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Hanna B
08-31-2005, 05:14 AM
I'd like to comment on the thread Aikido survivors (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=8763) in the Voices of Experience forum, and I do it here since I only have half the experience needed to post there.

Every now and then thay you hear wonder why people quit aikido, making it sound like it is something unnatural - that the only natural thing once you are passed kyu stage is to continue for the rest of your life. Is used to kind of believe that myself, at least what myself regards. I didn't believe there would be a time when aikido was not a part of my life. Well, it happened.

Lots of people drop out never actually "quitting", if you know what I mean. They keep thinking they will come back to aikido, some day. Other things take its toll: work and family being the most common ones, but also other interests of various kinds. Doing aikido doesn't necessarily mean you put it as number one in your like (after family and work, hopefully). Sometimes music or something else takes time from your aikido, and sometimes up to the point that people stop going to the dojo.

I think I understand what Rupert Atkinson means, when he says people stop doing aikido due to worsening skill. The major reason here, I believe, is that these people for a longer period of time have trained very little. Some people can maintain an astounding level and even develop on less than one class a week of wither training or teaching, for years and years - others can not, and their technique detoriorate. This is hard to take, and I believe the choice is like increase dose, or leave - because this dose of training simply doesn't lead anywhere. Some of these people increase their training dose, because aikido is important to them. Others do not, propably because other things in life is more important. Some of these leave training. Some of them come back later. Others don't.

When Peter Goldsbury talkes about yudansha quitting due to politican reasons or simply conflicts with their teachers etc, I think we should remember that these are the people who take a decision to leave. It is a hard decision to take, but you do it and then you quit. I think this group should be distinguished from the group who haven't said to themselves that they have left aikido, but don't show up in the dojo any more.

To Mark's comment I would like to add: no, doing aikido is not as natural as brushing your teeth. Lots of senior aikido people think aikido is a part of life, and this is the only way it could be, period. For us who did leave, and found that there are many other activities with similar features regarding continous learning, learning about yourself and other people, and about control over you body... you have seen that these activities foster similar myths about their uniqueness, as aikido do, and you realise that there are meny roads to Rome - plus, some people actually do prefer Venice.

Probably I have misunderstand what Mark meant, but... I have left aikido, I haven't lost my teeth and my mouth doesn't smell.

crbateman
08-31-2005, 05:39 AM
People can find as many reasons to quit as they can find reasons to continue. This is the way with most anything. Why should training in Aikido be different? It's just human nature. Training takes dedication, and many simply don't have it, or must give up because other considerations in their lives take precedence, for better or worse. One thing is certain: Training half-heartedly is not training at all. This "going through the motions" is different, however, from taking the philosophies and spirit of Aikido into other parts of life, to be beneficial to oneself and to others. This is just training on another level from the physical, and it doesn't have to stop when one's days in the dojo are finished, regardless of the reason.

Amelia Smith
08-31-2005, 07:27 AM
One thing is certain: Training half-heartedly is not training at all.

I disagree. If you are showing up and going through the motions, you are participating. Your body continues to learn, or at least retain its conditioning, even if you're not getting the most out of it. Most people who train over a long period of time will go through periods of less intense training, but that's very different from not showing up for months on end.

--Amelia

NixNa
08-31-2005, 12:51 PM
I have to admit that im most guilty of this - leaving aikido twice. As much as a martial arts junkie as i am, i kinda seem to have problems juggling all my passions. Maybe its a good thing since it doesnt really apply only to aikido. You see, i'm a drummer and i often have to skip wednesday trainings if the rehearsals happen to be on it too. And this happened far too often until i gradually stopped training altogether just to be on schedule with the band. Things got worse, alot of times when im training aikido i'll be thinking abt my drumming and yes, vice versa. Cant seem to concentrate on one thing unless i shut the other out completely. Kept telling myself training is training and playing is playing. And its only a matter of time before one precedes over the other. Anyhow, im back in aikido, not sure how long im gonna last this time hmm... lets see

And yes, i do agree with Amelia. The sole effort of pushing urself to the dojo is already training on the mind by itself. :)

crbateman
08-31-2005, 08:04 PM
If you are showing up and going through the motions, you are participating.Sorry you disagree, but if you drag yourself in there with the attitude that you don't want to be there and you're not going to put anything into it, your benefit will be minimal. And if that's good enough for you, then you have already quit on yourself. Training requires and repays discipline, and not just when you feel like it. And the other factor you have not considered is that lack of dedication is contageous, and it is unfair to your fellow students for you to give less than your best. Paying your monthly dues does not entitle you to kill everybody else's buzz. It's not good enough just to show up. Save your money and stay home. If you were my student, I would tell you that very thing.

giriasis
08-31-2005, 08:28 PM
Sorry you disagree, but if you drag yourself in there with the attitude that you don't want to be there and you're not going to put anything into it, your benefit will be minimal. And if that's good enough for you, then you have already quit on yourself. Training requires and repays discipline, and not just when you feel like it. And the other factor you have not considered is that lack of dedication is contageous, and it is unfair to your fellow students for you to give less than your best. Paying your monthly dues does not entitle you to kill everybody else's buzz. It's not good enough just to show up. Save your money and stay home. If you were my student, I would tell you that very thing.

I have to agree with Amelia, you have no clue what personal challenges people are facing when they come into the dojo -- or just to get themselves to a dojo. Who are you to say that they are not putting in enough effort. How do you not know that they are not putting in their best. Their best effort might be your least effort, but that doesn't take away the challenges they face. Everyone has their own path to follow, your path is not necessarily theirs. Someone wouldn't go to class if they didn't want to be there no one is forcing them to show up. And I know my sensei would much rather someone show and put forth their best effort, even if its only 20% of their abilities, than not show up at all. If 20% is all they can do, then that's all they can do. It's not me to judge.

Also, I have yet to see an adult show up and not care about their training. I've seen children forced by their parents to attend not care, but not adults.

rachmass
08-31-2005, 09:27 PM
I echo Amelia and Anne Maries sentiments about "showing up".


Edited; babbling and not making sense

crbateman
08-31-2005, 10:21 PM
How do you not know that they are not putting in their best.Because she is talking about "going through the motions" (her words) This does not evoke the feeling of "doing their best". Everyone has their own path to follow And not all lead through Aikido. Someone wouldn't go to class if they didn't want to be there no one is forcing them to show up. Wanna bet? I can't count the times I've seen someone "going through the motions" when it was obvious that they would rather have been somewhere else. Open your eyes. It's not me to judge.Train with somebody whose mind is somewhere else, and then tell me that, especially if you (or they) get injured.

What you are missing is that I am not talking about who is better or more able. I am talking about dedication, without which you should not train, regardless of whether you are able to get yourself to the dojo. Big deal. You owe it to yourself, your teacher, and your fellow students to not be on the mat without your best attitude, and purpose, any more than you should be behind the wheel without maximum sobriety. Not gonna walk the walk? Stay home. "Going through the motions" does not cut it, and I hope your Sensei is wise enough to see it this way. If he does not expect more than that from you, it is regrettable.

Jeanne Shepard
09-01-2005, 01:28 AM
Because she is talking about "going through the motions" (her words) This does not evoke the feeling of "doing their best". And not all lead through Aikido. . Wanna bet? I can't count the times I've seen someone "going through the motions" when it was obvious that they would rather have been somewhere else. Open your eyes. Train with somebody whose mind is somewhere else, and then tell me that, especially if you (or they) get injured.

What you are missing is that I am not talking about who is better or more able. I am talking about dedication, without which you should not train, regardless of whether you are able to get yourself to the dojo. Big deal. You owe it to yourself, your teacher, and your fellow students to not be on the mat without your best attitude, and purpose, any more than you should be behind the wheel without maximum sobriety. Not gonna walk the walk? Stay home. "Going through the motions" does not cut it, and I hope your Sensei is wise enough to see it this way. If he does not expect more than that from you, it is regrettable.

I'm glad I train at a dojo where the teachers see that sometimes dedication is getting to the dojo and training at all.
If you haven't been in a space where that can take all you have, you may not be able to understand what it takes.

Jeanne :(

justin
09-01-2005, 01:42 AM
my sensei always has a chat on the mat before we leave and always make the point of reminding us that our time is very valuable and should not be wasted and i think he has a very good point, if you want to train go if you dont then dont.

Tim Ruijs
09-01-2005, 06:29 AM
...make the point of reminding us that our time is very valuable and should not be wastedI agree :cool: do tell my students the same thing.
... if you want to train go if you dont then dont. That's a bit harsh, although I understand what's between the words. People do train for very different reasons. Some make more of an effort than others because of this. One should remember that, always.
The mere fact that someone shows up at practice must be respected as you have no idea how much trouble that person went through to get there :sorry: Even if that person attends each and every class and is always on time :D
The same respect is due to those that 'quit', whatever the reason.
They have undoubtely helped others in past lessons, perhaps not even realising it ;)

Peter Goldsbury
09-01-2005, 06:38 AM
This post is more about commitment than about quitting aikido.

I think times have changed so much since the days of the Kobukan, when O Sensei used to require a letter of introduction signed by two sponsors. At that time (up to 1942), the idea of aikido as a general martial art, to be practised and enjoyed by anybody, would never have been seriously entertained and so the commitment that I think Mr Bateman is talking about was never in question.

After the war, aikido was spread in Japan as a 'general' martial art and Japanese instructors went abroad to spread aikido overseas. However, I do not think that any serious effort was made to explain the implications of aikido becoming an essential part of one's lifestyle.

By this I mean that, for example, there are many members of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo who go to the early morning class taught by Doshu and have been doing so for 30 or even 40 years. That is it. Their daily hour on the mat with Doshu is their sole experience of aikido. Are they committed? Certainly. Do they train hard? Probably. If they stopped training, I am sure it would be a major wrench.

It is hard to put this into words, but I think that my experience of aikido in the US is rather more 'existentialist', in the sense that the experience itself was seen to be somehow self-justifying. But to be fully self-justifying, the experience must also be 'full', in the sense that putting everything you have into training must be a public act. So what you do on the mat, at any particular time on any particular day, is seen as a clear indication of your total commitment to the art.

