Even if you never plan on training, your local Aikido school needs you – and you may be missing out on something you would value very much in your life.
There is an important role for everybody.
When it comes to Aikido and other martial arts – you either do it, or you just like to watch the movies and videos, right? Aikido is a life art – that means it should be practicable by anyone, not just athletes; but the reality is that most interested people will never step into a Dojo: they feel they’re too busy, too out of shape, or don’t have what it takes.
The idea that the Dojo is just for athletes is like saying universities are just for professors, or churches just for priests. Like universities and churches, Dojos are rich communities that are filled with people that get involved in many different ways, and who find just the level of participation that appeals to them.
Dojo communities support different types of involvement for different personalities.
The Internet society operates on something called the 90:9:1 rule. This rule shows that 90% of people are passive participants – consumers, likers and sharers of content. 9% are actively engaged in conversation, commenting and contributing. Only 1% of Internet users are responsible for creating most of the content on the entire Internet and social media sites like Facebook. However, that doesn’t mean the other 90% aren’t important – they are an absolutely vital part of what makes the Internet community work, and of course they get a lot of value from it.
Your local Dojo works the same way. The 1% are the teachers who have dedicated countless hours of grueling dedication to gain and share the knowledge of their art. They are the head of the dojo. The 9% are the students that pay membership dues and train; some more, some less. They are the heart of the Dojo. The other 90% is the community of friends, family and supporters who believe in the philosophy of the art, who think of themselves as using principles of Aikido in their lives, and enjoy talking about, learning about, and contributing to Aikido and the greater good of society in a more limited fashion. Sadly, in many Dojos the 90% community is disconnected. These community members are never made to feel welcome, or it never occurs to them that there is indeed an important and rewarding place awaiting them in the Dojo that does not involve training. They may unconsciously be afraid that they will be looked down on by the active students, or never suspect the enthusiastic welcome they would probably receive if they showed up.
I don’t think the physical training is for me, so I’m sure I’m not welcome.
Every real Dojo I have ever been a part of had regular parties and social events. Students and friends went to movies together, they traveled together, they held special events open to practitioners and non-practitioners alike. They definitely hung around before and after each class enthusiastically talking, sharing, and laughing. And every one of those Dojos would have loved to make room in their family for one more sincere part time student or fan – even one that never participated in a single class. Physical training improves physical skill, and interaction with fellow Aikido community members can enrich your appreciation and implementation of the principles of harmony in your own lives.
The most important requirement for becoming a respected member of your local Dojo is a good heart!
It takes a considerable amount of money, time, and effort to create a real Dojo and keep it running. Nobody becomes an Aikido teacher to make a profit, and in fact most Dojos are subsidized greatly by their teachers because they deeply believe that the Dojo is a rare and important resource for the greater community. Nobody expects the professor or preacher to have a second career to be able to build and maintain their places of learning and sharing, but that is exactly the situation required of almost every Aikido school. Every additional member of the community that pitches in to help with organization, spreading the word, marketing, construction, maintenance, finances, or just being involved in the conversation and keeping spirits high each make an irreplaceable contribution, in making a difference in their community, in building the spirit of Aikido, and being a respected member of the Dojo. Most Dojos also have a low cost supporting membership option which lets part time or inactive students be involved as supporting members of the Dojo, and help keep the doors open.
The Dojo needs everybody… Building excellence requires many hearts and hands!
When we built the Aikido Chuseikan Dojo, more than 40 people pitched in, many of whom contributed by cooking and bringing refreshments, by helping with construction, by running errands, cleaning, painting, and organizing. Half of those people have never trained or don’t train any more, but we consider every one of them to be part of our Dojo and cheer when we see them. Each of them helped because they wanted to help build something spiritual, something that makes a difference in people’s lives, something that would last and be bigger than themselves.
Are you one of the Dojo 90%? If so, you are doing yourself and the community a disservice by not stopping by your local Aikido school and finding out the most rewarding way for you to belong!
This article has been translated into Turkish by Oğuzhan Yılmaz at Bosayna.com.