View Full Version : Master and Apprentice

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03-27-2005, 10:52 PM
I was wondering what people think is an appropriate level of formality for Aikido. I'm used to a pretty informal practice (in a Korean art). Although there is still respect accorded to instructors and seniors, it seems as if Aikido can be really formal. It seems to me like this formality imposes a master-apprentice relationship more easily than some of the other arts.

What I'm concerned about is that I would like to treat it as a fun hobby, but it seems that over time, the formality and structure in Aikido could cause you to narrow the gap between your life (where you're an individual) and the life of the dojo (where you're an apprentice). But I would prefer more separation between my life and Aikido.

Is this possible? Am I being ridiculous? Do I just need to be careful in picking a dojo? Is this something that just happens as a result of spending a lot of time doing any activity? Am I missing the point of aikido? Should I just take up competitive knitting? :) (or, you know, something else)

I hope my post makes sense. If not, I can try to clarify.


03-28-2005, 01:37 PM
I think that has more to do with the particular dojo and sensei than the art as a whole. Our dojo has a high level of respect and there are certain rule of conduct but unless they are really abused it's a very relaxed atmosphere. It's a realy fun place to learn.

Check out a few different ones and talk to the students, you'll find one you like.

03-28-2005, 02:30 PM
I guess it depends on how badly the apprentice wants what the master has. If you believe that you must have whatever it is that they have on offer I imagine you would have to put up with whatever they throw your way. Just make sure that the "master" actually has something worthwhile by doing as much research as possible. If you want to keep it light and separate from your everyday life then most dojo would probably be OK. You might just have to deal with the occasional lost in space fanatic.

03-28-2005, 02:39 PM
I'm not exactly sure what aspects of master/apprentice you're trying to avoid.

If you mean "I just want to train, I don't want to teach or coach or balance the books or otherwise end up helping to run the school" then you should probably look for a large school with plenty of students. At a small dojo, whether formal or informal, this is difficult to avoid.

If you mean "I don't want claims on my time outside of what I choose to spend in class" that may also be easier at a large dojo. You can also help assure this by setting clear limits early: "I'm sorry, but my other activities mean I won't be available outside of regular class hours." Most teachers will respect this, or will tell you up front if they can't.

If you mean "I don't want my personal character to be an issue; I don't want to be judged at all, or only on my technical skills" that's harder. It would not be possible at the school where I train; sensei has made it clear that people will not gain rank unless they accept responsibility for the safety of their juniors, and show overall good judgement in dealing with them. There may be schools where it's possible, but I'd worry about the downside (if you aren't under judgement, neither are your seniors; and senior students who lack self-control and good sense are bloody dangerous).

Mary Kaye

03-28-2005, 02:52 PM
Hi Mary Kaye. Thanks for your comments. In my post I was referring to the first two, and definitely not the last one. Any place where people aren't nice to their partners and practice recklessly is a place I'd avoid. Better to do nothing than to be in one of those places.

I guess I would still like good instruction, though, so a small dojo might be better than a large dojo.

03-28-2005, 04:44 PM
I guess I would still like good instruction, though, so a small dojo might be better than a large dojo.

Good instruction is where you find it--some big schools teach extremely well. I had the pleasure of visiting a huge Ki Society dojo (to contrast with my tiny home dojo) and was really pleasantly impressed by the classes. They were bigger, but many had multiple assistant instructors, and there was a real energy and excitement to being in such a large group with so many senior people. (And very, very good ones, too. I had met people of that rank before, but I'd never seen them being *students* before. Wow.)

The dynamic is different, though. I'm part of a small dojo with about 20 regular students; if we get 8 students for a class it's remarkable. As a result, everyone knows everyone else, and there is considerable pressure to take on responsibilities--almost all of the core students have some dojo job or other. (I publish the newsletter and keep the wall calendar current.) We can seldom manage level-restricted classes except for the new-beginners' class, which sometimes means the senior people get tired of working on the basics, and sometimes means the junior people try stuff that is over their head. And it's clear that the instructors are thinking, from pretty early on, "Can this student help teach? How can I train him/her to do so?" I have a bit of aptitude for teaching (more than I have for aikido, anyway) and I get a lot of sometimes stressful attention because of it--suddenly being asked to lead parts of a class, that sort of thing. It does feel like an apprenticeship now and then.

Mary Kaye

03-28-2005, 09:34 PM
Well, what about this side of things: It's actually quite difficult to truly integrate one's Budo training with the whole of one's life. That is to say, odds are that we won't be able to do such a thing even if we wanted to. I mean that statistically speaking - for all of us. So maybe such an issue doesn't have to be such a pressing concern - especially at the beginning. Maybe you can just train, and sort of let happen what happens, since what's going to happen is going to happen anyways. :-)

Steve I
03-29-2005, 11:22 AM
But remember, knitting isn't about winning competitions, its about making something beautiful and bettering yourself (making cheap christmas presents don't hurt either). Just remember that on your search.

03-29-2005, 12:36 PM
But how will I know that I'm any good at knitting if I don't try my skill against someone else?

I kid, I kid.

Thanks for all your responses.