So as a young 1st kyu in the Boston Dojo of the New England Aikikai, I attended virtually every practice and so entered the small group of 'core' students. I had the time; others, perhaps with equal hunger for cracking the 'code', did not and so never entered the core group.

For me in the NE Aikikai in the early 70s, aikido was like cleaning one's teeth. The idea of stopping would have been devastating. Now, 30 years later as an instructor, I have become far less judgmental about my students, especially as I believe that it demands a certain courage to enrol in my dojo.

Steven Seagal, my predecessor as a foreigner running an aikido dojo in Japan, had the advantage of opening a dojo in Osaka, a huge city with an enormous population. My own dojo is situated in in a tiny rural town, part of a fiercely conservative farming district, famous for the quality of it's rice and sake.

The idea that aikido is a general martial art is not readily accepted here, since people either practise traditional koryu, usuallly privately and in small groups, or practise judo and/or kendo, which has been taught in schools since the days of Jigoro Kano and where the idea of quitting, even after shodan, is generally accepted.

So people come to my dojo fully aware that it is on the outer margins of traditional Japanese culture and probably are more prepared to quit than those in a more traditional dojo run by Japanese.

Best regards,

rob_liberti
09-01-2005, 07:54 AM
I guess I just always try my best. If that happens to be just going through the motions but it's the best I got, then that's what I do. If I feel I'm unsafe I get off the mat. There is a value of having a practice and always doing your best. I think that certain things trump aikido. There are an infinite number of reasons why not to come to class. They cannot be argued with. Yet, some people make it to class every class (or almost every class) and those are the people I'm there to do aikido with.

I have no problem if someone needs to take time off then there is no need to judge them as far as I am concerned. However, I think Clark is taking the bold move of helping (those who might waiver). They get some external (his) help in making the decision to get to class. To that end I think he is doing them a favor. That kind of compassion isn't in me just yet. If you don't want it as much as I do, then that's your business. I won't typically promote someone like that, but they are welcome to come and be a part of our class for as long as I have any say about it. I have had students for a long time who would have loved to be "clients" as opposed to "students" and I just simply refused to treat them as anything other than a student. They are always welcome, but I always expect them to do their best (which includes getting to class). It's just that I do accept that their best might not be the minimum requirement for Clark's dojo and I'm currently okay with that.

Rob

giriasis
09-01-2005, 08:07 AM
Your words were in response to Hanna and part of which Amelia quoted:

People can find as many reasons to quit as they can find reasons to continue. This is the way with most anything. Why should training in Aikido be different? It's just human nature. Training takes dedication, and many simply don't have it, or must give up because other considerations in their lives take precedence, for better or worse. One thing is certain: Training half-heartedly is not training at all. This "going through the motions" is different, however, from taking the philosophies and spirit of Aikido into other parts of life, to be beneficial to oneself and to others. This is just training on another level from the physical, and it doesn't have to stop when one's days in the dojo are finished, regardless of the reason.emphasis added

Nope, they were your words first. Amelia was responding to you, and you were replying to Hanna. Were you some how reading "going through the paces" in Rupert's post (the first post in the thread to which Hanna references) who referred to people "bumbling"? I didn't see "going through the paces in Hanna's posts. Since you said "she" and not "he" I can only infer you meant Hanna or Amelia and not Rupert, unless somehow Rupert has become a female name.


This is the entire context of Amelia's post:

I disagree. If you are showing up and going through the motions, you are participating. Your body continues to learn, or at least retain its conditioning, even if you're not getting the most out of it. Most people who train over a long period of time will go through periods of less intense training, but that's very different from not showing up for months on end.

I agree with her statement here. There are times where you so daggone exhausted or maybe in a bad mood, when just being there is all you need. I've had those days, but once class is over I was really happy I went to class. I held no expectations of what I should learn so I just let go what ever was bothering me and was able to enjoy myself for 90 minutes. I think that is what Amelia is talking about. I see nothing wrong with this.


What you are missing is that I am not talking about who is better or more able. I am talking about dedication, without which you should not train, regardless of whether you are able to get yourself to the dojo. Big deal.

No, I'm not missing your point. I'm questioning your notion of "dedication" and am refering to "just showing up" as an example of what might appear to be the least dedicated action, to an outside viewer, might actually be the most dedicated action, inside the mind of the particular individual. It is a big deal, just showing up can be a challenge in a person's life. Since you think it is not, then you have obviously not walked in that particular path.

I'm sorry but I'm not as cynical about people as you seem to be. Showing up is dedication. We have one man who shows up 6-7 times month and has to sit on the side of the mat a couple times a class because that is what his body allows. To an outside viewer he doesn't look dedicated, but he is. Would he be a waste of your time to train with? We have people who suffer depression and showing up is just such a challenge. Would they be a waste of your time to train with? We have some adults where the real-world life demands of being a single parent, of runnning their own business and of raising their own children but they do manage to show up once a month. Are they not worth your time to train with?

You owe it to yourself, your teacher, and your fellow students to not be on the mat without your best attitude, and purpose, any more than you should be behind the wheel without maximum sobriety. Not gonna walk the walk? Stay home.
Obviously this is the standard you have for yourself. And those are fine goals, for yourself. Why is it so important that everyone else train just like you? Others have different goals, and different challenges to face in their aikido training.

"Walk the walk?" Who's "talk" does that person must "walk"? Has this person been preaching to you that you must show up and give 110% every single class and then show up and only give 20%? Who is lecturing you then not following through with what they advocated? The phrase "walking the walk" refers to people who do a lot of preaching of doing the right thing but never actually do it. I really hope you "walk your walk," though.

I hardly agree that showing up a little tired, in a bad mood (not with a person's best attitude) is as bad as someone driving drunk. I've seen accidents and injuries happen in the dojo. They seem to be a result of someone either just taking a mistep, pushing themselves too hard, or by being a "stoic 'dedicated' martial artist" not listening to their body when they need to rest because they are injured. As a result, they have to take several months off of training instead of a week or two off to heal. However, I have seen people come in tired, or in a bad mood and leave energized and feeling better. I've been one of those people. Admist all your hyperbole is that what you are really talking about? People who say that "they don't want to be there" because they're sick(not contagious), injured (but can train), tired, or in a bad mood, but show up anyhow. Usually, they say that before class starts, and usually after class they say, "man, I'm sure glad I came to class today...that sure was a great class." Should they not come because they were moody or tired because you think they are not worth your time to train with? I don't think so. Actually, that really is when a person should come. I learn quit a bit when tired or moody.

"Going through the motions" does not cut it, and I hope your Sensei is wise enough to see it this way. If he does not expect more than that from you, it is regrettable. Actually, my sensei has high standards of what he expects from me but he is wise enough to understand that some people have bad days. He is wise enough to understand that every person is not capable of giving their 110% every single time they show up to class and is wise enough to understand that just by being there the student will benefit to some extent. He doesn't pass judgment on why a person is there. He just teaches them aikido.

Hanna B
09-01-2005, 08:27 AM
Just to add more fuel to the fire

This "going through the motions" is different, however, from taking the philosophies and spirit of Aikido into other parts of life, to be beneficial to oneself and to others.

Not everyone believes that taking the philosophies and spirit of Aikido into other parts of life, to be beneficial to oneself and to others is a necessary part of aikido, needed for your aikido to be complete. I might be misunderstanding what the expression "going through the motions" means (English is not my first language) but If your commitment is to the movements of aikido with attention to your body and to your partner's, then IMO you are committed to aikido. If you are in your dojo neglecting your partner, then we can start questioning if you are actually there or not. On the other hand, as Jeanne and Anne Marie have pointed out everyone has bad or stressful stretches in their lives (which we handle in different ways) and everyone have bad days even on the tatami.

I have seen some people who train an enormous amount of classes, sometime even three classes in a row but actually are not really present. The train kind of lazily - I guess that is the only way to survive three class in a row as a standard protocol. From the usual training dose-measuring perspective, they are very dedicated students. From my point of view... well, I question the value of this and think that two classes really being there is at least equally valuable to five classes done with half attention.

Michael Cardwell
09-01-2005, 08:32 AM
"Though you may train it this sword work or that, what does it matter unless you do your utmost."

- Morihei Ueshiba

My sensei is good about letting us slack off a lot also, but at the same time he expects us to be putting forth our best effort. He says that when you're tired you do your best aikido, and bad moods have no place on the mat. As you step onto the mat leave whatever happened to you during the day
on the edge and just train in aikido.

Ed Stansfield
09-01-2005, 09:23 AM
In (nearly) the words of The Simpsons:

Hypnotist: "You will give 110% . . ."

Mr Burns' Baseball Team (hypnotised): "No one can give 110% . . . By definition 100% of something is as much as someone can give . . ."

I have never been, and am not likely to ever be, as dedicated as my teachers were in learning Aikido. So if I look at their example as "100%" then where am I?

Or if I say "my job is only to give 100% of what I can give", then who determines that? Do I set my own limits? If I do, am I really giving 100%?

And anyway, part of the role of teacher is to get you to go beyond what you think you can do; does that mean you weren't giving 100% in the first place?

Even if we could establish what any of this meant, do you really want a dojo where only the people who are "100%" dedicated can practice? Maybe some people do - I'd be thrown out of mine . . .

Beyond saying that people should try to practice seriously and with commitment, how can we pass judgment?

Ed

Nick P.
09-01-2005, 11:37 AM
You owe it to yourself, your teacher, and your fellow students to not be on the mat without your best attitude, and purpose, any more than you should be behind the wheel without maximum sobriety. Not gonna walk the walk? Stay home. "Going through the motions" does not cut it, and I hope your Sensei is wise enough to see it this way. If he does not expect more than that from you, it is regrettable.

If my 100% is greater than your 100%, I will tell you to stay home. You asked for it.

toyamabarnard
09-01-2005, 12:48 PM
"We must strive for perfection. Though we know we will never be perfect, unless we try to achieve it we will never be the best we can." (close) by Someone smart I can't name offhand.

I have to agree with a little bit of everyone on this post. Sometimes getting in at all was a large challenge for me (hence my temporary absence). And occasionally once I got in I was far from "my best". And having been gone for a time I am fully aware that when i return my best will not be 100% of what I could give physically the day I left, much less 110%.

