To learn a traditional bujutsu, koryu or comprehensive martial art is something to approach as a serious endeavor. Learning martial arts is not a hobby. Although many might pursue learning one with a hobbyist mentality, in the end, you wind up playing and not deep learning as it's meant to be done. It is often not what one wants to hear, but learning classical martial arts is a serious endeavor. It might be fun to learn a sport martial art as a hobby. Some sport martial art that gets you moving about and thinking is beneficial. To excel in their techniques and study bujutsu properly, these deeper classical arts require strict physical, mental and spiritual discipline, and dedication.
You must have time. You need to have the time to devote to whatever training is required in the particular discipline that you have chosen to study. How much time will you need to study bujutsu? That depends on how much you want to learn and how well you want to learn it. There is a base time of four hours per week. That is the very minimum I would estimate for an average ryu-ha (school). Ten to twenty hours a week would be better. Not just for physical practice but for other studying and contemplation that is required.
Learning a classical bugei (martial art) is similar to enrolling in a university. You will have to spend a lot of time studying to uncover even the most basic elements of martial arts. Spending 5-10 hours a week is a minimum recommendation in Shinkan-ryū Kenpō. Good self-management and the support of your family or friends are certainly required. If you decide to train then your family and friends should understand and support your bujutsu study. For example, if you have a spouse, they should be ok with the time used in the pursuit of your goals in these types of martial arts. Another consideration is that your spouse might need to take care of your children as well during that time spent training. Your friends should also be supportive of your endeavors and not be out to get you drunk the night before training or an event for the school etc. Time being critical is one reason Shinkan-ryū Kenpō's guidelines do not allow training in another martial art.
Support of friends, spouses, and families is paramount.
Contrary to some beliefs bujutsu is not best when it's free. It is quite normal for teachers to charge tuition to keep the school activities running. You should have enough financial freedom to pay the school tuition and help support it and the teacher. You need to have enough to properly maintain yourself during your study of bujutsu as well.
Maybe your teacher holds training in an expensive area. The tuition might be high. One thing to always remember is true martial arts is not a commodity, and your teacher never owes you anything. You earn your next technique through dedication and practice. Your teacher is not obligated to give you the next lesson just because you pay tuition. It is important to understand the payments made to the school are there to support the school. The teacher is also supported by that, of course. Be it wholly or in part from the tuition the teacher does get support. This support is in-line with the school, however. The school does exist within the head teacher.
Always leave some room for equipment that will be needed for training. As well as travel. Some events or training might be held in another country or area. It is best to think about that and have something to spend in case you have a chance to further your training by going abroad, for example.
Above all, we should have the mindset that will allow us to study bujutsu well. We should be flexible and understanding. If we have lots of opinions and ideas it will get in the way of learning. You are studying an anachronistic fighting method. Your 21st-century opinions and concepts need to be put on the back burner for now. Enter without preconceptions and follow the flow of things. You must have a very supple mind towards your teacher and do things his way and follow the way of the school. That is all within reason of course. There are some martial arts predators out there who want to sell you snake oil, rather, samurai oil. Always be aware of cults and dishonest teachers.
Mental flexibility is crucial to study bujutsu. For the most part, you need to follow and trust your teacher. You must listen to the prescribed methods of training. Each school has its own ways of doing things. If your teacher suggests you do such and such an exercise for five months then you should do so without hesitation. It is not a democratic process of learning in such an environment. It can be severe and difficult, unpleasant as much as it is interesting and enjoyable.
Patience is essential. If you are stuck on one technique or at a certain point, then you should ask yourself why. It is possible the issue is internal and needs to be addressed. Of course, if you're in some kind of cultish budo school then you should just leave and disregard the whole follow your teacher no matter what rule. That rule only applies to healthy schools and teachers.
In the beginning, joining a martial arts school is a little overwhelming, but soon it becomes easier. You will get used to how things are done and what is expected of you. If you go in with the proper time and support of your family, have enough money for tuition and equipment, and readied yourself mentally then you will do well and thrive.
If you are learning online then you will obviously need to also think about the space for your training.
Saneteru Radzikowski is the head sword instructor of Shinkan-ryū Kenpō. He lives and teaches Iaijutsu and Kenjutsu from Nara, Japan.