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PostPosted: Mon Mar 23, 2009 3:35 pm 
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I hate to see dojo fall apart or dissolve for any reason, but it happens.

Everyone that has spent a few years in karate dojos sees a lot...sees people stick around for a while and they go.

We all see from time to time, personal issues that cause a split or drive people away from the dojo, be issues with the teacher or issues with the student.

We sometimes see favoritism, formed cliques, or politics that can dissolve a class.

Another issue we see is people coming in for different reasons, that don't necessarily jive with someone they partner with, often causing people to leave due to having the snot kicked out of them or getting way too banged up.

It might be an etiquette issue. I have seen people that come into class with dingy, stinking yellowed gis, that never bother to wash them or their bodies. This personally is offensive as heck when partnering with such people, and smelling them before they even get that close.

How do we keep the student coming back? How do we keep our dojo growing in a healthy manner? How do we create camaraderie in the dojo? How do we make it a great place to be and enjoyable?

So, my question is "What makes a healthy dojo, physically, emotionally, and socially?" This can encompass a lot of different facets and go off into many threads.

Regards,
Vicki

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Last edited by chef on Thu Mar 26, 2009 2:35 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject: great post, thank you
PostPosted: Mon Mar 23, 2009 4:05 pm 
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This is a great post and a sticky one! Thank you for broaching the subject! I would encourage everyone who responds to respond freely with no fear of going "off topic"....If necessary, I can split threads off.
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That said:
On the topic of stinky/dirty, I would think that becomes a sensei responsibility, as they set and should enforce certain expectations of class preparedness. I would think that basic cleanliness should be included in this, as part of your show of respect for your art, your sensei, and other students. Besides, there is a point where that becomes a health issue. Also, as there are sometimes personal reasons for this, it's best dealt with on a one-on-one basis.

On the rest, I would say it means encouraging open communication and an alert sensie and upper level students who can talk with/deal with abusive sparring partners, obvious emotional issues, etc.

Most times, not always, these issues should be dealt with directly and one on one. I know that if I was the source of an issue, I'd want my freinds and/or upper ranked students to bring it to me, directly. I can be clueless at times, and the occasional, kindly meant, 2x4 can be very helpful.

That said, the real problem with most political, emotional, and favouritism issues is that they have to be noticed/recognized/accepted in order to be addressed. Students, whether they are new or old hands, may become so disgusted, upset, or scared by some of these situations, that it is easier to simply walk away than speak up. Or, if they have already spoken up and are ignored or put off, it's less painful to leave.

So the first tools would be awareness and open communication...both things easier said than done sometimes. :? :(

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 23, 2009 9:01 pm 
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chef wrote:
How do we keep the student coming back? How do we keep our dojo growing in a healthy manner? How do we create camaraderie in the dojo? How do we make it a great place to be and enjoyable?

So, my question is "What makes a healthy dojo, physically, emotionally, and socially?" This can encompass a lot of different facets and go off into many threads.


Interesting topic Vickie. So far from what I've seen the dojo that seem to do well as far as numbers have people all with the same goal and taking classes for the same reasons.
Some of the things that the better schools do...

1) Decide what you want to teach. I think a school that has a specific focus will do better than one trying to be all things to all people. If you want to teach karate, then teach karate (rank, bowing, etc), if you want to teach fitness, self defense, self improvement or sport fighting then arrange your curriculum and culture to match that. None of these are bad but trying to mix them all together is usually a disaster.

2) Don't chase students, let them go.
If someone isn't interested in what you're doing or has reached the end of their time with you then let them go. Wish them well and let them know the door is always open to come back and train or even to say hi if they wish. If they're leaving because you've insulted or offended them in some way then still let them go. Send an apology but leave it at that, the damage is done.

3) Keep it professional but friendly within the doors. Have people save the chumming around for after class, but during class stay focused on why you are all there.

