Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Frequently Asked Questions

This page contains answers to several of the most frequently asked questions about budō and the Seishin-Kan. Just click on the questions listed below to see the answers.  And if you can't find the answers you're looking for here, please e-mail us any questions you may have and we will be pleased to reply with the answer for you.

n How much do you charge?
n Do you offer free trial lessons?
n What is your class schedule?
n What styles do you teach?
n What age groups do you teach?
n What will you be teaching my children?
n Do I have to sign a long-term contract?
n Why and how do you screen applicants to your dōjō?
n How long will it take to reach Black Belt?
n How do students earn different belts or ranks?
n What is a "McDojo" and what makes your dojo different?
n Why do students have to wear uniforms and where can they get them?
n Are Seishin-Kan members required to compete in tournaments?
n Do you teach self-defence classes or street-fighting techniques?
n Why do students have to bow, meditate, and use Japanese terminology in class?
n What kind of meditation is performed in your classes?
n Do you have students perform any religious rituals in class?
n What is budō and how is it different from martial arts?
n Do you offer any classes just for women?
n Do you offer any classes for people with disabilities or special needs?
n Why should I or my child learn an art or style that is centuries old and may no longer be practical?
n What if a student gets injured while training or competing?
n Why do I have to sign a waiver of liability in order to join the Seishin-Kan?
n Do you have insurance to cover medical costs if I or my child get injured?
n What else?

How much do you charge?

Because we are a non-profit 501(c)(3) educational and athletic organisation, we charge only the fees necessary to provide instruction to our students and acquire and maintain our facilities and equipment.  Since costs can vary significantly by location, each location or event at which we teach has a different fee schedule.  Please contact the location at which you intend to train for its current class offerings and fees.

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Do you offer free trial lessons?

Yes!   At most locations we provide a free orientation and/or trial lesson, either on specified days or by prior arrangement (please call or e-mail us for details and appointment).

Our trial lessons serve two important purposes:  (1) they afford prospective members the opportunity to see if our dōjō offers the training and environment they are seeking before they commit to joining, and (2) they afford the current members the opportunity to see if a new candidate will make a good member of our dōjō before they are accepted as members.  A dōjō is a teaching and mentoring relationship; not a commodity purchased over the counter, so it is crucial that the members and instructors are compatible or it won't work out.

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What is your class schedule?

The class schedule varies by location, so please visit our locations page for the location at which you would like to train in order to view its current schedule of classes and hours of operation, or contact us for this information.

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What styles do you teach?

At the Nippon Budo Seishin-Kan we teach only authentic classical (koryū) styles of Japanese budō.  Most of these styles can trace their origins back at least 400 years, and in some cases 1,000 years or more.  They have been battlefield tested for centuries and proven effective for the purposes for which they were created!   These arts and styles include: 

n Shitō-Ryū Karate-dō: the most comprehensive and second-most widely practiced style of karate in Japan and the rest of the world. For detailed information on Shitō-Ryū, please click here.
n Aragaki-Ryū Okinawa Kobujutsu: an obscure and ecclectic style of defence using ancient weapons and tools, such as bō, sai, tonfa, kama, nunchaku, eku, kuwa, and nunte.  For detailed information on Aragaki-Ryū, please click here.
n Musō Jikiden Eishin-Ryū Iaijutsu: the most widely practiced style of self-defence with the samurai sword in which the opponent's attack begins while the defender's sword is still sheathed.  For detailed information on Eishin-Ryu, please click here.
n Shindō Musō-Ryū Jōjutsu: the use of a four-foot () stick in self-defence against a samurai sword.  For detailed information on Shindō Musō-Ryū, please click here.
n Shindō-Ryū Kenjutsu: a simplified style of samurai sword combat developed to assist in training in Shindō Musō-Ryū Jōjutsu.  For detailed information on Shindō-Ryū, please click here.
n Ono-Ha Ittō-Ryū Kenjutsu: a style considered by many to be the most effective form of samurai sword defensive dueling.  For detailed information on Ittō-Ryū, please click here.
n Daitō-Ryū Aiki-jūjutsu: a system of unarmed defence used since 1185 AD for protection of the Japanese imperial family and shōgun (supreme military leaders) against assassination by armed attackers.  For detailed information on Daitō-Ryū, please click here.

