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Jim Sorrentino
03-23-2007, 12:58 PM
Greetings All,

George Ledyard-sensei has written a very thought-provoking blog on Aikido Journal on the future of aikido. It's worth your time. The piece is at http://www.aikidojournal.com/?id=3077.

Sincerely,

Jim Sorrentino

Kevin Leavitt
03-23-2007, 01:22 PM
Yes very interesting article.

One thought that came to my mind, was that why do we really need all this infrastructure, and why does aikido seem to depend so much on it?

I think it has all to do with the whole aliveness issue. Much of what we learn or have transmitted in aikido is done in a manner that is difficult to measure, and is very subjective in nature.

Because of this, you have to depend largely on the qualifications of those that have been judged to be "superior" or "experienced" in such things.

I think this might be a huge weak point with aikido.

With the advent of MMA and the paradigms and methodologies that it brings to the table, measuring, at least physical success or skill is much more objective in nature, and therefore people or held accountable at a lower level, and you do not need hierachial leadership and it allows for cross polination or an "open source"mentality.

However, the mental/spiritual cultivation in MMA might be hard to measure or non-exsistent as a integral part of it. (not that you cannot obtain growth in these areas through studying in a MMA method, it is just not explicit).

Thank you George for writing this article, I am curious to see the discussions that are inevitiably going to take place around this!

charyuop
03-23-2007, 01:58 PM
Very good article even tho a little pessimistic. But if it is true that the Doshu will decide the new "head" of organizations not letting decide the Uchi Deshi decide (that's what I understood, if wrong sorry), I doubt Aikikai will be that big again.
I know ASU already left Aikikai once, to rejoin it later on. So I suppose many groups under the umbrella will just take their own path. But hopefully Saotome Sensei will live for 100 more years so I will never know what happens :)

As per passing the art and losing skills in the way I don't think it has to do much with the size of organization. Uchi Deshi were in 24/7 training enviroment. Even tho not throwing or with a Jo in their hands all the time, they were constantly with O Sensei. This kind of training is, in my opinion, impossible to transfer to your students...even the best of your students that might be very talented. Some skills, I think, are destined to be lost and very hardly reintroduced into the Art. Ledyard Sensei mentioned in his article great people like Ueshiba and Takeda. True they were able to add an edge to an Art and make it their own, something that branded their names...but there is a difference. They had to fight for their lives many and many times. Even the best of teachers today doubtfully will be able to give back that lost edge to Aikido.
But I do think Aikido is still an alive Martial Art, so probably lost skills won't come back, but new ones can come. I wouldn't worry too much about the political issues about Aikido, because an Art that survived centuries (ok, not Aikido, but its roots) will always find a way to continue its existance in a "very good shape".

Just my 2 cents...

Talon
03-23-2007, 02:20 PM
Very interesting and thought provoking article.

Cady Goldfield
03-23-2007, 02:21 PM
It would be interesting to see Aikikai Hombu Dojo send young leaders" to preside over all of the dojo outside Japan, only to have those young Hombu-trained "leaders" have their behinds handed back to them on a sushi dish by their lower-ranked Western aikidoka who have Ueshiba's internal skills -- which they learned from men like Sigman, Harden, Akuzawa, Ushiro...

Talon
03-23-2007, 02:25 PM
The problem is, in a non-competitive environment it is difficult to hand anyone their behind on a suchi dish. This point was raised in the article I believe.

Cady Goldfield
03-23-2007, 02:31 PM
I meant that figuratively, Paul. :) Imagine a young teacher sent to preside over a band of American instructors whose skills so far outshone his that he knew he was outclassed. And that he wanted the skills his "students" had? Could get a little messy.

It will be interesting to see what turns out, 10 years down the 'pike.

ChrisMoses
03-23-2007, 02:54 PM
It will be interesting to see what turns out, 10 years down the 'pike.

I suspect we will still have a few large Japanese based organizations, and a bunch of weirdos working out in t-shirts in basements, garages and barns all over the country in relative obscurity. I'm cool with that.

SeiserL
03-23-2007, 03:19 PM
Perhaps those of us ronins who are willing to venture outside the box need to openly share with those inside our own organizational box in a language and manner that makes it not only acceptable but welcomed.

Compliments and appreciation on your thoughts.

Jim Sorrentino
03-23-2007, 03:21 PM
Greetings All,

Here are a few opinions for your consideration:

Organizations do not teach aikido, teachers do.

Organizations matter most to people who care about rank and other external trappings of legitimacy, as distinguished from proficiency.

Organizations provide a means to financially support teachers. I note that the following people do not teach martial arts for a living, despite their proficiency: Akuzawa (salesman); Amdur (therapist); Harden (architect); Sigman (military retiree); Ushiro (inventor, engineer).

Organizations offer a way to organize "teaching events" such as seminars, but they need not do anything else. For example, there is a French organization which exists for the sole purpose of bringing Saotome-sensei to France every summer. Stan Pranin was able to put together three Aiki Expos with no organization other than Aikido Journal. Jun Akiyama was able to put together several friendship trainings with only the resources of AikiWeb.

An organization's increase in size may give rise to an "administrative" class of students. This is usually accompanied by a decline in the intensity and quality of training.

When an organization grows to a size sufficient to support a teacher financially, completely apart from the income that teacher receives from the dojo (and his or her other work), it becomes financially possible for the teacher to step back from teaching and training. As a teacher withdraws from the daily grind of teaching and training in his or her dojo, the quality of teaching and training in that dojo usually declines --- unless the teacher has placed his or her confidence explicitly and publicly in a reasonably charismatic successor who is technically competent.

Jim Sorrentino

Kevin Leavitt
03-23-2007, 03:42 PM
I am reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance right now. One thing that comes to mind that I think appropriate is the concept of Quality, that the book centers it's discussion on.

I think what organizations really offer (Or what we want them to offer us), is a definition of Quality.

That is, we want recognition that what we do and have obtained is defined as quality.

I highly recommend reading this book if you have not, because the whole essence of it I believe centers around this whole concept of hierachial organizations that are defined by the status quo in an attempt to define quality.

However, in reality, the actual mechanics of an organization really end up being what Jimmy outlines.

akiy
03-23-2007, 03:44 PM
Jun Akiyama was able to put together several friendship trainings with only the resources of AikiWeb.
Just to clarify, I've helped organize only two AikiWeb Workshops, but I've also helped organize six Aikido-L Seminars (http://www.aikido-l.org/seminars/) and various other camps and seminars. In order to do so, I received a good amount of support from various folks including instructors and friends from various places and organizations (for which I am very, very grateful).

-- Jun

L. Camejo
03-23-2007, 03:58 PM
Interesting article. I can't help but think that back in the day Tomiki Sensei may have foreseen this sort of situation developing, hence his work in trying to bring instruction at the Kobukan/Aikikai moreso towards the randori/shiai paradigm to have some method of objective measurement. But that is a "what if" that never happened and never will.

I'd have to differ somewhat on the author's point that this loss in quality is as a result of organizational expansion. I think if one plans expansion properly with good solid, structured training mechanisms to get new instructors to achieve all requirements of the art (in breadth and depth) then quality loss will be minimized. The issue the author is speaking about is not experienced in certain organizations outside of the Aikikai and is also not endemic to all Aikikai sub groups. The skills are there among those who have instructors who are either very capable teachers (i.e. the ability to impart knowledeg and information) or have a highly developed teaching method that is designed to develop proficiency in all the important areas of the art.

Regarding depth and numbers I wonder though how many people would actually continue to practice Aikido if the bar was raised so to speak to really teach the depth of the art. I think the numbers of those training (especially for recereation) would dramatically decrease. This does not only apply to Aikido, Tai Chi Chuan is a great example of an art that is also having a crisis like what we see on Aikiweb regarding Aikido. I've met quite a few practitioners of that art who say the same things I hear on Aikiweb among those who doubt their training methods or skills. They also believe that much of it is watered down and is more of an exercise than a martial art. I also know there is a very small group of Tai Chi Chaun practitioners who are plumbing the depth of the training, but they have put in the time, mind and effort to do so. Most people won't. I'm wondering if mass popularity and depth of knowledge are realistically congruent goals on a global scale in this regard. Imho those who get into the depth of the training have to put in the hard hours, thoughtful practice and honest self evaluation to get there. Most people are not willing to do this.

On another point, I am wondering however if the few screaming voices we hear in online forums regarding a general lack of knowledge in Aikido is truly representative of the feeling towards training in the real world at large. From people I have met and trained with, it seems like the online "reality" may be illusory. It would be good to know what percent of training Aikidoka actually engage in online forums and from what countries. The issue may not be as endemic as some may tend to believe. Or alternatively I may just be lucky to be around Aikidoka who have less issues with their martial skills.

Regarding whether the "'internal" skills of Ueshiba M. and Takeda S. are being transmitted by a few outside of the art remains to be seen imho. There is no doubt that the CMA have some very good methods of training internal skills and power but it is yet to be seen that the "inability to be pushed over" or other similar elements are able to make one manifest the martial genius of Takeda or Ueshiba in modern, recreational Aikidoka.

I've found that all the Aikidoka I know (and MA-ists in general) who doubt their "fighting" abilities are constantly seeking a new magic pill to fix the ills of their lack of training. A few years ago on online forums Aikidoka thought that without atemi you could not have "fight worthy" Aikido, then more recently you had to train in Daito Ryu to truly understand Aikido's martial applications, now I am hearingf that it is the internal skills that Ueshiba M. had that are lacking. Sadly some Aiki fools run after each and every "magic elixir" salesman to get a quick fix to what Ueshiba and his counterparts learnt through hard, dedicated, conscientious study (not just showing up at the dojo to "work out") with people who were capable of exhibiting the skills that they wanted to learn. It remains quite interesting to me that people who do not have issue with their technical repertoire have nothing to do with the recent discussions on "internal skills" that have taken the centre of so many Aikidoka online. When folks have gotten the "internal skills" and still have poor waza they will look for another magic pill.

The bottom line is that the majority of Aikidoka have no objective idea what they are doing because they have no objective means of verifying and judging what they are doing. This is why it is so easy to move them with alternative ideas. Until this is addressed there will always be questions, even if we are overflowing with ki/chi or are totally independent of any organization in our attempt to find the "true" path. We are responsible for what we achieve or don't achieve.

Gambatte.
LC:ai::ki:

L. Camejo
03-23-2007, 04:02 PM
Perhaps those of us ronins who are willing to venture outside the box need to openly share with those inside our own organizational box in a language and manner that makes it not only acceptable but welcomed.

Compliments and appreciation on your thoughts.Best idea I heard so far Lynn.

Very very good idea.
LC:ai::ki:

GBiddy
03-23-2007, 05:00 PM
There doesn't seem to be any crisis brewining in Aikido dojos or organization(s) in Japan. People train, learn, pass it on as they have done for a very long time and with a lot less debate...

GB

Pete Rihaczek
03-23-2007, 05:36 PM
Ah, the politics of Aikido. Politics exists in every art, but where there are no objective standards of ability, it really runs rampant.

There is no universal solution because people have different reasons for training. Some just *want* the politics to advance in rank. Others don't know much about the wider world of martial arts, and will just muddle along for some time. I think the more pointed question is, what does Aikido offer to the discerning martial artist? Is that not the target audience, or do you want to focus your attention on the politicos and the clueless? The latter two groups will always exist, so in my view it's the sensible people who want to see some results that you have to address; the others will follow.

"Show me" is in line with the American spirit of invention to begin with, we don't have the traditionalist don't-ask-questions mindset. That has always been the case, but now with the exploding popularity of MMA, all arts are under scrutiny for any claims of effectiveness, even the implicit claim of simply being a martial art. IMO the internal skills are what really make Aikido interesting and worthy of attention (as well as backing up the martial art claim), and to the comment made earlier, no it is not a "magic pill" - if you master that, the waza is practically secondary. That's the last "magic pill" you'll ever need.

Just invite Akuzawa or someone like Chen Xiao Wang, who is a living, breathing person able to demostrate Ueshiba-esque feats to one of these Expos. Some people will freak out, but at least there will be no more denial that these things are real, and the cat will really be out of the bag. Then it's on and let the chips fall where they may. It may also motivate any reticent Japanese instructors who have any of these skills to show them more openly and stop holding back. Take the mystery out of it and encourage people to share what they know. It's not the American way to pay with your time and money to get a lot of nothing in return. We have a word for that: "sucker". ;) Getting a practical training program in place is another non-trivial matter, though Akuzawa's program clearly gets results. But proving that ki skills are something real gives the serious martial artist something to shoot for, and a real reason to believe that Aikido really was something.

aikidoc
03-23-2007, 10:40 PM
The future cannot be predicted with any certainty. However, it can be somewhat anticipated and in some cases designed. One of my concerns about the art is the lack of planning. What happens when a shihan suddenly dies as did the case of AAA with no heir apparent?

Futurists use the concept of scenarios to identify some of the possibilities given certain events occcur. I will attempt to lay out one possibility in this one and maybe others later.

A Scenario:
As Japanese instructor who have studied directly die off and fail to transmit what they had learned, especially the internal aspects, the skills and knowledge of the next generation are watered down. The decreasing importance of martial arts in Japanese society makes all arts and aikido as well of little importance. With decreasing enrollmen, it becomes impossible to make a living teaching martial arts for pretty much everything. Foreign schools still fascinated with other cultures provide a source of income. However, with the skill levels being relatively comparable to Japanese instructors who are able to eke out a living, foreign aikidoka start looking for more say in the "organization". A lack of willingness of the Japanese to share power and the lack of an heir apparent by the yondai doshu split the aikikai into factions with most leaving. Power struggles abound and many small organizations tired of "big organizations" develop. Ranks become inflated and start to have little value other than in the small group or dojo as has happened with Taekwondo and other arts. Aikido is now pretty confusing to the public since it differs so greatly from dojo to dojo. Globalization results in greater societal mobility with the desire to be able to have rank comparability or interchangeability. Once this reality sinks in that rank has little meaning other than in the individual dojo, enrollments decline and people look for arts with more consistency, fewer power struggles, and rank interchangability across regions. Ultimately, the art loses its identify and dies-looking nothing like the original art

Pessimistic. Yes. Are there trends out there suggesting this could happen? Yep.

Organizations are the glue to hold groups together. They inherently have problems, however, they do serve a purpose or several purposes: standards, recognition, succession opportunities, functioning systems, etc. Problems within organizations are generally caused by people with agendas more self-serving than group serving. Such political rifts destroy the group dynamics and trust.

Many other scenarios can be developed or one can design a future. I will attempt to design a better one tomorrow and throw it out as well.

mjhacker
03-23-2007, 10:52 PM
There doesn't seem to be any crisis brewining in Aikido dojos or organization(s) in Japan. People train, learn, pass it on as they have done for a very long time and with a lot less debate...
Making a public stink isn't really the Japanese thing to do...

raul rodrigo
03-24-2007, 12:51 AM
Is it likely that Hombu will send some of their young instructors, people like Ito or Suzuki, to the US to run organizations and in effect replace the generation of Yamada, Saotome, and Chiba? Is anyone aware of such a plan? I thought the point of promoting people like Waite and Bernath and the others to seventh dan is to signify that the US can take care of itself as far as the technical side of aikido is concerned. As Ledyard Sensei points out, a young shidoin would have a rough time imposing his authority on shihan who are more senior and may have been training longer than the shidoin has been alive. Eg, Ito is 32, Waite has been training since the late 1960s. Surely Hombu is aware of the potential problem.

senshincenter
03-24-2007, 12:53 AM
Is anyone able to elaborate upon this line from the article:

"Note that Hombu Dojo is training them at this moment. They have a younger generation of teachers ready to go when the time is right."

Which American Tokyo affiliated organizations are open to this? USAF? Every region in the USAF? United Schools of Ueshiba? Which ones? If you know of one, what is the sign (or signs) that leads or could lead to this statement?

curious,
dmv

Charles Hill
03-24-2007, 01:18 AM
Hi,

Although I am a bit out of the loop, I sincerely doubt that Honbu is planning on having the young shidoin travel to established dojo/organizations overseas to take over. They do have the shihan/shidoin travel to countries that do not have established organization to teach. I believe the Mr. Ito mentioned above spent a couldle of years in some southeast Asian country working to established Aikido there.

Also the shihan all have university clubs that they run and or help out at and I am sure that that work will be turned over to the younger teachers as this is a big source of income for the Aikikai.

In my understanding there is only one group that has looked to Honbu for some degree of help and that is the Midwest Aikido group. And surely this is due to the problems that occured upon Tohei Sensei's death, things that is obviously the other US based shihan are working to avoid.

Charles

Rod Yabut
03-24-2007, 02:50 AM
It is a good post and it was more thought out than the post below that I tried to start. Although I must admit that my intention was to fish out the 'future' senseis so I could check them out :)

http://aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=11706

Besides the ideas in George Sensei's post on how organization's need to revamp transmission, it is also up to us students to comb through the fluff and seek out talented teachers.

Continued discussions such as what occurs here will also help shape ideas on the future of aikido. The technology is here so why not take advantage of it. I also hope more and more seasoned aikidoka share their thoughts and experiences here so the influx of newer aikidoka can have a better picture than they did when they started.

Respectfully,

batemanb
03-24-2007, 03:13 AM
I meant that figuratively, Paul. :) Imagine a young teacher sent to preside over a band of American instructors whose skills so far outshone his that he knew he was outclassed. And that he wanted the skills his "students" had? Could get a little messy.

It will be interesting to see what turns out, 10 years down the 'pike.

That's assuming that these sent instructors are all naive newbies. They're already training in such an environment in Japan right now, there's nothing to indicate that anyone sent is going to turn up and make things messy.

There's a lot of assumptions in this thread. I'm under the impression that most of the associations in the US, here in the UK, and other western countries are individual associations that have been set up external to the Aikikai, but have at some point joined the aikikai umbrella. As it stands right now the Aikikai doesn't have the authority to impose any instructors into these organisations - please correct me if I'm wrong.

However, the Aikikai could, if it felt it warranted, send new instructors to set up new organisations. Students would then be at liberty to choose which organisation they want to join/ stay with.

There may be some associations that would be all too willing to have the Aikikai send in an instructor to take over the helm. Again it's an assumption.

What I'm trying to say, very badly, is that I don't think this is a problem any where near as bad as people are making it out to be. Old instructors retire/ pass on, new instructors take their place. Associations change, old links are cut, new links are formed. It's been going on for many years, and will continue.

I'm free to choose who and where I want to practice Aikido with, as long as I continue to practice.

Aran Bright
03-24-2007, 04:22 AM
I wanted to follow on from the comments made in the final couple of paragraphs in GL sensei's article.

The concept of developing modern aikido from outside sources is of course something that has always been happening. I would assume that there are more instructors that have trained and influenced their aikido from outside sources than there are aikido instructors who have wholly and solely stuck with pure aikido.

It is interesting to look at Karate, there are a group of international karate practitioners that follow a principle of discovering okinawan karate through the same process that it was originally developed, exploration, application and refinement. When I visited this group there classes looked like something that was a cross between, karate, judo and aikido. There breakfalling was better than many aikido dojo's I had seen.

They feel that there is a spirit that needs to be kept alive that is not contained in any technique but in continual refinement of their art and they will look anywhere to find it and make it grow.

Perhaps if our focus is on keeping the aiki spirit alive it will take care of itself.

Aran Bright

Jorge Garcia
03-24-2007, 05:47 AM
On another point, I am wondering however if the few screaming voices we hear in online forums regarding a general lack of knowledge in Aikido is truly representative of the feeling towards training in the real world at large. From people I have met and trained with, it seems like the online "reality" may be illusory. It would be good to know what percent of training Aikidoka actually engage in online forums and from what countries. The issue may not be as endemic as some may tend to believe. Or alternatively I may just be lucky to be around Aikidoka who have less issues with their martial skills.

Also, Gordon Biddy wrote,
"There doesn't seem to be any crisis brewing in Aikido dojos or organization(s) in Japan. People train, learn, pass it on as they have done for a very long time and with a lot less debate..."
GB

I think this is the point everyone is missing. Of my 80 students, I have not been able to find anyone else reading Aikiweb, even among my black belts and senior students (and to be frank, with the kind of talk we have had here, I won't recommend it to them because I am in favor of Aikido, not against it). I have also never heard any of these online forums or any issue mentioned here in any dojo I have ever been a part of. Our practitioners are like those in Japan. They come to class, they train, they have a good time, they are soaked from head to toe with sweat, they talk about the techniques after and continue to try and get more info, and they go home and bring their friends the next time.
Interestingly enough, I have a couple of former (I hope?) gang kids. The high school they are from is so bad, that the city of Houston almost shut it down recently. When I asked them, they are aware of MMA and they like to watch it but they laugh at it because of the rules and they don't seem to think it's realistic (go figure?). One of my guys was in so much trouble, that he spent two years in a detention center next to the Huntsville State pen. He says the way they (TV MMA) fight is contrary to the hundreds of fights he has seen in the streets. He is from a really bad neighborhood too. We once had a man from our dojo take him home and he feared getting out of there alive. When I took this kid home, I saw houses the gangs had burned down in revenge attacks. This kid has used Aikido in the streets and in his last fight, he knocked out the kid that was attacking him with iriminage. He is a senior in high school and has been in Aikido for 3 years.
I mention this to say that everything that is posited as real online doesn't correspond to our reality here. I am not saying what is posted is wrong. I am saying I haven't seen the same concerns or experiences here and no one I have here seems to care about the online disputes. They don't even read them.

