Monday, March 8, 2010


Why do you do your art with your group?

There are as many reasons to do an art as there are people who practice it - priorities in the reasoning behind why you might keep going. There are rarely any "bad" priorities, but there are situations when priorities can cause a lot of trouble.
  • Priority of the organization. If you're looking for a recreational activity but your group is more focused on performances/tournaments, you risk having to fight to do "your thing" throughout your entire time there.
  • Priority of your teachers. Even within clearly-defined group priorities, each teacher will have their own agenda to some degree. You may find it even harder to fight against this than against the group, because often a teacher is much more active in their philosophies than the organization.
  • Priority of the majority of the people. This one is a subtle one, but if there are cliques in your group or a majority of people who have the same priorities, it can result in peer pressure to varying degrees, both passively and actively.
For me, I practice taiko because I love the art form and want to get better. For karate, I feel like there's a lot more to work on and can push myself physically there. In both arts, when I arrive early, I start practicing something, and when class is over, I leave. There are exceptions, but it's what I do 90% of the time.

It still bothers me somewhat when people come to a practice early and immediately socialize - but this is my problem, not theirs. My priority is to improve, but theirs may be something else. Personally, I feel I get enough social interaction at non-practice events, such as travel time on the road or at potlucks and the like. I also recognize that I'm not by nature a social creature and that definitely shapes my priorities.

When you feel like you're having trouble fitting in, or feeling like going to practice isn't as satisfying as it used to be, ask yourself if your priorities are the reason why. The group isn't going to change all that easily, neither will the attitudes of the majority.

Sometimes you have to realize that you're in the wrong group and leave. Other times, you can define yourself by your priorities and find your own place in the group you're in. The latter won't be an easy journey; it wasn't for me but that struggle reminds me of how far I've come and what matters to me.

Better to answer these questions for yourself now and know where you stand than to let your group define you by default.

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