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Unregistered 05-24-2003 01:15 AM

choosing between good aikido and nice people
One or two years ago, I made a decision: to only spend my time in environments that made me feel good. As a consequence, I have a problem with where to practise.

I come from a line of aikido where people are pretty generous: always seek new students out, practise with them and help them, if you go to a café or a pub after practise it is announced on the mat after class so everybody knows they are welcome to join.

Some years ago, I switched to another line of aikido. Here, the culture is radically different. You have got to show that you are good, or the popular ones will not practise with you. You practise several rounds with one person the same class if you like, it is up to you. When sensei is about to show next technique, people look around before they sit down in the line... so they are close to someone they would like to practise with. As finding the right people to practise with is so crucial, people are incredibly quick in doing this and sometimes do it with a light slap on the other person's lap.

Of course there is two ways of climbing - technical advancement and social. The popular ones will practise with you because you are good, or because they like you. This creates an atmosphere with lots of competition. Not competition in aikido, but competition in being popular. Everyone turns into social climbers.

Why on earth, then, did I choose to practise in this dojo in the first place? Becasue they do very good aikido. The teachers are, in my mind, the most interesting ones in town.

Of couse I have seen similar social patterns before, but for an aikido dojo it was news to me. I had problems adapting. I did not want to behave what I considered badly. So I did not follow the local standards. Of course, the only one who got punished in the end was me. I have been thinking about adapting, but... I can not. I would have problems respecting myself. Instead, I left. I think this is a place where people learn good aikido, but not a place where people are happy.

For a few years, I have been practising at a another nice and technically good dojo. Unfortunately, because of work circumstances I will not be able to make it to this particular dojo in the future.

Going back to the kind of aikido they do in the generous dojo is not an option. I am not interested in what they do.

I do not ask for advice, really. If I can not find interesting aikido places in which I am happy, I rather go to another art - maybe a Chinese one. I am investigating the possibilities. I just want to ask if there is somebody out there who have had similar experience?

Also, I kind of wonder if a more selfish atmosphere is better in creating top students from a technical point of view. I think that maybe it is - not better for the level of the whole group, but for the top students.

In most other activities, in school etc, we like to separate the smart kids from the slow ones and the advanced people from relative beginners - and we claim that it is for the best of everybody. In aikido, everybody is practising together except for maybe a separate beginner's term and we say that this is for the best of everybody. Maybe we have one advanced or two a week, but the bulk of practise does not separate the group according to level. This in contrast to most other Japanese MA I have come in contact with.

Maybe the question is, "for the best on everyone" - but in what sense?

rachmass 05-24-2003 04:20 AM

Hello Anon,

Very interesting post! Yes, I personally have seen this type of training environment, and have seen extremely talented aikidoka come out of such a dojo. I do think it becomes a personal choice on what is more important; the "edge" of this type of situation, or the feeling of general well being from the other.

Do you think though, that it might be well possible to become a talented aikidoist without this type of environment? I certainly do, and think it just depends on the individual and what works best for them. Some people thrive on this type of competition, while others it makes miserable. There is nothing saying that you won't be able to find an equally good quality dojo without the politicing (for isn't that what it really comes down to) you find at that dojo. Also, is it possible that the "generous" dojo you started practicing at in the first place has moved on a bit from a technical standpoint? Organics come into play, and not only do people and their aikido change, but also whole dojos can have a radical shift in the dojo culture over time.

Daniel Blanco 05-24-2003 11:34 AM

To Whom it may concern, you should feel confortable in the Dojo that you train in ,please speak to the main intructor at the school to correct your interest, if that does not work,you should switch to another school not another M/A all DOJOs are run differently, good luck stay focus.

Unregistered 05-24-2003 11:54 AM


Rachel Massey (rachmass) wrote:
Do you think though, that it might be well possible to become a talented aikidoist without this type of environment? I certainly do,

Yes, certainly! On the other hand, professors come from poor uneducated families - although not very often.

I should say that "good aikido" maybe was a slightly unlucky word. I should say "interesting aikido", that is, interesting to me. I am sure there are dojos that are equally good, in their line of aikido. I am however too badly in love with this kind of practise to want to have another kind of aikido, even if it is very good measured by it's own standards. So the generous dojo is out of the question, although it is not a question of quality.

Rachel Massey (rachmass) wrote:
There is nothing saying that you won't be able to find an equally good quality dojo without the politicing (for isn't that what it really comes down to) you find at that dojo.

Well, I know what dojos and clubs there are in my town, what kind of aikido they do and who teaches. I tell you, I have exactly the choice I have described.

Daniel Blanco:please speak to the main intructor at the school to correct your interest
Talking to the main instructor would do no good. The people who built this place knew what they are after. They are not interested in a change, they like it the way it is.

