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just-want-to-train
07-21-2010, 04:45 AM
i'm moving interstate within Australia very soon, and plan to continue with my aikido training. unfortunately, the place where i'll be going will not have any dojos under my current umbrella organisation. i have no qualms training in another good dojo, but i've heard that some dojos/organisations are very political and will forbid their students to train anywhere else.

having a strong attachment to my previous dojo, i would obviously love to drop by once in a while, and attend the occasional national seminars/gasshukus when possible.

the biggest issue seems to be that this is not unique to the occasional, parochial dojos; but apparently the biggest/main aikido organisation in the country is in fact the biggest stickler about that policy.

i must admit that this is just hearsay at the moment for me as i haven't approached any of these dojos yet, but i've met at least about a dozen aikidoka who have trained under that organisation who have told me the same, and i'm quite concerned about that.

does anyone have specific experience/insight about the matter and would be happy to provide for some advice?

thanks in advance.

RED
07-21-2010, 12:09 PM
I have never trained in Australia. But I find that sort of thing weird. I've willingly visited dojo in and out of my federation, attended their seminars with no consequence. We've invited other federations to our seminars.

I was always told to watch out for dojo that suppress the student's desire to visit other teachers. I was told the number one reason for it is so their students won't learn anything from any one else...maybe they are afraid their students will come back thinking their schools do things wrong ??

danj
07-21-2010, 02:19 PM
I think with our proximity to Japan Australia has been blessed with having many Shihan visit or even stay and establish organisations. Old organisations tend to have a hierarchy and membership base to protect and need to have more 'boundary control' than younger organisations that open their doors to all. Of course young organisations get old eventually and might succumb to the former strategy.
With a little care its possible to practice with the greater majority of dojo and there are some fabulous teachers and seminars out there

There was a somewhat emotive discussion on the Aikido Australia email list last december (http://sports.groups.yahoo.com/group/Aikido_Australia/ ) whilst maybe not so helpful at least you know you are not in the trenches alone. Here is a list of the major organisations in Australia. http://www.aikidorepublic.com/aikido-australia

best,
Dan

PS where you off to Ronin?

Aikiscott
07-21-2010, 06:16 PM
Yep Aikikai Australia are pretty bad for that sort of thing and other unpleasantries.

I can remember going to watch Sugano sensei (I think it was his first visit to Aus after loosing his foot) at their old Leichhardt dojo and seeing an instructor that we knew and had trained with and who had visited our dojo on many occations, look at us and whisper "Pretend you don't know me" to protect himself from undue attention for his extracuricular activities.

If your moving to NSW or QLD send me a PM and I will try to point you to some dojo's that are friendly to people from other organisations.

But if your a current Aikikai Australia student trying to maintain good relations with your former dojo/Organisation whilst training with another organisation, then you may find things a little tricky.

Peter Goldsbury
07-21-2010, 07:02 PM
Hello,

I have just returned from Australia, where I was guest instructor at the Aikikai Australia Winter School. From my experience of training with Japanese shihan, I believe that the readiness or otherwise of some organizations to welcome 'fellow travellers', for want of a better term, depends pretty much on the attitude of the shihan. With Sugano Shihan, I believe it is a fundamental matter of commitment to him, as a direct disciple of the Founder. Some other shihans I have known do not appear to insist on such commitment (but, since it is so much a part of traditional Japanese martial culture, I suspect this is simply tatemae). Of course, I do not think this is simply a bad or unpleasant attitude. There is a lot more to it than this.

Best wishes,

PAG

i'm moving interstate within Australia very soon, and plan to continue with my aikido training. unfortunately, the place where i'll be going will not have any dojos under my current umbrella organisation. i have no qualms training in another good dojo, but i've heard that some dojos/organisations are very political and will forbid their students to train anywhere else.

having a strong attachment to my previous dojo, i would obviously love to drop by once in a while, and attend the occasional national seminars/gasshukus when possible.

the biggest issue seems to be that this is not unique to the occasional, parochial dojos; but apparently the biggest/main aikido organisation in the country is in fact the biggest stickler about that policy.

i must admit that this is just hearsay at the moment for me as i haven't approached any of these dojos yet, but i've met at least about a dozen aikidoka who have trained under that organisation who have told me the same, and i'm quite concerned about that.

does anyone have specific experience/insight about the matter and would be happy to provide for some advice?

thanks in advance.

john.burn
07-22-2010, 04:27 AM
Politics in Aikido is sadly a very real problem and to me anyway - quite ridiculous. I was at a course at the weekend and a couple in front of me realised they'd handed over the 'wrong' passbook for signing - they were visitors from another (Aikikai linked I might add) association and so they swapped the books for their personal ones.

It's not just linked to Aikikai related organisations however - my previous club who were independent have a blanket ban on anyone training at my club (well, with me really) - they can come, but they will be asked to make a choice upon their return! Last time I checked this was a hobby for most people and we're all adults, right? I get visitors from time to time from my old club, we make them sign in with an x and call them 'the others' all in good fun, but it's not good fun for them when they go back if anyone has seen them or checked our website and spots them in a photo. It's nice to know they're so paranoid and scared in some ways. All my students are free to go and train anywhere and with anyone - including my old club - however when they do go to them they don't usually say they're with me as I doubt they would be allowed to train.

