8 Reasons why you should train Aikido this year.

1. Self Defence Training – When most people seek out training in a Martial Art it is often with the idea of learning some practical self-defence training. Aikido is an excellent system to study both for self-defence and for the defence of third parties. Where Aikido can have an advantage is that it teaches you skills and techniques that utilise an turn an attackers own strength against them, enabling you to overcome a physically stronger opponent. Thus Aikido can be useful for self-defence not only by young fit people, but by people of all ages and fitness levels.
2. Physical training – Modern Aikido is set up in such a way that you train at the physical capacity you feel comfortable with. As the lessons progress and techniques are learnt you will notice that your body will move into physical condition relevant to the training. Many people experience weight loss and increased physical capacity when training Aikido relevant to the effort put into it. You will notice the experienced Aikidoka break falling on the mat often at speeds similar to what you expect from watching gymnastics, you have to crawl before you can walk, yet if you are prepared to give it a go, you too can use Aikido to condition your body to break fall in the same way with the same cardio component.
3. Safer Training than most Martial Arts –  In Aikido training we don’t have a strong emphasis on striking, although we do have striking patterns that are taught as a part of the training techniques. Our techniques are trained to flow, we do not practice roundhouse kicking or palm or fist striking as is the case in Muay Thai or Karate. As a result we don’t have injuries on the mat from having made connection on the mat with our partner with a foot or hand strike. Yes accidents can happen in any martial art, but it is worth noting that Aikido has a specific training pattern that removes some of these potential causes of injury on the mat and that we consider your safety paramount to the way your techniques are trained.
4, Aikido helps you Deal with Stress – As you begin your journey into Aikido you will be exposed to some of the philosophical teachings of O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba and other figures in Aikido and you will be taught why Aikido is called “The Art of Peace”. Aikido is much more than just a set of techniques, grading’s and physical training. If you have an open mind and are willing, Aikido will make you question your own life and your responses to many of the problems that you may be facing. O’Sensei believed that he was called to create Aikido to bring about universal world peace and resolution of conflict. Whilst this may seem a lofty goal, it can begin with you and change your life forever if you are willing to try.
5, Meet New People. – One thing commented on by visitors to Aikido dojo’s can be the diversity of the group and the welcoming friendly atmosphere that exists there. People of all ages and backgrounds train Aikido and it is done so in an environment without competition, stress and pressure. It is not uncommon for an Aikido Sensei to call the group to a training break and for the kettle to be put on and the biscuits passed around! Local weekend seminars and interstate seminars are often quite popular and there can be a strong sense of community within the group as new members are invited to take part in the various social parts of belonging to the dojo.
6, Be Challenged to Learn Something New. – As stated above, you can start Aikido at any age and at any fitness level. There is never a time that training in Aikido has passed you by. If you have had a desire to learn a martial art there is no need to feel that it is all too late for you! Learning a new skill is a great way to challenge yourself and to learn and experience new things in your life.
7, Learn and Experience Humility. – Along with other Japanese Martial Arts, Aikido has a strong focus on humility. As you train in Aikido, you will develop both empathy for others and humility. One of the teachings of Aikido that you learn is to “put yourself in your partners place” which can be a different yet effective way of training.                                   8, Grow in Confidence – Everyone is a novice until they are prepared to give something new a go. It is quite normal to attend a training session in Aikido or another martial art and come away with concern that this is all going over your head and you just can not get it together. Yet as the weeks go by, you find that you can do things, you can remember what you are being taught and then you have a night where it all just clicks together. Overcome in one area and you can overcome in another, achievement can be quite addictive when you discover what you are actually capable of!

 

Reality and Training in Combat.

There is one single concern that I have with a number of modern and traditional combat and martial arts systems and that is just how much ‘reality’ is involved in the respective training.

For example, it is more and more common to see terms like ‘reality based self-defence’ coming up in advertising. That is a good thing, if what you are being taught does actually deal with reality, and training for realistic situations. Yet sometimes it quickly becomes apparent that this may not be the case at all.

