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Old 09-01-2005, 05:38 AM   #12
Peter Goldsbury
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Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Join Date: Jul 2001
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Re: Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

This post is more about commitment than about quitting aikido.

I think times have changed so much since the days of the Kobukan, when O Sensei used to require a letter of introduction signed by two sponsors. At that time (up to 1942), the idea of aikido as a general martial art, to be practised and enjoyed by anybody, would never have been seriously entertained and so the commitment that I think Mr Bateman is talking about was never in question.

After the war, aikido was spread in Japan as a 'general' martial art and Japanese instructors went abroad to spread aikido overseas. However, I do not think that any serious effort was made to explain the implications of aikido becoming an essential part of one's lifestyle.

By this I mean that, for example, there are many members of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo who go to the early morning class taught by Doshu and have been doing so for 30 or even 40 years. That is it. Their daily hour on the mat with Doshu is their sole experience of aikido. Are they committed? Certainly. Do they train hard? Probably. If they stopped training, I am sure it would be a major wrench.

It is hard to put this into words, but I think that my experience of aikido in the US is rather more 'existentialist', in the sense that the experience itself was seen to be somehow self-justifying. But to be fully self-justifying, the experience must also be 'full', in the sense that putting everything you have into training must be a public act. So what you do on the mat, at any particular time on any particular day, is seen as a clear indication of your total commitment to the art.

So as a young 1st kyu in the Boston Dojo of the New England Aikikai, I attended virtually every practice and so entered the small group of 'core' students. I had the time; others, perhaps with equal hunger for cracking the 'code', did not and so never entered the core group.

For me in the NE Aikikai in the early 70s, aikido was like cleaning one's teeth. The idea of stopping would have been devastating. Now, 30 years later as an instructor, I have become far less judgmental about my students, especially as I believe that it demands a certain courage to enrol in my dojo.

Steven Seagal, my predecessor as a foreigner running an aikido dojo in Japan, had the advantage of opening a dojo in Osaka, a huge city with an enormous population. My own dojo is situated in in a tiny rural town, part of a fiercely conservative farming district, famous for the quality of it's rice and sake.

The idea that aikido is a general martial art is not readily accepted here, since people either practise traditional koryu, usuallly privately and in small groups, or practise judo and/or kendo, which has been taught in schools since the days of Jigoro Kano and where the idea of quitting, even after shodan, is generally accepted.

So people come to my dojo fully aware that it is on the outer margins of traditional Japanese culture and probably are more prepared to quit than those in a more traditional dojo run by Japanese.

Best regards,

P A Goldsbury
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