Hanna Björk wrote:
There are many ways to define groups. One of them is that everyone should do the same things; then it is a group. I do not find this definition as very interesting.:-)
To me, one of the beauties of aikido has been that a group can consist of so many people doing things slightly differently depending on who you are. You do breakfalls if you are young and fit enough, but most people will stop taking very many breakfalls when their bodies start feeling they have had enough of this kind of traning. Young people will want to go fast. Older people might want to go slower and explore detalis. Nobody says that young people should do this and old should do that, it happens naturally and with quite a bit of individual variation. All train together, and you adapt to your partners abilities regardless of it these depend on aikido experience, age, fitness level, handicap or something else. In the beginning, you get lots of help from those you train with and they adapt to your limited capacity. In time, you will spend more time adapting to people who are less advanced. Maybe in some time more, they will have to accept that you can not take all kinds of ukemi because of how that hip operation was performed. It is OK. You switch partners regularly, so if training with the old guy was kind of slow and dull you can grab a young and athletic partner for the next technique. It all evens out in the end.
"Conforming to the group", again, depends on how this group is defined. The more narrow definition, the smaller deviations can be tolerated.
Hi again Hanna,
Interesting post you have above. In the very vast majority of martial arts dojos I've visited people tend to be doing the same things at the same time. If in Karate class you are practicing a particular kata, everyone is doing it, pace and style of movement etc. comes from the individual, in Judo class when we are doing grappling, chances are everyone is doing grappling. Being a freeform practice, its manifestations can be many, but within a defined pattern of what can and cannot be done, this is also seen in Aikido. The different individual methods of operation, doing breakfalls or not doing breakfalls, going fast or slow, exploration of details etc. etc. all of this is inherent in group training as guided by the instructor. It's not as if a group of senior citizens goes into one corner of the dojo and says - "Okay folks we're gonna work slowly on details because those young 'uns are just movin too fast" or the youngsters go into another corner and decide "We are gonna see how fast we can throw each other in randori while doing really hard ukemi".
The rhythm of the class is directed by the instructor and as such the majority at least of the students should follow his lead. This is where the group energy comes in. If the instructor decides to separate the class then he has created a different form of group energy, based on people doing the same things at the same pace etc. etc. The question Peter is raising has nothing to do with the peculiarities of dealing with different types of people when training in what obviously sounds like cooperative kata practice or basic exercises in your post. He is referring to, at least from my impression one who decides that they cannot or will not partake in certain elements of the same training you outlined above. It is about the youngster who refuses to train with the senior citizen because things are moving too slowly as against the heart patient who has to stop doing randori because he has a pacemaker. In the first case it may be better to meld the will of the youngster to conform to the training of the group, in the latter we are talking about a serious medical condition which affects the safety level in the dojo. The decision in the latter may be to only let the heart patient partake in only the least rigorous exercises and slow kata training. This is the nature of diversity. But there is diversity that can grind things to a halt (or threaten to do so at least) and diversity that can be worked through. The question is, when you have an idea what you are getting into, should you expect the dojo to accomodate you all the time even though your request causes a disruption in the flow of things, or should you in fact find somewhere better suited to training?
I'll give another personal example: Folks who have kids under the age of 16 who want to train. I send them to the Judo school nearby because I don't have children and juniors classes at my dojo. It is an adult class, as such, the 2 or so teenagers I have who are under 16 understand that they have to meet the level of the rest of the class and accomodations would not be made outside of reason for them. An example of an accomodation here would be to minimise if not eliminate application of hard joint locks since it can have a negative effect on growth plates over time. This is a minor accomodation. However, if the same person's mother came and requested that the individual is under no circumstances to partake in any exercise involving joint locks then I'd tell em to try somewhere else, as kansetsu waza ia a large part of the Aikido repertoire.
I hope this clarifies things a little bit.