FFA's Monthly Interclub Practice Tradition Makes Everybody's Aikido Stronger
by R.S. Reyes
A visiting master from Aikikai Hombu Dojo once told a group of Filipino Aikido students, "The most important thing is the practice." The statement was uttered softly, but it struck a chord. It was a tactful criticism of what surely must have been our lax standards of training at the time (the mid-1980s). A few of us thought we discerned the teacher's intended message. The man was saying, "Practice is more important than attending big Aikido conventions. Practice is more important than magazine feature stories or press releases about your organization. Practice is more important than taking promotion examinations."
Several years later, with a nod to this basic insight, the member dojos of the Filipino Federation of Aikido (FFA) in Metro Manila started the tradition of the monthly interclub training. On October 7th, 2000, students from FFA's Metro Manila dojos celebrated the first interclub practice at the Takemusu Dojo at the 4th floor of the Manila COD Building, in the Cubao district.
Over the years, a hard core of Aikidoists from the various FFA affiliates kept the sessions going, with the different Manila-area member dojos taking turns hosting the training each month.
The monthly interclub practice has become a true FFA tradition, with the 107th such meeting occurring last March 6th, 2010, at the Makati Aikido Club's dojo at the Makati Sports Club in Salcedo Village.
Participants have reaped benefits. Periodic exposure to other dojos forestalls self-absorption and inbreeding. Training hard is well and good, but training only within a comfortable group leads to complacency. Students need the occasional wake-up call of a slightly different rhythm or a slightly different style of movement if their own Aikido is to grow. Interclubs guarantee these challenging experiences. Students' eyes have been opened as they discover that each dojo has its own emphasis, and therefore its own special point of view about Aikido. And perhaps most valuable, the interaction with practitioners from other dojos exercises the humility muscle, as everyone learns that everybody has something different, and valuable, to offer.