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Home > Training > Right to Train?
by Chuck Gordon <Send E-mail to Author> - 25. Sep, 1997

Just trying to clear some things up here. From the recent thread on women's classes (which, admittedly, I've mostly scanned rather than read) I seem to be reading from one camp that some folks believe that everyone has a right to be able to train, that it's some god-given thing that you should walk into a dojo and be accepted.

If I've misread or misinterpreted, I apologize up front. If not, I'm gonna climb up on my soapbox and proclaim here a bit.

My assertion is this: No one has a right to train in aikido (or any other budo). Training is a privilege granted by the instructor/headmaster of the school or organization. Said privilege can be revoked at any time, for damned near any reason.

I know a lot of MA schools operate under the warm-body principle; ie, if its a warm body with cash (plastic or contract will do, too) in hand, they can train.

I've read that Kano, Funakoshi and Ueshiba (notably among other masters) claimed to want to open up the budo to everyone. However, in practice, did not Ueshiba require carefully-prescribed introductions with references, etc? Did he not also declare that aikido was not to be taught willy-nilly (my paraphrase) in order to prevent ruffians and ne'er do wells from learning the art and misusing it?

Other master teachers have insisted on similar introductory requirements.

This, I believe, is a Good Thing (tm).

Screening or filtering applicants for training helps ensure the dojo population is sincere, dedicated and motivated. (Unfortunately, it does not prevent decimation of the student body by job moves, etc.)

It usually keeps 90-day wonder wannabees off the mat and allows the instructor to somewhat determine the composition and size of classes.

Did I hear a gasp of shock? I hope not. The instructor, IMO, has no responsibility whatsoever to teach anyone at all. To me, the budo are a precious stone not to be cast among swine.

Who determines who are swine and who are not? In my dojo, I do. In yours, you do. Are we always right? Maybe not. Are we right sometimes, well, if we're careful, incisive in our evaluation of applicants and fair in our selection, then we'rre gonna be right most of the time.

What about, you ask, the teachers who are obviously prejudiced against this or that group? Well dear friends, if the teacher is that prejudiced, would you want to train there anyway? Indeed, if this is the case, should you train with that sensei, knowing of his or her bigotry? Nope.

There is no right to learn budo. It is a rare privilege that should be earned, a treasure that should be bought with humility, perserverance and dedication. It is nothing to trifle with and nothing to play with.

My thoughts: if you want sport, go play with a ball. If you want fitness, join a gym. If you want therapy, find a support group.

If, however, you seek to learn some wonderful things about yourself, about an ancient and exotic culture -- about the mindset of the warrior and how to apply that to your life today -- in other words, about the budo, then by all means get thee to a dojo and train! But don't expect (gods forbid never demand!) to be admitted. Approach application for acceptance humbly, and with a sincere desire, but never, never expect to be handed your training.

Chuck

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