Although all of these arts were developed for use in situations that people no longer encounter in their daily lives—even under the most unusual circumstances—their fundamentals, as well as the strategies and tactics of defence and counter-attack employed in these arts, are as applicable today as they were centuries ago.  More importantly,  they are steeped in a philosophy of life and personal discipline that serve their practitioners every day of their lives.

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What age groups do you teach?

At some locations, our member dōjō accept students as young as 4 and have no upper age limit.  However, classes for all age groups listed below are not necessarily available at every location.  Please check with the specific location at which you wish to train for classes available at that location.

We divide our children's classes by age, so that children train with others of roughly the same size and maturity level, as well as to maintain an age-appropriate level of physical contact in our children's classes.  Below are the programmes the Seishin-Kan offers for various age levels:

n Ages 4—6: Our classes for Waka Musha (little samurai) aged 4 through 6 are fast-paced, high-energy classes focus primarily on developing motor skills, balance, coordination, posture, self-control, obedience to instruction, and a coureous, respectful attitude using fun-filled activities that mimic the movements and techniques of sports budō, but without any competitive pressures.  All striking techniques are directed at padded targets; not other students. For detailed information on our Waka Musha classes, please click here.
n Ages 7—9: Our classes for Jakunen Deshi (young trainees) aged 7 through 9 a teach the techniques, strategies, and tactics of sports budō but participation in tournaments is completely optional.  Striking techniques are sometimes directed at classmates, but contact other than blocking is forbidden and precise control of techniques is instilled.   For detailed information on our Jakunen Deshi classes, please click here.
n Ages 10—12:  Our classes for Seinen Deshi (preteen trainees) aged 10 through 12 are divided into beginner/intermediate and intermediate/advanced sections, whenever possible.  These classes teach the techniques, strategies, and tactics of sports budō.  At this age, participation in tournaments is still optional, but encouraged once or twice per year.  Striking techniques are directed at classmates, but contact other than blocking and grappling is forbidden.   For detailed information on our Seinen Deshi classes, please click here.
n Ages 13—15: Students aged 13—15 train in our Budō Kyōgi (Sports Budō) classes, which are divided into beginner/intermediate and intermediate/advanced sections whenever possible, and include adults training to engage in tournament competition.  For detailed information on Budō Kyōgi, please click here.
NOTE:  with parental consent, students aged 13-15 may also participate in our Iaijustu, Jōjutsu, and Kenjutsu classes and/or Aiki-jūjutsu classes.
n Ages 16—20:  Students aged 16—20 may choose between Budō Kyōgi (Sports Budō) or (with parental consent) the adult Okinawa Budō class.  They may also participate in our Iaijustu, Jōjutsu, and Kenjutsu classes and/or Aiki-jūjutsu classes.
n Adults (21 and older):  Adults are encouraged to participate in our Okinawa Budō class, but those wishing to compete in tournaments may instead choose the Budō Kyōgi (Sports Budō) class, each of which meets 3 days per week, except state and national holidays.  They may also participate in our Iaijustu, Jōjutsu, and Kenjutsu classes and/or Aiki-jūjutsu classes.
n Seniors (55 and older): Seniors may participate in any of our adult classes, but those seeking less rigorous activities may prefer to participate in our Iaijustu, Jōjutsu, and Kenjutsu classes.

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What will you be teaching my children?

Regardless of age, in all of our children's classes (ages 4 through 9) our primary focus is on developing good behaviour, self-control, and an age-appropriate level of personal discipline and responsibility.  The class activities of blocking, evading, punching, kicking, grappling, etc. are one means to that end, by emphasising the difference between proper and improper use of force.  We also teach and apply the principles of Bushidō at every age level, but explain these concepts in terms children can understand.  In short, our children's classes imitate the activities of classical budō and prepare students to train in authentic budō when they have reached an appropriate age and are mature enough to do so.  In this way, the children in our classes receive all the benefits of training in budō except learning techniques that can main, disable, or kill.

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Do I have to sign a long-term contract?

