Martial Musings: Defining oneself and one’s practice AKA This is not your friendly neighborhood McDojo
I had a strange conversation this week. A millionaire father contacted me to “do my aikido and fix his 3 children” who were aged between 18 and 23. He also expected prompt responses in writing about when he wanted me to show up, then spend 2 hours each day with his kids. He then wanted to know if I had the facilities to accept his AmEx card, as he would not use any other card. Finally he emphasized his “kids” would be driven by a private chauffer.
I remained as patient with him as I could be, and then told him “You need a different dojo, that can cater to your needs. Here are three in the city that would be the right fit. I am not the right kind of Sensei for your needs.”
I was polite and thought this was it. But No – he now starts telling me “what kind of a business do you run? I want you to fix my children, and am willing to give you two months for it.”
No longer able to bite my tongue I replied “That is where you are wrong. First I do not run a business. Second, I choose who to work with. Third, I dont fix people, they choose to fix themselves or not. Fourth, my students work on my timeline, not the other way around. Fifth, have you considered that your “kids” are really adults, and it might not be them who needs the fixing? And lastly – it seems you are used to getting your way every-time – until now. Here is the list of schools that will cater to your needs, good luck Sir.”
He was not going to give up. He jumped in “But I want you to teach them, what do you need to be their teacher?” I stopped and turned to him “Have them come on their own to me and request me to teach them. I don’t care if they show up in their car or crawl. And one other thing – I only deal with my students, not their parents.”
He turned red and then as he walked away screams “You are getting a nasty Yelp review for bad customer service from me. And I will tell all parents I know that you are a bad teacher. I know a lot of people – wait and see!” I could see him swinging his fist in the air in a display of fake machismo.
Wow! Unreal! And was truly at a loss of words with this whole episode. However he got me thinking:-
If Mountain View Aiki is not a biz then what is it? – and my instinctive answer was Dojo – place of the way, not place of the business.
If I dont have customer then what do I have? – I have apprentices and students, much like I was to my teachers. They are more family than sources to pay my families bills.
If I dont accept AmEx then what do I accept? – All I accept is gratitude, honest feedback and my students paying it forward.
Perhaps the concept of the dojo has lost it meanings in the world driven by the metaphor of business. Or perhaps, I am holding on to an ideal that might be in the minority. But that is why I love living in the United States – I am free to choose why path, no matter what.
This guys follow through – which I do expect, will cause some heartburn, and yet I am at peace with my choice. But in closing I have a question for the discerning reader – how would you have handled the above situation? I would welcome all points of view on this .
Train Smart, Study Deeply, Contribute Freely
Mahipal Lunia, Sensei