Aikido Kobayashi Dojo

Aikido, My Way.

Part 1 Dojo Management

Thirty years ago, when I wanted to borrow money to open the dojo, the banks would not lend me money.

We were constructing the dojo and had various explanations for borrowing money, but were told, “There’s no precedent (for Aikido).”

A Meiji University alumnus who eventually worked in a bank helped us obtain a loan.

The city also had a problem accepting us.  We said, “There are mahjong parlors and abacus schools, all sorts of cram schools and alike.  What’s wrong with an Aikido dojo?  It’s healthier than Mahjong.”

We were told, “No, look, in the articles covering business there’s no ‘martial arts dojos’ heading.”  And then turned away because of these kinds of rules.  Ultimately we were able to obtain a loan through the National Credit Agency.  Then about fifteen or twenty years ago the Prime Ministers Financial Office had finally included in the list of employment categories the heading “Aikido Instructor.”  Until then Aikido instructors came under the category of “other."

It’s been thirty-five years since the opening of Kobayashi Dojos and we have always tried to build a strong organization.  With concerns about taxes we incorporated the dojos in 1987, and now we have been accepted and have a good relationship with banks.

When I think about it now, all kinds of people helped us when we were in trouble.  There were also people who offered to donate land and dojos.

Money, too, in all honesty, is no fun to deal with, but you can avoid financial disaster by only living the simple life with minimal luxuries.

Also, we can’t just selfishly think of ourselves.  If we help others, others will likewise help us.

Opening a new dojo is a lot of work.

Aikido is well known now, but when O Sensei was still alive Aikido was a new martial art.  If we found a nice space to rent, the landlord would say something like, “Aikido, what is that?”  And the talk would come to an end.

Even after establishing Kobayashi Dojos, realtors would negotiate but they didn’t know what to make of the situation.  There was one space that we had just rented and, that day, we were holding a dojo opening ceremony when all of a sudden the owner of the building showed up.  He said, “What is going on here?  I have not heard of you renting.”  Apparently we had been negotiating with the renter, who tried to sublease the space to us.  The opening ceremony was immediately cancelled and we were forced to leave.

It was in the early 1990s.  We had just rented another space in a building for the Minami Koshigaya Dojo, when Japan’s economic bubble burst.  The owner made a midnight escape because the building went into receivership.  The dojo was ordered to vacate and we lost a large amount of deposit money.

In reality, you need a suitable amount of money to rent a dojo space and it takes a long time to see a return to that investment.

With the number of dojos steadily increasing, there have, at times, been mistakes and confusion.

The instructors at Kobayashi Dojos each have schedules to teach in certain dojos at specific times.  If an instructor can’t make their regular class, someone else needs to cover that class, so it influences the whole teaching staff.  Sometimes there is confusion.  Such as two instructors showing up at the same time or other times when no instructor showed up and the students were kept waiting.  Keeping track of the schedule takes a lot of effort.

Building a dojo or finding a space to practice is a great social learning experience.  This experience provides valuable training that we would not get by just practicing Aikido.

Opening and managing a dojo is no easy task.  It is a different sort of battle, different from our daily practice on the mat.  It is this grounding experience that turns ordinary martial artists into respectable citizens.  It offered me a chance to experience first-hand about human relations.

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