Having said all of that I think that it can be worse in Japan from some of Peter's previous comments and postings on this sort of thing.

jss
07-22-2010, 06:09 AM
i have no qualms training in another good dojo, but i've heard that some dojos/organisations are very political and will forbid their students to train anywhere else.

having a strong attachment to my previous dojo, i would obviously love to drop by once in a while, and attend the occasional national seminars/gasshukus when possible.
In my opinion, there's a difference between exploring other aikido styles through seminars or the occasional visit to a differnt dojo on the one hand and actually training in another dojo on the other. I have little understanding for dojos forbidding the former, but I do have some sympathy for dojos forbidding the latter. When you join a dojo, you're expected to conform to their style. (In due time, of course, you can't just flip a switch to switch styles.) Training in another dojo with a different style or regularly returning to your previous dojo, is not the best way to confirm your membership of the new dojo.

danj
07-22-2010, 06:14 AM
Its an interesting problem, and in Australia anyway it exists in more than a few organisations. Perhaps an (un)intended result is that the harder the fist is squeezed the more aikidoka run out through the fingers, and often its the talented rather than the mediocre doing so.

Stanley Pranin recently published an article on the Aikido Journal (http://www.aikidojournal.com/blog/2010/07/16/why-cant-the-aikido-world-get-together-by-stanley-pranin/) touching on this topic (and a few raw nerves judging by at least one comment). Were it not from probably Aikido's most well known historian it might be labelled reactionary. Here are some quotes I hope not to out of context.
I think I can safely say that few of today's leaders are focused on the philosophy and technique of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. Their main concern is the solidification/expansion of the organization and its smooth operation.
My closing thought is this. Don't look to Japan or any organization for leadership in aikido or any other field of endeavor.


Still chewing on that one,
Dan

PS Peter, having enjoyed your writings online I was sorry not to have the opportunity to hear you speak and teach whilst you were recently downunder

Peter Goldsbury
07-22-2010, 07:57 AM
Hello Daniel,

Yes, in the recent winter school I saw at least one example of the consequences of the tight squeezing of the fist. However, as I stated earlier, I think there is a lot more to it than that.

I think that the problem with Stan's generalizations is that they are generalizations. He states:

QUOTE: "I think I can safely say that few of today’s leaders are focused on the philosophy and technique of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. Their main concern is the solidification/expansion of the organization and its smooth operation."

The problem here is that Stan does not qualify the 'few' by giving any examples, so all today's leaders are tarred with the same brush. I should add that in prewar Japan, two of the most important 'leaders who were concerned with the solidification/expansion of their organizations and their smooth operations' were Morihei Ueshiba (the Kobukan) and his spiritual mentor Onisaburo Deguchi (the Omoto religion), but it is considered 'politically incorrect' to state this.

QUOTE: "My closing thought is this. Don't look to Japan or any organization for leadership in aikido or any other field of endeavor."

Again this is pretty absolute, so absolute that it is difficult to know how to take it--and it does not at all match with my own experience. The problem is that some sort of distinction needs to be made between the organization itself and those who operate through it. Otherwise we come to absurd conclusions. For example, who would attack Tamura Sensei and his aikido, because he chose to organize aikido in Europe in a certain way? Similarly with Sugano in Australia, Takeda, also in Australia, Chiba in the UK and Yamada in the US?

In any case, the issue that led to Stan's post and his recent (excellent) DVD on Koichi Tohei, does not concern organizations as such, so much as the individuals who led them. Which, in this case, centers on the personality clash, and consequences, between Koichi Tohei and Kisshomaru Ueshiba. Tohei, also, seemingly nullified his leadership credentials by forming an organization.

Finally, I remember my early encounters with Chiba Shihan in the UK. He was extraordinary (but was also largely responsible for many of the splits within the Aikikai in the UK) and I know that my own experiences precisely match those of the early students in Australia with Sugano Shihan. I myself had the benefit of long discussions / arguments with Chiba Sensei about how aikido could be furthered by organizations and I suspect that the policies of the Aikikai Australia precisely reflect the thoughts of Sugano Shihan about a correct teaching/learning relationship, as applied to organizations.

FWIW,

PAG

Its an interesting problem, and in Australia anyway it exists in more than a few organisations. Perhaps an (un)intended result is that the harder the fist is squeezed the more aikidoka run out through the fingers, and often its the talented rather than the mediocre doing so.

Stanley Pranin recently published an article on the Aikido Journal (http://www.aikidojournal.com/blog/2010/07/16/why-cant-the-aikido-world-get-together-by-stanley-pranin/) touching on this topic (and a few raw nerves judging by at least one comment). Were it not from probably Aikido's most well known historian it might be labelled reactionary. Here are some quotes I hope not to out of context.

