Ron Tisdale wrote:
Thank you for your post George. I'm going through a bit of a crisis myself these days, and I honestly can't say how it will turn out. I always thought aikido was difficult, but I hoped it would get easier at some point along the way. In my case anyway, it's gotten harder.
I think the model that you and people like David V. use is a good one. There are plenty of places for the casual budo bum to go. What is needed are (relatively) safe places to push the edge.
I find this whole thing very interesting... My own Aikido has made a quantum jump since the first Expo and the change has accellerated in the last two years. My understanding of what I am doing is completely different than it was. My teaching reflects this... I get nothing but positive feedback from my existing students. Almost every place I have taught has invited me to come back, many have started inviting me to come every year. People seem genuinely excited about what I am doing yet the dojo itself, where people have to really step up to the plate and practice hard if they want to actually be able to do what I am showing them, is at a low point membership-wise. There may be other factors involved like the economy etc. but it still remains that I think that as positive as people say they are about the Aikido I am trying to teach, their realization of what an enormous effort it will be to actually get it themselves causes them to fade away.
They see me hitting two or three camps each year, attending a number of seminars with all sorts of great teachers, teaching a wide variety of targeted intensives, etc and I think they just don't see themselves making that type of commitment. It's very much a factor of my location as well. We are located in the suburbs where the primary focus is on career and family. Even the students I do have are working their buns off at very demanding careers (Microsft high on the list) and most of them are married with families. It's possible I'd have more students in the city where many of the younger singles are located. I supervise a satellite dojo in Seattle which has a number of wonderful young folks training (college and just post college). I not only don't have any of those but i don't even get them coming into watch class... So it's difficult to find students who did what many of us in the old days did... train six or seven days a week, attend every event within a ten hour driving radius, spend every vacation at a camp training...
Anyway, aside from the wonderful students I do have at my dojo, and i have to say I enjoy every minute I am there with them, I am focusing my efforts on reaching out to as many of the mid-level instructors out there in the hinterlands that I can. They've already made a substantial comittment and have stayed the course and they seem to appreciate what I can offer. Every instructor I teach is really thirty or forty people I am reaching so I feel as if i am having more of a positive effect tham just teaching the small number of serious individuals who are willing to train with me every day.
So the dojo just does what it does. Occasionally someone will move here to train with me but largely its the revolving door of new folks coiming in and disappearing within a few weeks or a month. And the students who stay keep on getting better and better. Nothing surprising here I guess.