I believe however that this falls under potential rather than dedication to an extant. I'm well aware that my 110% may be equivalent to someone else's 20%. Once I change and step out on that mat however I will do my absolute best to accomplish what I came there to do, even though I may not be up to my full potential due to exhaustion, illness/injury, or just a bad day. We all have bad days and random thoughts that can seriously disrupt training can't always be compartmentalized. I've had days where I've excused myself from a class and sat to the side because my body could not perform what my mind needed to (this was from an injury by the way) and days where my mind wouldn't focus like it should, but I gave 110% of what I had. I don't expect anyone to perform at the same level as me, but to perform at their own. I would hope however that fellow students (while they may not push as hard as I do) would show that they are also there to learn, and more importantly that they care, no matter how much faster or slower they are going than me. Even if your body isn't working (unless you're contagious) drag it in and open your mind. No offense intended to anyone, just the way I do things. I don't "do" Aikido for anyone else, I do it FOR ME and if it loses it's meaning and importance TO ME it's time to stop. Thanks for reading.
Brian

p00kiethebear
09-01-2005, 01:03 PM
It's the same way with any art.

I played percussion for 7 years. I thought i would do it forever when i started. But honestly. I haven't even touched a drumstick since I got out of highschool.

Obviously no one has to commit to aikido for life. If everyone did we'd have hundreds if not thousands of shihan out there (hey, you can't do something for 40 years and not become somewhat competant at it)

A dojo is lucky if they keep 10% of all the people that walk in the door for more than three months. I tend to think that if enough genuine desire to get better is there, and the instructor is good, a person will stay on for a while.

Kevin Leavitt
09-04-2005, 11:38 PM
Mr Goldsbury's post has elicited some thoughts from me. I will say upfront that I have no direct experience of japanese culture, only from the media, books, history etc. and what I have experienced in martial arts.

I find the delination between aikido as a "way of life" or as a "practice/general martial art" very interesting. I must be careful to choose the words that describe or label the art/practice.

To me the concept is more of a spectrum with "way of life" being on one ends (total commitment), to " practice/general martial art" (the existenial experience) on the other.

I wonder how much culture plays into the equation? Probably a great deal!

I think you get into the concept of monasticism when you start talking about this type of thing. Something we have never really established in the United States, and which fell from grace in Europe somewhere around the protestant reformation. (although, you can still see the remains of that societal order/tradition through out Europe today).

I recently listened to a lecture by Robert Thurman, (Uma's dad, and one of the leading tibetan scholars) who proposes the monastic model as a way for us to evolve into a more "civilized and peaceful" society. Won't go into it, but very interesting.

What is my point?

Well I think that the Japanese culture and the asian culture in general is more in line with monastic society than we are in the west. Therefore, it stands to reason that the model/order/hierarcy of aikido is centered around this model.

Basically in a monastic society, you have an organization that is sponsored by it's members, which is all of the society. Some will take vows and give their lives over to it in hopes of reaching a higher understanding, being closer to god, becoming enlightened, to better serve mankind...whatever the reason. The commitment is fulltime and complete.

Others will be lay people supporting those that represent the hope of the society.

I think we have this model in aikido...even in the U.S and throughout the rest of the world...even if it is somewhat unstructured and loose.

I think it is a good model.

Not everyone has to be Ushi Deshi, or a monk....the world needs good Aikido laypeople to!

Amelia Smith
09-05-2005, 07:29 AM
Kevin's post, above, comparing aikido to monasticism is very interesting and revealing. I think that the vast majority of people who do aikido today (here in the US, for sure, and probably around the world) are aikido "laypeople." That is, our practice is an important part of our lives, but not the indisputable organizing force and focal point of everything we do.

I want to say one more thing about the "going through the motions" issue. The idea that you have to bring 100% mental focus to every single moment of every single class in order to benefit from it is fairly extreme. It's also based on the idea that the conscious mind is running the show, which is a very "Western" post-enlightnement perspective. Consciousness and awareness flow in many ways. The body (by movement, etc.) can train the mind, as well as vice versa. Mental and physical focus and attention come from practice, and I really don't believe you need to have it all together before you step on the mat. (Of course, if you're a danger to yourself and others, then you should get it together a bit more before throwing people around).

Peter Goldsbury
09-05-2005, 08:39 AM
Mr Leavitt,

Many thanks for your response. As with my earlier post, I am concerned with commitment, rather than the question of people leaving aikido (so there will be some inevitable thread drift).

I am not sure whether one can construct a spectrum in the way that you have suggested. I would like to furnish several examples and leave you to judge whether the spectrum model will fit.

1. The case of a prewar Japanese uchi-deshi. The only direct disciples of O Sensei with whom I have discussed this question in depth are H Tada and K Chiba and with Chiba Sensei this was 20 years ago. I believe that Chiba Sensei's decision to become a Hombu deshi is closely related to the aftermath of World War II. He camped outside the Hombu until they let him in and embarked on a lifestyle that we might call monastic, except that there is a wide cultural difference between eastern and western concepts of this state (and I speak with four years of direct experience of the western version). However, Tada Sensei and Chiba Sensei entered the Aikikai Hombu directly after the war and Kisshomaru Doshu told me personally that O Sensei had no postwar uchideshi. Thus, perhaps total, lifelong commitment to aikido can no longer be expressed in terms of the concept of 'uchideshi'.

For Tada Sensei and Chiba Sensei, to talk of an 'aikido lifestyle' would make immeditate sense, but I suspect that this would have no ethical connotation. The primary way in which they understood whether aikido would or would not work as a 'lifestyle' is parallel to the degree to which a samurai would be ready for ANY attack, no matter whence it came. We know that O Sensei's uchideshi regularly, though secretly, went out to test their prowess, and that O Sensei silently acquiesced in this practice (boys will be boys). However, there are no ethical issues here.

2. The case of a presentday Japanese uchideshi in Japan. In the Aikikai Hombu there are no uchideshi, period. So this is quite different from the days of O Sensei. However, there are several dojo outside the Hombu, but connected to the Hombu, that accept uchideshi, even foreign uchideshi. However, I have grave doubts whether such a system is really authentic (i.e., can actually reproduce the conditions that the prewar uchideshi of O Sensei actually experienced).

3. The case of a Japanese who never lives in the house of the Master, or in his 'ie', but has a committed and lifelong commitment to training. The case of the deshi who trains every day in one class for 40 years is an example. Katsuaki Asai, resident in Germany, is a good example of this model, but he actually trained as often as the uchi deshi in (1), mentiomed above.

4. The case of a Japanese who makes a total commitrment to aikido as much as he/she can, given family repsonsibilities. In Japan, this pattern usually takes the form of a young man, who practises aikido as a high school student and, when he is young and single, devotes his entire life to aikido. However, in Japan, even the monastic life is a married life and so the young deshi is constrained to find a life partner and marry. Actually, the uchideshi mentioned above in (1) must also marry, but I suspect that the expected commitment of the wife to her husband's aikido calling would not be acceptable in the west. In the case of this guy, the commitment to aikido is very strong, but he has chosen to put his wife and family first. I mention this because you are in the US military. How do you distinguish between those men who want to train for the hell of it and those who have an deeper commitment to aikido, but find themselves in the US military.

Now, transpose these scenarios to a western context.

5. Recently, I was asked by an instructor in the US if I accepted uchideshi. The instructor was a member of the US Marine Corps and wanted me to look after his student, who would be spending three years in Japan. Of course, I replied that there was no way that I could accept uchideshi, but that I would be happy to look after his student, on the understanding that he would be able to train at my dojo regularly. Well, the student and I have met, we have trained togather and I have told his instructor, who is now in Iraq, that I will take responsibility for his student for the time he is under my care in Japan. However this student is in no way an uchi-deshi.

6. In Japan there are various schemes available for students to become uchideshi. There are at least two questions here: (1) whether the uchi dehsi experience can be compared to that experienced by O Sensei's prewar uchideshi; (2) whether it is possible to become an uchi deshi for a limited period and still have an 'authentic' uchi deshi experience. On the boards we hear that people claim that they came to Japan and were 'uchideshi' for six months. I think that, given the idea of uchideshi with which I am familoiar in Japan, this is impossible. An uchideshi does not make a six-month contract: he/sje signs a blank cheque.

7. Then you have the Japanese version of the member of a lay religious organization like Opus Dei: who is committed to a lifelong commitment to aikido. I know that the members of the Byakko Shinkoukai (created by Masahisa Goi, who became a close aquaintance of O Sensei) were commited members of that organization, but there is no specific organization of 'lay' aikido members. So I can well imagine members of Byakko Shinkoukai who choose toexpress their commitment to their organization through their aikido training. I have no idea whether there are aikido organizations outside Japan that could correspond to Byakko Shinkoukai or Opus Dei members.

8. Then you have individual aikido practitioners who have a wife and familiy and who train as hard as family commitmentd allow. In my opinion these are different from uchi deshi and Opus Dei types. Their commitment is different.

Now, I can think of people in all these categories stopping aikido praqctice, but their reasons for stopping might be quite different. But this is another issue.

But this post has become very long, so I will end it here. Please feel free to pursue issues further, if you think I have not covered your immediate concerns.

Best regards,

Peter Goldsbury

Dave603
09-05-2005, 09:12 AM
Well, having only been training in aikido for four years, I don't know much about this topic from a personal perspective. However, there is a member of my dojo who is about 75 years old, and did not begin training in aikido until he was around 56. He has had two (recent) knee replacements and (recent) shoulder surgery (and he can still do front and back rolls). He still teaches his beginner's class and an intermediate class, and is one of the most respected teachers in the dojo. His physical abilities may not be what they once were, but I think he is by any measure an example of dedication and commitment to aikido. The best part is that when I was a brand-new, wide-eyed beginner in my fresh white dogi, he actually told me that he knew the secret to aikido, and would tell it to me. When I asked him to go on, he said simply, "keep showing up." (True story)

Mark Uttech
09-05-2005, 10:19 AM
Thanks for the wonderful story Dave. 'Encouragement' is a real part of understanding what Aikido is.

Mary Eastland
09-05-2005, 10:28 AM
Thanks Dave...that was the best thing I have read in a long time.
Mary

Erik
09-05-2005, 10:53 AM
Hanna,

Thank you for starting this thread. I was thinking about it as I don't quite make the VOE reqs either. Also, I suspect I share some of your thoughts regarding those who leave.

