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chiliphil1
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Joined: 29 Oct 2011
Posts: 225


PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2015 9:07 pm    Post subject: Seeking opinons on possible new dojo Reply with quote

Hey again everyone, it's been a while since I have posted, things have been fairly busy lately!

I have FINALLY after years of wishing and hoping had my stars align and it looks like I will be able to get back into MA seriously! There is a dojo fairly close to my house that teaches Shorin-Ryu. The dojo is well rated and supposedly one of the top ones in the country. I got an email from them last week with an amazing introductory offer and I took them up on it. I got 3 classes and a T shirt for $20, I thought it was a pretty good deal. I have done 2 of the classes now, the first was an outdoor training session in a local park and was pretty good thought the CI wasn't there, the class was lead by a teenager who is almost ready for BB.

I went tonight to my first class at the dojo and I had a few observations. Firstly, the adult class is all teenagers and they are all brown belts (1st kyu) and prepping for the big test. The dojo is fairly clean and reasonably spacious. The CI is very interactive but not very strict, there was a lot of laughing and carrying on in the class, and there seemed to be no order at all, we didn't even really fall in or anything, we just sort of made a line and that was that. My old school was very discipline oriented, this one doesn't seem that way.

I know this instructor is a salesman who hustles. He goes to all of the local schools regularly to do demos and sends fliers home with kids, mine have brought them home several times. I walked in to a conversation he was having with a couple of ladies and he was really pushing, in a nice way but you could tell he was trying, maybe a bit too hard.

As far as pricing goes, I'm really not sure.. He only offers contracts of 18 months length. The prices start at $99 per month for 1 class per week, for $139 per month you can do 2 per week. He operates 4 days per week. My old school charges $89 per month and you can come as often as you want and the price includes access to the gym in the front of the studio. I could walk back into my old school as a black belt and instructor or into this one as a white belt. That doesn't bother me that much but I feel almost like this is teetering on the verge of being a Mcdojo.

The biggest benefit of this dojo is that he has a family plan where you pay for 2 people and everyone else is free, so I would be looking at $198 per month for 5-6 people at 1 class per week, so it's not all together terrible. My old school offers half price for everyone after the first member. In that case I would be looking at $200 per month but could go as often as I wanted to and would not be in a contract. The only issue there is that it is much further away and would be somewhat difficult to get to on time. There is one other option which I have not yet checked out, which I may look in to before I make a decision which I have to do by next week in order to get 50% off the down payment on the contract..

So, what say ye? Is this something I should go for, or keep looking? Plusses, family plan, close to home. Minuses, mostly teens in the adult class, all students in class will be black belts in 6 months or less (except me) and 18 month contract..

Thank you for your opinions.
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Kyonovice
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Joined: 15 Sep 2015
Posts: 103


PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2015 2:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi, do you mind if I put my two penny worth in?

I notice you say $198 a month is not too bad for you and your family to train, in the UK that works out at close to 130 at todays exchange rate to train once a week. To me that seems pretty high, but then how long is a training session? I pay 6 for a 90 minute session for myself and 4 for a 60 minute session for my daughter. I try to train as often as possible but then that is subject to shifts. Considering my dojo is open 3 days a week (Mon,Weds, Fri) for adults and twce a week for juniors, the MAXIMUM I would pay for both myself and my daughter to train is 112 per month based on a 4 week month (and that would be for me to train 3 times a week and my daughter twice - that seldom happens). So, in my mind for training just once per week, $198 is a lot of money.

I also have a major issue with dojo's insisting that you enter into a contract, you are not buying a cell phone or asking for a bank loan here, you are paying someone for a service, there should be no need to enter into a contract. In my thinking, dojo's asking for people to enter into contracts are running scared that their students will not stick with them unless they have the contract to stick to, this is not how martial arts training should be (correct me if I am wrong).

With regards to the issue of having the majority of the class as black belts shortly and yourself as the only white belt, this is something I would look into closer. Do the teenagers look like they have the quality to be a black belt or are they getting awarded the grade as a return for sticking with the dojo? I would be dubious of the fact that there are no lower grades at the club.

Instructors with pushy sales techniques also stinks to me of potentially being a so called "McDojo" and I personally would not go near it, I decide where I train, I pay for it, a good dojo should not need hard sale techniques.