Daniel Blanco 05-24-2003 01:25 PM


Daniel Blanco 05-24-2003 01:27 PM


Unregistered 05-24-2003 01:58 PM


Dear Daniel, this is posted anonymously for a reason. Anyway, I do not live in the States and you do not need to help me. Thank you for your concern, though.

Actually, I do not think leaving aikido - for as long as I live in this town at least - and taking up let's say, iaido or xingyi, is such a bad choice. If you think it is, maybe I may advice you to broaden your horizons a bit?

Plus, this is certainly not a bad school I am talking about. You may think so because it does not live up to certain standards that your teachers (and my previous ones) find important, but that does not make it a fact.

JPT 05-24-2003 04:20 PM

When I first starting training in aikido my sensei made it very clear the importance of practising with as many different people as possible. Everybody you train with will have different body sizes, reactions, strenghts, flexibilities, pain thresholds etc & therefore the techniques will have to be slightly adjusted to suit each individual. Those students who practise with the same partner week in week out may look proficient with there prefered partner but really they are fooling themselves. Put them up against somebody a bit different or akward and they will probably look worse or just as average as everybody else.

My advise to you is if you like the style of aikido is to train there. However continue to train with everybody & not just the favorites. Train with them all, fat, thin, young, old, good, bad, men, women, hardnuts, wimps, blackbelts & novices. You will learn something about aikido from each. Ideally if the class is big enough you should be able to train with a different person on each technique throughout the whole class.

There is no rule saying that you must automatically train with the person sitting next to you. So go wandering around the mat, just be quick to grab the next person that you want to train with.
:triangle: :square: :circle:

Thalib 05-24-2003 07:19 PM

To whom it may concern,

Remember that Aikido is not only physical, but it is mental and spiritual as well. Well, as well as with most martial arts.

I would say that I know how you feel because I was actually one of those people that you talked about, the one that trains within my own "group". I have learned a way past this, but sometimes old habits die hard.

My way of doing it is just wait until everybody is partnered up and I'll be partnered with whomever is left. I do expect the juniors to be more active and seek the seniors instead of the other way around. If someone come to me and asked me to be a training partner, I would gladly accept. If I see someone sitting down with nothing to do, I approach them and ask them if they want to train. Please enlighten me if I'm wrong.

I know how you feel because I'm one of those people that created those type of environment and I realize the impact that it creates. I train with people that I started off training with. I do have my own little "group". I do still have that, but at the same time, I am now more open, more outgoing, instead of just hiding in that group of people. Training not with the same group of people over and over actually made it more fun.

In my defense of creating my own little group, it is because I see the others doing it. I know you think that's a poor excuse and it actually is. It is not until I train around other dojos and meet new people, forcing me to traing without my group, that I have learn the enjoyment of training with others.

One has to be more active seeking out training partners. Force them to be your partner, cutting off their "usual" partner. Trust me, you're doing them and yourself a favor.

I do still have one problem, training with people that I don't like. Some friends of mine could actually do this. They were really sincere with the "disliked" partner also, I could really see it in their faces. Regardless of their dislike to those people, they could be 100% sincere at that moment in time. Not like smiling on the face but with a knife in the heart. Not being a hypocrite. I could tell the difference between the two. What happens after that is a different story, but this is something that I need to learn to do.

bbaker 05-24-2003 08:30 PM

Taking care of business is not always a social event. Sometimes, as in some groups who practice Aikido, it is intermingled with social interaction, and sometimes it is not. In this busy world, accepting the fact that we are using each other for practice .... well ... it is what it is. We shouldn't make too much of it, or impose ourselves upon our training partners.

Funny thing about wanting to socialize with other people, we seek out those whose qualities are either interesting, or qualities we would like to see in ourselves. Sometimes people want to socialize, and sometimes it is just TCB, taking care of business.

AnonII 05-27-2003 08:01 PM

Your dojo sounds a lot like my work environment. I am okay with my work environment being intense, cliquish and success-oriented, because I am really committed to doing my job very, very well and want to be surrounded by like-minded people. I take the popularity contest issue as an unfortunate side-effect of having a group of peers that can handle my own intensity and who are consistently spurring me to work harder.

I go to a nice dojo because I want to escape my work environment. What do you want to do?

Unregistered 05-28-2003 09:25 AM

Thalib, thank you very much for your reply! We all have things which are easier to practise with people on a certain level, and even in the "generous" dojo I found that people of third kyu and abouve generally went for each other for koshinage. Except for the really advanced people, who could practise koshinage with everybody. Time makes it easier to be generous.

