There's quite an interesting transition starting to happen as our teachers grow older and/or pass away (in the case of my first Aikido teacher) and how that translates to those of us with dojos under 10 years old.
Many dojos under 10 years old are struggling. Struggling to grow beyond the handful of kids (if they have a kids program) and adults. Struggling to make rent on their dojo space, or already considering downsizing or utilizing public space. I think this is a mistake. I think the goal here should be for quality Aikido instructors to find each other and work together to identify each other's unique challenges, surpass them, and celebrate the joy of a strong and growing community.
Seminars represent an amazing opportunity when executed correctly - it is an exchange between attendees and instructor(s) beyond the set of techniques taught. Students willingly and excitedly give their hard earned money and time (which is even more valuable than any dollar) to spend a day or two (or more!) focusing on their journey of Aikido. Instructors, even those like me who do not accept payment (my hope and expectation is that every dollar a dojo makes at a seminar I teach, goes back to supporting that local dojo community - helping it grow), but especially those who do expect payment - are given an incredibly challenging task. In the span of 1-2 days, they must establish and maintain an environment that attendees:
1. Feel safe in
2. Feel motivated and engaged for an extended period without fatiguing too quickly
3. Can experiment and workshop with new ideas and concepts to take back to their regular training
4. Are pushed to their respective limits without over-working kohai, or under-working sempai
5. Achieve some measurable result and extol the instructor - ensuring return visits year over year
Topic Driven Workshops.
This one is new, but hopefully becomes a reality. Whether they are a part of seminars or hosted independently for dojo owners and key personnel - there is a huge opportunity to create events centered around:
1. Maintaining a high level of excitement for owning a dojo and growing a community
2. Gathering challenges and roadblocks dojos are facing
3. Establishing an environment that feels open and engaging for the solving of challenges and roadblocks
4. Helping dojo owners create action plans with measurable outcomes
5. Connecting individual dojo owners to function as teammates in achieving their respective goals based on their action plans
#5 brings us back to this key idea: Support. It's imperative that no matter what goes on at an organizational, political, religious, or societal level, that as dojo owners we focus on supporting each other. We are inevitably all guilty of succumbing to our own egos and faults, creating divisions instead of healing rifts, finding points of contention rather than points of commonality. There is no escaping the need to address problems that inevitably exist in any group, but the foundation of our shared experience must be one of love for each other and the art of Aikido that we hold so dear.
I believe the hope of Aikido is that its practice and relationships create the kind of experience that changes and saves lives (something one of my sempai, Derrell Thomas, is quoted as saying). I've been blessed with so much in my life that I try, actively as often as possible, to create bridges to learn from others where I am lacking, to make improvements in my own understanding, and in so doing, leave this world a better place (even if only slightly) than it was when I entered it.
As always, if you find anything in these writings or videos posted that you find useful, please, feel free to utilize it in the pursuit of growth and peace. If you do not, of course feel free to ignore it.