Attitude and mindset are crucial to everything you do and have a direct influence over the results you attain. O'sensei said "Always practice the Art of Peace in a vibrant and joyful manner." This is very practical advice. Let's look at the benefits of taking on training in this way.
One of the most important benefits of a positive and joyful mood of training is that you will be drawn to do it more, and will therefore be more eager to return to class. Quite simply, the more you train the better your skills will be. If training is solemn, serious, or lacking enjoyment, it will be easy to find excuses to skip class or to quit entirely. Sure, life is busy and we cannot make every class but something is wrong if you are not looking forward to the next class with eager anticipation.
Both the instructor and the student have equal shares of the obligation to create this joyful training environment. The mood is set by the instructor and the senior students, but every student contributes to the mood or detracts from it.
Good instructors and students will:
- Be friendly with one another
- Be as earnestly interested in the skills of other students as they are in their own
- Enjoy walking the path of their own learning
- Understand their own mood has profound effects on the group, every time they step into the dojo
Over the last four decades, I've trained in many dojos with countless instructors - from formal dojos to seminars and backyards. The feel and mood of the interaction ran a full spectrum of positive to negative. Some were purely delightful experiences where the generosity of spirit and dedication to enjoying learning the art (whatever art it was) was pure joy. On the opposite end of the spectrum were experiences based in thick ego and narcissism which left a bad taste in my mouth for days. Both of these were memorable, but in the middle were lackluster experiences which comprised mostly of going through motions or lacking the passion of seeing student succeed for themselves.
A dojo is a special place where the space is oriented to a specific purpose and always has the residual atmosphere of the training that goes on there. It is hard to put a finger on exactly what makes this so, but every dojo I have been in has a feel to it. Sometimes positive, but not always. There are some dojos you just feel at home in and enjoy every time you walk in the door. I've found some to be solemn to the point of being uncomfortable, with students who clearly aren't at ease speaking to one another. Dojos can have many rules of etiquette which are not clear and make new people feel they are navigating a minefield for fear of annoying or offending instructors and senior students. Such environments are prohibit a joyful atmosphere and can restrict the learning process.
I've found dojos and groups most memorable and productive when you can hear all students interacting with each other, helping one another learn, sometimes laughing at their own experiences and even failures. Seeing students get up and eagerly do their repetitions is a wonderful testament to the vibrant and joyful practice I believe O'sensei was referring to. There is no reason you shouldn't feel pure enjoyment while learning and practicing aikido.