Searching for a new school.

bignick

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So I've recently moved and have been looking for a new judo/jujutsu school. While I was at it, I thought I would take some of my instructor's advice and maybe expand my horizons a bit if I couldn't find a good one. I know there's some good Iaido in the area, and I've always wanted to give aikido a shot. For the multitude of JMA practitioners we have here, and for others that are looking for good schools. What would you look for in a new school of your chosen art. Feel free to get as specific and nitpicky as possible. There are always the basics, liking the instructors, etc. But what about variations of techniques that they peform, use of terminology, etc. What are some of the more intangibles in your mind that seperate the wheat from chaff when it comes to dojos.
 

pgsmith

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Hey Nick,
In the Japanese martial arts, it's pretty simple I think. What are their ties to Japan? If they are a legitimate Japanese martial arts dojo, they will have current and easily identified ties with Japan. Otherwise, it is no longer a Japanese martial art, it's an American martial art.
Another point that should be checked is lineage. Who were the instructor's instructors? Any legitimate instructor in the Japanese arts will be glad to talk about their instructors with you and show you their rank certificates, etc ...
I would also check whether they were given permission to teach the art, or did they decide to strike out on their own? I have run across many "instructors" who only had a few years (or less!) of training in an art, then decided they knew enough to go it on their own. While this question may not have excessive impact on the quality of what you learn, it could have a huge impact if you wish to expand your training beyond what your immediate instructor can teach you.
Beware of any dojo that requires long term contracts. All of the instructors of Japanese martial arts that I know, realize that an art or a dojo may not be suited to a particular individual. They want to have people in their dojo that are there because they want to be there, not because they are stuck in a long term contract.

Just a few thoughts on it.
 

Swordlady

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I've only been training in Aikido for 3.5 months, so I don't know how helpful I can be. One of my fellow Aikidoka said to me, "If you see colored belts in an adult Aikido class (i.e., other than black or sometimes brown), RUN AWAY!" Seriously...I would meet with the head instructor first, and also watch a class or two. Observe how the lead instructor conducts his/her classes, and his/her teaching style. Oh...and I would also check for legitimacy; there are also Aikido McDojos in existence. In any case, I don't think finding a good Aikido school is much different than finding a good TKD school. Just know what you want out of a school. :)

As for Iaido...this is a LOT trickier. Genuine koryu (classical) or gendai (modern) arts are often difficult to find outside of Japan. There are a LOT of frauds in the JSA world. Definitely do some research first to check the legitimacy of a JSA. Koryu.com is a good place to research classical JSAs. You may also want to check with Charles Mahan, Paul Smith, and the other resident JSA'ers on MT. Dave Drawdy (Socho on MT) would also be another good person to talk to; he teaches Nakamura-Ryu (a gendai JSA).

Do you happen to know the names of the Iaido schools in your area? I may be able to check them out for you as well.
 
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