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Kieun 06-30-2004 02:30 PM

aikido w/o any of the trappings
Does aikido have to be practiced in an actual dojo setting to be transmitted properly?

Had an interesting experience recently. Met a small group of people practicing what I swear was aikido so went to talk to them. It was aikido - the instructor was a Nidan from Australia and has only been in the US for a couple of years. Their group practice in sweatpants and a judogi top, but that's just for durability. What I found interesting was that they were completely informal, had no intersest in ranks, tests, organization, etc. Absolutely no formailty, and the only bows were to each other as a group before and after class (everything else were handshakes), The instructor preferred to be called Pete, and felt more like a bunch of friends meeting for football in the park than an aikido "dojo". They (only about 5-6 people) just liked the art, the philisophy, and wanted to have fun doing it. They practice always in parks (grass=mat, no overhead for rent), and a tiny nominal fee for paperwork and flyers and the like. And they weren't flubbing what they did either - the senior student there had been practicing with the teacher since he'd been in the US and his techniques were crisp, clean, powerful. It was a refeshing way to practice aikido.

Has anyone had similar experiences?

kironin 06-30-2004 06:54 PM

Re: aikido w/o any of the trappings
It works about as long as the group stays that small and no one moves anywhere else. of course the Nidan obviously did go through a ranking system in training and one could think that he just has no interest in growing up and taking on some responsibility for his students.

I have seen something like that before, it lasts for a while, it might last for a good long while if that one teacher stays there. It goes away pretty quickly if that teacher moves on. It's more of a ready made social club for the teacher.

not unlike a parent who wants to be their child's friend rather than a parent.

PeterR 06-30-2004 07:22 PM

Re: aikido w/o any of the trappings
Or maybe he just wanted to train.

Chris Birke 06-30-2004 07:37 PM

Re: aikido w/o any of the trappings
I know excellent people who have trained in garages and parks for years. Belts only cover 2 inches of your ass, the rest is up to you.

bleepbeep 06-30-2004 11:35 PM

Re: aikido w/o any of the trappings
i know some people who will play for the love of it because they have been so starved and away from their home they have found an oasis of sorts. like the group you described. most of them have been having careers on the road...some of them tell me it's like coming home/or a homesickness and sharing aikido with others like them sort of feels like a comfort or a refuge.

kironin 07-01-2004 02:16 AM

Re: aikido w/o any of the trappings

Peter Rehse wrote:
Or maybe he just wanted to train.

that's fine if you think it's all about you and you let the students know that up front.

I had a bit different role models.

and the examples (which were outside my organization) I encountered however did not result in very positive endings for the students. Someone who doesn't have much interest in teaching, but just wants to train likely leaves something out of aikido more than just trappings.

and if its a social club / refuge for the person thats rife for potential abuse right there.

and location of practice is not relevant to the discussion. You can have formal practice among the trees.

PeterR 07-01-2004 03:52 AM

Re: aikido w/o any of the trappings

Every single group I've started (all two of them) the primary motivation has been so that I can up the training time in the style of Aikido I enjoy doing. It sure wasn't because of any intrinsic need to teach. At my level and that of the guy in the park - we shouldn't even think about setting ourselves up as sensei unless there are extenuating circumstance.

They normally call me Peter in the dojo and the social interaction is a big thing. After practice lunch, trips to the O'furo, dinner parties and beer drinking. I've practiced Aikido in the main dojo, my gym at work and among the trees and rocks.

There is no abuse and the students are getting a good technical understanding of Aikido. It's a given that just about everyone in the group will be moving on - what more can we do.

I find the friends in the park scenario completely admirable. So what if the group breaks up - perhaps one or more of the students will have learned enough good Aikido that they can choose wisely when they look for a more permanent group.

Zoli Elo 07-01-2004 05:18 AM

Re: aikido w/o any of the trappings
The greatest insights that I have had in regards to aikido, came when I was "training" with a group of yudansha (a 5th dan, two 4th dan, and three 2nd dan) ex-government folks. I was the only one that wore a dogi and hakama, as they all felt fine in sweats. We had no shomen, did not bow at all, no fees, and no tests, plus we called each other by our first names. Other then my attire the only "trappings" was that the 5th dan got to pick most of the techniques that we practiced... However, that could have also been for other reasons...

The most fun, was almost had there... My aikido club was just a bit more,... Mine. :)

happysod 07-01-2004 05:37 AM

Re: aikido w/o any of the trappings
Peter, no! A dojo's not just for Christmas - tell me it ain't so...

Seriously though, with Peter on this one, informal setting/class = fun for the entire bunch who are willing to turn up. Rank issues are reduced and it's easier to take things from other styles and turn them into interesting "ok what do we do now"...

