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Old 08-19-2009, 02:07 AM   #26
jss
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Re: Training at Aikikai Hombu Dojo - Experiences

Quote:
John Matsushima wrote: View Post
Instead, you walk in with your own expectations, with your head held high and became offended because you hit your head on the door.
He was disappointed, not offended.

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First of all I don't understand why foreigners get so offended to hear the word "gaijin" in their presence.
Because it has a negative connotation?

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Why don't you speak Japanese????
Do you speak the language of every country you visit? If I visit the main dojo of the international organization that is the Aikikai, why would I need to speak Japanese?

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So, you visited someone else's dojo, you should be grateful that they even let you on the mat and took any time at all to attempt to teach you anything. Learn to have some gratitude and respect, especially when you are in someone else's house.
As far as I know he did not go to Doshu to complain about the crappy atmosphere in his dojo. He made a post on Aikiweb, described his experience and asked how visiting Hombu Dojo was for other people. You seem to confuse having gratitude and respect with abandoning critical thought and information gathering.
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Old 08-19-2009, 02:59 AM   #27
Reuben
 
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Re: Training at Aikikai Hombu Dojo - Experiences

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Peter Ralls wrote: View Post
Hi Reuben

I spent a year training at hombu dojo a long time ago, and I go back to Japan every year or so for a couple weeks.I always train at hombu when I am in Tokyo, as well as at my teacher's dojo.

My experience with hombu dojo is that it is very different from other aikido dojos because it is such a big place with so many people and so many classes going on. The last I heard they had over a thousand students training there. My experience is that hombu dojo is mainly focused on providing training for it's practitioners, and does not expend very much energy on visitors. Generally, people talk very little during training, and in almost all of the classes you keep the same partner for the whole hour. In addition, its Japan, which means most of the Japanese are not going to speak English.

Hombu dojo gets a huge number of visitors passing through, so what happens is that the people that train there every day tend to train with people they know, especially since they are going to have the same partner for the whole class.It takes being there for a while before people start to take an interest in you. Hombu has so many people training, and each time slot tends to have different people, that you could just train every day for years with the daily practitioners there and never get to know everybody.

So you have to put it in perspective. If your home dojo had multiple visitors coming to class every day, many of whom didn't speak the same language as you, how much time and energy would you invest in training with or teaching them, especially if you knew a whole new batch would be coming through tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after. Hombu dojo practitioners tend to come in, train with the people they know, and head out after class afterwards. It's never been a very social or immediately friendly place, in my experience. And it definitely takes some adjusting to, when you are used to the regular, normal sized dojo where everyone knows each other and you change partners every technique.

Could they make it more visitor friendly? Probably, but with the amount of visitors they get, it would take a large investment in human resources that they don't seem to have. Changing the one partner per class system would probably help, but that is a different discussion.

Now, I like training at hombu dojo. I like the quiet, intense, focused training. It's rare that I don't leave the hour long class pretty tired. Of course it's going to depend on who you get as a partner, but where else are you going to get a high level six or seventh dan partner training with you for an hour. Each trip I usually get to train a couple of times with partners who have very high level aikido. Even when I get someone as a partner who I don't know, which is probably about half the time, I usually find that the majority of my training partners are pretty good and fun to train with. Needless to say, the teachers are very good. I do find it less relaxed than training at my teacher's dojo, or my home dojo, because at hombu I never can be sure what I am going to get, partner wise, for an hour, and training can be very intense. But I get almost always get a lot out of it. Oh, and when I lived in Japan and was a practitioner at hombu dojo, I didn't train with visitors I didn't know either.

Peter
Thanks for this I'll prolly give it another go when I next drop by Tokyo.

Just for clarification, the guy I partnered with was not a yudansha though he was not bad at all. He stood out as most of the others were black belt holders and it was quite funny how everyone immediately assumed their partners leaving the white belts to find whoever is left.

The one partner training thing I feel enforces the schoolyard mentality of 'last to get picked'. I don't have a problem with practicing with lower grades at all but it would have been nice to experience some high level Aikido as well which probably added to my disappointment though hey he was probably disappointed as well when he got some blur black belt holder who didn't quite comprehend his surroundings .

But as you said, that's a different discussion altogether.

Thank you for your insight.
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Old 08-19-2009, 03:05 AM   #28
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Re: Training at Aikikai Hombu Dojo - Experiences

Quote:
Joep Schuurkes wrote: View Post
He was disappointed, not offended.

Because it has a negative connotation?