For example, a good illustration of a technique might be one that is given [post] being punched in the face or struck in another area by your attacker.. If your training is continuously that that your attacker faces you head on and telegraphs their attack and your training is to counter that attack by the use of technique A, B and C, then that is great for learning techniques to use in self-defence, but is not realistic of being attacked, and is perhaps more the reason why it can be that people that have some training in a chosen martial art or combat system can simply freeze or go into a windmill attack pattern of wildly punching in all directions.

Let me state that training with compliance and telegraphing attacks are very much a valid way of training, if you don’t have compliance during the use of Aikido/ Jutitsu locks and throws then collarbones and shoulders can easily be broken or injured. Your partner is offering you the use of their body to train with and it should be done so in a manner that emphasises respect and thanks. Yet it is also just as valid to acknowledge that there are other training methods that give you the full training picture in self-defence training.

Going back to my point about being punched in the face. It is unrealistic to expect when you are attacked that your training will kick in and you will simple evade the first set of blows that come in. It is incredibly difficult to read an attack at the best of times, and it may well come from the side or even behind as is the case with the current phenomena of ‘coward punching’ in the media at present. It is a valid part of training to experience being hit albeit with safety pads and other PPE. You need to be able to pass through the feeling of shock and be able to respond with your training in such a situation and experiencing training along these lines is vital to the full training package.

At the local Krav Maga club, new students are often surprised that once warm ups are completed that the roller door is rolled up and students are moved out to the bitumen  car park for training..  At the advanced levels your training starts from getting up from your back on the bitumen surface, sometimes whilst in a chokehold.  Scratches and ripped clothing happen from time to time as a result. On other occasions when the roller door is taken up, students are put into the cars parked there and have to learn techniques to break chokes from the driver seat from a passenger sitting in the rear of the vehicle. On other occasions training can be held inside a charted public transport bus both stationary and moving. All are valid attempts to make people understand that your training has to be more than just the security of the mat and a compliant partner to do predetermined techniques.

It is fair to say that my thoughts on Krav Maga is that it is a wakeup call to both traditional and modern combat and martial art systems. It is a system that cuts away the fluff and teaches you basic techniques that are both brutal and effective. Yet seeks to do so in a manner of realism. Yet there is no reason why traditional martial arts and combat systems cannot be taught in the same way and cannot be as effective if your organization is prepared to go deeper into the syllabus to find the correct training techniques for these type of attacks. The Korean Martial Art of Hapkido has no shortage of techniques that involve striking, locks and close combat. It is a pre-requisite to join the police force in Korea that you have a black belt in Hapkido. In Japan a black belt in Aikido or Jujitsu is required for the same reason. Yet I guarantee you that when the local police officers use these techniques that they are used in a way similar to how they are taught in Krav Maga.

Perhaps your training is along the lines of Wing Chun, Karate or Muay Thai. You may be surprised to see just what your syllabus can extend to – [if] your Sensei – Sifu is willing to teach it in a different environment away from the Dojo / Kwoon. Yet at the same time if you are turning up for your training nights and you find yourself asking questions about how choke holds are broken, or what should you do if you find yourself on the ground. Then take it to your Instructor and have an open discussion about it and let them answer you from the content of the system. If the response is “we train standing up because the fight is not meant to go to the ground”. Then you do have a problem that you should follow up on and perhaps look for answers outside of your organisation. There is little point in proudly wearing a coloured belt that you have trained for with the expectation of realistic self-defence and not feeling that you have gained the answers that you are looking for.

No one wants to find themselves in a situation where you have to use your training to both defend yourself and to hurt people. Yet it is also a true saying  that [“you should walk a mile to avoid a fight, but when one starts, do not back down an inch”]. You training has to be both realistic and effective in the best possible way. If you are not training for realism in attack, then you are not being honest with yourself and you should be prepared to challenge yourself to go further and deeper into your training accordingly.

Eleven Martial Arts Myths.

Sadly there are no shortage of myths and misconceptions when it comes to training in Martial Arts or Combat Systems. Here is a short list of Eleven that you will come across, or may have already come across in your own journey!

