The Aikido dojo I train at closed this week. Sensei has to sell the building. It's been tough lately. Attendance is down, and a lot of the kids in his previously very active and cohesive teen class have graduated and gone off to college. And a lot of the adults have had some life changes that mean they don't come as often. I think the money problem was a large part of the decision, though not all of it.
Sensei sent out some emails earlier in the week, letting us know. Thursday and Saturday were the last adult classes and I made sure to go to both of them. There were more people in class than had been for a while. I saw people I hadn't seen for months. Of course, many had not seen me for months either, even though we all were going to class - just not as often, and obviously not on the same days.
Although no one mentioned it, I think most of us saw the irony of this. It took the dojo closing down to get that many of us to class. Rather a shame we all couldn't have been there more often. It wouldn't have brought in more money, as we all pay a monthly fee whether we go to class or not. But attendance does make a difference in keeping the new students. It's hard for them to see a vibrant active dojo when so many of the more experienced students only show up twice a month. I bear my share of the blame in that. I was often lucky if I could get there twice a month. Mostly that's due to a recent increase in work load and more pressure to do overtime to keep up. Sometimes I could've worked around it and still gone to class. But sometimes I was simply too tired to contemplate driving the 40 minutes one-way to get there.
And now it's gone. August would have finished my sixth year there. It's a hole in my life that'll take a while to heal. Odd to think I've been training since 1998. I haven't progressed very far in grade during that time, mostly due to moving a lot and various life changes, but Aikido has become part of my identity. It's changed a lot of things about me, some ways I only dimly understand.
We're hoping to get some kind of "garage dojo" started up soon, if we can find a place. I think a lot of us are interested in looking around, and perhaps something will come up. I have a few ideas myself. So we'll see what happens.