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I'm just wondering weather it would be appropriate for me to date one of the coloured belts at my dojo. I don't instruct her personally, and I know her outside the club through school. I would like to get anyone's thoughts on this, is it disrespectful to her or our master or the art if we date, if not is there anything I should consider before I ask her out. I haven't asked anyone one at the club, but everyone outside who I've asked thinks it's okay, but I'd prefer someone who trains in martial arts and understands the need for respect at all times

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    Dictating who can date whom is cult behavior. No one at any school has a right to tell you that you can't. HOWEVER. They should expect you to behave professionally toward each other inside the dojo, both in terms of flirting, and if the relationship goes sour. You are walking a fine line. If it doesn't work out, one of you will probably quit. – The Wudang Kid Oct 20 '14 at 14:32
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    When I was teaching on a regular basis, I had my wife as one of my students. Unless you are in a VERY formal, old school style dojo, then it shouldn't matter. Just talk to your school owner about it. – JohnP Oct 20 '14 at 17:02
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There's no way for us to know the relevant factors here: your dojo's rules and culture, your instructor's opinion, whether she considers you to have some sort of power position over her.

But if you're both in school, know each other outside of the dojo, and you don't teach her, it sounds fine.

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    Good answer. If schools have a particular policy or etiquette rules in place about this, then you should follow those rules. Otherwise, socializing outside of class is not only expected but encouraged. That is often what draws people to learn martial arts - making new friends and socializing. I would just add one thing: Be careful that your relationship doesn't affect how you behave in class. In class, you behave as if you two are just students. Cordial. No PDA. Don't argue. Don't bring your outside emotions into class. If you can't do that, then don't get involved with someone there. – Steve Weigand Oct 18 '14 at 22:12
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It depends on the rules of the school, of course, but in general:

  1. It happens all the time, and sometimes works out great. (Full disclosure: I am married to somebody who I met when I was an instructor and she was a student, 20 years ago.)

  2. It can be fine if it's a mutual thing and you are extremely careful that it doesn't interfere with any instruction or the group dynamics of the school.

  3. It's VERY easy, if you are in a position of power, for it to seem like undue pressure or even harassment to be asking out lower-ranking students. Think about it from her point of view: if she loves this martial art and school but doesn't want to get involved with you romantically, she may feel that at best it is awkward to refuse somebody who could potentially make her training less rewarding for her in the future, and at worst might seem like she's not able/allowed to refuse (in general, martial arts students are expected to do what instructors ask of them without a whole lot of room to refuse).

Also consider that if it doesn't work out (and most relationships do not), it could be very uncomfortable for one or both of you to continue doing this martial art that you like. You seem like you're young and may not have a lot of experience with ending relationships and doing so in an amicable way. You may wish to approach this by thinking about whether you'd be willing to give up the martial arts school if the relationship didn't work out and you couldn't stand being around her afterwards. It's not dissimilar to why it's not usually a very good idea to date a coworker or a neighbor -- when it's over and you need to get away from them, you can't without serious inconvenience or pain.

  • +1 This is a really great description of the social dynamics. – Dave Liepmann Oct 24 '14 at 19:36
  • are you still in 1800? – AFetter Jun 23 '15 at 0:23
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I wouldn't care if it were my school. I can't speak for anyone else though. But I've never had a problem when two students or a Sabumnim/Senpai and a student were obviously in a relationship. As long as you keep your fighting/flirting out of the dojang and others' faces, it simply isn't something I care about.

In fact, it's a great way of making your school feel like a family when people are connecting on a personal level. There is a bit more effort you need to put into maintaining discipline, but it's well worth it when you know your students are getting along outside of class too.

The nugget of wisdom here is that your instructor may feel legitimately concerned about discipline in his school, but if you two show yourself to be aware of his concerns, he shouldn't give you too much of a hard time.

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FWIW - my original school would definitely have expected you not to date her, even if you hadn't been training at the same dojo.

Given you've thought to ask on here, your instinct is obviously that it could be an issue. Asking your master directly - before talking to the student - is obviously the most honourable option.

If your master objects don't take it personally, there are many legitimate reasons he or she might discourage this. How fully and eloquently they're put into words, and whether you personally find the presentation convincing, isn't really important - IMHO you should still respect the school's right to have expectations in this area. Rather than fixate on specific arguments or getting angry about, just focus on deciding whether asking her out is more important to you than training with that school. If you quit the school, I'd say you've no ongoing obligation to the school or master not to ask her at school (but if you do end up together don't train with her while she's still training at the school).

You may find it easier to understand if your master asks you not to date if you've already considered the legitimacy of the potential reasons, so I'll mention a couple here. Once a student has been asked for a date or felt some romantic/sexual overtones from a senior student or instructor:

  • They'll inevitably wonder whether their training (learning opportunities, fair consideration in gradings, interactions in kumite / self-defence exercises, feedback and encouragement, social status within the community, relaxation or stiffening of behavioural expectations around training) etc has been influenced by their acceptance or rejection.

  • Some (students) will - even if unconsciously - have different expectations of you afterwards, e.g. feeling they can attack you more carelessly, or that you shouldn't make normal amounts and types of contact thereafter, or that if you're gazing past their guard it's suddenly creepy....

    • It's not about whether such discrimination actually occurs - just the unprovable absence of it can ruin a student's trust and/or comfort in the training environment, change their perspective and experience, and compromise their focus on training.

After a break-up, what happens if she starts saying things about you to the people at training? Do you want to have to either have them think less of you or have to argue your side and bring a lot of personal baggage into the dojo? Are personal discussions acceptable at the dojo? Even the people who hear anything personal from her will inevitably undergo some of the changes of perspective and expectation towards you listed above... it quickly spirals outwards. Even if nobody says anything to others at training, it may be simply too unpleasant to be around each other such that one of you feels compelled to quit.

That some students are training precisely because they've felt vulnerable makes it especially unfortunate if someone in a position of power at the dojo risks conflating in their mind their training experience with their acceptance of romantic advances.

That's just a taste of some of the reasons a school might sincerely believe it's appropriate to ban or discourage some or all romantic relationships between people at the dojo.

I'm not actually trying to argue that on balance and for every dojo the "no relationships" position is the correct one - just saying don't get frustrated or angry with your master/school if that's their position - it's probably well meant and based on a lot of experience or thought.

For you - the important decisions are whether you're going to ask your master first or risk getting "caught" later, whether you believe it's fair to her to ask her (given the kinds of concerns above), whether you'd be prepared to quit the school to be together if necessary etc..

  • I appreciate the insight of an experienced martial artist. Your absolutely correct that this should discussed with the Shihan. Could you possibly recommended the appropriate way to bring it up to him. Thanks again. – Oscar McPherson Oct 19 '14 at 5:47
  • @OscarMcPherson: things differ school to school, but e.g. in my first school: knock on the master's office door when he didn't seem busy (not soon before class), say there's a matter you're wondering about and you'd appreciate his letting you know what's expected of you. Then explain there's a girl from [high?] school you like and wanted to ask out, but she's training at the dojo too now. You understand there are potential issues - which you would of course try to manage and minimise - but would appreciate his clarifying the school's expectations. Something like that. (We were very formal!) – Tony D Oct 19 '14 at 15:17
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It happens, and I don't have a problem with it.

Every school is different, and you should adhere to the norms and expectations there at the school. If I was not absolutely certain of my teacher's answer, and perhaps even if I was, I would ask my teacher if it were acceptable.

There is a saying that one should never eat where they poop. It is normally intended to discourage dating in the workplace, since most relationships don't work out. However, it could also apply to the martial arts.

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