Still chewing on that one,
Dan

PS Peter, having enjoyed your writings online I was sorry not to have the opportunity to hear you speak and teach whilst you were recently downunder

danj
07-22-2010, 02:17 PM
Hi Peter,
Thanks for sharing so frankly. Although my experiences have been with various Ryuhu in Australia and abroad rather than Hombu it resonates well.

Hi All,
Perhaps OT and for another day or article (a few columns have touched on this), dialing forward a few years and well and truly into aikido's third and forth generation its possible to imagine a Pranin esq' aikido universe where there is a proliferation of aikido organisations (and groups/federations within organisations) that don't necessarily communicate. Here restrictive access to quality high level teaching outside ones school ensures that aiki suffers the eventual dilution and quality control of some of the other modern budo. Any thoughts?

best,
dan

David Yap
07-23-2010, 05:43 AM
...I suspect that the policies of the Aikikai Australia precisely reflect the thoughts of Sugano Shihan about a correct teaching/learning relationship, as applied to organizations.

Hello Prof Goldsbury,

I think you are spot on. This is mirrored in the Malaysia Aikido Association which Sugano shihan also heads. It was a common knowledge in the aikido community here that a very senior founding member of the association left the organization due to teaching methodology that is inconsistent with that set by Sugano shihan.

I hope luck will be with him this 3rd time, now that he has allied himself with another Japanese shihan who is very strict with protocol and loyalty issues, perhaps even more stricter than Sugano shihan.

Regards

David Y

Marc Abrams
07-23-2010, 07:31 AM
Stanley Pranin wrote a very good article addressing this topic

http://www.aikidojournal.com/blog/2010/07/16/why-cant-the-aikido-world-get-together-by-stanley-pranin/

Marc Abrams

Buck
07-23-2010, 10:28 AM
Politics and Japanese martial arts seems to be synonymous. I have no special insight to Aikido's organizational politics. I didn't come up that route in my training. I have not been that fortunate to be a close to any organizational Aikido leader to be a political.

But what I have learn about the Japanese culture and the things I have read from organizational leaders and Stanely Pranin and others it seems to me as the saying, you can take the girl out of the country (a country girl), but you can't take the country out of the girl. It seems true for the Japanese.

It seems the samurai culture fueled by personal power resulting in conflict and warring states still exists. It is as times have changed but people haven't. It seems that Japanese leadership and the structure of organization is never without political aspirations among the ranks. There is always in the ranks plots and schemes to take over the leadership in someway, to create rivalries, to brake off and compete and establish dominance. Watermarks of the past feudal culture.

That might be because those who are attracted to martial arts subscribe to that feudal thinking. That is it is part and parcel for Japanese martial arts to be political, because those interested in martial arts have a feudal mentality. It is like people who like to fight become fighters. The fighting is no longer on a physical level, but a political level.

I often wonder that sometimes some Japanese martial arts leaders subscribe to the samurai format of how they run their organizations. They may say, the past is old fashion and out of date, yet they mirror it very well. It seems such people look upon their students as samurai and act as Daimyos or a Shogun. They compete with other organizations for wealth and recognition equaling power. All of which where the two things the Daimyo sought after through conflict and politics.

It seems to me that the modern leadership that came after O'Sensei had no other model that what came before them in running organizations. Such people attracted to martial arts and all that it means from a Japanese perspective are predisposition to be political, to imbibe in the same spirit that fueled feudal Japan.

What carries that political culture on in places like Australia and other parts of the world, generally speaking we accept playing samurai. We absorb and subscribe to the politics as part of the art of Aikido. It is part of the whole exotic experience of a Japanese martial art. Those of us who don't accept this are either jaded from it, or just focus only on technique, not paying attention to much else.

Also the whole structure of Aikido because it is a martial art has the political feudal structure or platform, O'Sensei keep that in Aikido. He didn't eradicate the inherent political stuff of budo, he altered the perspective of the inherent violent out comes resulting from the politics. Rank for example is a political statement, so is all the other terms and duties for offices in a dojo or organization.

So, it is my opinion base on what I observe Japanese Aikido politics and martial arts are infused and can't be separated. The Japanese in rank and file, a leadership position model the leaders of feudal Japan. They aspire as martial artist, or budoka subscribe to what that means. The Japanese leadership in martial arts because they are interested in martial arts follow the models of feudal Japan.

Yet we expect them to act differently outside of what they know, who they are and where they came from. To act like us. We fail to see it is in their genetic cultural code to be political, to act as Lords over their fiefdoms to secede and form their own organization for their own interests and agendas. Look at Emperor Hirohito, and why it took him so long despite the result of the first bomb to surrender, and all the dynamics involved. For example, he didn't want to lose face, he wanted to stay in power and be seen as a god, even it modern times. That shows the importance and how politics are so deeply infused in Japanese culture and leadership.

