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Old 07-23-2003, 12:04 PM   #1
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Question The Aging of Aikido

It would seem to me that the art of Aikido, effectively given birth to in its modern form by O'Sensei, is aging in the US. I base this on several facts, two of which are found below.

1) The "first generation" of Aikido instructors in the US who have learned in relatively close proximity to O'Sensei are rapidly reaching maturity or moving into retirement. This will increasingly be the case in the next 5-10 years.

2) The populations of Japan and Europe (and to a lesser extent, the US) are aging as a whole. All other things being equal, Aikidoka on average are aging rapidly.

In addition, I've seen some strong anecdotal evidence that the age of Aikidoka on average is increasing as well for other, less understood reasons. It seems to be rare to find many people in their early to mid 20s involved in the art. Was this always the case in Aikido's younger days? Have the age proportions always been this way?

Is this the case in the broader world as well, or even in other parts of the US? Has anyone ever studied the demographics of Aikido over time? Does this aging of Aikido affect the tone of the teaching, the intensity of the training, testing in general, or the future of the art in a positive or negative way?

What are the other reasons for this change (the popularity of the Matrix relative to Steven Seagal at the moment, for example)? Am I just witnessing a regional phenomenon, and not a national or international one? Are we seeing the break-down of Aikido into dialects, in effect? This has already been seen in the corruption and distortion of basic etiquette or Japanese pronunciation within many dojos. Is any of this a problem, or not? If it is a problem, than what do we do about it without cramping creativity and evolution?
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Old 07-23-2003, 01:16 PM   #2
SeiserL
 
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From an "aging one", yes I think it takes some maturing to really appreciate Aikido.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 07-23-2003, 01:35 PM   #3
Larry Feldman
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I agree with Lynn. I also think the 'flavor of the month'is Brazilian Ju Jitsu, or No holds barred fighting. It is their turn in the public consciousness. At 20 -25 they all want to be tough!

However I still do get people asking about Steven Segal. I think as more Aikido dojos are available, more younger people will get exposed to the art - through kids class.
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Old 07-23-2003, 01:45 PM   #4
rachmass
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Maybe it is a geographic phenomenon (Anon does not say where s/he is located); in my area (Michigan) and in my experience, it is a pretty broad spectrum. Would say though, that broken down into rough percentages, that there is about

10% 18-21 year old

20% 21-35 year olds

40% 35-40 year olds

20% 40-50 year olds

10% over 50

remember, this is what I see in my general area only. It seems that the bulk of practioners are in the mid to late 30's.

As far as what people are being drawn to; I seem to find very little interest in aikido in my immediate area (or at least my dojo), with maybe a couple of inquiries a month at best. Lots of juijitsu schools popping up all over the area...kick boxing too.

by the way, the thread is very interesting, and well stated. I would love to hear what others are seeing.

anyway, hope this even somewhat answers the original question....
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Old 07-23-2003, 02:23 PM   #5
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Quote:
also think the 'flavor of the month'is Brazilian Ju Jitsu, or No holds barred fighting. It is their turn in the public consciousness. At 20 -25 they all want to be tough!
It's Brazilian Jiu Jitsu....note the "i" in jiu jitsu or mixed martial arts.... no holds barred (NHB) isn't used much these days, because it's not an accurate name... There have always been "holds barred".

As for the "flavor of the month" I'm not sure what you mean. There's far more folkstyle wrestlers than bjj'ers, despite Title IX. I suspect the "flavor of the month" is a mistaken impression that bjj has more practioners than it really does because it is a relatively new art and has gotten/continues to get a lot of "press".

Finally, for the age of bjj'ers, well, bjj hasn't been in the United States for very long...Rorion didn't start teaching until 1978 and the Torrance Academy didn't open until 1988. Which is a long way of saying I think the average age is skewed at the present. I would expect it will become more stable as the art matures in the US and then an "average" age would be more accurate.

Regards,

Paul
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Old 07-23-2003, 07:52 PM   #6
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For the person who started the thread, why didn't you sign your post with your name?