I think it makes a big difference if this type of behaviour are approved of by the people who run the place or not, though. But you will always have a little bit of it. Nobody is perfect. Not even me. :p

Quite a few of you have misread my post, taking for granted that my question is whether I should leave the dojo in question or not. As I already said, I quit practising at this place one of two years ago. I have not regretted it for a minute! It was a good choice.

When I left, I think that actually things were changing for the better - cencerning my own position in that place, not in the general attitude. The people who were not very advanced when I came there and who I helped with their ukemi are starting to get really fun to practise with, so I do not really need the fancy clique that bad any more. Also, after an event in which I did a good performance some people suddenly started saying hello, who previously treated me like I was invisible... So this could have been the right timepoint to improve my position.

But, to what cost? I would have to learn how to be quicker than lightning in saying "onegai shimasu", and more importantly - I would need to avoid practising with some un-fancy people, as I will be judged partly by with who I practise.

I had the choice, I made my mind up. I do not go for "I either want less corruption, or better chance to participate in it".

Actually, I think if I was completely "pure" I could stay in this environment and remain "pure". But I also have this urge of a spot in the sun, if just a small one. This dojo takes out ugly sides of me that I do not want to reinforce.

Those of you who urge me not to quit aikido... maybe your concern should make me touched, but it actually makes me feel like "I it did not know it was a cult when I joined". If I do something else for a few years, it won't hurt me.

Unregistered 05-28-2003 10:10 AM

naah stick around then when you're the ranking gorilla around there people'll follow your lead. Help change the place into a friendly kick-ass aikido place.

Unregistered 05-28-2003 01:20 PM

Original Unregistered here. Apart from the completely unrealistic thought that the core of this dojo should suddenly disappear... do I smell some kind of morality here? Unregistered 2, why should I do this? For my own sake, for someone else's, why?

Why are all these people telling me what I should do, when I have already told them that doing the exact oppostie of what they say is one of the best choices I have made? I did not ask for advice. If you want to give advice anyway give a good reason for your advice, or you will most certainly be ignored.

Unregistered 05-28-2003 01:25 PM


Jay Peatee (JPT) wrote:
There is no rule saying that you must automatically train with the person sitting next to you. So go wandering around the mat, just be quick to grab the next person that you want to train with.

You do obviously not know the kind of environment I am talking about. The only way I get to practise with someone who is not sitting next to me is 1) we like each other and take eye contact at the moment the teacher ends the demonstration


2) one of us, or rahter both of us, are less popular.

opherdonchin 05-28-2003 04:16 PM

Original Unregistered:

I hear you. It seems like a hard choice, although I probably would have made it the same way you did (just with less conscoius awareness of what I was doing).

One question I have for you: you say you are not looking for advice, but it's not clear to me what you are looking for. Are you just curious how other people have felt about similar situations? Are you wondering how other people did deal with it or would have dealt with it? What are you hoping to get out of this discussion?

Unregistered 05-29-2003 06:42 AM

Hi Opher,

in my first post I said I wanted to hear if anyone had similar experiences, of similar choices or similar dojos. I was also mentioning the possible discussion about what kind of dojo atmosphere or attitude is better for bringing out top students, or for the general level of the dojo. So far, rachmass has touched on both these issues.

justinm 05-29-2003 07:58 AM

This has made me think. I always move quickly to pick a partner to train with, trying to get around the whole dojo during a class (8-10 people).

I'm going to try a different tactic for a while, and wait for someone to approach me rather than take the initiative. It will be interesting to see who does, or if I get left on the sidelines. Not sure what it will tell me, but it will be an interesting exercise!!

John Boswell 05-29-2003 10:28 AM

Mr. Anon.,

Why do you train?

I'd take a serious look at why you bother to train in the first place. If you have a choice of dojo's and they vary to widely... your reason for training should dictate for you where to go and why.

And only you can answer these questions.

I have ONE dojo in which to train. I'm happy with my instructor and I learn a great deal so I lucked out. If I was no satisfied with things, I would do without. I wouldn't even train in another art as I find Aikido to be just what I'm looking for.

As for training the "Top Students", I'm really curious what you mean by this. Top as in you have no doubt they can go kick some ass? or are they technically flawless and look and move just like O'Sensei? Again... this is something you define for yourself.

To me, Top Students have not only skill but mental awareness and clarity. They have respect for themselves, others and their enviorment and work to bring the Aiki within themselves out onto their surroundings... in more than just a "martial" way.

Have I bored you yet? I dunno. A lot of it you have to answer for yourself, but I still say you need to figure out why you train and take it from there.

Good luck and don't stop training!

Unregistered2 05-29-2003 11:04 AM

You can either face up to the challenges of your life or walk away from them.

You want it both ways; a Group environment where you are comfortable and a place that trains "closer to the edge".