Best wishes,
Jorge

statisticool
03-24-2007, 07:58 AM
It would be interesting to see Aikikai Hombu Dojo send young leaders" to preside over all of the dojo outside Japan, only to have those young Hombu-trained "leaders" have their behinds handed back to them on a sushi dish by their lower-ranked Western aikidoka who have Ueshiba's internal skills -- which they learned from men like Sigman, Harden, Akuzawa, Ushiro...

Even if the Sigmans and Hardens of the world have some real skills, would it still be Aikido if it is something the Ueshiba's did/do not teach? Probably not IMO.

statisticool
03-24-2007, 08:01 AM
Just invite Akuzawa or someone like Chen Xiao Wang, who is a living, breathing person able to demostrate Ueshiba-esque feats to one of these Expos.


I'm not sure I've ever seen anything spectacular by either on videotape that wasn't in a fixed drill/'play nice' environment. I'm not sure it is wise to base martial effectiveness on such demos.

giriasis
03-24-2007, 10:33 AM
I have plenty confidence in Peter Bernath, Harvey Konisberg, Clyde Takeguchi, Andy Demko, Donovan Waite and Claude Bertiaume to lead our organization. They are not only incredible aikidokas but leaders as well. They are fully capable as shihan and 7th dan to lead our organization. (They are not SINO - Shihan In Name Only or Shichidan In Name Only. They have earned these ranks and have the skills and leadership abilties to go along with them.)

I think the USAF learned a hard lesson after Tohei Sensei and later on when Kanai Sensei passed away. We are already dealing with the consequences of losing our leaders and are taking steps to prevent the chaos that follows when a strong leader passes.

I also don't see this happening in Chiba Sensei's organization either. He's taken quite a big step forward with his Birankai Organization, which is now recognized under the Aikikai umbrella - as are their shihan.

aikidoc
03-24-2007, 04:56 PM
Scenario 2: my preferred vision. Aikido 2050

The aikikai continues it role as a central leadership entity for maintaining grading standards and consistency. However, it recognizes that although Aikido is culturally a Japanese art contributions and evolution of the art can come from many sources. Efforts by various senior level instructors and shihans elevated by the aikikai in the late 1990s and early 2000s reflects a growing development of the internal aspects of the art. These instructors pushed their instructors to impart what they knew as best they could and sought out external sources to fill in the gaps on internal skills. All with the knowledge and blessing of the aikikai. Modern educational techniques were used to develop these skills in the next line of senior instructors. The philosophical aspects of the art continue to attract students after the devastating long term effects of terrorism and war activities of the early 2000s moved leaders and the populace to seek higher level solutions to conflict resolution. Aikido's popularity grew as people sought to live a more humane lifestyle while also recognizing the fact that radical factions can perpetuate violence at any time. Also, seeking to learn better internal control and develop internal strength skills made Aikido attractive after it strengthened it's own resolve in this area with a paradigm shift in the 2010s, Senior instructors increased their search for and emphasis on developing the lost internal aspects of the art which resulted from lack of or weak transmission levels. Although no one has yet attained the reputed skills of O'Sensei, many senior instructors have developed incredible internal skills and methods to teach them to their students. This evolution has also influenced the aikikai to improve their development programs in the same areas as well. Aikido continues to spread and grow as people recognize its strengths. Children programs have also grown considerably as parents have recognized the importance of aikido philosophy and training versus teaching punching and kicking skills that were in vogue during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Martial arts movies have evolved to show more than simply the physical side of the arts as well. With over a hundred years of stability, the art appears to be here to stay.

The aikikai has also recognized the development of senior instructors in other countries and has promoted several to 8th dan. The aikikai teaching staff has also become international with additions of shihan from other countries with excellent teaching skills.

Cady Goldfield
03-24-2007, 05:51 PM
Even if the Sigmans and Hardens of the world have some real skills, would it still be Aikido if it is something the Ueshiba's did/do not teach? Probably not IMO.

How do you know Ueshiba didn't teach it? What if it was what made his Aikido what it was, but no one "got" that part of it? Does that mean it shouldn't be taught now?

Rupert Atkinson
03-24-2007, 06:56 PM
In my experience, I found that there is fierce Aikido rivalry in Japan too, albeit, a rather more silent kind of rivalry. People are also aware of MMA but discount it as it not what they are after. A couple of my Japanese aikidoing firends have communicated directly/indirectly that they are doing Aikido, Karate or whatever because it is their heratage; they want to feel Japanese (it can even lead to jobs, especially in university). MMA does not do that for them. This might also explain why people buy those old cowboy colts - expensive - instead of a brand new, far more effective automatic.

I don't think a large org can transmit Aikido in depth on a large scale. It is more likely the opposite. Small scale has much more chance of passing on skill, but the condition is that they have skill to pass on.

George S. Ledyard
03-24-2007, 06:59 PM
I have plenty confidence in Peter Bernath, Harvey Konisberg, Clyde Takeguchi, Andy Demko, Donovan Waite and Claude Bertiaume to lead our organization. They are not only incredible aikidokas but leaders as well. They are fully capable as shihan and 7th dan to lead our organization. (They are not SINO - Shihan In Name Only or Shichidan In Name Only. They have earned these ranks and have the skills and leadership abilties to go along with them.)

I think the USAF learned a hard lesson after Tohei Sensei and later on when Kanai Sensei passed away. We are already dealing with the consequences of losing our leaders and are taking steps to prevent the chaos that follows when a strong leader passes.

I also don't see this happening in Chiba Sensei's organization either. He's taken quite a big step forward with his Birankai Organization, which is now recognized under the Aikikai umbrella - as are their shihan.

While I am not saying it couldn't happen, it would basically be a first if, after Yamada, Sugano, and Chiba Senseis are gone, the next generation managed to keep things together in a harmonious whole.
Usually, once the big guy(s) is gone, all of the different aspirations of the various individuals start coming out and they find that they have widely differing ideas about where things should go...

Mark my words, I could easily see the Aikikai Hombu dojo thinking it should send a new generation of Japanese teachers over to preside over the folks you mentioned, despite their ranks and Shihan status. If I had money to spare I'd bet on it...

Erick Mead
03-24-2007, 07:17 PM
... I am wondering however if the few screaming voices we hear in online forums regarding a general lack of knowledge in Aikido is truly representative of the feeling towards training in the real world at large. From people I have met and trained with, it seems like the online "reality" may be illusory. I tend to agree. People come here for exploration because they want to find something. Thus, those who come here are self-selected to acknowledge they are missing something to begin with. Myself included. I just don't feel I am missing what they do.

The bottom line is that the majority of Aikidoka have no objective idea what they are doing because they have no objective means of verifying and judging what they are doing. This is why it is so easy to move them with alternative ideas. Until this is addressed there will always be questions, even if we are overflowing with ki/chi or are totally independent of any organization in our attempt to find the "true" path. We are responsible for what we achieve or don't achieve. That is why I find it astonishing that almost 40 years after the Founder died we have no comprehensive description of aiki principles in purely Western, objective, physical terms. At best we have but halting and partial attempts at such a description. I do not pretend that such a effort would be complete in itself, by any means. But the concepts underlying aikido will remain alien in the West and at risk for their future transmission until they are fully nativized in objective physical terms .

The present lack of such an approach to the description of mechanical priniples is one reason why western students have difficulty making objective assesments of their own progress, in a cooperative training art. Not everyone is a physicist, but the knowledge of practical mechanics is very widespread, and in the English speaking world, particularly so.

Having an objective set of physical principles to rely on makes it far easier to dissect one's mistakes, identify a problem, and make a correction to poor movement. My effort in working out such a description for myself has so far been limited, but frutiful, even so.

What I have worked out I have described in part here in various posts, and blog entries. Using these descriptions of what I do and see others doing, I have seen real gains in my ability to perceive problems of movement in a more detailed fashion. I have increased my the ability to identify components of movement more particularly, and more objectively, and thus to pick out those that are problematic. I am able better to describe in purely physical terms what I am doing. I am better able to describe for students what they are failing to do in their practice in ways that they can grasp because it has a root in an objective, physical action they can envision.

No academic understanding can substitute for the feel of proper movements. Routine and rigorous training is indispensable. However, objective description of the physical priniciples is seriously lacking. My working out of these physical principles in kokyu, aiki and the nature of musubi very likely lacks a great deal, and definitely has a long way to go. But no one else that I have discovered is approaching the material in this way. That, in my view, underlies much of the concern with the reliablity of transmission in our technologically oriented Western culture.

Erick Mead
03-24-2007, 07:19 PM
How do you know Ueshiba didn't teach it? What if it was what made his Aikido what it was, but no one "got" that part of it? Does that mean it shouldn't be taught now? Assuming the conclusion establishes nothing.

Erick Mead
03-24-2007, 07:22 PM
I think this is the point everyone is missing. Of my 80 students, I have not been able to find anyone else reading Aikiweb, even among my black belts and senior students ...
I mention this to say that everything that is posited as real online doesn't correspond to our reality here. I am not saying what is posted is wrong. I am saying I haven't seen the same concerns or experiences here and no one I have here seems to care about the online disputes. They don't even read them. Ditto, here. I hope for an engaging conflict to reveal some truth. It is the calling I have and the reason I come here. Not all have the same calling, nor should they.

crbateman
03-24-2007, 07:23 PM
Your point is well taken, George. I wonder if the Aikikai responses would be consistent from one group to another, though. The situations at Iwama and Chicago seem to indicate that perhaps they would not. There are also legal relevancies from place to place, organization to organization, and even person to person, which may make this difficult to implement. There are also those who think that Aikikai is already too political, or not tolerant enough of outside ideas. This would seem to make any thoughts of a reclamation, for want of a better word, by Aikikai more idealistic than realistic. People will naturally react to protect what they perceive as their own turf. Would you hazard a guess as to how it would be received in the ASU?

Cady Goldfield
03-24-2007, 07:27 PM
Assuming the conclusion establishes nothing.

That some can discern what Ueshiba had -- even if you and many others can't -- takes those individuals beyond the need to assume anything.

raul rodrigo
03-24-2007, 09:28 PM
Mark my words, I could easily see the Aikikai Hombu dojo thinking it should send a new generation of Japanese teachers over to preside over the folks you mentioned, despite their ranks and Shihan status. If I had money to spare I'd bet on it...

SIR:

But you haven't explained your basis for saying this. It seems to be more like a hunch on your part than a clearly telegraphed intention on the part of Hombu Dojo. And you haven't explained why it would be in Hombu's interest. It would stir up a hornets nest and could cause quite a few groups to break away--in other words, it would be self-defeating. Instead of reasserting control, it would provoke the loss of control. Kind of like the British trying to impose their will in the 1770s on the colonies. (The recent reassertion by Hombu of control over the Iwama dojo seems to be a special case that may not apply to an entire country like the US). Kanai and Toyoda passed away without a Japanese replacement being sent over. If you have more specific reasons to be suspicious of Hombu's intentions, perhaps with regard to the ASU itself, please explain.

Aikibu
03-24-2007, 10:13 PM
Good article by Sensei Leonard. I also agree that most of the online lament about the "decline" of Aikido should be taken with a large grain of salt.

One should ask themselves the following question

Does Aikido suck or...

My Practice?

I have found in only a few rare occasions that the answer is both. LOL :)

William Hazen

Kevin Wilbanks
03-24-2007, 11:55 PM
That some can discern what Ueshiba had -- even if you and many others can't -- takes those individuals beyond the need to assume anything.

Which "some", and which "individuals"? My impression is that you are just setting up one vague question-begging fallacy to buttress another, despite the fact that the prior one has been called out. Who exactly, that actually experienced what Ueshiba had, and therefore has a legitimate basis for comparison, is discerning it in whom? If not you, why are you making this claim, and on whose behalf are you making it?

statisticool
03-25-2007, 12:48 AM
How do you know Ueshiba didn't teach it? What if it was what made his Aikido what it was, but no one "got" that part of it? Does that mean it shouldn't be taught now?

I don't know, I said "if". But I'd have more confidence that O'Sensei, the creator of aikido, would pass aikido stuff down to Kiss. Ueshiba to Mor. Ueshiba, than somehow skills getting transmitted to some random Americans.

George S. Ledyard
03-25-2007, 01:11 AM
SIR:

But you haven't explained your basis for saying this. It seems to be more like a hunch on your part than a clearly telegraphed intention on the part of Hombu Dojo. And you haven't explained why it would be in Hombu's interest. It would stir up a hornets nest and could cause quite a few groups to break away--in other words, it would be self-defeating. Instead of reasserting control, it would provoke the loss of control. Kind of like the British trying to impose their will in the 1770s on the colonies. (The recent reassertion by Hombu of control over the Iwama dojo seems to be a special case that may not apply to an entire country like the US). Kanai and Toyoda passed away without a Japanese replacement being sent over. If you have more specific reasons to be suspicious of Hombu's intentions, perhaps with regard to the ASU itself, please explain.
This is simply my opinion. I could be wrong but I've had quite a few conversations with people who have had intimate dealings with Hombu. Take for instance that if you go on the Hombu Dojo website, there is a list of overseas instructors. All of the names listed are Japanese. The American Shihan are not listed. When confronted with this by two of the most senior American Shihan the response from the folks at Hombu was that when people are traveling and they want to find an instructor, they are looking for a Japanese teacher... This is pretty much a representative attitude.

Everyone I know who has had close dealings with the folks at Hombu have said that Hombu still believes that they are the source from which Aikido flows out to the rest of us. There is almost no understanding that we have been training over here for a long time and that perhaps it isn't flowing that way any more. Hombu is at risk of finding itself increasingly irrelevant in my opinion, and I am not alone in this. With all of the great teachers that have developed overseas, has any one of them ever been asked to teach in Japan (I am not talking about the Yoshinkan here as they have had a very different attitude)? When any one of our American "Shihan" gets asked to teach at Hombu or someone like Christian Tissier is invited I'll perhaps change my view.

George S. Ledyard
03-25-2007, 01:16 AM
If you have more specific reasons to be suspicious of Hombu's intentions, perhaps with regard to the ASU itself, please explain.
The ASU succession is quite clear, it's Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei. There will no particular turmoil associated with this I don't believe. Ikeda Sensei is pretty universally respected, admired and liked.

Edwin Neal
03-25-2007, 02:36 AM
never gonna happen... and i think some of OSensei's students "got it" and others will get it and this will continue... unfortunately so will the politicizing and organizationalizing and splitting... i have lamented that on this forum... for all its "way of harmony" aikido is probably the least harmonius of the martial arts... and with the distance that some styles have travelled from other styles i don't see any sort of reconciliation, or a takeover by the aikikai... never gonna happen... i too have no money to spare, but i'd take your bet...

crbateman
03-25-2007, 05:57 AM
The ASU succession is quite clear, it's Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei. There will no particular turmoil associated with this I don't believe. Ikeda Sensei is pretty universally respected, admired and liked.No way would Ikeda Sensei's qualifications be in question. But I think what many are asking is this: Even though ASU might have put this mechanism in place, and Saotome Sensei himself has designated a successor, how would you and the other folks in ASU react when that time comes, and suddenly some other Shihan jumps off a plane with a letter from Aikikai Hombu putting him in charge, rather than Ikeda Sensei. It seems that you are proposing that Aikikai should be within their rights to do this to everybody, and I just can't see it as realistic, even in your own organization. Imagine the difficulty with those organizations whose ties with Hombu are looser, or whose internally-chosen successors are perhaps not Japanese.

SeiserL
03-25-2007, 07:02 AM
IMHO, the future of Aikido depends on the larger organizations (over which I have no control) and my individual training, participation, and contribution (over which I have at least some control).

The future lies with all of us to stop the infighting and start practicing in our communications and relationships with each other what we have been practicing on the mat.

raul rodrigo
03-25-2007, 07:23 AM
The ASU succession is quite clear, it's Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei. There will no particular turmoil associated with this I don't believe. Ikeda Sensei is pretty universally respected, admired and liked.

SIR:

Yes, I was aware that Ikeda Hiroshi is Saotome shihan's designated successor. That wasn't what i was driving at. I meant to ask: do you believe that when it comes time for Saotome to hand over ASU to Ikeda, or, alternatively, when Ikeda will in years to come pass on ASU's reins to an American successor, Aikikai Hombu will step in and impose its own candidate for succession on ASU? Is there a precedent for Hombu to do so with a federation in another country? And is this procedure of imposing a succession one that Hombu will likely impose on other US federations like USAF?

Marc Abrams
03-25-2007, 07:51 AM
Looking at Aikikai's Hombu Dojo's response (or lack thereof) to the Aiki Expo's, looking at Aikikai's Hombu Dojo's response in Iwama should make it clear to anybody that they are intent on trying to preserve THEIR version of the legacy of the founder. THEIR form of "orthodoxy" typically removed from almost all outside influences, is not the "closed" attitude that existed when the founder was alive. George's point regarding their website listing of shihans is another indication of THEIR desire to try and control a legacy that is far beyond their control.

If Aikikai would attempt to do what George has suggested (I would bet on that line as well), they would simply fail. The legacy of Aikido is beyond their control. The teachers that George speaks of (I would include his name in the list of future leaders) are seriously engaged in trying to further "Aikido" and it's legacy. Their students are the legacy of that aim and their students speak for themselves. The more that the Hombu dojo of Aikikai tries to exert control by insisting that people stay within the limits of their closed sphere, the more irrelevant they will become (my opinion only).

The teachers that George speaks of clearly are engaged in amplifying the "internal core" of the art that some have lost sight of through senseless repetition of movements (waza). If the Hombu dojo were to truly recognize the legacy of these sincere and gifted teachers, it would only serve to help the organization grow together. The Hombu dojo's actions (or lack of actions) simply reduces the influence and authority of their organization by not publically recognizing and promoting these gifted individuals. A "smart" organization recognizes true and gifted leaders and integrates them into the leadership structure. "Dumb" organizations stick to rigid, political hierarchies and typically become less nimble, effective and successful and time goes by. Aikido will continue to grow as an art, with or without, the relevancy of the Aikikai Hombu dojo. I can only hope that the growth of Aikido is a positive growth, and that the organizations lessen their dependency on political concerns.

marc abrams

Joe Bowen
03-25-2007, 08:40 AM
Having lived in asia for 8 of the past 9 years, and trained at least annually at the Aikikai Hombu dojo and watched the politics as a neutral outside observer, my impressions are completely the opposite. The Aikikai is the standard bearer. Doshu executes his techniques without the little eccentricities, but the rest of the instructors there have them. Yasuno Sensei's class is radically different from Miyamoto Sensei's class or Endo Sensei's class or Fujita Sensei's class. Each is unique and expresses their aikido quite differently. If you're impression of the Aikikai orthodoxy is correct then these individuals who teach the bulk of the classes at hombu dojo would not be so different.
I don't understand your concern. Toyota Sensei past on, the Aikikai did not send someone to replace him. Tohei Sensei, (USAF Midwest) past on, the Aikikai sent no one to replace him. Kanai Sensei past on, the Aikikai sent no one to replace him.
Where does this idea that the Japanese are going to jump off a plane and say, "I'm in charge here" come from? and what exactly are you afraid of losing?
In fact, I think there is a greater danger of us trying to assert our version of Aikido on them by demanding changes to accommodate us.
And as far as whether or not these "young replacement shihan" could hold their own or have the "special internal" skills to stand up to our reinventing US selves, don't count them short, unless you've been there recently, you don't know what they are capable of, nor what they are doing.
Here are a few rhetorical questions for you to think about: When was the last time you trained at Hombu dojo? Took the Doshu's class? Trained with any of the other shihan instructors there? Invited one of their instructors to teach at your organization's annual camp? Invited the Doshu to attend any special party of event for your organization?
The Japanese like most asian cultures attribute great importance to personal relationships. You cannot show up a stranger and expect to be treated as a intimate student. You'll be treated well, but before you are recognized you have to be more than a stranger. You have to give as well as receive. So, what have you done for the Aikikai lately other than just run your dojo?

Mato-san
03-25-2007, 09:01 AM
Nice and heart felt but is it time we accept evolution and that is exactly why he gave it to us and exacly why he sent his boys off to discover their own form and spred the love. Sorry very heart felt post in the journal G but you know? you guys can pee on me all you like evolution is natural and if I am mistaken (I am not) aikido evolves too and you either run with it or you hide from its potential......just a thought from a mere me!

jliebman
03-25-2007, 09:14 AM
While I am not saying it couldn't happen, it would basically be a first if, after Yamada, Sugano, and Chiba Senseis are gone, the next generation managed to keep things together in a harmonious whole.
Usually, once the big guy(s) is gone, all of the different aspirations of the various individuals start coming out and they find that they have widely differing ideas about where things should go...