Yes, not everyone is like this, not everyone's sensei is like this, and this is all in general terms. It is my opinion. I don't want people to think am attacking anyone or anything. I can see how they might. But the truth is this is my observations and a result I have no problem with Japanese Aikido politics and leadership. For me it is a matter of you can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl. I am not involved in the politics where it is a concern. I have come across political situations and accept them for what they are as well as the outcome and stuff. I recognize it for what it is. I am not an insider. I am merely making my observations from the doorway.

My purpose of this post was to provide by view point in order to help the original poster possibly Japanese martial arts politics as I see them. In this way, it might provide an added navigational instrument around the politics.

Keith Larman
07-23-2010, 10:35 AM
I have no special insight to Aikido's organizational politics.

Something my father used to tell me is that if you start a conversation with "I don't know anything about this topic..." you should probably stop talking at that point rather than prove the truth of your statement.

Buck
07-23-2010, 11:46 AM
Something my father used to tell me is that if you start a conversation with "I don't know anything about this topic..." you should probably stop talking at that point rather than prove the truth of your statement.

I am sure your father was very wise, and it is good advise. Allow me to clarify as my statement was not in enough detail. I guess that is what happens when I take short cuts. Sorry, Keith for any confusion on what I said, having no special insight.

In more detail, what I was saying is I am like so many Aikidoka and like the originator of the post, that we experience politics, it touches out lives, it effects our Aikido, our dojos, our training. We are not the policy makers, we are not the polticians, and not everyone can be a Stanley Pranin who got really close. The Japanese use the word gaijin to indicate the exclusive attitude Japanese have. They had their country's door closed for centuries. They didn't modernize until the Mejin period. I have read from many here how difficult it is as a gaijin to be accept. And I have read the threads concerning the difficulty for gaijin to be shihan in some organization. There is only one Stanely Pranin, and it sure ain't me. And unlike some other people here, I am not fortunate to get close to more liberal top Japanese sensei that are less conservative in this matter. Individuals who are able to have them be comfortable enough to provide political insights. That is what I mean by that.

I don't think the original post has those connections either, and offering a view point from the same position I hope offers him some general background information to the situation he is facing. That I provided in my post is what helped me when I was faced with such a situation. I want to share information I learned in the Japanese culture classes I took. That really helped me understand the Japanese. After all, Aikido is Japanese. It would make sense to have a primer on Japanese history and culture. :)

Keith, as you can see what I said was "no special insight." That is true. But, I have had similar political uncomfortable situations as a result of organizational politics and leadership, as many of us rank and file have. I don't have a high or influential position or rank in any Aikido organizations, obviously, that is what I mean by I "no special insight" into the operational political workings of any major Aikido organization.

Keith, it is my hope that I was able to provide some general insight to his problem based on my observations, having a similar experience, and what I have read and learned in relation to Aikido organizational politics. The bottom line thing I learned was there is always going to be politics in Aikido and martial arts. Although, it isn't the politics we may be familiar with, or accustom to knowing that helps in our expectations and understanding of Aikido politics. Most of us will never have that special in sight into the political workings. But I feel, once we have a better general understanding of those politics are, and where they come from and how they are different and similar from our own politics. Such an overview, may give us better navigational points, and ease the frustration we may feel as a result from political implications.

Michael Hackett
07-23-2010, 03:50 PM
I'm a cynic by nature and suggest that we consider Deep Throat's advice to Woodward and Bernstein, "Follow the money."

just-want-to-train
07-24-2010, 07:49 AM
thank you everyone for your responses. a lot of what you've shared have shed some light on this issue for me now. i was a little unsure about whether it was appropriate to name up, but it appears that it is of more common knowledge than i expected.

yes, i was worried about the Australian Aikikai's policy under Sugano Shihan re: this matter in particular. I'm moving to Melbourne, and it would appear that most of the dojos near where i'll be are mostly Aikikai, and i would really like to train there, but as i've alluded to before, i'm not quite sure if i'm ready to swear off my right to train with others, especially at the occasional seminars.

this feels like a very big commitment. much bigger than i feel ready to make especially not having build any strong ties with them in the first place.

although i appreciate now that this is more than just simple politics at play, it still does not make my decision any easier.

jeez - i really just want to train. i will eventually have to make up my own mind i'm sure, but just in case i get any gems of wisdom here, do people have any advice on what i can/should do?

NagaBaba
07-24-2010, 11:35 AM
thank you everyone for your responses. a lot of what you've shared have shed some light on this issue for me now. i was a little unsure about whether it was appropriate to name up, but it appears that it is of more common knowledge than i expected.

yes, i was worried about the Australian Aikikai's policy under Sugano Shihan re: this matter in particular. I'm moving to Melbourne, and it would appear that most of the dojos near where i'll be are mostly Aikikai, and i would really like to train there, but as i've alluded to before, i'm not quite sure if i'm ready to swear off my right to train with others, especially at the occasional seminars.

this feels like a very big commitment. much bigger than i feel ready to make especially not having build any strong ties with them in the first place.

although i appreciate now that this is more than just simple politics at play, it still does not make my decision any easier.

jeez - i really just want to train. i will eventually have to make up my own mind i'm sure, but just in case i get any gems of wisdom here, do people have any advice on what i can/should do?

