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More About Visiting Students

Everyone is different, but here are some of my thoughts and concerns about visiting students. I have written about this to some extent, but will extend the discussion here.

I am somewhat often contact by people requesting the opportunity to visit my dojo to train. Almost always, I decline.

First, I do not run a commercial dojo. I would not charge a fee for someone to visit -- so money is not the issue... not at all.

If I am contacted by a parent asking permission for his or her child to visit, I will decline because that is the wrong person to make the request.

If I am contacted by a student asking permission to visit, I will decline because again, that is the wrong person to make the request.

If a am contact by a Sensei asking permission for his or her student to visit, then I will think about it. If I know the Sensei or he or she is good friends with my Sensei or my friend, then I will consider it. But even then, I may still have concerns.

Let's say that a Sensei in Texas requests permission for his student to visit and train with me. That Sensei may have a Sensei in Florida, who has a Sensei in New York, who has a Sensei in Okinawa. I may know some or all of these Sensei, or I may not.

But if I give permission to the Sensei in Texas and his student visits me, then I might get complaints from the Sensei in Florida, or New York or Okinawa. They might ask why I allowed their student or member of their organization to train with me without their permission? Was I trying to steal their student? And why did I fill their minds with all sorts of "Kishaba Juku" body mechanics ideas that conflict with their system? Who do I think that I am?

And even worse, the Sensei in Okinawa may visit my Sensei in Okinawa to complain about me. This would put my Sensei in a very awkward position and would make me feel extemely bad.

I have even received requests from Sensei to visit and train with me. They usually ask on their own behalf. But even they may have living Sensei. Without their Sensei's permission, I would have the same issues as described above.

And when I decline, a Sensei requesting on his own behalf will often say, "I am a Sensei, I do not need to get my Sensei's permission."

But think about it. If a Sensei from Brazil visits me, his Sensei in Okinawa could get upset.

And heaven forbid that a visiting student likes what I teach and decides that he wants to switch to Kishaba Juku. Then I will be accused of being a thief! How dare I steal another dojo's student!

Of course, I have no intention or desire to steal anyone's student. I will usually take great pains to avoid it. In most cases, when I insist on the proper permission, the requester simply says to forget about it. Could it be because he did not want to ask his senior for permission?

I actually do not like getting students who already have Karate experience. It is much easier for me to start with a student who has no experience at all. That way, I do not have to "undo" anything, physically or mentally.

Physically, I would have to undo the student's way of moving. We all move differently. One way is not necessarily better than another. I am simply trying to teach my students to move the way I learned from my Sensei. That is now my way. It is different than the Shotokan way of moving. It is simply different -- not better or worse. But a student cannot learn from me and continue to move in a Shotokan way, for example. The more he had learned, the harder it will be for him to "unlearn" and reprogram his body to move my way.

When I have a student with no experience, I can see that he is moving my way only. When I have a student with prior experience, I can always see remnants of his prior training causing conflicts. It is almost impossible to completely rid a student of prior habits -- almost.

Also, a prior student will have ideas. If he came from a strict Japanese dojo, he might have the idea that we are also a strict Japanese dojo, which we are not. His training outlook will be motivated by honor and the avoidance of shame, rather than sincere enjoyment of the art. The longer he has trained, the more "ideas" there will be to identify or undo.

The point I am making is that I am never seeking students from other dojo or styles. I would prefer a brand new student with a blank slate for me to work with.

So I do not have a motivation to seek visiting students so that I can get them to join me or switch to my system -- just the opposite.

Would I ever have a visiting student? Sure. If a Sensei in Okinawa contacted my Sensei in Okinawa and asked permission for a student to visit, and my Sensei in turn asked me, there would be no problem. There are other exceptions, but generally they are few.

Another consideration is what I would do with a visiting student. Would I simply allow him to follow along, or would I try to teach him? And teach him "what" if he will visit for only a short time? Would I try to teach him Naihanchi Shodan, which could properly take a couple of years to begin to learn? Would I try to teach him "koshi", which could take quite a bit longer? Or would I simply allow him to copy our movements with no understanding of them, and then return home to say that he now "understands" our style?

It gets very complicated and difficult. This does not even address the issue of potential injuries, requests to "spar", requests to take photographs with me or other Sensei, what belt to wear, omiyage, etc.

I might also add that I used to practice Matsubayashi-Ryu. Out of respect for the head of that art, I would never permit a Matsubayashi-Ryu student or instructor to train with me unless the head of that art had made the request to my own Sensei first. Otherwise, I would be showing disrespect to the head of Matsubayashi-Ryu, which I would not want to do.

Some people will certainly think that I am arrogant to think this way (as described above). But that is just the way that I think. The main thing to me is that our dojo is pretty private, not commercial, and that I do not want to show disrespect to another Sensei or head of an art. I am not seeking money or students or notoriety. When it comes to training, I simply enjoy training and helping my small group of students to learn. That's it.

P.S.: For Kishaba Juku students, you are always welcome (as long as your Sensei contacts me to give permission first).


Charles C. Goodin