(11), “You must train in the most popular style”. – Most Martial arts and Combat Systems all have their time in the sun with popularity in the media and the community. We have all seen the rise and fall of different Martial Arts / Combat systems  and governing bodies thereof. What is guaranteed is that what is popular today will likely not be popular later on. Basing your choice on simply what is popular in Hollywood or the media is a good way to set yourself up fail.

(10), “X and X Martial Art will make you a better person”. – Generally untrue, an idiot that trains in martial arts will simply remain an idiot. The techniques will do little to change a person, it is on you to change your own attitude. The founder of Aikido stated openly that Aikido is not the way, but may well lead you to the way. Martial Arts can thus be a step on the way to reaching that goal of self-improvement, but are usually not the whole box and dice if that is your goal.

(9), “Martial Arts are Spiritual and Religious”. – It is true that some Chinese Martial Arts were practiced by Shaolin Monks and it is true that the Martial Art of Aikido has some philosophical content as well as the general techniques. Yet in modern  Martial Arts / Combat Systems there is no connection at all with any religious or spiritual content unless people deliberately try and make it so. Many Sensei’s / Instructors come from all manner of backgrounds be they religious, agnostic, atheist or otherwise. Much like politics or your choice of football team, it is has no bearing on what you get taught when you train.

(8), “Martial Arts are for Males”. – Entirely untrue, no shortage of females train in martial arts as well as people that are transgender. Your gender is no guide on what you can and can’t train in. Some of the hardest Krav Maga practitioners are women that serve in the IDF.

(7), “Well., well you couldn’t do that in a real fight”. – Don’t mistake viewing compliance in martial arts training as a suggestion that it has to be practiced the same way on the ever elusive ‘street’. Here is a tip, most if not all Martial Arts and Combat Systems have various techniques where compliance in training is used for the simple reason that if your training partner does not comply then they will come pretty quickly off the mat in massive amounts of pain with a broken arm-shoulder-collarbone or wrist. Few insurance companies are willing to insure training centre’s where serious injuries routinely occur because of the content of the training.

(6), “X style is more effective than X style”.-  A quick look over the internet will soon see no shortage of people foaming at the mouth and boasting about how one Combat System or Martial Art is superior to another. More often than not these people have never even actually trained in the style they are waxing on about.. A martial art such as Taekwondo can often bear the brunt of this, likely because of the sheer number of McDojo’s in the Taekwondo system, yet at the same time no shortage of MMA fights have been ended via knockout by a well-placed Taekwondo style  kick to the head from a serious practitioner.

(5), “A Coloured Belt is indicative of increased ability”. – Sadly not a very true indicator at all. No shortage of White Belts can hand you your coloured belt on a plate in a sparring match if you want to go that way. Despite the image of a black belt, many people that train never grade at all and several systems simply don’t use the belt system. Don’t make the mistake of simply assuming that a White Belt is a novice practitioner as a chap I knew in BJJ did when he went to show off to his friends sparring with a white belt only to discover his partner was a seriously hard Judoka who did not see things the same way as he did and ended up looking like a clown.

(4), “You have to be co-ordinated and flexible to train in Martial Arts”. – Sadly this impression can be given by the McDojo movement who ensure that their ‘katas’ have as much gymnastics component as possible for public demonstrations in order to advertise the club to new members. In terms of Co-ordination here is the thing, you will be taught hundreds of different techniques over the journey. Some will click with you and some wont. It is not necessary for everyone to do a flying shoulder height roundhouse kick to be proficient at martial arts. Any decent Sensei or Instructor will quickly recognise the different capacities of students and work with them not against them. Flexibility and Co-ordination comes with the hours you are willing to put into practicing what you are being taught. If it really matters to you, simply add some Tai Chi or Yoga to your training routines.

(3), “it’s best to start out in a traditional style”. – All traditional styles were modern styles at one time or another and there can be strong differences between schools of the same styles, pre WW2 there were 33 separate styles of Jujitsu for example and various modern jujitsu schools take lineage from several of them. Your style should have the capacity to evolve as needed, rest assured the founders of it did not intend for it to remain locked into techniques that could not be evolved to meet different challenges. Start your journey wherever you please, just take the attitude that it is also okay to change to something else if it becomes necessary to do so.

