By practicing aikido you are walking the Path. It is not always nice promenade. Very often you will find obstacles and you have to face it. It is a part of practice. If you skip every time you have something difficult in front of you, you can never learn what aikido(and in fact any other martial art) is about.
These difficulties will teach you to how to reinforce your weaknesses. It is the only way to become strong. Face them as a man; deal with it with all your capacities. Aikido is a Budo, not a circle of mutual adoration.
I agree with Szczepan. Think of a martial arts dojo as the army. In the military, you do what you are told. That is an important part of the training. In the military, they aren't always nice to you and in fact, part of the training is that the treatment you get is to toughen you up. Martial arts are "military arts". The culture of the dojo is a hierarchical system of respect and it was a traditional part of the culture for it to be a hard and transforming activity. In our day though, we act like consumers and think like buyers. We expect to be treated nicely, to be taught clearly, and for the leadership and the way the dojo is run to meet our expectations. I think you wouldn't have done well in the Founder's dojo.
Having said that, I don't believe in abuse or ego on the part of instructors or anyone else but then again, this isn't a perfect world and martial arts attract some strange types. You walked in the door, you can walk out.
Here is an article I wrote for my students with a perspective of this idea.
"To achieve... mastery of a martial art, nothing is better than solid shugyo in which you share daily life with your teacher in absolute obedience. The important thing is, in taking care of all his needs, to continually sense your teacher's feelings before they are made known to you. In the end, you are striving to be able to perceive his intentions...It's unreasonable for me to try to get today's young people to do the same thing. They probably wouldn't give absolute obedience to their master and I'm sure they couldn't even begin to think of caring for their teacher as part of Aikido training."
Gozo Shioda, 9th dan, the Founder of Yoshinkan Aikido
"Serving the Founder was extremely severe even though it was just for the study of a martial art. O Sensei only opened his heart to those students who helped him from dusk to dawn in the fields, those who got dirty and massaged his back, those who served him at the risk of their lives."
Morihiro Saito, 9th dan and keeper of the Iwama Dojo
"In the dojo community, there is a teacher, experienced disciples, and beginners. The teacher is called Sensei. The advanced pupils are called Yudansha, the beginners are called Mudansha. A Yudansha always gives more to the dojo than he takes. For him, the dojo is a part of his life and the members are a part of his family."
Shoji Nishio, 9th dan, a student of the Founder
It has been for some time now that as I have been thinking about what Aikido is and what it does for the individual, that a new thought has occurred to me. The thought is that in order for Aikido to make a psychological change in an individual, there has to be a certain kind of environment and a certain kind of relationship with the teacher.
I first began to look at this old idea in a new light when I would see so many people coming to our dojo seeking something for their children. The parents seemed to have this intuitive belief that martial arts would help the particular thing that they saw their child needed a change in or help in. As I strove to help their children, I quickly realized some things. 1) You can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped. 2) You can't help someone (particularly with Aikido) who isn't trying to do their best. 3) You can't help someone who resists discipline.
In the first case, you have the problem of motivation. If the person isn't seeking change, they won't change. What seems to change them without their knowing it is when they like the art or they respect the teacher. Then they want to do well so they find the motivation to give it their all. In the second case, some people are self starters and always do their best while others are lazy, demotivated and have poor concentration and diffusion of thought. These lack the intensity to pass through the fires of real change. Any experience that processes a real change in someone is an intense one. Lastly, in most endeavors, be it school, your job, the military or a martial arts dojo, the discipline is the key. Self disciplined people do the best but institutions like the military have a form of forced discipline and that processes change as well but that change can be for the better or the worse in the person due to the enforced nature of the process.
I realized that in a traditional martial arts dojo, everything is about the discipline. The rules of etiquette are not only about the social nature of the institution but about the parameters of behavior each person is required to adhere to. How strictly that is enforced and how the student receives it is the key.
In some situations in western culture, authority soon becomes authoritarianism. This is abuse in the sense that it comes from the top down and may not take into account the feelings of those below. Authoritarianism lacks compassion for it's followers. This is not what we are advocating.
Recently, I was thinking about my master teacher from Japan. By training, he follows the rules of protocol of Aikido but I have noticed that he never demands it from anyone. Everyone gives him their obedience because they respect him but I have never seen him ask anyone to do any of the things the protocol asks for. He fully expects it to come from you. He once said that "Aikido is not something to learn from others, but to learn by oneself. Ideally, the practice should be for oneself, and it should be rigorous and sternly self-disciplined, by one's own choice." This voluntary giving of oneself to Aikido and it's processes is what changes an individual. It has to come from the person though. The heart must be soft, obedient and pliable in the hands of a good and honest instructor of Japanese budo in order to see the psycho social transformative change that so many are looking for. If you think of Aikido in this way, you will realize that almost the entire training of Aikido is discipline. From the time you walk through the door, in its etiquette and rules, there are rules for almost everything. On the mat, you are subject to the discipline and instruction of the Sensei or instructor. Almost every word and action is corrective in nature thus falling under the category of discipline.
Then there are the aspects mentioned in the quotes above. In the early days of Aikido, it was considered a budo which was a particular form of discipline by which you would undergo severe training taking you from the ego self to the egoless self thus finding your true (purified) humanity. This process was not automatic and many people resisted it naturally, but some submitted themselves to it and for these, the training went to higher and higher levels. If Aikido is a training of the mind, then the relationship with the teacher in terms of authority, submission to his instruction, directions and discipline were the keys to the psychological and social changes in the practitioners.
I think that this is the point where many of my readers will take exception to my comments and part company with me. I think though that I need to direct you back to what my teacher says. He said that "Aikido is not something to learn from others, but to learn by oneself. Ideally, the practice should be for oneself, and it should be rigorous and sternly self-disciplined, by one's own choice." This is the key. It is not the instructor who forces the student to submit or follow. That always comes from the students and the students should always think for themselves and rule over their own mind and conscience. In a real budo relationship, the instructor is a guide and a mentor who leads by example and by setting the parameters of the protocol. The students set the level of their obedience. The instructor has the option to help and reward those who are following him and are obedient to his instructions (with regard to the training).
Gozo Shioda Sensei understands that modern people would highly resist this kind of training lacking the background and mindsets of the past but still, he makes clear that the training of sensing your teacher's desires was one of intuition and sensitivity that would take your martial abilities to another level in terms of being able to sense your opponent's next move. Physical training alone can do that but sensing the needs of others is indeed a master level skill. To tune yourself to the teacher at that level is a relational skill that goes to the kind of human you are rather than the kind of warrior you are.
Nishio Sensei, in the third quote, goes on to describe the dojo as a place structured for the care and discipline of its members. He shows that the dojo or training hall is a place of hierarchy and order and that the purpose of that is for the care of each other.
The psycho-social transformative change that Aikido as a budo brings is a long process that works on an individual outwardly through the forms, discipline and etiquette of the art. The inward, compassionate and relational aspects of the changes are personal in nature and come from a close and direct relationship with a mentor and guide that you truly respect and love. It is in these two poles of tension that we are stretched into change.
This kind of training is not for everyone and it may well be that its time has passed but if that is the case, then the era of Aikido as a budo will have passed and it may be then that the hopes and dreams of Morihei Ueshiba for Aikido will never be realized.
Within the limits of common sense, compassion, rationality and good judgment on the part of the teacher, I think that we still need the expressions of the budo of the past for people today. It has to be voluntary though and the teacher must never be abusive in his leadership but must always have the well being of his students in mind as a guide in transforming human character through budo.