December is a month for celebration but also a time for reflection on the challenges and accomplishments of the past year. What a year it has been for Southland Aikido.
It has been almost exactly one year since our current location in Monterey Park was identified and lease negotiations began. It took over two months for the landlord to obtain permissions and approvals for the structural improvements and for us to obtain a business license. Nonetheless, on March 13th we began the major undertaking of building the mat and completing the furnishings. With the founding group of dojo members comprised of Victor, Aris, Rod, Tom, Jim B., Yuki, Chris and Alex, we toiled for dozens of hours over three weekends in constructing the nearly 1000 square feet of subfloor supported by 896 foam cubes to provide a sturdy but resilient structure for the mat to sit on. During that time there was an unseasonable heat wave and the dojo AC was malfunctioning, so the temperatures in our working environment were in the 90’s. But everyone worked long hours to achieve our goal without a hint of complaint. On April 7th we had our first official class. Since that day we have provided five Aikido and two Iaido classes each week.
As with any start-up business, an initial goal is to grow the business – in our case the membership. Over the nine months of operation we have doubled the membership. An open house on September 26th attracted about 50 visitors and played a role attracting new members. The more senior members provided two sets of demonstrations with individual performances that got rave reviews from the audience. We also partnered with East L.A. College Community Services to provide two rounds of Beginning Aikido courses – a series of five 1-hour classes on Saturday mornings. These were well attended and attracted some new members as well as others who wanted to continue the beginning-level classes. And, thanks to some of our members’ expertise in interactive marketing, we now have a significant online presence that attracts inquiries from prospective students.
As we look ahead toward 2016, the future horizon for the dojo appears promising. In addition to increasing the membership to and beyond financial sustainability, we want to establish Southland Aikido as a dojo recognized in the Greater Los Angeles area for its high quality training of traditional Aikido and Iaido. Steps are already underway in that direction. For example, we have been invited to present a demonstration on the Cal State Los Angeles campus as a part of a Lunar New Year Festival in February. We are also under consideration by the organizing committee to present a demonstration at the Monterey Park Cherry Blossom Festival in April. Finally, we are proud to announce that Harvey Konigsberg Shihan from New York will teach a weekend seminar in March. Konigsberg Sensei is one of a small group of American Aikido instructors who has achieved the rank of 7th Dan and is a member of the Technical Committee of the USAF. In 2016 we will launch additional initiatives to promote the dojo. We will attract more people to experience the joyful but focused environment that we provide on the mat and our friendly and inclusive culture off the mat.
The quality of a dojo is determined by the motivation, commitment and positive attitude of its members. Thanks to the instructional staff and all of the members of Southland Aikido for following the path of Aiki in developing ourselves personally and as martial artists. With commitment to the arts of Aikido and Iaido and to the overall goals of the dojo, we will continue to grow and thrive.
Jim Graves, Chief Instructor