Go to speak directly to Sugano sensei. He is a very approachable nice man.Talk to him sincerely about your problems. I'm sure he will find a good solution.

Aikiscott
07-25-2010, 06:19 PM
If I was moving to Melbourne then I would probably go train with the Yoshinkan.
In the long run people from Aikikai Australia still train outside of the organisation but not as much as they once did.

Good luck in finding a new place to train.

David Yap
07-26-2010, 12:52 AM
jeez - i really just want to train. i will eventually have to make up my own mind i'm sure, but just in case i get any gems of wisdom here, do people have any advice on what i can/should do?

Google "Joe Thambu shihan". Lots of training opportunities and perhaps minimal politics.

Keith Burnikell
01-18-2011, 10:09 PM
Let's see if I understand this correctly. You're moving to a place that does not have an affiliated dojo....correct?

Do you mean to tell me that you belong to an organization that would rather you not train at all than train with another association, given no other choice????

I agree with asking your Shihan.
I'd be shocked if his answer left you without an option to train at all.
I imagine him to be wise, and therefore, reasonable.

If staying in their good graces is that important to you, then take a sabbatical and delve into another martial art, until you can go back to an 'approved' dojo.
Do Iaido or Kenjutsu....related but no conflict. Find a BJJ school. Learn an external martial art so you truly understand atemi. There are ways to do this if you have to.

If you absolutely must practice Aikido, be prepared for some backlash.

I can feel the OPs frustration. You just want to do Aikido. ME TOO! There are a ton of us out there who know exactly how you feel. The number who wants the miserable aspects of politics out of Aikido grows steadily.

If Samurai = one who serves
and "The greatest among you is your servant".
then I contend that this very quality in an Aikido instructor 'magically' draws from his students an unwaivering loyalty that is oft demanded by lesser men.

There is great value in asking for commitment; almost none in compulsion. Make sure that you've discerned what your parent organization has truly asked from you. There may be a miscommunication.

Same issue
11-02-2011, 03:15 AM
Can you let me know how this worked out? I will also be moving to Australia soon, and while I have trained in this city before, my old dojo is no longer around. I've been training with Aikikai in Japan, and Aikikai Australia seems like it would suit my needs just fine except for the politics you just mentioned.

Grady Lane
11-02-2011, 12:02 PM
Sugano Shihan passed away last year on August 29 2010

Diana Frese
11-02-2011, 03:57 PM
Checking the posting dates, this thread was active mostly in the month before Sugano Sensei passed away last year, and then someone posted in January of this year, and then today. I only joined Aiki Web in November of 2010 but I have a suggestion that may be helpful. From Sugano Sensei's website last year it seems that a long time student of his, Tony Smibert, might be the one you might want to talk with. I don't know if I read an article he wrote, it would have been months ago, but I think you will get some good advice from him and a chance to discuss how you feel about your training and your continuing contact with your original dojo.

I guess this is for the original poster, although we don't seem to have heard from him since (Hope he will post and let us know) but also for the aikidoka who posted today. Good luck, I hope everything works out okay.

Same issue
11-02-2011, 07:33 PM
@Grady. Yes, I was very sad to hear about Sugano-shihan. Although I have heard that Aikikai Australia can be sticklers for their rules, I have only ever heard good things about Sugano-shihan himself.

@Diane. Thanks for the advice. I will actually not be too far away from Tony, so it shouldn't be too hard to have a chat with him. I will also check out all the dojos in my area and see which one seems to meet my needs the best. Of all of the senseis in the area, the only one that I haven't met is the Aikikai Australia one, so that dojo is a bit of an unknown quantity to me.

Peter Goldsbury
11-02-2011, 11:08 PM
@Grady. Yes, I was very sad to hear about Sugano-shihan. Although I have heard that Aikikai Australia can be sticklers for their rules, I have only ever heard good things about Sugano-shihan himself.

@Diane. Thanks for the advice. I will actually not be too far away from Tony, so it shouldn't be too hard to have a chat with him. I will also check out all the dojos in my area and see which one seems to meet my needs the best. Of all of the senseis in the area, the only one that I haven't met is the Aikikai Australia one, so that dojo is a bit of an unknown quantity to me.

