I've lurked for a bit but now I'm at a crossroads of sorts so I made an account. This is a little on the long side, thanks in advance for reading.
First, some background:
I am studying Aikido under the Birankai
organization. The Aikido we do is extreemly rough. This
, I think, exemplifies what we do in the dojo. I have been training for almost a year now very rigorously. I go 4 days a week, 2 - 3 classes each day for a total of 9 - 10 hours a week. I test for 4th Kyu next month.
As my training has progressed over the course of the last year my Sensei has become rougher and rougher on me, far more so than anyone else at the school. He tells me this is because I am a young guy (25) and can take the punishment. I was attracted to the school because I wanted something "real" and the rough nature appealed to that. I welcome the skinned and swollen knees and the bruises all along my arms but it's getting to the point that I am afraid he is going to break my body. I already exhibit most of the symptoms of a separated shoulder and I hurt, literally, all the time. I see that he has a broken body and I'm not sure whatever it is that Aikido is offering me is worth that price. He is a man that favors training in extremes. During the winter he begrudgingly installed a heater because people stopped coming. Similarly, I live in the desert southwest and the dojo doesn't have air conditioning. The temperature outside yesterday was about 105 and he had us training to the point where nearly everyone wanted to vomit (no one did!). I know that I wanted to die during the class. That was the point.
I have also been fighting my gut feeling that this is a cult. I realize that this is an ongoing point of contention for some people and I'm not trying to editorialize on the art as a whole. Moreover, I was attracted to the art because of the interesting philosophy underpinning it. That being said, there is an unsettling fanaticism in the dojo that doesn't sit well with me. Every time I turn around, there is another function to attend: Dojo improvements, potlucks, garage sales and on and on. I understand that these are standard community building exercises (A stated objective of Sensei is to build a thriving community around Aikido) but I feel increasingly trapped withing that community. The tipping point came last night, though. Sensei went to Japan to study at Ichikukai dojo some time ago and brought back the practice of misogi. For those not familiar with the practice: you sit in seiza, hold the knot of your obi and scream the syllables "to ho ka mi e mi ta me" while compressing your diaphragm each time. We did our second round of it ever last night and in the middle of it Sensei came up behind people and shoved their shoulders down with each syllable. It was dark, there was a room full of swaying people chanting a Shinto prayer, and then this. I got a really bad feeling and thought, "This is really fucked up."
At this point I'm thinking of walking away. This makes me sad and apprehensive. I have gotten a lot out or Aikido. I feel a great deal more confident in life. I have social anxiety and taking an Aikido perspective has made a world of difference. People have told me, " I can't belive how much more capable you are in life since starting Aikido." When I started, my weight was 160 lbs with 17% body fat. Today I weigh 175 with 11% body fat. I tend to over commit to things and I feel that if I walk away, for whatever reason, I will be a failure. I have heard Sensei talk of others who have left as being people who, "just don't have what it takes for the kind of training we do here."
On the other hand: I am tired of hurting all the time, not having any personal time that isn't spent doing Aikido, doing Aikido functions, or recovering from Aikido. The emphatic chanting and high-heat training don't sit well with me either.
In any case, I am in something of a feedback loop within myself and I'd like to hear anything you guys have to say just to gain some perspective on the situation.
Thanks for reading this thing. I think it helped just to type it all out.
In short: I feel like my body is being ruined and that my dojo is becoming a cult. I feel fed up and am thinking about leaving but I'm reluctant because of what I've gotten out of Aikido so far.