There are four mind sets that an Aikidoka can possess. They are the kid, the child, the adult-child, and the adult. Only two of these roles lead to success in learning or teaching Aikido. These two are the child and the adult-child. There is no place for the kid mentality or the all-knowing adult mentality in either the novice ranks or advanced echelons of Aikido.
The kid simply plays around in the dojo, as if it were recess from elementary school, even if he has learned how to keep the appearance that he is in-line. Usually, he knows he has a poor mentality, yet he often thinks he is tricking senpai or sensei. Others on the mat know his fool-around-mentality from day one, and the odds suggest he will never alter his foolishness. The kid may in fact learn and advance in the Aikido ranks, all the while relishing in his condescending air. This mentality is one of immaturity, and I have trained with single-digit-year-olds who surpass adult kids in the field of maturity. If kids make it to black belt, there have surely been mistakes in either Aikido, the representative school, or in dojo sensei themselves. These kids belong in a sandbox in which they never share their shovels with others, not in the yudansha ranks of respected Aikido schools. Even if the kid strives to become something more while teaching, he was a kid during every technique he learned. Therefore, the kid inevitably becomes a poor teacher and poor role model. Flashing his dark belt will work only in the short run, if that.
The kid and the child both connote youth, but the child is much different from the kid. A child, especially one who finds the opportunity to train with fine sensei, accepts being a beginner. Even if for a glimpse he has a technique down pat, he immediately reminds himself that his senpai and sensei are there to erase such complacent thought for the better. He also realizes early on that he will not master a single technique before he passes away in the perhaps multiple decades to come, but he does know that by looking up to his skilled sensei and respectful senpai, he will become better at technique, and more importantly he will grow as a person.
The adult-child is an extremely important personality type who began as a child, always kept that essence, and – through ascension of rank – has found himself to be a sensei. These are the best of teachers. They keep a light heart but are still able to execute sharp techniques with precision. They can get angry occasionally and be stern with their students, yet it is out of love. They often have a sense of humor, even if it shows itself seldom or they have different humorous styles than most of their students.
The all-knowing sensei, commonly an alpha male adult, needs only to understand three words in George Leonard Sensei’s “The Way of Aikido: Life Lessons from an American Sensei:” “Only don’t know.”