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Old 05-24-2003, 02:15 AM   #1
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choosing between good aikido and nice people

One or two years ago, I made a decision: to only spend my time in environments that made me feel good. As a consequence, I have a problem with where to practise.

I come from a line of aikido where people are pretty generous: always seek new students out, practise with them and help them, if you go to a café or a pub after practise it is announced on the mat after class so everybody knows they are welcome to join.

Some years ago, I switched to another line of aikido. Here, the culture is radically different. You have got to show that you are good, or the popular ones will not practise with you. You practise several rounds with one person the same class if you like, it is up to you. When sensei is about to show next technique, people look around before they sit down in the line... so they are close to someone they would like to practise with. As finding the right people to practise with is so crucial, people are incredibly quick in doing this and sometimes do it with a light slap on the other person's lap.

Of course there is two ways of climbing - technical advancement and social. The popular ones will practise with you because you are good, or because they like you. This creates an atmosphere with lots of competition. Not competition in aikido, but competition in being popular. Everyone turns into social climbers.

Why on earth, then, did I choose to practise in this dojo in the first place? Becasue they do very good aikido. The teachers are, in my mind, the most interesting ones in town.

Of couse I have seen similar social patterns before, but for an aikido dojo it was news to me. I had problems adapting. I did not want to behave what I considered badly. So I did not follow the local standards. Of course, the only one who got punished in the end was me. I have been thinking about adapting, but... I can not. I would have problems respecting myself. Instead, I left. I think this is a place where people learn good aikido, but not a place where people are happy.

For a few years, I have been practising at a another nice and technically good dojo. Unfortunately, because of work circumstances I will not be able to make it to this particular dojo in the future.

Going back to the kind of aikido they do in the generous dojo is not an option. I am not interested in what they do.

I do not ask for advice, really. If I can not find interesting aikido places in which I am happy, I rather go to another art - maybe a Chinese one. I am investigating the possibilities. I just want to ask if there is somebody out there who have had similar experience?

Also, I kind of wonder if a more selfish atmosphere is better in creating top students from a technical point of view. I think that maybe it is - not better for the level of the whole group, but for the top students.

In most other activities, in school etc, we like to separate the smart kids from the slow ones and the advanced people from relative beginners - and we claim that it is for the best of everybody. In aikido, everybody is practising together except for maybe a separate beginner's term and we say that this is for the best of everybody. Maybe we have one advanced or two a week, but the bulk of practise does not separate the group according to level. This in contrast to most other Japanese MA I have come in contact with.

Maybe the question is, "for the best on everyone" - but in what sense?
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