A cultural identity complex
Just a word of caution. Most of the time that I was learning aikido in the states, I thought of coming to Japan to study aikido. Now I live in Japan, and teach aikido to Japanese people. Why? I am a shodan, and have studied aikido for around 8 years. I love it and it is the pillar of my identity, but it simply is not to be found within an hour and a half of my house. Much similar to my university experience, in Michigan, I find myself teaching and commuting.
Why would such a beautiful art not be as common as rice cakes?
Japan is undergoing what I consider a vast and painful cultural identity complex. Since world war II most things old and cultural have been only maintained on the outside. The inside morals and ideals, such as religious sentiments, and samurai morals, were credited with a disastrous and shameful lost world war. Just this last January, I had a group of old men in my apartment eating chili and drinking sake, and one said to me... The reason that kids in Japan today are so weak, is because we didn't have the courage to raise our kids after the war. A few sakes down the chute and that really blew me out of the water. (I am a cultural coordinator of sorts in a small town, by the way. These sorts of things are my job.)
So back to aikido. An hour and a half from my house their is a dojo. I have some issues with it, and thus have not affiliated. In this dojo I have never heard mentioned, Ki, Extension, Safety, Morals, Breathing, Morihei Ueshiba, The Diverse Varieties of Aikido, Application to Daily Life, Value for Health or any of a large variety of other things which comprise the only real value that aikido has to my extremely unviolent life. They repeat techniques in quite rapid succession. They throw, that is success in this dojo. They are not bad throwers, mind you some are better than me. But some are not. Some are hollow at their core, and have as much as admitted it to me. The don't know what I say when I mention breathing, or don't let them throw me because it will hurt me.
On the other hand, I went to Honbu and found the real thing. I find the real thing hiding under leaves and rocks, and in little corner dojos that no one seems to attend, where they have high expectations for you, ask for no apologies, and charge you no money. Find yourself a place like this, and you will learn nothing but budo, the heart of it is yours for the taking. Japanese style teaching, at its best. Find a dojo like the aikido one I visit, and you will soon learn to throw, and you will learn pride, and vanity.
the message in this endless post?
Carry no expectations in a dojo. The beginning student might be the next doshu unaware, and the teacher might be a fool. And never let yourself judge people or actions by the behaviour of those around you. To hold oneself responsible for all things, and live by ones own standard of aikido and right and wrong and the like is the essence of a Samurai philosopher. Not a bad thing for your average aikidoka either.