Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard
"Why isn't it obvious to us when we are dabbling? Moreover, if we are dabbling, if we are choosing to do that, or even if we are choosing to see ourselves as someone that can only dabble (supposedly due to life circumstances), why can we not be fine with our decision, such that again we do not have to ask, 'Am I dabbling?'.... e.g. three days a week gets you no higher than fourth or third kyu recognition; shodan requires daily practice; etc."
So it is a time commitment, then? Not a commitment necessarily per se - I mean in the relative sense, what people give up in order to come train with you? Or do you allow for individual exceptions?
Now, David, where do you meet all these students who are not aware of their own limitations? Granted, I've only been a member of three dojos, but I would not call many of my fellow students conceited, self-aggrandizing, or just delusional; there are some, but only very few (incl. one sensei) - not enough to claim "the average aikidoka". I do not see many trying to be something they obviously are not. We do tend to be a slightly older bunch (30 and up, many parents), perhaps that has something to do with it? There were years when I did want to be something other than me, and it's been such a relief to come out on the other side of that to find out I'm really quite happy.
I am a confirmed, happy dabbler. I attend class 1 - 5 times per week at noon, as work permits. It's true, I feel like I get to go play - I do not study O'sensei's teachings, I do not engage in long discussions on philosophy and would never pretend to be able to enlighten an outsider. We don't talk a lot about ki in class, but we do talk about energy, acknowledgment, flow, awareness etc. I go to class as much as possible because I love it and would not be the same without it. I don't spend a lot of time reflecting why - the feeling and the simple knowledge is enough. Even if we assume that it is just a mental construct to keep me happy with my current level of investment, it does nonetheless keep me happy and coming back and participating and striving to improve. I will acknowledge that aikido does change me (and by extension, affects others through my relationship with them), but it is not something I pursue on an active, conscious, intellectual basis; I simply go back for more. I've tried many other sports - the only comparable feeling to what aikido does I had while kayaking off the coast of my hometown on the odd sunny day - completely absorbed by the moment and touched in an indescribable way. Other than that, those moments arise in my "civilian" life. I do think of aikido as something other than sports, but that does not seem to get in the way of my dabbling.
I am a root when it comes to parenting, though, and I think I can only really be one kind of root. Aikido is not it and never will be as long as I have a family. Important decisions are defined as those impacting my family - including the time I choose to spend on aikido.
I can see the problem in presenting yourself as "a serious student of aikido" if indeed you are not when measured against others who have achieved so much more. But is there absolutely no argument for achieving within your limitations? Can you not take your practice seriously within the priorities you've set for yourself? Even if real commitment can only be measured in the sacrifices you're willing to make, is that not also relative from person to person? Must this be labeled a mental construct to pretend that we're serious - so that we can take our dabbling efforts seriously and defend spending $100/mth on something we will never master at current speed?
For the organization and continuation of aikido, yes, it is necessary to have people who will make aikido their life. But only a very small minority will be able to and have the inclination to do that. For all the rest of us, there are various levels of dabbling. And I really do think a majority of us is quite happy with that.