Mark my words, I could easily see the Aikikai Hombu dojo thinking it should send a new generation of Japanese teachers over to preside over the folks you mentioned, despite their ranks and Shihan status. If I had money to spare I'd bet on it...

Yamada Sensei has already designated his successor for the representation of the USAF to Hombu dojo, in the current USAF ByLaws. Whether or not this person takes an active role in the operation of the USAF, I am sure that the current "various individuals" who have "different aspirations" and "different ideas" will be guided by his good judgement in matters of organization.

The USAF seminar system encourages a closeness in relationships between senior students that I have not seen in other aikido organizations, and a mutual re-enforcement of goals. It may be that there are not so many "different aspirations" and "different ideas" as Ledyard Sensei thinks.

Takuan
03-25-2007, 09:45 AM
This sounds a bit conspiratory. I don't like the sound of many of these assumptions. To be honest, I don't even like the sound of "American Aikido". Aikido is a Japanese art and should remain so. Saotome Sensei says that he believes Aikido belongs to the Ueshiba family. Iím fine with that. Please remember that O-Sensei had serious doubts whether Aikido techniques should be spread around the world. The former Doshu had to work very hard to convince him and I feel indebted to him for that. Iím not interested in joining any organization that is not directly linked to the Aikikai. Aikido is not based on democracy, its hierarchical; so whatís all the fuss about? We should trust that the current Doshu will do whatís best for Aikido around the globe and do our best to aid him whichever way we can, period.

jennifer paige smith
03-25-2007, 09:46 AM
"It is not given that the large will remain large and the small will remain small"- Morihei Ueshiba O'Sensei

Recently, I left the Independent organization that I had belonged to for 13 years. Why? Simply put, in dealing with spirit (this definition of Aikido was never a matter of debate for O'Sensei. It is always spirit in his book) humans need a form to follow to guide them on their path. But once found, the form becomes truly Secondary to the observation of natural law (or spirit) and a dojo becomes only a place for fellowship in training. However, one no longer needs their teacher to teach them. The doka no longer clothes themselves with the word 'Aikidoist' .The doka no longer needs the approval of his/her fellows because the techniques speak the words of satisfaction or disapproval. The doka begins to see the holes in the humans around him/her compassionately but wisely.
But when the structure is so inclusive of Japanese hierarchy, and the teacher needs to be the one who knows or who is in authority,then spirit is eclipsed by humanness and our spirit suffers. This is an awful situation that occurs when sensei,shihan, doshu lose sight of our place in alignment with this god inspired form. This situation brings inspired people to a place of deep human doubt and the dojo or organization is most likely unequipped to grow to handle it. But aikido, not the dojo, is true democracy.

O'Sensei chose martial arts, but Aiki O'Kami chose him. In the face of such calling, human interests no longer interested O'Sensei. We are now engaged in a generation of people who hear the voice of the Kami much more readily than our elders. This is only because of our elders(thank you). This is the natural evolution of aiki/spirit that O'Sensei wanted. So while men choose men, Let us as Aikidoka choose spirit. Let us first observe the works of people and then, maybe, give a hoot about some politically conferred title.A title you or I could never have despite any level of experience, enlightenment, devotion, calling, etc.

After 13 years of faithful, skillful. athletic, inspired, informed, and loving technique born of hard work and pain I can only call myself a Nidan in Aikido because of politics, sexism, and hypocrisy. But to O'Sensei in the heavens, I am a divine creature; A song of the way living my inspiration, bringing good works to the world and learning to be a loving parent to all. In spirit, the second is my preference. I hear the voice of Aikido within.

I hear it.Is there a certificate for that. Can I call myself doshu? Technically, no. Truly, yes. I am the head of my own way. The way of my life formed in the way of Aiki. The only way is our own born of spirit.
So forget this stuff. Let the empire fall. Aikido is not in trouble. People are. Love your art. Practice with your fellows, turn your eyes toward the heavens and dance shin kokyu with O'Sensei.
Blessings,
:ai: :ki: jen

Cady Goldfield
03-25-2007, 10:33 AM
Soccer/futbol is international and universal. Baseball was created in the U.S. of America, but the Japanese have taken it as their own, and have given it a distinctive Japanese approach and feel. Why should aikido have to remain solely Japanese?

George S. Ledyard
03-25-2007, 10:45 AM
Yamada Sensei has already designated his successor for the representation of the USAF to Hombu dojo, in the current USAF ByLaws. Whether or not this person takes an active role in the operation of the USAF, I am sure that the current "various individuals" who have "different aspirations" and "different ideas" will be guided by his good judgement in matters of organization.

The USAF seminar system encourages a closeness in relationships between senior students that I have not seen in other aikido organizations, and a mutual re-enforcement of goals. It may be that there are not so many "different aspirations" and "different ideas" as Ledyard Sensei thinks.

I've always felt that the USAF did an excellent job of putting their senior American instructors forward. The closeness you mention between the seniors may be the positive side of the Federation's almost exclusive focus on people from within its organization. Perhaps it will result in a group that can form a leadership core that survives after the Japanese former uchi deshi have passed.

Anyway, I'd love to see us take responsibility for our own Aikido and run with it. I am not much in agreement with the direction Aikido has taken and think we can do better for ourselves. Aikido was never meant to have a "style" imposed on it but rather should be an art in which each individual finds his own expression.

If the next generation of teachers continues the politics and narrowness of focus of the previous generation of Japanese teachers, it won't make any difference if Japanese Shihan or the American Shihan are running the show.

Budo should be about personal relationships and not about organizations. I have a friend who was a senior member of one of the major Aikido organizations. He traveled all the time teaching and was a very popular and respected teacher within his org. Then he broke with his teacher and went independent... What happened to all those folks who used to invite him and loved his teaching so much? He basically dropped off the face of the earth. I think that is total BS. A true student of Budo doesn't pick his associates based on who is in favor or out of favor with some political group (or frankly, even with ones own teacher).

I think that, all in all, large organizations have been very good at encouraging the growth of the art here and abroad. I also think that they have in many cases restricted the growth of their senior members in favor of creating good organization men and women. The seniors have been actively discouraged from training outside the box both especially within the Aikido community.

Once again, I have another friend who is senior in one of the organizations... he was asked to teach at a camp or some such event. This particular teacher had been doing some training with folks outside of his organization (not with the approval of his peers) and had some things that he was very excited about. He taught some of those things in his class at the camp and was later approached by the other seniors and told that they shouldn't be teaching anything but the strictly delimited "style" from the group of which they were members. They didn't even want to see anything different.

Now I am not saying that independence is some panacea either. In my experience, many independent dojos are isolated and out of touch. Often the reason they went independent was so that no one could tell them what to do. But when left to their own devices they didn't push the envelope, they settled for the comfortable. Easy to do when no one is over you... At least the organizations set some standards. The freedom these independent folks have to train with anyone they want gets exercised by doing what I call the checklist approach... they invite all sorts of people but don't actually make the commitment to master any of the things they have been shown. They just mark the name of the teacher off the list and say, "Yes, we had him teach at our place." One can marvel at all the different teachers that have passed through with no one actually changing much about what they do. No teacher who has anything to offer of any depth can pass much on in just a weekend. It takes repeated exposure. The let's fill our Yudansha books with as many names as possible approach doesn't really cut it either.

It's not that I am anti-organization... it's that I don't think that most of the ones I have seen function very well in encouraging the transmission and further development of the art. An organization with a structure designed to actually accomplish the transmission efficiently and encourage the growth of it of the skills within its membership would be a very positive thing and is actually necessary if the mass of folks out there are to experience Aikido in any depth.

I personally do not believe that the art should be as elitist as it is, where only the folks who had the good fortune to train with high level Shihan have any depth to their practice and everyone else is doing Aikido-lite. A truly functional organization is necessary to have a more equitable distribution of the skills. If we, as many are talking about, start to bring knowledge and skills in from outside of the art, how are these to be distributed to the wider community? Only through an organizational structure that is truly set up to pass on the knowledge gained by those at the top vertically to those at the bottom.

Anyway, Peter Goldsbury Sensei is writing a series on "transmission" and I hope that there will be further discussion of the issue of transmission as we go forward. I talk to a lot of people about these issues and am very surprised at how fundamentally conservative folks tend to be. This is the way its been, so this is the way that they will be in the future... What I am trying to point out is that there will be a time in the not too distant future when circumstances will be right for change if we want it. People will need to have some idea beforehand what they would like to see change or we will simply duplicate what has gone before for another generation or two.

Marc Abrams
03-25-2007, 11:20 AM
Joseph:

I am not suggesting that the Aikikai Hombu dojo does not have outstanding instructors, each who has their own style to the style. What I am suggesting is that for the most part, they exist only within their own structure. There is a lot out there in the larger budo world. The founder of Aikido seemed to have no problems allowing exposure to other arts, why is that a problem now? Even worse, there are some outstanding instructors outside of Japan, that Japan would be well served to give them the attention and support that they deserve.

Jory:

USAF does have a strong organization that supports it's own. George pointed out what happens to people who have left an organization who are excellent instructors. What about the people with the USAF who have been publicly chastised for attending events (eg. ASU summer camp) outside of the USAF?

Aikido needs to be open enough to go beyond organizations and we all need to support those instructors who have a lot to offer, regardless of their art or organization. It is about us developing OUR Aikido, not us replicating/mimicing our instructor's Aikido. The organizations do offer a lot in regards to consistency and continuity, but when politics outweigh quality and access to quality instruction, they only end-up hurting themselves.

marc abrams

statisticool
03-25-2007, 03:48 PM
Soccer/futbol is international and universal. Baseball was created in the U.S. of America, but the Japanese have taken it as their own, and have given it a distinctive Japanese approach and feel. Why should aikido have to remain solely Japanese?

ki/kokyu/jin/qi/pengjin is the whole essence of baseball.

Couldn't resist. ;)

Justin

Marc Abrams
03-25-2007, 03:56 PM
Justin:

I thought that the essence of baseball was spitting and grabbing your crotch.:p

marc abrams

salim
03-25-2007, 06:44 PM
The USAF should really consider implementing the open mind policy to mixing Aikido with other forms. Martial Arts evolution is inevitable. The spiritual, cultural Aikido is stagnating the martial part of the art. Aikido is a modern martial art that has evolved from the core foundation of other martial forms.

The world we live in today requires all martial arts to continue the natural progression of evolving. Real life self defense as it pertains today, requires a constant vigilant approach to effectiveness. The Aikido world needs some refinement and reform. The purist mindset only serves to catapult the demise of the effectiveness in Aikido. Why allow a great martial art such as Aikido, diminish to fantasy and fairy tales. With all the bad publicity on youtube and other public arenas, the morale of the Aikido community could serve to deal with the realities of some Aikido concepts, which has become forums for public bashing. Yes we can ignore what other say, but some would like to see evolution continue the effectiveness route, rather than the cultural route.

I think organizations such as Real Aikido, are attempting to address this issue. They have applied the core foundation of Aikido and applied several concepts from Judo and Jujitsu. It would seem to some, especially those who are open minded that we would embrace the Real Aikido organization rather than undermine there concepts, Aikikai organization. It only serves in the best interest of the true nature of martial arts that we exhaust the principles of effectiveness and keep an open mind to learning other martial concepts.

The core foundation of Aikido for martial arts can be very effective, but there are some serious limitations to certain aspects of the art. We need more realistic approaches to countering certain real life attacks according to todays aggressive attackers. The cultural, spiritual aspects can be extremely annoying for those of us who are concerned with pure self defense and not a cultural lesson. Again the organization, such as Real Aikido should be embraced.:do:

Aikibu
03-25-2007, 06:49 PM
"It is not given that the large will remain large and the small will remain small"- Morihei Ueshiba O'Sensei

Recently, I left the Independent organization that I had belonged to for 13 years. Why? Simply put, in dealing with spirit (this definition of Aikido was never a matter of debate for O'Sensei. It is always spirit in his book) humans need a form to follow to guide them on their path. But once found, the form becomes truly Secondary to the observation of natural law (or spirit) and a dojo becomes only a place for fellowship in training. However, one no longer needs their teacher to teach them. The doka no longer clothes themselves with the word 'Aikidoist' .The doka no longer needs the approval of his/her fellows because the techniques speak the words of satisfaction or disapproval. The doka begins to see the holes in the humans around him/her compassionately but wisely.
But when the structure is so inclusive of Japanese hierarchy, and the teacher needs to be the one who knows or who is in authority,then spirit is eclipsed by humanness and our spirit suffers. This is an awful situation that occurs when sensei,shihan, doshu lose sight of our place in alignment with this god inspired form. This situation brings inspired people to a place of deep human doubt and the dojo or organization is most likely unequipped to grow to handle it. But aikido, not the dojo, is true democracy.

O'Sensei chose martial arts, but Aiki O'Kami chose him. In the face of such calling, human interests no longer interested O'Sensei. We are now engaged in a generation of people who hear the voice of the Kami much more readily than our elders. This is only because of our elders(thank you). This is the natural evolution of aiki/spirit that O'Sensei wanted. So while men choose men, Let us as Aikidoka choose spirit. Let us first observe the works of people and then, maybe, give a hoot about some politically conferred title.A title you or I could never have despite any level of experience, enlightenment, devotion, calling, etc.

After 13 years of faithful, skillful. athletic, inspired, informed, and loving technique born of hard work and pain I can only call myself a Nidan in Aikido because of politics, sexism, and hypocrisy. But to O'Sensei in the heavens, I am a divine creature; A song of the way living my inspiration, bringing good works to the world and learning to be a loving parent to all. In spirit, the second is my preference. I hear the voice of Aikido within.

I hear it.Is there a certificate for that. Can I call myself doshu? Technically, no. Truly, yes. I am the head of my own way. The way of my life formed in the way of Aiki. The only way is our own born of spirit.
So forget this stuff. Let the empire fall. Aikido is not in trouble. People are. Love your art. Practice with your fellows, turn your eyes toward the heavens and dance shin kokyu with O'Sensei.
Blessings,
:ai: :ki: jen

After reading this post very carefully I would say it's one of the best and most inspiring posts I have ever read here on AikiWeb. Thank you.

No worries about being just a Nidan... I am too after 17 years. Perhaps I will be a Sandan this year who knows... I don't much care for rank so remember... your "rank" is never a true reflection of your Martial Spirit. Keep up the good works. :)

William Hazen

William Hazen

Cady Goldfield
03-25-2007, 07:58 PM
Justin:

I thought that the essence of baseball was spitting and grabbing your crotch.:p

marc abrams

Marc,
Spitting (tobacco spit), grabbing your crotch AND patting teammates on the butt, and cussing. :D
But that's American baseball. Japanese baseball has its own traditions. (Good book on that -- "You Gotta Have Wa" ...

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DE5D91731F936A25754C0A96F948260 )

SteveTrinkle
03-25-2007, 09:21 PM
There doesn't seem to be any crisis brewining in Aikido dojos or organization(s) in Japan. People train, learn, pass it on as they have done for a very long time and with a lot less debate...

GB
Speaking with only my own small experience, I think, maybe not "crisis" in Japan, but if a foreigner has put in the years necessary to gain some trust from the very high-ranking Japanese students, and if you drink enough beer together, there is very serious and insightful discussion of these issues taking place outside the dojo.

I do not often feel I have anything much to say in most of these discussions, but this is an interesting and important topic. I belong to the small, somewhat obscure group AKI. When Takeda Yoshinubu Shihan sent two of his long-time foreign students back to North America to begin teaching, he seemed to give very little direction and support at first. Now, I believe he was waiting to see what would happen first - how serious people were going to be. Now, 15 years later, the strong connection with and support from Japan continues and some of his very senior students have been discussing these issues for some time. I think these are some very good questions to be asking at this point in time. Thank you Ledyard Sensei.

SteveTrinkle
03-25-2007, 09:33 PM
I'm sorry, I forgot another thought - I think perhaps my group, AKI, benefits from being connected to Aikikai Honbu through Takeda Shihan while still remaining a small organization. We still have a sense of intimacy and closeness with Takeda Sensei and his students. We bring them here to the USA to meet our new students and we travel to Japan so our new members can feel connected. This maintains all kinds of standards and traditions in our group. I like it a lot and hope it continues for a long, long time. Thank you again.

batemanb
03-26-2007, 12:56 AM
Having lived in asia for 8 of the past 9 years, and trained at least annually at the Aikikai Hombu dojo and watched the politics as a neutral outside observer, my impressions are completely the opposite. The Aikikai is the standard bearer. Doshu executes his techniques without the little eccentricities, but the rest of the instructors there have them. Yasuno Sensei's class is radically different from Miyamoto Sensei's class or Endo Sensei's class or Fujita Sensei's class. Each is unique and expresses their aikido quite differently. If you're impression of the Aikikai orthodoxy is correct then these individuals who teach the bulk of the classes at hombu dojo would not be so different.
I don't understand your concern. Toyota Sensei past on, the Aikikai did not send someone to replace him. Tohei Sensei, (USAF Midwest) past on, the Aikikai sent no one to replace him. Kanai Sensei past on, the Aikikai sent no one to replace him.
Where does this idea that the Japanese are going to jump off a plane and say, "I'm in charge here" come from? and what exactly are you afraid of losing?
In fact, I think there is a greater danger of us trying to assert our version of Aikido on them by demanding changes to accommodate us.
And as far as whether or not these "young replacement shihan" could hold their own or have the "special internal" skills to stand up to our reinventing US selves, don't count them short, unless you've been there recently, you don't know what they are capable of, nor what they are doing.
Here are a few rhetorical questions for you to think about: When was the last time you trained at Hombu dojo? Took the Doshu's class? Trained with any of the other shihan instructors there? Invited one of their instructors to teach at your organization's annual camp? Invited the Doshu to attend any special party of event for your organization?
The Japanese like most asian cultures attribute great importance to personal relationships. You cannot show up a stranger and expect to be treated as a intimate student. You'll be treated well, but before you are recognized you have to be more than a stranger. You have to give as well as receive. So, what have you done for the Aikikai lately other than just run your dojo?

I often find it difficult to write the words to express my thoughts, and more often than not miss things out. I like this post and thought it worth bringing up again.

mikebalko
03-26-2007, 02:20 AM
. Take for instance that if you go on the Hombu Dojo website, there is a list of overseas instructors. All of the names listed are Japanese. The American Shihan are not listed. When confronted with this by two of the most senior American Shihan the response from the folks at Hombu was that when people are traveling and they want to find an instructor, they are looking for a Japanese teacher... This is pretty much a representative attitude.

I have read Ueshiba claimed to have been instructed in swordsmanship by a Tengu during one of his solitary training sessions in the mountain wilderness which lasted several days. Here is their king Sojobo instructing Minamoto Yoshitsue with the original boken

http://www.onmarkproductions.com/assets/images/yoshitsune-tengu-yoshitoshi-tsukioka.jpg

He is of larger stature, with a long nose, thick curly white beard, long nose and round eyes. He looks alot like SARUTAHIKO, the Shinto "monkey man" gaijin kami. Osensei insisted that Aikido was the creation of the kami.

http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/tengu.shtml#sarutahiko

Who looks alot like the Ainu.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:AinuGroup.JPG

Here is a recent picture, although obviously mixed with Jomon and Yayoi blood

http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/ANCJAPAN/YAYOI.HTM

the exact same caucasoid features can clearly be observed.I just figured this was the only explanation for the recent popularity of Russian systema in the aikido community,LOL.
Most people still think that "indians" were the first inhabitants of America also.:eek:

http://www.law.nyu.edu/kingsburyb/spring03/indigenousPeoples/classmaterials/class3/3%20C%202_The%20Question%20of%20Kennewick%20Man%20re-writing%20colonization.htm

philipsmith
03-26-2007, 05:17 AM
I've been following the thread with interest.

Our experience has been very different to the idea of imposition of a designated shihan from the Aikikai Hombu.

Our association (United Kingdom Aikikai) was recognised by Hombu with a caucasian, non-Shihan principal instructor, i.e. William Smith. In the following few years some important things happened.
Firstly Mr. Smith was promoted to Shihan by Doshu and following his death last year the new Principal, Gordon Jones was promoted to Shihan.
We also have a visit for our Summer Camp from a Hombu Shihan every year, as well as regular informal contact through e-mail and personal visits by students of all ranks and experiences.

Also Hombu endorses our instructors to visit other associations abroad and to conduct examinations on their behalf - doesn't sound like imposition to me.

George S. Ledyard
03-26-2007, 07:38 AM
I've been following the thread with interest.

Our experience has been very different to the idea of imposition of a designated shihan from the Aikikai Hombu.

Our association (United Kingdom Aikikai) was recognised by Hombu with a caucasian, non-Shihan principal instructor, i.e. William Smith. In the following few years some important things happened.
Firstly Mr. Smith was promoted to Shihan by Doshu and following his death last year the new Principal, Gordon Jones was promoted to Shihan.
We also have a visit for our Summer Camp from a Hombu Shihan every year, as well as regular informal contact through e-mail and personal visits by students of all ranks and experiences.