(2), “Strength training makes you slow”. – Because the champions of MMA, Boxing and Judo never strength train… Hardly, hit any MMA, Boxing or Judo Centre where they train at the top level and there is strength training equipment galore. The reverse is more often the case, if you want to become seriously good at your chosen Martial Art or Combat System put in the hours and train, and at the same time be prepared to get out of bed and hit the gym for strength training and physical conditioning before work as a part of your overall training program.

(1), “I am too old to train”.-  As you get older you make the shocking realization that age is simply a number and it Is no indicator of physical fitness nor capacity. Many people in their 40’s are far physically fitter and stronger than they were in their 20’s. You can choose to put limits on what you can and cannot do, or you can embrace life with everything that it has to offer. No shortage of people have begun training in their 60’s and beyond and including in Martial Arts like Karate replete with all the kicking and striking sets. This battle is in your mind, not your body.

Surrendering to Violence

There is a saying that the use of, is often attributed to the founder of Krav Maga Imi Lichtenfeld. The saying is – “If a man comes to kill you, then kill him first”. On the face of it, it is a pretty logical response. Indeed, even the Dalai Lama who many look to as a source of theology on Pacifism is also recorded as saying on one occasion when interviewed on a radio station – “If someone comes to kill you with a gun, it would be reasonable to shoot them with your own gun”. For many people there is no question at all that in any case where self defence is required you are justly entitled to do what needs to be done in order to defend yourself.

There are various groups of people that give people the impression that they totally and utterly abstain from and eschew any form of violence. Often these groups are coming from a religious point of view, the Amish and Seventh-day Adventists being one such example, yet even then the leadership of these groups may well not speak for everyone in the group and the groups views may appear to outsiders to be changing over time. The last general conference of the Seventh-day Adventist church for example saw the President Ted Wilson protected by armed security guards, and many in the community might rightly question what the difference is in defending yourself with a gun as opposed to having someone else defend you with a gun and the answer in my own mind is not really anything at all that I can think of.

Still you don’t have to be religious to be a pacifist, many atheists or agnostics can take up pacifism because of a belief in the ideals of individuals within the modern political groups, yet it is worth pointing out that historically groups from all sides of politics have often been quite openly the source of violence and fascism, be they leftists, centrists or conservatives, no matter how people may have tried to portray their views as idealistic and peaceful in intent.

My own experience when speaking with an avowed pacifist is that they generally respond by dodging any questions about self defence when asked what they would do in a specific situation. Often not unlike a politician you get an answer, but it is never the answer to the actual question that has been asked in the first place. It is my feeling that these people are simply unwilling to consider a realistic response to the sheltered cocoon that they exist in, a cocoon that is more often than not provided by people that do have training and guns and who do use their nations military to defend their country when required, yet that perhaps is simply a philosophical observation on my own part as opposed to their actual feelings, who really knows.?

It does however seem that violence and violent responses to acts of violence are quite common place in our modern societies today. Let’s be quite honest, if you train in any of the popular combat systems or hard style martial arts, your training is to respond with an increased level of counter striking and often pre-emptive striking to neutralize your opponent/s. We might as well go one further and admit that systems like Krav Maga, Systema and Jujitsu are designed to teach you how to not only injure your attacker but to take their life from them. Krav Maga and Systema are both in use in the Israeli / Russian defence forces and were both created and intended for that purpose. Japanese Martial Arts like Jujitsu come from a time when fights in martial arts were to the death and used both for self defence and in the theatre of war. If you look at the history of Daito Ryu Jujitsu for example you will see the name Takeda Sokakku, he was a trained killer who taught others and had killed several people with his skills in Jujitsu. Many of these martial arts use blades or other weapons as well as the open hand and simply are meant for killing, not just getting a touch or a pin and lock on your opponent.