A former instructor of mine recently gave up the art, at least his school, after 30 years and significant dannage. I say mostly, because I have not seen him for a few years, and, well, I too have pretty much given it up although I suppose I still imagine coming back, kind of, sort of, nah, probably not.

This instructor is a guy who absolutely lived the art as he saw it. He even went so far as to integrate it into his work life as his major source of income over the years has been a consulting business based on aikido. I suspect he'll keep consulting, the money is good, so maybe he hasn't entirely left although he definitely gave up his school.

Frankly, when I started hanging out at his school, this fellow had long since lost the inspiration that made his approach "special" to me. I think he knew that but he just couldn't quite part ways with it so he hung on. The problem with him hanging on, and I believe he gave 100% of what he had, is that his 100% wasn't much at this point. In short, I was happy to hear that he gave it up, both for his students and for him. The guy was miserable, from what I could tell, and aikido wasn't helping it.

In my own case, I could point to a bunch of reasons to give it up. On the one hand, I'm beat up. I've always been active, very active, and if you do something enough you miss a few times. I've landed on my head, been stabbed with a knife (a minor wound), done mid air splits with one foot in the hakama, had my knee give out, been pounded on by folks grinding my shoulder that should have known better by the scream I let out, and more. Add to that a degree of cantankerousness (see def. 2 at dictionary.com) and you wind up taking more than you should have. I know several people who have left the art because of this. And there are far too many instructors who can barely walk because of their practice.*

But really, if I had to state a reason for myself, it's simply that the things which drove me to the art aren't there in the same way anymore. That need, which I can't precisely define or won't on this forum, which drove me to the mat just isn't there in the way it was.

Bah, let's cut to the chase, like my instructor, I'm happier going in a different direction.. Really, for the first time in a very long time, I like the space I'm in and getting here had precious little to do with aikido. In fact, if anything, aikido probably hindered me more than it helped.

It's that simple.

If giving up aikido makes me a shallow, teflonish kind of guy, then so be it because right now at least I'm better for it.

* Naturally someone writes a post which leaves me feeling like a wimp for whining about my little injuries. :D

MM
09-05-2005, 10:29 PM
Spirituality. I think one of the main reasons for quitting Aikido has to do with a spirituality aspect. People typically are looking for something "mystical", for lack of a better word. In a large aspect, people gravitate towards religion and gain a "mystical" connection in that they get to believe in a Heaven which fulfills a spiritual function, they get to congregate with other people who are "good" which fulfills a social function, and they get to believe that they can be saved which fulfills a mental function.

Now, some people gravitate towards the martial arts and look to have it fulfill those three functions. For some, the dojo fulfills the social function. The physical training itself fulfills the mental function in that it instills a sense of martial effectiveness to give one a sense of being able to save oneself in "real" situations. The only thing left is the spiritual function.

In most dojos, the mental and social functions can be readily fulfilled. But, the spiritual function is not as easy to implement nor easy to expound. And so, people will stay at a dojo long enough to realize that only two out of three functions are being met. Then, they stop and go elsewhere searching for that spiritual connection. In other words, they get fed up with training, they get tired of training, they get burned out on training, they get mad at the people there, they become complacent, etc. until they stop training.

Of course, there are some who find that Aikido training doesn't meet the mental or social functions, but I believe these tend to filter out rather quickly and don't really count towards why people stop training.

Those who keep training find themselves at the dojo primarily for the spiritual function and the mental and social take a back seat. Although mental and social are still important, together they don't compare with the spiritual. Those people find themselves smiling when they think about training, they find themselves waiting for the next moment that they complete a technique and it feels like they didn't do anything, they find themselves going just for the "air time", they build a spiritual connection and at times they don't realize it but it's there.

Since people are different, it takes various lengths of time for them to sort out that some function isn't being met. For mental and social, I believe that time is very short and doesn't progress past a beginner's belt level. But, for spiritual, it takes various amounts of time depending on the person. Now, compound this with the aspect that people are at different stages of their life and they may not be at a stage where they can progress to a spiritual function in their training. So, you have people quitting and then coming back to find that they love Aikido even more. And you have people who quit and come back and still find that they don't like Aikido. In one part, it may be because they aren't finding the spiritual aspect because it really isn't there for them, but it may also be that they are at a stage in their life that they can't progress into that aspect with Aikido yet. As the saying goes, your mileage may vary.

Anyway, this is just my take on things.
Everyone has their opinion. :)

Mark

Rupert Atkinson
09-06-2005, 12:29 AM
I have played table tennis for years. I was as mad as a hatter for it when a kid but now just do it sometimes. Though I don't play for weeks on end I do not think I have quit - I still have a measure of skill and beat some people some of the time - but I don't do it to win, I just like to play. But martial arts demand much more - you cannot take such a passive approach - yet I think this is what happens to some long-termers. Table tennis is safe, but martial arts demand a more constant fitness; especially you need to keep a certain amount of ukemi fitness.

I am not sure where I would fit in in Mark M's classification but I am the kind that seeks Aikido. What I mean is, if I visit somewhere - for work or holiday - I check out local clubs in advance and try to make it to practice. I have taken my keikogi for work trips and holidays many times. Not many do that, but here in Korea, I get visited by like-minded people from time to time, which is nice, as I understand them exactly :) From what I can tell, this type will probably not quit :)

Dirk Hanss
09-06-2005, 04:14 AM
But martial arts demand much more - you cannot take such a passive approach - yet I think this is what happens to some long-termers. Table tennis is safe, but martial arts demand a more constant fitness; especially you need to keep a certain amount of ukemi fitness.


Frankly spoken, this is rubbish. Recently on a seminar I trained with men and women abou 70 years old and more. Of course I could not throw them around like I might have done with a young and welll-trained 20 years old boy. Newvertheless did real ukemi rather rarely as the mats were heavily crowded and rolling could have been dangerous.

And there were other fellow aikidoka ("I have just started aikido", "I cannot roll forward/backward"). But I could train with and learn from everyone. And it was all budo. I'd say you still can do martial arts, even when you are too old to follow the little table tennis ball.

Oh yes, sorry, you need some minimum of fitness. At least you should able do move and you need some spiritual capacity.

Cheers Dirk

PeterR
09-06-2005, 04:33 AM
I think you missed Rupert's point or perhaps I understand the distinction between approaches to training he is trying to make.

quick aside - one of my Aikido students was sidelined for six months after he broke his foot playing table tennis. That sport is dangerous.

Budo for some people is not a matter of putting on a white suit and going through some motions. To train well, especially if you have a history of hard training, requires effort to maintain a level of skill and fitness. If you are sidelined for some reason or let yourself go the frustration of trying to get back up there is very high more so than for a purely recreational sport. I suppose the same could be said for high level ping pong players and those that see Aikido as primarily recreational. It may sound all nice and inclusive but you don't learn or improve with everyone - true with both ping pong and Aikido.

The approach of mudansha, especially in the early stages, even for the most enthusiastic, is primarily recreational. I feel the reasons people continue Aikido changes over the years and also their reasons for leaving.

Ed Stansfield
09-06-2005, 05:56 AM
Personally, I haven't seen anyone leave Aikido because of an absence of spirituality (at least in the way that I understand that word).

I have seen people leave because of injury and age and I can see that for some people, not being able to practice the way they want to, or the way they feel they should be able to, would be a reason to leave.

I started Aikido at a university class and when I graded to 5th kyu, there were about 20 other university students taking the grading as well. Of those people, 3 of us have graded to 1st dan. Many people obviously move away when they finish university and for all I know, may be practicing Aikido elsewhere, but upheavals like leaving the city you practice in can obviously affect whether people continue to train.

For the people I know who left before 1st dan, I think it was just a matter of having other things in their lives that they valued more than Aikido. When you're a beginner, I don't think that Aikido has the same value to you; if there are other things to do rather than go to the dojo, it's easier to go and do them. Then of course, there are the people who have difficulty in seeing what they've achieved or are achieving and who think they're getting nowhere and leave for that reason.

Post 1st dan, there are inevitably the same sort of life upheavals that can effect anyone, but I think for most of the people I've seen who've dropped out at that stage and who haven't moved to another dojo or style, the reason is this: Aikido is difficult, and it doesn't get easier after you've graded to 1st dan.

The road goes on to the horizon and continues out of sight and I think that has an affect on people.

Needless to say, YMMV.

Best,

Ed

Rupert Atkinson
09-06-2005, 06:08 AM
Frankly spoken, this is rubbish. Recently on a seminar I trained with men and women abou 70 years old and more.
Cheers Dirk

If they have been training consistently for a long time they would not likely quit. My point was if they take it 'too' easy -- perhaps falling into intermittent training -- they would be more likely to quit. I think this is something that slowly creeps up on people. I wasn't really thinking of 70 year olds though. Of course, sure, there are some around, but nothing like the number that there would be if no one ever quit - 99% of their friends will have long since quit for all kinds of reasons. The ones you trained with must be the true 'Aikido Survivors' -- will you be one of them? :)

Thought: Perhaps you mistranslated my long-termer into old timer.

Also, its not what you think - but what they think that counts. Maybe you didn't throw them hard - of course you shouldn't. But maybe they feel, at their age, they are compromising your training and so quit. But thinking about it, if someone has trained a long time and reaches 70, s/he'd probably be a teacher! As I said, I wasn't thinking about 70 -- more like those I see all around, the 20-50s.

There are no doubt various reasons why advanced people quit (the main topic) - perhaps intermittent training creep is a factor for some.

Amelia Smith
09-06-2005, 07:17 AM
I've seen some people quit (or almost quit) because of this "intermittent training creep," which is often related to other things going on in their lives. Personally, after about 7 months of not training, the first few practices back were not so bad, because at least I'd maintained my aerobic fitness.

Some beginners don't come back because they don't feel physically safe in aikido. Sometimes that's just because they're easily frightened, but sometimes it's because safety isn't as much of a priority as it should be in that dojo. This feeling unsafe, or that aikido isn't worth the physical risks, can come later on in training, too, with injuries, changes in the dojo, etc. I think women (and perhaps some older men) are more likely to admit that physical safety, or the lack of it, plays a role in their decision to train.

