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lbb
03-20-2008, 06:23 AM
Here are some adapted questions from a medical professional boundaries course. They are good ones to ask yourself if teaching. They are true false questions.
1. A boundary violation occurs any time the instructor becomes more than a teacher of the various aspects of the art of aikido...

They are all true by the way. If you answered any false, you may be at risk.

Well, hell, a whole bunch of us worked under sensei's direction to put a new roof on our dojo. He was the boss because he's also a carpenter and qualified to do (and lead) the job, and he wasn't acting as "a teacher of the various aspects of the art of aikido". Was that a "boundary violation"? Should I be nervous?

Cephallus
03-20-2008, 09:21 AM
Well, hell, a whole bunch of us worked under sensei's direction to put a new roof on our dojo. He was the boss because he's also a carpenter and qualified to do (and lead) the job, and he wasn't acting as "a teacher of the various aspects of the art of aikido". Was that a "boundary violation"? Should I be nervous?

Not until he tells you to drink the kool-aid.

Fred Little
03-20-2008, 10:50 AM
Well, hell, a whole bunch of us worked under sensei's direction to put a new roof on our dojo. He was the boss because he's also a carpenter and qualified to do (and lead) the job, and he wasn't acting as "a teacher of the various aspects of the art of aikido". Was that a "boundary violation"? Should I be nervous?

Dear Mary:

My take would be that since he's a carpenter, the direction of the work would fall within his professional expertise.

But more broadly, I would need more information about the way the dojo business is structured (for-profit corporation, non-for-profit corporation) and the degree of transparency in the dojo's financial structures.

I have seen a great many instances in which a lack of transparency in this area (which seems to be fairly typical and generally accepted in Japan) has led individuals to walk away from their dojo, the art, or both.

Knowing nothing about your situation, I wouldn't venture a guess. But I have seen a number of instances in which I would have to say, yes, there was a boundary violation that involved an instructor using (or subtly coercing) volunteer labor for what ultimately amounted more to personal gain than collective benefit. I've also seen instances in which such things were handled well.

Case by case.

Best,

Fred Little

George S. Ledyard
03-20-2008, 11:25 AM
[QUOTE=Fred Little;202154
Knowing nothing about your situation, I wouldn't venture a guess. But I have seen a number of instances in which I would have to say, yes, there was a boundary violation that involved an instructor using (or subtly coercing) volunteer labor for what ultimately amounted more to personal gain than collective benefit.[/QUOTE]

Oh, you mean staffing ones for profit business with students in your uchi deshi program? Would that qualify?

Aikibu
03-20-2008, 11:35 AM
Oh, you mean staffing ones for profit business with students in your uchi deshi program? Would that qualify?

Yup...A clear ethical violation...I work in Hollywood and here folks have been abusing interns almost since there was a Hollywood It's been institutionalized.

I have refugees in our class from a Aikido Sensei who would abuse his students this way all the time.

"Devotion" is often a mask for Exploitation....

Or as we say in this case "There are no victims here... only volunteers."

William Hazen

Fred Little
03-20-2008, 01:16 PM
Oh, you mean staffing ones for profit business with students in your uchi deshi program? Would that qualify?

It might. It might not.

In my day job, I assign teaching assistantships to graduate students.

In return for a stipulated number of hours of work per week, they receive a defined stipend and tuition reduction.

I make an offer, they accept it or decline it.

While both sides of the operation in this case are "not for profit," if one side of the operation was "for profit" the arrangement is still sufficiently transparent that I don't see a problem.

But I don't think that's what you're driving at. If an individual is paying to participate in a residential training program and discovers upon entering the program that s/he is also expected to work in a for-profit business without compensation as an unstated condition of participation, that would be not only a boundary violation but very likely a violation of both state and federal law.

I once turned down a job at a Tibetan dharma center in Northern California because it became clear about halfway through the interview that their intention was to convert me from badly paid employee to live-in slave at the earliest opportunity or fire me as soon as they found a seeker/sucker who would go for the deal.

Best,

FL

aikidoc
03-20-2008, 02:16 PM
Mary, only if it is more than connected to aikido-putting a roof on the dojo would fall under the aikido heading-part of participating in the dojo life. Now, if he kept select females after hours to perform massage work on his sore muscles or theirs then...........

bkedelen
03-20-2008, 02:56 PM
I make an offer, they accept it or decline it.

When you "make an offer" to someone who looks up to you as an authority figure, it has an exaggerated effect. An uchi deshi is not a slave, and even the ones that receive a stipend can only be expected to help doing regular maintenance around the dojo. As soon as you have your uchi deshi making you money by waiting tables at your restaurant or cleaning your rental apartments you are taking advantage of your position of authority to acquire free or underpaid labor, a significant violation of another person's human rights. Just because that person agreed to do it, even if they knew the circumstances, does not make the situation acceptable.

