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Old 12-20-2002, 06:56 PM   #1
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Attachment and aikido

hello all,

i am interested in the idea of how investment in one's dojo (attachment) fits together with misogi, which is the goal of using a budo (like aikido) to clear away all attachment and illusion.

you see, i train at two dojo regularly and love the experiences i am having. i take rank at only one. advantages so far: i sharpen my focus in time (stay in the present, let go of stresses and anxieties about the past and future), my observational skills, and have a wider vocabulary of movement than training at one place. disadvantages: i am not preferred uke for either sensei to demonstrate technique, and sometimes i see some hesitation to offer refinements as i am doing a slight variation on what has been shown -- whether that be due to the outside influence or due to my own imperfect execution of what was shown. i feel very much that when i train, i am a student of whoever is leading on the mat at that moment -- if i cannot give myself that completely, i am squandering the opportunity, and wasting my teacher's time. i have a great deal of faith in this path i have chosen for the long term, especially since one of my teachers' teachers commented that aikido was at risk of balkanization since O'sensei's uchi-deshi were passing on, and some groups of aikidoists felt that exclusivity fosters purity of technique. I wish to counter that perspective by the example of my training -- what if you could learn how to fit in, any dojo you visited? would that not be the ultimate expression of the power of adaptability of aikido, and overcome the eroding forces of politics on this beautiful art? of course, the short and medium term goals of this path are much harder to envision and enact...

anyway, to my question:

how much do you feel fostering the dojo community contributes to your own growth in aikido, technically and spiritually? how much does contributing to the social structure, the social system, contribute to one's own growth? one extreme i'm talking about is to become a deshi to one dojo, attend all classes at it, no outside seminars, progress very fast in rank and very quickly achieve a certain style, and be offered the opportunity to teach, and feel the social side benefits of seniority and prestige. "Success" by that definition. the other extreme is to learn from any quality teacher who'll deign to let you watch. what outcome would a teacher most want for his student? what outcome is best for aikido's long-term future? how does "loyalty" fit together with "misogi"? as we've seen with the catholic church, it doesn't always pay to implicitly trust and constantly forgive one's elders -- for either the students or the long-term health of the system. a healthy dose of skepticism keeps the system, well, healthy. so we may not be able to keep the transmission of aikido to the traditional Japanese model of teaching -- a disciple to one teacher, no questioning, complete commitment to hierarchy. or can we? should we? why should there be harsh breaks with one's teacher over something stupid? doesn't that waste all the previous investment? sometimes i really, really hate rank for forcing me to choose an affiliation, when really my day-to-day training has nothing to do with what color belt holds my gi shut, and i admire and respect my teachers both for giving me so much, albeit very different things.

i love my friends and my teachers in aikido, and am always first to help clean, fold sensei's hakama, etc -- in both dojos. if we did not have this attachment, they would see little reason to invest in us, like offering helpful comments and most of all, giving us the trust to throw them! and yet, i sense that it is this very investment in community -- tribalism -- that can lead to so many soul-draining political squabbles that are really about nothing important.

it's a wonderful thing to "grow up" with a group of fellow aikidoka up the kyu ranks and through the dan ranks. i have wondered, that hairline crack of doubt in my faith, if my aikido might not be more "efficiently" served if i let go of this insanely difficult path and chose one place to train -- then i would invest 100% of who i am into one system, and perhaps progress faster, especially since people might offer me more if they felt a 100% commitment to one place. and i have tried to do this, not training at one place for a month, to see if one dojo could be my exclusive home -- and always, i was drawn back to my path of two homes because leaving one place was like trying to cut off my left arm, a self-destructive choice that rendered me incomplete. both senseis know how i feel and are accepting of my path. i'd like to know how other senseis would react to a student like me. i will say that i have trained in aikido for a few years now and suffer from no technical confusion training at either dojo. i do what was just shown, no more, no less.

i guess i am struggling with the illusion of what "success" and "progress" mean in a path like mine. i'm trying to figure out where my illusions are -- if this path is really real, or if my innate cynicism about human nature will win out and i should just admit that all i'm doing is something that's an affront to the senseis' egos and a threat to the harmony of both dojos.

no one at either dojo has offered any criticism of my path, partly because i've been very open with my reasons why i chose it, and addressed their thoughts and questions with respect, mostly because those questions help me figure out why i'm doing what i'm doing. they're fine with what i've been doing. but it does go very crosswise to traditional japanese training. what do you all think?
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