For those questions, well they don't affect my training
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Old 07-24-2003, 09:26 AM   #7
Lyle Bogin
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I agree with Larry's point about younger folks wanting to get a bit more rough n tumble (until their first major injury in many cases).

However, jiu-jitsu (as in the Brazillian kind) is an immensely popular sport, as well as a refined martial art. I do not think that this falls into the flavor of the month catagory. Perhaps some years ago it seemed that way, but it has a firm base in the united states (and internationally), it is fairly well organized, and it is here to stay.

Mixed martial arts is also now considered a serious sport in the US. And with many more kung-fu based popular films, wushu is gaining visibility and popularity.

Aikido will never have the same kind of attraction as these martial art/sports. Which is fine by me.

By far, the most popular of the mind/body subjects is Yoga. Perhaps aikidoists should explore similarities to yogic practices, instead of two men (or women) injuring eachother for prize money.

Or maybe a bit of both?

"The martial arts progress from the complex to the simple."
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Old 07-25-2003, 05:56 AM   #8
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Quote:
Mixed martial arts is also now considered a serious sport in the US.
What do you mean by "serious"? If you mean there are people who spend a great deal of time and money in preparation for events, I agree.

If you mean there are a number of people who earn enough to support themselves and their family from MMA events, well, that would be a very small number, but there are some people who fit the bill.

If you mean that MMA participants are widely recognized by the general public, I disagree. Even people who don't follow basketball, such as myself, know who Kobe Bryant is. I don't golf, but I know who Tiger Woods is. I don't play tennis, but I could point out Andre Agassi.... I'd be surprised if someone who didn't follow mma would know who Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture, Matt Hughes or BJ Penn are.
Quote:
Aikido will never have the same kind of attraction as these martial art/sports.
I agree. Aikido is and will continue to be more popular than MMA or bjj, IMO.

Regards,

Paul
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Old 07-25-2003, 09:25 AM   #9
Lyle Bogin
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Yes, I see what you mean. However, I think more people would look at a pic of Tito Ortiz and say "isn't that one of those ultimate fighter guys" than look at a picture of O'Sensei and say "isn't that the guy who created Aikido". Even if they've never seen Tito, the flames on the shorts and mean look are a dead give away . No martial arts star has the visibility of a pro-sports athlete like Tiger Woods. Except maybe Jackie Chan.

There are no guarantees about how many folks will be interested in this or that. But I haven't seen much aikido on pay-per-view, or on ESPN2.

"The martial arts progress from the complex to the simple."
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Old 07-26-2003, 12:32 AM   #10
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Cool Re: The Aging of Aikido

At Maui Ki Society, which this year is celebrating it's 50th anniversary, Suzuki Sensei who was one of the early Hawaiian policeman to start Aikido with Koichi Tohei Sensei in 1953, is semi-retired but still teaches on a regular basis. His senior student, Chris Curtis Sensei (7th dan) runs the dojo.

This year they had their largest kids aikido classes ever, over 60 young students.

It's been my experience that there tends to be a younger crowd in dojos located in college towns.

about %25 of my group is below 20 and it's not a college town and I don't have a kids class. Oldest student is over 50.

teaching to meet the needs of people of different ages is an issue. Aging isn't as long as good principles are being passed on.

Craig
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Old 07-26-2003, 01:23 AM   #11
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Re: The Aging of Aikido

Quote:
() wrote:
Is this the case in the broader world as well, or even in other parts of the US? Has anyone ever studied the demographics of Aikido over time? Does this aging of Aikido affect the tone of the teaching, the intensity of the training, testing in general, or the future of the art in a positive or negative way?
Though I personally have not studied the demographics of Aikido, I have been noticing thus far that ---within the small sphere of my own limited experiences--- younger Aikidoka such as myself (I'm 26) seem rather few and far between.

This could be attributed to a number of things, lack of general public knowledge about the art itself (in contrast with the prominence of other arts such as Kung Fu and Karate, as they appear in the media more often) is most likely one reason; and the level of maturity that the art requires of the individual (as others have mentioned before) is another. Yet even within those who are young Aikidoka (as in everything else) one can find those who go into it for the "rough and tumble" instead of its spiritual and philosophical aspects.

