We make plans, hairpicking every possibility. We sketch our programs as much as we can, to the best of our knowledge and start taking steps.
But, then ‘something’ happens. Something other than ‘all those’ that we have planned for. Something that makes us shelve all those plans and programs.
Walking through life, if we can come up with new solutions each time we encounter such game-changers, and weather them, and find or create other pathways leading towards our initial goal without losing compass, then we can become ‘warriors.’
‘Aikido is an art of war.’ Remember? That is the kind of war it is.
Many Aikido dojos today, complain about the dwindling number of new students they can find. They say, ‘Aikido is no longer as popular.’
I do not agree with that.
If what Aikido is to you, and to your students is what Steven Seagal used to do in his movies, and try to learn and teach the same, then, you do not stand a chance of outliving Seagal’s movies. This is because it is Steven Seagal’s Aikido that is popular yet a replica is transient like a flash in the pan.
People have been wondering for years whether or not Aikido works on the street. There was a time, when the Iwama school claimed theirs was the ‘real deal.’
There is a Turkish idiom I love. Other languages should have one that is similar, I guess. It says:
‘You cannot build a straight wall with gauge that is crooked.’
If you value Aikido in view of its applicability on the street, then your entire approach is crooked and that will take you to the wrong outcome.
In our dojos at the UAO (United Aikido Organisation, I am the founder and the chief-trainer of) we have a significant number of women, children and others, whom one might call ‘seasoned’ aikidoka. None of them seeks to learn aikido for the sake of butt-kicking on the streets.
Can you imagine a sexagenerian or a septuagenerian practice Aikido just to brawl?
Please take a good look at your dojos. If you do not have aikidoka in their middle ages and above then your dojo is doomed to cease.
I have some criteria of my own I use to judge other dojos and trainers I do not know.
You know, today it is even easier on the social media to find and watch people you do not know.
So, when I come across a trainer for the first time I check his/her videos and pictures. If, for example, his/her techniques are complex, composed of multiple stages and transitions and there is a lot of shifts between techniques without finishing the previous one, I write-off one point.
Or, if the trainer pauses during a technique but comes back to harshly throw-off his/her opponent, I write-off another, regardless how nice it looks.
If people are wearing dogis (training outfit) in colors other than white such as black or blue, I think to myself; ‘Oh’ That is how they are covering up for the difference that is lacking in their technique.’ There goes another point.
Then those, who talk a lot about the O’Sensei and those, who tell a lot of stories about the samurai, I write-off yet another.
I believe for one to be able to train and teach others requires a tough, grueling physical training process.
So, someone to turn his/her back to his/her sensei to start his/her own dojo first thing s/he has earned the black belt has nothing to give. All they can do is but steal from their community their time, hope and money, and that is just a limited offer before they start complaining that Aikido is no longer popular and that they cannot find new students and so on.
When someone tells me about the dwindling number of his/her students I recommend them to close their dojo and to go enroll, with their students (if any), in another dojo near-by and pay the fee and continue training.
For there is strength in numbers, which is lost if you break-up.
Aikido can be a lot of fun, when practised with few but happiness multiplies with the vibes of a crowded dojo.
Being a student in Aikido is alot more fun than being a teacher.
Go to a dojo, regardless of your belt. Pay your fee. Contribute. Try to do your best. Train and go back home, beaten-up but happy.
And do not forget to smile, not only at the dojo but in all walks of life.
These here are my feelings these days as I approach my 40th Anniversary in Aikido.
With all due respect to our right to think differently.
With hopes that the warmth of our hearts will not cool-off.
Mustafa Aygün April 5, 2020, London.