No. We do not believe long-term contracts are in the best interests of our members or the dōjō.  Having said that, however, we do expect a high level of commitment from our members, which is why we screen candidates carefully before accepting them in our dōjō.  It is also why we require an initial commitment (by advance payment) of three months (with exceptions) at most locations.  If a new member is not willing or able to make at least a three-month commitment to regular training and support of the dōjō, then he or she is not yet ready for membership.  After that initial three month commitment, members have the choice to continue their membership month-to-month or receive incentives or discounts for paying in advance.

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Why and how do you screen applicants to your dōjō?

We screen all applicants to our dōjō because instruction in authentic budō is highly personal, and it is vital that the training goals, ideals and core values, and personalities of our members and our instructors are mutually compatible.  We use different methods to screen children and adults, because the goals and methods of training are different for children than for adults.

 We screen children by observing their attitudes and behaviour during our trial class(es) and orientation session, and by conducting a brief interview with the child's sponsoring parent(s) or guardian(s) about the reasons, motivations, and objectives for the child's training.

Adult applicants receive a more in-depth screening, because the techniques taught in our adult classes can easily kill, maim, or permanently disable someone.  This is a responsibility we do not take lightly, and expect our members to take extremely seriously.  Adult applicants are interviewed in detail about their background, prior experience, reasons and motivation for training, and level of commitment to the dōjō.  They are also required to obtain a letter of recommendation from a person of responsibility in the community before being considered for membership.  After observing their behaviour and attitudes during their trial class(es) and orientation session, our membership committee then votes to accept or reject the applicant.

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How long will it take to reach Black Belt?

This is a difficult question to answer in several respects. First, it implies that reaching Black Belt is a legitimate goal, which it should not be.  The Japanese word for Black Belt is yūdansha, which literally means "possessor of a step [or level]".  There are ten levels of dan ("Black Belt") ranking, the first of which is called shodan ("beginning level").  So, when a student reaches Black Belt as a shodan, all it really means is that he or she has attained sufficient ability in the fundamentals of the art to begin training in the more advanced techniques.  Therefore, shodan ("first level" black belt) is considered the beginning; not the goal.  In most practical respects reaching shodan can be viewed as roughly equivalent to completing elementary school.  Think how silly it would sound if someone interestded in becoming an astro-physicist asked, "How long will it take me to reach the 6th grade?"

But, to answer the question , the time it takes to reach shodan depends on many factors.  How diligently and frequently the student trains, the student's natural aptitude, and the student's emotional maturity are the three most crucial factors in advancement.  A student who trains consistently three or more days per week, and has average natural aptitude and maturity will typically take four to five years to acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for advancement to shodan Black Belt in most of the arts we teach.  Exceptional athletic and committed students might do so in three years or slightly more, but this is unusual.  And there is one more significant requirement to consider:  to be awarded shodan in any of our styles a student must be at least 13 years of age.  Prior to that the highest rank attainable is shodan-ho (provisional "black belt").

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How do students earn different belts or ranks?

By training diligently. Then testing formally.  Each rank in the arts we teach has specific requirements, including a requirement to invest a minimum amount of training time in order to qualify for testing.  Those students desiring to do so are offered several opportunities per year to test for promotion if they meet the eligibility requirements.  Seishin-Kan students are not required to test, however, because test fees are not used as an income stream at the Seishin-Kan.  Our testing fees offset the costs involved in conducting the test, issuing the appropriate belt and/or certificate, and registering the student's new rank with the cognizant governing body. Students are welcome to test if they wish to advance in official ranking within the governing organisation, but are equally welcome to remain ungraded if they prefer. 

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What is a "McDojo" and what makes your dōjō different?

There is no universally accepted definition of "McDojo", but it has become a popular (derisive) term for a school or dōjō that operates like a fast food restaurant.  Fast food is typically high volume, mass production, preprocessed, pre-measured, reheated food full of flavour additives, but little nutrition, that is served quickly by unskilled or semi-skilled workers.  The equivalent characteristics of a "McDojo" are large class sizes, mass instruction by teachers with limited knowledge and experience, "canned" class format, sessions high in activity but low on instruction and depth of analysis, with rapid advancement from belt to belt, and numerous activities that require additional fees to be paid. 

