Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?
I've always found Aikido to be very ridgid in it's teaching too, each student basically ends up trying to be a carbon copy of the instructor which breeds a mentality that doesn't really experiment or test but that is quite happy to accept that what's been shown works and leave it at that. Combined with, certainly where I train, a lack of time and space within training to experiment and explore the technique this leads to a state where every student is performing a technique in a way which may very well work perfectly for the person that taught it but not for the actual student.
Since the usual line is that "There are no counters to Aikido" nobody ever really feels the need to work on their technique, as long as it's good enough to pass the grading they assume it's going to work out in the real world.
It's a training system that breeds complacency and complacent people don't produce good technique.
I can also vouch for the insular nature of Aikido too, Aikido is the only MA I've done where there isn't banter about other martial arts. Before whatever I've done there's always been at least a casual interest in how other martial arts do things. Certainly in my kickboxing classes there was a mix of people from different back grounds and sparring and talking martial arts always went hand in hand and in a dojo you don't have talking for long before the demonstations start. It was brilliant because it ended up that there wasn't just the the official line of the martial art being taught, there were other view points there too.
I suppose the teaching methods (at least where I train) are too formal to allow that kind of free flow of knowlege and experience, everythings purely Sensei to student.
If there's any banter in Aikido, it's usually about such and such Shihan's irimi-nage and it's off the mat unless it's being taught. This means that only the Aikido viewpoint gets taught and the official line on other martial arts around here is somewhere between "There are other martial arts!?" and "Don't worry about other martial arts, Aikido can beat them all". I mean they're just dismissed out of hand on the odd occasion when they're mentioned which for me is a radical thing, everywhere else I've been it's "Wing Chung's bloody good" and such like. Other martial arts were treated with a great deal of respect.
There's also a culture of being as Japanese as possible, senior figures are treated like Daimyo and you're very careful about what questions you ask.
It all builds up to break down communication and produce an air of complacency. Why worry about how good your technique is when you pass gradings and you "know" that you're practicing a martial art that can take on all comers?
Just my thoughts, might only apply where I'm training.