As for the spiritual aspect, mostly I've practiced in dojos where we don't talk about spirituality much, if at all. You're just supposed to absorb it from the physical practice and do it on your own. Sometimes I wish that the spiritual side of things was given a bit more air time (but not too much), but that could also turn off a lot of people.

ruthmc
09-06-2005, 07:34 AM
:) Great topic!

I think another reason why some folk quit is because they lose their "beginners mind". They get to a certain level and think "Well, I know all these techniques now, and how to do them from all these attacks, so what more is there for me to learn?".

Keeping your beginners mind allows you to see the depths of Aikido, and peel back the layers of the onion. Sure you can always continue to improve your techniques, but there's so much more to it than that!

It also allows you to see that your teachers and visiting instructors have got a lot more to teach you. And you can always aspire to be better than them ;)

Personally, I don't quit on myself, and I don't quit on anybody else without very good reason. If somebody only shows up to class for 2 hours every 2 - 3 weeks but is open-minded and prepared to learn, I am prepared to help them in any way I can. If somebody trains 7 days a week and doesn't respect my person, I avoid them, and hope that one day they'll know better.

That's what it boils down to for me, anything else is just an extra complication.

Ruth (who likes to keep it simple)

Dirk Hanss
09-06-2005, 08:16 AM
If they have been training consistently for a long time they would not likely quit. My point was if they take it 'too' easy -- perhaps falling into intermittent training -- they would be more likely to quit.

Now I got it - hopefully. My understanding was that if you just do some budo training from time to time without real fitness and engagement. it wouldn't be budo any longer.

My karate practice is about 25 years ago, and I still fell like being a karateka, although my techniques might not be qualifying for my 2nd kyu and for competitions I would not have the fitness.

I had a break in aikido for more than 10 years. And coming back that was real pain. My ukemi techniques were not too bad (or they are still as bad), but I had to use some muscles I haven't really used for years. But all the time I thougt of myself being an aikidoka. And coming back to training was real fun. My fitness is not the best, being 44 not really well-trained, suffering a little bit from asthm. But even if I would stop again practiciing for a while I would never think of quitting aikido totally.

Well I did also some table tennis in my youth and yes I really did quit that. When I am playing with my wife or kids table tennis, it is simple ping-pong.

But the difference is more that table tennis is just a kind of sports. Any -do at least for me is a way for life. As I entered i could change the path, but I could never leave the way and never forget the destination.

And while I think I understand you better than before and I withdraw the expressiion "rubbish", it seems as our views are just antithetic.

But I guess, I am leaving the subject of the spread. Or maybe not:
If you stop practicing "normal" sports, you quit. If you stop coming to budo classes, you will be certainly missed in classes, but you are not a lost member of the community. At least I never was.

Regards Dirk

Ed Stansfield
09-06-2005, 08:27 AM
Some beginners don't come back because they don't feel physically safe in aikido. Sometimes that's just because they're easily frightened, but sometimes it's because safety isn't as much of a priority as it should be in that dojo. This feeling unsafe, or that aikido isn't worth the physical risks, can come later on in training, too, with injuries, changes in the dojo, etc. I think women (and perhaps some older men) are more likely to admit that physical safety, or the lack of it, plays a role in their decision to train.

There's a popular story in our dojo about the woman who felt that aikido (and ki-aikido at that) was too dangerous and violent and so went to learn karate instead.

Well, it amused me anyway . . .

We're a fairly safety conscious dojo so I'd hope that there aren't many people who leave us for that reason. I can see that safety is a concern for people (and that it can become more of a concern as people get older or as situations within a dojo change). Indeed, when practicing on courses with other aikido styles, safety is usually my number one concern . . .

But that's another thread. Specifically, this one (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=8858).


I think another reason why some folk quit is because they lose their "beginners mind". They get to a certain level and think "Well, I know all these techniques now, and how to do them from all these attacks, so what more is there for me to learn?"

I know that people do develop this view but I find it hard to imagine how anyone can honestly hold to it. To me, it's the position of someone who doesn't want to accept what they will have to do to progress.
But I've already set my stall out in that regard.

Best,

Ed

ruthmc
09-06-2005, 09:00 AM
I know that people do develop this view but I find it hard to imagine how anyone can honestly hold to it. To me, it's the position of someone who doesn't want to accept what they will have to do to progress.
Tends to prevail amongst those who train at one dojo under one teacher for years and never train with anyone else. :) This is why I am such a big fan of seminars, especially mult-style seminars, if people are prepared to accept that there is more than One Way...

Ruth

Ed Stansfield
09-06-2005, 09:26 AM
Tends to prevail amongst those who train at one dojo under one teacher for years and never train with anyone else.

So, do you think the failing is with the student, or the teacher, or both?

I was maybe a bit harsh in my previous reply. I'm not in a position where I feel I've "nothing else to learn" and I can't imagine ever being in that position. However, I think that I've got very good teachers and that's obviously an important factor.

This is why I am such a big fan of seminars, especially mult-style seminars, if people are prepared to accept that there is more than One Way...

It can be quite a big if . . . BAB national course anyone?

I agree with what you're saying though; I think it's an matter of having perspective on what you're doing and learning.

When I started my law degree, they told us about Monet painting Reims cathedral. He did a load of painting of it from different angles, different places, different times of day, different angles of light and whatnot. So the moral was that to have an understanding of law you have to look at it not just from one perspective but from as many different ones as you can find. I try to think about Aikido in the same way.

It sounds better after I've had a drink.

Best,

Ed

ruthmc
09-06-2005, 11:00 AM
So, do you think the failing is with the student, or the teacher, or both?
The student. His development is his responsibility, not his teacher's, and he is free to train anywhere (even if his teacher says otherwise ;) )

However, I think that I've got very good teachers and that's obviously an important factor.
You do, and because you have several teachers you always get to see different perspectives.

It can be quite a big if . . . BAB national course anyone?
:D As I say to people - don't knock any style until you've tried it, preferably more than once and with different teachers.

<snip> So the moral was that to have an understanding of law you have to look at it not just from one perspective but from as many different ones as you can find. I try to think about Aikido in the same way.

Sounds like a good plan to me!

Ruth

Erik
09-06-2005, 02:23 PM
But martial arts demand much more - you cannot take such a passive approach - yet I think this is what happens to some long-termers. Table tennis is safe, but martial arts demand a more constant fitness; especially you need to keep a certain amount of ukemi fitness.

For what it's worth, the people I was thinking of in my post, I'd say this didn't apply but I can see how it would apply to some. In my own case, let my ego reign, I would still stack my ukemi and conditioning up against most folks I met in a dojo. Also, everyone I'm thinking of had at least 15 years in the art.

I am not sure where I would fit in in Mark M's classification but I am the kind that seeks Aikido. What I mean is, if I visit somewhere - for work or holiday - I check out local clubs in advance and try to make it to practice. I have taken my keikogi for work trips and holidays many times. Not many do that, but here in Korea, I get visited by like-minded people from time to time, which is nice, as I understand them exactly :) From what I can tell, this type will probably not quit :)

Interestingly, I'd say this also applied to the folks I was thinking about.

senshincenter
09-06-2005, 05:15 PM
Did someone already mention this one: Ego.

When it comes to newbies in particular, Aikido often is the long lost love of their lives, that thing they always knew they wanted but didn't find until now, that thing that is changing them in every way for the better, that thing they ever wondered how they did without, etc. How does this work -- what is supporting this level of emotional attachment and thus this level of personal investment? Ego.

Why do they quit? When the training stops stroking their ego, they quit. When does the training stop stroking their ego? When it actually requires them to change themselves -- as opposed to just having various aspects of their person being confirmed by their superficial penetration into the training.

For the long-term folks that quit, I think Mark and Rupert have touched upon something that sounds quite familiar to my personal experience. If one cannot find meaning in the art beyond its material gratifications and/or its mundane elements, one loses one's reason for training (as these things are finite and eventually come to an end for all of us). Or, if one cannot physically support the quest for those material and/or mundane elements that often mark the art, one runs out of steam (i.e. the capacity to maintain commitment) even sooner. In the end here, you are looking at folks that found ways of stroking their ego quite a lot longer than the average beginner - but it is still somewhat about ego-stroking. (in my opinion)

dmv

Erik
09-06-2005, 06:50 PM
It is well, when judging a friend, to remember that he is judging you with the same godlike and superior impartiality.

Arnold Bennett

PeterR
09-06-2005, 08:04 PM
The only person I knew who quit Aikido because of a lack of spirituality was a beginner in my Quebec Dojo. I just didn't give him what he thought Aikido should. And all that after three classes.

Long term Aikidoka coming to the realization that Aikido just isn't him spiritually seems like a rare beast to me.

Hanna B
09-07-2005, 06:46 AM
In this thread quite few questions have been asked. One of them, obviously, is "who are those who stop doing aikido, and why do they stop". What if the question is asked the wrong way?

Of those who start doing aikido, even of those who have done it four five years, several classes a week, most people leave sooner or later. Very few people, extremely few, remain active on the mat throughout the major part of their lives.

Let's actually focus on the "aikido survivors" for a while. Why do these people continue doing aikido? In what way are they different to the vast majority? Can they be divided into subgroups?

Ed Stansfield
09-07-2005, 07:48 AM
Let's actually focus on the "aikido survivors" for a while. Why do these people continue doing aikido? In what way are they different to the vast majority? Can they be divided into subgroups?

When does someone count as a survivor?

In some ways, I think people who get to 1st dan are survivors because they're a minority of all the people who pass through a dojo. However, lots of people get to 1st dan and then drop out.

Do you consider yourself a survivor Hanna?

(Not trying to be flippant, just to work out the terms of reference before I go wading in with opinions . . .)