The converse of this is the "traditional" dōjō which typically has small classes, more individualised instruction by instructors with decades of experience, moderately-paced advancement from belt to belt with stringent promotion requirements,  arduous testing for promotion, and class activities that emphasise conditioning, practical use, and appreciation of long-standing traditions over fun, fanaticism, self-promotion, and esteem building.

At the Seishin-Kan we admittedly blend these two approaches to a degree in the conduct of our children's classes.  We employ some (but certainly not all) of the features of a "McDojo" to the operation of our children's classes, in which we try to make the activities fun, light-hearted, and highly engaging and energetic, while subtlely instilling the virtues of Bushidō in the students.  In our adult classes, however, we operate as closely as feasible to the manner of a traditional Japanese dōjō.

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Why do students have to wear uniforms and where can they get them?

There are several reasons we require our students to wear the appropriate uniform (keiko-gi) while training.  The primary reason is that a keiko-gi is designed to withstand the rigours of training without tearing or wearing out quickly.  They were originally designed so people wouldn't stain and damage their street clothes when training, and that remains their primary purpose.  But a keiko-gi serves another important purpose:  it alters the participants' frame of mind and sets a mood for training.  For the same reason people wear a suit, tuxedo, or formal gown on a special occasion, or athletes wear a uniform when playing sports, we wear a keiko-gi to serve as a reminder that we are doing something special when we train in budō.

Members are encouraged to purchase their keiko-gi and other equipment needed for training directly from the Seishin-Kan.  Doing so helps us raise money for the purchase and maintenance of equipment, like ukemi mats, striking targets, and loaner weapons.  We stock or can order any and all uniforms and equipment needed for our classes.  We make certain that they are of sufficient quality to meet the demands of the training we do, and we offer them at prices that are comparable to other sources for items of similar quality.  Although we prefer participants to purchase through our dōjō, it is by no means a requirement.  Participants are welcome to purchase from other sources, provided the items meet the quality and safety standards for use in our classes.

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Are Seishin-Kan members required to compete in tournaments?

No.  We do not require any participants to compete in tournaments.  In fact, the Seishin-Kan is not a strong advocate of tournament competition because of the emphasis placed on "winning" over improving.  Having said that, we do believe that there is legitimiate training benefit to occasionally competing in tournaments.  Performing in front of judges and spectators and competing against opponents who are trying their best to defeat you adds a useful level of uncertainty, stress, and even fear that is similar to the emotional conditions of actual combat—yet it is under the reasonably safe and controlled conditions of a tournament.  Learning to perform calmly under those intense conditions is extremely beneficial.  We therefore encourage (but do not require) all members to compete once or twice per year for that experience.

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Do you teach self-defence classes or street-fighting techniques?

We do not teach any classes that focus exclusively on applying budō techniques for self-defence.  However, since the arts we teach were all created for the purpose of protecting oneself and others from violent attacks, the techniques, strategies, and tactics taught in our classes can be applied to many modern self-defence situations.  The core of our instructional programme is bunkai (analysis of techniques and what makes them effective) and ōyō (the practical application of the techniques and how to make them work best), so students do learn how these arts were designed to protect people from life-threatening attacks.

We absolutely do not under any circumstances teach or condone street fighting, bar room brawling, or any other thuggish behaviour.  We consider such activities misuse of the techniques we teach and will expel any member who uses them for this purpose.

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Why do students have to bow, meditate, and use Japanese terminology in class?

These and other cultural practices of the samurai are essential parts of our training.  Bowing, for example, is the Japanese equivalent of a handshake or salute:  a gesture of respect and courtesy.  It serves as a constant and repeated reminder that all people, even enemies, deserve respect and compassion, and helps condition students never to act or react in hatred, rage, or impulsively.  A few moments of silent meditation at the beginning of each class helps students prepare their minds and focus their attention on the training that is about to begin.  And the use of Japanese terminology adds precision and depth of understanding to concepts for which there are no English language equivalents.