If I were you, I would return to my old dojo or take a little while longer to search for the right one. I took a lot of time out (I am talking 15-20 years) and then returned to a different style as a novice (from previously being a Shodan), I took a lot of time to find my new dojo and I am so pleased that I did.
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Spodo Komodo
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Joined: 24 Mar 2010
Posts: 291
Location: Derbyshire, UK
Styles: Wado Ryu, Shotokan

PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2015 2:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The dojo is well rated but you have to look at who is doing the rating. My first dojo was very much a McDojo but had excellent references from well respected people. Reputation needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, especially when the setup is overly commercial as this appears to be.

I wouldn't be worried about everyone else being at the other end of the syllabus per se, you learn far more among experts than you do among beginners and with your previous experience you should advance quickly. The biggest alarm bell to me is that 18 month contract together with the class full of brown belts. That sounds like a problem with student retention. I like to see a good spread of grades in the class as it shows there is something for everyone. If the lower grades are missing you have to ask why - was there a break in recruiting or did they find to difficult to live with the brown belts for some reason.

As for discipline, it seems to be going the way of the dodo. When I started you got single knuckle push-ups for smiling in the dojo, now I get told "chillax, this ain't the army bruv". My gut feeling would be to keep looking but training almost anywhere is better than not training.
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chiliphil1
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Joined: 29 Oct 2011
Posts: 225


PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2015 6:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kyonovice wrote:
Hi, do you mind if I put my two penny worth in?

I notice you say $198 a month is not too bad for you and your family to train, in the UK that works out at close to 130 at todays exchange rate to train once a week. To me that seems pretty high, but then how long is a training session? I pay 6 for a 90 minute session for myself and 4 for a 60 minute session for my daughter. I try to train as often as possible but then that is subject to shifts. Considering my dojo is open 3 days a week (Mon,Weds, Fri) for adults and twce a week for juniors, the MAXIMUM I would pay for both myself and my daughter to train is 112 per month based on a 4 week month (and that would be for me to train 3 times a week and my daughter twice - that seldom happens). So, in my mind for training just once per week, $198 is a lot of money.

I also have a major issue with dojo's insisting that you enter into a contract, you are not buying a cell phone or asking for a bank loan here, you are paying someone for a service, there should be no need to enter into a contract. In my thinking, dojo's asking for people to enter into contracts are running scared that their students will not stick with them unless they have the contract to stick to, this is not how martial arts training should be (correct me if I am wrong).

With regards to the issue of having the majority of the class as black belts shortly and yourself as the only white belt, this is something I would look into closer. Do the teenagers look like they have the quality to be a black belt or are they getting awarded the grade as a return for sticking with the dojo? I would be dubious of the fact that there are no lower grades at the club.

Instructors with pushy sales techniques also stinks to me of potentially being a so called "McDojo" and I personally would not go near it, I decide where I train, I pay for it, a good dojo should not need hard sale techniques.

If I were you, I would return to my old dojo or take a little while longer to search for the right one. I took a lot of time out (I am talking 15-20 years) and then returned to a different style as a novice (from previously being a Shodan), I took a lot of time to find my new dojo and I am so pleased that I did.


Thank you for your input. You have hit pretty much every point that I was looking for. I will try to reply to each.

Money, in my area that is not a bad price by any means, training is expensive here and the price I stated is pretty much in line with everywhere else I have spoken to. The only difference being that this dojo offers the 1 day a week plan or for $40 more per month you can go 2 days, the other schools allow you to go more often. The classes are 50 minutes for kids and 1 hour for adults.I've only spoken to the traditional schools however as I have no interest in Tae Kwon Do and that's the only other style offered anywhere near me.

The contract, I don't like that either. The biggest issue there is that I overheard him telling someone else that if you can't come to class you still pay, the money is auto deducted from your account and thus they have you no matter what, you will pay for your 18 months unless you move or have a medical reason why you cannot attend. This is tough with kids because they may or may not want to go, I also feel that I am being pressured a little bit into signing, I was told last night that I had to decide by my next class if I was going to sign up because if I didn't do it during my introductory period I would pay full price for the down payment, if I do it by my last class I get 50% off the down payment and since I have to pay 2 of those it would be nice to have the discount. I also asked if uniforms for my kids would be included and he said no, unless I sign up by this Friday, fishy.

