NGAExperience® Nihon Goshin Aikido

How to Start Your Own NGA Study Group

The easiest and most proven way to build a following is to offer training to friends and relatives at your home. Need proof?  Consider the Gracies.  

Upon arriving in the United States in 1978, Rorion Gracie’s mission was to spread his family’s system of self-defense to the world.  He asked the head instructors at several martial arts schools if they would allow him to teach Gracie Jiu-Jitsu at their facility, but every one of them declined.  The world did not yet understand the critical importance of ground fighting, and individual instructors were unwilling to allow an unknown martial artist to teach at their school.

Never one to quit, Rorion and a few of his friends rented a small house with a two-car garage in Hermosa Beach, California.  He lined the floor of the garage with grappling mats and began teaching private classes to anyone and everyone he met.  He offered one free private class to each new student, and the opportunity for every established student to earn an additional free class for every referral.  Solely by word of mouth, the number of students grew rapidly, and the demand necessitated additional instructors.  So, in 1985, Rorion invited his brother Royce to help teach in the garage.  By 1989, Rorion and Royce were instructing 130 active students in the garage and had 80 more wait-listed.  It was at this point that Rorion and Royce decided to open the very first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in the United States, based out of Torrance, California.   This is how you grow!  

The Most Common Objection

I’m not a teacher.  

So what!  In 1962, Shihan Bowe wasn’t a teacher either and thank God that did not stop him!  Learning to teach is one of the benefits of opening your own NGA Study Group.

Why You Should Do It!

1.  Teaching Practice = Individual Skill Enhancement: As your skill level increases, you will have the opportunity to share your knowledge with less skilled training partners.  By helping them, you will deepen your technical understanding as you solve problems and address questions presented by students with different body types and physical capabilities.  Teaching will not only improve your instructional ability, but will also improve your aikido skills and understanding.

2.  Linear Learning Demystifies the Teaching Process:  Do not skip around the NGA curriculum.  For new students in particular, a non linear approach (skipping around) to learning is very frustrating, as there appears to be no logical progression throughout the context of a class, and certainly from class to class.  Here’s the deal:  Your brand new student does not need to be able to execute a high break fall before you teach him the First Wrist Technique, so why make him suffer, and even worse lose interest and quit?  I recommend you feed ukemi to students in small doses as necessary, and not before.  Also, keep in mind that good ukemi skills involve more than simply falling down.  In fact, it might be safe to say that the last thing uke does is fall down ~ after he has provided the proper attack, maintained connection with nage, followed nage’s lead appropriately, and attempted to counter, and then recover.

3.  Ego-less Training: Training injuries usually occur when practitioners are more concerned with victory than with safety.  Follow the NGA curriculum.  Initially train with trusted friends and relatives.  As you do these things you can avoid the potentially injurious, “tough-guy” egocentric personalities or environments you might find at most mixed martial arts schools and grow your study group wisely.

4. Teaching Posture:  Maintain an attitude of humility in all aspects of your instruction.

Most Common NGA Study Group Questions

1.  Do I need to be an NGA black belt to begin an NGA Small Group?

   No, there is no rank requirement or minimum experience level for you to open an NGA Study Group.  All we ask is for you to commit to regular practice and study of Nihon Goshin Aikido.

2.  Can I open a NGA Study Group in an existing martial arts school?

   Yes, you may operate a NGA Study Group from a martial arts school.  Just remember that an NGA Study Group operating in a commercial martial arts school may not advertise themselves as a NGA Dojo, and the leader may not charge over the cost of overhead for the instruction until the facility becomes a viable business entity.

3.  If someone isn’t training with a cooperative, coachable spirit, can I kick them out?

   Yes.  The Study Group Leader decides who trains with the group, but keep in mind that you must handle the situation professionally; with all the tact, and wisdom you can summon.  You are representing all of us ~ so don’t ever be hasty.  

