Dan Rubin wrote:
I have a question: If today someone in his or her twenties would like to become a master of aikido, what should that person do? It would seem to me that devoting himself to training and seminars would not be enough. He or she must uproot, if need be, and travel as far as necessary to join a dojo where he can practice constantly with a current master, and there devote himself to training and seminars. And this devotion should be with the understanding that even such students may not make it to the big leagues, because of insufficient talent or injuries or fate.
Let me put this in a personal context. When I was about 10 or 11, I knew that I wanted to study Aikido. I knew it deep down. At a time when I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up, I knew that I wanted to study Aikido. The closest Aikido dojo was 35 miles away. Half a world away for an 11 year old. No amount of pleading would get my parents to take me there. So, I consoled myself to finding anything on the subject: books, magazines, articles, etc. Remember, at this time, there was no Internet.
Even through High School, I had no chance to go. We were poor and the car (if you could call it that) was either used to take my mother to work or was being worked on because it was broken.
I went to college in a place called Bottineau, ND. I found a Hapkido person and learned a little from him. Still no aikido.
I went into the military at one point and was stationed in OKC, OK. I found an aikido dojo. The sensei was Steve Duncan. The wait was most definitely worth it. I was about 23 years old. The Air Force kept me away 6 months out of every year, but I still trained when I could. Eventually, Duncan sensei awarded me my Shodan and that was one of the best highlights of my Aikido career.
I'm nearing 40 now and my training has been sporadic at times, but my love of Aikido has never died. I keep seeing the "magic" of higher level Aikido and it continually drives me forward. I think about what it would be like if I had started when I was 11, but I realize that no matter what rank I'd be, I'd still have my love of Aikido and I'd still find the "magic" of higher levels and I'd still be progressing forward.
Does it matter that I started later in life? Not to me. I've kept the love and desire alive through times when there was no chance at training at a dojo, when there were times of training at a different martial art, and through times when there was multiple dojo training opportunities. Aikido is my life. I'm progressing at the pace I set and I'm content with that (don't confuse that for being content in my practice. I still look to be challenged and am challenged continually). And I'm finally at a point financially where I can attend seminars.
My advice would be to tell the student to love what they are doing in Aikido and keep that desire burning. And if you're looking to be a "Master", then you're missing the whole point of Aikido, IMO. However, if one finds that one loves a certain style of Aikido, then, yes, you can say, hey, why don't you move to this city and study under this Shihan of that style? Because the underlying principle would be to learn more of what one loves, not to become a Master at Aikido.