Ryan Porter wrote:
I read with envy a recent thread about how to choose a good dojo when there are choices. My problem is that in the small town where I live there are not enough choices of dojos.
I'd been doing Aikido about three years when circumstances compelled me to move about three years ago. At the first dojo I joined in my new home, I felt the sensei was arrogant, belittled the students, and didn't care about their well-being. (I once got injured because I was too intimidated to ask to take a rest.) Practicing there was a joyless affair. I actually began to hate Aikido—as unthinkable to me as it probably is to many of you. I quit that dojo after three weeks. I heard later that many other people had bad experiences with this sensei. I'm sure he's turned many people away from Aikido, unfortunately.
In any case, I luckily uncovered the only other dojo in my town. It is smaller, but the people are much nicer and warmer, and I've been going consistently. I started to enjoy Aikido again. But years later, I'm finding myself dissatisfied.
The classes are very low energy and kept at a basic level. The techniques are normally done from static positions, so there's little dynamism in the techniques and ukemi is stiff. There's not a lot of creativity or variation to the instruction—just cycling through techniques lifted from kyu tests. I don't feel like I'm advancing as much as I could be. I don't get a good work out. Frankly, I'm often bored.
None of this is to say that I feel I'm better than others at this dojo or that I have nothing to learn from the instruction there or from the other students. And other people enjoy it quite a bit. The dojo just doesn't suit me well.
My first dojo that got me hooked on Aikido was much more exciting and energetic, and whenever I travel, I try to visit a local dojo. I've seen many that I would be happy to join if I lived there. So, I put the question out there, what should I do?
One option is to take up another martial art and then turn back to Aikido if I ever move again. If so, which art? And is this a solution if cross-training isn't what I really want to do? I really want to focus on Aikido.
If I stick with this dojo, how can I make it more to my liking? As second kyu, I'm not qualified to teach any classes. And I don't feel like I could bring up any of my concerns with the sensei without seeming disrepectful or impudent. I'm aware I'm in no position to criticize how he runs his dojo.
Or I could practice Aikido on my own. But I don't see how that's possible.
Any thoughtful comments are appreciated.
I'm not being facetious... it's a real alternative.
Over the 4th I was talking to a gentleman who just moved up to Washington State specifically so he could continue his training with Phil Relnick Sensei in Kenjutsu and Jodo. He is one of a number of folks who have done so recently.
Plenty of Aikido folks have gone the route of moving themselves to Japan to train. It's not really that big a deal to do some research, find a teacher whom you'd like to train, and move there to do so. When I trained with Saotome Sensei in Washington, DC there were several people who had relocated in order to train with him.
If you are serious about your Aikido, then you will be willing to make this kind of move to find a great place to train. If you aren't that serious, then you probably should be happy where you are. I don't think that it is very productive to try to make your dojo fit what you want.