Jan 14, 2017
Added with permission from Kim Taylor Nanadan (CKF) Iaido, Rokudan (CKF) Jodo and Niten Ichi Ryu Shidoin, January 2023
Let me try to talk you out of it. If you’re in a good dojo with a good sensei, stick with it.
If you’re in a town that has a good dojo, or seven, find the one that best suits you and go there.
If you have a senior rank and have moved to a new town and there’s a dojo but the sensei is lower ranked than you. Well that one is tricky. You need to consider if it will work if you join but don’t teach. If you don’t teach, Don’t Teach! It will be hard to do. You think the students will start looking at you instead of sensei? You think the sensei will start looking at you while he’s teaching?
And starting a new dojo in that small town? Or do you expect to take over the existing dojo? Like I said, tricky, calling for long talks with the existing sensei and all cards on the table. Rarely will a new dojo actually do any damage to an existing dojo. Territory is measured in blocks, not counties, and loyalty is actually a thing. Do you change mechanics just because a new garage opened up? I know a group that figured out two city blocks was “out of the neighbourhood” when they opened another dojo.
Wanting to teach is not the same as being able to teach. If you’ve never taught anything you’d better hope your sensei was a good teacher because that’s all you have, what your sensei did. Credentials do not make a teacher, your rank may be called a “teaching rank” but have you been taught how to teach? Well yes you have, you teach as you were taught as far as the art is concerned. Teaching methods are handed down along with the techniques. For the other stuff that a teacher needs to know, like how to rent a dojo, how to attract students, how to organize a practice, this is all stuff that is standard to any small teaching business like dance or yoga or music. There are courses, go take one and resist the temptation to bring your expertise back to sensei and start telling him how to run his dojo.
Are you the only guy in town? Well you’re it. I’m assuming you can’t just drive to another town. Can you? Do it.
Or, if you start a dojo, can you talk someone else into coming once in a while to teach? When the Aikido club started at the University of Guelph a prof had a 3rd kyu. He talked our sensei into driving up on Sundays from Toronto to teach the new stuff, the other two practices were review of what we got on Sunday. This worked out and eventually Sensei moved to Guelph.
Now, if you start that club and every teacher within driving distance says “I don’t want to bother, you come here”. I guess you’re the teacher. Your students are not going to drive elsewhere… or at least not many of them are going to bother. They need to be well and truly, deeply, interested in order to hop on the city bus let alone drive an hour or two. There are students who do, don’t get me wrong, but not enough to fund a dojo so you’re going to be it. You travel and bring the information back. Fund a dojo? If you’re driving two hours to some other dojo why in the world would you kick in to rent a local space? You’re going to join that remote dojo aren’t you?
Those who say “you come here” really ought to think about that. Do you want one more student in your dojo or would you like to see a country-full of people doing your art… maybe bringing you over once or twice a year to teach? Seriously, think about that.
Let’s say there’s a bunch of you in one place with no big gun within thousands of miles. You’re small potatoes but there are a bunch of you. So you go to seminars. You get graded elsewhere and have a little rank. What should you do?
May I suggest that a whole bunch of low to middle ranks who get to an instructor once every year or so can make up a single big shot. How? Team teaching. Everyone catches something a bit different, if four or five people stand in front of a senior instructor and pay attention, someone will catch the timing, someone the footwork, someone the hands. Between them they will have it all, but only if they work together when they get back home. No egos, no “I’m in charge, I’m the oldest, yeah but I’m the most talented”. Forget all that, focus on the art, the techniques, and discuss together. I’ve seen it done, if they’re all “men of good will” they can float entire countries on their shoulders.
Hoarders won’t. Secret information is useless information, even to those who know it.
Have you got a good dojo (been around for a long time, have students from beginner to pretty advanced). Good, what do you do to create teachers? Do you create assistant teachers and suchnot? Be careful how you do this. You know that cat you fed once and is still in your house? “Organizing” is like catnip to some folks, let an official title loose in your dojo like “fukushidoin” or “sempai” and you may never be able to get rid of it. If you want your students to get teaching experience, don’t, whatever you do, let them think they are teaching. “Go take those beginners over there and show them how to do the first kata”. The student should, for their own good, figure you’re mad at them and are sending them out into the snow to shovel the driveway. Teaching needs to be a punishment lest “those who want to teach” figure they’ve “made it”.
Once that happens you may as well boot them out the door, they’re not going to listen to you, they’re a teacher, you’re a teacher, we’re equal dude, don’t tell me how to teach “MY” students”. Oh, and correcting me in front of the class? No more of that OK, you don’t correct teachers in front of their students, ever.
Dudes, you don’t want to teach and… RANK IS PUNISHMENT!
Believe it. #notfakenews