Some visitors who came in to observe an Aikido class one night, noted the adult students starting to clean the dojo, like they always do after class. “Why do you make them clean the dojo?” the visitor asked. I answered, ” I don’t make them clean the dojo. They are free to leave at anytime.” The visitor looked at me like “Yeah, right.”, but didn’t say anything. The visitor was correct in thinking that I did have something to do with the students cleaning up after class. But the visitor obviously considered cleaning as a punishment, or “beneath” the students. This misunderstanding is common, and begs the question; what is the role of an “ideal” student?
As a new student, I must understand that, in terms of the martial art, I know nothing, and accepting this is difficult for Americans. All of us want to feel “competent” in whatever we are doing, even when we are just starting out. But this is the very first step in learning how to extinguish our ego; our arrogance that we “know something”. Once we accept that we know nothing, it becomes liberating. We stop worrying about how we are perceived by others, and concentrate on learing what we are excited to learn.
But even this is not the primary requirement to becoming an “ideal” student. What makes the ideal student is; the student is willing to learn whatever is required in order to become a better person. For example, when the student cleans the dojo, the student is learning to respect and appreciation for the surroundings that allow them to become a better person. When the student says “thank you” to their partner each time, they are learning that their partner is assisting in their own self-improvement, and this must be recognized.
This willingness to learn whatever is required is not easy. It requires great trust in the instructor to guide the student in their self-development. It requires the student to give up their ego, and their own control, and allow others to help them. However, the benefits from this mentality becomes priceless. The student starts to excel past his peers, and become a person of power and integrity.
So, at least during class, give up your control, and allow others to help you become a person of power and integrity. Become the ideal student.