If I access this site, and see that it has been a couple of weeks since I last posted anything, I know I’ve been busy. Of course, I long ago promised myself that I wouldn’t pressure myself to adhere to a schedule when updating this blog; still, I enjoy the dialogue this blog seems to generate (at least on occassion). This time around, rather than focus on one particular idea or issue, I thought I’d write out a sort of general state of affairs for the dojo and myself.
In two days, Aikido Kokikai South Everett will be two months old. I am stunned to think that, 10 weeks ago, we started with a lot of ideas and a big empty warehouse. Now, we have a dojo with nearly 1000 square feet of mat space, 22-foot ceilings (very handy for jo kata!), a dedicated room that we are renting to massage therapists and naturopaths, a waiting area in which there is plenty of room for guests and parents to relax and have tea while students train… essentially, it has become the type of dojo that I had hoped we would create.
The Grand Re-Opening
The other weekend, we held a “Grand Re-Opening Party” to meet our neighbors and to thank all of the people–students, family members, and friends–who have helped make this dojo a reality. Personally, I was amazed at how many people arrived. I think there was close to 60 to 70 people. The mat was filled with children at play, and their laughter echoed throughout the space almost endlessly. To be honest, it was almost too much of a party for me to handle. I’m much happier at parties when I can sit in a corner and chat with folks quietly. Not this time–it was very much as if the universe said: “Time to mingle!” It was a randori of graciousness–moving from person to person, making sure in the few moments I had with each guest know how much I appreciated their presence. (I think the only other time I felt like that was at my wedding!) I would like to think that Sensei Maruyama would be very pleased to see the positive effects Kokikai has had in such a short time; I was filled with gratitude towards him and all of the other Kokikai teachers that I have learned from than I could ever express.
Teaching and more teaching
Now that the celebration is out of the way, we’ve returned to our daily focus on training. I must admit: at first I found my new teaching schedule to be quite daunting. Now, however, I think I have adjusted pretty well. In fact, I’m starting to view any practice time that is less than 2 hours to be very short. (For those who wonder at this: at our previous location, we could only train for an hour a day, three days a week. We now have classes 5 days a week, with me teaching roughly 2 to 3 hours each evening.) We have an opportunity now to really dive deep into techniques; lately, I’ve picked one technique and spent the entire week on it, which ensures that everyone gets a chance to at least experience the technique, and those who can train more often really get to pick the technique apart and look at it in detail. It has been an exhilerating experience.
A Look at the Numbers
One of the hardest aspects of opening the dojo was acknowledging that, at some level, it has to run as a business. I do not teach full-time, so I do not need the dojo to support my family. At first, I thought I’d set the goal to be: “The dojo has to pay for itself.” However, I think that is a little short-sighted. After all, what happens when the dojo does pay for itself? Instead, I now have several goals:
- Stage One: Generate enough income to have the dojo pay for itself, including paying down/off the initial startup expenses.
- Stage Two: Generate enough income to pay for my own aikido related expenses, such as equipment, seminars, and so on.
- Stage Three: Generate enough income to support a part-time instructor.
I figure that, by the time I hit stage three, we’ll have grown to the point where we may need to move into a larger facility, so there’s no need to think that far ahead… yet.
I’m very pleased to say that we are well on our way to accomplishing stage one. I won’t go into specifics here (I don’t think it’s necessary) but I will say that the dojo is now covering nearly all of the monthly bills. And I am excluding the revenue we get from renting out the massage room and for the creative dance classes that are taught in the mornings (when we don’t have aikido classes, of course). I’m quite surprised–we have far exceeded my initial projections at the two-month mark. I am not taking this for granted, however: as a business, we need a constant focus on growth.
While revenue is important, it is not the only goal I have. The whole reason for opening the dojo into its own space was to share Sensei Maruyama’s Kokikai Aikido with as many people as possible. To that end, I’m pleased to say that we have grown over 100% since we moved from the YMCA. In a couple of months, I hope to do a write up on the different ways we chose to advertise, and how/if those advertising methods were effective. I will say this: nothing makes me happier than seeing a mat full of enthusiastic aikidoka!
I think this hodge-podge post has gone on long enough. But I can’t end it without saying again how grateful I am to Sensei Maruyama and all of the teachers who have helped put me where I am today. When I have time, I’ll certainly post some photos of our current practice!