On a mission to help forge the best instructors in the martial arts world.
With a full 40% of our community as instructors and over 60% with 10+ years experience, we believe a high-impact area for Aikido Journal to focus on in the near-term is instructor development. We want to help aikido instructors be the best teachers and leaders in the martial arts world.
As a community, we have everything we need. We have great aikido masters with powerful knowledge and insights, subject matter experts outside the aikido world willing to support us, a new and powerful digital communications platform with massive reach, and a legion of instructors who are thoughtful and intelligent with true passion and dedication to the art.
Aikido Journal Academy will help us learn from each other more efficiently, share best practices, avoid mistakes, and support and accelerate each others’ development. If our instructors keep leveling up, our dojos will be healthier, practitioners will become more skilled, and our communities will grow larger and stronger.
Our Initial Focus
We don’t know how the Academy will evolve over time or what it will look like in ten years. However, we do know how it will start and what its first programs will be.
The Academy will start by creating a series of next-generation instructor courses focusing on targeted, high-impact topics. Our programs aren’t designed to replace the direct training instructors get from their mentors and organizations, but rather to supplement and complement those efforts.
We don’t expect these courses to be a panacea for all of the challenges we face in the aikido world, but we do believe they can build community, broaden perspectives, stimulate new ideas, and help us be better instructors and dojo operators. Additionally, as we continue to explore other community support initiatives, this is something we can do right now.
Anatomy of an Instructor Course
In the beginning, Aikido Journal Academy will design and produce focused courses in collaboration with a master or expert(s). We’ll prioritize course topics based on community feedback (starting with the poll at the end of this article).
We will invest heavily in curriculum design and work with course instructors through a multi-week iterative process to develop each program. Initially, our instructor courses will have both a live and online component. The live seminar is not designed to maximize reach with the greatest number of participants. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Each seminar will be limited to a very small number of instructors (learn why below). The online course, however, will be designed to maximize reach and accessibility in order to ensure that the essence and value of each course is available to everyone who wants to benefit from it.
1. The Live Instructor Seminar
Just as important as skill building for instructors, we want these courses to help leaders in the aikido (and broader martial arts) world forge new friendships with each other and build stronger communities and high-value networks. We need to be on the mat with instructors to get feedback and find better ways to support each other, solve problems, and learn and grow together.
For each course Aikido Journal Academy develops, we will host an instructor seminar with a leading master or subject matter expert. These seminars will build targeted skills, empower instructors, cultivate friendships, and open doors for future collaborations and knowledge exchanges. With well-defined learning objectives announced up front, instructors can determine if they have an interest in building knowledge and skill in a given area before committing their valuable time to an event.
These seminars will be designed for instructors and chief instructors. We will target a maximum of 15-20 attendees to ensure that each participant gets substantial focus and attention from the course instructor(s).
Prior to the seminar, participants will be asked to commit to preparatory work designed to maximize the impact and efficiency of the event. Every instructor will be asked to provide a bio and answer a set of profile questions. We’ll use that data before the event to fine tune curriculum, structure discussion topics, and facilitate important connections between attending instructors. Participants may be asked to watch videos, read books, or even drill targeted movement patterns or techniques to sharpen a key skill prior to an event.
- Full Day Seminar: These will be single full-day events, hosted at dojos across our community. The seminars will include focused training sessions, presentations, and a moderated discussion at the end of the day to discuss important issues and find ways to support each other, as well as identify and solve key problems.
- Professional Photography: We’ll have a professional photographer at every event. Examples of our photojournalist’s work are here.
- Follow-Up Livestream: One month after each seminar, Aikido Journal Academy will host a livestream with the course instructor to field follow-up questions and comments from attendees after they process the seminar curriculum back at their home dojos.
- Private Discussion Group: Participants will be given access to a private online discussion group to stay connected with each other and share insights and research over time.
This format was inspired and informed by feedback from a highly successful instructor seminar format designed and run in the summer of 2017. Led by Josh Gold and Roy Dean, a jiujitsu expert and aikido black belt, our first prototype of this seminar format drew an exceptional and diverse group of instructors. With participants both higher and lower in rank and experience than the course instructors, our group included representatives from numerous organizations and styles.
You can learn more about the format design and see the results in detail here:
2. The Online Course
For each course / topic, in conjunction with hosting a live instructor seminar, we’ll produce a next-generation online course available to everyone. These will be comprehensive, modular programs with professionally produced video, technical commentary, and instructor guidelines and tools. Our course format is designed from the ground up to leverage best practices for maximizing the effectiveness of online learning. Courses will generally contain 30-40 modules and will cover a focused topic in great depth.
Each live seminar participant will get a free copy of the online course and will be part of the review/beta testing phase for their course before it’s officially released on Aikido Journal.
Our First Online Course: Bulletproofing Pins
With a reference model already in place for the live seminar, the most efficient way to get a complete proof of concept in place (live+online course) was to create an online instructor course based on the live seminar Josh and Roy collaborated on over the summer.
With Josh and Roy producing the course together, they could play the roles of both the instructors and the event and content producers. This allowed us to make rapid progress and go through a series of iterations before finalizing a format. We learned some painful lessons along the way and invested more time and resources into its development than we wanted, but we refused to compromise on quality or vision.
Our first course, Bulletproofing Pins, is now in final testing and review stages. We have a select group of senior instructors in the aikido world reviewing it now. Later this week. we’ll share more about the Bulletproofing Pins course and the story behind its creation.
We’re now planning our course program for 2018. We’re looking at a range of course topics and leading experts to collaborate with.