Best,

Ed

Hanna B
09-07-2005, 08:18 AM
When does someone count as a survivor?
(...)
Do you consider yourself a survivor Hanna?
Od course I am a survivor - alive and kicking! :D

In an aikido context however I am a quitter, a quitter after ten years and a nidan. I am a quitter of the "policital/conflict with teacher or other people of importance" type that Peter Goldsbury mentioned in the ortiginal thread in the subforum VoE and I don't think this is the typical case. Because the original thread was in VoE, where you need at least 20 years of experience, I was thinking of the really long perspective - and personally I think many of the "dropping off after shodan" people had their minds set on the belt rather than keiko all along. Actually I consider them a group of their own. If discussing "aikido survivors"`and if they have any specific trait in common, I would personally not count the post shodan-dropouts but of course others are free to apply a shorter perspective.

happysod
09-07-2005, 10:46 AM
Sorry Hannah, still scratching my head over what you intend with this thread.
If discussing "aikido survivors"`and if they have any specific trait in common The only thing they have in common is going to aikido > can't be arsed 'cos of xyz. Trying to define it in any stricter terms will probably prove pointless as you're talking about individuals from a multitude of backgrounds who will all have their own reasons for going which will have changed since they first started and will continue to change while they continue to train. So, I feel at best you will gain a current assessment of why they are still training which will be incorrect as soon as the sample is made.

My aikido habit so far has run the whole gamut from enthusiasm through habit, back to intrigued followed by "its for the students" and is currently going through a "it just is" - day x = aikido training, I go, very Pavlovian.)

On the subject of "quitting", I don't like the term at all - people join and leave aikido all the time, leaving aikido isn't quitting it just means they left of their own accord. If someone/something made you leave, that also isn't quitting, that's just being forced to leave. I don't like the implied moral judgment of "oh my god, you stopped aikido, what are you some sort of weak freak????! " - add more exclamations as personal preference dictates.

markwalsh
09-07-2005, 11:02 AM
It's ok to stop doing aikido.

The point of aikido is not to get the whole world doing it their entire lives. I know of many people who have just seen aikido briefly and it has had a positive influence on them.

Me, (like a junky) I can quit any time I like :)

Hanna B
09-07-2005, 11:55 AM
Sorry Hannah, still scratching my head over what you intend with this thread.
My first post is a response to another thread, in which I was not allowed to post since it is in the VoE forum. If you read that thread, maybe it gets more clear? After that, this thread has taken many different angles that I never intended. So far, so good.

Also, see the last section of this post.

The only thing they have in common is going to aikido > can't be arsed 'cos of xyz. Trying to define it in any stricter terms will probably prove pointless as you're talking about individuals from a multitude of backgrounds who will all have their own reasons for going which will have changed since they first started and will continue to change while they continue to train.

So, I feel at best you will gain a current assessment of why they are still training which will be incorrect as soon as the sample is made.

1) People make simplifications all the mine, it is a way of handling a complex reality. Sometimes patterns can be seen, and as long as we know we are dealing with simplifications of reality that is OK.

2) Since there are more people who leave than who stay, shouldn't there be an even larger variety of reasons to leave than to stay? Why don't you, or anyone else, raise similar objections to the different tries to define those who leave are and why they stop training? It is not like the VoE thread is the first one ever seen on an aikido board. Far from it. Either that is OK, and then the other way around is it also - or both versions are useless.

3) It is easier to perform "analysis" of various kinds, on groups of people that you don't yourself belong to. When analysis/simplifications are done on the group we belong to, we are more likely to object. Trying to see things from the other side is useful, sometimes.

On the subject of "quitting", I don't like the term at all - people join and leave aikido all the time, leaving aikido isn't quitting it just means they left of their own accord. If someone/something made you leave, that also isn't quitting, that's just being forced to leave. .

Feel free to exchange single words in my posts for better ones when you read it - English is not my first language.

I don't like the implied moral judgment of "oh my god, you stopped aikido, what are you some sort of weak freak????! " - add more exclamations as personal preference dictates.

...and still you say you don't understand the point of my thread? I think you just pinpointed it...

happysod
09-07-2005, 12:18 PM
Why don't you, or anyone else, raise similar objections to the different tries to define those who leave are and why they stop training? It is not like the VoE thread is the first one ever seen on an aikido board. Far from it. Either that is OK, and then the other way around is it also - or both versions are useless Mainly because of the thread starter - most of the other threads of a similar nature are obvious in their intent, falling into the category of
a) beginners enthusiasm - the "how can anyone live without this art?" group or
b) disillusioned long-timer - the "where's all my old friends gone?"

You fit neither category and in previous threads you've started, there has been an underlying reason to your question - here I just couldn't see it and was honestly intrigued on where you were going with this and set out my views on why this approach may prove fruitless.
...and still you say you don't understand the point of my thread? I think you just pinpointed it and now I'm happy as you've enlightened my puzzlement.

MM
09-07-2005, 05:23 PM
David Valadez said:
Did someone already mention this one: Ego.

When it comes to newbies in particular, Aikido often is the long lost love of their lives, that thing they always knew they wanted but didn't find until now, that thing that is changing them in every way for the better, that thing they ever wondered how they did without, etc. How does this work -- what is supporting this level of emotional attachment and thus this level of personal investment? Ego.

Why do they quit? When the training stops stroking their ego, they quit. When does the training stop stroking their ego? When it actually requires them to change themselves -- as opposed to just having various aspects of their person being confirmed by their superficial penetration into the training.

For the long-term folks that quit, I think Mark and Rupert have touched upon something that sounds quite familiar to my personal experience. If one cannot find meaning in the art beyond its material gratifications and/or its mundane elements, one loses one's reason for training (as these things are finite and eventually come to an end for all of us). Or, if one cannot physically support the quest for those material and/or mundane elements that often mark the art, one runs out of steam (i.e. the capacity to maintain commitment) even sooner. In the end here, you are looking at folks that found ways of stroking their ego quite a lot longer than the average beginner - but it is still somewhat about ego-stroking. (in my opinion)

In different words, but definitely along the lines of my thinking when I say that it's a "spiritual function" that isn't being met. These people are looking for something to "stroke their ego" and I view that as them looking for some sort of spiritual aspect to bolster their inner ego. They aren't looking for the social aspect or the mental aspect but something internal to their beliefs and ego.

I should have defined what I view as "spiritual" because a lot of people take the spiritual aspect of aikido as this "enlightenment" type of thing or "Ki" thing or "no hands aikido" thing. But, really the spiritual aspect deals with a person's internal beliefs about how they view right and wrong, how they view the world, how they live their life, etc. Spirituality does include enlightenment, but it isn't the sole ingredient. Spirituality includes things like why a person stops and helps someone stranded alongside the road. Not if they stop, but why they stop. Why the person goes back in to return money to the store because the clerk gave them too much change. It also includes things like being calm amidst a storm, being calm when facing life threatening situations, etc. Because all these things derive from a person's "spirituality" as I call it. It is the basis for who they are and why the do the things they do.

So, when I talk about people quitting because they aren't fulfilling their spiritual function in aikido, it can include things like someone "stroking their ego" or someone leaving because they don't like blending but rather like disrupting an attacker with force. Sometimes they may be looking for "no hands aikido" and find that their dojo only trains using physical methods and doesn't get into the "spiritual" aspect of aikido. Or they find that their dojo spends too much time on the "soft" stuff and they want more "hard" aikido with atemi and strikes. But at some point they get "disillusioned" from some sort of spiritual aspect and quit.

I think this happens more often to the people who stay longer. Those people who quit early in their training don't have the time spent in aikido to realize if it's going to fit in their spiritual frame of mind. Typically, those people quit because of a mental or social aspect not being met. But rarely does anyone quit because of a physical reason. Aikido is one of the few martial arts where people of all ages and physiques can practice.

Mark

senshincenter
09-07-2005, 05:32 PM
A very nice post Mark. Thanks,
d

Olaf
09-08-2005, 04:58 AM
Interesting. I think I am with Hanna here, I think it is far more interesting what makes people stay. Try to think of it - what sport can you think of that people do as a kid or teen and will keep training in regularly for the rest of their lives? Any? One factor might be that in almost all sports after teen or twenties-something age there is no way to win anything anymore, but the main reason simply seems to be that interests and priorities change with the years.

So why would Aikido be different? Yes, it is a Do/way, but you need to be into it long enough to experience that this might have have a meaning to you. Being constantly TOLD that being on a do/way is special and has xyz benefits and changes you as a person... means nothing and won't keep you 10+ years if you don't experience it. Maybe not everybody is looking for or even wants what Aikido has to offer?? So what makes someone stay long enough?

Is it the type of person that this "staying-Aikidoka" is? I think it has to be, given that in no dojo everybody stays, or everybody leaves.

For me personally, I am still in it because I see so much still to learn. Natural movement, effortlessness. Seeing other ways from other teachers/Aikidoka. Meeting new liek-minded people. And then the spiritual aspect as well. And, I feel an obligation to give what I have learned on to my students. And I get a lot of joy out of seeing them improve, change, and getting to love Aikido themselves. At least those are my reasons currently.

Today, I can not see me leaving Aikido anytime soon.
Cheers
Olaf

Peter Goldsbury
09-08-2005, 07:08 AM
I think one problem for me is the connotation of the term "survivor".

In the original post in the VoE thread, which I have just reread, in
spite of the title, Rupert seemed more concerned with those who quit than with those who do not.

The pressure not to quit is very much built into the postwar 'system' of aikido, which is promoted as a martial art available for everyone.

In the days of the Kobukan, O Sensei seems to have attracted people from other martial arts, like the wrestler Tenryu and Minoru Mochizuki, who had a very intensive, but relatively short, relationship with the Founder and then stopped or went back to what they were doing originally.

When I first came to Japan I met Mr Seiichi Seko and we became good friends. He was instrumental in getting me to work for the IAF. He had a position within the Aikikai, but he no longer practised aikido. Nowadays you hardly ever hear about him, but just before the war he trained hard with the Founder in the Kobukan and supported the Ueshiba family afterwards. He once told me that he was a member of the Japanese Emperor's personal bodyguard. Was Mr Seko an aikido survivor? In some sense yes. In some sense no. He stopped training, but neither O Sensei nor Kisshomaru Doshu seemed to mind about this.

To me, an 'aikido survivor' connotes someone who persists in training in the face of many obstacles, rather like A-Bomb survivors continue to live their lives in Hiroshima and Nagasaki despite the physical and emotional injuries they suffered in 1945.