4) Remind people to keep the other part of their life outside the door. A person wrapped up in their cell phone, drama, work, etc will sap a class of it's energy fast.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2009 11:30 pm 
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this may come out as a shocking statement or to some blasphemy, but not everyone deserves a high rank (sempai) and not everyone deserves to be a teacher. if you think of a teacher as the business owner most new busineses go out of business within 5 years. why because they may have had good intentions but they had no clue what they were doing. there is so much more to running a business then just showing up. which is the way many dojo owners/ teachers run their dojo. there is a difference between knowing your karate, showing your karate to others in a way that makes sense to them and they can progress and handling all the nuances of running a dojo.

all the problems mentioned by Vicky are to me examples of how a dojo is run and these nuances that make a successfull business. most dojo owners are not good business men. they think just because they know karate they can run a dojo. .....NOT...


steve
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 25, 2009 2:16 am 
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"SIX SIGMA" is a business phylosophy/stratigic plan . simply put customers have expectations from a business. when customers expectations/ needs are not met they go somewhere else. ( there is more to it but for this thread this is a good explanation) if you go to Mcd's for lunch you would expect the food to be warm, drive thru not more then a few minutes at a reasonable price. if these are not met next time they will try burger king instead.

mcd's doesn't compete with a stake house burger for $10. but as a business they have defined who they are and what they do. this goes into what mike was saying dont try to be everything to everybody. so within the business the owner has to set up a definition of who they service then meet those customers needs. Six Sigma then goes on to bring in the cost of meeting these needs and trying to bring the costs down but thats a different topic.

it is the dojo owner who is responsible for creating a place to meet the customers ( students) needs and expectations. when he fails to do this people will leave.

on the other side the students may have personal goals and such and may leave on there own accord but these we can not help, they may be back someday if there needs were met.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 25, 2009 9:17 pm 
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I don't think you should be afraid to make rules in your dojo....heck, students will even appreciate them.

My sensei did a one-on-one for my first taste of Uechi and with it came rules. They told me what I could expect from him as an instructor and what he expected of me as a student. In the form of a booklet, it was an excellent introduction to Uechi!

Not necessarily his, but some:

1. A clean gi and person is a sign of respect. Personal hygiene is a must!
2. Know your history and be prepared (a handout is a great tool for beginners) and quiz regularly and know your ranks.
3. Arrive for class a few minutes early - if you want to do a warm up, do so at the back of the room in a manner that doesn't interfere with students who are in a class. Keep the chitchat to a minimum. You can talk after class.
4. Some dojos are strict on the bowing - if you are, tell your students.
5. Call the sensei "Sensei".
6. The dojo is clean, you should be too!
7. No long finger/toe nails.
8. No footwear in the dojo (have a place to put shoes)
9. No food in the dojo (water bottles are acceptable)
10. If you need to leave the class in the middle of instruction - catch the sensei's eye - a quick bow to leave and a quick bow to re-enter.
11. Keep your dojo clean - nothing helps things slide more than a filthy dojo and change room.
12. If your students are sick tell them not to come to class - no one wants to catch that cold/flu, etc.
13. Encourage questions - some people learn by asking and getting verbal responses, others by doing.
14. Make yourself approachable - someone may have a problem and just a chat may help them over that karate hurdle.
15. Put up some signage in your dojo which reflects what direction you are heading in - good motivational signage often speaks louder than words.


If there is a problem with "snot-kicking", have a private chat with the person doing it, explain to them that that is not the function of a dojo. Have a chat with the class (no names) about why the students come to the dojo (to learn)...if it continues, don't be afraid to ask the student to leave, do you really want a student like that in your class?


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 25, 2009 9:31 pm 
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As a person who is currently in the process of Green Belt certification (first step) in the Six Sigma process, I like the good points you raise, Steve!

For the purpose of this post, a very basic overview of the Six Sigma process is that you Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control a very specific issue or process. Based on that format:

If the sensei is looking at the dojo as a business, then she/he should have already defined the acceptable range of deviation for behaviour and interaction among her/his students before they open the doors, and they should have a general way to measure and assess if the students are meeting those expectations (from testing to a general idea of a mediation/"leave taking" process, etc.). In other words, they should have set rules of behaviour and expectations for their dojo. If someone can't consistently meet those rules, then that dojo is not a good fit for them.

