My plan is to post regular blog posts to our NCA website related to etiquette in our dojo. Here is the first one in the series discussing the difference between customer and student.
The concept of dojo I think may not be understood fully in many dojos. I think some of the confusion stems from the marketing of similar businesses. The reality of course is that Aikido dojos need to cover their expenses to keep the doors open and to do that dojo operators must market their classes to bring in new students (no margin no mission). We are not exception. In our culture because of lack of insight into martial arts , it makes sense that new students will expect to be treated like customers. But they are different for important reasons.
In some sense students are customers but not how we typically view customers. Instructors of Aikido are responsible for spreading “the way” to future generations. As the art spreads from generation to the next, it is the responsibility of its caretakers to retain the true essence of the budo, which was emphasized by O’sensei as the roots of Aikido. Aikido is a martial way (budo) that requires discipline and hard work. Martial arts such as Aikido must require students to follow established rules and etiquette for safety and gaining true insight into the art. Lackadaisical practices when it comes to the essence of budo will result in poor student development.
In this post I will discuss one aspect of etiquette in Aikido.
Minimal talking on the mat: This is important because learning or internalizing Aikido requires repetitive practice. Discussing Aikido principles has some value but the overwhelming breadth of development comes from sweat equity. The student’s aim should be to work as diligently as possible to replicate what you observe the instructor teaching. If you are attempting to teach others in class or asking questions of other students you are taking away valuable practice time. The instructor demonstrating the technique is the best person to direct you for obvious reasons. If it is not obvious then it may be necessary to evaluate the purpose of your training.
In class a student may think the instructor is ignoring him or her, or not observing some difficulties you are having. While an instructor may be inclined to offer step by step instructions to the students it is necessary for students to struggle as that is part of the learning process. Not only are we learning physical proficiency we are learning mental discipline. Getting out of the proverbial comfort zone is extremely important in our development as Aikidoka.