As I suggested above, postwar aikido is pronmoted as a non-elitist martial art, available for everybody and claims to offer benefits that are lifelong. So, mere survival is not really part of the scenario. Of course, to think purely of benefits is probably too narrow, but I am thinking of benefits in a very wide sense: the sort of activity that leaves you spiritually fulfilled; something like Aristotle meant by the term 'eudaimonia' (which is often translated as happiness, but which I think is much more accurately translated as 'human flourishing'); the sort of activity that leaves you spiritually enriched rather than spiritually impoverished. People who go and volunteer in Afghanistan or Iraq, or give up their settled activities to help in New Orleans, might well be seeking such benefits. But in aikido this is rooted in a definite and well-defined physical dimension of training.

So, given the importance of shugyou (training), what would make one an aikido survivor? When does aikido training become a matter of survival, rather than just practice, or is this a valid distinction? Would O Sensei count as an aikido survivor? After all, he continued training until he died at the age of 86. Is it simply age and its increasing physical constraints? Mark Murray gave a very interesting description of matters spiritual in his post, but I would add a whole load of seemingly negative aspects, such as are discussed by, e.g., John of the Cross in his writings. I think being able to handle spiritual desolation is of great importance to aikido 'survival'.

A few years ago I was especially struck by the fact that Yamaguchi Seigo Sensei was planning to stop practising aikido. He became very sick and realized that his sickness was going to stop him from training in the way he had hitherto. Because he did not think in terms of half measures, he wanted to stop completely and planned to do so at a certain time. Actually he died before this became possible. One evening he collapsed at the Hombu during practice and died a few days later. So he never carried out his plan of stopping aikido.

For me Yamaguchi Sensei was the epitome of advanced aikido technique and one reason why many people here in Hiroshima continued to practise. Of course we could never be exactly like him, but he always gave us a vision we could understand and train for. Despite his age his aikido was seemingly effortless. Well, he certainly made it look like this, but I think there was also much pain and desolation, which we did not realise until after he had died.

David Valadez mentioned ego. I think this is a very diffcult concept to handle in aikido and it would be interesting to discuss the reasons for this at greater length. If we think of grades as a kind of benchmark, from my own experience the negative aspects of ego tend to become manifest around the lower kyuu grades (e.g., around 1st kyu) and the mid-dan ranks, especially around 4th and 5th dan. First kyuu students wonder why they are still not allowed the coveted shodan rank and 4th and 5th dans wonder why Sensei does not immediately perceive their virtues as aikidoka in their own right, not as students of Sensei, and give them their own personal training 'space'. This scenario would see ego as an negative factor.

On the other hand, I believe that some high-ranking shihans have huge ego problems, which I would not have believed possible, given aikido's pretensions as a 'spiritual' martial art (but, of course I am thinking in a Christian way here: diminution of the ego is regarded as a Christian virtue, as this is interpreted by western Christianity). From O Sensei's writings (and especially from Ellis Amdur's "Three Peaches" blogs over at AJ, especially the third blog), we can see that O Sensei also thought of himself in terms not usually applicable to aikido 'survivors', at least as I understand the term. If you think that you are a Messiah, delegated to save the world (Onisaburo Deguchi), or an Aikido Messiah, delegated to save the world on more specific terms (Ueshiba Moriteru), what is the point of discussing ego?

This is not to dispute David's discussion. Perhaps having a big ego is also a factor in becoming an 'aikido survivor'.

Best regards to all,

rob_liberti
09-08-2005, 09:00 AM
In my opinion, it's possible to work on yourself by means of aikido but unfortunately not a certainty. If people were promoted based on ability AND their success in working on themselves that would solve quite a few problems I suppose.

Initially, you can work on your physical ego problems (by taking better more sensitive and responsive ukemi). If you see yourself in the mirror of keiko and decide to take the active measures to allow the transformation to continue then I'd say aikido can help destroy ego better than most things I've come across. You don't even have to hit "rock bottom" first!

However, it is certainly possible to just develop physical skill and remain stuck or even decline in terms of mental/spiritual ego. We have all seen that too often. Mainly from people who should not be taken too seriously, but unfortunately, we do see it in people who are quite accomplished.

I agree that those of us still in aikido despite whatever life throws at us should be called aikido survivors. Many people who enter aikido come with tremendous coping mechanisms from childhood. They don't know who they are or what they want to any depth. Typically they want power, and they want what they think some successful (to their mind) person has. The grass will always be greener. If they face themselves by means of aikido, fantastic! If they quit because they couldn't continue to make progress, or because the aikido they found just wasn't doing it for them for whatever reason then fine - but that doesn't make them "aikido survivors" in my book.

Olaf and Hanna, I'm with you two. The idea of what makes people stay is a much better way to look at this.

Rob

markwalsh
09-08-2005, 09:24 AM
Based on Rob's comments above and some thoughts I've been having lately, I've started a new thread here:

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?p=116974#post116974

Re how we change as people in aikido.

Mark

PS - Cheers David.

senshincenter
09-08-2005, 09:59 AM
I feel several people are saying very similar things here. If I may try to summarize what that might be, I think we are trying to discuss that “shift” that occurs in our practice where we go from having Aikido be less about what we do and more about what or who we are. I think this is a “shift” occurs in any kind of endeavor that spans several decades or more. However, there seems to be something more to this “shift” when it comes to practices like Aikido (as compared to sports). Whatever that more is, it seems to be related to having the practice itself being something capable of supporting our own sense of being. So there are these two pressures or burdens we must come to feel or to carry: 1) There is our capacity to see ourselves through or in our Aikido practice; and 2) There is the capacity to develop an Aikido practice that can support our being or our sense of self. Both of these capacities are what have to be discovered by us over the years of training. Though there is obviously some overlap here, I have opted to distinguish them because they are not always handled in the same way or at the same time.

As with all Ways, what makes it difficult for us to truly discover or realize these two capacities is that we become distracted by those things that run contrary to our more right pursuits. What are these things? They are those things that in their essence cannot support our inner being or our sense of true self. As our inner being or our true self is not of the material world, these distractions, which are contrary to our inner being, are in essence of the material world – they are temporary and arbitrary and they are most often only of value inside of some sort of economic system wherein were we to participate we would actually become self-alienated. What does this mean?

This means we come to our practice and though it is a path of self-discovery, one capable of actually supporting the self, it comes to us through or with distractions that are themselves a kind of spiritual hindrance. First, there are the most common ones – such as the pleasure of moving, or the pleasing self-image that becomes ours as we come closer to fulfilling our various fantasies (e.g. of violence, of victory, of the being the exotic other, etc.), etc. As these lose meaning, because they must, because they are fleeting things, many of us quit in our training – moving on to the next practice that can offer other distractions which are only as fleeting. Some of us press on – realizing what we need to realize by having our pleasures and fantasies exposed for the irrelevant (in terms of discovery ourselves through Aikido) and fleeting things they are.

However, out of those of us that press onward, there are those that simply come to replace their pleasures and/or their fantasies with ones more culturally acceptable by the art in question. In terms of Aikido, this means things like rank, title, political power, fame, etc. While these things are today designed to last a lifetime, it may very well be the case that some of us may pierce through these distractions deep enough to realize that we are not these things, that these things cannot and should not make up our inner selves and thus neither our practice for discovering our inner selves. At this point, some of us, those that cannot see an escape from such distractions, may opt to leave the art altogether. Others of us, those who may be able to distinguish the art from its institutional trappings, will opt to remain practicing. However, this art now is more prone to support our being – as our being is more able to support the art.

When I speak of ego, as I did before, I am trying to point out the simple engine of being distracted by those material things (of the art as it is presented to us and from ourselves as a result of our habitual existence), those things that eventually we must confront because they cannot support a life of commitment. In terms of “surviving” (opting here to not get too stuck on the various meanings of this word), when we confront these things, we may either fall to replace one set of impotent (but now fully spent) distractions with another set of distractions (i.e. quitting Aikido and starting something else up), or we may expose all distractions for what they are then and there and thereby come to seek more real things, less material things, by which we can support our inner being and thus a lifelong commitment.

I am not out to denounce distractions, or those of us that consciously opt to train in Aikido as a distraction from other things, etc. However, this in my opinion is a short summary of the process that is underlying a lifelong commitment (one that is not in need of or making use of the official cultural distractions that the art now has in place to keep one going).

dmv

MM
09-08-2005, 04:07 PM
David Valadez wrote:
I feel several people are saying very similar things here. If I may try to summarize what that might be, I think we are trying to discuss that "shift" that occurs in our practice where we go from having Aikido be less about what we do and more about what or who we are.

(Rest of post deleted to save space)

You expressed that more eloquently than I could have but it mirrors how I view things. :)

Mark

samiagoudie
09-08-2005, 04:59 PM
Hello,

intersting topic. I love AIKIDO and have always and will always have the deepest gratitude for it in my life , both in the physical form of traning , which I did for many years and teaching , which I also did for many years , including starting dojo's.. I now surf and this is my PRACTICE. there is indeed many reasons why people leave formal training and move on to other things . life is amazing journey , process ... I appreciate all the parts of my journey and the opportunity to learn and reveiw life and bring the things I experience into the new challenges i face daily.. intergrating them ,growing , changing. Aikido has taught me so much . when I learnt to surf , which like Aikido takes disipline and patience , i was told , i was to old and would never get it , too late ect.. but from my experience of AIKIDO i knew to atay with it , daily and keep going over and over the basics till i got it... and now i teach and I compete and have many older and younger people amazed that I did this and do it so well... it inspires them to reslise if you have the heart and desire , you can do anything. literally. this is one thing aikido gave me..

ALSO , aikido has saved my life 3 times. twice when I was attacked , I was able to deflect the energy by simply by being calm and talking to the attacker , this happened atomatically and was because of my training... the other was when I fell 12 ft from a balcony and again automatically curled into a ball and rolled and thus broke extremties and not my back and neck.. i didn' think , it just HAPPENED... I know THIS WAS because of my training.

the other way it has helped is in my atttitude. no matter how ahrd and how diffuclt life has been and belive me I have had my share , even if I am knocked down and lost for a while , i eventually come back to center and push through... this is also from my training.

