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Lan Powers
10-03-2005, 12:24 PM
Recently, Sensei had to turn away a potential student.
This poor man was very crippled with arthritis and had a lot of joint pain already, so it didn't seem appropriate for him to leap into practice with all the physical activity involved.
He was welcome, but it didn't fit him physically. Of course, we could work with him at whatever level...not a problem.
Sensei is a nice man, a caring man who very much embodies the principles of sharing that are part of this art. He cares about people, and when this guy expressed interest in training, he had the class work out in a bit more *intense* manner. Lots of fun for us, but it demonstrated the strenuous, sweating, hi-flying....etc. etc.
There was another aspect of their interaction that was kind of hidden to the rest of us there. Potential student stated that he suffered from Paranoid Schizophrenia. That is sad, but no reason for a person to not be allowed to train and learn and grow.
His stated purpose for the exercise was to get to where he could drop his medication. Uh Oh
Dangerous,dangerous. So, what should you do? Teach this guy a method of moving meditation to help him with his physical problems? Or train a mentally/chemically challenged individual how to effectively hurt people. (Kind of putting the extremes out there for you to see)
My question, is how have you dealt with potential students that seemed to be unstable, dangerous, or just dodgy as the Brits say?

Don't get me wrong, I hated to see him gently suggest to this guy that a "lesser impact" sort of martial art training might suit his physical condition better. Like Tai Chi (slowly)
Hate losing bodies for the mat. But I feel, he made the right decision.
Have you, as teachers , faced the question of training someone who is "unsuitable" ? I hate to phrase it that way, but that is really what you have to do as a teacher, I think, judge the suitability of each persons character, or makeup.


10-04-2005, 12:57 AM
I think part of being a sensei is knowing when to say no. I think that if he hadn't said no, and the student was injured, that would be dishonest. If you have a small enough dojo that it's possible to announce to everyone that this person has a condition, maybe that would work out. A lot of dojos have so many members that it would be close to impossible to let everyone know this person has a condition in a reasonable way. It's bad enough being new, let alone being completely singled out for something. As far as mental issues, that one is difficult. aikido sensei's aren't psychologist, and don't know what the possible problems could be. I think tai chi and yoga are good options, not only are they not as physical, they can be done alone.

10-04-2005, 06:26 AM
I like to think that Aikido is beneficial for everyone, but in this case, I think your sensei was right to discourage this individual. Sometimes one must speak to the greater good, and this person's mindset and attitude were not in the right place for this training. Tai Chi or Yoga would be a better choice, but even these will not make him qualified to make medical judgments for himself. I hope he finds his way.

I have never turned anyone away, except for one fellow who purposefully tried to hurt another in class, but there are often individuals who undertake the training who are unable, due to injury or other physical deficiency, to safely participate in some drills or techniques. I try to instill from the beginning that their training is every bit as much their own responsibility as it is their instructor's, and that they must judge for themselves what exercises are not within their ability to participate safely, and just to step to the side when they are uncomfortable, without being ashamed.

I tell students that their goal should be to become better today than what they were yesterday, and that leaves many ways for even the most frail to better themselves. They are only competing with themselves, after all (Masakatsu Agatsu)

Lan Powers
10-04-2005, 02:50 PM
Thanks for the opinions.
It seemed to me that his desicion was correct, (Not that my opinion would sway the facts)
I was more concerned with the mind-set of the man than his physical condition. I have seen several instances (thankfully not in Aikido) where a person was trained in martial arts, then veered off into a "darker" turn for their life. Bullies becoming better, more efficient bullies, dangerous people becoming DANGEROUS.
I suppose the issue is one of criterian for eligabilty. (Is that a valid phrase?)
Fortunately, the gentlemans physical condition precluded this issue coming to the fore.

10-08-2005, 10:50 AM
I have personally turned away a few potential students due to this type of situation. One fellow in particular, I had known for several years due to us attending the same school and living in a small town. His checkered past, involving harm to himself, children, and others, plus my knowledge of his mental health status were taken into consideration when making this decision. Just as in the situation that was stated in the first post of this thread, there were some physical conditions that could be used to discourage this person, namely his doctor stating that he needed to seek an activity to help vertigo, which he was suffering from. He felt that Aikido would be good for this condition. We asked that he produce a doctor's note that specifically stated that he could be thrown down, picked up, rolled foreword, rolled backward, flipped around, spun in circles, etc. before he be allowed to train. He was then politely asked to leave the dojo, and has never returned, although he does pop up at the occasional public demonstrations we perform in the community, but no harm done.

10-08-2005, 11:09 AM
I think if there is even a shadow of doubt that someone shouldnt train for health reasons then they shouldnt train. I think your sensei was right, he was only doing what he thought was best for this guy. And like you said there are other slow paced martial arts out there that can be just as rewarding as aikido.

10-09-2005, 12:31 AM
Hi folks,

There was a pretty interesting thread on Student Medical Conditions (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=5548) which I started a while back on the subject of how much medical information aikido dojo ask for when prospective students sign up. It might be interesting for those involved in this discussion...

-- Jun

Lan Powers
10-09-2005, 05:30 PM
Thanks Jun,
My true focus to this thread dealt with the issue of the qualities of a persons personality more than the physical issues. It was a fortunate side point about the health issues offering an "out" if you will, but I was mostly interested in the idea of a "unsuitible" individual attempting to train.
Bad wording, I know..."unsuitable" more of unsuited, or just not right for this, or you're a whack-job and shouldn't be taught martial arts.
All of which have such a negative connotation. Kind of a grey area in the whole idea of teaching.

How have you dealt with this issue? Have you had to? And what kinds of thoughts on this do you have?


Mark Gibbons
10-10-2005, 08:02 AM
I think if there is even a shadow of doubt that someone shouldnt train for health reasons then they shouldnt train..

Some of us are older. If we want to train we'll have to take the risk. I know its risky to train, knee problems especially. Given control my doc's wouldn't let me. My choice though. Everyone has that shadow of doubt though, athletes die from previously unknown medical conditions fairly often.


10-10-2005, 10:57 AM
Being from Georgia, I am a fan of the "Right to hire, right to fire," mentality. Is it fair to turn away a student that wishes to train? No. But the simple fact is that an instructor's responsibility to to teach students in a safe and healthy environment. As an instructor, you are responsible for your students and their actions when they train.

I turned down an obese, diabetic gentleman about 6 months ago. Does that mean I don't like to teach overwieght students? No. That means that I do not possess the medical knowledge to care for an over-wieght diabetic if he encountered serious medical problem during training. Accidents will happen, but one of my instructor tasks is to minimize the possibility of accidents.

To address the most recent question, "What qualifies a student as unsuitible to train?" I think there are several factors, and I rank them in my order of importance:
1. Student attitude
2. Student health [physical]
3. Student health [mental]
4. Student impact on dojo atmosphere
5. Student age

Notice I rank age pretty low and rely on health to aid my decision. I think the student attitude is paramount to the potential quality of a student. I also rank the impact the student has on the dojo dynamics to determine if the student is a good fit for the dojo. I also have a luxury on dues-independent decisions...