Fred Little
03-20-2008, 03:37 PM
When you "make an offer" to someone who looks up to you as an authority figure, it has an exaggerated effect. An uchi deshi is not a slave, and even the ones that receive a stipend can only be expected to help doing regular maintenance around the dojo. As soon as you have your uchi deshi making you money by waiting tables at your restaurant or cleaning your rental apartments you are taking advantage of your position of authority to acquire free or underpaid labor, a significant violation of another person's human rights. Just because that person agreed to do it, even if they knew the circumstances, does not make the situation acceptable.

Hi Ben:

Fortunately, I can justify all the offers I make with a clear set of metrics, and I have no authority in the design studio or the classroom. But I will admit that I had a devil of a time getting two other people to agree to review my work as a means of providing a cross-check on my judgment -- and this points up one key problem. Even when all the individuals involved are Western, most authority figures are looking for less, not more accountability, and very few people wish to put themselves in a position where their designated function is to review the judgment of a peer or a superior and flag areas that are questionable for additional review and correction.

To go to your example, I should think that if the work is underpaid and the labor conditions are exploitive, it would apply to any kind of business and any kind of student. As indicated by my previous example about the nameless dharma center, this is not really an aikido-specific problem; I would hasten to add that it is not really an Asian-cultural-transplant issue either, if I had to go for an umbrella description, I would say that it is a problem that is endemic to what are (demographically at any rate) minor faith-based communities with a fervent orientation toward authority figures.

In that respect, it doesn't matter whether the students are uchi-deshi,soto-deshi, or merely regular members; it doesn't matter whether the business is food service, hospitality and lodging, real estate management, sporting goods and apparel merchandising, translation/editing/publishing services, video production and distribution, residential construction and renovation, ginseng marketing, flower sales, or cornering the global market on red tuna.

What does matter is the character of the authority figure and his or her willingness and ability to exert his or her authority in a humane and non-exploitive fashion that is beneficial to those over whom authority is held, whatever the basis of that authority.

There are certainly any number of egregious examples that can be cited. More troublesome to my mind is the very few examples of best practices that can be used as guidelines for those individuals and organizations that wish to go beyond avoiding trouble toward actually producing benefit.

That's probably a topic for another thread, but it would be a useful thread....

Best,

FL

SeiserL
03-20-2008, 04:14 PM
IMHO, abuse of authority is about the person, not about Aikido.

Michael Hackett
03-20-2008, 05:31 PM
I agree with Riggs Sensei's take. If the actions are demanded or expected (overtly or subtlely) then the relationship can be abusive or exploitive. If not, then the actions are merely part of being a member of the dojo community. We do things off the mat as a group as well and I truly don't believe we're drinking the Kool-Aid. We hold an annual no-host holiday party for our students and families, we do movie nights when there is a particularly cheesy MA movie showing, we do BBQs some evenings after class during the summer months. People participate as they can and desire. We simply have fun and enjoy great respect for one another. I don't view any of this as unhealthy, but rather a terrific group of people.

lbb
03-20-2008, 07:26 PM
I should probably clarify, since my comment got hijacked (not inappropriately) to start this thread: our dojo was taking on water. If we didn't work together to get a new roof on, we wouldn't have had a dojo left.

The involvement thing is funny, though. Most people just starting probably think that a dojo is like a gym: they wouldn't think to vacuum the floor or clean the toilet. They're paying money, aren't they?

Aikibu
03-20-2008, 09:50 PM
The involvement thing is funny, though. Most people just starting probably think that a dojo is like a gym: they wouldn't think to vacuum the floor or clean the toilet. They're paying money, aren't they?

And they have a good point... This is not Japan... Here folks have to lead by example...and IMHO the Senior Students need to set a good example by participating in cleaning the Dojo...Heck the first thing I do when I get there is to start cleaning something...:)

Here's one I see allot...The Sensei is far too "busy" to teach beginners so he directs one of the senior students to teach instead. Now every class is spent teaching the basics to the beginners.

Should the Senior Student be compensated?

William Hazen

Cephallus
03-20-2008, 11:08 PM
The involvement thing is funny, though. Most people just starting probably think that a dojo is like a gym: they wouldn't think to vacuum the floor or clean the toilet. They're paying money, aren't they?

The first thing I ever did after putting on my gi for the first time was sweep the mat and floor with other students. The first thing I still do, every class, is sweep the mat and floor with other students. Students are expected to fill the fountains with water, clean the bathrooms, water the plants, etc.

