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For the Right Reason

The dojo is a place where students are always coming and going, it’s just the way of things. Sometimes a student, after years, months, or even only days of training, decides to leave the dojo. Sometimes a student just disappears without a word, and that is always disheartening. But even those who choose to sit down with the teacher to explain their departure, often do so in a misleading way.

A teacher needs honesty from a student to effectively asses a situation to see if they can be of help. It is therefore best to be forthright when explaining one’s reasons for leaving. Often it seems that students would like to be able to provide a good “excuse” for leaving, a way of lessening the blow as to not be disrespectful to the teacher or the art. But what people don’t understand is that a teacher will often expend energy thinking of ways to help a student continue, when in truth, they simply do not wish to continue.

I have had many conversations with students who choose to leave the school, and I have heard many different reasons for them doing so. Each time my first thought is to carefully listen to their reasons and try to think of possible solutions that would allow them to continue. For example: If one says to me, “My schedule is changing and I just can’t make it to class,” I might remind them of our several day and evening class options, or even offer to teach them off hours when I am at the school. Or if they say, “I am between jobs and just can’t afford the dues,” I will usually offer to lower or even suspend their dues until they are back on their feet. The real problem is, what they tell me is almost never the real reason, so it’s impossible for me to know for sure if I can help.

In my experience, the most genuine reason is the one no one wants to give; if they simply expressed to me, “I am leaving because I realize Aikido is not in my heart,” then I would wish them well and send them off to find something that fulfills them and adds meaning to their life.

Bottom line, please be honest with your teacher, but especially with yourself. If you provide false reasons for leaving the teacher may expend personal time and energy to help you to figure out how to stay. But if you know inside you have no such desire, express it clearly and your teacher will (hopefully) understand.

I believe in the art of Aikido, and I have pursued it for over half my life quite stubbornly. But I accept that this path is not for everyone, and if a student expresses that to me in an honest and sincere way, we will both be able to move forward more productively.

Many thanks, see you on the mat!

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