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I have just discovered there is an Aikido dojo in our neighborhood. They do Iaido, but that’s listed under the weapons training. It says on the web site:

“After training at XXX dojo for a minimum of six months, students may begin weapons training with the permission of the chief instructor.”

It’s been probably 10 years since I did martial arts and I’d like to get back into it and I was particularly excited to see that they do Iaido. I was pretty let down when I saw that. I studied Karate to brown belt level in HS, we also did Kendo and sword kata. I also did a semester of Ki Aikido in college where we did some Iaido.

Would it be appropriate for me to ask if that is a hard rule or just for students new to martial arts? I don’t want to be rude, but the Iaido is the main reason I want to sign up. I also may be moving out of the city in a year so I don’t want to burn six months to only get to train for six months.

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    Personally I would jump in and ask, explaining your background and future plans. "Rules" like that are usually firm guidelines that can be waived for the right people. – slugster Apr 14 '15 at 4:36
  • Welcome to MA Stack. Good question. Good luck in your training. – The Wudang Kid Apr 14 '15 at 12:51
  • Thank you for the comment @slugster. It seems like a really formal dojo so I just wanted to be sure. – Phil Apr 14 '15 at 12:56
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    @Phil - As others have said, ask. However, expect it to be turned down. I imagine that the rule is in place because they have had a bunch of people expecting to learn sword ("Dude! I'm taking sword classes!"), and when they find that there is a LOT, I mean a LOT of tradition, slow progression, basics basics and more basics before you get to actually "do sword", they leave. I would put the same rule in place to assess a student before letting them into class. I also wouldn't mention that you might be moving in a year ;-) – JohnP Apr 14 '15 at 15:00
  • Thanks @JohnP. I'm going in expecting to be turned down, so I won't get let down. Hopefully I can at least sit in and observe. Call me weird though, but the traditional stuff is exactly what I want. I was thinking I shouldn't tell them I'm moving either. If I do this I want to be taken seriously. – Phil Apr 14 '15 at 18:45
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Short answer: just ask. Explain your previous training to the sensei (without bragging*). He/she will make the decision. At the very least I think they would be glad to show off their skills even if they will not teach you right away. They should be willing to preview the curriculum enough for you to make the decision to join or not based on what you expect to learn. I find that, if approached with sincere curiosity, most instructors are open to questions.

*Remember, as Rob Redmond says, a person's 3rd dan means a lot to him/her but means about as much to anyone else as does their 25th level Paladin.

  • Thanks @The Wudang Kid. I know I'm out of practice so I can understand waiting a little bit. I just didn't want to come off as one of those guys like I know everything. I figure worst case scenario, they could let me watch the class. Then I won't be completely behind when the time comes. – Phil Apr 14 '15 at 13:02
  • You can take my answer with a grain of salt. I don't train in Budo circles, so I understand there's probably a difference in attitude from what I'm familiar with. Still I think they should be open to questions. Good luck. – The Wudang Kid Apr 14 '15 at 13:07
  • I agree with the general principle The Wudang Kid brings up. Generally speaking, most Asian martial arts recognize that there are many ways to learn to fight, and if you humbly come to them with an attitude of "See if I can integrate enough of what I have already learned into your style" rather than "I should already be pre-qualified, just let me test out of the basics," they are more than happy to work with you. – Cort Ammon Apr 14 '15 at 14:52
  • Thank @Cort. I'm going in with the idea that he's going to say no so I won't be let down. Hopefully not, but we'll see. – Phil Apr 14 '15 at 18:47
  • Just remember to empty your cup. – jezr74 Apr 15 '15 at 2:55
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I wouldn't say it is rude to ask, and you can always ask for an explanation for the rule.

My original dojo had a similar rule (you had to be 6th kyu). The reason being, it takes a lot more effort to initially get someone up and going in weapons practice than it does in the normal empty hand practice. My instructor only wanted to take the time to teach students weapons after they had shown they were committed and would be regularly attending.

To my amusement, just after I obtained 6th Kyu and was eligible to begin in the weapons class, the restriction was lifted.

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Again not much to add here. When my dojo has a new student, typically we have a talk with them about their experience and gauge where they are at. We can see if someone has trained before. Even in Aikido, there are many variations and differences in kotegaeshi for instance. I would wait a little bit and let them walk you through a little bit.

Nothing worse as an instructor is to have someone approach a martial art and compare it to their old school. Even though it is not confrontational, many instructors are a bit sensitive, especially the traditional ones.

I does not hurt to ask, but be ready for a NO response. Don't be dis-hardened. Let your experience show your ability. When I practiced Tenshin shoden katori shinto-ryu, the instructor urged me to buy an iaito as soon as possible and told me to buy the longest, heaviest one I could find due to my size.

But my Iaido instructor said to wait and urged it was a big investment and even encouraged us to wait about a year. Remember approximately 1 in 10 people stop all martial arts within the first 3 to 6 months. Buying a high-quality Iaito that you can appreciate for years can be expensive. You don't want to be buying a new Iaito every couple of years.

But as mentioned, ask or wait a few classes it's all about the journey.

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