Also Hombu endorses our instructors to visit other associations abroad and to conduct examinations on their behalf - doesn't sound like imposition to me.

I should clarify here... It's not that I think that instructors would be "imposed"... it's not that I think there is some conspiracy going on... The thing that I worry about most is not that the Japanese send instructors over, it's that we (or some subset thereof) might very well request that they do so.

We don't have a history, in general, of treating our American instructors quite as seriously as our the Japanese teachers. Now, I would say that in California they've done well on that score. But it's interesting to note that Doran, Witt, Fraser, and Nadeau Senseis are pretty much in the same age range as the Japanese Shihan who have been here for many years. They will be passing at the same time. I believe that succession will be just as interesting for their groups.

If the successors to all of these groups do not command the same kind of respect that their teachers did, it will leave a major power gap. I foresee people shifting around and realigning with different groups, new groups forming etc. If we have developed a leadership which our folks are willing to really invest in (the way they have the Japanee authority figures who came here initially) then I think that there will be no influx of teachers from Japan. But if we don't have a generation of teachers whom folks are willing to grant that kind of authority, if the teachers who take over start to fall out with each other (which is historically what has always happened) then I could easily see people here casting about for someone to "believe in". Hombu would send instructors over again in a heartbeat and with the best of intentions. We need to look at the folks that we want to take over and start investing in them now, not wake up one day trying to decide what should happen.

Don't think it is automatic just because there are some 7th dans and Shihan already created, although that's a start... It will ultimately be a matter of whether the membership will REALLY invest authority in them.

Also, don't assume that the group that has had such good cohesion in the past will do so in the future. 7th Dans and Shihan status not withstanding, not one of the successors has had to really Lead yet. Outside of the own dojos its always been clear that any major decisions were made by the Japanese Shihan... the American seniors have always been in a position to carry out those decisions. Things will very likely be different when there are five or six or more leaders, now in the ultimate decision making position. Will they still be able to work together or will they start to carve out separate fiefdoms? I can easily foresee a situation in which folks started feuding and the run of the mill folks out there decide to simply ask for another authority figure to pull things together.

It is a fact that the Aikikai Hombu folks look at themselves as the center from which Aikido flows out to the rest of us. It's not some plot or covert plan I am talking about. As I said it's all with the best of intentions. There are folks over here who believe that as well. If we don't decide to really support our American teachers and really invest authority in them it will leave a natural power gap. That's all I am saying. I don't see any sign that we have really come to terms with that idea yet. Some folks may be clear in their minds but I don't think that most are. Most folks have a tendency not to worry about what the future holds until it is opon them.

jliebman
03-26-2007, 09:07 AM
USAF does have a strong organization that supports it's own. George pointed out what happens to people who have left an organization who are excellent instructors. What about the people with the USAF who have been publicly chastised for attending events (eg. ASU summer camp) outside of the USAF?

Hi Marc,

I am not aware of any persons who have been "publicly chastised for attending events (eg. ASU summer camp) outside of the USAF?"

When I was in Florida, a number of USAF people would routinely attend seminars by Saotome and Ikeda Shihans, and no one said "boo." In my early aikido training, I trained with your Shihan for a couple of years, when he operated the NY Ki Society, and with Terry Dobson before he was associated with the ASU, and again, no one in the USAF said "boo". there are intolerant people in any organization, but I havent met any in the USAF.

Jory

senshincenter
03-26-2007, 11:04 AM
Hi George,

I think I get what you are trying to have us feel out here... I get all the small points, even if I can see how some folks are ending up with a somewhat different conclusion(s). However, let me ask you, all of you here in this thread as well, is it that Hombu will step in (for whatever reason - good or bad, etc.) because there is a power vacuum or because folks here, they themselves, are looking to gain more power where there is no power vacuum. For example, let's say an organization with no clear leader opts to have some sort of "board" made up of many "leaders." Then in time, as often happens, folks start disagreeing, seeing and/or wanting to make differences, etc., and then in an attempt to legitimate their own differences over that of another, look to gain the support of Hombu. This, I can see happening - as this has happened already in one way or another all over the place. In some way then, it's not so much that Hombu is stepping in as it is that Hombu is legitimating folks that want to step out.

dmv

James Young
03-26-2007, 12:27 PM
Hi Marc,

I am not aware of any persons who have been "publicly chastised for attending events (eg. ASU summer camp) outside of the USAF?"

I don't know if chastised would be the right word, but it was pretty obvious that no "higher-ups" from the USAF organization were in attendance at the Aiki Expos (which by design transcended organizational barriers), even despite the last one being held in Southern California where there is a significant presence of USAF dojos. Was that just a coincidence?

I remember on Aikido Journal Wagner Bull sensei commented that he was invited to participate in the first Aikido Expo but later had to decline due to some implied organizational pressure. (His organization is not USAF but he is under the auspicious of Yamada shihan.) Perhaps there is no organizational-wide order for all memebers not to attend outside seminars but there does seem to be some organizational resistance to the idea at least for their leadership.

jonreading
03-26-2007, 12:43 PM
I enjoyed the article myself. I believe George has identified several major potential issues with the organization and leadership of aikido. It is unfortunate many responses to this article seem to discount the severity of the issues which are outlined.

I think the decision has establish a single successor for the art of aikido has ultimately resulted in extensive splittering of political aikido factions, and the promotion of diluted technical curriculum. In many older Japanese arts the leadership of a ryu is divided between a political figurehead and a technical instructor. O'Sensei chose not to apply this leadership structure when he designated his son to succeed him as both political and technical leader of aikido. I am not suprised the organization of aikido is experiencing growing pains related to O'Sensei's decision to combine the political and technical leadership of aikido.

Today, we have factions and organizations who do not observe a clear hierarchical structure established by the head of aikido, sandai doshu. The testing requirements and quality of student vary greatly from one organization to another, and from one school to another. Many dojo do not rigidly adhere to the dissemination of technical skill, and even bastardize aikido technique through the influence of other martial arts.

I understood George's article to call attention to a potential problem we (as aikidoka) may face in the future. I enjoy training aikido in my small dojo with my friends, and my goal is to train aikido. But sometimes we are called to leave our small dojo to assist others to achieve a bigger goal in aikido. If everyone thinks, "I don't need to leave my dojo, someone else will come along to do bigger things," then no one will come along. I think George is asking future leaders of aikido to be prepared should aikido need help. To that end, I suppose if you don't see George's call to preparation, then his message is not directed to you anyway...

George S. Ledyard
03-26-2007, 01:19 PM
Hi George,

I think I get what you are trying to have us feel out here... I get all the small points, even if I can see how some folks are ending up with a somewhat different conclusion(s). However, let me ask you, all of you here in this thread as well, is it that Hombu will step in (for whatever reason - good or bad, etc.) because there is a power vacuum or because folks here, they themselves, are looking to gain more power where there is no power vacuum. For example, let's say an organization with no clear leader opts to have some sort of "board" made up of many "leaders." Then in time, as often happens, folks start disagreeing, seeing and/or wanting to make differences, etc., and then in an attempt to legitimate their own differences over that of another, look to gain the support of Hombu. This, I can see happening - as this has happened already in one way or another all over the place. In some way then, it's not so much that Hombu is stepping in as it is that Hombu is legitimating folks that want to step out.

dmv
That is certainly one possible, and likely scenario. Stan Pranin posted this on Aikido Journal:
First of all, I would like to thank George for his splendid article that contains so much food for thought. I'd like to comment on some of the remarks made in this thread.

The concept of aikido as "Ueshiba family property" is, I think, the way the Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba and, presumably his son too, view things. It was certainly not the view of the Founder Morihei Ueshiba who regarded aikido as an expression of natural forces in the Universe and himself as a conveyor of this energy and someone who discovered these pre-existing principles. I really don't see how anyone or any group can "own" aikido in any practical sense, particularly given the international dissemination of the art.

To understand what is going on, in my opinion, one must realize that for a large percentage of people, bonafide credentials are absolutely essential. This is not only in a professional sense, i.e., to demonstrate one's legitimacy and by extension proficiency (not always the case, obviously). There seems to be a deep psychological need for this official "stamp of approval." This is further compounded by the mystique associated with Japanese culture as something more traditional and refined than any western culture.

Being recognized is not enough. Since ranking implies a numerical proficiency scale, many feel they must steadily climb the ranking ladder and their success can be measured by how high they reach.

As long as people have this psychological need for recognition from a Japanese entity, you will hear the opinion that we in aikido should look to Japan for leadership. It really comes down to a personal decision about what is really important to you as a practitioner and where you look for inspiration and guidance. Choose carefully!

It has been natural for people to concede authority to a generation of teachers who trained directly with the Founder. One would tend to believe that they would have a better take on Aikido because of that experience (although now that I have trained for thirty years I can see that there are issues there as well).

But now, it's going to be more of an even playing field. There won't automatically be people in the administration in Japan whose experience is superior to our own. Soon, the people who trained with O-Sensei will be gone. That will leave only folks who trained under students of O-Sensei. There are American 6th and 7th Dan students of many of the Japanese Shihan now. Many of us, because the way Aikido unfolded here, have double and triple the teaching experience of some of the younger Hombu instructors. For instance, I have been running my own school as my living for twenty years now. I've had to do kids classes, all levels of adult classes, police and security training, etc I travel extensively to teach seminars. My actual teaching experience would in many cases be superior to what one might find with the younger generation of Hombu instructor. I am sure that this would be the case for most of the senior American teachers.

But the old saying "A prophet is never appreciated in his own country." seems to be a universal tendency. There's not an American instructor out there who can fill a gym with students for a seminar the way a visitor from Japan can do.

When I hold seminars, if I invite one of the Japanese Shihan, I will be turning people away. If I invite the absolute best American instructors I can find, even if the actually trained just as long in Japan as the Japanese teacher did, I always have to worry about the turnout. People will drive 7 or 8 hours to train with a visiting Japanese student of a top Japanese uchi deshi but they won't come train with an American student of the very same teacher when he is in town and they could train with him by driving twenty minutes.

Look at a teacher like Amos Parker Sensei from the Yoshinkan... The man is an 8th dan African American who trained directly with the Yoshinkan Founder, Shioda Sensei. But you'd be mistaken if you think that the general community of practitioners invests the same mystique in him as they do in the Japanese teachers. Who taught at the Expo?

There isn't one American senior who isn't conscious of the fact that there is a difference in the way we are perceived. Maybe its as simple as the fact that people can actually understand us... Perhaps if we worked at speaking in such a way that we were hard to understand, people would assume that what we were saying was deeper somehow.

Perhaps also, the issue of the transmission comes into play here... Perhaps we, as American students, hurt ourselves because we explain too well, that we actually try to pass on what we have learned. Maybe we should just get up there and dazzle them with footwork and leave. Maybe we should also be telling everyone that they have to "steal our technique". Then we could maintain our incomprehensibility for years and years.

The fact is, and I am sure that this will stir things up a bit, that if I were Japanese and I was teaching exactly what I am currently teaching, I would be traveling every weekend and filling every venue I taught at. I think this could be said of most if not all of the most senior American teachers. I think this should be a point of reflection for folks because it has direct bearing on what happens when we take over as the folks running American Aikido.

There are other questions to be asked here as well... Currently the entire Aikido hierarchy running Aikido in America is male (unless you count the traditional woman behind the man model). Are we going to duplicate that in the next generation? We definitely have women of senior rank, although I don't think there are any Hombu awarded Shihan women... In your organization are the senior women accorded the same recognition as the senior men? Are they in the same demand for seminars, do they teach as much as their peers at the big events? I sincerely doubt it. So who do you think will be running things when the big changes come? It'll be the people that all of you decide to invest authority in. It won't be about rank or certificates ultimately. It will be about who people actually DECIDE to treat seriously. If we still accord Japan some mystical status as "the source" then teachers like myself will always be second tier because we were trained here from scratch. If we invest more in or male instructors than our female instructors of equivalent experience then we will have another generation where the leadership is essentially a boys club.

People should start right now thinking about what they think they want to have in the future, not try to decide on the day their teachers actually pass away. The seniors need to start allowing themselves to act like the leaders they will need to become. American teachers need to decide not to take a back seat to instructors from Japan. The senior women need to decide not to keep taking a back seat to the men. What we start to do right now shapes what will happen in the future. The folks who aren't senior, what you start doing right now will help determine what happens later as well. Maybe even more than anything we at the top level do.

charyuop
03-26-2007, 03:07 PM
Look at a teacher like Amos Parker Sensei from the Yoshinkan... The man is an 8th dan African American who trained directly with the Yoshinkan Founder, Shioda Sensei. But you'd be mistaken if you think that the general community of practitioners invests the same mystique in him as they do in the Japanese teachers. Who taught at the Expo?



Little out of topic. Never trained personally with Parker Sensei, seen only videos of him...but he is scary! I have seen tall Sensei, full of muscles Sensei or small Sensei...but he is something different. Just looking at him awakes fear in me (not mentioning what he can do).

mikebalko
03-26-2007, 04:03 PM
But the old saying "A prophet is never appreciated in his own country." seems to be a universal tendency. There's not an American instructor out there who can fill a gym with students for a seminar the way a visitor from Japan can do.

When I hold seminars, if I invite one of the Japanese Shihan, I will be turning people away. If I invite the absolute best American instructors I can find, even if the actually trained just as long in Japan as the Japanese teacher did, I always have to worry about the turnout. People will drive 7 or 8 hours to train with a visiting Japanese student of a top Japanese uchi deshi but they won't come train with an American student of the very same teacher when he is in town and they could train with him by driving twenty minutes.

Look at a teacher like Amos Parker Sensei from the Yoshinkan... The man is an 8th dan African American who trained directly with the Yoshinkan Founder, Shioda Sensei. But you'd be mistaken if you think that the general community of practitioners invests the same mystique in him as they do in the Japanese teachers. Who taught at the Expo?

There isn't one American senior who isn't conscious of the fact that there is a difference in the way we are perceived. Maybe its as simple as the fact that people can actually understand us... Perhaps if we worked at speaking in such a way that we were hard to understand, people would assume that what we were saying was deeper somehow.

Perhaps also, the issue of the transmission comes into play here... Perhaps we, as American students, hurt ourselves because we explain too well, that we actually try to pass on what we have learned. Maybe we should just get up there and dazzle them with footwork and leave. Maybe we should also be telling everyone that they have to "steal our technique". Then we could maintain our incomprehensibility for years and years.

The fact is, and I am sure that this will stir things up a bit, that if I were Japanese and I was teaching exactly what I am currently teaching, I would be traveling every weekend and filling every venue I taught at..

What about a French instructor? The last time I checked out a Saotome seminar in my area, there were few enough participants for it to be held in one of the local dojos. The last Tissier seminar I attended had to be held in a large gymnasium and so many people were there that not everyone had mat space, some were doing rolls on the hard wood floor. He spent a long time dissecting his techniques quite eloquently in french aswell as english.:confused:

Basia Halliop
03-26-2007, 04:16 PM
Maybe there are more people BECAUSE the distances are greater. How many people get all excited about tourist spots and museums in other countries that they will be at once or twice in their lives vs getting excited about things in your home town that overseas tourists are paying to see and voraciously snapping pictures of.

senshincenter
03-26-2007, 07:21 PM
Well, personally, I'm in total agreement with Stan's summation - both in terms of how Osensei understood "Aikido," and also in regards to what Stan (so politely) calls a "deep psychological need."

That need, the need for external determinants, is what folks are supposed to be doing away with when they train - in my opinion. It is the fact that that need is so dominant in Aikido, or in any other martial art, that tells me folks (someone, anyone) are not training at depth. I imagine this is not so popular a view, but for me that need demonstrates only weakness, and thus ignorance. In that sense, for me, we not only should not live by that need when it comes to Hombu Shihan but also when it comes to American Shihan. You want to get rid of nearly every problem, especially the political ones, have folks start training in such a way that this need is purified out of their being. Poof - end of problems. All power-games gone - gone forever.

dmv

jennifer paige smith
03-26-2007, 07:26 PM
"George Ledyard wrote ".:o Perhaps it will result in a group that can form a leadership core that survives after the Japanese former uchi deshi have passed.

Anyway, I'd love to see us take responsibility for our own Aikido and run with it. I am not much in agreement with the direction Aikido has taken and think we can do better for ourselves. Aikido was never meant to have a "style" imposed on it but rather should be an art in which each individual finds his own expression.

If the next generation of teachers continues the politics and narrowness of focus of the previous generation of Japanese teachers, it won't make any difference if Japanese Shihan or the American Shihan are running the show.

Budo should be about personal relationships and not about organizations. I have a friend who was a senior member of one of the major Aikido organizations. He traveled all the time teaching and was a very popular and respected teacher within his org. Then he broke with his teacher and went independent... What happened to all those folks who used to invite him and loved his teaching so much? He basically dropped off the face of the earth. I think that is total BS. A true student of Budo doesn't pick his associates based on who is in favor or out of favor with some political group (or frankly, even with ones own teacher)."

Jennifer Smith Replied:
Thank You for this insight. I would like to note that I feel there is leadership right now even if the uchi deshi haven't passed.I've been training with them for years and I embody their lineage as well as do my students. We have the right to lead ourselves in as many manners as we choose and we have the right to teach and train to our level of expertise. If we focus in the small regional areas where we practice and seek out training partners, invite friends to train, reconnect with people who have gone away from the art out of cynical heartbreak, and DEVELOP OUR CHILDRENS PROGRAMS IN THE MODEL OF AIKI/CONFLUENCE/COOPERATION, then we have the leadership right now. It won't be huge, but that is good. Let's break it down again. Let's enjoy our regional 'cuisine' for awhile. I have been training and teaching for many years and I am quietly joining peoples hands in an egalitarian manner through this beautiful meal of California Aikido. I passed my teachers and found the voice of Aikido in Nature and now I help other people do the same through Aikido, through all variety of budo and fine arts. I have left the traditional veins of aikido organization and have begun something that is fresh and traditional. It is inspiring to see the path ahead. I believe in the power of this art to transmit itself through us. Let us step aside and welcome aikido into our dojo and see who comes with it. Not the other way around.
in aiki, jen smith

Rupert Atkinson
03-27-2007, 02:35 AM
I think people are stuck at the level of thinking that only the 'best man' or highest grade could run an organisation. In fact, it is most likely that the 'best man' (I include women in there too) to run an org would not be the one with the highest technical skill. Of course, this goes against the grain, but if one goes back to the past, there were no large traditional orgs. So, if you have a large org and want it to survive it might be time to start thinking outside the box. And if a younger Japanese were to come and take a senior role - I would have no problem with that. Why? That's what joe public expects, and whoever does it first is likely to succeed. We have to get beyond the 'rank' problem; at the end of the day, it does not really have much meaning and is all rather snobbish. (A different topic maybe, but a simple black and white 2-belt system would probably work better in the long run, just my own opinion).

Afterthought: The current Doshu would not be where he is if the Aikikai had followed rank.

salim
03-27-2007, 07:02 AM
It's great to see that this post has inspired some to look past the Japanese leadership and not be constricted to a style.

I agree with Jennifer Smith.

PhilJ
03-27-2007, 08:39 AM
Man, I stop posting for a couple years and look what happens while I'm gone. ;) Ledyard sensei, I was passed your essay via email and figured I would find discussion on Aikiweb (I don't touch the Journal).

I find many similar concerns that you have, and noticed for years, including within myself, that there tends to be a more overflowing show of respect for our Japanese peers and the leadership there, beyond what American sensei and shihan usually receive.

My question is what is the goal of your article/essay? What are the specific items that you feel we should be concerned with, and what do you suggest we do to act? I agree these discussions are intellectually stimulating, if not alarming, and make us think about a lot of fascinating topics, but I'm not clear on what we need to act on, and how?

My next question is why should the "Japanese shihan > American shihan" bother me? If I am pleased with my organization, my training pushes me hard on a minutely basis, then why do I care about the arrogance of another group, regardless of how worthy they perceive themselves? I love your attitude about openness, and my group is the same, with many visitors from places, and we have a freaking great time. Don't we need to apply that to anyone, regardless of origin and status. An old teacher of mine said "Don't play uke's game." Not a perfect application here, but close enough for me.

I think some folks will say that what happens in the organizational level at Hombu is important, regardless of my position, and I think you mention this in the article. Ignorance/NIMBY is not healthy, I agree. However, the "Japanese status vs American status" isn't a contest I'm interested in, and I think it is the wrong place to look. Our cultures are vastly different, with vastly different histories. Our ideals and goals are different, which is why you don't see 250 people lining up at an American dojo.

We are speaking a Japanese culture to an American audience, that, by and large, does not care. Instead of trying to get a step above our Japanese peers, shouldn't we try to fix our own backyard first? Can't we find a way to make aikido something appealing to Americans, in an American context?