I have known Tony Smibert for many years and have frequent contact with him. If you want any help, you can send me a PM in complete confidence. Or you can use the e-mail address given on the IAF website (aikido-international.org)

Best wishes,

Same issue
11-03-2011, 12:19 AM
Thanks Peter,

I have now been in contact with local Aikikai Australia dojo, and I think I will have a chat with them and see if we can work something out. I'm not yet convinced that they are who I want to train with, so I will observe some classes and see. I will probably also talk to Tony at some point. I'll let you know if I need a hand.

danj
11-03-2011, 04:34 PM
Just a quick follow up, there are several aikido organisations in Australia that are affiliated with Aikikai hombu and vary in their approaches to exclusivity. IMHO, and you seem to have a similar view, its about finding the right teacher too.
I've had some terrific practice with David Brown Sensei (Clifton Hill, Aikikai Australia) in the past as well as others in other organisation in melbourne (though am not a member of AA nor live in Melbourne)

best wishes in the search / decision
dan

Same issue
11-03-2011, 05:47 PM
Thanks Dan,

I absolutely agree. I'm happy to train in any organisation if I can find the right teacher.

kewms
11-03-2011, 07:48 PM
Western organizations are certainly not immune to politics. It's easy enough to blame Japanese culture for this sort of thing, but in Australia (or the US) you have mostly Western students enforcing the cultural norms, up to and including (in some cases) calling the shihan's attention to the fact that this or that student has been "disloyal." Thereby forcing the shihan to respond even if he might have been willing to feign ignorance.

Before the internet was quite so widespread, it was relatively easy to adopt a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. I visited a dojo in San Francisco several times even though I would not have been welcome in the Boston-area dojo of that organization's shihan. It's harder now, although, again, internet use is much more common among the younger Western students than among the older Japanese shihan, so there's a question of why the students would take it upon themselves to support the restriction.

I think we have aikido-l and aikiweb to thank that this kind of restriction seems to be losing ground. When a shihan of an organization is openly promoting bridge seminars, it becomes somewhat difficult to keep students of that organization from training elsewhere.

Katherine

Larry Feldman
11-03-2011, 08:00 PM
Go to all the dojos available to you on a 'commutable' basis.

Evaluate the Aikido - good news here is you have some knowledge to help with this.

Ask them specifically about their policies concerning where you can practice.

Make a choice.

Just an odd thought - if you move to the new location and adopt new 'style' are you know somehow obligated to practice that forever? Even if you move back to your old hometown??
Are we talking contracts, blood oaths??? (just kidding).

Same issue
11-03-2011, 08:09 PM
Well, I'm friends with my current shihan on facebook. That's probably a bit of a giveaway.

LinTal
11-04-2011, 03:53 AM
Yep Aikikai Australia are pretty bad for that sort of thing and other unpleasantries.

To be fair, this would change from dojo to dojo, regardless of affiliation. Much like any other philosophy. Can't say I've been aware of these issues in the 18-months I've been training.

We're also an independent club, while still Aikikai. Be mindful too that there are many independent clubs I've heard of across quite a few styles. This offers greater complexity etc to the matter.

Peter Goldsbury
11-04-2011, 07:29 AM
Hello Daniel,

When I was in Australia, I met David Brown, had long conversations with him and also watched him teach.

A general point: where you have organizations with a very strong vertical structure between the shihan and the rest of the organization, the shihan's passing will inevitably pose serious questions. Do you try to carry on as before, or do you acknowledge that an era has passed and search for another way? Some Aikikai shihans actually set out to create a corps of senior 'clones' quite actively (the SHU-HA-RI paradigm, with the direct link between master and student, can be a convenient tool for this). But others are less active and when they go, the organization can have severe problems.

Sugano Shihan always led from behind, but he led, just the same. His passing, however, will also affect the relationship between Aikikai recognized student-shihan relationships in Australia and the Hombu.

Best wishes,

P Goldsbury

Just a quick follow up, there are several aikido organisations in Australia that are affiliated with Aikikai hombu and vary in their approaches to exclusivity. IMHO, and you seem to have a similar view, its about finding the right teacher too.
I've had some terrific practice with David Brown Sensei (Clifton Hill, Aikikai Australia) in the past as well as others in other organisation in melbourne (though am not a member of AA nor live in Melbourne)

best wishes in the search / decision
dan

George S. Ledyard
11-07-2011, 01:37 PM
In my opinion, there's a difference between exploring other aikido styles through seminars or the occasional visit to a differnt dojo on the one hand and actually training in another dojo on the other. I have little understanding for dojos forbidding the former, but I do have some sympathy for dojos forbidding the latter. When you join a dojo, you're expected to conform to their style. (In due time, of course, you can't just flip a switch to switch styles.) Training in another dojo with a different style or regularly returning to your previous dojo, is not the best way to confirm your membership of the new dojo.

Actually, my own experience differs... Back in the early 80's I was relocated to the Seattle area. Saotome Sensei told me I should train with Mary Heiny Sensei whom he knew from Japan. So, I was a member of her dojo while it was still understood that I was Saotome Sensei's student.

Then Bruce Bookman Sensei moved to Seattle after training in Japan with Chiba Sensei. He did various things that Heiny Sensei did not do so I also paid dues at his dojo and split my time between the dojos. This, despite the fact that our teachers had a number of differences and didn't really get along. We simply decided that it was unnecessary to carry over issues that started years before in Japan that had absolutely nothing to do with us.

