Sunday, November 30, 2008

How to Find a Dojo

When you check out a restaurant, do not look at the menu or the food. Instead, look at the other patrons. Are they thin and healthy? Or overweight and sedentary? If you eat there, you will grow to look like them.

The same way, when you are searching for a dojo, do not look at the teacher or the building or the mats. Instead, look at the students training there; if you train there, you will become like them.

As I have traveled around the country and have trained in different schools, some have an open and friendly vibe, while others are serious, or shy, or, unfortunately, rude sometimes. That's all OK. As a visitor I can train almost anywhere once. And if I feel in danger or that my training isn't productive in at least some small way, then I simply bow out. No big deal.

One thing I don't mind is when my training partners tell me "do this, do that, no you're not doing this right, etc." Sometimes they have a valid point, and sometimes they are just reflecting the energy in their dojo as a whole. Either way, it's good information for me, and I don't see their attitude as a reason to get upset and reactive.

So, when you go to check out an aikido school, see whether students there greet you (and not just the designated greeter), see whether your questions are answered, whether you are made to feel welcome. If so, then you will know that that dojo will engender those qualities in you. Remember, one very important part of aikido is "extending ki (energy)," and those aikidoists who extend their hand to you when you walk in the door are probably training extending ki on the mat. In my experience, those who don't probably aren't.

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