If you have ever had a chance to practice in Hombu, you would notice that partners stick with each other for the whole session. Typically in most dojos though, changing ones partners after each technique is the norm. Some would say, it represents the reality when you encounter different types of uke be it in their physical dimensions, strength or ability, or just plain attitude.
There are pros and cons for both I would think. Sensei's humorous story prevails about the one crazy yudansha in hombu who was out to wreck his ukes. Since he was a normal occurrence, locals tend to avoid him completely. Thus he preys mostly on foreigners now. It may have been humorous in sensei's recounting, but if it were me as that guy's uke I doubt things would have turned out so funny.
Practising with partners that have no intention on really training can be very frustrating indeed. But in the end, that is practice in itself isn't it? Practice isn't about doing the favourite things on your list over and over again, with favourite or popular partners. Practice is about polishing your knowledge, getting it right, getting rid of the dirt and the grime. Its about doing it when you're not ready, when you're not in the mood, when your partner is a jerk. That's practice.
Too many of us assume that practice should be wholesome and refreshing. Well, if we want a relaxing time we ought to go to a spa. If we wanted to laugh, we should go hang out with friends, watch a movie or something. Practice in the dojo may come out great and nice and enliven your spirit, certainly practice in Sensei's classes has always uplifted me. But to assume that that is the norm and that is the standard, is to place Aikido on a pedestal. Since no one is an exact copy of another, we have to expect that not all classes will be enjoyable.
However, to go through such boredom again and again, that is the spirit of practice. Be warn that I'm not advocating going into a hellish dojo for the sake of it. Far from it, you should aim to train in a dojo which you find appealing to you. What appeals to one may not appeal to another. But favour a dojo because of its teacher, and I think you could do far worst. Favour a dojo because of its price, or rewards or distance... well then, really ask yourself what's that got to do with Aikido at the end of it all?
Aikido is terribly hard... and in fact very easy to learn. Its easy to learn because all the lessons are there out in the open for you to take it. Its hard because most times its against your very human nature to put those lessons into practice. Not fighting is very much against most people's nature. No competition? Even worst, most of us are brought up competing for something or other, be it mother's milk or attention, or better grades or a better paycheck...
Someone comes at you and you're suppose to accept him without fighting? I mean come on, how real is that? Well... unfortunately its very real, if you're interested in Aiki that is. Sometimes I feel like giving up. Sometimes I feel why do this when there's really so little to be gained? After all, what are we going to use Aikido for in the first place? If I needed self defence, I think I've pretty much sorted much of that already. Of course there will be better fighters out there, but seriously, how many muggers are actually well trained fighters, or MMA trained, or ex-navy seals? Put yourself in the upper curve of the self defence curve and you're likely to get away unhurt in most altercations.
Still, there's so much more to Aikido than these physical knowledge. What would it really be like to live life harmoniously with yourself and others? Can I really do that? Do I really want to?
We practice Aikido throwing people around, but stop for awhile and think to yourself... what part of that technique teaches you about harmonising?
Thanks to my friend who gives me the encouragement when I'm feeling down. You know who you are. We don't do this just for ourselves. Responsibility is indeed a heavy burden, something which I often feel I have not the strength for, but God gives what He believes we can handle and who am I to question that?