Below are important member guidelines. If your question isn’t answered below or if you would like more information about our dojo, feel free to contact us any time.
- On Inclusion
Musings on Inclusion
Our goal should be clear. We are seeking nothing less than a life surrounded by the richness and diversity of community. A collective life. A common life. An Everyday Life. A powerful life that gains its joy from the creativity and connectedness that comes when we join in association as citizens to create an inclusive world. John McKnight
People with disabilities, people with intellectual or physical limitations, people who experience and struggle with the effects of trauma, people who have an injury or are just getting on in years all have a place in the dojo. The critical issue is how does the dojo accommodate individuals and establish a culture that supports all interested individuals to enter into the art of aikido. In aikido, the concept of musubi is a beautiful expression of inclusion. It is joining with another human, experiencing the world from their point of view.
Inclusion requires a recognition that denying membership to people with limitations, disabilities, or emotional concerns, decreases the individuals’ ability to pursue their own goals, to engage in activities of their choosing, to have the life they wish. What fosters inclusion is proceeding with the same assumptions we have for ourselves. Individuals who have a variety of limitations want the same things any individual wants – acceptance, love, good friends, good food, decent work, fun activities, developing skills and competencies, being a valued member of community.
One day, a young man who had experienced trauma in his life and joined the dojo as a means of healing, just stopped toward the end of class and was standing looking very dazed. Asked what the issue was, and concerned that he was experiencing some type of emotional difficulty, he replied, “Too many instructions.” Beautiful advice.
A good way to include individuals who may need some accommodations to be able to participate in aikido is just to ask them what they need, what concerns they might have about entering into practice, and how they prefer to be assisted. Really this is something we should do for everyone. If the person is an individual who has difficulty communicating, working with people who know the individual can help guide dojo members in supporting the individual.
We already do this with our new members, but somehow in working with people who may learn differently or move differently we become anxious – we project our own worry about how to act and not offend or upset someone. We forget the same rules apply– asking and listening work extraordinarily well.
It is not their failure to learn, it is our failure to teach. Try another way. Marc Gold
There are some concerns that will come up. In leading class, instructors have questioned how to integrate an individual with limitations into the general practice. Should the instructor slow down the entire class to accommodate the individual? What if things are going really quickly – how will this affect the individual that learns more slowly or has limitations that constrain participation in some activities? The solution to these concerns lies in the very heart of aikido practice. Since aikido is a partner practice, it lends itself beautifully to individualizing and “customizing” our interactions and teaching. You know that having senior people work with the individual (as we do for most beginners) throughout his or her initial and ongoing classes will be helpful. We do not “assign” senior students. It is just a general expectation that they assist other students. That doesn’t mean they can’t train with higher ranked or skilled students, just that some of training time they are attentive to the needs of students who may need some additional support. We remind and encourage students to always match their training to the skills of their partner—inclusion is not “special’ but a natural outgrowth of aikido practice.
Limitation is a fine teacher. If we are working with someone who is injured, we must be sensitive and aware in order not to do more harm. If we are working with someone who cannot take falls due to injury or limitation—how do we teach ukemi? These limitations can show us that ukemi is more than falls, that limitations or injury can be a path to musubi, to sensitivity. While we likely concur about how much fun it is to toss a young student with spectacular ukemi—there is as much or more to be learned from “throwing” someone who cannot fall. This situation presents us with an essential concept in aikido-to create peace and minimize harm.
It is helpful, particularly when someone is really struggling, to not worry about teaching the entire technique. It’s perfectly fine if the person learns the beginning tenkan but doesn’t complete the throw. The complete movement will come eventually, just maybe not on the timeline an impatient or anxious instructor or partner might want.
If we hold onto the idea that aikido delivers a particular outcome or competence, we may find ourselves disappointed either in ourselves or in the progress that others make. What if someone never learns a forward roll? What if they never throw koshi–nage? Can they still take tests? Are they actually learning aikido? How does this affect the martial aspects of training? Is it “fair” to other students if someone is “excused” from certain activities? If we are to truly include all those who are sincere in their wish to train and enter into the art of aikido, facing these questions helps find the path to inclusion.
For a real life story of inclusion, read Molly’s Story.
And finally, an important corollary to the universal desire for an ”everyday life” is to expect all individuals will learn and demonstrate the etiquette and behavior required in the dojo. People with disabilities do not need nor seek special dispensation in terms of how to treat each other or how to behave. While we make accommodation for limitations, we hold all dojo members to the same standards of respect and courtesy. Expectation is a sign of respect-no dojo member is excused from observing dojo etiquette.
In the end, inclusion can be a deep expression of aikido.
The Way of a Warrior is based on humanity, love, and sincerity; the heart of martial valor is true bravery, wisdom, love, and friendship. Emphasis on the physical aspects of warriorship is futile, for the power of the body is always world. Morihei Ueshiba, O–Sensei The Art of Peace
- On the Use of Honorifics
The Use of Honorifics
1ST and 2ND KYU individuals teaching class should be addressed as Sempai (Senior). This term may also be used to address someone significantly senior who is not an instructor.
ANY YUDANSHA teaching the class is Sensei while on the mat. The individual teaching should continue to be addressed by junior students as Sensei while still in the dojo.
Any instructor YONDAN (rather than sandan) and above is addressed as Sensei in the dojo and at aikido events or settings.
This is based on the protocol that yondan is the rank at which ASU no longer requires testing–promotion is based on merit, skills and dedication. The individual of course has discretion as how they wish to be addressed by other dojo members in social situations and informal situations.
The dojo-cho (head of the dojo) and senior instructors (Yondan and above) are addressed as Sensei in the dojo and at all aikido events and settings.
Clearly individuals have discretion-of course outside of the dojo and outside of aikido/dojo relationships of sempai (senior) and cohai (junior) such as friends, spouses, co-workers, etc. dropping the honorifics specific to aikido relationships is appropriate.