You didn't like the group environment , and you didn't like the less gung ho training environment;

Why should you do anything about it?

C'mon take responsiblity for your life. I can empathize with your pain for a bout 3 seconds.

If you don't like Aikido fine do something else.

If you like Aikido and don't like your environment do something about it.

And if you don't want advice, then pray tell what you want. conmiseartion? applause for your high standards?

I used to train with a guy who thought everyone was an idiot . He could do no wrong, and wanted to teach everyone to be less of an idiot. He finally got bored and left after two months training. I wonder what happened to him.

rachmass 05-29-2003 11:17 AM

Maybe I am missing something here, but I thought that anon wasn't looking for advice, only to see if others had ever had this experience, and if so, what their experience with it was-opinions, not advice.

In any case, it was a legitimate post and the answers have been legitimate too; it is unfortunate though that the comments got off-point to the original. Has anyone trained in an environment where the aikido was excellent, but the social aspect of the dojo was terribly oppressive (okay, I am paraphrasing here) and not friendly? What about the really nice dojo with the less intense training? I've been to both types of dojos, and also one that runs somewhat in between, and think that what anon was looking for was our experiences; therefore: I come from a background where the shihan for the organization is extremely serious about this art and quite tough, and his students are almost universally supberb. A lot of people really thrive in this atmosphere and their aikido is quite good. Personally I am quite a mush, and am all peace, love and harmony, and it was hard for me and I did not thrive. I take things to the opposite extreme, and try to make everybody feel welcome and accepted, and I think my aikido might suffer due to lack of such intensity or energy. I go and train occassionaly at a dojo where the people are very friendly and encouraging of each other, but at the same time the training is quite intense and folks push each other hard. Just wish that dojo wasn't four hours drive from my home!

Anon, was this the type of answer you were looking for?

Unregistered 05-29-2003 03:43 PM


I have explained twice that I would like to discuss similar experiences, in any aspect of it. If that has not come through, I guess this third time will make no difference...

I like when people make me think.

I do not say I want training to be "closer to the edge". I find Rachels experiences interesting. This phrasing was hers describing her experiences, not mine although there are similarities.

I am not in pain... and I am taking responsibility for my life. That is why I leave places and go somewhere else. OK?

You make a moral statement:

If you don't like Aikido fine do something else.

If you like Aikido and don't like your environment do something about it.
which I must interpret as: it is not OK to choose dojos partly on social aspects, not even if you think they really suck in it. Only the practise matters, on all occasions.

It is an interesting statement. It is true for some people. Taken to the extreme, they even practise for a clearly abusive teacher if they think he is the best. To me, both things are important - practise and wellbeing. Life is full of compromises...

You do not have to empathize with me. However, I can not see why you bother telling me. It would be interesting to hear you elaborate on why you bother to post. Does my post disturb you so much? If so, why? Does it hit a nerv? Do you practise in a "close to the edge" environment, like it and feel accused by my post? In what lies the accusation? There must be a reason.

Rachel, you and others have given valuable input. I can kind of understand that people believe I want advice, as that is a quite common reason to start threads in this anonymous forum. Thank you for trying to help in keeping the thread on topic.

Unregistered2 05-29-2003 04:20 PM

I practice at a hells angel dojo. everyone rides hogs to class and wears leather hakamas. we chew up ukes and only say onegaishimasu to friends of the head biker-shihan, and if you can't do a headstand you're out of the club.

I'm just being obnoxious since my name doesn't have to show up on the message.

In reality, I find it unfortunate that you can't find a place to train that suits you.

The only MORAL statement I made was

take responsiblity for your life
There's nothing wrong with wanting to be happy IMHO. But no one's going to give it to you in a silver plate. Sure , you took action, and if it still makes you unhappy , you can make new decisions and go make it better.

Unwanted advice:

you only have control over your attitude

Josh Manning 05-29-2003 08:56 PM

Wow. This is certainly a vitriolic thread. Usually, Aikidoka are remarkably polite to one another.

I have found that politics evolve fastest in dojo that are part of too large an organization. This in my opinion is a sin common to all MA's. Its a shame, really. Just when a founder's dream starts to spread, small minded people want to high jack it and establish self serving pecking orders. I find it hard to believe that true Aikido can be practiced in an environment of self centeredness. It kind of runs counter to the way. But, people will have their sports.

Largo 05-29-2003 11:11 PM

Different teaching styles suit different people. You hear it all the time when people talk about education. Think of your training as education. Where do you learn best? Who has a good style of teaching you? Just because someone's teaching style doesn't fit you, doesn't make them a bad teacher or you a bad student.

Side note: really good teachers can combine a few different styles. This is reaaaly rare though.

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