Now, I will vacate. My apologies. :)

*Phil

George S. Ledyard
03-27-2007, 09:19 AM
I think people are stuck at the level of thinking that only the 'best man' or highest grade could run an organisation. In fact, it is most likely that the 'best man' (I include women in there too) to run an org would not be the one with the highest technical skill. Of course, this goes against the grain, but if one goes back to the past, there were no large traditional orgs. So, if you have a large org and want it to survive it might be time to start thinking outside the box. And if a younger Japanese were to come and take a senior role - I would have no problem with that. Why? That's what joe public expects, and whoever does it first is likely to succeed. We have to get beyond the 'rank' problem; at the end of the day, it does not really have much meaning and is all rather snobbish. (A different topic maybe, but a simple black and white 2-belt system would probably work better in the long run, just my own opinion).

Afterthought: The current Doshu would not be where he is if the Aikikai had followed rank.

Well, Rupert, you've opened up a whole new can of beans here...
I question the whole hierarchical model, myself. If you look at the wasted talent that exists in our various organizations its appalling.

The idea that I have any talent for teaching just because I am competent as a practitioner is faulty, there is no necessary connection. There are folks who are not technically as adept but are far better teachers than some who are highly ranked. Just look at sports, the top coaches are seldom the top performers... but they can teach it and coach it...

I see people who are Shihan level in their respective fields whose talents are ignored by their Aikido organizations because they don't have senior rank. Men who run international businesses who don't have any input into the organization because they haven't done nikkyo as long as some Aikido bum.

I have a female friend who does leadership training for major corporations. She is on a fist name basis with a number of top CEOs. She is top level at what she does... But do you think that the organization can take advantage of her skills to make its leadership better? No way... she's only a 4th kyu or some such in Aikido and therefore no one treats her seriously. In the outside world she makes most of these folks look like pygmies but when it comes to the organization or even her own dojo, no one pay s any attention to her because she doesn't have the rank.

Who do we think does this stuff? Who gives up regular life to pursue decades of weird locks and sustained injuries? Who thinks trying to hit each other with big sticks is really cool? Not normal people. The folks that have been exceptionally devoted to their training are often the last people you'd want running things, they are unbalanced, narrow in their experience and often eccentric. The folks who should be running the show, the ones who would be best qualified to pull an organization together, to design a functional structure for the "transmission" of skills to the greatest number of people, the ones who actually do this for a living and get paid big bucks to do it, are out of the loop because they can't do their irimi nage as well as some other folks. It's completely dysfunctional, frankly.

What needs to happen, in my opinion, since the hierarchical structure isn't likely to go away, is that the senior folks like myself need to stop being so impressed with themselves and start looking for talented people within their organizations. They should seek out these people and get them engaged. As far as I am concerned, one of the functions of the seniors should be to champion the ideas of more junior folks who would not normally have access. In other words, part of our function as seniors is to be good managers. We need to be the conduit for ideas so that good ideas can flow upwards from down below rather than just have a steady flow of mediocre ideas from ill qualified people at the top.

So you have a 4th Kyu who is an executive leadership trainer? Plug her in and have her do that training for your seniors... You have a guy who runs an international business but is only a brown belt, get him plugged into helping the seniors folks think about how to do a better job with their organization. These folks can make it possible for the senior teachers to be able to teach, which is ostensibly what they do well.

It may be too much to ask... too many egos would have to be set aside... but it is what should happen. And the only ones in a position to make it happen are the senior teachers.

Josh Reyer
03-27-2007, 09:34 AM
I think the decision has establish a single successor for the art of aikido has ultimately resulted in extensive splittering of political aikido factions, and the promotion of diluted technical curriculum. In many older Japanese arts the leadership of a ryu is divided between a political figurehead and a technical instructor. O'Sensei chose not to apply this leadership structure when he designated his son to succeed him as both political and technical leader of aikido. I am not suprised the organization of aikido is experiencing growing pains related to O'Sensei's decision to combine the political and technical leadership of aikido.

I'm not sure I agree with your interpretation of history, there. Ueshiba did not, in fact, combine the political and technical leadership into the role of his son. When he died Kisshomaru was made Doshu, which is simply another fancy word for "iemoto", or "soke". He was, basically, the political figurehead, the administrative head of the Aikikai. No one knew his place in the technical hierarchy better than Kisshomaru himself, and as I understand it he never represented himself as the technical leader.

When Ueshiba died, Kisshomaru became Doshu, and Tohei had already long been the Shihanbu-cho. He was the technical instructor. Ueshiba left aikido in the state just as you describe: political figurehead and technical instructor. Unfortunately, there were issues, and the two top men could not work out their differences resulting in the split.

salim
03-27-2007, 09:43 AM
Phillip Johnson,

I agree with you whole heartedly. Americans should run with Aikido and make it our own. Our society is different and our needs are such that the art should reflect who we are.

jliebman
03-27-2007, 10:24 AM
I don't know if chastised would be the right word, but it was pretty obvious that no "higher-ups" from the USAF organization were in attendance at the Aiki Expos (which by design transcended organizational barriers), even despite the last one being held in Southern California where there is a significant presence of USAF dojos. Was that just a coincidence?

James,

That is no coincidence. I have never known any high ranking USAF shidoin or shihan who would agree to officially participate in events outside of their organizations, like your Aiki Expos. The reason is simple: in Japanese organizations, giri and gimu require that one stays within one's organizations and not cooperate with "competitors". American shidoin and shihan within the USAF adhere to this principle as a way to show respect to their seniors.

This certainly has nothing to do with public chastisement.

Jory

jennifer paige smith
03-27-2007, 10:30 AM
After reading this post very carefully I would say it's one of the best and most inspiring posts I have ever read here on AikiWeb. Thank you.

No worries about being just a Nidan... I am too after 17 years. Perhaps I will be a Sandan this year who knows... I don't much care for rank so remember... your "rank" is never a true reflection of your Martial Spirit. Keep up the good works. :)

William Hazen

William Hazen

Thank You Mr. Hazen.

The issue of my Nidan is an essential illustration of how rank doesn't matter, also. I train with people who I watched begin and who are now sporting Godan status. Good for them!!!! They rule!!!!
I've taken on more responsibility since beginning my own organization(check out the aikiweb news today) and I suppose I could describe myself as 'Kancho' if need be. However... most of my students and friends( and now even my own mother) call me 'Jensei'. I love this name the most. We are all friends.jensei.

"I am Aikido and I am nothing else."-morihei ueshiba

Erik Johnstone
03-27-2007, 10:35 AM
George:

The points made in your last post were excellent.

jliebman
03-27-2007, 10:41 AM
It's not that I am anti-organization... it's that I don't think that most of the ones I have seen function very well in encouraging the transmission and further development of the art. An organization with a structure designed to actually accomplish the transmission efficiently and encourage the growth of it of the skills within its membership would be a very positive thing and is actually necessary if the mass of folks out there are to experience Aikido in any depth.

George, there's a current thread running elsewhere on Aikiweb, I believe it's called "To Test or Not to Test." It basically describes one person's experience in dojos that seem to have no standards for promotion, other than whimsy. This is just a simple example of what can go on in dojos that are outside of organizations. The purpose of organizations is to provide standards and practices for members, so that everyone knows what is what, and to provide qualified instructors so that the needs of students are met. While I agree that some of the politics is ridiculous, I believe that the "value" provided by organizations is critical to the future of aikido. There has been too much diffusion, much of it with a negative impact on standards and practices.

I think that, all in all, large organizations have been very good at encouraging the growth of the art here and abroad. I also think that they have in many cases restricted the growth of their senior members in favor of creating good organization men and women. The seniors have been actively discouraged from training outside the box both especially within the Aikido community.

This "outside the box" thinking that you seem to emphasize is valuable ONLY if value is delivered by the process. This requires that outstanding individuals perform the process. In most cases, "outside the box" is a way for someone to split off from some organization for reasons that are negative, rather than positive, and seem to lead to a devolution of our arts.

Jory

tedehara
03-27-2007, 10:53 AM
...Who do we think does this stuff? Who gives up regular life to pursue decades of weird locks and sustained injuries? Who thinks trying to hit each other with big sticks is really cool? Not normal people...This correctly answers the situation of replacing the leaders of American aikido associations with Japanese instructors. Other people have pointed out that Aikikai has not replaced chief instructors in American organizations. It is doubtful that they really have anyone to send.

It is no secret that Japanese work best with other Japanese. To send a Japanese person to live among foreigners and teach a martial art is committing social suicide. How can you raise a family in the United States and expect them to remain Japanese? Japanese corporations that send executives and their families over for a two year stint have run into tremendous difficulties trying to get the families to readjust back into Japanese life.

Why would a normal Japanese person give up a chance to have a professional career or salary job in Japan to become a martial arts instructor in the United States? This is not post-WWII Japan or America.

Are there talented, young aikido instructors in Japan? Certainly. Are there young instructors to send out to head foreign aikido organizations? Probably not.

PhilJ
03-27-2007, 11:02 AM
Just to be clear, my desire to fix my backyard is not to culture any kind of us vs. them, elitist attitudes regarding other countries -- there is no equilibrium in that approach.

Rather, I think we stand a good chance of success since we DO have extensive experience in the shihan in the States, and most of them grew up in American culture, so they have insights that others may not. Different cultures mixing together is amazing and so wonderful, and we should be able to simultaneously apply our culture to aikido.

Look at how aikido is adapted for those practicing more orthodox religions, for people without a religion, and everyone inbetween. They are no better or worse than I, and neither are people just because they are from "another country". I know this isn't what's being said by Mr. Ledyard, but I want to ensure you good folks don't think I'm saying that. :)

Here's how I think of this: it's not "Japanese Aikido", "French Aikido", "Christian Aikido", and so on. Notice these groups leverage their culture heavily when teaching in their area -- so why is it so "bad" if we did the same in the US? The benefits a foreign culture provides should permit people to grow inside of it, not feel chained down by it. When you reach the latter, then the culture becomes irrelevant (as Mr. Ledyard said). So, do we in the US act to add our culture and break down some of the rules? What do we do? Not that it would be called "American Aikido", but like aikido in other regions, it would be called "also Aikido".

Or something like that. I'm looking for the "next step", or what folks think it should be, I'm interested in the results.

*Phil

Marc Abrams
03-27-2007, 11:27 AM
James,

That is no coincidence. I have never known any high ranking USAF shidoin or shihan who would agree to officially participate in events outside of their organizations, like your Aiki Expos. The reason is simple: in Japanese organizations, giri and gimu require that one stays within one's organizations and not cooperate with "competitors". American shidoin and shihan within the USAF adhere to this principle as a way to show respect to their seniors.

This certainly has nothing to do with public chastisement.

Jory

Jory:

I could not have put it any better. As long as the USAF and Aikikai Hombu dojo continue to view the Expo and other venues as "competitors" they simply hasten their path to irrelevancy. O'Sensei was open to outside influences, so why not now? I am obviously not going to reveal names regarding my previous post, but chastisement and being shunned happened EXACTLY because of this distorted notion of other organizations and venues as being viewed as "competitors" Gee, I thought that the goal of Aikido was to NOT create competition. Our seniors in the Aikido world exist both inside and outside of organizations that we may or may not belong to. They do deserve our respect. The respect is diminished and even lost when our seniors create petty "turf wars."

marc abrams

Marc Abrams
03-27-2007, 11:41 AM
George:

I absolutely agree with your belief about the optimal use of people within an organization. An organization is just like a living organism and always seeks to survive by maintaining itself. You know as well as I do that a Japanese hierarchy does not operate in the manner that you described. They tend to function as benevolent dictatorships/monarchies that are capable of being malevolent in order to protect "the structure."

A dojo is run with the teacher dictating the nature of the teaching. As you have said in other posts, people have the right to accept the teacher or find another dojo. Could you foresee problems with students trying to go beyond the bounds of "authority" that you give them when you have them carry out certain tasks within the dojo/organization? Shin-Budo Kai operates on a model similar to the one that you described. For the most part, it has run relatively smoothly, but there have been problematic issues and periods. Typically, when they have occurred, Sensei simply "weighed in" and the issue(s) were resolved/concluded according to his wishes. Certainly a hybrid and imperfect system that has it's shortcomings, but still working...

I frankly think that we owe it to our juniors and our students to give them the respect that they deserve by listening to their ideas and even implementing their ideas and/or skills, when it clearly helps. I was always taught that respect is a two way street. We should not demand that which we are unwilling to give. The other obvious aspect is that we can never be good at everything. Why not simply admit our shortcomings and allow others to assist us for the greater good of the organization itself. This model will only work with those whose egos do not need constant recognition and massaging.

marc abrams

Fred Little
03-27-2007, 12:36 PM
George,

Many thanks for a thoughtful and thought provoking essay.

I see many of the same issues in my professional life.

The first thing that I would point out is that none of the "designated leaders of the future" in any organization are under forty.

The second thing that I would point out is that most of the "designated leaders of the future" -- whatever their technical qualifications or personal qualities -- have an adult life in which they have gained experience as reliable supporters of leaders, and not as leaders in their own right.

The third thing that I would point out is that a small but growing number of dojo own their own facilities.

The fourth thing that I would point out is that a significant and growing number of dojo are set up as not-for-profit organizations which are, as a condition of their incorporation status, run by boards with very real legal responsibilities.

The fifth thing that I would point out is my anecdotal observation that, across all organizations, the median age of large seminar attendees has been going up for some time.

My immediate conclusion is that, without regard to which organization we look at, the "designated leaders" have a lifetime of experience that is largely if not utterly irrelevant to the organizational issues that loom on the horizon, a comparatively short tenure as leaders ahead of them, and a demographic base that is narrowing, not expanding.

That is a starkly different situation than that faced by a young shihan at or near his physical peak, with great personal charisma and first-hand experience of the Founder, sent to a rich country in a time of social ferment, demographic bulge, and a widespread cultural fetish for Asian exotica.

The political situation of aging regents is very different from that of young princes; this is especially so when there is no heir in the wings, and many of those who are viewed from above as subjects view themselves as clients with a wide range of unresolved service delivery issues.

And that's enough meta for now.

Best regards,

FL

jliebman
03-27-2007, 12:50 PM
Jory:

I could not have put it any better. As long as the USAF and Aikikai Hombu dojo continue to view the Expo and other venues as "competitors" they simply hasten their path to irrelevancy. O'Sensei was open to outside influences, so why not now? I am obviously not going to reveal names regarding my previous post, but chastisement and being shunned happened EXACTLY because of this distorted notion of other organizations and venues as being viewed as "competitors" Gee, I thought that the goal of Aikido was to NOT create competition. Our seniors in the Aikido world exist both inside and outside of organizations that we may or may not belong to. They do deserve our respect. The respect is diminished and even lost when our seniors create petty "turf wars."

marc abrams

Marc,

I'm sorry, but you have turned my meaning around 180 degrees. I am not criticizing the upper ranks of the USAF for not participating in non-organization events, but commending them. I do not believe that they are on the path to irrelevancy at all. They have produced a strong organization with a large number of extremely talented aikidoists who will form the next generation of teachers. They promote extremely high standards, and there is a strong feeling of comradeship amongst members of the organization, from low-ranks to higher.

If their exclusivity has led to this admirable state of affairs it is to be commended.

I wonder if the strength of your organization will continue after the passing of your shihan?

Jory

Marc Abrams
03-27-2007, 01:54 PM
Jory:

My teacher put it simply: "Person X built a shrine to Aikido and O'Sensei, my students are my shrine." He is beyond the concern about the legacy of "his" organization. He is not politically petty. His direct students speak for themselves. His legacy is as a direct student of O'Sensei. My legacy, like others in our organization, is as a direct student of his. He is open to us training in whatever art we chose, and train with whatever teacher we chose, regardless of whether it is Aikido or another art. The legacy should not be the organization but the people who practice the art- simply my opinion.

I am criticizing the USAF for not participating in non-organization events. Once again, O'Sensei encouraged an openness that is conspicuously absent in the USAF. The USAF should be proud of it's students and encourage them, as a matter of policy, to interact with the Aikido and budo world at large, as opposed to remaining in an insular environment. They can accomplish everything that you talk about WITHOUT having to take the political, self-serving position that they do. I frankly see the ASU model as being a healthier model from an organizational standpoint than the USAF. I belong to neither, owe allegiance to neither, and make my comments from where I stand. I commend George for speaking out inside and outside of his organization. I commend the ASU for having seminars with people from different martial arts and different styles of Aikido. Xenophobic thinking has never helped any societies survive over long periods of time, so why would it be different from organizations within Aikido.

I do not wonder about the strength of Shin-Budo Kai when Imaizumi Sensei passes away. He would not support that kind of thinking. He is concerned about teaching those who want to learn from him. That was the legacy that he received and is passing on. That is the legacy that I have chosen. My Aikido and martial arts skills have significantly improved by being exposed to many different influences. It has better helped me to understand from and learn from my teacher. My teacher has fully supported all aspects of my learning, both from him and from other teachers. My concern as I teach my students is to share with them the knowledge that others have been gracious enough to share with me. The people and organizations do not "own" these teachings. The organizations and people would be well served to put their ego's aside and be open to learning from and experiencing the world-at-large. Knowledge is best served by being shared, rather than being "owned and kept for a select few." Knowledge "shrinks" when this happens, it "expands" when it is being shared.

Marc Abrams

Fred Little
03-27-2007, 02:00 PM
They promote extremely high standards, and there is a strong feeling of comradeship amongst members of the organization, from low-ranks to higher.
Jory

Dear Jory:

Do those high standards include a minimal level of historical accuracy on member websites?

Your own dojo's website states:

In 1964 the Founder of Aikido, O-Sensei, sent Yoshimitsu Yamada to New York City to establish Aikido in the USA. Yamada Sensei established New York Aikikai that year.

A survey of the interviews with Yamada Sensei at www.aikidoonline.com makes it quite clear that he came to New York in order to demonstrate at the 1964 World's Fair and had no further charge at that time, although he did manage to parlay his trip into a position as Chief Instructor at NY Aikikai, which had been established on 19th Street in 1961 by Ralph Glanstein, Eddie Hagihara, Virginia Mayhew, Barry Bernstein, Fred Krase, and Maggie Newman.

For my part, such a glaring inaccuracy in a matter of simple fact is troubling. But then, I'm cantankerous that way, even if I set aside the possibility that it was a deliberate attempt at revisionist history of a type I have seen all too many times.

Best regards,

FL

Rod Yabut
03-27-2007, 02:49 PM
I commend George for speaking out inside and outside of his organization. I commend the ASU for having seminars with people from different martial arts and different styles of Aikido.

Can this be done in a dojo level vs. an national level? You would be surprised how many dojos incorporate other martial arts.

I am criticizing the USAF for not participating in non-organization events. Once again, O'Sensei encouraged an openness that is conspicuously absent in the USAF. The USAF should be proud of it's students and encourage them, as a matter of policy, to interact with the Aikido and budo world at large, as opposed to remaining in an insular environment.

If this is truly the case, then the tide has turned. Recently, Murashige Shihan was part of the Unpont seminar, and Takeguchi Shihan was a guest in a CAA camp.

Marc Abrams
03-27-2007, 04:13 PM
Rod:

I would not be surprised how many dojos incorporate other martial arts. The sad part is that they typically have to do so "under the radar". I do not think that instructions in an art should necessarily confuse students by adding a bit of this and a bit of that.... However, exposure to, and utilization of common underlying principles are important. Likewise, applying techniques to attacks from other martial arts are also important.

I can only hope that the tide is turning. It was simply pathetic that the Aiki Expo did not work because of several major organizations opposition to these seminal events. I am glad to see that people in the US are replicating this model on a smaller scale. I can only hope that there is enough impetus to push us all to create a viable and financially successful international venue that should have been the Aiki Expo. In many respects Stanley Pranin is a visionary ahead of his times. His efforts to help Aikido have been and are truly amazing.

marc abrams

George S. Ledyard
03-27-2007, 05:17 PM
If this is truly the case, then the tide has turned. Recently, Murashige Shihan was part of the Unpont seminar, and Takeguchi Shihan was a guest in a CAA camp.

You'll know the tide has truly turned when instructors from these host groups appear as guests at a Federation event...

Rod Yabut
03-27-2007, 05:21 PM
You'll know the tide has truly turned when instructors from these host groups appear as guests at a Federation event...


I agree and I hope.

jliebman
03-28-2007, 10:29 AM
All,

This will probably be my last post on Aikiweb. I have encountered what I consider to be a good deal of hostility in posting on this thread because I espouse an unpopular view or belong to an unpopular organization. Frankly I expected better. I did not expect aikidoists to sink to the level of discourse that exists in our political sphere, with underserved ad hominem attacks on persons who, whether or not you agree with their philosophy, style or practice, were direct students of the founder.

Marc Abrams wrote, in thread #94:
My teacher put it simply: "Person X built a shrine to Aikido and O'Sensei, my students are my shrine." He is beyond the concern about the legacy of "his" organization. He is not politically petty....