4.  How do I gain feedback from someone who is better qualified?  

Seek the shelter of a Sensei in our system.  They are all there to promote the art.  You will find one you gel with.  As to training sessions, keep in mind that partner feedback is a major determinant of individual progress and satisfaction with your program.  Therefore, one of your most important responsibilities is to ensure that all members train together as partners who are united in pursuit of martial understanding.

5.  How are promotions handled?

In all instances where the small group leader is a previous student, that student’s previous sensei should be the first consideration for promotion.  If that relationship is not possible, or if you are a new student, please contact John Carter in the Lexington, SC Nihon Goshin Aikido Dojo as a possibility.  

Minimum Study Group Requirements

1.  Become a committed practitioner of Nihon Goshin Aikido ~ regardless of current rank ~ and teach the official NGA curriculum in your training sessions (minimum of two training sessions per week).  We recommend Tuesday & Thursday evenings.

Contrary to popular assumption, you do not need an existing list of students to begin your study group.  When you commit to starting an NGA study group, we will help you with advertising through our website.  We will also provide you with a simple marketing plan that will allow you to get the information out to the people in your community (without any cost, or only little cost, to you).

2.  Required Mat Space.  Falling and rolling on a bare floor is not going to win over any students.  You need to have access to a training area with an area of at least 144 square feet of mat space (area = length of the mat times the width of the mat) ~ this is NOT a lot of space.  You might be able to create a training facility in your garage, or a room in your home.  That said, do not rule out your local church, YMCA, existing martial arts school, etc. as a potential training facility ~ and they may even have mats.

Here’s an inexpensive place to go for mats.

One other point about mats:  using remnant carpet is not a bad idea for a start, but it is not recommended as a long term mat solution.  See it has a method to help get you started.  Further, don’t skimp on the padding if you decide to go the carpet route initially.

3.  Maintain the Free Study Policy (or only solicit costs to cover overhead).  

4.  Make sure you recognize Shihan Bowe.  If it wasn't for Richard Bowe's lifelong dedication to the practice, perfection, and perpetuation of Nihon Goshin Aikido, none of this would even be possible. In recognition of his life's work, and Master Morita’s and Master Nara’s before him, all NGA Study Groups must hang a picture of Mr. Bowe in the training area.

5.  Your study group can not operate within a 15 square mile radius of an official Nihon Goshin Aikido Dojo, or existing Nihon Goshin Aikido Study Group without permission from that dojo/ study group leader.  Click here for a comprehensive list of NGA dojos.

6. Update us on your progress, number of students, etc. Take pictures of your training time and send them to us. We’ll put them on the website, and it’ll encourage others to follow your example!

He would approve of your decision to further

your training, and

grow our art by starting your own study group.

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Begin Your Nihon Goshin Aikido Study Group in Nine Easy Steps

#1  Notify us of your intent so that we may add your study group to our list and help you market your study group (make sure that there is not an NGA dojo or study group within 15 miles of your study group location).

#2  Commit to training two times a week, regardless of who shows up.  (We recommend Tuesdays and Thursdays).  

#3 Invite your friends, neighbors, and family.  These are your easiest prospects.

#4  Do not charge fellow group members anything for training.

#5  Always dress for training in proper dojo attire (gi, with belt, NGA Patches, etc.). After a few sessions all group members should be properly attired also.

#6  Secure a minimum of 144 square feet of mat space for training.

#7  Honor Shihan Bowe by hanging his picture on the wall in your study location.

#8  Teach the Official NGA Curriculum.

#9  Keep us informed of your progress.

Those who have already taken the plunge!


Ragib Karamehmedovic

Serajavo, Bosnia Hertzegovina

United States:

Voluntown, CT

Mike Hoeing

(860) 884-5541

Raliegh, NC

James Durand,


Durham, NC

Carlton King


Platte City, MO

David Johnson


Fort Campbell, KY

Jared Dennis

I-Kyu (Brown Belt)

Montreat, NC

Bobby Wilund


Get Started Today!

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The Original Gracie Garage

Related article:  

“How to Start Your Own Nihon Goshin Aikido Dojo.  Do’s and Don’ts”

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