The amazing thing about participating in dojo maintenance is the sense of ownership and belonging it creates. It sounds kind of corny, but by the time I stepped on the mat for my first class, I was already a part of the dojo, and it was a part of me.

Anyway, I think dojo maintenance, whether putting on a roof or replacing the t.p. in the crapper, is an aspect of teaching aikido. Now, if your sensei had you doing the brakes on his Mercedes on a Sunday afternoon, I would consider that an abuse of authority...

Chuck Clark
03-20-2008, 11:40 PM
Here's one I see allot...The Sensei is far too "busy" to teach beginners so he directs one of the senior students to teach instead. Now every class is spent teaching the basics to the beginners.

Should the Senior Student be compensated?

Is that an assumption that the teacher is too "busy" or did they tell you that's the reason one of the senior students is showing basics to beginners?

You may consider another reason ... especially if it's done properly, the senior student IS being compensated by the most senior student in the dojo (the sensei) by teaching them how to be a teacher. I'm not saying that what you described doesn't happen; it's just not the only possibility.

About osoji in the dojo by people who pay dues... I won't accept anyone into the dojo that won't do osoji because that's part of the education. I realize that there are folks that don't agree and make the relationship of student and teacher a mercantile transaction. I don't think that's budo practice.

Aikibu
03-20-2008, 11:54 PM
Is that an assumption that the teacher is too "busy" or did they tell you that's the reason one of the senior students is showing basics to beginners?

You may consider another reason ... especially if it's done properly, the senior student IS being compensated by the most senior student in the dojo (the sensei) by teaching them how to be a teacher. I'm not saying that what you described doesn't happen; it's just not the only possibility.

About osoji in the dojo by people who pay dues... I won't accept anyone into the dojo that won't do osoji because that's part of the education. I realize that there are folks that don't agree and make the relationship of student and teacher a mercantile transaction. I don't think that's budo practice.

There are other forms of compensation besides money so I should have been clear...

I agree with you Chuck about osoji However I don't think it's Budo to establish any kind of leadership without being willing to do anything the Budoka have to do. I guess it's my military bias but I personally have a disdain for folks who do not walk the walk and that includes Yudansha...In my experiance sometimes "Black Belt" disease lingers far too long in some folks...All of a sudden they're too "senior" to clean the toilet.

That to me is also an abuse of authority.

William Hazen

Ron Tisdale
03-21-2008, 01:38 PM
Here's one I see allot...The Sensei is far too "busy" to teach beginners so he directs one of the senior students to teach instead. Now every class is spent teaching the basics to the beginners.

I actually feel kinda good when Sensei asks me to teach a beginner. Ok, maybe he figures it's impossible for me to screw them up too much, since they've got a long way to go anyhow...but I feel like he's entrusting me with a pretty precious commodity. Newbies have the potential to stick around and become regular members. I take that trust he gives me pretty seriously...


Should the Senior Student be compensated?

He let's me train, right?? How much compensation do I need??? ;)

Best,
Ron ( I have a day job)

edtang
03-21-2008, 01:45 PM
The involvement thing is funny, though. Most people just starting probably think that a dojo is like a gym: they wouldn't think to vacuum the floor or clean the toilet. They're paying money, aren't they?

This completely depends if the dojo is a nonprofit dojo with a clearly articulated cooperative spirit, or if it's a commercial dojo.

Buck
03-23-2008, 11:20 AM
"Well, hell, a whole bunch of us worked under sensei's direction to put a new roof on our dojo. He was the boss because he's also a carpenter and qualified to do (and lead) the job, and he wasn't acting as "a teacher of the various aspects of the art of aikido". Was that a "boundary violation"? Should I be nervous?"

Thinking in terms of budo. If the meaning master carpenter being a simile used by Musashi (not only by him, but by the ancient Chinese, and used in the Christian Bible) as being of great skill in leadership and responsibility. The sensei repairing the roof would still be acting as a teacher of Aikido. The boundary violation would be the sensei failing to see this and acting accordingly to the principles of leadership of the master carpenter that is his/her role of sensei.

Buck
03-23-2008, 04:30 PM
If the sensei fails to act accordingly outside of his role of leadership of an Aikido sensei then he/she has violated a boundary. It is my opinion that the sensei must act in the best interest of the students, the dojo, and Aikido. The violation can be best described by the Hippocratic Oath (all three versions are important, but I am highlighting the modern version). A good highlight of the Oath that is for our purposes is the avoidance of violating the morals of community; moral turpitude. Another section says, to practice and prescribe to the best of my ability for the good of my patients, and to try to avoid harming them.

In the last line, we can interchange terms replacing patients with students and have striking similarities to Aikido philosophy, similarities that work well with Aikido philosophy. Moral turpitude can compliment Aikido philosophy, since it is something universally important to the workings of any type of group.