Though he doesnt specify Person X, he does identify him as "politically petty." I wonder on what personal acquaintance with Person X does Mr Abrams base his judgement. It doesnt seem to occur to Mr Abrams that Person X is operating within standard behaviour for a Japanese person who is involved in an organization, and can basically act in no way other than those prescribed by his culture. I have made no ad hominem attack on Imaizumi Sensei, under whom I trained for 2 or 3 years and of whom I have none but the fondest memories, but Mr Abrams feels as though he is not under the constraints of good behaviour.

He also stated in the same thread:
He is open to us training in whatever art we chose, and train with whatever teacher we chose, regardless of whether it is Aikido or another art

That is great, but the art we practice, the focus of this website, and the interest of most of the people who come here is AIKIDO, not "whatever art we chose." Aikido is a defined set of arts that are practiced by people, with some room for variation between instructors, and of course students, and nikkyo is nikkyo whether it is USAF, ASU, Shin Budo Kai or Yoshinkan! Aikido is the sole focus of the USAF, not whatever art we choose, and I, for one, am for that.

Well, that's it for me. I bid aikiweb a fond adieu.

kironin
03-28-2007, 10:35 AM
Fred, keep being cantankerous !

Maggie Newman was my tai chi teacher's teacher. When I met her when she came to do seminars, it was quite interesting to hear about those early days before 1964. It's easy to forget how much the web facitlitates the spread of misinformation as well as information.


A survey of the interviews with Yamada Sensei at www.aikidoonline.com makes it quite clear that he came to New York in order to demonstrate at the 1964 World's Fair and had no further charge at that time, although he did manage to parlay his trip into a position as Chief Instructor at NY Aikikai, which had been established on 19th Street in 1961 by Ralph Glanstein, Eddie Hagihara, Virginia Mayhew, Barry Bernstein, Fred Krase, and Maggie Newman.

For my part, such a glaring inaccuracy in a matter of simple fact is troubling. But then, I'm cantankerous that way, even if I set aside the possibility that it was a deliberate attempt at revisionist history of a type I have seen all too many times.

Best regards,
FL

mjhacker
03-28-2007, 10:41 AM
This will probably be my last post on Aikiweb. I have encountered what I consider to be a good deal of hostility in posting on this thread because I espouse an unpopular view or belong to an unpopular organization.
I haven't seen anything I'd call "hostility." Perhaps you've struck an emotion-laden nerve that needed to be struck? This kind of conversation can be quite cathartic.

Frankly I expected better.
By that, do you mean that you hoped no one would disagree with you?

Ron Tisdale
03-28-2007, 10:53 AM
I've got to wonder to an extent about people stomping off in a huff. What's up with that? Are we really so fragile?

Best,
Ron

mriehle
03-28-2007, 12:11 PM
I've got to wonder to an extent about people stomping off in a huff. What's up with that? Are we really so fragile?

I can't speak for anyone else, of course, but I've been tempted to leave a few times recently because of a tendency for some of the more interesting discussions to be hijacked into a frankly infantile exchange of no-you're-wrongs slung with accompanying personal insults.

I won't name any names...

...because that really isn't the point. This is an important aspect of this. If you start getting into blaming individuals for this happening you are guilty of the same offense.

In any case, I've taken the view that a better approach is to simply unsubcribe from threads that take such a turn.

I think, in fact, that one of the things this thread has pointed out is how such personal flame wars are unique to the online Aikido community. Frankly, Jun does a magnificient job of keeping things from getting completely stupid, IMO.

But there have been a couple of comments about national organizations that point out - at least to me - that the seeds of this kind of hostility are found in organizations outside the web. People who simply dismiss other people's approach to training as lacking any value create hostility which is actually easier to express in an online forum.

It's not about, IMO, agreeing or disagreeing. It's about being willing to exchange ideas at all and it's a two-way street. When I am faced with someone who disagrees with me where we can explore the nature or our disagreement I can often learn something from the exchange. When the disagreements sounds like a Saturday Night Live gag ("Jane, you ignorant twit!") I'm done.

Part of what I've seen in these organizational disagreements is exactly that sort of dismissal of other ideas and the number of people I've encountered who are guilty of it is kind of alarming.

"Your Aikido is wrong because it's too soft."

"Your Aikido is wrong because it's too hard."

"Your Aikido is wrong because there is no ground work."

"Your Aikido is wrong because it has ground work."

"My Aikido is better than yours because <insert reason here>!"

But the worst:

"Your Aikido is wrong because you don't belong to <insert organization here>!"

Once the discussion gets to this level - online or off, it's hard to find anything of value. Not impossible, just difficult.

While I believe there will always be a need for multiple organizations, I really believe these organizations should get along with each other. We should be working for all of us to pursue our goals in Aikido effectively even when we may not agree on the goals.

Dennis Hooker
03-28-2007, 12:36 PM
George that was a well thought out and presented post. I believe you are right. I hope for all concerned that some degree of unity or at least civility will dominate the new horizon of Aikido in the west. I believe Aikido in America can demonstrate to the world what corporation and harmony can be. Sounds like a lot of work and I leave it up to you folks to get it done. I will continue to garden at the Shindai Dojo and on occasion till the soil in someone else’s garden when asked to do so, but that is about all I wish on myself nowadays. We must remember there is always a place for disagreement but there should never be a place for or tolerance of, rudeness or discourtesy to others. For those of you that have been kind enough to e-mail me and ask me to come back I thank you for your friendship. I will be here as long as it is a place of courteously and good manners and the discussion is centered on Aikido. I am of the old school and I believe these are tenets of Aikido as well as qualities demonstrated by ladies and gentleman.

Dennis

Marc Abrams
03-28-2007, 12:50 PM
All,

This will probably be my last post on Aikiweb. I have encountered what I consider to be a good deal of hostility in posting on this thread because I espouse an unpopular view or belong to an unpopular organization. Frankly I expected better. I did not expect aikidoists to sink to the level of discourse that exists in our political sphere, with underserved ad hominem attacks on persons who, whether or not you agree with their philosophy, style or practice, were direct students of the founder.

Marc Abrams wrote, in thread #94:

Though he doesnt specify Person X, he does identify him as "politically petty." I wonder on what personal acquaintance with Person X does Mr Abrams base his judgement. It doesnt seem to occur to Mr Abrams that Person X is operating within standard behaviour for a Japanese person who is involved in an organization, and can basically act in no way other than those prescribed by his culture. I have made no ad hominem attack on Imaizumi Sensei, under whom I trained for 2 or 3 years and of whom I have none but the fondest memories, but Mr Abrams feels as though he is not under the constraints of good behaviour.

He also stated in the same thread:

That is great, but the art we practice, the focus of this website, and the interest of most of the people who come here is AIKIDO, not "whatever art we chose." Aikido is a defined set of arts that are practiced by people, with some room for variation between instructors, and of course students, and nikkyo is nikkyo whether it is USAF, ASU, Shin Budo Kai or Yoshinkan! Aikido is the sole focus of the USAF, not whatever art we choose, and I, for one, am for that.

Well, that's it for me. I bid aikiweb a fond adieu.

Jory:

I am sorry if you have taken this so personally that you feel that you have to take your last proverbial shot and run...

When I talked about my instructor as considering his students his shrine to Aikido, I was simply talking about how he defined his lasting legacy to Aikido. He was not putting down the efforts of the other person. He has a lack of concern about organizational strength. He was an instructor for Aikikai at the Hombu Dojo in Japan. He had a major role in Ki Society. He had the invitation to return to Aikikai after he left Ki Society. His lack of desire to deal with organizational politics was what led him to the path that he chose. The focus that I CALL politically petty is one where the attention is to maintaining the organization above the art. It is up to every instructor to determine what their legacy will or will not be. I personally, do not consider it wrong that a person would like to build a shrine dedicated to O'Sensei and Aikido. It was in no way an attack on the character of that person. If you took it in that manner, then I am sorry that you did so.

Your organization is not unpopular, simply look at the size of your organization. If it was unpopular, it would not be so large. Your organization has a lot of wonderful people and instructors as part of the organization itself. That your organization has perceived faults is not an entire condemnation of the USAF. EVERY organization has it's strengths and weaknesses. We need to honest to ourselves and address our faults in order to improve ourselves (be it ourselves or an institution or organization). As you talked about, Aikido exists apart from the various organizations. It lives in the practice of each of us. If we can simply transcend the political divides that we create, we stand to make our art stronger.

Ron:

You are absolutely correct! Words do not hurt us. Our fragile ego allows us to become hurt from the words of others. I frankly enjoy a brisk discussion. I wish more people would hang in there and use words, rather resorting to physical acts of violence, be it an assault or a war.

marc abrams

George S. Ledyard
03-28-2007, 12:54 PM
I can't speak for anyone else, of course, but I've been tempted to leave a few times recently because of a tendency for some of the more interesting discussions to be hijacked into a frankly infantile exchange of no-you're-wrongs slung with accompanying personal insults.

I won't name any names...

...because that really isn't the point. This is an important aspect of this. If you start getting into blaming individuals for this happening you are guilty of the same offense.

In any case, I've taken the view that a better approach is to simply unsubcribe from threads that take such a turn.

I think, in fact, that one of the things this thread has pointed out is how such personal flame wars are unique to the online Aikido community. Frankly, Jun does a magnificient job of keeping things from getting completely stupid, IMO.

But there have been a couple of comments about national organizations that point out - at least to me - that the seeds of this kind of hostility are found in organizations outside the web. People who simply dismiss other people's approach to training as lacking any value create hostility which is actually easier to express in an online forum.

It's not about, IMO, agreeing or disagreeing. It's about being willing to exchange ideas at all and it's a two-way street. When I am faced with someone who disagrees with me where we can explore the nature or our disagreement I can often learn something from the exchange. When the disagreements sounds like a Saturday Night Live gag ("Jane, you ignorant twit!") I'm done.

Part of what I've seen in these organizational disagreements is exactly that sort of dismissal of other ideas and the number of people I've encountered who are guilty of it is kind of alarming.

"Your Aikido is wrong because it's too soft."

"Your Aikido is wrong because it's too hard."

"Your Aikido is wrong because there is no ground work."

"Your Aikido is wrong because it has ground work."

"My Aikido is better than yours because <insert reason here>!"

But the worst:

"Your Aikido is wrong because you don't belong to <insert organization here>!"

Once the discussion gets to this level - online or off, it's hard to find anything of value. Not impossible, just difficult.

While I believe there will always be a need for multiple organizations, I really believe these organizations should get along with each other. We should be working for all of us to pursue our goals in Aikido effectively even when we may not agree on the goals.

Just remember, no matter how bad some folks get on the forums, no matter how infantile the exchange becomes, there is karma operating. These forums are read by the entire English speaking Aikido world. A guy who is arrogant, is known to be arrogant by folks all over the world. A person who is an idiot will be recognized as such, not by just the few people in his direct acquaintance but by thousands of folks, a truly international idiot. This often is what keeps me from getting too upset, these folks are shooting themselves in the foot.

Aikibu
03-28-2007, 01:00 PM
Dear Jory:

Do those high standards include a minimal level of historical accuracy on member websites?

Your own dojo's website states:

A survey of the interviews with Yamada Sensei at www.aikidoonline.com makes it quite clear that he came to New York in order to demonstrate at the 1964 World's Fair and had no further charge at that time, although he did manage to parlay his trip into a position as Chief Instructor at NY Aikikai, which had been established on 19th Street in 1961 by Ralph Glanstein, Eddie Hagihara, Virginia Mayhew, Barry Bernstein, Fred Krase, and Maggie Newman.

For my part, such a glaring inaccuracy in a matter of simple fact is troubling. But then, I'm cantankerous that way, even if I set aside the possibility that it was a deliberate attempt at revisionist history of a type I have seen all too many times.

Best regards,

FL

Me too. Having been blessed with Virgina Mayhew's friendship the last decade of her life her stories as a pioneer will more than likely pass in the fog of history as a testament to her humility. Her take on the New York days and Yamada Sensei might be a bit different than the standard party line.

Let's just say that since the 50's and 60's Aikido has progressed light years beyond what O'Sensei hoped it would be. Back then misogeny and racism were common place and the (Western) women pioneers of Aikido suffered greatly in order to practice.

Now it's all over the world and influanced by every culture it is in, while retaining it's basic spirit as O'Sensei envisioned.

The best way I feel it could be organized is along the lines of the 12 traditions of AA.

The Traditions as a model would give Aikido more room to grow and help keep the power hungry and the Ego Maniacs in check.

William Hazen

Don't get me started about dis-information on the internet. LOL

Ron Tisdale
03-28-2007, 01:05 PM
Dennis, Welcome Back! and darn glad to have you.

Marc, that was a darn nice way to hopefully draw Jory back in. Kudos...

Best,
Ron

Rod Yabut
03-28-2007, 01:26 PM
This often is what keeps me from getting too upset, these folks are shooting themselves in the foot.

I better write carefully! :)

Dennis, Welcome Back! and darn glad to have you.

Ditto!

mjhacker
03-28-2007, 01:31 PM
I better write carefully!
Hell, I gave up any notion of having a good reputation YEARS ago. :-)

mriehle
03-28-2007, 01:38 PM
This often is what keeps me from getting too upset, these folks are shooting themselves in the foot.

Yes. Good point. Worth keeping firmly in mind.

mikebalko
03-28-2007, 04:35 PM
Jory:
Xenophobic thinking has never helped any societies survive over long periods of time, so why would it be different from organizations within Aikido.
Marc Abrams

Uh, no. Xenophobia is the only thing that preserves cultural and racial integrity. European society is completely unrecognizable due to the influence of the religions which originated in the middle east. Japan was made completely unrecognizable due to repeated invasions by the west. This is why Osensei was so interested in the ancient texts and wanted his art to be as close as possible to what was practiced by his kami(ancestors), the original inhabitants of his island, a clear departure from more modern indian and chinese influenced koryu. When you write "a long period of time" it must be put in proper context. The current American society has not been around for "a long period of time" in comparison, only time will tell if the melting pot experiment has really been a success.
Now as far as people storming off in a huff as a result of some perceived insult, that I can understand. What I don't understand is people being banned from forums! That is like getting banned from your dojo for hitting nage because he didn't defend himself properly. Is trying to make contact with a strike in the dojo "stupid"? Does being a good, creative, aggressive, violent, tenacious, ruthless attacker in the dojo make you "an idiot"? What happened to "applying aikido off of the tatami in your daily life" and the "verbal aikido" stuff ? I have noticed that the delusional, overly sensitive, ex-hippie, granola, self proclaimed "intellectual" types are the ones who praise this stuff the most yet they are the most touchy and unable to actually apply it when pressured, just like the physical techniques. In order to practice aikido an "attack" is necessary! Why would this be discouraged in an aikido forum? Although I think the aiki expo is a good concept in theory, it is not without politics of it's own. Although I am very impressed with Aikido Journal being the only site I am aware of allowing anyone to list information regarding their dojo/events regardless of rank, affiliation or style, the level of censorship when dealing with one of the "friends of the journal" in the forums section is disturbing.

akiy
03-28-2007, 04:51 PM
Although I am very impressed with Aikido Journal being the only site I am aware of allowing anyone to list information regarding their dojo/events regardless of rank, affiliation or style

The same is true (I hope!) of the AikiWeb Aikido Dojo Search Engine (http://www.aikiweb.com/search/) and the AikiWeb Seminars Database (http://www.aikiweb.com/seminars/) here on this site (with the original data for the Dojo Search Engine being freely available for years since at least the early 90's and the seminars information being freely available since the mid/late 90's).

-- Jun

SeiserL
03-28-2007, 04:59 PM
I will continue to garden at the Shindai Dojo and on occasion till the soil in someone else's garden when asked to do so, but that is about all I wish on myself nowadays.
I look forward to my next visit to your garden. IMHO, the future of Aikido is in just this type of hospitality.

SeiserL
03-28-2007, 05:04 PM
This often is what keeps me from getting too upset, these folks are shooting themselves in the foot.
IMHO, it is hard to get too upset with people who obviously make themselves such easy targets (and it isn't the foot) without even knowing it.

Its all good practice. Get off the line by not taking it too seriously and certainly not personally. Don't let others take your center or balance.

The future of Aikido doesn't belong to those who complain or run away, but to those that keep showing up and training.

James Davis
03-28-2007, 05:27 PM
IMHO, it is hard to get too upset with people who obviously make themselves such easy targets (and it isn't the foot) without even knowing it.

Its all good practice. Get off the line by not taking it too seriously and certainly not personally. Don't let others take your center or balance.

The future of Aikido doesn't belong to those who complain or run away, but to those that keep showing up and training.

Dr. Seiser, you have a way of summing up in three sentences what it would take me pages to say.:)

I see a person being rude online as an advanced warning of what they might be like when I meet them. Still, I try not to let preconceived notions decide how I'm going to react to someone.

Based on aikiweb postings, I expected Dr. Seiser, Jun,and Senseis Clark, Hooker, and Amdur to be class acts when I met them in Orlando.

I certainly wasn't disappointed. :)

I'm glad to see you posting again, Sensei Hooker.

G DiPierro
03-28-2007, 05:36 PM
It's not hard to see how isolationism can help a group become stronger as an organization. Whether it can help them become stronger as martial artists is another question entirely. The trend in aikido and many other martial arts has been to emphasize the needs of the organization over the needs of the individual, and while the two goals are not wholly mutually exclusive, naturally conflicts will arise between what is best for the practitioner's development and what is best for the organization. In typically Japanese fashion, the needs of the organization will usually come first at the expense of those of the individual. The question for the individual then becomes whether what they are getting out of membership in an organization is worth what they are giving up.

kironin
03-29-2007, 12:01 AM
Welcome back, Dennis.

you old coot.

http://web.umr.edu/~adekock/Cootness-Test.html

http://web.umr.edu/~adekock/old-coot.html

George S. Ledyard
03-29-2007, 01:06 AM
What I don't understand is people being banned from forums! That is like getting banned from your dojo for hitting nage because he didn't defend himself properly. Is trying to make contact with a strike in the dojo "stupid"?

Actually, it is necessary to ban certain folks from time to time in order to preserve the forums quality. All it takes is a couple people who simply cause trouble or dominate every discussion with tedious and irrelevant tirades and soon you fine that the folks who you'd most like to be reading have migrated elsewhere. This happened at the Aikido Journal site. Stan was reluctant to police things and waited far too long to step in and a vibrant forum went right down the tubes... It has not recovered to date. Once folks leave, it takes a very long time to lure them back.

Your theory that we should be treating aggressive folks as part of our training is fine but I simply don't need the aggravation. I come here to post and read posts and I certainly don't need an Aikido on-line version of the screaming heads that populate the news shows these days. Civilized discourse has a lot more to do with my idea of Budo than useless conflict. If people want to be obnoxious just for the sake of being obnoxious, I just hit the ignore button. I'm too busy to play games with folks that get their jollies by stirring things up.

I heard someone the other day trying to justify his behavior by saying,"I was just keeping it real". No, he was just being rude. I have stated this before... if people want to act like folks doing Budo they should converse with each other as if they were sitting across the table from someone with three feet of razor sharp steel. If one wants respect the best way is to give respect. A lot of folks don't get that...

SeiserL
03-29-2007, 06:44 AM
Based on aikiweb postings, I expected Dr. Seiser, Jun,and Senseis Clark, Hooker, and Amdur to be class acts when I met them in Orlando. I certainly wasn't disappointed.
It is just such gatherings that allow me to believe that Aikido has a bright and positive future.

It was a good time. I look forward to the next.

Marc Abrams
03-29-2007, 08:33 AM
Uh, no. Xenophobia is the only thing that preserves cultural and racial integrity. European society is completely unrecognizable due to the influence of the religions which originated in the middle east. Japan was made completely unrecognizable due to repeated invasions by the west. This is why Osensei was so interested in the ancient texts and wanted his art to be as close as possible to what was practiced by his kami(ancestors), the original inhabitants of his island, a clear departure from more modern indian and chinese influenced koryu. When you write "a long period of time" it must be put in proper context. The current American society has not been around for "a long period of time" in comparison, only time will tell if the melting pot experiment has really been a success.
Now as far as people storming off in a huff as a result of some perceived insult, that I can understand. What I don't understand is people being banned from forums! That is like getting banned from your dojo for hitting nage because he didn't defend himself properly. Is trying to make contact with a strike in the dojo "stupid"? Does being a good, creative, aggressive, violent, tenacious, ruthless attacker in the dojo make you "an idiot"? What happened to "applying aikido off of the tatami in your daily life" and the "verbal aikido" stuff ? I have noticed that the delusional, overly sensitive, ex-hippie, granola, self proclaimed "intellectual" types are the ones who praise this stuff the most yet they are the most touchy and unable to actually apply it when pressured, just like the physical techniques. In order to practice aikido an "attack" is necessary! Why would this be discouraged in an aikido forum? Although I think the aiki expo is a good concept in theory, it is not without politics of it's own. Although I am very impressed with Aikido Journal being the only site I am aware of allowing anyone to list information regarding their dojo/events regardless of rank, affiliation or style, the level of censorship when dealing with one of the "friends of the journal" in the forums section is disturbing.

