Re: Beginners Retention Rates
I would consider the Doshinkan dojo where I attend keiko to be a school which caters to both, to a large extent. Our training methodology is a little different from the Aikikai schools I've been exposed to, so we are not necessarily comparing apples to oranges though. The distinction between hobbyists and "truly dedicated students" students is very blurry there though. All of our senior students are very serious about their training, and as in George's school, have pretty intense careers as well. At the same time, we do seem to get a lot of new students, and there are always some portion that 'stick'. One of the benefits that we have is a class at Temple University that keeps a steady influx of beginners...I wouldn't say that a high percentage stick..but a good portion of the yudansha are actually students that came from that program. Some go back and teach that class, some drift away after shodan / nidan, some really push forward in the art.
I'm not sure that we should expect everyone who comes to train to make a life long commitment. It's ok that they try for a while, enjoy themselves, grow a bit, and move on to other things. That is what the majority of people do in every endevour that I can think of. I also think we should make a way though, to keep as many of those who are on the edge of more commitment as we can.
One of the things that wears me down is the increasing level of physical coordination at the higher levels (ok, maybe intermediate in my case) as my body gets older. I think this is wear the rubber meets the road in many cases. You have people that start in their late 20s and 30's, they train for 10, 15 years, and now have to really find ways to manage the physical challenges in the art with aging bodies. I think for me that means I must now do things to take care of my body that I didn't have to before. More of a daily regimen to stay limber and strong to take into account how my body is aging. Last night I spoke with a 3rd dan who is going through this as well. Yoga is her method for getting through this time, and I think I'm going to take a more serious attitude about that as well. It's that, or risk fading out of keiko over the long run.
George, what things do your middle aged students do to keep their bodies going past the 10, 15 and 20 year marks?