A boy has an alcoholic abusive father. The boy is beaten, maybe frequently or infrequently. The father also expresses rage to the boy’s mother and on occasion beats her. This behavior is an example to the boy of what a man is. He learns either that violence is acceptable and normal when he is angry, or that violence is an appropriate tool to get his way. What type of character do you suppose this boy will show as he grows to adulthood? Chances are he will be an abusive drunk as well.
Behavior is passed along like this from generation to generation, all the while inheritors believe it is normal.
We martial arts instructors have inherited teachings and pass them along exactly the same way. Some lessons are good and martially sound, but others (and many others) are bad. So bad, they are dangerous and will likely result in harm to our students. Other practices have devolved so far as to be source of ridicule.
Like the abused boy, it is his choice to break the chain. He must refuse to be the next link and passing along poor behavior or teachings to the next generation. This is a responsibility every single one of us has and we cannot pass it off onto others or wait for others to do.
Maybe you are not an instructor, only a student, and feel it outside your power to decide what your instructors or dojo should do to break the chain. How do you handle that? If you feel adjustments need to be made, express your interest. Remember, within the dojo you have the power of being the dojo’s customer. Your money keeps their doors open, so your interests should be voiced. If you are in a place where you feel you are being taught martially unsound principles and practices, either suggest innovating and improving or if you feel that is not possible leave to find an instructor or dojo who is teaching martially sound principles.
Either way, the choice is yours. Blind trust in others is extremely dangerous. It’s okay to trust, but always seek the truth. The worst lie is the one we believe to be true. Unfortunately, the aikido world generally avoids pressure testing its students. Training needs to include adequate preparations for pressure testing and periodic testing of students’ skill under stress. If you don’t have that, how do you really know how you will function when you are frightened in a real attack?
I address this primarily to the aikido community because I’m closer to it than any other, but many martial arts suffer from the same issues. If you are an aikidoka who is concerned about the poor reputation aikido has legitimately earned in the last three or more decades, consider that we are a point where the chain must be broken and poor teachings replaced with solid ones.
The next step is to leave the justifications behind and break the chain.
By justifications, I mean sayings like “aikido is not about self-defense”, “aikido is not designed to deal with trained fighters”, “aikido is about avoiding conflict”, “aikido is a purely defensive art”, “O-sensei was a pacifist”, or countless others.