Also, as part of the general design, there should be a way to regularly reassess those rules to assure they still fit the needs of the dojo's teacher and students. We are, hopefully, all creatures of growth and adaptation, and our needs change. There have been several great posts on these forums by sensei/teachers discussing how thier teaching paradigms changed over time and with the students they had/have.

However, as Steve also stated, many people who run a dojo are not looking at it as a business, AND many good teachers are not good businesswomen and businessmen. It's simply not their talent or area of interest. A possible solution would be to have a business manager or assistant, but that can create issues of cost and complications in the flow of business decisions if roles are not very clearly defined at the outset.

But that really only answers part of Vicki's question. Because many excellent dojos are not run as businesses, as that is not the expectation or need of the students or the sensei. In fact, running a dojo as a business can cause the very problems that are being discussed here because they put more focus on financing, competition, etc.

But I think Mike hit it on the nail when he said...decide what you want to teach/what is your focus. In both the business model and a non-business model, perhaps the clearest solution is to have the sensei/teacher know clearly what type of dojo they want, the focus, and what thier expectations are from the outset...BEFORE they open the doors. I would also add that they should periodically reassess if thier focus has changed, and adjust thier teaching paradigm to meet the changes.

This is just my two cents, btw...and I readily and clearly admit I am NOT a teacher only an eager student with lots of opinions.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 25, 2009 9:39 pm 
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Wow Mary, what a great post and list of rules! You address hygeine, personal learning styles, and issues for both sensei and student to abide by. The only thing i can think not on that list is the ringing of cell phones. NOICE job!

You also brought up an interesting topic that I just opened a new thread for...when/how do you ask a student to leave?

As always, a pleasure to have such great folks posting here!

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 25, 2009 11:31 pm 
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i agree Shana that most dojo are not run like a business. i personaly dont like mcdojo's for that exact reason.
i would pose these questions...
do the students pay money?
does the teacher get paid by this money?
are there expenses incured during the operation of teaching classes?

if yes then like it or not it IS A BUSINESS.

that dosent mean you have to have a coporate feel to it. my point was that the students are paying money to recieve a service and they will have expectations of the service provided. as such it is the teachers responsiblity to meet these expectations.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 12:51 am 
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There is nothing on the workout floor but sensei, students and equipment (when used).

I have never been in a dojo where I've heard or even seen a cell phone.

I forgot a few more rules:

Karate is not a "toy" - you don't practice on people outside the dojo. (this is especially important to impart when you teach kids and some adults too!!!)

If you are getting paid to teach - then you should expect your payments on time. Have good bookkeeping records, give receipts.

Make sure you (and others) have first aid courses, CPR training, participate in tournaments (local and other), take referee courses.

Get involved in the Uechi community - invite guest instructors, go to summer/winter camps.

Shana, I'll post my "opinion" (for that is only what it is) on your new thread.

:)


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 2:09 am 
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i am curious Shana, can you explain more on this...

_______________________________________________________________________
In fact, running a dojo as a business can cause the very problems that are being discussed here because they put more focus on financing, competition, etc
_______________________________________________________________________

i dont see how taking responsiblity for the workings of the dojo and the behavoir of students (which as i said can be viewed like a business practice) can have a down side.
putting a focus on financing is only one method amoung many that falls under marketing and accounts recievable practices.
competition would be going back to what Mike said about who you are and what you do.
so i am interested in your view here.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 2:31 pm 
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Bill has always been a stickler on maintaining hygiene in the dojo, and rightly so. He is very conscientious about cleanliness and health. I like that he always makes sure the floor is swept clean before all classes. Thank you, Bill...plus, he always makes a b-line to the men's rest room to wash his feet after class as well.

I come from my Shotokan class, held after a Belly Dancing class, and my feet are often black. I now carry a ziplock baggie with wetwipes in it to immediately clean my feet after class.

He emphasizes to students to come to class with cut nails and good hygiene. He is good at approaching people to correct this, including (if necessary) doing something about extremely bad breath. It only takes one one time of having one of your fingernails pulled back to the quick to keep your nails short.

