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Things are looking up. We have lots more victims coming through the doors and people are turning up to training so maybe we've turned the corner.
I still think we're doing things wrong though; not just our dojo but Aikido as a whole or at the very least our association.
On the teachers course I did a couple of months ago the instructor said that when people first come to a dojo they expect to see martial artists which kinda tallies with my experience and it sounds like common sense doesn't it?
I remember when I first started out in martial arts, when I went to the dojo for the first time what I expected to see was a fight and sure enough in TKD and Jujutsu and kickboxing at some point there would be actual fighting and all throughout the class you were doing stuff that you could see was related to fighting.
We don't have that in Aikido. If you stick to our syallabus you could train for a year before someone throws a not very realistic punch at you; I don't think tsuki is on the syllabus until 4th kyu and this I feel is a real issue.
If a student goes to any other martial art they'll have someone throw a punch at them almost from day one, with the possible exception of judo. Immediately then they see the value of the training, they can see that even if they can't do the technique effectively that at some point they will be able to and they will be able to deal with this situation.
In Aikido what we're worried about is someone grabbing our wrist and we quite happily let people walk out of the door if they're not equally as worried about people grabbing their wrist.
You can see it in people's eyes on their first class; they see no point to learning what we're teaching and who can blame them? What are we actually teaching them that has any kind of practical value? Nothing as I see it.
The annoying thing is that we could teach techniques from jodan tsuki from day one, we could alter the order things appear on the syllabus to make things more practical and we would boost our student retention rates in the process.
It just irritates me when we get people come in, often from other arts, and the best we can do is wrist grabs especially when the end product is something that you can use to wipe the floor with just about any art out there. We're loosing students because we're not attempting to show the potential of the art.