What factors are needed in order for a dojo to survive?

This article was submitted by J.C. Guion for his 3rd Dan exam conducted in Alameda in September 2008, and posted with his permission.

I tend to see the survival factors of a dojo closely related to our Aikido practice, where we train our body, our mind, cultivate and strengthen our spirit. I would compare body training to dojo practical matters that we need to take care of. Mind to proper attitude and dedication to the dojo, and spirit to the Sensei leadership. All are important factors in the survival of a dojo.
Body training could be compared to the practical aspect of running a dojo. As we train, our body gets stronger, more flexible, we improve our endurance, we get in better shape. From a practical standpoint, where we shape and take care of our body with proper training, we also have to take good care of the dojo: having it clean, in good order with all daily chores taking care of. Dues need to be collected, members informed of events and decisions, financial book kept in order. Practical matters are a reality and a necessity.   
To make sure that practical matters are taken care of, everyone needs to help out, showing consistency and dedication. This is where mind training matters. Without the proper attitude and mindset, daily chores cannot be properly addressed. As practical matters are dealt with, our confidence and actions toward the dojo everyday life are reinforced. Body and mind are working together, we cannot properly train one without the other one. As one improves, the other one improves too.

Practical matters are of paramount importance. The most important of all, certainly, is having enough members. Without enough members, rent and bills cannot be paid and the dojo has to close. This is unfortunate, the harsh reality, but there is no way around it. To help attract members, the dojo needs to advertise itself. For example, it can run advertisement, create special offers or participate into community events. The idea is to get known. If people want to do Aikido, they know where to go. Another complementary approach, is to get people interested into Aikido. This is quite difficult, mostly because Aikido is not well known to the overall public and the people think about martial art through the distorting prism of hollywood action movies. 

As we need to attract new members, we also hope - once they have joined - that they will stay. However, we can never really know if a new member will still be around after few months. Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that are out of our control, such as family and work constraints, personal aspiration and expectations, but what can we do, what is in our control, is create the right conditions for members to stay. 

I believe that the spirit we find in a dojo is provided by the Sensei through his sincere and sound leadership. Like a seed growing slowly into a something stronger, spirit has to be nourished with care as it is felt and carried by every member. As a dojo gets older and its members more experienced, this spirit is shared and can be felt by any visitor and any new member. This is ultimately what will make new members appreciate the dojo, its members, discover Aikido, enjoy their practice and stay.

Keeping the right spirit is also the most difficult of all. It requires a strong and steady will, keeping the right direction, going through all the difficult times. If a dojo were to loose the spirit that he wants to imprint its students with, even though it would have many members and would seem to be successful, it would have fail to survive.

Iain Nicolson Recreation Centre

Directions to the sports centre:

From the South: Travelling on the M74, merge onto M73 via Exit 4 toward A80/Stirling/Kincardine Bridge.
Take Exit 2A on the Left toward MUIRHEAD/ GARTCOSH Industrial Park.
Enter roundabout and take first exit. Enter next roundabout and take 2nd Exit, marked STATION ROAD/ A752.
Turn Right onto CUMBERNAULD ROAD/ A752, followed by a left onto Chryston Road. The Ian Nicolson Centre will be on the right.

From the North: From M9 follow signs for M876.
Continue on M876 and merge onto A80 toward GLASGOW.
After proceeding through set of traffic lights in MOODIESBURN, remain in Right lane, and turn right across the A80 at the JET Petrol Station, onto CUMBERNAULD ROAD/ A752.
Turn LEFT immediately to remain on CUMBERNAULD Road, then immediate RIGHT turn onto Chryston Road. The Ian Nicolson Centre will be on the right.


Class Times

Training Schedule

Tuesday - 6:30 - 7:30pm Aikido Body Art
Tuesday - 7:30 - 8:30pm - Iaido

Thursday - 6:30 - 7:30pm Aikido Body Art
7:30 - 8:30pm Aikido Weapons

Children - Tuesday 6:30-7:30
Thursday 4:00 -5:00


Annual Membership - £35 per person (Includes Insurance) - £25 children
Tuition Fees
Regular rate £45 per month OR
Daily Mat Fee £5 per session (£7.50 per evening)
Family Rate £60 per couple (can be adjusted based on work status)
Iaido Only £25
Ages 12-15 £25 per month
Ages 5-11 £3 per session (Tues eve & Thurs afternoon)
Uniforms £25
Fees are payable on the first of each month. Variations on this schedule must be arranged with the Chief Instructor. Mat fees are due prior to class.