Now if there was only an informal class available, I may find this limiting, but as an adjoint to "normal training" (an oxymoron if ever there was one) I'm all in favour.

justMe 07-01-2004 07:23 AM

Re: aikido w/o any of the trappings

Craig Hocker wrote:
Someone who doesn't have much interest in teaching, but just wants to train likely leaves something out of aikido more than just trappings.

I think there is room for both. Certainly there are advantages to formalized instruction, legitimacy being one of the foremost, but it all comes down to personal choices. If you just want to know the art without the belt system overhead and you are ready to accept the repercussions of not progressing in rank, go for it!

The repercussion that will have the most impact is what will happen if you want to someday switch from being an Aikidoka to being considered a leader in the Profession of Aikido. You will have to basically start over and will be locked out until you legitimize yourself via formal instruction with a recognized sensei. Believe it or not this is a good thing and is healthy for Aikido!

I know that this professional path regarding Aikido is not mine. It is just something I do not want to pursue. Subsequently I walked away from my rank, so to speak, nearly a decade ago. That choice has limited where I can go in the Aikido world and I accept that. Not too bothered by it, really, because that is not where I wanted to go anyway.

My point is that where and how you learn is not as important as the fact that you are learning. From that perspective, I am lead to question the quote I have included here. I was instilled from my earliest days of Aikido that it is the responsibility of all of us to pass on what we have learned to anyone who seeks to know it. Even a person who is in class for his second day has something to offer someone for whom it is their first night! I don't see what can be left behind if someone humbly wants to train and gathers like minded folk to him for that purpose.

On the other hand, if this person wants to pull together a band of followers to satisfy his own ego, then yes, that leaves a lot to be desired…and it is not Aikido!

L. Camejo 07-01-2004 11:11 AM

Re: aikido w/o any of the trappings

Kieun Kim wrote:
Does aikido have to be practiced in an actual dojo setting to be transmitted properly?

In a word I'd say no. But then it depends on what one is seeking to get from training Aikido. If one is seeking/needing to bow in front of a shomen and feel like he's Japanese back in Edo etc. etc. etc. then I'd say dojoless, trappingless training is not a good idea.

Personally though, I love outdoor, gi-less, mat-less - if your ukemi doesn't work on sand/grass don't do it - type training.:) I think I may have even introduced a Shodokan 8th Dan to the concept recently (beach bokken training in shorts and t-shirt), and he fit right in like everyone else. But then we tend to ascribe to the view that Aikido can be practiced as effectively anywhere, not necessarily in a dojo.

To me it brings a bit more "realness" to the training. Not that the dojo is not "real", but one realises that in everyday living (at least here) there are no mats, shomens, belt orders, folks don't bow to you and you don't walk around in gis.

At a time when our dojo was financially challenged, we actually trained in parks regularly to maintain the crispness of our form until we could afford another place to put down mats and train. From my experience though, this sort of training is only encouraged by members who are "hopeless lifers" and don't ever need an excuse to train. Its the sort that travel everywhere with a gi and white belt in their bag, as the attraction is to Aikido training and nothing else really. Like Peter said - maybe they just wanted to train.

Just my thoughts.

Jeanne Shepard 07-01-2004 02:23 PM

Re: aikido w/o any of the trappings
I've trained in a garage, but it was still, undeniably, a dojo. Just smaller.


suren 07-01-2004 03:46 PM

Re: aikido w/o any of the trappings
I think for a beginner it's important to know that the instructor you start to train with has enough experience to teach him/her. We can't judge how good is instructor and if he teaches the right thing if we never practiced before. For this it's necessary to have a proof of eligibility to train. Here where affiliations and ranks have meaning. Even for more advanced student it's sometimes important to be tested. I'm sure it's a very interesting experience and I'm looking forward to it. I think the only advantage of training in dojo is that you have mats that help beginners to learn for example rolls without hurting themselves.

That's my beginner's opinion.

Don_Modesto 07-01-2004 04:25 PM

Re: aikido w/o any of the trappings

Kieun Kim wrote:
Does aikido have to be practiced in an actual dojo setting to be transmitted properly?

Osensei practiced on mountains. Also, see,

csinca 07-02-2004 11:26 AM

Re: aikido w/o any of the trappings
As a nidan I offer an additional night of training in some space I borrow from friend of mine that runs a Wado-Ryu dojo. On Monday nights for about an hour any of the folks (usually 2 or 3) from my dojo are welcome to come train in an informal setting. They can wear gi's or sweats and we don't bow in or out. We treat each other with respect and I teach and workout. The response has been good and I've seen some increased understanding in some students because we can work on their questions more than a structured class.

Just like anything else, it can be good or it can be bad.

Nobody has yet mentioned some of the garbage that passes for aikido in some dojos. Just because it's in a dojo and everyone is dressed to impress doesn't make the practice good.


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