The brown belts. In my opinion these kids were not ready. There was one who was ok but by my standards none of them are near BB, including the one who is the asst instructor. I do feel like they are moving up by time and not by skill, that bothers me. I feel like they wouldn't be a problem but at the same time if everyone in the class is one step from BB and then are BB and I am the beginner it would seem a bit off to me. I do think they have some lower ranks but they weren't there for this class nor the outdoor class I attended. I do realize that I could have a better chance of learning with more advanced ranks around me but then when they are all kids it changes the situation a little.

I am inclined to agree with you that the pushy sales tactics are suspicious. I do not appreciate feeling pressured and rushed into signing a contract which I will HAVE to pay no matter what. I think if it were not for the contract I would have no issue signing up and trying it out but the contract gives me a bad taste because if my suspicions are correct then I would be stuck at a subpar school for a year and a half, then have to go somewhere and start over again!

Thank you again for the replies, I will definitely put some thought into this over the next few days, I may even try an introductory class at the other school and see how it goes.
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Tang Soo Do

8th Kyu
Matsubayashi ryu shorin ryu karate
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Kyonovice
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Joined: 15 Sep 2015
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2015 6:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Definitely try other schools, your gut feeling seldom lets you down I find.

I tried several different schools when I was finding somewhere to train, some felt ok, others were just a no go for me (one I went to who advertised himself as Wado-Ryu with some kckboxing included - turned out to be more kickboxing with no sign of Wado-Ryu even got me to sign a disclaimer saying that I wouldn't go talking to other dojo's about what he does - as if it was tht damned good - it wasn't that good at all for the record!)

Anything that tries to get you into a contract for training is a no go for me, they are after your money weather you can train or not.
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chiliphil1
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Joined: 29 Oct 2011
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2015 6:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spodo Komodo wrote:
The dojo is well rated but you have to look at who is doing the rating. My first dojo was very much a McDojo but had excellent references from well respected people. Reputation needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, especially when the setup is overly commercial as this appears to be.

I wouldn't be worried about everyone else being at the other end of the syllabus per se, you learn far more among experts than you do among beginners and with your previous experience you should advance quickly. The biggest alarm bell to me is that 18 month contract together with the class full of brown belts. That sounds like a problem with student retention. I like to see a good spread of grades in the class as it shows there is something for everyone. If the lower grades are missing you have to ask why - was there a break in recruiting or did they find to difficult to live with the brown belts for some reason.

As for discipline, it seems to be going the way of the dodo. When I started you got single knuckle push-ups for smiling in the dojo, now I get told "chillax, this ain't the army bruv". My gut feeling would be to keep looking but training almost anywhere is better than not training.


Thank you for the input as well. I misworded the brown belt issue, it's not that I am a beginner and they are advanced, it is that there are ONLY high ranking belts, and that makes me wonder. My old school had black belts, sure but they taught the classes, participants varied from white belt to red and were spread out, lots of colors in there. If I went to my old school and everyone was a red belt or black belt I would be put off because it tells me that either A they are making advancement too easy, or B they are not having new members or perhaps all of the new members are leaving.

I don't feel that they would have TOO much issue with these brown belts, but I can say that they are teens and they act like it, most of them. It's a good bit of joking and carrying on which does allow a bit of fun into the class but at the expense of order.

I don't think that I ever had discipline to the level of one handed knuckle pushups but I definitely did have a firm set of rules that I was EXPECTED to abide by and it made the class work, it made the student body a cohesive unit.

I agree with your last statement in that training somewhere is better than trading no where. That would be fine and I would like to give them a try but having to go in blind and sign on for 18 months makes it tougher to just jump in.

Oh, I forgot to mention in the original post that in addition to the contracts which everyone has to sign they also offer 3 levels. 1 basic, this is where I would be, 2 elite which means more weapons, advanced techniques, and you can wear black costs more, and 3 leadership program which means you assist with teaching classes and get special attention, costs more. I think this puts me off as well in the fact that if you pay more you get more. I do not agree with that at all but that's what they do. I guess they have a bunch of suckers for parents as well because every kid in my class was wearing black pants, black t shirts (untucked??) so apparently their parents pay the extra.

