The Differences between the World of a Martial Arts School and the “Real” World

These are simply my observations throughout the years of Aikido training, martial arts training, work life, college life, and current trends and society.


Over the years I’ve been living by the rites and advice of the dojo as best I can while simultaneously improving my socioeconomic profile in general. Through it all I’ve noticed along the way – and from my two Sensei – there seems to be a difference between how life is conducted inside a dojo/dojung/school and how life is in the “real” world.

Training is a process, not something to be rushed – probably very overused and cliched by now, but I feel it can’t be emphasized enough. Especially from what we hear of the financial industry (and society in general) it seems that the majority of the world has resorted to focusing on end game; the results rather than the process.

Don’t get me wrong; I have goals that I want to accomplish – and some that I’d sacrifice a little just to obtain. Call me young and youth-oriented but I have come to realized that if I simply focus on the trophy and not on the process, I will be missing something. In my personal experience there comes a great “high” from obtaining a belt (in my case) or a trophy. Let’s be honest, everyone wants that “trophy”; I certainly believe that for me personally I have not earned any trophies at all! I was a rather sheltered child growing up and my list of accomplishments is underwhelming.

So personally perhaps I need more “trophies”, but through my time in Aikido I have learned that I cannot let my need for trophies blind myself from the true goal of Aikido: to improve to higher levels of self. In that spirit…

Belts don’t matter in the end; it’s the person wearing it – I think Royce Gracie put it nicely:

A black belt only covers 3 inches of your ass. You have have to cover the rest.

Now there are the “McDojos” out there where belts are handed out like grades; Not my dojo. If anything JWS and NSS made us wait. Yes, made us wait for our belts. In the “real” world, a belt could signify anything from that promotion, the suit that you’re wearing to work (dress or whatever for the ladies), a title, whatever. Just because you have a nice title and belt does not mean that you are automatically “good”. Which leds me to my next conclusion…

Just because you are better than me doesn’t mean you are “better” than me – If any one of the yudansha from my dojo ever read this I’m sure I will have my ass handed to me one way or another. That and/or my Sensei will give me a good lecture on respect. Ergo, just because you are the leader does not automatically mean that I should listen to every word that you say. Or follow you like a robot. Like the belt system, the promotion, the title at a company, or the make and mark of a suit, the fancy car. Just because you have something that I don’t (or I wish I did) doesn’t mean I will cater to you – or respect you at all, or cater to your wim.

I guess that’s just the punk in me! I respect my teachers because I want to, not because I have to.

The amount of time spent training DOES NOT equate to mastery – Most of us have probably heard of the Bruce Lee quote:

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.

This is true, however that is not what I’m aiming for. Often times, and I am guilty of doing this as well, a practitioner will state that because they have practiced for X amount of years that they are deserving of a belt, rank, and/or position when in reality their attitude, character, and approach to the art state otherwise. Also going back to my previous statement: just because you’ve studied a lot doesn’t mean you’re the best. I remember NSS stating some time ago that in Japan there are some Aikido teachers who have been training for 30, 40+ years and are stating that they are just as good as Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei (the founder). He basically stated that was a bunch of bull, stating that what the founder did was a process that was done regardless of years trained – although I’m sure that helped. I guess the lesson that can be taken from here would be it isn’t the amount of practice that counts, but the amount of quality practice.

There’s no such thing as a “job”, only a path – Workers can work at their company(ies) for 30/40 years yet can be laid off at the drop of a hat. With the recent downturn of the economy, the recent trend has been to lay off the most experienced workers in favor of the younger, fresher, and cheaper replacements. With companies nowadays concentrating on the “bottom line” – money, companies are just treating their workers like they’re expendable. The retail company that I currently work for part time has been moving towards that trend recently.

I have known of people who have worked there for 4, 5, 6+ years and have gotten out (applied and accepted somewhere else) and or were forced out through new systems of firings, lay offs, and/or discipline rules.

Not that I don’t feel like staying here for the long hual, but it’s sad to see that this is the state of affairs for even people who work in part time retail!

Martial Arts is different. Most schools I hope challenge students to improve themselves rather than just techniques. Simply walking into a school and “just doing it because for its sake” is simply not how things work or at least I hope it’s not.

“Sports don’t develop character, they reveal it” – or so my other Sensei JWS stated to me once during a private meeting. Just replace sports with Aikido or any martial art of your choice or training history. Do any of you remember a “job” that showed your character to people? Probably all and any job that we’ve encountered our eventual personas will come out in the form of our work ethic.

What I’ve learned in my brief years of working multiple jobs is that if you were to make a mistake, that would be the end of your job! I can recall with great embarrassment (and some shame) that I had made some “elementary” mistakes in these jobs and I was canned immediately! Not fun…

But in my dojo I have been making mistakes as far as I can remember. Although there were some mistakes that have earned me a physical repercussion (fist in the face, landing on the knee, etc.), the environment enables you to learn from these mistakes in an encouraging manner that benefits you physically, mentally, and spiritually. This type of environment is meant to benefit yourself, never to degrade you – at least that’s the intent!

It seems that in the “real/adult” world, trial and error is no longer tolerated. Rather it is seen as juvenile, child-like, perhaps something that should not be tolerated.

Perhaps this is just my own experience.


There is a lot more to this question than was covered here and knowing this I did the best I could. With that in mind, if you find any mistakes and or wish to chime in on the question please do, I am here to learn.

The journey for me continues, till next time ladies and gentlemen!


6 thoughts on “The Differences between the World of a Martial Arts School and the “Real” World

  1. A couple of things come to mind. The first is that budo should enhance your life, not replace it.

    The other has to do with the concept of wu-wei, “not doing.” You make a decision to develop a practice such as the study of aikido (or whatever). That indeed is an act of volition. But the other side of it is that you have to allow the practice to shape you.

    1. You came to that conclusion just from reading this? I’m a little awe-struck. After thinking about it, it sounds like it’s a revolving cycle of volition and the practice shaping you.

      By the way, great quote regarding Budo.

  2. “Just because you have something that I don’t (or I wish I did) doesn’t mean I will cater to you – or respect you at all, or cater to your wimp.”

    Sure, but at the same time, your sensei probably realizes that he’s running a business in the U.S. You’re his client and you pay his bills, and because the U.S. is what it is, if he’s too strict, too mean, or too domineering, his students will up and leave. This is why yoga instructors are easier in the U.S. than in India–the student comes first. So in a way, the real world in the U.S. influences the dojo world.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s