This is a question I get asked by many people. There are many factors to consider before committing to private lessons in Aikido. Learning Aikido requires effort, time, commitment, money, and a desired outcome (a goal).
When you are just starting out in Aikido, I suggest visiting several different dojos and viewing their group classes. This will give you a feel for the dojo and a sense of the skill level of their various instructors.
Are the instructors kind? Do they tailor instruction to each students’ background? Are they welcoming and understanding to the needs of a new student, or do they just throw new students into class and see who sticks around after a month or two? Are they abusive to their students or rude to visitors?
My clients come from many different backgrounds but a similar trait that some have is that they have once belonged to an Aikido dojo and for one reason or another left and will not train at an Aikido dojo again. Once you are bitten by the Aikido bug though, the desire to keep training in Aikido and progressing in your skill will continue to grow. This is where private lessons that I offer will be invaluable.
In a private lesson, I will work with you on the tiny details of each technical element: from the simple basics such as a straight grab to the wrist, to more advanced combinations of complex movements such as Ushiro Tekubitori Sankyo (to apply the sankyo pin while being grabbed from the rear at both wrists… sounds complex, doesn’t it?). All these elements are executed in private lessons over and over again and again until they are a natural part of the student’s movement pattern. Working one-on-one will enable me to spot weaknesses in your technique and quickly help you to work through them — faster than in a group setting.
My experience shows in the instruction I give privately to my clients.
Every great instructor in Aikido learned by delving deeply into training with their own teacher. For me it was the 2 years I spent as an uchi deshi (live-in student) under Yamada and Sugano Senseis. I took ukemi for them thousands of times and trained over 2,500 hours during my time as an uchi deshi. I trained more than any other uchi deshi who was living at the dojo while I was there, more than double their training. I also cleaned toilets and showers and looked after the dojo and my teachers during this time. It was deep koryu style training. Today I am the office/rental manager of a thriving movement studio in NYC, I bring this same attention and care to the business that I manage.
Getting one-on-one attention will show you the correct way to move according to your own body’s movement patterns and your own specific learning style. During one-on-one lessons I also give you individualized exercises that will strengthen the muscles you specifically need to excel in Aikido training.
But, Can you progress without the benefit of private lessons?
Of course! It is human nature to mimic each other — this is how Aikido is learned in a group class.
The problem with this process of learning is that mimicking behavior can only go so far – the student may see the movements of an advanced instructor, but miss the subtleties of the technique. Or they may learn an incorrect method or bad habit from a fellow student. Unfortunately in group lessons, there are many students so the instructor will only demonstrate technique, but not give further technical details on a technique.
There is a saying by Yamada Sensei that in order to learn Aikido, you must steal your teacher’s techniques. To quote:
I stole from Doshu his very beautiful and circular movements. From Osawa Sensei, I tried to take the grace. I did not always agree with everything they did though, but I focused on the good in them. The worst should not be copied, and in a way, they have also taught me what not to do (laughs).
I also stole a lot from master Tamura. Not at first, but as time passed, when we all started teaching, I have stolen a lot. I even steal from my students on occasions! If I see something good, I steal it. ~ Yamada Sensei,
… in a group setting where only so much is being taught and few are given specific attention, there is less chance you will have to steal your teacher’s technique!
Bottom line: Private lessons in Aikido are well worth the time and commitment. I began Aikido as a 16 year old with a bad attitude, I have spent 2 decades learning lessons that have been painful and necessary, and I keep coming back to Aikido as the Center of my personal practice of well-being.
I turn 40 years old in 2016 with a strong desire to help others learn about themselves through the Beauty of Aikido training.