Ginkgo is an ancient tree, and a symbol of hope.

“New,” Not “Young” Students and Teachers

I have an observation, a suggestion, a personal request.

In the Aikido community, on some of the past year’s Zoom classes and seminars, and at gatherings over the years, I’ve kept hearing of “new” people being spoken of as “young.” Young students. Young instructors.

This is usually in the context of expecting “old” people to step back to encourage “young” students. Mentor “young” people. Give “younger” instructors more opportunities to teach.

Many of us in Aikido started training at mid-life, having finally gotten to the point in our careers, families, etc. to have the money and time to dedicate to training. We are committed and reliable students, we train hard for years, and we often aspire to become instructors. Now, just as we arrive at the level we might begin teaching, we are expected to sit down and give someone else a chance?

I get that it’s important to encourage young people – they will likely be around longer, assuming they stick with it through all the things life throws at young people. So there’s a potentially good return on investment there. You might more years out of them.

However, I humbly suggest that we do not need fewer earnest people teaching Aikido in the world. We should not be discouraging or excluding anyone who is eager to put in the work, develops an appropriate level of competence, and wants to share the art. The skills and life experience of people who started later in life can also be an asset – knowing how to teach, coach, or mentor people, being able to run a business, and the big-picture perspective and patience that years of living can .

To be spoken of as if we are merely dabbling, or just trying to get out of the house and stay active is not only insulting, it’s profoundly discouraging. The message that there is no future for us in the art, that we don’t count as legitimate practitioners, comes across loud and clear.

Please consider this, and choose inclusive language.