Do you speak the language of every country you visit? If I visit the main dojo of the international organization that is the Aikikai, why would I need to speak Japanese?

As far as I know he did not go to Doshu to complain about the crappy atmosphere in his dojo. He made a post on Aikiweb, described his experience and asked how visiting Hombu Dojo was for other people. You seem to confuse having gratitude and respect with abandoning critical thought and information gathering.
Thanks Joep I'm glad someone understood the purpose of my post.

I wasn't expecting to be taught in English but of course I would appreciate some attempt to be made to communicate to me what he was trying to get at which was what visiting hombu instructors do when they go abroad.

Peter's explanation in that they only focus on the regulars in a way makes sense. After all visitors come and go...and on a practical side it makes sense to focus on YOUR dojo's regulars.

It still is unfortunate though considering that although Hombu dojo has its own dedicated hombu students, it is also the dojo of the world. In a way it might be a clash of these two roles that resulted in this.

That being said, in its current setup, most visitors will end up training with other visitors. The one partner per session rules makes it difficult for visitors to experience what they go expecting to which is to train with at least some Hombu students/instructors. After all, many of us where Aikido is a relatively small scene and don't always have access to high level Shihans would love to feel the differences of an Aikidoka practicing at the very heart of Aikido. That being said, of course they aren't just 'dummies' for us to experience Aikido, but promoting some mingling would be great where you get to feel visitors from around the world and their interpretation of Aikido and also Hombu's own interpretation.

I feel a lot better about this now.

Last edited by Reuben : 08-19-2009 at 03:17 AM.
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Old 08-19-2009, 03:35 AM   #29
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Re: Training at Aikikai Hombu Dojo - Experiences

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Joep Schuurkes wrote: View Post
Do you speak the language of every country you visit? If I visit the main dojo of the international organization that is the Aikikai, why would I need to speak Japanese?
The thing is, you're really dealing with two different entities here. There's the Hombu Dojo, and there's the Aikido World Headquarters. The dojo is a self-contained dojo, just like any other in Japan. If you go to any dojo in Japan, it's a good idea to speak Japanese, and that includes Hombu Dojo. The international organization of which you speak merely happens to be located in the same building.

This is clear from the Aikikai homepage. Visiting Aikikai members are welcome to train in Beginner and Regular classes, but to participate in the Aikido Gakko, Women's, and Children's classes, you have to be a member of Hombu Dojo.

The Aikikai is happy to have visitors from all over the world make pilgrimages to its historical main dojo, but that doesn't mean Hombu Dojo is inherently structured for an international visitors. In the end, it's just a Japanese dojo, catering to people living in Japan, specifically Tokyo.

Edit: And yes, I personally try to learn to speak a little of the language of every country I visit.

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
- Chaucer
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Old 08-19-2009, 04:56 AM   #30
Walter Martindale
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Re: Training at Aikikai Hombu Dojo - Experiences

Well, I first went to Hombu as part of a 2003 tour led by the shihan for Canada, Kawahara Yukio. He took about 15 of us over on a tour that started in Osaka, included participating in a big demo in Osaka, practicing at the Hiroshima police dojo (sensei there one of Kawahara's former students, I think), and a lot of tourism. (Kyoto, Beppu, Himeji, some samurai villages, a Sumo Basho at Kanazawa.. lots of food, sake, beer...). The trip ended with a few days in Tokyo, staying at a cheap hotel in Shinjuku and walking 20 min to Hombu. We practiced a couple of times at Hombu, in Doshu's class, and had dinner at a Chinese restaurant with Doshu.

Training at the morning practice with Dohsu teaching was quite like others have remarked. One partner for the whole session, lots of sweat (well, for me), lots of people, compact ukemi because of the crowds. Because we were a group, introduced by Kawahara, I think we were made welcome. (group photo with Doshu, but that was the session I missed because my ankle was not being happy at all.)