I do not currently PRACTICE on a mat , I don't wear a hakama , but i do practice AIKIDO , in my way... and maybe one day I will step back onto a mat and be a beginner again... and this is also is a gift i learnt form Aikido , being a beginner ....open to learn , fresh and willing even if I am older , limited physically whatever.

in my surfing , i work with a group for disabled surfer , last week , i taught a women with a prosetic leg , she couldn't do it like everyone else , again due to my training in AIKIDO , i was able to watch and then work with her to find out waht she COULD do and adjust the moves accordingly , guess what , she stood up and caught a wave.. for me , this was a complete high , nothing like it and to the others able bodied and young , an true inspiration...

so , for me , AIKIDO is very alive in my life ... and as I said I AM forever grateful.

thanks and hope this adds to this discusssion.

samia

dyffcult
09-09-2005, 02:09 AM
Haven’t read all posts, but I got the gist....

I was introduced to aikido by way of an extremely energetic young man.

I trained in his dojo for three months, six days a week. He then explained that he was traveling to his sensei’s dojo in Japan and invited me to come.

I came. I trained for three months. I learned more than I ever thought I would. I thought that I would never quit training in aikido given what it had given to my body and spirit.

After returning to the states, and training in a dojo with one yudansha who had never trained in Iwama, I found all kinds of reasons to avoid training.....they switch partners after every technique, the drive is 45 minutes each way, the guy is only a black belt, he doesn’t teach technique the way I learned it, he tells me that I learned my technique wrong...” All kinds of reasons to begin to question my training.....

I trained off and on for the next two years, then left the mat for almost fifteen years. I always missed aikido, but practiced it off the mat.

However, even during the very intense three months that I lived in the dojo in Japan, I had days that I did not wish to be on the mat, but my presence was required. I still trained. Some nights, I just went through the motions as did my partner. Other nights, I ended up having to give it my all because of circumstances. Whether, “going through the motions” or “giving it my all” I always learned something. Sometimes, I learned something that night. Othertimes, I realized at a different keiko that I had learned something on a night of less than total enthusiasm.

My personal experience has been that whether I enter the mat with the total focus and intent to learn, or the grateful relief that I managed to drag my butt to the mat, I always learned something, my partner(s) learned something, and I walked off the mat a better person than I had walked on....

Such is aikido,

Brenda

rachmass
09-09-2005, 09:42 PM
Samia, thank you for stepping in and giving your own experience, as you appear to have practiced quite some time before stopping.

One thing I was thinking about today was that most of the people I personally know who have quit, and were at yudansha level, quit at sandan. Maybe this is a real mid-point rank where you are no longer a beginner yudansha, but are also not one of the higher levels, and maybe that contributes to it; or maybe it is just the circle of friends I have.

One of these people quit because he moved to another city where he did not like any of the aikido in the area, and he's far too busy with his work to start his own. Another quit because she adopted a child as a single woman and simply doesn't have the time, and yet another quit because she switched to a different dojo because of a move, and never felt welcome at the new dojo. All of these people practiced between 15-25 years, so a significant amount of time.

At this level, people have usually been training for quite some time, and so are at an age where life forces such as jobs, family, moves, etc. force changes, and aikido can often be the thing to go (most unfortunately). I quit once before, when I was pregnant with my son, and I stayed away from aikido for two years. When I came back, I opted to start in a different style (it arrived in town during my absence from aikido), so in some real way started all over again. At this point I have been practicing for 22 years, but am keenly aware that life could at anytime force me to re-evaluate practice. I sincerely hope that I will still be practicing in another 22 years, but have been around long enough to know that many people do leave, and there are as many reasons to leave or stay as there are people practicing this wonderful art.

MM
09-09-2005, 11:04 PM
Rachel Massey wrote:
One thing I was thinking about today was that most of the people I personally know who have quit, and were at yudansha level, quit at sandan. Maybe this is a real mid-point rank where you are no longer a beginner yudansha, but are also not one of the higher levels, and maybe that contributes to it; or maybe it is just the circle of friends I have.

One of these people quit because he moved to another city where he did not like any of the aikido in the area, and he's far too busy with his work to start his own. Another quit because she adopted a child as a single woman and simply doesn't have the time, and yet another quit because she switched to a different dojo because of a move, and never felt welcome at the new dojo. All of these people practiced between 15-25 years, so a significant amount of time.

I guess I see the difference like this. Someone who takes fencing lessons in college and then continues on after that because he/she likes it. And an Olympic Fencer. The first does it because he/she likes it, is entertained, enjoys it, and finds it stimulating in some aspect. But the Olympic Fencer lives and breathes it, wakes up to it and sleeps with it. It is a way of life intertwined with their whole being. Or the difference between someone who has a piano in their home and loves to play and a concert pianist who is in a symphony and plays because it is a part of their life.

The differences are that the first person does love the art that he/she studies and he/she practices as much as they can. They find a spiritual stimulation in it. But, when other things intervene, they find that they can step away from it and it doesn't really affect them as much as they thought it would. They find that they can stay away from it.

But, the second person. No, that's different. They love the art, but not because they find a spiritual stimulation in it. They love the art because it is a part of them and their spirituality encompasses all. That's the difference between those who reach a certain yudansha level and then quit, and those who reach that yudansha level and progress further.

I've seen both types of people and I've talked to both types. You'll hear it from them, too, because some know which catagory they fall into. For some, Aikido is a martial art. For some, it's their life. And people fall into the grey area between them. That's why some take longer than others to quit. But I still believe it all falls back into a "spiritual" aspect. For some, they find that Aikido doesn't fulfill that spiritual aspect. That isn't good or bad, it just is. They may find that some other martial art does, or chado or ikibana or bonsai or yoga. Sometimes their stage in life isn't at the right point for them to view, or accept, Aikido as their spiritual aspect. Some quit and then come back and take off from there. Some don't. Each person has his/her own spiritual aspect in some type of worldly function, whether that is a martial art, religion, sports, etc.

Throw into all the above, that people will change their priorities in life. So, even if Aikido is something spiritual for them, they may step back and put other things ahead of it. Examples are like you said, moving away, having a child, etc. Neither good nor bad, just living a life with certain priorities. Not everyone will choose spiritual over mental, physical, emotional, etc all the time, 24 hours a day.

But in the end, in my opinion, those that quit or stay, do so for spiritual reasons. Aikido is a spiritual path.

Mark

senshincenter
09-10-2005, 03:14 AM
An interesting thing about folks quitting at 3rd dan is that this seems to be a place where for a great many of us the cultural distractions of Aikido training tend to thin out. In other words, this is where we either choose to go on to be a teacher, get a dojo, get a license, keep seeking higher rank (for the purpose of establishing yourself more as a teacher, etc.), do seminars, lead in federations, etc., or we do not. If we do not, one rank sort of becomes like any other rank - and as a result the hierarchy, etc., loses meaning or significance (in comparison to what it may have once been). In short, we are left only with our training and our relationship to that training. If we've figured out the spiritual significance of our training, it matters not that rank has lost its meaning, for example. In fact, rank losing its meaning actually comes to bring us to a deeper relationship with the art! If we have not figured out the spiritual significance of our training, and if we do not go on to distract ourselves with the art's various forms of cultural capital, quitting at 3rd dan is most likely as good a place as any to quit. I wonder... It's just a theory.

Where these folks going on to be teachers, etc., or were they more prime to go on just training for themselves as higher ranked practitioners?

dmv

gi_grrl
09-10-2005, 04:21 AM
Hear, hear, Anne-Marie!

giriasis
09-10-2005, 09:07 AM
Hear, hear, Anne-Marie!

Hi Fiona! It's good to see you!

rachmass
09-10-2005, 05:07 PM
Interesting point David; I think you might be onto something there...

samiagoudie
09-10-2005, 08:37 PM
Thank you Rachel and everyone else in this interesting discussion,

I would like to add another aspect. I have traveled a lot in my life , especially when younger. I therefore trained with many many different Sensei , some for years , some for months , some weeks. I learnt something from all of them and could only do so because no matter what I would approach it as a beginner each time. I learn flexibility due to this and was able to mostly incorporate and ajust accordingly to the styles I was expose to and take something away each time that strengthened my technique and center. Some would say this is not a good way to train and each way has pros and cons.. I did have main influences and bias as to what was Best suited for me , but I also learnt to respect the strengths in each way and each teacher . SOME i found more difficult to adapt to and others felt familiar. For me this was a better option than only training where I felt most comfortable and was known. Sometimes as a black belt , people would try challenge me , try prove their way was better , but these incidents were not of concern for me and if anything simply became another learning. I was always told to pick partners who I found difficulties with and took this to heart , it is here we can learn the most , sometimes the joy of training with someone you just love to flow with is also fantastic and of course i loved those moments most , but the difficult ones taught me more for sure, about myself if nothing else.

I started teaching because when I returned to Australia , noone was teaching in the state I lived , SO with permission , I started and the dojo still xists 25 years later , with a wonderful SENSEI who took over after some years. I then traveled again and each place I lived started a dojo , so I COULD continue my own training where none was available. I loved it and learnt so much through this process , but often over time felt lonely and missed having regular teachers available ( as I had to travel to seminars or invite them to come to the DOJO and this was infrequent> . EVENTUALLY , after the landlord of the last place I taught didn't renew the lease , i decided to stop. I needed a break and to focus on other things and various other reasons as well played into this decision. WHEN i stopped I don't think I thought i would not formally train again , but I also felt i needed more just for myself and life was getting hectic and time was harder and harder to find. I never ever made money out of AIKIDO and never did it to get rank or money , just did it because I loved it , breathed it , dreamt it , lived it ... I still miss it and through this conversation find myself considering the challenge of returning ( there is a dojo near by ) this dojo is one of the styles i am least familiar with .... but then so what ... and I have also had severe injuries and my age ect ... all perhaps excuses , but yes , I do miss it , and yet i do feel that the spiritual teachings , the path , the way , is in my soul to stay ( as i wrote in the last post ) and have translated to other aspect of my life in new ways and new challenges .

I feel itis a mistake to think just because someone gets off the mat ... they are no longer training , the whole point is that the MAT is a practice place , yes a PRACTICE , for real life ... so , just cause you go onto other things , does not mean your not practicing... the Form is OUTER , the essence is inside ...

so , not totally sure if I am making any point specifically here , just some more thoughts and experiences from my life and my relationship with AIKIDO... each has their own way to journey. sometimes I feel i would love to have stayed in one place and built on my training with one school , imagining where this may have led me , but then who can know ? comparing mind will get you every time >>>LOL...

thanks , be well and may we all grow and learn and be open to the beauty around us.
samia