In the last couple of days I may have had a tone that suggested that it isn’t a good thing to start your own club (as in “if you can’t listen to your sensei and think you know more than he does, go teach and stop bothering him”) but teaching on your own isn’t really all that bad. Just teach what you know and admit what you don’t.
I guess our dojo started in 1987 when I started teaching iai on the front lawn of the athletics department. Shortly after that we got them to let us into the building and we applied to the CKF to become a dojo. On filling out a form and payment of whatever it was back then we were accepted and official.
Not too difficult really. Today it’s the same thing, you apply, you get accepted or not. If you don’t have a 5dan or higher running your club you are under a 5dan from somewhere else until you get one of your own.
That’s how the dojo started. As for teaching, mostly I was told “OK go teach”. Didn’t have any real paper at the time, was just the guy who had “gone before”.
Why start a club if you’re not a 5dan (the official rank in the CKF)? Usually, as in my case, it’s because you’re “it” in your city. In the large centres we have kendo dojo with multiple 7dans in the club, and no particular pressure to start a new dojo, but if you end up out of range and you want to practice, you end up starting a new dojo. Our university kendo club is often taught by a shodan but they still have a good turnout and learn the art.
If you’re not the only game in town why would you open a club? It’s certainly a pain in the wallet and the training, so if you can just stick around in your present one why would you not? Often we assume Ego, but if you’ve got a realistic view of things you’ll realize there is little benefit in being the instructor, that ego boost that can happen a lot more easily when you get to be assistant instructor under the guy doing all the heavy lifting. All the glory and none of the grit.
What about getting told to go teach? I have said before that rank is a punishment, because with rank comes all the headaches of responsibility and, if you’re running your own club, no benefits. Getting rank often prompts a sort of reversal of the “when student is ready, sensei appears” which is “when the students are ready, boot them out of the nest or the art won’t grow”. There is a club or two around here that sometimes has a waiting list of students, nice for the club but not the students, maybe it’s time to boot a couple of the seniors out to start another club.
Of course there’s also the case when old sensei passes it on to new sensei and all the other seniors decide that’s not the guy, so leave and start their own clubs. That doesn’t happen often but I’ve seen it.
However it happens, if it happens to you it isn’t the worst thing in the world. You get to find out what you actually know, you get to find out if you are in the art for the long term or just for a good time. If you leave your old club on good terms you can and should go back and visit often to keep up your own learning, and your questions will have much more depth as you ask for both yourself and your students.