View Full Version : relationships and martial arts

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07-27-2000, 11:42 PM
Here may be a topic a bit sensitive for some. But it has been on my mind.

I was reading a post here, and someone mentioned how many of their senior instructors (presumably the longest and most sincerely training students) were divorced.

My dojo has the same phenomenon. Of our three instructors, one is recently divorced, one was never married, and one is married but has constant conflicts with her husband over time spent training. In addition, many of the shugyo students have complained of similar stress. Many have had to make choices between training and their spouse.

After training for five years, I am getting to the point that the extra training and responsibilities are starting to reach limits. I have mentioned several times to my wife that I wanted to apply for shugyo, and she has been very guarded. In fact, when I did start conversations with my Sensei in this regard, he was one step ahead... he insisted that before anything could happen, I would have to sit down with him and my wife and HE had to be confident that she was on board before accepting me.

Well, unfortunately my Sensei died recently, and that talk never happened. I am still looking for a menkyo Sensei... but what then?

Anyone have anything to share on the pressures of training on marriage?

Ron Gullon

07-28-2000, 07:53 AM
Balance....... I am extremely lucky to have a spouse that not only understands my desire to train, but when we host seminars, she will take a very active role and either cater food in for lunch breaks, or assist with paperwork. She does this although she has no desire to train! In return though, I ensure she is the center of my attention when I'm not training!
Sometimes I'll take a Saturday off and we'll go sit at the beach and spend some quality time together. Or sometimes we just go do things she really wants to do. I think it's a matter of balance. It's a partnership. Give and take.

Also, I think that sometimes we forget to remind the people backing us how much we appreciate their support and understanding. This includes not only our spouses, but also our instructors, which are willing to take the time out of their lives to share their special gifts with us.

Remember that people will seldom remember what you say or what you do. They will however, always remember how you made them feel!



07-28-2000, 09:38 AM
I think I am about as lucky as you can get. My fiancee is one of my students. She loves aikido and it is quality time for us. Before she started though, it was a little rough for me to be gone so much (I have a 40 mile commute to my dojo...by choice:) So when she expressed interest I welcomed her wholeheartedly. I think one problem I have seen with my peers is that they tend to want to "persuade" their significant others into practicing aikido and then develop unreasonable expectations for them. A gokyu student and a dan rank tend to have different goals and levels of commitment. So, I believe to make relationships like this work, the "shugyo" student must put themselves in their spouses shoes. Step back from everything, observe, and of course breathe.

07-28-2000, 10:26 AM
Excellent topic Ron, I was thinking of bringing up the same subject myself and you beat me to it!

I think almost everybody struggles with this issue - some more some less. Akira Tohei Sensei used to always say to his students that one had to not only have balance in their aikido, but also in life outside the dojo. He said he could even tell when one of his students was "out of balance" in their personal lives by observing their practice in the dojo. As a husband and father of a nine month old, I find that I am almost constantly struggling to find that balance between spending time with my family and my desire to go to the dojo. Having an understanding partner is an enormous help. My fellow teachers and fellow students at the dojo are also very understanding when I'm not able to help out as much at the dojo due to my family (I just wish my boss was as understanding - another topic). I agree with all of the above posts. Another thing that I find helps me is to remind myself that this is another way to practice my aikido by trying to achieve that balance between these issues and being very flexible. That, and compromise and education. To my wife, aikido and the martial arts are very foreign, so it's been important for me to educate and reassure her what aikido is and what it means to me ("No honey, it's not a cult"). I don't think she fully understands (hell, I usually don't), but I think it helps. In fact, I'm leaving for week long summer camp tomorrow, and my wife and I came to an agreement that it was OK for me to attend most of the seminar as long as I come home for a couple of days in the middle of the week to spend time with her and my son - then I can go back and finish the rest of the week at camp. Luckily for me, I only live a forty minute drive from the seminar location. Anyway, that's my two cents worth.