MIke:

I am a little bit stunned by your reply. I am hoping that you did not really understand fully what you actually wrote about.

Xenophobia: A common definition is a pathological fear or hatred of foreigners, or sometimes the unknown. It comes from the Greek words ξένος (xenos), meaning "foreigner," "stranger," and φόβος (phobos), meaning "fear." The term is typically used to describe fear or dislike of foreigners or in general of people different from one's self.

Maintaining cultural continuity does not have to involve fear. Cultures typically evolve from integrating new and outside experiences.

You talked about "racial integrity." That phrase typically come from racists. I can only hope that you are not so filled with hatred and fear of "racial differences." From an evolutionary perspective, a closed gene pool is a very bad thing.

O'Sensei was much more open than many Japanese in allowing foreigners to train in Aikido, so I am not sure how you can equate O'Sensei and a closed-culture mentality. The word "Kami" does not refer to ancestors, but refers to a personified deity.

I am a psychologist, close to an ex-hippie, considered by some an "intellectual" , yet I seem to have no problems remaining "in there" when I am being pushed. I like being pushed by honest uke's who don't "give away" technique but make me earn it. You talked about the "good, creative, aggressive, violent, tenacious, ruthless attacker" in the dojo. My experience has been that people that try and push outside of the envelope of safe training are typically the one's that end up getting hurt. Others get thrown out of schools as a means of protecting those very students from getting hurt by a senior student who "returns the favor" in a manner that the attacker is simply unable to protect him/herself from.

marc abrams

G DiPierro
03-29-2007, 09:08 AM
Actually, it is necessary to ban certain folks from time to time in order to preserve the forums quality. All it takes is a couple people who simply cause trouble or dominate every discussion with tedious and irrelevant tirades and soon you fine that the folks who you'd most like to be reading have migrated elsewhere. This happened at the Aikido Journal site. Stan was reluctant to police things and waited far too long to step in and a vibrant forum went right down the tubes... It has not recovered to date. Once folks leave, it takes a very long time to lure them back.

I think a big part of the problem on AJ is the ability to post anonymously. Here and on e-budo the real name rule holds people accountable for what they say. Unlike at e-budo, I don't think anyone has been banned from this forum, and partly because of that the most interesting discussions recently have ended up being here. As long as people are willing to stand behind what they say and do, I don't think they should banned (from aikido forums or dojos).

If one wants respect the best way is to give respect. A lot of folks don't get that...

My experience is that this is true of many senior Americans in aikido. They act as if their rank or position entitles them to get respect without giving it. Can't say that I've ever seen this from a senior Japanese teacher, though.

George S. Ledyard
03-29-2007, 09:29 AM
My experience is that this is true of many senior Americans in aikido. They act as if their rank or position entitles them to get respect without giving it. Can't say that I've ever seen this from a senior Japanese teacher, though.

I think you are right about the senior Americans. But I think that the reason behind it is insecurity. We are in a sense competing with each other for recognition and the willingness of the training public to invest authority in us is clearly limited.

This is not true for the Japanese teachers... on a basic level they "know" they are entitled. So they don't act out.

I found this to be true years ago when I worked for the Eddie Bauer store in Washington, DC. I waited on all sorts of folks... movie stars, the Sect of State, the family of the President, Senators, Congressmen, etc. I found that the guys who had real power were very pleasant and easy to deal with. The folks who were jerks were the staffers and up and coming wanna be's because everything to them was about competing for place in the pecking order.

I had a funny interaction with Ikeda Sensei. Even though he is a "Japanese " instructor, he has been here so long that often folks tend to forget that fact. Anyway, at the Rocky Mountain Summer Camp, Ikeda Sensei gets up early every morning and runs the Espresso stand. For some reason he finds being a "barristo" to be relaxing. Anyway, the year they hosted Tissier Sensei, they didn't have the Espresso stand. Being from Seattle, this was a particular hardship for me. So I asked Ikeda Sensei why they didn't have it open. He said that he was too busy and didn't have anyone to man it. I said, "Sensei, that's why you trained so hard to become a Shihan... you should be able to look at one of your deshi and say Man the Espresso bar..." He looked wistful and said, "Only works in Japan, not in America..."

jennifer paige smith
03-29-2007, 09:47 AM
Marc,

I'm sorry, but you have turned my meaning around 180 degrees. I am not criticizing the upper ranks of the USAF for not participating in non-organization events, but commending them. I do not believe that they are on the path to irrelevancy at all. They have produced a strong organization with a large number of extremely talented aikidoists who will form the next generation of teachers. They promote extremely high standards, and there is a strong feeling of comradeship amongst members of the organization, from low-ranks to higher.

If their exclusivity has led to this admirable state of affairs it is to be commended.

I wonder if the strength of your organization will continue after the passing of your shihan?

Jory

I can't express opinions about either of the organizations mentioned above. I do hear a snafu in the line of thinking relative to who will be the teachers of the next generation.
Ultimately, students choose teachers. People can have every imaginable certificate, endorsement or decleration from some world level organization, but is ultimately the students who decide if someone is a teacher. A teacher has a relationship to the future that chooses them as well as to the past that has designated them.
I believe that is important to remeber that heirarchy is a Japanese institution and is not a function of Aikido, the art, itself.

jennifer paige smith
03-29-2007, 10:10 AM
Well, personally, I'm in total agreement with Stan's summation - both in terms of how Osensei understood "Aikido," and also in regards to what Stan (so politely) calls a "deep psychological need."

That need, the need for external determinants, is what folks are supposed to be doing away with when they train - in my opinion. It is the fact that that need is so dominant in Aikido, or in any other martial art, that tells me folks (someone, anyone) are not training at depth. I imagine this is not so popular a view, but for me that need demonstrates only weakness, and thus ignorance. In that sense, for me, we not only should not live by that need when it comes to Hombu Shihan but also when it comes to American Shihan. You want to get rid of nearly every problem, especially the political ones, have folks start training in such a way that this need is purified out of their being. Poof - end of problems. All power-games gone - gone forever.

dmv
BRAVO!!!!!!! DIG DEEPER,DOKA!:)

Josh Reyer
03-29-2007, 10:16 AM
I think you are right about the senior Americans. But I think that the reason behind it is insecurity. We are in a sense competing with each other for recognition and the willingness of the training public to invest authority in us is clearly limited.

This is not true for the Japanese teachers... on a basic level they "know" they are entitled. So they don't act out.
Yes, I was just about to say, "Japanese teachers don't have to act like they are entitled because they are." Welcome to a top-down society.

I wonder if the possible insecurity among senior American practioners comes from some cognitive dissonance caused by calquing pseudo-Japanese social structures onto American relationships. They suddenly have this tightrope to walk of playing the role of "the SENSEI" while at the same time maintaining that sense of "equality" that Americans demand in their social interactions, even from those ostensibly superior in status.

I have stated this before... if people want to act like folks doing Budo they should converse with each other as if they were sitting across the table from someone with three feet of razor sharp steel. If one wants respect the best way is to give respect. A lot of folks don't get that...
This reminds me of my other passion: Beowulf. Beowulf scholars have remarked at the ceremony, the pithy yet circumspect nature of the language armed men from different tribes used to communicate with each other, full of subjunctives and litotes, that you see in the poem. It's only in these days of peace, when we generally don't have to fear blood feuds that we can "keep it real", and "tell the truth".

MM
03-29-2007, 10:24 AM
It is just such gatherings that allow me to believe that Aikido has a bright and positive future.

It was a good time. I look forward to the next.

Yes, I definitely agree.

Even if there are no more expos, perhaps this small multi-teaching seminar idea will spread.

Mark

jennifer paige smith
03-29-2007, 10:52 AM
I can't express opinions about either of the organizations mentioned above. I do hear a snafu in the line of thinking relative to who will be the teachers of the next generation.
Ultimately, students choose teachers. People can have every imaginable certificate, endorsement or decleration from some world level organization, but is ultimately the students who decide if someone is a teacher. A teacher has a relationship to the future that chooses them as well as to the past that has designated them.
I believe that is important to remeber that heirarchy is a Japanese institution and is not a function of Aikido, the art, itself.

And to quote myself.....no, just kidding.
I was pretty slow in editing so the server made this a new post.
I was moving into a story about terry dobsons' influence on me. I will abridge my original thought with a quote from Terry. This is in reference to what might happen when our shihan die(some of ours have).
Terry::)
"What is much more important than anything I say is that I touch you. Through me, through my touch, comes the touch of the founder of Aikido. There is no bible you can buy that says, "This is what Aikido is." It is transferred from person to person. These vibrations pass among us."
I reach across the veil constantly to connect with Terry and O'Sensei through him. For those of us who have walked close to death on this path, on any account, this may feel true. If you haven't experienced this yet, hold on to your hat.

kironin
03-29-2007, 11:04 AM
I heard someone the other day trying to justify his behavior by saying,"I was just keeping it real". No, he was just being rude. I have stated this before... if people want to act like folks doing Budo they should converse with each other as if they were sitting across the table from someone with three feet of razor sharp steel. If one wants respect the best way is to give respect. A lot of folks don't get that...

Your whole post was excellent but this is priceless! ;)

Dennis Hooker
03-30-2007, 08:27 AM
Yes, I definitely agree.

Even if there are no more expos, perhaps this small multi-teaching seminar idea will spread.

Mark

You can make it happen; it starts with one person wanting it to be. Be open to new things and find folks willing to learn from each other and teachers that are open to sharing with each other. Tell everyone to leave the ego at the door when checking in. Last weekend I was in Nashville doing a little workshop and a well respected Sefu from Nashville came by and I opened up the floor for him and we shared. I believe to the benefit of all. I would not even try to name his art, it had something to do with praying mantis kung fu but there were a bunch of words tied to it I canít remember but I do know skill when I see it and a gentleman when I meet one. He watched all weekend and then Sunday I ask him to share with us and he did buy drawing similarities between what I was teaching and what he taught. Correct movement and flow of energy is universal. When I would show very small women how very big men couldnít move them he did the same thing with different applications but the underlying principles were the same. Just like with Chuck, Ellis and myself, different but the same.

crbateman
03-30-2007, 10:37 AM
I think what Hooker Sensei has said is very constructive. Seminars which arise out of the spirit of sharing give teachers and students of different styles, and even different arts entirely, the opportunity to come together for their mutual benefit. It is a chance to overcome barriers built of ignorance and intolerance, and replace them with understanding and good will. They give needed perspective to those who have developed "tunnel vision". It is amazing how much common ground can be found by those of good conscience and good will. One can truly learn to train with joy.

Alas, the most realistic obstacle to such events is that of economics, not just from the standpoint of travel expenses, but also from the difficulty of staging such an event without significant financial risk. It just doesn't pay for itself unless a good crowd shows up. As practitioners, we owe it to those dedicated enough to put one of these things together, to show up and support it in enough numbers that the organizers don't take a beating. That way, they can keep doing it. There are many dedicated "seminar rats" out there, and bless you all, but there are so many more who show interest beforehand, only to say "I have to rearrange my sock drawer" when the day comes. You are missing a chance to train with some amazing teachers, including many who won't be doing these things for much longer. You are missing a chance to network with others, to make new friends, or to connect with people you often know only through the forums.

Bottom line: When a seminar comes to someplace you are, or can get to, go there and support it if you are able. You will not be sorry.

Aikibu
03-30-2007, 11:13 AM
I can't express opinions about either of the organizations mentioned above. I do hear a snafu in the line of thinking relative to who will be the teachers of the next generation.
Ultimately, students choose teachers. People can have every imaginable certificate, endorsement or decleration from some world level organization, but is ultimately the students who decide if someone is a teacher. A teacher has a relationship to the future that chooses them as well as to the past that has designated them.
I believe that is important to remember that heirarchy is a Japanese institution and is not a function of Aikido, the art, itself.

Agreed. I could not have said it better myself. I wish more Aikidoka would see the value of this approach and observe the example set by such Aikidoka as David Lynch of New Zealand.

On the mat and out in the world when will some folks see thier little colored belts mean nothing...Actions will always speak louder than a belt when it comes to sharing your knowledge, experiance, and spirit with others. :)

That is the heart of Aikido.

William Hazen

George S. Ledyard
03-30-2007, 11:28 AM
What we are seeing is the positive side of "globalization" in our arts. After WWII the Japanese martial arts spread to Europe and America. Many of the earliest teachers, the "popularizers" were only shodan or nidan when they came back from their overseas military careers. Because they were the only ones doing these arts they looked to the folks here like these amazing folks who could do all of this incomprehensible stuff. Of course now, our standards are different and we realize that many of those guys aren't as good as we are now, by magnitudes.

Because of the rapid spread of the arts by people who weren't that high level, the arts in general have been missing great depth. Aikido is no different. American Aikido is just now getting to the place at which we have a small group of our own Shihan and this is a very recent development. Most of the folks out there have not trained with any frequency with someone at that level. And even our newly created Shihan don't represent the end all be all but rather they are folks who have just started to figure out the art on a deeper level.

The cross organization and especially cross style sharing, along with exposure to Japanese teachers from different groups and arts who operate on a much higher level is the result of all of us training our whole adult lives and knowing that there is more. When I started Aikido there were no videos, very few movies, only a few books, and hardly any seminars. Now there are more of these than anyone can take advantage of. Look at the information exchange that is possible now... It's unreal.

The folks who take advantage of these possibilities will be the ones who take the art up to the level which the early teachers attained. The missing elements are all around us to grab but we have to be open and looking for them. Things that used to be "secret teachings' are now openly available. Folks with Chinese martial arts backgrounds will come to your dojo and show you how to train what they have, Japanese teachers of Karate are coming to Aikido camps to teach what they know. Daito Ryu folks of various stripes are running open seminars in which Aikido folks can participate. Systema, an art that none of us were even aware existed until recently, is readily available and open to Aikido folks any time to experience... This simply possibility didn't exist until recently.

This is how we are going to exceed our teachers! They didn't have this access when they trained. If we take advantage of all this knowledge that is simply out there to be had, we can end up being better than our own teachers and not just subject to their limitations. There are American Shihan teachers in the US now who are every bit as good as their Japanese instructors. How do they get better? If they don't look outside for more knowledge they will simply stagnate. They have seen everything their teachers have to offer after 35 years of training with them. They have to look further for new inspiration and knowledge. If they don't, they will be bypassed by those that do.

ChrisMoses
03-30-2007, 11:41 AM
Many of the earliest teachers, the "popularizers" were only shodan or nidan when they came back from their overseas military careers. Because they were the only ones doing these arts they looked to the folks here like these amazing folks who could do all of this incomprehensible stuff. Of course now, our standards are different and we realize that many of those guys aren't as good as we are now, by magnitudes.



Just to play Devil's advocate and throw something out for people to chew on...

What if what seems to be 'missing' from Aikido here in the US is *exactly* what those new Japanese trained shihan would be able to bring here? As George points out, Aikido in the west was primarily spread by teachers who would have been considered junior students in the dojos that they came from in Japan. Those teachers have done the best they could to continue their training over these years, and often their efforts have been recognized with rank and responsibility. BUT, in many cases they have progressed in something of vacuum, often one where they have a significant skill advantage over those who they train with/teach. Contact with senior teachers from Japan was often in the form of seminars, and what a teacher does at a seminar is often much different from how they run their everyday class. As a friend who returned to the US after training some in Japan a few years ago (at a relatively small dojo mind you) commented, "Aikido class is just a lot different when there are 5 godans IN class..." Imagine, George, where you might be now, if instead of having being thrust into a leadership role as early as you were in your training, if you'd been able to just work on training yourself (and received constant feedback from your seniors) for the last 20 years.

Just throwing that out there... :)

Dirk Hanss
03-30-2007, 01:41 PM
This is a rapidly growing thread, so I don't know, if anything I have to say was said already.

Nevertheless:
I agree with George about nearly everything he told us. My model of a 'good organization' would probably look different. It would just be too long to post here - and the idea seems clear to me. The organization should create an environment that bears teachers and leaders on the highest level and the single aikidoka should look for the best ways to improve himself, technically and personally.

This would lead to a generic evolutionary aikido, with hopefully the 'fittest' ideas to survive, even if it moves somewhat from what it was.

And this is very important for all the teachers, for which George generally wrote his article. The idea is also important for me, but on my junior level, the only thing that is of interest, is to train aikido.

If aikido wasn't spread out widely and thus watered down - I probably would not have heard about it. So I am thankful for everybody, who watered it down and thus enabled me to learn aikido. My ambitions are going further, so there was a time, I had to look for quality teachers, and I am glad, I found some. There are legions of aikidoka out there, who are happy to do a fuzzy Japanese dancing or do good aikido, but do not care as long as it is there and fits their needs. If that is their way, it is fine and better as if it would not exist.

And for me personally, I found two good teachers. One follows Saotome Shihan and that is, where I train regularly, and the other one, whom I visit from time to time, follows Tamura Shihan. Both shihan are 'Honbu sent' first generation teachers. And both do not have a formal organization in Germany, just by incident the teachers are their followers. And the aikido I see, is a little bit different - not only due to organizations, but also personality of my teachers and dojo environment/possibilities. But the mistakes I do are in both dojo the same. So yes there are other dojo, I would go only if I had no other chance. But for me in the next decade or probably all my life - the current organizations provide sufficient quality - even after a colapse of the organizations, which seem to have gone somewhat further in Germany than in the US, probably also due to near borders.

But yes, for the organizations and those aikidoka, who are teachers, or want to be teachers: they have to find a way to provide high quality aikido for high quality students, which includes international, interstyle and interart exchange of knowledge.

Best regards

Dirk

Chuck Clark
03-30-2007, 01:48 PM
Those teachers have done the best they could to continue their training over these years, and often their efforts have been recognized with rank and responsibility. BUT, in many cases they have progressed in something of vacuum, often one where they have a significant skill advantage over those who they train with/teach. Just throwing that out there... :)

That's true Chris, but there were some that along with teaching continued to pursue senior teachers and take their lumps while getting the transmission from people that had what they were chasing. If you look closely, you can tell the difference. If not, then there's nothing to worry about... :straightf

George S. Ledyard
03-30-2007, 02:06 PM
Imagine, George, where you might be now, if instead of having being thrust into a leadership role as early as you were in your training, if you'd been able to just work on training yourself (and received constant feedback from your seniors) for the last 20 years.

Hi Chris,
I agree largely but with one caveat; it would depend on what was happening at the dojo where one trained in terms of teaching methodology. Of course I started with Saotome Sensei who is something of a "genius" in the art (that was Chiba Sensei's term, not mine). When I moved I was lucky enough to train with Mary Heiny Sensei which for me at the time was still an excellent opportunity. But I have been on my own since 1986. At fisrt I felt that I was at a very distinct disadvantage compared to the folks I'd left behind training with Sensei very day. But over time, I found that that wasn't true. Sensei had given me a good enough foundation that I could oversee my own training to a degree and leaving put in in touch with Mary, Tom Read, Ellis Amdur, the DT folks I trained with, Bruce Bookman, my iai teachers, Angier Sensei, etc.

I began to see that when I went back it wasn't me that was at the disadvantage. The guys I'd left behind (many not all) had the attitude that they were at the source and didn't need to look further. I on the other hand knew I wasn't at the source and set about looking for the people who could teach me what I wanted to know. I had to work harder to get what I wanted and over time it has paid off.

So eventually I came to realize that the best thing for my Aikido was to have left and continued my training on my own, Of course I train with Sensei many times a year and see Ikeda Sensei numerous times. So it isn't a problem keeping up on what they are doing. But it's been the additional training I've done since I left that has enabled me to finally understand what my own teachers were doing.

SeiserL
03-30-2007, 02:15 PM
Alas, the most realistic obstacle to such events is that of economics, not just from the standpoint of travel expenses, but also from the difficulty of staging such an event without significant financial risk. It just doesn't pay for itself unless a good crowd shows up. As practitioners, we owe it to those dedicated enough to put one of these things together, to show up and support it in enough numbers that the organizers don't take a beating. That way, they can keep doing it. There are many dedicated "seminar rats" out there, and bless you all, but there are so many more who show interest beforehand, only to say "I have to rearrange my sock drawer" when the day comes. You are missing a chance to train with some amazing teachers, including many who won't be doing these things for much longer. You are missing a chance to network with others, to make new friends, or to connect with people you often know only through the forums.

Bottom line: When a seminar comes to someplace you are, or can get to, go there and support it if you are able. You will not be sorry.
Osu,

Couldn't agree more.

I am headed to Charlotte, NC this weekend to train with Andrew Sato Sensei (AWA).

Your own Dojo, where you already pay rent, is a good space to open up, invite others in, and train. Doesn't have to be big or expensive for some of us to show up. I keep checking the web for seminars to attend.

crbateman
03-30-2007, 03:18 PM
Couldn't agree more.Thanks for the ditto, Lynn-san. If all who practiced Aikido would do so with your genuine joy and dedication, there would be nothing to lament. Keep spreadin' the love...

