When Nippon Kan was founded, it was just me and a few others. It’s been 43 years since then, and it’s been quite some time since Nippon Kan was no longer a small Aikido group in a town. Unlike a business entity, a Dojo does not pay wages but collects monthly dues from its students. However, a Dojo like Nippon Kan, which runs and manages large scale projects, must maintain a structure and means to operate like a business entity to continue running its operations smoothly. And every one of you are an essential talent and manpower and critical to the operations of Nippon Kan. A dojo is where all students start out with a white belt. Some students areappointed to be instructors while others are assigned to take on important tasks behind the scene after having risen through the ranks. I have always considered not only how long any candidate has been with Nippon Kan, but whether the person has developed
an understanding of “how Nippon Kan Aikido ought to be” as well as how much the person and I have been able to develop a trusting relationship. This is not entirely unique to Nippon Kan, and it’s rather similar to how Major League Baseball teams are managed. That is, while the names of the teams remain the same and each team has its own unique history and characters, coaches and players tend to change on a constant basis.
Nippon Kan has seen many talented people come and go for the past 43 years, and I have turned 68 years old on the 12th. With much dedication and support from many a Nippon Kan students from the past as well as from all the current Nippon Kan students, including all of you, I have been able to lead and grow Nippon Kan as it is known today.
Yet, as we may not be aware of all the changes that happen in our life, such a tendency happens to a Dojo like Nippon Kan as well. In other words, while many students have grown through the ranks to taken on various important tasks, I sometimes cannot feel as though they have not yet matured to run the organization.
Bluntly yet candidly, I think some of high-ranking HAKAMA KAI members may not yet have realized that the management structure of Nippon Kan Dojo is having to drastically change from when I had long been the main manager with late Emily as the right-hand person. I expect HAKAMA KAI members to renew your commitment and dedicati
on as leaders to step up to the plate toward running and managing\ the operations of Nippon Kan into the future. As you know through my reports on Nippon Kan’s homepage and Facebook postings, AHAN’s activities have continued to expand greatly mainly in Southeast Asia. AHAN’s accomplishments and continued activities are what all of you can certainly be proud of. Please be reminded that no other dojo to my knowledge has achieved what AHAN Nippon Kan has achieved or comes closes to how AHAN Nippon Kan continues to contribute to the betterment of the world.
On the other hand, as AHAN operations have taken up much of my time in the recent years, I have had to reply on all of you to run the Nippon Kan Honbu (HQ) Dojo. And I cannot help seeing a “doughnut effect” where Nippon Kan Honbu Dojo as the core with AHAN activities as the ring. For example, while the number of students in Beginners Classes has remained relatively constant, there has been declines in the number of students who sign up to regular classes after having completed Beginners Classes. As a result, the number of students with white belt, yellow belt or green belt has been very small. I must be cautious and clarify an important point: I am not questioning the effectiveness of instructors to lead and teach a class, because I am the one who has appointed every one of instructors every time by a set of logical and unique reasons. Then why are we seeing the trend that has made the body of students with fewer white, yellow or green belts? The answer is rather clear than murky. The Dojo is not seen as an energetic or lively place. The ambience of the Dojo is like that of a gathering after a funeral, and it’s totally different from the ambience of a party after a wedding ceremony. In other words, Nippon Kan may have become like a classy Polo Club that may appear as intimidating, due to its long history and experience, for beginners to frankly and casually stay to get acquainted. What I encountered during a festival in a little village in Italy after a seminar I had led made me think deeply. It’s about the attached photo. Participants from other dojo who had attended the seminar were doing Aikido demonstrations. According to Michele Sensei, they were from a dojo of only 5 members. Although their skill levels were not of an astonishing level and we were among the few to stop and watch them perform, their dedication to and enthusiasm in the practice of Aikido brought back the memories from when I first founded a dojo long ago and made me think to myself, “
Today’s Nippon Kan has forgotten this passion.” And Nippon Kan in this context stares right at me as well.
Nippon Kan’s way of thinking is “Then what do we do about it?”, instead of standing still about a lackluster retention rate of non-HAKAMA level members, and such thinking and approach is indeed what Nippon Kan’s Engaged Budoism is about. And this is what I felt by witnessing a small Aikido demonstration in Italy. As Madalyn and Jason have stepped up to the plate to teach Beginners Classes after we had to see off Roxanne relocate to out of the state with our well wishes for her to pursue a career opportunity and with Yuji focusing on his studies toward graduation, we have seen a higher rate of completion among beginners, and some of them decide to sign up for regular classes. Yet, we still need to up our efforts to retain these new regular members with us for much longer. A request for instructors and all the staffs behind the scene is for all of you to actively and positively help new members set goals for them to achieve, e.g. the next belt promotion. Please don’t think, “It doesn’t really benefit me to practice with newbies.”
Please recall when you had your first step into Nippon Kan on your first day, and interact with new members ccordingly. Practicing with such an attitude is also an important part of your own endeavor in the practice of Aikido because “unless you know the stuff, you cannot teach the stuff.”
In fact, any traditional dojo does not have any mirror within it. It is because of a motto of “You should see yourself in others.”, and when less experienced disciples imitate and mirror your movements, your own ‘waza(technique)’ becomes complete.
I would like all instructors, especially the younger generation of instructors, to live by the credo below. “Do it first; Clarify why and how and have them listen to you; Tell them to do it; and Keep encouraging them to keep them motivated; Or else, they will not follow you.” Also, please understand that public reviews such as the number of “Likes” on Aikido Nippon Kan’s Facebook page, google reviews and yelp reviews can be a good way of Public Relations activity. And help from HAKAMA KAI members and students are called for to aim for achieving the highest possible reviews, that is in most cases 5 Stars. Finally, “Free pass” tickets will be issued to instructors soon. “Free pass” tickets can be used when organizing a “Let’s Get to Know Each Other Dinner” gathering after a practice. Please present a “Free pass” ticket to a waitperson before ordering a meal of your choice. Also, the Musubi Bar, the patio section in the deepest area of the Garden can be used for such a mingling opportunity among Nippon Kan members. For the main purpose and the origin of the Musubi Bar is to provide a welcoming and dedicated environment for socializing occasions, please feel free to spread the word and invite one another to have a good time getting to know one another after a practice. Also, any of you are welcomed to plan a potluck party and host it in the Nippon Kan Garden. As the issuing of Students Newsletter has been resumed, and the first issue has been sent out, the main purpose of the Newsletter is “to bring students and Nippon Kan Dojo closer together”, as I explained during the meeting past month. This is one of positive actions, instead of ‘just observing the changing situation and seeing it continuing to develop’. Thank you to all of you for your continued support thus far as well as your continued commitment and dedication for the future of Nippon Kan as well as our future.
And I very much look forward to continuing working with you while we all strive for creating synergy among all of us to further the mission of Nippon Kan into the future.From AHAN Nippon Kan supported Bilay House in Ratchaburi Province in Thailand near the border with Myanmar.
Founder & Kancho
AHAN AIKIDO Nippon Kan