07-28-2000, 12:27 PM
Hey y'all,

I think I'm even luckier than Mikey! My wife, April, trains with me as my peer. (as opposed to sempai/kohai) I began training about six months before her and would come back home and chatter incessantly about class. Eventually her interest was piqued and she started too. We started testing together from yonkyu and we both recently passed nidan. (Seven years)

Training together in aikido is a very powerful medium for us to continue changing as individuals and, more importantly, to have the confidence in ourselves and each other to ENJOY the changes. (For the most part anyway.)

As far as training together, we pretty much treat each other as we would any other member of the dojo. While we sometimes exchange a wink and a smile we rarely comment on each others technique (not now anyway, we used to quite alot). Commenting on technique can be a potential pitfall during the first couple of years training together to be sure. After a while one comes to see that they're mostly projecting their own flaws onto their partner (wife or otherwise) and then one stops commenting and simply pays attention.

I am immensely grateful that our situation has turned out as such. Her passion for the art is, at least, equal to mine. Were she not training with me I think there would definitely be some issues as to how much time and attention I devote to my training and our dojo. In the end, as in all things, it's a matter of priorities. The number one priority in life for me is her and she me, (I hope), next is aikido training. We're one of the luckiest couples in the aiki world in that we can meet and enjoy both priorities together, at the same time!


08-03-2000, 03:40 PM
Boy, tell me about it. At my kendo dojo,it is basically accepted that "Wives/Girlfriends just don't get Kendo!!!!" For one fellow, it is always a stuggle to come to class because his wife hates it. He says that sometimes he even has to bribe her with a gift of some sort if he wants to go practice at one of the other local dojo on a day that isn't his "regular" pracrice day. Another guy keeps dumping girlfriends because they are always down on kendo. My own fiance gives me a hard time too. Whenever I am gonna go to kendo. "Stay with me," she says sweetly. I insist on going, and I do end up going, but it has usually gone from "stay with me," to fine, do what you want.I mean, she isn't totally unsupportive just less that I would like.
I have another friend at a local Karate school, well his wife hates it and always does everything possible to discourage him from going. The worst part of this is that he is a junior instructor, and so is responsible for teaching a couple classes durring the week. Guilt trips, dropping him off late on purpose, just leaving him with their daughter so it is inpossible for him to go. Oh its terrible.
I say, try to get your mate involved in the dojo. Not necassarily a member. even if you can get her to hang out with your friends from the dojo for a beer at the local watering hole, I think it will help because then she will at least know these people, and it may be harder for her to reject them for you.

08-03-2000, 04:54 PM
What does the term shugyo mean? Probably something really simple, but it keeps getting used in this discussion, and would be interesting to know exactly what it means.

Thanks for bearing would yet another of my offtopic questions
Alex Magidow
Month 4, and just as hooked on this art...

08-03-2000, 08:30 PM
I'm sorry to hear about all you guys having problems with your girlfriends (any girls having trouble with unsuportive boyfriends out there?). Personnally I have been very lucky, my girlfriend likes that I do aikido, she says I'm always in a good mood when I talk to her after practicing and she likes that it has been keeping me fit (I'm in much better shape than I was before). She says she wants to try it once she has a little more free time, I hope she does and gets to enjoy it as much as me, but if not I don't think she would ever ask me to give it up.
Of course I think part of the reason we don't have any trouble is that she knows she comes first and always will.

08-03-2000, 10:08 PM
well, guess i'm lucky in that i was unattached when i started training, and have remained so....i did briefly date a man who called Aikido 'the work of the devil', but i was going to call it quits before he said that...
as for the problems with girlfriends and wives, i'm sure you guys have put yourselves in their shoes...if she is 'sticking' you with childcare so you can't go train, have you volunteered to stay home with them so she can get out on other nights? hired a sitter on yet other nights so the two of you have time together? if she complains about no time for the two of you, are you devoting more time to the dojo than to her? i certainly hope you do not spend more money on dues/equipment/etc than you do on things for her or the children. Unfair that the single folks can devote more time to the dojo, but they don't have the wonderful family you do...i am keenly aware of the time the guys spend at the dojo as opposed to home with wives/children, and always thank the wives when i meet them for sharing that precious time with us who are learning from their husbands. i also do my best to recruit the wives to join :)

08-04-2000, 12:53 AM
Mongo has it right... balance is key.

