Another year has passed in the world of Shinkendo.
This year I tried things differently. In 2013 my primary goal was my club and at its height it was well attended. 2013 culminated in a seminar hosted by Yukishiro Obata Soke and Roland Lajos Sensei on our home soil. Whilst it was a success, following the birth of my son, the year took its toll on all concerned. I found that I no longer enjoyed what I did and immediate steps were needed to correct things in order to avoid burn out.
Sunday classes were dropped, which proved highly unpopular. Another teacher offered to teach Wednesdays to allow parties the ability to train twice a week, though this too remained unpopular. In the end, attendance on Wednesdays had dwindled to around 2 a week. The upshot was that at a club level, things suffered.
As for me, my goals shifted from the club to the organisation. To grow the organisation I travelled the width of the UK teaching seminars. In the end I found that few took up Shinkendo with a passion and ultimately this led me to feel deflated and disappointed. By the end of 2014 family bereavements and family commitments once again led me to question what it is that I do.
Now 2015 is upon us and I must once again re-assess the situation. 2015 will mark for me 10 years of Shinkendo. In that time I have trained with the founder of our martial art significantly, hosting him in the UK 2 times, once of which was at my wedding! I have also hosted his son, the future successor. I have trained with the founder aboard, in the USA, France, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland and Holland. I have, I feel, listened and learned my lessons well.
As I have blogged about before, running a club is never easy, running an organisation is horrible. Ken Robson Sensei (7th Dan Yoshinkan) once said to me, running a club will destroy your hobby. In many ways the fullness of time has proved him correct. So here is what I have learnt in 10 years:
Martial arts are meant to be fun. In general they are often practiced by those who want to be heroes to others (superiority complex) or those with cultural identity issues (those who want to be Buddhist monks in ancient Japan). Occasionally they are practiced by meat heads who just want to hurt people and sometimes they are practiced by those who just want to keep fit and learn to defend themselves. Martial arts teachers aren’t always very good at what they do. Sometimes they over inflate themselves on paper but don’t deliver in person. Few understand the details of what it is they do and often few understand how to explain them to others. What I have not come across very often are those who understand this one point, and that is that martial arts are meant to be fun!
A senior student of mine is probably chuckling over this right now as we have had discussions on this point for years. To put wrongs right I must admit, he was right and I was wrong – martial arts are meant to be fun, not just for the student, but for the teacher also.
So the question then I must ask myself, is what do I want to do in the next 10 years? The answer is I want to enjoy what I do again. This means concentrating on our club and developing an atmosphere that is enjoyable to attend. I aim to readjust the layout of classes, ensure that we run regular seminars, do Tameshigiri more often, do regular grading and have regular meals out with each other.
2014 was a tough year for the club, but a good year to assess priorities. 2015 will be a return to the basics and what makes the club a decent place to attend. For all those we lost on the way I say, please come back and help us build an enjoyable environment in 2015 (I can think of a few immediately – you know who you are!). For all of you loyal students I say – thank you for your loyalty. You are what have kept me going these past years.
On behalf of the Milton Keynes dojo I wish you all a happy an successful New Year. Training resumes on Friday 9 January 2015. I look forward to seeing you there.