One more thing, I have to think of my kids as well. I was there early enough to watch the juniors classes and again, I was not impressed. The class was lead by one of the teenagers and there was no order, no one was in line they just stood around randomly. They all had bo's and were leaning on them, using them as pole vaults, that sort of thing. The advanced juniors class had 2 students in it, brothers who were running though test requirements in order to get black stripe to be eligible to test and neither of them knew any of the material! When they were walking through with the instructor they had no technique at all, they couldn't even coordinate enough to move a left foot or a right foot, it was bad. I don't know the rank structure for this school but they were both green belts. That was another flag when these "advanced" juniors couldn't even step with the proper leg or turn the correct way.. Apparently they were awarded rank based on time. The instructor did tell me that " the 18 month program will get you about half way to black belt, but there are no promises on how far you will go in that time" So again we have the theory that all that matters is getting to black belt.

Lots of suspicious things going on. I just signed up for the trial class at the other school, I will see what they do. Perhaps it will be better.
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Tang Soo Do

8th Kyu
Matsubayashi ryu shorin ryu karate
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Spartacus Maximus
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Joined: 01 Jun 2014
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Styles: Shorin ryu

PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2015 7:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Consider these questions:

How is the dojo atmosphere?

Remember that discipline can take many forms and is not necessarily like boot camp. A good instructor can motivate and convey a point to students without barking at them. Training and practise are up to the individual and results depend on personal efforts. The instructor is only there to advise and guide, not police the students.

How is training approached?

To be effective training has to be structured with clear goals. Techniques should be taught and domonstrated in detail, instead of just copying and repeating the movement. This is especially important for the most basic techniques. Kata ought to be analyzed, studied and picked apart to understand every move; not just memorized as a block.

There are of course other criteria for choosing a dojo but these depend on individual goals for training.
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jaypo
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Styles: Shotokan, Shorin Ryu

PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2015 7:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If there are only high ranking belts, it seems like he's either promoting too fast or not keeping the attention of lower ranking belts.

About discipline, well, there are issues I have with my current school as well. I come from a Shotokan background which was VERY strict. The club I'm in now is run by an ex Marine that lived in Okinawa and trained with multiple Okinawan masters. He obtained his first black belt (in Shotokan) from Master Okazaki, a direct student of Funikoshi. But he was turned off by the lack of flexibility in the Governing Organizations, so he started teaching on his own. Our classes are very loose, but we do get down to business.

I'm a huge Jeet Kun Do fan, so I believe that while it is important to have discipline, flexibility is equally as important. And if a class has 25 people in it, there are 25 different personality types to cater to. That can be difficult!
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Spodo Komodo
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Joined: 24 Mar 2010
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Location: Derbyshire, UK
Styles: Wado Ryu, Shotokan

PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2015 7:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

chiliphil1 wrote:
Thank you for the input as well. I misworded the brown belt issue, it's not that I am a beginner and they are advanced, it is that there are ONLY high ranking belts, and that makes me wonder.


You didn't misword anything, I just put that in for anyone else who might be reading this. I know a lot of people trawl the net for this kind of question before starting out and I didn't want to put anyone off joining a group without considering the situation. I completely agree that the makeup of the class is suspicious but I can also think of a couple of reasons why it might be so without anything necessarily being wrong.

chiliphil1 wrote:
I don't think that I ever had discipline to the level of one handed knuckle pushups but I definitely did have a firm set of rules that I was EXPECTED to abide by and it made the class work, it made the student body a cohesive unit.


I am getting on a bit I suppose, eeh it were hard back in the day

chiliphil1 wrote:
Oh, I forgot to mention in the original post that in addition to the contracts which everyone has to sign they also offer 3 levels.


Now that definitely rings alarm bells to me. Any MA class that offers status (black training kit) in exchange for cash rather than ability or effort is promoting a fairly skewed set of values. I would definitely avoid in that case.
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mushybees
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Joined: 16 Nov 2014
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Location: UK
Styles: Wado ryu

PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2015 8:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That sounds awful, I'd give that one a wide berth. It was sounding very iffy to begin with but pay more to learn more advanced techniques is just wrong. The level and complexity of training has to be on merit.
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