A year later I went on my own, for a few morning practices and then a couple of evening sessions on the same day (at my age, that was pretty hard - maybe when I was in my 20s, but at 50 that hurt) The Doshu sessions were exactly as before. One session I made the mistake of mopping my brow while Doshu was instructing, and (after the instruction was over) was very quickly told not to do that. However, practice was lively, it was lots of business people getting a session before they went to work, and you could tell they were regulars.
The evening sessions - I went for the purpose of attending Masuda's instruction because I'd had his instruction as part of seminars in New Zealand in the late 90s and again in 02 during a short visit to NZ. I was nikyu (but with 11 years of aikido and few opportunities to grade) at the time, and was practicing with a relative beginner, and Masuda separated us and told a couple of senior trainers to practice with each of us. He then asked where he'd seen me before. I again found Masuda's sessions to be entertaining, even in Japanese - his instruction was clear, but - since my Japanese is very rudimentary and not being translated, I was going by the "monkey see monkey do" method of learning.
The roughest treatment I got was by a Canadian guy I ended up practicing with on my third session of the day. I grew up in the city he was from, and let him know I was pretty tired, but I felt like I was getting thumped around pretty firmly - more so than the Japanese had been thumping me around. Odd.
But - When I went to the dojo, I went with the attitude that I would watch, how do they start, where should I line up, ask a gaijin, watch people, listen, and try to do it "like they do". It wasn't my dojo, so I wanted to do it however it was done there.
The showers, afterwards - I don't know what they have against hot water, but....
Wasn't made welcome, wasn't made unwelcome. More like "ok, here's another gaijin tourist. Yeah, here, pay this, go upstairs, change, train, see ya." I'd have to stay there for a while and train lots to be a familiar face, before the locals would open up. That, and spend quite a while studying Japanese.
Walter
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Old 08-19-2009, 06:24 AM   #31
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Re: Training at Aikikai Hombu Dojo - Experiences

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Joshua Reyer wrote: View Post
This is clear from the Aikikai homepage. Visiting Aikikai members are welcome to train in Beginner and Regular classes, but to participate in the Aikido Gakko, Women's, and Children's classes, you have to be a member of Hombu Dojo.
Thanks. That's good to know.

Quote:
Edit: And yes, I personally try to learn to speak a little of the language of every country I visit.
I do too (and think all people should), but that rarely goes much beyond "yes", "no", "hello", "goodbye", "please", "thank you", "sorry / excuse me" and the numbers from one to ten. And that's not enough to understand an explanation on an aikido technique.
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Old 08-19-2009, 08:23 AM   #32
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Re: Training at Aikikai Hombu Dojo - Experiences

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Joshua Reyer wrote: View Post
In the end, it's just a Japanese dojo, catering to people living in Japan, specifically Tokyo.
..snip....
Edit: And yes, I personally try to learn to speak a little of the language of every country I visit.
I have mixed feelings on this issue. Of course it is always good to speak local language. But Hombu dojo is not an 'average' dojo in Japan, it has a very special status - International status. Doshu is a head of this dojo. Me and many hundred thousands aikidoka have his endorsement on diploma, and he is very happy to receive a lot of money from all over the World for that. And not only from the students of Hombu dojo. It seems to me that some kind of balance should be created as we are also supporting him.

If ppl feel ignored during their visits in Hombu dojo, already very thin link to Doshu can be very easy broken. They may stop asking diploma from Japan. In this case Hombu dojo may really become an 'average' dojo in Japan. But I'm not sure if it will be a good solution....

Nagababa

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Old 08-19-2009, 10:39 AM   #33
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Re: Training at Aikikai Hombu Dojo - Experiences

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Oh, and when I lived in Japan and was a practitioner at hombu dojo, I didn't train with visitors I didn't know either.

Peter
Hello Peter,

Care to elaborate as to how you came to this decision? Not a loaded question, just curious.

Thanks.

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Old 08-19-2009, 07:52 PM   #34
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Re: Training at Aikikai Hombu Dojo - Experiences

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Joep Schuurkes wrote: View Post
Thanks. That's good to know.

I do too (and think all people should), but that rarely goes much beyond "yes", "no", "hello", "goodbye", "please", "thank you", "sorry / excuse me" and the numbers from one to ten. And that's not enough to understand an explanation on an aikido technique.
Too true I myself am a big anime fan and know a little Japanese, but hardly enough to begin to comprehend what they're going on about when explaining an Aikido technique.
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Old 08-19-2009, 09:19 PM   #35
Peter Ralls
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Re: Training at Aikikai Hombu Dojo - Experiences

Hi Reuben

I do think visiting hombu dojo gets easier after you get a little used to the program there. It gets a lot easier if you go a lot and get to know people, though that takes a lot of time. Also, different instructor's classes have very different feels to them, so it's good to check out a few of the different instructors. I definitely have my likes and dislikes as far as some of the different teacher's classes, and would encourage you to check out a few different instructor's. Doshu's early morning class tends to be a pretty happy crowd, I don't think you would feel that people aren't enjoying the practice there.