The use of Japanese terminology for concepts and methodologies created in Japan also makes the participants' knowledge portable worldwide.  Our students can walk into any traditional dojo anywhere on planet earth and immediately understand the activities there.  Everywhere in the world a tsuki is a tsuki; not a punch in the US, a tsuki in Japan, a golpear in Mexico, a frapper in France, a schlagen in Germany, and a pugno in Italy.  One of the many joys of long term training in budō is meeting other budōka from around the world and instantly sharing a common language!

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What kind of meditation is performed in your classes?

We perform mokusō (黙想) at the beginning of each class.  It is a form of meditation or contemplation that literally means "silent thought", but in practice it is a specific type of thought.  Unlike Zen medidation, which seeks to empty the mind of all thought, mokusō instead seeks to fill the mind with only one positive and uplifting thought—a thought that will push aside any stress, worries, and other distractions.  It is a single thought on which the participant will focus for the remainder of class; a thought chosen by each individual and which expresses the one aspect of training he or she believes is most important at that particular time.

In true budō, there are no particular religious or spiritual connotations to mokusō.  It is simply a method of eliminating distractions and focusing the mind on training.

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Do you have students perform any religious rituals in class?

No.  Budō is not a religion, nor does it involve any specific religious practices.  However, budō does involve the development of many character traits (moral conduct, compassion for others, etc.) that are core concepts of many of the world's religions, and the ethics and philosophy of budō are the product of the combined influence of Confucian, Daoist, Shintō, Buddhist, and Christian beliefs on generations of instructors over a period of centuries.  So, while we think it would be inappropriate to perform any religious rituals in class, we do present moral and ethical concepts on which a participant's religious beliefs may have a bearing.  And thus far, in nearly 30 years of teaching budō, we have yet to encounter a case in which the moral concepts of budō conflict with the teachings of any major world religion.

If a participant has specific questions concerning the relationship of the moral precepts of budō to their personally-held religious views, we are always pleased to discuss those questions or concerns outside of class, because we want all our members to be comfortable practicing the concepts, ideals, and values of budō in their daily lives. Furthermore, at social events outside of class (such as dōjō parties or informal gatherings of members) we do not prohibit or discourage expressions or respectful discussions of personal beliefs.

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What is budō and how is it different from martial arts?

In some ways you can think of budō and martial arts as two sides to the same coin.  To the untrained eye, the techniques employed in budō look almost identical to those used in martial arts.  But the difference between the two, while subtle, is extremely significant—far more than just a matter of semantics, ethics, or philosophy.  The difference is in the very nature of these arts and how they are used.

"Martial" means "military" and true martial arts are the arts of war (called heihō in Japanese).  They can be used for both attack and defence; aggression or protection, conquest or liberation.  Conversely, "budō" means peacemaking, and the arts we teach at the Seishin-Kan are arts of peace; not war.   They can only be used for defence, protection of the innocent, and liberation of the oppressed, because the techniques in budō are specifically designed and practiced to thwart and counteract the techniques employed in martial arts.  The techniques in budō exploit the vulnerabilities created when an assailant attempts to attack and employ counter-attacks that the opponent's own actions render him or her incapable of thwarting.

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Do you offer any classes just for women or women's self-defence?

No.  We see no valid reason to hold classes exclusively for women.  Instead, we see every reason not to do so.  The majority of violence against women is perpetrated by men, so the best way for women to develop the ability to survive those attacks is to train with men.  The most crucial factor in surviving a physical assault is overcoming fear and intimidation of the attacker.  Training with men helps women overcome the natural fear of larger, stronger opponents and affords opportunities to develop skills that actually work against a larger or stronger opponent.

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Do you offer any classes for people with disabilities or special needs?

No. At present none of our instructors are properly qualified to provide instruction to people whose disabilities or special needs would prevent them from participating in our regular classes.  People with disabilities are welcome to participate in our classes, however, we lack any specific expertise in helping them adapt the techniques being taught to their limitations.

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Why should I or my child learn an art or style that is centuries old and may no longer be practical?