Yet what I would like to point out here is that simply because a person trains in such a system, it does not indicate that they are then a violent person. Often it can be the very opposite, that often the fittest, the strongest, the most decorated veterans can be the greatest proponents of peace and non-violence. Often it is the show pony that acts out for attention, those people that are the genuine article rarely draw attention to themselves, nor have any need or interest in proving themselves to others. Experience teaches us that you don’t have to ‘give warnings’ or ‘have the last word’ in situations that arise, you simply step up and do what needs to be done.

The fact is that there very much is a place for peace in our world and many of us are desperately crying out for it. Yet sadly there is a price to be paid to have peace and that price is good people that are prepared to undertake acts of violence and war to keep others safe. I look at the freedom that we have in Australia and acknowledge and accept that it is only because of the sacrifice of so many World War Two veterans who made our country what it is has become today. People that never got to participate in it themselves, but gave their lives that their families might. Their sacrifice is nothing to take lightly and it’s a great thing to see the young people in our nation being so passionate about ANZAC day and other Veterans commemorations throughout the year.

In the Def Leppard song ‘God’s of War’ the use of violence is questioned along with the call not to surrender to violence. To the most part I very much agree. People should try where possible to eschew violence and should be advocates of peace. Yet at the same time there is little point to be gained in living in fairyland and being unrealistic about what can and cannot be achieved with non-violence. Whist the saying above, – ‘if a man comes to kill you, kill him first’ is attributed to Imi Lichtenfeld, at same time he also said “you must be so good that you don’t need to kill’. This is what we are striving towards through our training.

What I feel is an important part of peace is ‘reconciliation’. Depending on when you were born you may recall the time in 1981 when Pope John Paul ll was gunned down in an assassination attempt. He survived this attempt on his life, yet what I found interesting is how once he had recovered he went to the cell of his attacker, sat on the bed with him before the media and forgave his attacker and worked to be reconciled to him. Clearly the Pope had no requirement or call on him to do anything along those lines, he easily could have left him to his fate and gotten justice from the justice system, justice that he was rightly entitled to. Yet instead he chose a different pathway and made his own effort to find reconciliation and to offer forgiveness to his attacker. I don’t know if I could ever be the calibre of person that could do that in the same instance, but I know that I would like  to aim for that to be where I charted out the course of my own life to be. I have learned that even when a conflict is totally justified, there is always a place to strive towards reconciliation and peace, even if the current situation seems so far away from that place.

Let me leave you with another of Imi Litchtenfeld’s sayings,

‘Krav Maga, that one may walk in peace’.

When your techniques vary.

If you have trained in your martial art or combat system for any length of time you will no doubt have had, or will have this experience; the experience is that you learn a technique, practice it a number of times over and become reasonably proficient at the application of the technique. Then one night you hit the mat, your Sensei or instructor calls for the application of that technique and your partner turns to you and says “no, that is not right, do it this way”….  Often times this can then be the point where two training partners can then ratchet up to a dispute. Sometimes it is easily resolved and other times it can quickly escalate to the tenth degree of stupidity and be perhaps just as frustrating for everyone else at the same time.

The point that I would like to make is that sometimes when you approach your training in your given system that it can be a really good idea to learn to ‘agree to disagree’, assuming that is actually possible to do so in the given situation.

I find it interesting to observe this in the art of Aikido, when the founder O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba openly stated “Ultimately, you must forget about technique. The further you progress, the fewer teachings there are. The Great Path is really No Path”.  Bruce Lee is recorded as saying something with perhaps some similarities here when he stresses the importance to his students of “using no way as way” This is suggested to mean that you come into training with no presuppositions, that you remain in the moment and be in a position to meet the challenge with the right tools that work as opposed to being limited because your mind is not open.

Sadly some people can become openly quite anal over the application of a technique and others can go as far as using it as justification to turn their back on their teacher and to start yet another school of the same discipline simply because their way is the only correct way and that the other schools are inferior and people are pretty lucky that we have person x there to point this out to the rest of us..

To come back to my first point, having the capacity to agree to disagree is a good quality to develop if you wish to take you training further. As you train you will feel differently about the application of techniques that you currently can perform well and how they are used in training. It is likely that you may actually change your mind several times over until you resolve it yourself one way or another later on down the track. I would much rather admit that perhaps I was wrong about something than stay stuck in a pattern of training that is next to useless in real application because of personality issues being put before the application of the content of the training.

