Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Re: Is two Days a week enough?
I know that everyone always wants to be validated for whatever effort they are currently prepared to put in. But let's be realistic here...
Say your child is taking music lessons... what does the teacher say about that? You need to practice "every day". Your child shows up for his or her lesson having practiced once or twice that week and the teacher knows immediately, and usually comments on it.
Your child is engaged in youth sports... how often do they practice? During the season, usually EVERY day. Try going up to the coach and telling him you think your child should practice just a couple of times a week and see how long the child is on that team...
What is "enough"? Enough for what? Once a week is fine to have a good time. It will never be enough to be any good. In my experience, twice a week allows someone who already trains to keep up his or her skills but doesn't move them "forward". I require that anyone training for Yudansha testing be training at least three times a week. There's no way they can perform at what I think the standard should be without three times a week as the Minimum attendance.
Everyone I know who is really accomplished at this art spent some extended period during which they trained 6 or 7 days a week, often multiple classes each day. The uchi deshi we strive to learn from were on the mat every day, 6 - 8 hours a day every day for years. Back in the day, we trained six or seven days a week and held jobs too. Now, a SERIOUS student at my dojo trains three times a week.
Now I happen to think I have shortened the learning curve for my students by developing better explanations and more targeted training exercises than what I did when young. So these folks are doing pretty well. There are actually several who, if they stay with it, will be better than I am. But they are still working at what I consider to be the minimum required to be excellent.
Folks are welcome to come train at any commitment level they wish. Frankly, the dabblers support the training for the serious folks; it's always been that way. But I am not going to pretend with them that they are doing something they are not. They can train any way they want but if they want to move up the Dan ranks, they have to commit and train three days a week or more.
This art is supposed to be "Budo". It is a "Way", a "Path", an art that was intended to be a way of life, not just a "hobby". To pretend that all training is good, which is the approach some folks take, is to cheapen the art. I really do not see any value in mediocre Aikido for its own sake. Lack of real commitment yields pseudo spirituality and a skill level that is really nothing more than Aikido-lite. If folks don't want to make enough commitment to really understand the principles of the art, in body and mind, what's the point? Find something else you can be passionate about and master that...
This art was Founded by one of the great martial and spiritual geniuses of the 20th century. It was handed down to a group of teachers who spent their entire adult lives trying to master and understand what they were given while passing it all on to another generation. These folks made enormous sacrifices to spread Aikido around the world. And still, even the most accomplished would say that they only got a portion of what they Founder tried to teach them. So at what point do we admit that a couple times a week, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours each time, simply isn't enough to do an Aikido that has anything of real depth at all?
The more folks pretend that real commitment isn't actually required to do this art, the more we try to make it accessible to everyone, regardless of whether they want to do the real work involved, the closer we get to not even knowing what great Aikido is any more. I sat in the stands at the Aiki Expo and watched a few people with really big numbers after their names do absolutely wretched Aikido, a total embarrassment to the art, and yet some folks didn't even seem to be aware just how bad the Aikido they were seeing actually was... It was like the Emperor's New Clothes and I felt like yelling, "Excuse me, but that Sensei has no clothes on..."
This is an absolutely amazing art! The more I do it the more I see in it. This art deserves to be, even demands that it be, more than just a "hobby". L0ook at what has happened to our culture... We have the astounding wealth that historically only the very top of any society achieved. Time not devoted to survival issues is crucial for all great art and cultural achievement. We have this amazing opportunity to do, not just Aikido, but virtually any Path we wish.
So what have we done with that? We as Americans get less vacation time than any industrialized nation in the world and we don't use up what we get! We have allowed our lives, our own sense of self worth to be defined by our jobs. Our whole function as human beings, with all the tremendous potential this time and place in history affords us, is to work at jobs that, in the end, serve to make a very small group of folks at the top of our society more and more rich and powerful. And then we are told we need to buy more to keep the machine running. Well, if you are going to buy more, then working more is a given. So your life is consumed by the need to put increasingly more and more effort in to "work", even though we already have far more than survival requires. Then we turn around and tell ourselves that we don't have time for those very things that we could be doing, probably should be doing, to support ourselves as human beings. So folks are always telling me that they don't have time to train... That they can't afford to do some seminar... Well, time wise, they have exactly the same amount of time that every other Aikido practitioner has. 24 hours each day, seven days a week, 12 months a year. No one gets more, and some folks pass before it seems they should have.
So do we keep telling ourselves that twice a week is enough for this amazing art? Or do we admit that it takes far more to even realize what depth is available? Maybe we should question the whole foundation of this illusion that we don't have the time or money for a practice that is so unique and amazing while feeling obligated to perfecting our roles as consumers in the consumer society. There seems to be almost no awareness that, throughout history, the "merchant class" was always considered to be on the lower rungs of the societal hierarchy. Not in the least the group that supplied the spiritual and moral values a society needed to be great.
So now we are a society in which the merchant class has attained dominance and strives to define our values accordingly. We spend our lives doing jobs at a stress level that we know is killing us, requiring more and better pain killers every year, sustaining ourselves on foods with little real nutrient value... and the tell ourselves that we don't have time for the things that really represent "spiritual sustenance". It's not just Aikido, it's everything that we have developed over thousands of years of civilization that has depth and the potential to elevate the human spirit. For the first time in history we have enough wealth to free up the time for the majority of the people in society to have enough time not devoted to pure survival issues, that we could actually do some amazing things with our lives. And instead, we let ourselves get sucked into the vortex of work in order to consume, necessitating more work...
And then we ask the question whether the small time we can squeeze out of our daily life is enough to give to this complex and sophisticated art that has so much potential to provide real richness to ones life. Two times a week enough? That's less than most folks watch TV in a day. We need to get real here.