John Boswell wrote:
Getting back to the matter at hand...
I do have a question with regards to direction one takes in training. Personally, I'm 35 years old and have been at my training for almost 4 years now. My body has not been, is not and will most likely never be in "great" shaped. My knees are very poor and with a history of arthritis, I have no doubt in my mind that my knee work could never come close to Ikeda Shihan's level.
Am I setting a limit for myself? Yes
Do I aspire to be a master in aikido? No.
Does that make me a part-time and slacker student ???
To aspire to the level of master is all fine and good. Yes, we should have goals... come to class ready to train... work with a beginners mind and be willing to learn and accept another's teachings. But realistically, I don't ever see myself (personally) surpassing my current instructor. Should I ever match his current ability, I'll be very happy!
But does not striving to become more than that make me less of a student than one who strives to match Ikeda Sensei's ability?
This is not an attack on you or your article. I'm struggling to understand where my place in your world would be.
A student "going through the motions"...
A Student of Aikido
...or something else?
Just trying to figure out my place in the world.
As far as I can see, you have done exactly what I advise people to do, namely be clear about what your commitment is. If you are fully present and train hard on those occasions when you can train then you aren't "going through the motions".
Not everyone wants to train for "mastery" whatever that is... Aikido can still be an amazing for anyone if they put something of themselves into it. The more of yourself you put in, the more you get out. If you are happy doing what you are doing, then that's great! Every dojo needs to have people like yourself training and contributing. You are certainly not "less of a student". At the same time you may not be training as seriously as some other hypothetical student.
One student might be on the mat three times a week and hit several seminars a year, another might train seven days a week, train in the lunch time class, do another martial art like iaido or jodo on the side, hit seminars frequently and attend summer camp every year. The correct things to do as a serious student when confronted with a more serious student is to train with him as much as possible and soak up what he knows whenever one can. But in many dojos this won't happen. That serious student (who perhaps has read his Aikido history, is training as hard as he can, with his additional knowledge gained by extra training) will often find himself at third or second kyu giving the Shodans (who haven't read much of anything about the art, don't hit many seminars, don't know a thing about other martial arts) a hard time. Often times it will be the case that the more serious student will find things get so uncomfortable at this dojo that he will be forced to leave. The dojo will have blown the oportunity to collectively benefit from the fact thay had a MORE serious student there. Belive me, I have seen this happen.
If people read what I wrote carefully I simply said that you have to be clear about what your goals are so you can structure your training accordingly. If your model is Ikeda Sensei and you want to reach his level then you have to train like he trained. If you don't aspire to be as good as he is then you don't have to train like he did. It's just a simple statement.
My main purpose in writing these things is to tell people "Don't settle for less than you are capable of." A large number of people could be far better than they are if they simply trained with greater intensity. I'm not talking about making a greater commitment of time, it's not about having Aikido take over your life... it's about taking full advantage of the time you are putting in. Many folks are just going through the motions in that they put very little of themselves on the line when they train. They may even be training relatively frequently but they keep their practice very safe and user friendly, never going out towards their limits (which are usually far past where they think they are). Much of the interesting knowledge that is contained in Aikido cannot be accessed this way.
It's basically simple. Are people really getting out of their training what they say they want out of it? If so they should continue doing exactly what they are doing. If they aren't, in all honesty, getting out of the practice what they feel they want, then they need to adjust what they're doing. No value judment here, just clarity.