The California Aikido Association twice annual Friendship Training is this weekend, so we won’t be having classes Friday – Sunday (August 25 – 27). If you want to join in the fun, we’ll be at Aikido West in Redwood City on Saturday and Sunday. The instructors on Saturday are Frank Doran Shihan and Calvin Koshiyama Sensei. That will be great.
How to Choose a Martial Arts School
Part 1: The People
I am putting together a series of posts and brief videos about how to choose a martial arts school for you and your family.
Here’s Part 1: The People.
1. Choosing a Dojo: The People
In martial arts training, particularly aikido, you’re going to be spending lots amount of time with the students and instructors at your dojo. So, choose the dojo — and the people — wisely! To me, people are the most important part of training. If you don’t want to spend time with the instructors and the other students, then it makes no sense to join that martial arts school. It doesn’t make any difference what their martial arts style is. If you don’t like the people, move on.
So, start and end your research with the people who you’ll be training with.
2. The Instructors
Aikido, along with every other martial arts practice, is done with a teacher. If you think that you can learn aikido online, or from a book, you are fooling yourself. You can’t. Find the right teacher and you’ll learn. In fact, find the right teacher and you’ll love your martial arts training!
It doesn’t matter what level black belt the instructor is or how many competitions that person may have won. None of that guarantees that the instructor is any good or is the right instructor for you.
Start your research by learning how much the instructor cares about your practice. As Chief Instructor at Aikido’Ka, I care about why you want to practice martial arts. I will work to help you understand and achieve your goals.
I meet with every single prospective aikido student. I personally do every orientation. We will discuss why you want to train and how our community may help you reach those goals. I will then formally meet with you, quarterly, to make sure you are getting what you need from your training. All of the instructors at Aikido’Ka are happy to speak with you, any time, about your training.
Make sure that the instructors, and any staff, are courteous and professional. Make sure you feel safe and that your child will feel safe. I can’t imagine a worse situation than joining a martial arts school to build your confidence and character and being frightened the entire time you are training. Please don’t do that to yourself!
Ask the instructor about his or her larger training community. Is the dojo an active part of an organization or the school isolated and on its own?
Aikido’Ka is a member of the California Aikido Association, which, despite its name, has member dojos around the world. We are members of the 2nd division, which is headed by Michael Friedl Shihan. Friedl Sensei is an absolutely great guy and has been my personal aikido teacher for years. Aikido’Ka is very active in the CAA. I do not exaggerate when I tell you that I have friends many places around the world thanks to being an active member of our extended aikido family.
3. The Students
Don’t just look at the instructors. Talk to the students. Does the dojo have any people who have been training for more than just a short time? Are there people at the dojo who have been training for 10, 20, or 30+ years? If so, you can figure that people like training there. Do people have fun when training? Do they feel safe? Don’t only ask the students. Watch them train and see if they look like they’re having fun and feeling safe.
Here’s what I’d like you to do: Come to Aikido’Ka. Sit and watch. Join in. See how people interact with each other. Look at their faces. See if they’re smiling and laughing and making friends. You’ll see that Aikido’Ka is a fun, friendly, safe atmosphere. It’s a good, safe place to be.
Feel free to talk with any of the students at Aikido’Ka. We don’t have secrets. Ask them anything them about their training. They’ll answer you truthfully.
4. Take Your Time
Many martial arts schools will give you one free class to figure out whether their place is right for you. They will then want you to sign up and start paying dues.
I am quite sure that one or two classes is not at long enough for you to learn all you want about the teachers, the students, and everything else.
At Aikido’Ka, we want to make sure that you choose the best martial arts school for you. So, you receive 30 days free to try out aikido training. That’s right, you have a full 30 days to see if the instructors, the students and everything else works for you. If not, then it costs you nothing. You don’t have to buy a uniform or anything else. Your first 30 days are free. Now I’m not saying that you can’t join us in that first 30 days, but you don’t have to. And those first 30 days – they’ll be free.
So if you’re looking to improve your health, your life, your confidence, build some self-defense skills, and all sorts of other positive things, then please start your free 30 days at Aikido’Ka right away. You’ll know if we’re the right dojo for you. Just call me at (530) 273-2727, or send me an email and we’ll get you started.
I look forward to training with you!
Start your 30 days free training now by filling out the form below.
Recently, Jeramy Hale Sensei was teaching at the dojo. He brought up a point which I thought was so important that I decided to make a video about it. Jeramy Sensei was making the point that your aikido training partner is not your pretend enemy.
Here’s the video. I hope you enjoy. I look forward to seeing your comments.