But I digress...as for how this seeming change in demographics may affect the teaching and intensity of training, it will depend greatly upon the adaptability and empathy of the teacher. I believe that good teachers (of Aikido or otherwise), those who sincerely wish their students to learn and wish to teach them to the best of their ability, naturally adapt to their individual students' strengths, weaknesses and abilities regardless of their age --- all with the desire to help their students be the best that they can be.

Other, less flexible teachers who are set in their ways as to how a thing must be taught or how a school must be run, and are unwilling to adapt to or accomodate for the changes in their students (be it because of age or ability), will thus neglect the needs of their students and will ultimately lose those students. I suppose it's quite similar to evolution: adapt or risk fading away. Just like the world, Aikido is changing and evolving, due to the actions of whomever participates in it.
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Old 07-26-2003, 01:56 AM   #12
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Average age in my dojo - 23

Average age in my Honbu dojo - about 30

I think it really revolves around the intensity that the sensei wishes to teach and practice.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 07-26-2003, 04:11 PM   #13
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Quote:
Lyle Bogin wrote:
By far, the most popular of the mind/body subjects is Yoga. Perhaps aikidoists should explore similarities to yogic practices, instead of two men (or women) injuring eachother for prize money.

Or maybe a bit of both?
of course long before yoag got popular, there was Ki development or Shin Shin Toitsu Do in Aikido that Koichi Tohei teaches that has it's roots in Japanese yoga.

I have even done seminars for yoga students that is very well recieved.

but I doubt I can match the Yoga Body juggernaut in town with early morning, lunchtime and evening classes 6 days a week in several different styles.

It's more like the 24 hour Fitness franchise.

if you got the press, no telling how young you can go,

http://www.cnn.com/2003/EDUCATION/07....ap/index.html

Craig
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Old 07-30-2003, 02:23 PM   #14
Jesse Lee
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Interesting discussion re. BJJ becoming the flavor of the month, etc.

IMHO BJJ's recent meteoric rise in popularity is due to Pride, UFC, and other MMA forums. My impression is, they are popping up on a local level all over now; this weekend was the MMA Battle in Seattle, in my town

BJJ and MMA deserves respect beyond what we give to fads -- It has ended several hundred years of speculation about what arts reign supreme in a competitive, one-on-one, no weapons setting. In the early UFC, all manner of fighting systems stepped up. It was system vs. system. Now, everyone knows that in MMA competition, you better bring boxing/Muay Thai skills, takedown skills, and grappling/BJJ skills. It is no longer system vs. system; now it is fighter vs. fighter, with the systems pretty well agreed upon.

Aikido does not play in this competitive arena, o/c. I don't mean to spark a debate about how well aikido can hang with these other arts, as this forum must have logged a terrabyte's worth of that discussion on THAT topic by now.

, can't find m s
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Old 08-07-2003, 06:11 AM   #15
Amelia Smith
 
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I am surprised that this discussion has focused so much on aikido vs. other martial arts, and not larger social and economic issues affecting people in their 20s and 30s. I, like many other people I know, started practicing aikido in my mid-20s. In the past eight years I have moved about five times, not counting seasonal migrations in and out of school, and practiced at four different dojos. Fortunately for me, three of those dojos are very similar in their aikido styles. I chose where I moved to partly on the basis of the aikido available there.

I might not have been lucky enough to have that flexiblity. I am now back at my original dojo, and here, especially, I see that most of the younger people have a hard time making it to class regularly over the years. For one thing, people in their 20s tend to move around a lot, and aikido, as we all know, is not something that can be adequately learned in a few months' time. Financial issues also are a factor - most dojos are not that expensive but some are, and I have always been offended by policies that give dues discounts to couples while making students and low income people pay full rates. The younger people who have plenty of money usually earn it in very demanding jobs, which keep them at their offices past practice time. It takes a while to get established in these professions, and we are, as a society, experiencing a lot of economic insecurity.