Nick

My reasons were pretty simple. To learn the aikido there I felt I had to train with the people that were familiar with it, not be a tour guide all the time. Plus, since I was living there, I think it was pretty natural that I would want to train with the people that I had become friends with. On top of that, I was nineteen years old, so we're not talking about a lot of maturity here.

Now, if someone was visiting who was a friend of one of my friends, that was different. If it was someone who had trained at hombu who was back visiting, that was different. As things were very nationalistic back a long time ago when I was there, (Americans and English hung out together, French stuck to themselves, etc, which happily does not seem to be so much the case nowadays.) I would even train with someone I didn't know visiting from America if they were there for a few classes, and I got curious about them, but I just didn't feel I could spend the majority of my time there training and showing the ropes to a constant parade of visitors who weren't familiar with the practice or the dojo. That was reserved for someone who had moved to Japan and was going to be at hombu for a while, as the Americans who were there when I got there did for me.

Now, at any other dojo where you have the normal membership of say fifty people that train together all the time, with visitors coming in now and again, I think it would be very bad not to train with visitors. I make it a point to train with visitors that come to our dojo in San Francisco, and strongly encourage all the membership to do so. But like I said, at hombu the situation is different.

Peter
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Old 08-19-2009, 10:43 PM   #36
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Re: Training at Aikikai Hombu Dojo - Experiences

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Joep Schuurkes wrote: View Post
I do too (and think all people should), but that rarely goes much beyond "yes", "no", "hello", "goodbye", "please", "thank you", "sorry / excuse me" and the numbers from one to ten. And that's not enough to understand an explanation on an aikido technique.
The Japanese required to understand an explanation of an aikido technique is exceedingly easy, especially since many of the key words are in the techniques themselves. If one is going to Japan to study aikido there, I think it would behoove them to learn the basic body parts: te, ude, hiji, ashi, tsumasaki, koshi, kata, mune. As well as directions: ue, shita, migi, hidari. If one was feeling really industrious, one could learn some basic verbs of movement: hairu, sagaru, kimeru, hineru, nageru, ageru. With this basic lexicon, combined with a little broken English that almost any Japanese person can do, one could get a lot out of an all Japanese class.

Previous to a trip to Zurich, I bought some teach-yourself German books and went through them in the months before my trip, paying special attention to German I was likely to use: shopping and getting directions. Of course, this did backfire, as when I bought a box of Swiss chocolate. I said, "Ich möchte diese Schokolade kaufen" in what must have been rather passable German, as the Verkäuferin responded in a string of rapid-fire German that left me weeping on my knees.

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
- Chaucer
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Old 08-19-2009, 11:08 PM   #37
jaime exley
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Re: Training at Aikikai Hombu Dojo - Experiences

I went to Japan 3 times with the purpose of doing Aikido and stayed each time for about a month. While I was not there to there to train at Hombu Dojo, I found myself there on a number of occasions. My experiences were mostly positive, especially this one.

My friend, who is a member of Hombu, coerced me into meeting her for Doshu's early morning class. I met her and we sat next to each other as everyone was lining up. Then, an older man came sort of swaggering over and asked if my friend and I were going to practice together. I could tell by my my friends speech and body language that this was someone important. The next thing I knew, she was getting up and this guy sat down next to me. I had heard stories about people at Hombu who took it upon themselves to knock visiting young Gaijin yudansha down a couple of notches. (I fit that demographic precisely)

My heart was racing as class began and I just said to myself "no matter what happens, just take your take your best ukemi and under no circumstances try to resist this guy". As we started to practice together, he gradually got faster and stronger with his technique. All I did was my best. I attacked hard and straight and then received his technique as best as I could. At some point my partner's gruff demeanor changed and he started to smile a little.

Doshu came over and said something that I didn't catch, but it must have been funny, because everyone around us chuckled. Then he threw me a few times and walked away.

After class, my partner was very friendly and asked if I'd like to have my picture taken with him in front of the shomen. As we walked to Shinjuku station after class, my friend told me that my unexpected partner was a 7th Dan that ran several Dojos just to the north of Tokyo.

I'm absolutely convinced that if I had tried to prove a point or if I had wilted and shown fear, that class would have been one of my worst Aikido experiences ever. Instead it is a very good memory.
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Old 08-20-2009, 02:04 AM   #38
Walter Martindale
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Re: Training at Aikikai Hombu Dojo - Experiences

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Joshua Reyer wrote: View Post
(snip)
Of course, this did backfire, as when I bought a box of Swiss chocolate. I said, "Ich möchte diese Schokolade kaufen" in what must have been rather passable German, as the Verkäuferin responded in a string of rapid-fire German that left me weeping on my knees.
"I speak enough ______ to get into trouble, but not enough to get out of trouble..."