Finally, if you are the person on the mat at training who constantly feels the need to continuously correct people, think about it carefully and perhaps give some thought to stepping back and allowing your Sensei / Instructor to teach in the way that they feel is best. Despite your best intentions you are unlikely to be even remotely as good nor as experienced as them even if they are having a bad day. If you find yourself feeling like you are constantly in conflict with the way you are being taught then your time at that training centre may well be coming to an end and it may be time to move on somewhere else or alternatively to take some time out and to get some things back into perspective. Character, humility and sportsmanship are qualities that should be exemplified in your personal training, approaching your Sensei / Instructor and fellow students in such a way will not be rejected and may well open the door for you in a leadership role later on should you so desire it.

Using Wing Chun training to protect yourself in jail.

Do you have some time coming up to serve in Jail? – Follow these simple tips and look after yourself,

1, Before you enter the jail, be well aware of what the rules are, don’t break any of them.

2, If you have any length of time on the outside before going in to serve your time, use it to take as many self defence training classes as you can. If you have no experience in Martial Arts, Wing Chun can be a good option. Its best to ask your Sifu to teach you knife defences in case you should encounter a shiv inside. At the same time it is good advice to hit the gym and the weights hard and bulk up on protein.

Upon Entering Jail,

1, Learn to hide your emotions quickly, do not show emotion of any kind. Those that do will become the first targets once their weaknesses are established with the other inmates.

2, Do not ever stare at another inmate for any reason. When you talk to someone practice looking past their shoulder. Do not stare into another inmates cell. Both acts are considered an invasion of privacy and can get you bashed very quickly. Staring can also be a sign that you may be showing sexual interest and can get you the same response.

3, Do not ever ever, mouth off abuse or put downs to the warders because you think it will make you look good in front of your cell mates. The prison warders are there to protect you – if and when they feel like it. Mouthing off to them can ensure a stagnant response should you need them.

4, Jails are not politically correct, if you are, get over it. Get to know people of your own race first and then once you have established those relationships you can branch out to build friendships with people of other races.

5, Do not ever lag (snitch) on any one for any reason. Being caught will ensure that you become an immediate target for attack. Do not speak with the prison staff for any longer than is absolutley necessary. Often simply being suspected of lagging is enough to make you a target.

6, Resist the temptation to join a gang, if you do, you will have to pay the piper and you will likely end up serving more time for acts of violence or being caught couriering contraband.

7, Don’t agree to be someones bitch because you think it will buy you protection. Likely they cannot protect you anyway and once the other inmates find out you will be targeted for more of the same.

8, Use your training in Wing Chun to be aware of your personal space and do not let people enter your circle. If at meal time another prisoner wishes to reach across your plate, do not allow it, it is an instant sign that you can be walked over and targeted.  If an inmate wishes to shiv you, you cannot rely on them telegraphing their attack. If you feel that an attack is imminent be cautious to not let your attention be taken to the hand that the inmate has closest to you.

9, When you shower, go in with a larger group of inmates ideally around 20 and wear your boxer shorts.

10, Do not make complaints either in the lunch area or to anyone in the jail about the quality of the food. A number of inmates work in food preparation and this is often taken as personal abuse and can get you bashed accordingly.

11, Learn to use verbal techniques, be polite to other inmates and staff alike. Do not say anything that could give anyone any reason to take offence. Do not discuss religion, politics or racial issues, do not discuss another prisoner or their family members / friends for any reason. Words are often examined after conversations are held and if its felt that disrespect has been given, it is generally the catalyst for a beating as inmates have little else to ruminate on in the cells overnight.

12, Use your Wing Chun training to keep out of the personal space of others and to keep in the background. Remaining on the side at a slight distance from people as opposed to the front is good advice. Often there are people in prison that have low intelligence, have a chip on their shoulder or are just genuinely nasty people. Always allow those people to be in the spotlight of the other prisoners.