A sensei who abuses their power intentionally to do harm to others physically or in other ways, has failed to honor the role of leadership as an Aikido sensei. To be an Aikido sensei /a master carpenter, a person must know what behavior constitutes abuse. The sensei must also know what the boundaries are and then never violate them. Then when the dojo needs repairs and is lead by the sensei, when the sensei is administering first aid, or he/she is giving advice at dinner, you will then know when to be nervous.

mriehle
03-24-2008, 02:02 PM
The sensei must also know what the boundaries are and then never violate them.

Thia has, in general, been a Really Good discussion. I think, though, that a lot of it is dancing around this one statement.

The boundaries are not static and their definition is the responsibility of more than one person. The Sensei defines them, but his definition is subject to the definitions provided by students (and parents of students for minors). Their definitions are subject to the standards of society and the those standards are subject to an overall perception of Good and Evil which all of us (sort of) share.

If you examine these relationships, you'll see an obvious circularity to them. Although, in my mind it may be more of a spiral.

In any case, this means that the goal of never violating the boundaries - while noble and correct - is probably not achievable. That being said, there's a big difference between asking a student to sweep the mat when he really should be getting home to do homework and asking that same student to take responsibility for painting the entire dojo at his own cost. Both, in my mind, violate boundaries, but the first case could be inadvertent where the latter is likely intentional.

Inadvertent violations, I think, should always be minor. A Sensei who violates them should be quick to apologize in these cases. And frequency matters as well. A Sensei who frequently is guilty of minor violations is likely either careless or abusive. It's easy to make a mistake. A pattern of mistakes may constitute a major violation in and of itself.

The real problem comes when violations are not so minor, inadvertent of not. Either way, it's not acceptable. And, I think we've established that any intentional violation is just not acceptable. I hope we have.

The threshold between what is a minor problem and a major problem is less easy to define. This, at first glance, seems like a problem. But I don't think it is. This is where "relativism" does come into play. There are some things which are just plain wrong. There are some which are really okay. There are a lot of things where circumstances dictate their seriousness.

The same is true of whether some action violates a boundary at all. Allowing a student who wants to help out around the dojo can be a Good Thing, or it can violate that boundary of abusiveness. How do you decide? A number of good criteria have been presented. Sometimes, though, you just have to consider two points and do it honestly (and maybe even get someone whose judgment you trust to help):


Your motives.
What effect it's having on the student, good or bad.


I think that, most of the time, if you can honestly answer these two questions the rest of it is obvious. Moreover, I think that any major boundary violation is going to be driven by incorrect motives and will be obviously harmful to the student.

It's important to remember that circumstances can change. The action which was acceptable or at least not serious last week can be a major problem this week. I recall one incident with a senior student of mine where I had to come down on him for a behavior which had always been acceptable that - alarmingly suddenly - became a problem. The thing that had changed was some new students who'd signed up who were interpreting his behavior in an incorrect way. It was a fairly minor thing, but it illustrates the point well, I think.

(FWIW: Said senior student understood the problem himself instantly once I pointed it out to him and that was the end of it.)

Bill Danosky
04-02-2008, 08:55 AM
There should always be a quid pro quo arrangement with osoji- If I'm training new students, I'd expect to receive some extra individual instruction from Sensei. If I'm getting rained on in practice, I don't mind helping put on a new roof, metaphorically speaking.

Our dojo is an S-corp, so when there's money left over after our building rent and insurance we use it to pay for maintenence materials and ALL the students and teachers volunteer the labor.

Done in the right spirit, osoji is a great character builder. And I've seen Aikido turn some knuckleheads into decent people. That right there means nobody's getting taken.

Aikibu
04-02-2008, 09:28 AM
There should always be a quid pro quo arrangement with osoji- If I'm training new students, I'd expect to receive some extra individual instruction from Sensei. If I'm getting rained on in practice, I don't mind helping put on a new roof, metaphorically speaking.

Our dojo is an S-corp, so when there's money left over after our building rent and insurance we use it to pay for maintenence materials and ALL the students and teachers volunteer the labor.

Done in the right spirit, osoji is a great character builder. And I've seen Aikido turn some knuckleheads into decent people. That right there means nobody's getting taken.

Well said...Thank You from an Ex-Knucklehead. :)

William Hazen

gstevens
07-13-2008, 02:47 PM
This thread, and the one that spawned it are some if not the best threads on this board.

I wish to thank all the participants for their clear thought out writing, and am looking forward to reading more.

Thank you all for participating at the level you are participating at. This thread has huge personal impact for me.

Really,
THANK YOU SO MUCH!
Guy
:-)