While trawling a popular Aikido forum, I was sharing my experiences in the Aikikai Hombu HQ in Tokyo which was in short, not positive.

Basically I expressed how I felt like an outsider with nobody returning my smiles and the instructor more concerned with the other Japanese student whom I was partnered with even when at times I was struggling with the technique as much as the that Japanese student. Even the locker room situation before and after the class was just as tense with nobody talking to each other. Training itself was like some sort of strange religion where the instructor did and you followed without much more than a few words (which I unfortunately did not understand either).

I basically wanted to know if this was an isolated case or was this truly the 'Hombu experience'.

I was told by a few forumers that I had to 'learn humility' and 'be grateful that they let you train there' and that 'training is serious, not to make friends'. In short, they are doing me a favor by letting me be there in the first place and I should be thankful for whatever I got.

To hear this from fellow Aikidoka, really made me wonder how brainwashed are these people? There's one thing to be strict and no nonsense, but another to be unapproachable and expect blind obedience. I doubt having such a 'strict' environment improves learning at all! It's one thing preventing people messing around in class and goofing off, but to have everyone fearful and not daring to talk above a tiny whisper when you are genuinely discussing what works and what doesn't, is to me a very antiquated way of learning.

I think the era where teachers are respected as mini deities is over. A teacher-student relationship is based on communication and understanding, not a hierarchy. Sure, a teacher has to be accorded some degree of respect, but not to the point where the teacher is considered to be a different class of person to you and everything he says is law. A martial art need not be a puzzle that you have to figure out yourself through training thousands of hours if it can be communicated within a few minutes.

In retrospect at my years of training, I wished I had been given some very basic anecdotes that could have been told to me in two minutes, but because no one told me, it took me some 14 years to realize it. That to me is unnecessary and a complete waste of time. Whatever benefit/satisfaction I got from discovering this myself was offset by the sheer amount of time I had invested to find this out.

I guess I can understand this as many martial arts develop in such a repressed environment where your teacher is literally your 'master' and you had to clean his house, do his chores and if he felt like it, he would impart a few techniques to you. But it is still shocking to think that there are those who still believe this is an acceptable and in fact ideal way to learn things.


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