How NOT to join a dojo

I am rage-typing this, because once again, people are calling and being disrespectful ON THE WEEKEND when I am enjoying my 1 and a half days of rest. Right now, my personal number is the dojo’s number (yes, I know, but have you seen the cost of dual-sim phones?) and as such, literal strangers send me voicenotes (my pet hate, can’t Whatsapp get rid of them?) and demand, demand, my full time and attention. They even have the audacity to ask for free videos. Our youtube channel is not enough – they want private classes, FOR FREE, via whatsapp. Today, I had a kid call me over, and over, and over, even though I had spoken to his father and they’re not even remotely near us.

Now, I just block and delete.

Oh, but shouldn’t we be grateful for every single lead? All the potential students? Isn’t this a good problem to have?

Absolutely not. Dojo space is limited, and we deserve a modicum of respect for the sheer amount of knowledge and expertise on offer. This isn’t MacDonalds – we don’t have to serve everyone.

At least this is a quick way to find out if they will even be decent students: if they cannot exercise basic courtesy on whatsapp, then they absolutely won’t do it in the dojo. I have a message that automatically pops up saying something along the lines of “I am enjoying family time, I will get back to you during business hours” and yet there is the audacity again to send me voice note after voice note, or worse, the passive-aggressive “???”when I don’t answer.

Ché has the exact same thing with the chimney sweeping business. People will call him all day and all night in the peak of winter. Some will apologise and its because they have an emergency, but so many people have no concept of basic human decency (or at least, appreciation for the humanity of others). They will demand he service their chimney on the weekend, because that’s the time that suits them.

I know I sound like a boomer, but people’s manners are absolutely deteriorating now that they can do everything behind the safety of the screen. Ghosting out of a dojo has never been easier. (Had a student do that this week – 10 years, and no goodbye.) Harassing someone on the weekend is as easy as breathing. Parents bitch about kids being rude, but then will ignore their dojo invoice. We know where they get their garbage manners from.

We teach people how to treat us. If I don’t set and reinforce boundaries, how can I expect others to respect them? I used to be available to the dojo parents until late at night, until I had a child and realised that it was completely ridiculous. Nothing I do is urgent or important enough that it can’t wait until morning. I’m not a doctor on call, or a police officer, or a firefighter. There are precious few professions that are actually, genuinely time-sensitive. Replying to a whatsapp about random admin? Absolutely not important enough to encroach on my family time.

The funny thing is that I expected more nonsense from our Youtube channel. But the channel has actually been super lovely, with really respectful commentators and fans. We’ve had maybe 10 rude comments over the course of 83 videos. The almost daily frustration comes from idiots who want karate NOW and damned be my time or mental health. They don’t even check if our dojo is nearby before they waste my time.

To any parents reading this – please check that your kids aren’t actually harassing other people. I admire that they want to do karate, but they are terrible at making arrangements, and I am not going to make plans with a random kid over the phone. To grown-ups who want to join a dojo: karate is a privilege, not a right. Good instructors work hard for their knowledge, and deserve to have students who respect that hard work. I have been doing karate for 16 years – I could have done two medical degrees by now. Ché is going for his 40th year of training and teaching. We are experts at what we do. The least you can do, if you want to even be allowed to join, is have the basic decency to respect people’s time. If you can’t do that, then you have no right being in the dojo. To quote Gichin Funakoshi Sensei:

Karate begins and ends with respect.

4 thoughts on “How NOT to join a dojo

  1. Jason Alexander Morgan says:

    Sorry to hear about the kind of crap you have to deal with, Zoë-sensei. I hope your weekend improves. (Your writing is great, even when done in a moment of rage, btw!)

  2. Jake Gifford says:

    Thank you for actually addressing an issue that I’m sure most people chose to ignore because of the fear of backlash. As a student, I constantly get compliments on my respect/manners and I owe it entirely to karate. It’s an essential part of every day life that karate will improve for the rest of your life. Thanks again for addressing the messy side of this matter rather than pretending that everyone knows online etiquette

    1. Zoe Hinis says:

      Ah, thank you so much, Jake – you really are a credit to the dojo, and if we can at least send people out into the world with excellent techniques and manners, I consider my job done.

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