I am very fortunate in that my girlfriend figured out really early that my training is part of what makes me the kind of person I am. She doesn't try to change me and supports me very strongly.

In fact, when I take days off to dedicate them to her as a way to balance my time, she always pushes me to go train anyway.

This fall, we're taking a vacation together and I'll be training in a dojo the entire time we're away.

I always do my best to repay that kind of support, even though she always seems surprised that it needs to be repayed.


08-04-2000, 06:12 PM
Mongo wrote:
Also, I think that sometimes we forget to remind the people backing us how much we appreciate their support and understanding. This includes not only our spouses, but also our instructors, which are willing to take the time out of their lives to share their special gifts with us.

Remember that people will seldom remember what you say or what you do. They will however, always remember how you made them feel!



Being on a path can change a person deeply and create self-knowledge which was not there before. This knowledge is truly like the apple in the Garden of Eden.. taste of it and you may very well find yourself needing to exit the Garden posthaste if your mate cannot, or will not, accept the changes and encourage you. And we must have acceptance and encouragement and support or we cannot grow.
That's my experience...
Others like Tarik find that their loved one understands that training makes them more of what that person loves.
My future former spouse always used to tell me that he knew better than to ask me to choose between my training and him. I now wonder why he saw the need to for me to choose. We trained together and still do, and it brought us closer, but for personal reasons, after a while, it was all we could talk about.
He frequently remarked that while it was just a hobby for him, it was something else for me.
Women tend to do more of the emotional work in a relationship and be expected to be around more. My former spouse was "supportive" but also somewhat resentful... though he did appreciate my personal improvements through the art.
What I am mulling over now is something Ashely Montague said: "Love is an expression, through ACTS, of your deep involvement with the best possible welfare of another" (paraphrased).
Which is pretty much what Mongo said.
Thanks for posting about it, I am so THERE!

("Candygram for Mongo??";)

08-04-2000, 06:27 PM
Nah. MA folks are just wacky, and wacky people have more relationship problems.

<just kidding>

or maybe MA people end up being more honest with themselves and others, and more self-confident and willing to go it alone or go through rough times.


08-05-2000, 12:21 AM
Axiom wrote:
What does the term shugyo mean? Probably something really simple, but it keeps getting used in this discussion, and would be interesting to know exactly what it means.

Thanks for bearing would yet another of my offtopic questions
Alex Magidow
Month 4, and just as hooked on this art...

The term shugyo means pursuit of knowledge, studying, learning, training and discipline, etc. It is, I believe, a shortened version of the term "shugyosha" which means practitioner of (Buddhist) austerities. However, I have also herd the word shugyosha used to refer to someone who is a serious student of the way of the sword. The addition of "sha" at the end of the term is the reading for a character that simply means person. I suppose that it can be applied to students of other martial arts as well, but I don't know for sure.

08-05-2000, 01:48 PM
I haven't noticed a problem with relationships, but it's kept me from doing things I'd like to do. Sports, for example, have games on Saturday, so that's out. Extracurricular activities meet on Weekdays, so they're out.

I guess it's a balance of things we like to do (hobbies) and thigns we have to do (budo).


08-07-2000, 03:45 AM
I guess I am quite lucky in that my Wife is very understanding and encouraging of me doing Aikido. Currently I go twice a week, however, I have discovered there is a sword class at my dojo midweek too. I think because we have been together for over 10 years, and married for 4 (this August 10th BTW!!)and I only recently started Aikido we are both more understanding of each others needs and wants. She is involved in a spiritualist circle and making friends and having fun that way, I am doing Aikido and making friends and having fun that way!! My wife recently met and spent some time with the people from my dojo, including my Sensei and his wife (also my Sensei!) and thoroughly enjoyed herslf, so I know, even though she is unlikely to take up Aikido as I have, she gets on well with my teachers and dojo mates and will be more than happy to join in with the social side of things which goes along with it!!

Balance as Mongo said is definitely the key!!! I don't think that 3,4,5, or 6 years ago I could have started the art AND maintain our relationship. We have reached the point in our lives where we don't need to live out of each others pocket to know we love each other and that makes a very very big difference!!