Don_Modesto
03-31-2007, 05:11 PM
....I began to see that when I went back it wasn't me that was at the disadvantage....George,

You working on a book on aikido?

(hint)

senshincenter
03-31-2007, 06:43 PM
I think this has been mentioned here and there throughout the thread, at least as an undertone, but I wanted to have it come to the surface more clearly in order to promote discussion more in this direction. Somewhere underneath all this discussion is the "gap" we feel or perceive (at some level) between generations of aikidoka - the one going out and the one existing or coming in. When it comes to that “gap,” I'm not so sure organizational structure is all it is supposed to be - even if it can be all it can be. I'm also skeptical of revamping teaching methodologies when it comes to truly addressing this "gap." This is not to say I'm against fine tuning our pedagogies, etc., but it is to suggest that there is one thing more than any other that really is at heart when it comes to addressing this "gap." That is training time. In particular, I'm referring to training hours spent on the mat per day.

Often time, when folks say, “Training in technique after technique is not going to cut it,” I understand what they are trying to get at, but I can also see that this statement is more true for those that train four hours per week than it is for those that train four hours per day. Daily training hours ads a relativity to everything when it comes to organizational structures and teaching or training methodologies. As such, my impression is that this is what most distinguishes generations – the one going out vs. the one coming in.

For the generation that trains in seven days what the previous generation trained in one day, or in half a day in some cases, organizational structures and teaching/training methodologies are only going to do so much. What that “so much” is, we’ll have to wait and see I believe. However, now, we can see already, they cannot and will not ever make it so that Western/Modern wisdoms can turn limited investments in terms of daily training hours into a complete fulfillment of the natural law of maturity.

Therefore, I would propose, that as Aikido spreads via said organizational structures (improved upon or not) and/or modern training/teaching methodologies, it is only going to come into contact with a larger and larger number of folks that are looking to train at a miniscule fraction of what the past generation trained at. As a result, the “gap,” no matter what, is going to grow as Aikido spreads. The more able Aikido is to spread, the more rare those individuals who commit to the practice fully become. As this is nothing but the inverse of the law of maturity, and though we would like to see things otherwise, even folks that are concerned with Aikido’s future should probably accept this fact before they go on trying to “fix everything” or “make things better.”

This is not a position contrary to George’s, just something I was thinking about. I’m not trying to be pessimistic either. It’s just I feel that folks might come out with different propositions – both organizational and pedagogical - if they acknowledge the law of maturity and the true heart of all practices: daily and prolonged commitment.

dmv

James Young
03-31-2007, 08:09 PM
That's a good point David. I often tell people I don't expect to ever become as good as my teacher. That's something I'm very comfortable with. Even if I had an equal level of talent for the art (and I don't) I just am not able to put in near the same number of hours in studying the art so how can I realistically expect to reach the same level. My teacher is a professional aikido teacher; I do it as a hobby after work, so it's two different levels. However, despite that I do have goals I am striving to reach and as long as I am progressing in my level of the art I'm happy and am encouraged to continue on. I remember Tada-sensei once saying something like you need to put in 2000 hours of training in a year if you want to reach a level to become a professional teacher. That includes mat time as well as personal physical and mental training time, but I don't know for how many years. Of course that's his opinion and others may have a different opinion but it's an example of what the older generation of shihan think about what it takes in terms of training time.

crbateman
03-31-2007, 10:13 PM
George,

You working on a book on aikido?

(hint)Been bugging him about that myself. I hope he does, and soon.

senshincenter
04-02-2007, 09:13 AM
I think that is very nicely said - about how we all do what we can and our training is always going to be of value for us at whatever level of training we are training at. I'm not saying this to suggest that we leave things at a personal level at the cost of the overall tradition maintaining its integrity, but there is simply no way we can or should invalidate the individual experiences of the individual practitioner for the sake of some sort of "tradition." We have to realize that these individual experiences are more the tradition than is some sort of imaginary abstract understanding of "Aikido." This is, for me, is as important to understand as it is to understand that we cannot escape the all-important element of daily training hours when it comes to maturing in the art and the art maturing. Somehow, both truths have to be upheld. For example, it would seem "wrong" to turn folks away from training that could not train several or more hours a day and at a physical intensity that is high, violent, and likely to cause injury. However, it would be equally "wrong" to have no place for those kind of practitioners that can and want to fulfill these requirements. If folks can train like the past generations could, then they should have access to that training methodology. If they cannot train like past generations could, then their Aikido, first, should not be invalidated for not being of what the past generation's Aikido was (i.e. it is not "not Aikido"), and, second, their training should be tailored to the fact that they are training with less hours, at a lighter intensity, and that they are looking to enhance their lives via the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits that Aikido training can and does bring to all (vs. upholding "AIKIDO").

Looking at things now, without realizing it, I see that my own program has sort of adopted this viewpoint. Now this is "funny" for me because, in voice at least, I've been critical of this type of division. I liked the idea that everyone should be training at "x" level, etc., that there should not be "Aikido lite" and "real Aikido" - that everyone should be getting slammed and expected to train multiple hours a day, yada, yada, yada. In fact, I've been, at least verbally, very critical of kenshusei programs that I myself participated in - since those programs represent a division of training types. Looking at what I've realize now (as stated in the first paragraph above), I can see the reasons why my own past teacher had said division. I guess that goes with everything he's done - me realizing what it was all about much later. Just by dealing with the multiplicity of training capacities and training motivations, etc., our own dojo has come to adopt a type of divisional training - though we have nothing in place as official as "kenshusei" and "dojo member" - and though folks are always looking to train in both as best they can. The closet we get to to an actual official division is in our kids program - "Aiki 1" and "Aiki 2." However, even there, children in Aiki 2 are required to train in Aiki 1, and children in Aiki 1 are "highly encouraged" to reach a level of investment where they can start training in Aiki 2.

Below are two videos, so folks can see what I'm talking about with these divisions. Of course, the division related to children, but in principle, it is very much what we are talking about here. You'll be able to distinct the classes from each other quite easily. The video was made just by sticking a camera off to the side of the mat the other day - so please excuse all you cannot see.

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/vids/version1.html

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/vids/version2.html

dmv

George S. Ledyard
04-02-2007, 12:22 PM
I think that is very nicely said - about how we all do what we can and our training is always going to be of value for us at whatever level of training we are training at. I'm not saying this to suggest that we leave things at a personal level at the cost of the overall tradition maintaining its integrity, but there is simply no way we can or should invalidate the individual experiences of the individual practitioner for the sake of some sort of "tradition." We have to realize that these individual experiences are more the tradition than is some sort of imaginary abstract understanding of "Aikido." This is, for me, is as important to understand as it is to understand that we cannot escape the all-important element of daily training hours when it comes to maturing in the art and the art maturing. Somehow, both truths have to be upheld. For example, it would seem "wrong" to turn folks away from training that could not train several or more hours a day and at a physical intensity that is high, violent, and likely to cause injury. However, it would be equally "wrong" to have no place for those kind of practitioners that can and want to fulfill these requirements. If folks can train like the past generations could, then they should have access to that training methodology. If they cannot train like past generations could, then their Aikido, first, should not be invalidated for not being of what the past generation's Aikido was (i.e. it is not "not Aikido"), and, second, their training should be tailored to the fact that they are training with less hours, at a lighter intensity, and that they are looking to enhance their lives via the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits that Aikido training can and does bring to all (vs. upholding "AIKIDO").

Looking at things now, without realizing it, I see that my own program has sort of adopted this viewpoint. Now this is "funny" for me because, in voice at least, I've been critical of this type of division. I liked the idea that everyone should be training at "x" level, etc., that there should not be "Aikido lite" and "real Aikido" - that everyone should be getting slammed and expected to train multiple hours a day, yada, yada, yada. In fact, I've been, at least verbally, very critical of kenshusei programs that I myself participated in - since those programs represent a division of training types. Looking at what I've realize now (as stated in the first paragraph above), I can see the reasons why my own past teacher had said division. I guess that goes with everything he's done - me realizing what it was all about much later. Just by dealing with the multiplicity of training capacities and training motivations, etc., our own dojo has come to adopt a type of divisional training - though we have nothing in place as official as "kenshusei" and "dojo member" - and though folks are always looking to train in both as best they can. The closet we get to to an actual official division is in our kids program - "Aiki 1" and "Aiki 2." However, even there, children in Aiki 2 are required to train in Aiki 1, and children in Aiki 1 are "highly encouraged" to reach a level of investment where they can start training in Aiki 2.

Below are two videos, so folks can see what I'm talking about with these divisions. Of course, the division related to children, but in principle, it is very much what we are talking about here. You'll be able to distinct the classes from each other quite easily. The video was made just by sticking a camera off to the side of the mat the other day - so please excuse all you cannot see.

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/vids/version1.html

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/vids/version2.html

dmv

Hi David,
It's funny, I came to much the same conclusion and put a plan in place in my dojo to acknowledge that folks had different concerns and commitments. It didn't work out because no one who enrolled actually admitted to himself (herself) that they were only interested in Aikido-lite. Everyone saw himself doing Budo.

Anyway, I came to realize that the very same range of concerns that students display, the instructors display also. Many of the folks teaching Aikido don't see themselves creating another generation of instructors, are not particularly interested in the Budo aspect of the art, don't worry about where their students (or themselves for that matter) can execute their Aikido techniques as functional self defense. What they wish to do is create a strong, cohesive group experience. It's the community experience of the dojo that is important. In this day and age when "community" is harder and harder to come by, I understand the appeal.

As I came to this conclusion, I realized that I simply wasn't interested in teaching folks whose interest in the art are different than mine. I do see myself striving to be at least as good, if not better than my teachers. I have every intention of turning out students who will be as good or better than I am. So I have come to accept that my dojo will be smaller than many of the dojos which my friends run. I have former students who run dojos with more students than I do.

Anyway, I have found that, even though I am a professional instructor, and having a smaller dojo is not absolutely ideal, I am finding that in the larger Aikido community there are a number of folks out there who do wish to train the way I wish to teach. In fact they are hungry for it. So I find myself with a much larger "community" of students that is national, rather than local.

When I post about the issue of quality in Aikido I am always speaking from my own point of view (of course). I do not wish to belittle the approaches or concerns of others who do not share this point of view. One of the reasons that Aikido has grown so spectacularly is that it is so inclusive. But one of the reasons that Aikido has such a bad reputation as a martial art is that it is so inclusive...

The problem with two tiers of training is that everyone likes to believe that they are serious. So in the dojos which have chosen a more populist, user friendly approach to training, its not like folks are sitting around thinking that they are doing something "less". they want to believe that they are doing to "full meal deal". And of course, what teacher believes that he or she isn't delivering the goods to the full extent of their ability? So standards for progression up the ranks are adjusted to fit the commitment levels of the students, rather than asking the students to adjust their commitment levels to the requirements. People have have been integral to that dojo's community for many years want to have rank, they want acknowledgment... so they end with nidans and sandans which they really can't back up if they go train somewhere else where people are training more seriously. This creates a "dissonance" that folks seek to resolve in their minds. I see whole dojos in which people are basically fearful of going outside to train. They resolve the "dissonance" by believing that folks whose training is is more focused on Budo are the "bad guys" the ones who are too rough, too violent. The outside world becomes this scary place and the dojo (or the organization) is the haven from all that distortion of O-Sensei's message that the "others" are doing.

In my own mind I just don't see how to square this... Much of what people are doing in their Aikido doesn't work... I don't mean that it doesn't work if some BJJ guy comes in the door, or if someone like Dan Hardin grabs you, I am talking about if someone of average skill and strength who actually executes his attack with intention in the classic traditional Aikido training structure. This includes the instructors themselves.

So, I have not been able to resolve this in my own mind... I know I have students who are not as committed as others. So what do I teach them? A watered down curriculum that lacks any real content, or simply teach them less material but make sure that what they learn they can do... If you teach them less, how do you mark their progress? They obviously can't have the same rank for the same time in as folks who mastered a much wider curriculum... If you choose to teach the same broad curriculum that you and I have been taught, then how do you acknowledge the folks that don't make the commitment to take those techniques to some level of reality?

I find the degree of unconscious dishonesty that exists in much of Aikido to be offensive. People find themselves in a dojo in which they are asked to suspend what their own experience is pointing out. The poor person who is very strong, maybe has done some other martial arts, finds himself in a dojo in which that strength is systematically devalued. Those nice folks who came up the ranks in the "user friendly" system find that this new guy can stop them dead because they really have no idea how to do their technique... So what happens? They rain all over him and tell him he's "resistant", his attitude is made out to be less evolved spiritually, etc The entire weight of the dojo is brought to bear to retool this guy because he threatens the self image of the entire school, often including the teacher. So that person either leaves or he adjusts and buys into the "culture". I have taught places in which the training has systematically taken people who are very strong, spirited folks and trained them to be weak in spirit and body, they have been taught to overreact, to suppress any strong spirit they might have had because it scares the piss out of everyone in the dojo...

I simply haven't been able to resolve this issue... I don't understand how to teach one person something that is my best shot at being real and then teach someone else something that isn't, that just has the outer form but not the content.

Anyway, I've abandoned the two tiers, it didn't work for me. I teach what I believe is the best Aikido I know how, period. I tell my students exactly what they will need to do to be really good at this art and if they leave because they know they don't want to make the commitment, well that's just how it goes. I don't want a bunch of illusion where people think they know things they don't. I'd rather have them feeling frustrated until they get it right.

The art shouldn't be changed just to make everyone doing it feel validated. This is only possible because we don't have competition... this kind of attitude would disappear if people actually had to step up to the plate and do what they do... I am saying I want competition, but I am saying that we shouldn't adjust reality simply because we don't have it. This of course starts to get very Zen... if your technique doesn't work but no one ever shows you it doesn't, does it REALLY not work? If your technique works all the time in your dojo, then it's working right? Or is there some underlying reality here that is independent of approach, style, independent of which community of practitioners one finds oneself in? Isn't there still a place where we deal with reality as expressed through technique? Doesn't that require acknowledgment that some techniques simply don't work, even if that hurts someones feelings and fails to make them feel validated"?

For the most part, I don't feel that people are not intentionally deceiving themselves. My approach to teaching seminars is that, while i am at your dojo and you are paying me for my teaching, I will treat you as i would my one students. Why else pay me all this money and bring me in? In most cases people react positively even if I am a bit hard on them about some of their training habits. They want someone to give them direction. I have been incvietd back to almost every place I have taught and almost every person whoi had come to our place has returned.

Very occasionally though, I find myself somewhere where the problems are top down. It's the teacher(s) themselves who are the problem... I know, even as I am teaching, that i won't be back because I won't pretend that things are ok when they aren't. I try to be polite but I know that what I am teaching runs exactly counter to the way that these people have been trained. What am I going to do, smile a lot and tell everyone how swell things are and go home? I can't do that. I think there is way too much of that already...

Anyway, I know you and I are always thinking about these issues and although you might come to a different conclusion than I have, I definitely get what you are doing and think it is an admirable attempt. One thing you have to say about Aikido people, regardless of style or approach, they are pretty passionate about what they do and they care about their fellows. We may have drastically different ways of expressing that care but it's a hallmark of the art, i think.

senshincenter
04-03-2007, 10:33 AM
Hi George,

Yes, it is funny, isn’t it – meaning, on some level much of what we are attempting to do just sort of happens as a result of each of us trying to do the best we can, based upon as much of the issue that we are able to perceive at any given moment. As I said, I certainly did not set out to have the kind of division that might make sense of the different levels of commitment folks walk into a dojo with. Moreover, I don’t really have that going anyways – with the nearest I get to it being our children’s program, which is divided (mostly) according to a child’s capacity to learn Budo, which is obviously related to the child’s capacity for investment in the process. However, there is a reason why our kids program is so thusly divided, while our adult program is not – thinking about it now.

Our kids program is an open door program. We take every child – no matter what. We take them when they can’t afford the dues or a gi, we take them when each parent is at their wit’s end, we take them when every counselor or therapist has gotten nowhere with them, we take them when they’ve been kicked out of this or that educational program, etc. As a result, we have a mat that very often forces a choice to be made: Will I fit Aikido to the kids, or will I fit the kids to Aikido? I think everyone, everywhere, not only instructors, but each of us in his/her practice, has to make this decision eventually, perhaps repeatedly. So, this is nothing unique. However, what we have done, and what in some ways addresses some of the things you’ve said, understanding that I’m only discussing a children’s program here, is that whatever choice we make we be very conscious of it.

Thus, in our kids program I’ve made up two types of training, “Aiki 1” and “Aiki 2,” and each type relates to the other type, and folks have to do both types of training, and both work on the most central issue relevant to a child’s practice: the development of character. However, things are not left there. While each child can feel “fulfilled” in either program, the dojo, and myself, and our adult members, everyone and everything, etc., never give anything but a very clear message that Aiki 1 is not Aikido training but rather a program that prepares one for Aikido training. Additionally, it is also made very clear that a child’s participation in the Aiki 2 program, as stated above, is fully dependent upon a child’s (and thus that of his/her family) capacity at personal investment. This means then, which is also very clearly stated, that if a child is not in Aiki 2, it is either because that child is opting not to train in Aikido, or because they have not yet developed the character and maturity necessary to undertake Aikido training. No one is training in our kids “Aikido-lite” without both realizing that they are and that they either do not want to train in Aikido or that I (the dojo) do not think they are capable of training in Aikido.

Our adult program has no such divisions of any kind, but as a teacher, I’ve had to make many adjustments according to the investment capacity of the deshi. I think every instructor has to – even when training with a beginner vs. a more experienced practitioner. Looking at things now, I feel our membership requirements, which we do not have in our children’s program, do a lot in terms of us not having to make “official” training divisions. Most folks that look to join are folks that did not bother to read the membership page on our website – only looking at the schedule and the videos perhaps. Once they do read it, we either do not hear from them again, or they come in with them being malleable – which is always best.

However, even without official divisions, I am very clear about investment levels and their probable yields. One has to be, because we orient training in such a way that self-deception and delusion become main targets. Now, what does that mean? This means we attempt to gain a spiritual maturity, which we understand as (for example – to choose a phrase) the development of a relationship with God, which can be understood as reconciliation with fear, pride, and ignorance. In this process, for this process to even exist, self-deception and delusion must be purified out. Equally, a capacity for honesty, clarity, and for acceptance, must be let in. In this kind of Budo, martial integrity is a natural byproduct, as martial efficiency is a by-product of said martial integrity. However, the key word here is “byproduct.” In our dojo, one clearly realizes that any martial efficiency, even the kind proven to achieve victories (in any format), is of no value if within the person self-deception and delusion still rule one’s life, if fear, pride, and ignorance, still keep one from gaining spiritual maturity.

When we combine this orientation in training, with our membership requirements, when anyone would (in my opinion), certain things that are very common just do not come up (or don’t come up as often or as strongly). For example, folks tend not to think in terms of “full meal deals.” They tend to think in terms of doing all one can, while always working to do more, because there is always more that one can do and should do. Interest in rank goes out the window, so there’s hardly any need to adjust ranking requirements – let alone having them! Folks tend to understand that much of the Aikido world will not understand (this) their training, and that in all likelihood come to see them as the violent bad guys that are too rough and that have totally misunderstood the art of peace. Etc.

Additionally, because martial integrity and martial efficiency is a byproduct of the spiritual method, since the main degree of “measuring up” is spiritual, training is capable of addressing the multiplicity of investment capacities. Meaning, everyone has a spirit, every spirit can be matured. If we train mainly toward the body, for example, toward the gross obviousness of being able to win in a fight, Aikido becomes for the few as it becomes less than it should be. This is true in both senses: An Aikido that trains mainly toward the body – either in Aikido-lite or in Aikido-full – is for a relatively small portion of folks – the kind of folks that get asked, “Why do you train in that?”

I square things by training toward the spirit, by leaving martial integrity and martial efficiency as the byproduct of a method that takes violence as its engine for purification. In this way, I love to train with my student that is chasing after my training schedule as I chase after my teacher’s, and I love to train with my student that is a single-mother full-time college student with a neurological disorder that trains only 4 days per week, and I love to train with my 50-something year-old student that trains only three days per week, as many days as he visits some sort of body therapist per week, Etc. Now, I’m not saying this because I’m a “happy-go-lucky” guy. I’m saying this because each of these people are working on their spirit via their training – they are each laboring to reconcile fear, pride, and ignorance. They are each purifying self-deception and delusion out of their being. In this way, we are able to train together, slow or fast, hard or soft, always working on the same thing, always achieving the same main goals and the same by-products but doing so according to our own pace and our own levels of investment. I could not imagine training or teaching any other way. So I could not imagine you doing anything that differently – even if the details and the surface might demonstrate variation.

dmv

SeiserL
04-03-2007, 03:59 PM
One thing you have to say about Aikido people, regardless of style or approach, they are pretty passionate about what they do and they care about their fellows. We may have drastically different ways of expressing that care but it's a hallmark of the art, i think.
And who said their isn't a future for Aikido and we were on the wrong path?