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Sensei is offering a new program at the dojo where I train (Aikido of San Diego) called Aikido 101. It's a 5-week series of ten 90-minute classes, and the first session starts next week. I'm looking forward to playing with some brand new people just starting out. What a great opportunity to revisit the fundamentals with a fresh listening, not to mention the chance to work on improving my ukemi!
The course will provide a well thought-out curriculum of principles and techniques so participants get a broad overview that's designed to introduce the basics. If it's all they ever do, they'll at least have a good beginner's understanding of what Aikido is, and some fundamental skills. If they decide to continue, they'll have a good foundation to build on.
A friend of mine asked me this morning "Looking for new experiences to enrich my life... Aikido 101 looks intriguing. Any input you'd like to share??" I was struck by her openness and curiosity. She's understandably cautious, since she has some physical issues she's concerned about, but she asked. She wondered. She allowed for the possibility that there might be value in it, and that she might be able to do it. Whatever she chooses, I appreciate and admire that about her.
Since I started training I've regularly invited friends to visit the dojo or participate in introductory programs we've offered. I've heard two kinds of responses from almost all of the people who decline - either they think they wouldn't be capable of doing it, or they have a incorrect picture in mind of what Aikido is, and they aren't interested in that. Both are so frustrating!
In the first group, I keep hearing folks say things like "I'm not very athletic," "I'd need to get in shape first," "I'm afraid I'd look stupid," or "I've always wanted to try a martial art, but..." I hate to hear people limit themselves like that! I want to ask them what else they miss out on in life because of that kind of thinking. Getting past those voices telling them they can't (or aren't ready, or probably shouldn't, or wish they could, someday, when the stars align just so...) might be the most important part of the course for these people. They might discover they have more potential than they thought.
Something this new program offers that might nudge them off the fence is that it's specifically intended for brand new beginners. Out of shape, uncoordinated, clueless, whatever... If they were afraid of looking stupid or not knowing what to do, or holding more advanced students back, they will be in exactly the right place. No more excuses. They don't even have to wear a gi, and don't have to join the dojo - just sign up and show up.
From the second group I hear comments like "I'm not interested in learning how to fight," "I took karate when I was 8, and I didn't like it," or "I wouldn't like all that punching and kicking." Aauuuggh! Frankly, I find this really annoying - a stubborn insistence on maintaining one's ignorance. I've never heard anyone offering one of these reasons temper it with any hint of curiosity or glimmer of the possibility that they might not have all the information. Never "Isn't that just like karate? I took karate as a kid and didn't like it," or "Is there fighting involved? I don't think I'd like it if there's fighting." It's like inviting a friend to try your favorite Thai restaurant with you, and they say "Oh no, I wouldn't like that. Thai food is all really spicy, and I don't like spicy food." There's no opening for learning more.
Like the first group, I wonder what else these folks miss out on in life because of this "cover-my-ears and 'LALALALAALAA - I can't hear you!!!' refuse-to-listen" approach to the unfamiliar? They aren't stupid people... I think they might actually be interested in participating if they knew what was available to them. I think it must be a subconscious defense, coming back to the same fear - that they might fail somehow, or embarrass themselves. They are afraid they don't have what it takes, and rather than confront that possibility they turn their backs on opportunities that don't feel comfortable. What else have they rejected with this reflexive, automatic "No, that's not for me" reaction?
In both cases, It saddens me to see people afraid to even give themselves a chance. I hope they eventually do something that puts a crack in that shell. Whether it's trying Aikido, taking a painting class, learning to play a musical instrument, going backpacking... I hope they take a leap eventually, and do something that shatters their own perception of their limitations.
Info and registration for the Aikido 101 course, if you know anyone in the San Diego area who might enjoy it, can be found here: