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The thread on Clyde Takeguchi leaving the USAF has me thinking about the benefits and disadvantages of being in an organization. People often focus on the negative aspects and political infighting. On the positive side people talk about maintaining standards. This is often a goal of the organizations, but how successful they are is debatable, especially in comparison with good independent teachers. But there is one advantage that is obvious to me, and it comes from the basic concept of forming a group, it encourages you to interact and cooperate with the members of your group. It is generally fairly easy to go out and train with other people in other organizations, especially if you are a student with little to no political status. But I have seen the benefits of being well connected in an organization through the example of my first dojo, Aikido de la Montagne in Montreal. Below I have put a list of all the shihan level instructors I have taken classes from at seminars at this same dojo (I have added some notes on how often they have come in the last 10 years, no guarantees on accuracy though, I also may have missed someone but I think this is pretty accurate). I have limited myself to shihans in order to keep this long list manageable, but there have also been some very good lower ranked instructors invited to teach. Since I started in that dojo and still live close enough for a quick weekend visit, seeing all these skilled instructors has been fairly painless. How many independent dojos manage to expose their students to such a variety?
M. Kanai (4 times a year until his death)
Y. Yamada (at least once a year)
K. Chiba (once a year for the last 3 years)
N. Tamura (twice)
I. Shibata (twice)
H. Osawa (two or three times)
C. Berthiaume (dojo-cho, he often teaches a class or two at the seminars)
H. Konigsberg (more than once)
P. Bernath (more than once)
D. Waite (twice)
PS – I have seen other shihans, such as C. Tissier, L. Dianne and F. Doran, at other dojos, but these other dojos were also affiliated to one Aikikai group or another.
09-17-2009, 03:20 PM
In my experience, there are distinct advantages to belonging to an established and proven organization, which provides consistent support, beneficial guidance and unconditional friendships that augment the personal goals of the individual.
“No man is an island.” Is a phrase that comes to mind, as a reminder that we are all built to function best in a social environment conducive to our well being, our need for human interaction, and our plans for growth, but it remains our life to live.
Having been connected with Aikikai from my beginnings, I know of no other identity or tradition I can connect to in the same profound way. Over the years, I have been a part of “sub” organizations, that were intended to validate my membership in the larger one from Tokyo. They included the California Aikido Association (Rod Kobayashi under Koichi Tohei), the United States Aikido Federation (Yoshimitsu Yamada under the resident Doshu), and currently my own direct affiliation with Aikikai Foundation, the Aikido Associates West Coast.
Initially, my reasons for being connected to Aikikai in these forms, stemmed from my desire to remain true to the Ueshiba Aikido legacy and traditions. It never crossed my mind that I was swearing allegiance or obedience to any individual, or that any person or committee had any final jurisdiction or right of approval over what my Aikido turned out to be, or how I pursued my individual paths of growth.
Later, it became uncomfortably evident that agendas were being substituted and followed, that appeared to follow personal and political policies that had nothing to do with the Founder’s marvelous art form. Since they did not directly affect me or my students, I chose to ignore them, and still do as much as possible.
Now, my reasons for remaining with the Aikikai Foundation are more in line with my personal commitment to the late and current Doshu, to support the Aikido of the Founder, Morihei Ueshiba to the end of my days. This also meant my support of that organization, which primarily represents, in my mind, the most logical, faithful and consistent behavior to maintaining this connection to the Founder’s mission. It is my hope that I may be able to continue to do so in a constructive and interactive way.
Despite the above, I have always maintained full control over what I studied, who I trained with , and those individuals I hold in the highest esteem as to the correct following of the Aiki Principles of the Founder. Some of them are in Aikido, but most of them are not. I have discovered, to my chagrin, that principles of such magnitude are the province of anyone who dares to think as large as the Founder.
Therefore, there is no one I will not listen to or train with, no publication that I will not read, or any valid method I will not investigate regardless of origin. After all, this is what my mentor, the Founder, did his entire life himself, and admonished others to do so. I would think less of myself for not following this awesome advice.
I do not need, nor have ever believed that I required an organization to belong to. The organizations that I have been a part of were those I chose to be with, with the types of people I wanted to associate with. I have always reserved the right to move on from any situation or relationship I found inconsistent with my personal sense of ethic, morality. or principles and ongoing proofs of correct behavior.
I will always attempt to respect the right of others to do the same, and continually remind my students to take advantage of any opportunity for personal growth that they can find. They do so with my blessings, and with my encouragement.
I do so because O’Sensei and the late Doshu gave me the same irreplaceable gift.
09-17-2009, 04:18 PM
The main advantage that I can think of is being taught stuff that is real and having that transferred. A fly by night might teach you real stuff, but if nobody else knows them, then you might not be taken seriously when you have to move. Aikikai has different standards in each dojo but you can be assured that what you are being taught is still real and that you will be "readily accepted" when you have to join another dojo.
09-17-2009, 04:38 PM
I cannot think of any.
09-17-2009, 05:34 PM
The quality issue is definitely a factor in my wanting to stay affiliated with the aikikai. Organizations have never interfered with my pursuits but provided me with a venue for exploring and growing. When that venue was used up or going in a different direction from my personal goals, I moved on. This is why I like my current affiliation since there are no politics. I have seen organizations splinter and then splinter again. Unfortunately, one I am familiar with has too much inbreeding and automatic self-promotion: years in grade, you get the rank. Instructors are not encouraged to train outside the small organization. To me this is fodder for a quality issue developing. Inbreeding and people being promoted to ranks whether the skill sets were there or not after nidan.
09-18-2009, 12:19 PM
From what I've seen, the advantages of being in an organization are going to be determined by the individual in a given time and location, and whether or not their membership and participation proves and presents itself on their continuing path of least resistance.
Some people will begin and stay in the same organization their entire lives with nary a thought. Others might weave in and out of various organizations. Other might find a time to move on.
I do not think there are any blanket statements that can be made for, or against, organizational membership, partial association, or complete independence. There are advantages and disadvantages to all of those positions - which depend, more than anything else, on the individual at any given time and place, and the relationships and opportunities that are presented to them.
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