Holidays throughout the year are a great time for reflection, gratitude, and family here in Clearwater, Florida and around the world. Unfortunately, many of us struggle to reflect, feel gratitude, and enjoy time with family, which is ironic for many who only see family a few times a year.
But what does this have to do with the dojo? To understand this, we have to journey back to when I was just 4 years old.
At 4 years old, I began my martial arts journey, not because my parents thought it was something kids "just did", but because my father was a pretty serious Judoka, starting with Sambo in the Soviet Union. In those days, generally speaking, parents simply started kids with the same habits/activities they had so that: 1) the parents could continue to enjoy those activities themselves, and (more to the point of this story) 2) parents could enjoy those activities with their children as a form of bonding.
You see, we often hear instructors and dojo owners talk about parents and their children and why they should all train together. Sometimes though, this can be perceived (unfortunately) as solely a way to generate my business for the dojo. This feeling of being "forced" or "coerced" is a sad result of many industries and their overzealous and bad approaches to helping others with their needs.
So why are we as dojo owners so emphatic about signing up family members?
1. If we see that you are enjoying your training - we want you to continue enjoying the benefits
2. When only one member of a family trains, there is a strong likelihood that the one family member will get pulled into something less desirable because the rest of the family hasn't experienced the benefits of training or built the habit of getting to the dojo
I know so many talented and wonderful martial artists who "retired" at 25 or 30 years old because their practice was never shared with those they loved and spent the most time with. Think about any side passion activity you had that you gave up on because it didn't fit with your new social circle (family, friends, etc...). It's not easy to prioritize your own personal passions over those of your family and friends.
So what does this have to do with the holidays? Imagine having an activity that your entire family participates in that isn't just sitting on the couch watching the same tired old movies again and again? Don't get me wrong, to some extent, sitting and enjoying the holidays is a hallmark tradition. But is that all you want to remember about your holidays?
Imagine if you created amazing memories of things like:
1. Learning a new skill or showing your family a skill you've been working on
2. Getting out of the house to do something physically taxing
3. Gifting visiting family and friends with an experience that they take home, find, and expand on themselves
One of the most rewarding repeating moments for me as an instructor and dojo owner, is when I see families training together. This could be a husband and wife, parents and their children, grandparents and grandchildren, best friends, etc.... There is something truly powerful that happens between family and friends when they get on the mat together.
This holiday season and those that follow - take a moment to re-discover something you were passionate about and include those you love in that practice. You'll often be pleasantly surprised by the positive effect it has on you and those around you.
If that practice you share is Aikido here in Clearwater, Florida with me and our community - then we are the all the better and luckier for being able to exchange with you and those you love.
See you on the mat and Merry Christmas,
Sensei Reuven Lirov
Dojo Cho, Fukushidoin
Pinellas County Aikikai