In short, I think it might be easier to get into a regular practice when you're better established in life. People drift in and out of practice for all kinds of reasons, including new jobs, new relationships, and moving as well as factors having to do with aikido, the dojo, etc. That said, I know a lot of young people who practice, and more who started practicing when they were young. Most of the people I know who've been practicing for a long time started sometime in their 20s or early 30s, with a few who started younger. I also know several who started in their 40s, 50s, and one who tried to start in his mid-60s. Of course all of these people are older now.

off to work.

--Amelia
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Old 08-08-2003, 08:54 AM   #16
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I think it can be tricky in a number of ways but can ultimately boil down to: why do you study a martial art?

One's answer to the above question can be indicative of what and where they train. These days, if someone tells a layperson that they train/study aikido, that person may have heard somewhere that Steven Seagal does that stuff. Or, they might not be aware of aikido at all. How much they are educated is dependent on what the practitioner tells them. Tell a fellow aikidoka that you train, they might then ask whether it's Honbu, Tomiki, Yoshinkan or whether your school is independent or affiliated with Aikido Schools of Ueshiba, etc. There's many more permutations and ways to describe it. Other martial arts; karate, jujutsu, wing chun, etc. may be even more split into factions.

Which style is right is, I think, a matter for the individual to decide. I often think that the instructor is more important than the style, but that's just me. As far as aikido vs. other styles and popularity, I'd say that it fares better than some, maybe worse than others. At this point, however, it's mostly speculation unless someone has access to some studies published on this subject.

I think Amelia brings up a good point when she mentions the social and economic issues that affect younger people. Strictly speculating and my testimonial, mind you, but I'm 28 now and have been involved in martial arts (karate, judo, wrestling, aikido) off and on since I was five years old. Up until mid-teenager years, I was into the sports/competitive aspects, but then I saw 'Above the Law' starring Steven Seagal (yup, I'm one of those guys). So, I got into aikido 13 years ago because, initially, I thought the moves were cool. Well, sticking with it has been very difficult, not the least of which, up until a few years ago, was for financial reasons. Being married and the primary bread winner, I couldn't always justify spending the dojo fees each month and I moved with enough frequency that I never was in one place long enough to really give it a go.

Now, I'm part of a dojo that I love. I very much enjoy the harder training (I'd rate it as somewhere between Honbu aikido and aiki-jutsu) and at least half the aikido practitioners seem to be near or around my age. Most of us have some experience in martial arts prior to belonging to this dojo, but many of us have needed a few years to get our adult acts together enough to make this a part of our lifestyle again. I suspect there's lots of folks out there like that. There's probably a lot more that have never taken a martial art and have no idea of the benefits it could offer them. But marketing is another subject

Best/Budd
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Old 08-16-2003, 01:32 PM   #17
Kelly Allen
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Something that hasn't been mentioned is that there seems to be alot of places that don't teach Aikido to Kids. Here in the Peg if your not 18 or over, there is no where for you to train in this art. I don't think that there are any other MA that don't have some kind of childrens program. If one is trained as a kid in a MA they tend to be partial to that MA.

Any way! I just thought this was another reason why Akidokas have a greater average age.
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Old 08-18-2003, 02:56 PM   #18
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Here's another one:

You can do Aikido till the day you die without being relegateed to the sidelines by injury or weakness; and some people have.

That's not true for all martial arts.
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Old 08-18-2003, 06:47 PM   #19
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Quote:
You can do Aikido till the day you die without being relegateed to the sidelines by injury or weakness; and some people have.

That's not true for all martial arts.
Respectfully, it's not true of aikido either. Having nearly spent as much time in bjj as aikido, I can honestly say that bjj is a much more vigorous practice on average. And on average, I have witnessed more injuries and more serious injuries in aikido.

I suspect this is due to ukemi from throws. As the expression goes, "the earth is the hardest fist". Older aikidoists may not be on the sidelines, but they aren't taking a lot of high impact throws either.

Regards,

Paul
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Old 08-18-2003, 07:09 PM   #20
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Quote:
() wrote:
You can do Aikido till the day you die without being relegateed to the sidelines by injury or weakness; and some people have.
I think they do it in spite of the injuries.
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