If you are one of the many potential martial arts students in this country, you may one day walk into one of the growing number of formal, traditional dojo. You will probably walk out shortly thereafter feeling deeply insulted, or at the least, profoundly confused.
 
The problem is that the American system of commercial schools has spoiled you. As a potential student you have been shopping around, looking for a good school, and are probably used to walking into a studio and being welcomed with opened arms. More often than not, you will have received a lecture from the Instructor on the many benefits of martial arts training and why you should take part in the program at his school. He sincerely wants you to join his studio and will actively solicit your membership. College programs are similar in that all you have to do is sign up at the registrar's office. The simple act of filling out a number on a computer card gains your entry into a class. These are not meant to be derogatory comments about commercial schools or public classes, it is simply statements of fact. The purpose of a school is to teach and for this it needs students.

Your initial contact with the Head Instructor of the traditional dojo, on the other hand, may come as quite a shock and, unless you understand the fundamental difference between a school and a dojo, you will undoubtedly feel that the Instructor is being deliberately insulting. The fact of the matter is that you have probably been insulting him continuously since you walked in the door and he is merely reacting to this. He shouldn't, but teachers are not perfect. The source of the conflict is that, as a beginner, you probably think that "dojo" is just a word for a martial arts school. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

There is one major fact that you must keep clearly in mind; a dojo is not a school and its purpose is not to teach. The Instructor neither wants nor needs your membership and generally acts accordingly. The prime objective of a traditional dojo is the perpetuation of the style and it is to the style that the teacher has given his loyalty.

In order to preserve the style, he is obligated to teach the art to someone else, but exactly who that is, will be left up to him. He hasn't the slightest moral or ethical obligation to teach you in particular. Take a look around and you will note that the rank structure is very top-heavy in comparison with the typical, commercial school. In other words, there will probably be a lot more Black Belts than white belts. If the dojo has been established for any length of time, the vast majority of students will be seniors, they may even all be Black Belts.

The Instructor may have chosen his successor, along with several back-ups and he just doesn't need you. The fact that you want to study there really doesn't concern him at all. As stated before, his duty is to the style.

 
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