Aikido/Practice with More Advanced Students
When the opportunity presents itself, you might consider practicing with a fellow student who is more advanced than you. There is a lot of advantage to this:
- It's usually safer
- They can give you a good, clean attack
- They can guide your response and explain where you are getting it wrong
- Usually they are better at falling, so you can focus on doing the technique
- They can push you a bit to try harder, faster, better
Difference in Ability Level
The difference in skill level between you and your partner always matters. If you know more, you need to be more responsible for safety. If they know more, hopefully they will share what they know with you. There is comfort in practicing with students at or near your ability level. They are struggling to understand, too, so you tend to be less frustrated. On the other hand, you can gain first hand experience with good technique (usually by being thrown). Once you are comfortable with falling, you can watch for differences in how your partner does a technique vs. the way you do it. Learn to feel the difference.
Occasionally (perhaps even rarely) you will end up practicing with someone who is considerably more advanced than you. Don't be intimidated. Your partner is quite aware that you are a beginner. This is actually an opportunity for the advanced student, too. It's a chance to practice control and timing. It's a chance to share knowledge (and learn to teach).
Be respectful of your partners, especially if they are being patient with you and sharing what they know. By working with you, they do not have the chance to work at their full power. That's ok, but be aware that they are giving that up to be with you. Make your thanks sincere.
You might also find yourself practicing with a more advanced student who resents having to work with you. While sad, it's all too common. Make the best of it, but if you feel that your partner is being actively hostile or practicing in an unsafe manner, you are justified in withdrawing and stating that you'd rather practice with someone else. You won't make friends doing this, but that's probably better than getting hurt. If you experience a pattern of abuse, talk to your teacher about it. If your teacher IS the source of abuse, then you have a much more serious problem.
Learning in Adversity
You'll meet all kinds of people practicing Aikido. The majority of them will be kind, considerate, and helpful, but there are also those who are arrogant, self-centered, competitive, or even down right sadistic. Should you shun such people and refuse to practice with them? Not necessarily. Adversity is also a great teacher. If you can find a path in which you can learn from such people and be safe, it's something to consider. Sometimes, you have very little choice in the matter. It's practice with this guy or give up Aikido. Only you can make these sorts of choices. You have to balance safety, hurt, and pain vs. learning how to protect yourself against hurt and pain.