When Mary Heiny Sensei left for Canada in 1986, was asked to take over the dojo, which I did for three years. We were members of Chiba Sensei's Western Region of the USAF. I was given Fukusdhidoin papers, actually signed by Yamada Sensei, although I am sure Yamada did not know who I was and it was really done by Chiba Sensei. So, I trained at two different dojos while being a student of a third teacher, then ran one of the dojos in an organization run by a teacher, not my own.

I look at myself as a triumph for the idea of getting past political BS and just being able to train. In 1989 I opened Aikido Eastside which is within the ASU. I am still close friends with Bookman Sensei and Mary Heiny Sensei as well... Bookman Sensei recently asked me to participate in his 30 year anniversary seminar since I was actually a member of his very first dojo.

People should be free to train wherever they want. When it comes to Rankings, well, that's another story. If someone wants a rank from me, especially a Yudansha rank, they need to be training with me and supporting our dojo. Giving rank is really creating an association in people's minds between a certain student and a certain teacher. But if a student doesn't want or require that from me, he or she is free to train whenever and with whomever they wish. All my teachers knew that I would get whatever rank advancement was appropriate from my own teacher, Saotome Sensei.

While I understand that my own experience is almost totally unique, at least in the US, I think it points out that everyone can benefit from putting all the politics aside. My own training was better because of the breadth of teaching from very different teachers. I like to think I was an asset at each of the dojos I trained at, helping each to be a bit better because I was there. Anyway, this was only possible because some really wonderful teachers cared more about the art than the politics and a couple of Japanese Shihan chose not to impose their differences with each other on me. If things were more this way as rule, we'd all be a lot better off.

danj
11-07-2011, 05:41 PM
Hi Peter,
Thanks for the wider view, its interesting grist for the mill from my own microcosm of experiences through the Ki Society fragmentation in Australia 10 or so years ago and being a part of the growth phase of a newer organisation (Yuishinkai), with some freedoms to explore more widely by way of its approach and a professional life that allows some wanderings.

Hi George,
Again thankyou for sharing your personal experiences and reflections on it. Quite helpful for me (and I guess others) who end up following similar paths through circumstances and/or a desire to explore the art more widely.

best to all,
dan

robin_jet_alt
11-07-2011, 05:56 PM
Hi Peter,
Thanks for the wider view, its interesting grist for the mill from my own microcosm of experiences through the Ki Society fragmentation in Australia 10 or so years ago and being a part of the growth phase of a newer organisation (Yuishinkai), with some freedoms to explore more widely by way of its approach and a professional life that allows some wanderings.

Hi George,
Again thankyou for sharing your personal experiences and reflections on it. Quite helpful for me (and I guess others) who end up following similar paths through circumstances and/or a desire to explore the art more widely.

best to all,
dan

Hi Daniel,

I didn't realise you were with Yuishinkai. We might even have met then. I was at one of Maruyama sensei's seminars in Byron Bay (possibly 2003??) I really enjoyed it, even if the new denim floor covering did dye my gi blue. I also visited Maruyama Sensei's dojo in Tokyo in 2005. I was really bummed that I couldn't train with him regularly. I live really close to his dojo as the crow flies, but the train lines are inconvenient and I wouldn't finish work in time to get there.

Robin

danj
11-07-2011, 07:30 PM
Hi Daniel,

I didn't realise you were with Yuishinkai. We might even have met then. I was at one of Maruyama sensei's seminars in Byron Bay (possibly 2003??) I really enjoyed it, even if the new denim floor covering did dye my gi blue. I also visited Maruyama Sensei's dojo in Tokyo in 2005. I was really bummed that I couldn't train with him regularly. I live really close to his dojo as the crow flies, but the train lines are inconvenient and I wouldn't finish work in time to get there.

Robin
Hi Robin,
Yes I was there, probably there was some anonymous wrist grabbing or some such. I think that was his second visit after emerging from the temple..pretty exciting times.
I still get to Sensei's dojo(s) in Tokyo most years, I had a fellowship at Keio university some years back and get back there often, mostly its a schlep from Kanegawa which takes some time.

I think the Aunkai guys are around there somewhere as well!

best,
dan

robin_jet_alt
11-07-2011, 07:55 PM
Hi Robin,
Yes I was there, probably there was some anonymous wrist grabbing or some such. I think that was his second visit after emerging from the temple..pretty exciting times.
I still get to Sensei's dojo(s) in Tokyo most years, I had a fellowship at Keio university some years back and get back there often, mostly its a schlep from Kanegawa which takes some time.

I think the Aunkai guys are around there somewhere as well!

best,
dan

Yes, I'm pretty sure it was his second visit. He brought his wife with him, and we talked a lot because I was one of the few people who spoke Japanese.

I haven't heard of Aunkai before. Is that another Ki Society offshoot?

just-want-to-train
11-21-2011, 06:40 AM
hi all, I'm the OP, and i apologise for not updating this thread for over a year. thank you all for your replies and relevant insights. although i don't really feel the need to maintain my anonymity anymore, i guess i'll still use my original pseudonym for a sense of continuity.

just a quick update on my situation since my initial plea. after checking out a few aikido dojos, i managed to find a dojo really near where i live, where the sensei is possibly the nicest guy around.

