Hooked In – Kim Taylor, Renshi, CI Sei Do Kai Guelph ON, Nanadan Iaido and Roukudan Jodo

Seitei Jodo last evening, we’ll practice it a lot between now and the grading in a couple of weeks. The registrations for the seminar are trickling in, I hope registrations for grading are being done. As an official of the CKF I would like folks to get into the grading system as soon as possible.

We can argue the merits of Seitei Gata Jo and Iai, we can argue the style, the intent, all sorts of things, but the fact remains at the end of the day that our gradings are done with Seitei jo. The organization needs those Seitei gradings to hook students into the system, that brings dues and grading fees which is how the organization can afford to exist.

It’s as simple as that, really. It’s about investment. The organization needs to provide gradings, it needs to invest in them so that new members get hooked in and current members remain connected. The investment in organizing gradings pays off in income.

On the membership side, the investment is in time and money to get the rank. Once a beginner has taken that first grading there’s an expectation that they work toward the next. It’s a continuing incentive which can provide a life-long reason to stay hooked into the system.

Is that it? Money for rank? Is there nothing else? Of course there is, an organization provides a framework for instruction. “I’m in the CKF because my sensei is in the CKF” is actually sufficient reason to be a member. Beginners are loyal to their sensei, not necessarily to an organization, so if that sensei leaves the organization a lot of his students will be gone as well. It’s happened, it can happen again. It doesn’t help the organization when 50 members follow their sensei out the door. The organization may provide other things, in the case of the CKF that’s an insurance policy that allows dojo to practice in public spaces. This is a big thing. It’s the finance and organization of the Kendo team for the world championships. It’s a bit of development money to help pay for seminars in jodo and iaido. It’s a community of practice, a community of instructors. It’s your sensei.

Sensei bring in the students, sensei keep the students. Beginners aren’t loyal to the organization, they are loyal to their sensei for the very simple reason that their sensei is the face of the organization. Students don’t really believe that rank is the purpose of budo, not most of them. Rank is “what you do”, and once you get into the system you have an investment in the organization, certainly, but the important thing is the practice and you do that with your sensei, not somebody in a head office a thousand miles away.

So where does an organization, those guys in the far away office, put it’s efforts? For new membership, into the grading system. Provide the grading opportunities so that the sensei can get their students hooked into the system. Make it easy to go to a grading. In practical terms that means getting the gradings to the students, in a country like Canada it’s insane to expect that beginning students are going to want to spend a thousand dollars to travel a thousand miles to get their first rank. Why would they do that? They have no investment in the system. There are lots of students who never get hooked into that system, they practice for years without gradings because gradings aren’t available anywhere but a thousand miles away.

No country that makes it difficult to get to gradings is doing itself any favours. Lack of grading opportunity does not make for skilled shodans. If you do your shodan test after 20 years of study you will certainly be a good shodan but think about that for a moment.

Get the gradings to the students at the lower ranks. If there’s a local seminar happening and you’ve got enough rank for a panel, put that panel together. Get the students hooked into the system. Remember always that they don’t have to get involved in the organization, the system, at all. They have their teacher.

How do you keep the membership in the organization once you have them hooked in? Pretty much the same way, you provide gradings for the sensei. You keep the sensei around because you support them and their practice. You give them reasons to stay around. Senior gradings may need to be a thousand miles away because of a lack of panelists, you need to do gradings at major seminars where you can afford to fly the big guns in. Should the organization do this? Absolutely. Can the organization fly in a bunch of panelists from overseas so that the senior ranks can get even more rank? If it can, it should, if it wants to continue as an organization, remember that if you lose the senior ranks you lose all their students as well. But not every organization can afford to fly senior panelists to all parts of a huge country. Some can’t afford it at all, so someone has to organize a seminar that will pay for the panel and that is often thousands of miles away.

Fine, find some other way to get those seniors to the grading. Maybe throw them a bone, slip them a bit of a break on the seminar fee, or a travel bursary. It’s an investment in the future, an investment in keeping the organization healthy. What you do not want to do is make it hard to keep grading. What you do not want to do is tell the seniors that they must spend thousands of dollars to organize their own gradings, or get to gradings, without giving them any incentive or use for those gradings. By the time you’re a senior rank you aren’t usually looking for an ego boost, so you need a reason to take that next rank. If there isn’t one, if the organization isn’t interested in you or your rank, why would you reach for your wallet?

Organizations are their membership. Make that membership angry by acting like they owe the organization loyalty (and money) and they are likely to walk out the door. Remember, the loyalty is to the sensei and the sensei is in the organization. If the sensei leaves, or even if they simply stop promoting gradings and membership in the organization, the students stop being hooked into the system. Sensei may tolerate being treated badly by the organization for a while, they may stick around “for the students”, but if there is nothing happening “for the students” for long enough, even the most loyal members will gradually stop supporting the organization.

Simply because the organization has stopped supporting them.

So we will continue to practice Seitei Jodo for the next few weeks whether or not anyone from the dojo is grading. I will be kicking them in the rear end to go to the seminar and watch the grading even if they are not challenging for the next rank. This will help keep them hooked into the system and I support the system, I have for a very long time, our community shares a common goal, our sensei tend to look out for their students rather than themselves, and the organization provides the framework for all of us to work together.

It’s worth staying hooked in.

Kim Taylor
Oct 31, 2018


Check out the seminars below for the rest of 2018. Let us hook you up to one of them.

Beginners welcome, those from other lineages and styles welcome.

November 3-4 Ohmi sensei in Peterborough koryu iaido seminar.

November 23-25 Mansfield Sensei, Mississauga, Jodo seminar and grading

December 1 Mitani and Hatakenaka, Etobicoke Iaido grading.

April 6, Seito Bugei Juku seminar in Peterborough.

May 17-20 Annual CKF International Jodo and Iaido seminar and grading, (Kurogo sensei and Mansfield sensei) Guelph.

November 8-10 Annual CKF International Jodo seminar and grading (Kurogo sensei), Mississauga

iaito, bokuto, bokken, jo, shinken, karate and judo uniforms, books, videos and other…

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