

But now I’m thinking about participation in the martial arts again, as in “where are all the students”? They can’t all be at MMA classes can they?

I know that we took quite a hit when the fitness gyms started up on every street corner, and fitness classes started up with names like “downward dawg hot zumba” so there are fewer folks around for the situps. Maybe that’s all there is to it, just the exercise guys doing their calesthenics at a place with music and girls.

Nothing else much has changed that I can figure, the world is a safer place than 30 years ago yes, but folks seem to be a lot more fearful if you look at the willingness to give up privacy and other freedoms for “public safety”, so you’d think that the self defense crowd would be up. Maybe the gun lobby has siphoned all the self defense dudes into the concealed carry ranks. Fair enough, I still can’t dodge bullets so a gun trumps a stick. For the women, there are dozens more anti-assault groups than there were even a couple years ago, and despite the advice from Susan Brownmiller and other feminists from the ’70s, self defense classes never really did catch on as empowerment. My women’s self defense class has seen declining enrollment since the late 80s when I used to get 30 or 40 students each semester. Now it’s down to 3 or 4 while the female student population is way up.

Perhaps folks really do believe it’s a safer world, perhaps they just like to claim it’s not when it suits their arguments.

Or maybe its the shift to a female dominated university, I teach at a school after all, and while the number of women in class has increased (from zero to a few), it was always mostly men who populated the martial arts classes.

So the workout crowd and the self defense crowd is gone, the sports crowd has probably gone over to the MMA. Too bad we can’t figure out how to give kendo a few ground and pound rules so we could get a bit of television coverage, perhaps that would increase the interest.

Which leaves what? The folks like me who are too restless to read good books and sit meditation but want to be better people? There were never more than two or three of those in each class so perhaps those are the two or three who are still there.

I’ve got no solutions, advertising works but until we get our heads around advertising the budo and stop saying “McDojo” we aren’t going to do a lot of that.

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