Sensei Robert from Aikido Yuishinkai Bentleigh (http://aikidobentleigh.com.au/) not only welcomed me to his dojo, he was extremely generous in allowing me to continue grading with my previous dojo/affiliation, of which the most recent was my shodan grading. in my mind, he could've easily insisted that i choose to grade under him, or at least, do a parallel grading, but he thought that unnecessary, and told me that he would recognise my new rank. i'm not 100% sure, but from my limited understanding of how this works, i'm thinking that Sensei Robert is being extremely magnanimous with this. he also no qualms with using me as his uke regularly rather than favouring his "own" students.

Migrating to Australia from a different dojo himself years ago, I think he had similar experiences/worries about the politics and such, so he now warmly welcomes all to his dojo with open arms.

The cherry on top is that my previous dojo will be hosting a seminar/gasshuku in January with a visiting sensei from Japan, and Sensei Robert has signed up to attend the interstate event. I know I'm really plugging him here, but i'm really impressed about how he practices what he preaches. that seems to be rare quality in lots of people IMHO.

so if you're ever down Melbourne (Australia) and wanna have a worry/politic-free training experience, hop on by to Bentleigh! ;)

Same Issue
01-11-2012, 11:07 PM
Hi All,

Much like the first poster, I ended up with Yuishinkai. The guys from Aikikai Australia were all very nice, but I had a few issues with technique, training times, and fees. The Yuishinkai instructor, on the other hand, had also had experience training in Japan, and his style was more in keeping with what I had learned previously. On top of that, his technique is very compelling and he is able to clearly show why he does each movement that he does, and he is a good teacher. The dojo is very open to people who have trained in other styles and we have people who started out in Aikikai, Kokikai, and Yoshinkan.

Maybe I will get to see Daniel at a seminar at some point.

danj
01-11-2012, 11:51 PM
I'll keep an eye out for someone in a white panama hat and wearing a red carnation ;)

SameSame
01-23-2015, 06:46 AM
Hi all,

I'm also having a similar problem like the OP.
I have been training with my first dojo since 5 months ago, and did my first 5th-kyu grading.
However, that dojo went on a 3-week break since last Christmas, so I looked up other dojos to train in as a guest. I could've trained in another dojo of the same affiliation but there was one dojo who caught my attention. At that time, they were having a 3-day summer intensive, and on the brochure it welcomed anyone from different styles and grades.

On the first day my initial dojo reopened, I had a casual chat with the instructor, in which I accidentally spoken about that other dojo. Right now, most of all the other instructors are waiting to have a word with me once I rejoin classes. Seeing their reaction disappoints me a little, but I do like the other dojo I trained in for 3-days.

I will not post the former dojo's name, location or affiliations but the latter that I had the summer intensive training was [from a different organization]. [This teacher] wasn't like any other instructors I have ever met before. His teaching style and curriculum has actually changed my life a lot, and in an emotional level I somehow achieved balance whenever I practiced whatever he taught during the 3-day intensive. I'm sounding very biased right now but I'm not willing to choose sides.

Like what George Ledyard Sensei's experience is like, I would love to experience both worlds. [This teacher] also personally give good comments on the dojo affiliation I trained in, so I'm hoping that my instructors in the first dojo are able to come to an agreement to let train with them while I train [with this other dojo]. If I am given the next offer to do gradings with them, I will do it according to their style but I hope that they will continue to allow me to train.

I believe the real Aikido approach to political problems such as these is to accept the blow to their ego, and harmonize with it. Find ways to bring conclusions to problems in a harmonious way.

Currawong
01-24-2015, 12:59 AM
I could go on about the problems I saw in Australia and how I'm glad I am practicing in Japan now with good people, but what I have observed is that in any "style" there will be good, OK and bad teachers. I've seen a 6th dan who is brilliant and went to great lengths to develop his abilities to a high level. And I've seen a 6th Dan who is so hopeless that he is an embarrassment to his organisation, his teacher and his country. There are great teachers who are kind, generous and go a long way to help their students develop both as people and as Aikidoka. Then there are teachers who are brilliant but only accept people who worship them and the dojo environment is like a cult (often Western teachers who think because they are practicing a Japanese martial art that they should be treated like Japanese people treat their teachers).

My advice is: Go with the teacher (or teachers) that you feel is or are the ones you'll get the most from. However, if their Aikido techniques are quite different, if they don't know you're training with another teacher, it will show up sooner or later in your style and may cause different issues. The thing is, when you mentioned the other dojo, you have no way of knowing if your teacher's negative reaction is just because of pride, or because there have been issues in the past (ie: There was an organisational split). Maybe it because students who have gone between styles in the past have made it harder for the teacher to maintain whatever technical standard they desire in their dojo, or maybe a student learning independently is a threat to them. You'll have to feel out which of these things it is, or just ask hard questions of your teacher, at the risk of souring your relationship with them. I reckon a good teacher will accept serious questions posed to them though and answer them honestly.