I have been practicing Aikido for about 15 years and enjoy it very much but, something has been bothering me for a while. I practice with a group we will call X. My Sensei is fantastic and I thoroughly enjoy practicing there. The problem is that he frowns heavily on practicing with other Aikido organizations and cross-training in other arts. I am very open to learning new things and different perspectives and am troubled by this attitude, Whenever I mention another art or shihan Z from organization Z the subject is changed or ignored. When I travel, I am constantly reminded to practice with only organization X. I understand that in Japanese culture you follow your sensei no matter what and jump when they say jump (I think.)
I am honor bound and owe my sensei a lot but where do I draw the line? I feel that my path is more open and would like to pursue other interests but at what cost? I feel that cross training in other arts or Aikido organizations would greatly benefit my Aikido not to mention broaden my horizons towards budo. This is a tough crossroads I am at now....any advice?
It is the 15 years that throws me off, to be honest. Many of the dojo chos in our organization train two styles, Arnis and Tae Kwon Do to start with, and the head of our organization trained with Hohan Soken, so there are also several schools that train Hakutsuru. New students are forced to choose which style they want to start in, either Aikido, or the other one offered at the dojo, but after a certain level of training is reached, multiple training is allowed, and even encouraged. I was invited to join a Hakutsuru class at our Hombu dojo when I was visiting after about a year and a half of training in Aikido. The invitation, more so than any rank, is a compliment, and acknowledgement that you are beginning to get a good grasp on the basics. I've also studied with a teacher from a different style of Aikido due to the travel distance to my original dojo when I had to move, and my dojo cho encouraged it.
If, after 15 years, you aren't good enough to learn from another organization, or study another art, I would be concerned about the level of teaching going on in your dojo. Since this is most likely not the case due to your dedication to your Sensei, I would worry about his (or her) reasons behind discouraging any other study. Unfortunately, I am probably too blunt, but my only advice would be to force a confrontation. Explain to your Sensei that you are frustrated, and you need an answer from him about the issue with other Aikido organizations and other martial arts, or you are going to have to look elsewhere for instruction, and set up a time in a few days for a personal discussion. Maybe he has a perfectly good reason that we aren't thinking of, or maybe he just hasn't fully thought it out either and those few days will give him time to reflect on his policy.
Hopefully this helps!