One of the internal questions I ask myself weekly is how do I keep my students engaged in Aikido? First, it’s probably important to classify what Aikido is and what it means to people. Some may call it a hobby. Well by definition, Hobby means, “an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure.” so yes Aikido is definitely a hobby. But in 20 plus years I’ve never once considered it that or even used that word. In fact, I don’t ever remember hearing anyone call it that. To me and most martial artists, it’s a lot more than a hobby. When I hear hobby, I think of playing Cards, Chess, Basketweaving. But I guess even in some of those the higher level you train at or compete, e.g. Competitive Chess player it becomes more too. I also know that I have a biased opinion as a Dojo Owner. I have more at stake. I care more. I decided to make this part of my life. I build a dojo from the ground up literally. Something that has more importance to me than simply a hobby.
But I was curious so I asked some other aikido students from various experiences, even lineage if they considered Aikido a hobby.
Jim Hyde, 3rd Dan, says “When I started Aikido, I was looking for more than a hobby. Hobby’s are easy to walk away from…there’s something disposable about them. Aikido is meant to be a supplement to a person’s life; to improve a person on and off the mat, and that’s what I found. It’s become a part of who I am and a pursuit that makes me a better person. I’m glad that it’s fulfilled me in that way and I want to share that with others…that makes it so much more than a hobby.”
Here are a few more, Jim Plunkett, 1st Dan, says “Do I consider Aikido a hobby? According to Wikipedia, “A hobby is a regular activity done for enjoyment, typically during one’s leisure time, not professionally and not for pay” So by definition, I could consider it a hobby, but after 33 years, of starts and stops, 3 different dojos, and 2 Aikido governing associations later, It has become a daily practice that I could no more stop than I could just stop walking. Even if I am not able to practice on the mat, I am thinking about and looking to apply the principles that underlie the physical techniques of Aikido to my everyday life and my interactions with others. So…do I consider Aikido a hobby? No, I consider it everything.”
Finally, Jack Freund, 1st Dan, says “Well, it’s a thing I do that isn’t my profession so in that sense it meets the strict definition but it definitely transcends that. It’s about fitness, self-defense, awareness, protecting my loved ones, and a “life philosophy.” I think the common takeaway so far is that no Black Belt thinks Aikido is just a hobby.
I would argue to say that until a student understands that the path to Shodan would be a tough one.
In our dojo, we try and build that culture early on and it’s indicative of our student’s actions, behaviors, and attitudes. Dan Shook, 5th Kyu, says “No. I would consider it a serious lifestyle choice that affects your mind, wellness, and outlook on life. It can make the difference between life and death (with or without a physical altercation”
So I think students fall into 3 categories and I do not favor one over the over but recognize there are differences in mindsets. First, they are students that just want to train some, 1-2 times a week or month, they like to feel they are a part of something. Second, there are students that adopt a mindset that Aikido is a lot more than a hobby. They train weekly. They work on their fitness. They work on their technique. They show up early to class. They stay late. They go to seminars. And Third, there are students on the track to Black Belt or are Black Belts already. They basically are the Second group with all the intangibles. They have the right mindset, attitude all of the time & don’t decide when it’s convenient for them to engage in the dojo or when they ‘feel like’ using proper etiquette. And the biggest point is that the third group does not think Aikido is a hobby.
Teacher versus Instructor. In Aikido, I feel both of these terms tend to be used interchangeably. I beg to differ. An active, serious aikido student — someone with 3+ years of consistent 3-4 X a week practice and seminar attendance (2-3X a year) — can achieve 2nd Kyu and maybe even 1st Kyu. Depending on…
There is Etiquette in everything we do – even the Seminar Group Photo. So the morning classes just ended, everyone is dehydrated, ready for lunch, Yudansha are about to start folding hakamas and the host dojo says, “Let’s all get in front of the kamiza for a group photo.” Now, this sounds like a simple…
I saw this graphic the other day and thought it was spot on. As an Aikido teacher, in addition to teaching the martial circulum I really try and help mentor my students in a lot of the intangible aspects to Aikido. Attitude, Character, & Etiquette. And this truly applies to our senior students that have…