W
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Old 08-20-2009, 03:02 AM   #39
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Re: Training at Aikikai Hombu Dojo - Experiences

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Joshua Reyer wrote: View Post
I said, "Ich möchte diese Schokolade kaufen" in what must have been rather passable German, as the Verkäuferin responded in a string of rapid-fire German that left me weeping on my knees.
That reminds me of this German beer commercial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epRhCFauHaI.
"Ich möchte diesen Teppich nicht kaufen." means "I do not wish to buy this carpet."
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Old 08-20-2009, 12:55 PM   #40
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Re: Training at Aikikai Hombu Dojo - Experiences

I had the same feeling about Hombu, where I only went to the morning classes taught by Doshu (and one taught by someone else). Yes, it was hot and crowded and training with one uke for the whole class was limited, but the teaching style was what I found most off-putting. Doshu only demonstrated each technique twice, and I usually missed the first time because everybody was still running to sit. And not once did Doshu or anyone else come over to help or correct me. I could definitely see the potential of Hombu and the teaching style for people who stay to train for longer times, but as a relative Aikido newbie and brief visitor, I had trouble getting much out of it.

I also trained several dojos and camps from Aikido Kobayashi Dojo and I can't speak highly enough of them. Yasuo Kobayashi and his son are amazing instructors, particularly with beginners and guests. And they couldn't have been more friendly and welcoming.

Of course it's not really fair to compare the two, since Hombu gets a number of guests every day, while the Kobayashi dojos are more typical dojos (and my instructor has a close connection with them.) But I found the contrast interesting on my trips to Japan.
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Old 08-20-2009, 02:07 PM   #41
Ewan Wilson
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Re: Training at Aikikai Hombu Dojo - Experiences

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I think you forgot to bow.

Instead, you walk in with your own expectations, with your head held high and became offended because you hit your head on the door.
First of all I don't understand why foreigners get so offended to hear the word "gaijin" in their presence. If you are not Japanese, then no matter how much sushi you eat, or J-pop you listen to, you ARE a foreigner, so get used to it.
Secondly, it blows my mind that people come to Japan and are offended when Japanese people don't speak English. Why don't you speak Japanese???? So even if Mr. Shihan spoke to you instead of your Japanese uke, would you even understand?

I think it's funny how there is so much talk about Aikido not being enough like a real budo, but then people complain about training seriously in a tense atmosphere. Was this just a stop on your sightseeing tour? Did you come to socialize or find a Japanese girlfriend?

So, you visited someone else's dojo, you should be grateful that they even let you on the mat and took any time at all to attempt to teach you anything. Learn to have some gratitude and respect, especially when you are in someone else's house.
Spot on. I have not been to Japan but there's no chance you'd catch me moaning about not being spoken to in english in the Hombo dojo!

So the experience wasn't what you'd dreamed of? What did you expect? They'd all speak perfect english, crack jokes and invite you out for a beer afterwards?

Last edited by Ewan Wilson : 08-20-2009 at 02:19 PM.
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Old 08-21-2009, 09:43 AM   #42
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Re: Training at Aikikai Hombu Dojo - Experiences

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Joshua Reyer wrote: View Post
Of course, this did backfire, as when I bought a box of Swiss chocolate. I said, "Ich möchte diese Schokolade kaufen" in what must have been rather passable German, as the Verkäuferin responded in a string of rapid-fire German that left me weeping on my knees.
You aren't alone; I have always maintained that there is little purpose in knowing how to ask a question without being able to understand the answer.

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Old 08-21-2009, 09:59 AM   #43
sisley
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Re: Training at Aikikai Hombu Dojo - Experiences

It's good to remember as well that Hombu Dojo gets a large amount of visitors all throughout the year from various dojos throughout Japan and throughout the world. Some visitors stay for a class or two, some may stay longer, but the core students must find this a bit tedious and wearisome. Certainly, I've been to other dojos in the US where the core members have not welcomed me with open arms. And not speaking the language confidently, I think, makes that situation even more difficult because they (the core students) don't know if you can speak the language.

My experience training at Hombu was fine. I enjoyed chatting with some of the guys in the locker room and hearing stories from one elderly gentleman from the days when he trained under O-Sensei. Of course, this was all done in Japanese.

Yes, it is a formal place. Yes, perhaps a little more pretentious than other dojos. But I think that's what we would/should expect from the Hombu Dojo.

just my thoughts

--jimbo
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