A friend of mine studies American Kempo Karate. His sensei teaches classes in a strict cyle - each class is a set of techniques that come around every so many weeks. My friend has been doing this for awhile now (about 3 years) but he can only go to class 1-2 times a week due to career, kids, etc. I would say that he is progressing about as fast as an aikido student would in our less structured teaching environment who trains that much.
To come back to my original point, I think the level of dedication on the part of the student is more important than the structure, or lack thereof, of class. They put in the hours, they get up the mountain.
I hope this is a useful perspective.
I think I can agree with the assessment in your first part above, at least to where it is pointing.
Though I believe a strong class structure will better help assist the student who is willing to put forth the effort - but can only train twice a week.
If you can only make it to practice twice a week, I understand.
- Though in America where prices in martial arts is sky high, I would make every effort to be in every class.
- If you can only make it to class twice a week, it is the students responsibility to practice during the week. If they dont do this, then their advancement, (not in rank necessarily - but in skill), will be slow.
I see this first hand. We only have classes twice a week...and some people don't show up for those classes, let alone practice outside of class. (Some of them may have legit reasons...life is tougher here, and people struggle to make a living unfortunately...)
But the point is it shows...the need to practice in & out of class cannot be stressed enough. I believe people dont realize the difference it truly can make just doing an hour or so extra on your own in the week.
I noticed in the past, that by the time the next class came around, I was already rusty on what had been taught. (If I did not practice.)
And then we would move on to some other technique, etc.
In the beginning stages this can lead to high drop out rate.
Now I dont know what the drop out rate is in Aikido compared to other martial arts, but I can assume that this is why Aikido instructors tend to let people try it out for free for the first few lessons. (as it is vastly different then a striking art.)
Point being is structure.
Without it, the beginner will become frustrated and just drop it - especially if they only train twice a week and dont have the basic fundamentals down.
I tend to like, at least what I understand of it anyway, the Yoshinkan style - they take you and make sure you can move your feet before you do anything else.
You would not believe how many people in the lower to mid kyu ranks look like they have two left feet as they try to make a move.
Or even more, how many lack the power in their moves because they dont do a basic shift of their weight and twist with their hip in the movement...their feet stay put and they are off balance.
I dont know, this is like a personal testimony - for me, learning the basic foot movements...or getting more comfortable with it, has made a huge difference. (That and the philosophy I have taken away from Tohei Sensei of letting the uke go where they want to go and 'trip over themselves' as it were.)
Its hard to convey succinctly what I want here, but this will have to suffice.
In short, I believe we are in agreement, for the most part.
Here is how I would summarize an ideal setup, based on my personal experience. (This is not the path I took, mine was more complicated for sure...)
- Beginners master the footwork & stances as well as playing with a couple of pins and a couple of throws.
- Focus on key concepts of what works and why.
i.e., leverage & twist, balance, etc. (again these are pointers, you may not necessarily use the same terms, etc.)
- Then focus on practicing the moves.
Everyone should know the requirements for testing.
If the dojo has 3 or more classes per week, then one of those could focus on techniques for testing, etc. (Just an example.)
I have noticed that beginners are rough on each other...at least they can be, especially if the build of the person is different.
Aikido is truly a different ball game as you learn to work with other peoples energy...and your own.
There have been numerous occasion where techniques have been over applied. I think for the beginning, I would not have beginners train together. (Nikkyo hurts...that is all I can tell you.)
You know, words are tricky, and often easy to misunderstand.
In no way am I trying to imply that I have the 'way to do it.'
I have only tried to point out some of the areas that seemed could be improved upon, both from my experience, and from what I have read from others here, in regards to class structure and training.
You can have an idea set up, but it does depend on what the individual puts into it, as you rightfully pointed out.