He also has us tell him if we have any medical issues, injuries, or information he needs to be aware of for the student and teachers sake of safety and liability.

Another thing to add: not wearing jewelry during class. It's too easy to get nasty disfigurement if an earring or belly button ring is ripped out. It also is a risk to another during two man contact drills, with a ring that has sharp edges.

Good stuff!
Vicki

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 3:29 pm 
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By the way, I am seeing more and more students and teachers wearing the martial arts shoes in the dojo for class.

Regards,
Vicki

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 3:34 pm 
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hoshin wrote:
i am curious Shana, can you explain more on this...

_______________________________________________________________________
In fact, running a dojo as a business can cause the very problems that are being discussed here because they put more focus on financing, competition, etc
_______________________________________________________________________

i dont see how taking responsiblity for the workings of the dojo and the behavoir of students (which as i said can be viewed like a business practice) can have a down side.
putting a focus on financing is only one method amoung many that falls under marketing and accounts recievable practices.
competition would be going back to what Mike said about who you are and what you do.
so i am interested in your view here.


I'd be happy to explain, Steve.

I believe taking responsiblity for the dojo and the behaviour of the students is an important part of the dojo, whether it's run as a business or not. My concern is that some people lose thier focus when they open a business. This is not saying dojo as business is bad. It's saying that if you are going to open a dojo as a business, you need to be very clear of your focus and your own boundaries from the very beginning. This is true of any business venture; you need to know what you goals are and where you are/aren't willing to be flexible with your goals/ideals/etc..


Some people open dojos as a strictly moneymaking or competition ventures, and for what it's worth, that is fine. But some people open a dojo because they love thier martial art or martial arts in general and feel they have something unique or important to offer thier students. Now, because they have opened it as a business, they feel they have to give thier students thier money's worth by teaching the latest fad or change thier own personal focus to meet the students needs. This is where I feel problems begin, as they've lost thier focus and the drive that supports the fundamental business. They are no longer guiding thier business; they are only reacting.

On one hand, being responsive to your students is a GREAT thing. It helps drive satisfaction and allows both teacher and student to stretch and grow. On the other hand, the sensei needs to have a very clear idea of what is her/his focus and the boundaries of that focus.

For example, A sensei decides he really wants to focus on self-defense aspects of martial arts. Some very talented students come in and express an interest in competition, so he makes some small adjustments to his dojo training and applies for the appropriate certifications to allow his dojo members to compete and represent the group (this is a guess on my part, as I really don't know what is involved in competing as a group). At the end of 2 years he realizes that he is training to the end goal of competition and self defense is really only a small part of his focus.

Now, I strongly believe that a sensei should be responsive to student needs, but I also think there is a balance between the students needs and that of the sensei. The sensei should have a clear and strong idea of what they want to get out of teaching and what they are trying to impart to thier students. If they want to focus on the joy/art of the technique, self-defense, phyiscal fitness, etc., then their teaching should support that goal. Otherwise, they've lost the focus that made them special or different (thier marketing niche,if you will).

Just because you are trying to run a dojo as a business should not mean you are all things to all people. Again, going back to Steve's point, you have a focus, and the student is either a good match or they are not.

I guess my point in the above quote was that running a dojo as a business can cause problems if you don't have a clear idea of your goals/focus.

Does that help clarify any?

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 11:29 pm 
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thank you Shana
very well stated as always, BUT... :) i dont disagree with you on anything you said. we have the same view point, i am just expanding my definition of what a business is , while you are looking at "a business" a little more strictly. a dojo business does not have to have 800 students. it can be something just as you described. my thought is that if the teacher shifts his view from being the teacher to adopting some business savy and techniques he will eliminate the problems that he was causing in the first place.

all the same problems that happen in a dojo also happen in business. they are all very common. now if the teacher looked into business practices and read more about it he might find some solutions that he didnt know before that have been documented over and over in business books.

i will try to post some of the business rules, when i can to give a better feel for what i am saying.


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