I started studying Aikido back around 1993, when I was a teenager. One of my uncles does martial arts, and he helped me shop around for a good dojo. We checked out three, and the one I liked the vibe of best is where I started training. I stayed there (barring time away at college) until I moved up to Portland last year.
The one time before now that I’ve had to look for a new dojo was when I was in college. I wanted somewhere to train while I was in school, since just training during my vacations wasn’t cutting it.
For starters, there weren’t a lot of options for dojos. I found one where I really liked one of the senseis, but I wound up dropping out because I felt so dissatisfied with the training. It took me a while to figure it out what red flag I should look for next time: I didn’t like training with the senior students. At all. The sensei I liked taught Aikido as I’m used to it – flowing, friendly, and focused on studying how the movements. The senior students apparently took after one of the other teachers, because they were constantly pushing me to train harder, to move faster, to be more harsh.
Needless to say, I didn’t last there very long, and that started a long period for me where I would train occasionally but not regularly, thanks to scheduling, travel, and health (having surgery twice in eighteen months is not a way to keep yourself fit, let me tell you).
There are a zillion Aikido dojos in Portland. There are literally two within walking distance of my house! So cool!
But I decided to try Budo Dojo in Beaverton first, because they’re affiliated with the same federation as my old dojo – Aikido Schools of Ueshiba. I figured that was the best way to ensure continuity of training (plus the thought of training toward my black belt and not having it be under ASU really made me sad). I was not disappointed. For one thing, the dojo is clean and has a big feel to it without being empty. The mat takes up almost all the available floor space, which is cool.
Most importantly, once we started training, I really liked working with the senior students! They were all friendly and helpful without being pushy (I may be nikyu – a brown belt – but I haven’t trained with an real regularity in years and years. “Rusty” does not even begin to describe my Aikido skills).
That I liked the younger students and was impressed by the friendliness and skill of the teacher were also important, but the fact that I instantly liked every senior student I trained with was what sold me. I was thinking that I’d keep looking after checking them out, but I’d be kidding myself.
Budo Dojo feels like a new home — enough is familiar that I feel safe and comfortable, and enough is different to make me really pay attention and be in the moment.
Plus, I managed to train the full 90 minutes without injuring myself, which is itself a minor miracle. Woot!