The answer to this question depends primarily on your reasons for wanting to train in the first place.  It is informative to note that the longest period of sustained peace—268 years—in Japan's history was while the samurai ruled the nation in accordance with the principles of Bushidō.  This was the probably longest period of sustained peace in the history of any nation on earth, by the way!  If you or your child want to learn how to achieve and maintain peace (but not surrender to violence), then training in budō will serve you well, but if you or your child want to learn how to fight you should probably try something other than budō

Budō is a Way of Life; not merely an art or system of combat or self-defence.  Its primary purpose is to prepare people to succeed in all aspects of life; not just the rare occasions we might be physically assaulted.  It uses defence against violent attack as a metaphor for any and every adversity we might face in life in order to instill the disciplines, attitudes, and habits needed succeed in every aspect of life.  That is the real reason for training in budō!

Budō trains people to approach nearly every aspect of life differently.  One of the most obvious examples is driving a car.  After training in budō for awhile, you instinctively drive differently than you did before.  You will be more aware of what other cars are doing around you, what presents a threat, and what presents a possible route to safety.  You will be more aware of how speed, distance, and angle of approach—your own and that of the other cars around you—affect your safety.  In short, you will be less likely to have a life-threatening collision.

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What if a student gets injured while training or competing?

We (or the tournament officials) will do our best to determine whether or not the injury is severe, and take the actions we believe most appropriate, such as administering first aid or arranging for transportation to a medical facility for treatment.  At the Seishin-Kan we diligently practice anzen daiichi ... safety first!

It is inevitable when practicing striking and blocking techniques, whether with or without weapons, and grappling techniques that involve controlled falls to the floor, that minor injuries like bruises, abrasions, and shallow cuts will occasionally happen.  Sprains or hyperextension injuries also occur from time to time.  We've never known any budōka who has trained for a year or more without having a few minor mishaps in the dōjō or during competition.  That is the inherent risk of training.  But both the frequency and severity of injuries in budō are much lower than those in popular sports like soccer and basketball—probably because participants realise the dangers involved and excercise a higher degree of care.  And in the 25+ years the Seishin-Kan has been offering instruction, we have not yet experienced a single incident in which a student has required hospitalisation.

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Why do I have to sign a waiver of liability in order to join the Seishin-Kan?

Because training in budō involves inherent risk of injury and death, and the Seishin-Kan does not provide any insurance or indemification against those risks.  Our written membership agreement specifically exempts the Seishin-Kan from any and all responsibility or liability for injuries to participants.  It is the responsibility of each individual member to obtain any insurance he or she desires to provide compensation for any injury, death, or other loss sustained while training.  Our members must therefore sign a waiver to ensure that they understand and are willing to accept those risks and responsibilities as part of their training and their responsibilities to the dōjō.  Anyone who is not willing to fully accept the risks of training and waive any and all rights to sue the Seishin-Kan or its instructors if they are injured or killed while training should not join.

However, to assist those wishing to obtain insurance against the inherent risks of training, we strongly recommend that members to join the AAU (Amateur Athletic Association of the United States).  AAU membership includes insurance coverage for injuries sustained during practice or at any AAU-sanction tournament.  The Seishin-Kan is a member of the AAU, so all of our training activities fall under AAU sanction, making AAU membership one of the best values available for this purpose.  The cost of AAU membership (for 2018-2019) is only $16.00 per year for children under age 21, and $29.00 per year for adults (21 and over).

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Do you have insurance to cover medical costs if I or my child get injured?

No. Obtaining medical, life, and/or property insurance coverage for any potential injury, death, or other loss while training or competing is the responsibility of each individual participant.  The Seishin-Kan does not provide any such coverage, and we highly recommend that you consult with your health insurance provider to confirm that you will be covered in the event of any injury while training or competing in budō.  To facilitate obtaining specific coverage for injuries sustained while training or competing in budō, the Seishin-Kan is a member of the AAU (Amateur Athletic Association of the United States), and individual memberships in the AAU include coverage for such injuries.  The responsibility to obtain and sustain individual AAU membership, however, rests entirely with the individual participant.

Those who have no such insurance and are unwilling to accept the risks of training without it should not join the Seishin-Kan.

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What else?

What other common question should we be answering here?  If you think of one, please e-mail us.

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More  Questions?


If you did not find all the answer(s) you were looking for here in our FAQ, please be sure to email us and we will reply promptly with the information.

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