One of the things that quickly becomes apparent in jail is the sheer boredom that is the experience of being there. One of the purposes of western jails run by the Quakers was that people might use the opportunity to reflect on what they had done and get to a point where they could accept what they had done and take responsibility to attempt to put it right. If you have reached the point where you are serving jail time, its pretty obvious that you have more problems than you likely know how to deal with. Learn to reach out to people like the prison chaplain and get help. Learn to take responsibility for what has happened. try to learn to stop blaming others for the way your life has turned out. If you can learn compassion for others and can get to a point where you can take responsibility for your actions and are prepared to go and make apologies and recompense to people there is every chance that you can turn your life around and make this the last time you ever end up in a place like this.

Giving your students a serve via Facebook…

Recently this last week I happened to come across an interesting rant on the facebook page of a local Karate Dojo. I read what I can only really describe as a lagered up rant from the owner of the dojo that became quite personally abusive towards his students for not having turned up for training at a recent training night.. Essentially it went along the lines of how this person has put so much time into the club and feels unrespected by students and could not understand how students could choose to go to a local music festival or another social engagement as opposed to being at training, and then how senior  students must be there for training to train the juniors and so forth. He then went on to let members know that non attendance in the future would see people kicked off the membership list and how he would focus only on those people that really wanted to be there. All this intermixed with accusations and personal abuse.

Clearly it is not easy to run your own Dojo, that I do understand, yet at the same time you also have to take your rose coloured glasses off if you want to step into the reality of how modern training works.

Firstly if you wish to make comparisons to traditional martial arts, then try to bear in mind that often traditional students were “uchi-deshi” – meaning in English “live in students”. Training was for most of the day every day with chores and service in-between. It was also accepted as having a strong cultural basis. It would be great in western nations to be able to have “gap years” where you could go dedicate yourself to martial arts or combat systems, yet the reality is that unless you are willing to go join the Israeli defence forces and train in Krav Maga that is unlikely to ever happen. Sadly the western system is training after school / work 1-3 times per week. A much different system to traditional martial arts.

The reality is in western dojo’s / training gyms that you will always have inactive members on your roll. Likely there will be members who train infrequently. There also may be members whose primary training centre is somewhere else and they cross train with you. Whilst we can debate the merits of the memberships of these students, they also pay your insurance premium, rent and other costs to enable the centre to remain in existence for those people that do wish to be regular members. What you are experiencing is no different to exactly what happens in the various churches, Lions clubs and so forth.

It is also true that people can change as they age and as they experience different things. It is for this reason that many centres have moved away from having training on Friday nights. Teenage boys eventually meet teenage girls and clearly would rather enjoy their company rather than being at your dojo. You can take the hard line all you like, but attempting to stand in the way here is only going to bring you resignation letters. Far better to back off and let kids be kids. Is it really all that unrealistic that a young lad at your centre would not want to take his girlfriend along to a local music festival that has come to town?

When you set up your Dojo or training centre, you need to have realistic goals in mind as to how it is all going to work moving forward. Clearly people are going to let you down on a constant basis and you need to be able to deal with that. Conversely at the same time you will also build a core group that will be the group you will take through the coloured belt system. There are various ways to motivate people, yet ranting and raving at people is a good way to simply delete members and interest in what you are doing. My best advice is that if people are dropping away and attendence is tapering off, try getting to know your students and try understanding the reasons that have led to it. If they are experiencing financial problems for example then there may be an opportunity for you to render some assistance in renegotiated terms and so forth. Perhaps it is that the actual night chosen for training or the training times need to be looked into and changed. If you are able to be open minded things can be changed and students can be motivated to become the backbone members of your club.

It is also fair to say that the commitment we expect from others is the same commitment that we ourselves have to give when we are committed to setting up our own training centres. The fact is that you wont be handed anything on a plate and you will have to put in many many hours and also quite likely a large sum of your own money into it. Perhaps that is a hard commitment to bear, yet you need to go back to the original reasons that led you to begin your dojo or training centre. If those reasons can still motivate you today, you are every chance to be successful in what you do. Keep your dreams alive and in the forefront of your mind and let them grow into a reality the right way and perhaps your centre will be the go to centre that you wish it to be!