Here’s the transcript to the video:
Hi, everyone. My name is Frank Bloksberg. I am Chief Instructor of Aikido’Ka, an aikido dojo in Grass Valley, California. My good friend Jeramy Hale taught at the dojo on a recent Friday evening, and said something so important and profound that I feel compelled to discuss it with you. Jeramy was talking about the relationship between the people training. Jeramy explained that even though your partner is playing the role of an attacker, that person is not your pretend enemy. Let me say this again because it’s so incredibly important. Even though your training partner is playing the role of attacker, that person is not your pretend enemy. I’ll explain why Jeramy’s point is so important.
Here’s a quote from an article about the self-defense value of a particular form of karate. “When we train, we’re as serious as we would be during a life-and-death struggle. Our mindset throughout each session is that we’re really defending ourselves. We’re conditioning our minds to see our attackers and to fight them with every move we make.” In other words, see the people you’re training with as your enemy and treat them that way. After years of this type of practice, how do you think you’ll respond to any type of a threat, whether physical or emotional?
Well, here’s what the article says about that:
“When students practice, we try to develop reaction. Ideally, when you’re attacked, you’ll react automatically. The further you go in your training, the more your techniques will become reactions. They’ll become second nature to you.”
I agree that it’s absolutely true that training should create fast, precise movement. If you have to think about how to respond to a physical attack, then chances are your response will be too late. But if year after year you practice a violent response to attacks, then that’s how you’ll respond to any perceived attack – without any thought and lightning quick. Indeed, that’s the point.
The self-defense aspects of Aikido are about resolving disputes, even potentially violent disputes, with no one getting hurt. With Aikido, we look to blend with our attacker. We use evasive movements to unravel the attack and place the attacker in an untenable position. We practice these movements until we can precisely perform them without thought and lightning quick. So if you do perceive an attack, you will not automatically respond with violence. And that’s the point.
Here’s another important point:
Aikido, as with every other real, modern martial art is not a combat system. Aikido is primarily about self-improvement and relationship building. While Aikido practice can build incredibly effective self-defense skills, it’s primarily an art. Practicing Aikido can make you a much happier, healthier member of an incredibly fun community. Practicing a true combat system will make you a better fighter and get you beat up a lot, likely nothing more. You get to choose which one of these you want from your life. You know which one I choose.
Here’s how I describe the roles that attacker and defender have in Aikido practice:
You bring the attack in such a way so that your training partner can do his or her technique perfectly. Likewise, you perform your defensive techniques so that the attacker can receive the technique perfectly. We’re people, so we don’t do anything perfectly. Nonetheless, that’s the goal. We practice to support each other’s improvement. We’re not pretending to be enemies. We’re partners in our practice, and working together for mutual self-improvement and to learn whatever the thing is that we’re working on.
Whenever human beings understand something, we automatically believe it. You don’t have a choice. The belief happens automatically. Once you understand something, you may be able to override the belief. But many beliefs continue even after the belief has been thoroughly debunked. The scientific literature is filled with studies about this. If we pretend to be each other’s enemies, then we actually are enemies at least for some time. We then have to somehow override that belief.
Consider for a moment what pretending to be enemies can bring up in your mind. Bringing an attack as an enemy involves trying to hurt your enemy. It brings up the desire to defeat, even humiliate one’s enemy. We destroy trust and community by doing so. In no way is this appropriate for Aikido practice.
Aikido exists to improve our lives and our relationships. Not surprisingly then, creating enemies has absolutely no place in the dojo – not even pretending and not even for a short time.
Now don’t get the wrong idea. Aikido is martially effective. Depending on your practice, it can be extremely effective. You can train as vigorously and powerfully as you want. You will get there with respect and by building trust with your training partners.
The dojo is a safe place for everyone who trains here. If you and I are training together, you have to feel safe. If you don’t feel safe, then I have work to do to get you there, and being your enemy sure isn’t going to accomplish that.
So thank you, Jeramy. If Aikido training sounds good to you, then please check us out at JoinAikido.com, and thank you so very much for your time.
Start your 30 days free aikido training by filling out the form below. I look forward to training with you!
You can now train at Aikido’Ka 7 days a week! I am delighted to announce our Friday evening aikido class.
Not too many months ago, Molly and Jeramy Hale moved to Nevada County and joined Aikido’Ka. Yea! In case you don’t already know this, Molly and Jeramy are long time students of Frank Doran Shihan. They both hold the rank of yondan (4th degree black belt). They are absolutely delightful people, terrific aikidoists, and wonderful teachers.
They’re now going to be trading off teaching class on Friday nights from 5:30 – 7:00 pm. For now, I think Jeramy is going to teach 2 Fridays in a row, then Molly will teach one, and then back to Jeramy. That will probably change. When/if that schedule changes, I’ll let you know.
Be sure to attend our new Friday night class!
Our Black Belt class is Friday, October 14 at 6:30 pm.
Molly Hale is teaching.
This class is for black belts and 1st kyus only.