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massless
07-21-2010, 03:09 PM
I've lurked for a bit but now I'm at a crossroads of sorts so I made an account. This is a little on the long side, thanks in advance for reading.

First, some background:

I am studying Aikido under the Birankai (http://www.birankai.org/) organization. The Aikido we do is extreemly rough. This (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lo5Na1x6sAc) , I think, exemplifies what we do in the dojo. I have been training for almost a year now very rigorously. I go 4 days a week, 2 - 3 classes each day for a total of 9 - 10 hours a week. I test for 4th Kyu next month.

My issues:

As my training has progressed over the course of the last year my Sensei has become rougher and rougher on me, far more so than anyone else at the school. He tells me this is because I am a young guy (25) and can take the punishment. I was attracted to the school because I wanted something "real" and the rough nature appealed to that. I welcome the skinned and swollen knees and the bruises all along my arms but it's getting to the point that I am afraid he is going to break my body. I already exhibit most of the symptoms of a separated shoulder and I hurt, literally, all the time. I see that he has a broken body and I'm not sure whatever it is that Aikido is offering me is worth that price. He is a man that favors training in extremes. During the winter he begrudgingly installed a heater because people stopped coming. Similarly, I live in the desert southwest and the dojo doesn't have air conditioning. The temperature outside yesterday was about 105 and he had us training to the point where nearly everyone wanted to vomit (no one did!). I know that I wanted to die during the class. That was the point.

I have also been fighting my gut feeling that this is a cult. I realize that this is an ongoing point of contention for some people and I'm not trying to editorialize on the art as a whole. Moreover, I was attracted to the art because of the interesting philosophy underpinning it. That being said, there is an unsettling fanaticism in the dojo that doesn't sit well with me. Every time I turn around, there is another function to attend: Dojo improvements, potlucks, garage sales and on and on. I understand that these are standard community building exercises (A stated objective of Sensei is to build a thriving community around Aikido) but I feel increasingly trapped withing that community. The tipping point came last night, though. Sensei went to Japan to study at Ichikukai dojo some time ago and brought back the practice of misogi. For those not familiar with the practice: you sit in seiza, hold the knot of your obi and scream the syllables "to ho ka mi e mi ta me" while compressing your diaphragm each time. We did our second round of it ever last night and in the middle of it Sensei came up behind people and shoved their shoulders down with each syllable. It was dark, there was a room full of swaying people chanting a Shinto prayer, and then this. I got a really bad feeling and thought, "This is really fucked up."

At this point I'm thinking of walking away. This makes me sad and apprehensive. I have gotten a lot out or Aikido. I feel a great deal more confident in life. I have social anxiety and taking an Aikido perspective has made a world of difference. People have told me, " I can't belive how much more capable you are in life since starting Aikido." When I started, my weight was 160 lbs with 17% body fat. Today I weigh 175 with 11% body fat. I tend to over commit to things and I feel that if I walk away, for whatever reason, I will be a failure. I have heard Sensei talk of others who have left as being people who, "just don't have what it takes for the kind of training we do here."

On the other hand: I am tired of hurting all the time, not having any personal time that isn't spent doing Aikido, doing Aikido functions, or recovering from Aikido. The emphatic chanting and high-heat training don't sit well with me either.

In any case, I am in something of a feedback loop within myself and I'd like to hear anything you guys have to say just to gain some perspective on the situation.

Thanks for reading this thing. I think it helped just to type it all out.

In short: I feel like my body is being ruined and that my dojo is becoming a cult. I feel fed up and am thinking about leaving but I'm reluctant because of what I've gotten out of Aikido so far.

Karo
07-23-2010, 03:47 PM
Leave this dojo. Find another one. Don't let anybody tell you that it's because "you don't have what it takes". That's how abuse is justified. And there's a fine line between "hard training" and "abuse".

Training should be challenging, but should not feel like punishment.

Seriously, look for another dojo. Nobody says leaving your current one has to be the end of your aikido career.

Karo

Larry Feldman
07-23-2010, 03:56 PM
Find a new teacher.

Benjamin Mehner
07-23-2010, 04:02 PM
I agree with the above posters. Find a new dojo.

dave9nine
07-23-2010, 04:32 PM
first, use idea of a spectrum or scale to properly give yourself perspective about your experience thus far:
your dojo's is but one form/approach on a big spectrum which, on one end has people killing themselves (literally) to train as if they will encounter armed bandits everyday, and on the other has people barely touching each other who dont train for life and death application but perhaps instead to learn something about subtle relationships of energy, motion, etc.
no need to assign value to either, simply just place your experience somewhere in there, so you can see that there is in fact other approaches.

next, like others here have said, find another place to train.
if this is socially difficult, then maybe it does speak to a sense of "cultishness"; any good dojo worth their salt should let people come and go as they wish--good training should speak for itself.

in the end, it doesnt matter what anyone in the world says; you only have but to listen to your own body.

it is true that it is difficult to find a balance between training hard and effectively, and training safely.
in my view, if we have to kill ourselves to learn something that is supposed to teach us about safety and self defense, what's the point?
we are not 16th century samurai warriors, after all...
just my dos pesos.
-dave

Mikemac
07-23-2010, 04:33 PM
X 3.....find another teacher and dojo...

Also, have you considered that you are taking a heavy class load, which might be why you're burned out? Hey....I want a hakama too, but no way i want to put in 40 hour weeks to get there. Maybe you're trying too hard?

Janet Rosen
07-23-2010, 04:39 PM
I have seen instructors & students act very cultish with quotes from them burned into my memory from years ago ("Don't tell anybody I'm curling my hair before my ranking, they will think I'm superficial" "I can't go to the party unless my sensei gives me permission"). There IS another way to train, without trashing your body or surrendering your own inner core. Go find it now.

jbblack
07-23-2010, 05:21 PM
Hi, I fully agree - find another dojo. Aikido is a wonderful adventure. I am 66 and have been doing Aikido for a number of years at dojo's all over the country. Every day I learn something new. It has been wonder full for both mind and body.

If you are the Travis Patterson in albuquerque I would recommend:
Sandia Budokan http://www.sandiabudokan.org/aikido.html

The style of Aikido studied at the Sandia Budokan is from his lineage, in affiliation with Robert Nadeau Sensei, 7th Dan, Shihan, and the California Aikido Association.

You will find Nadeau Shihan's aikido night and day from the hard styles.

Stick with Aikido and change dojo's.

Cheers, Jeff

Aiki1
07-23-2010, 05:45 PM
Dispite what some people say, there are many styles of Aikido, and many training approaches. Chiba's style is not for everyone, Tohei's style is not for everyone, Iwama style is not for everyone, Saotome's style is not for everyone, etc etc etc.

Find the one that is right for you, that has the right instructor.

raul rodrigo
07-23-2010, 06:22 PM
Time to go, I think.

Blackstarfish
07-23-2010, 07:13 PM
I would also very much recommend getting into a new dojo.

And we are also in the Albuquerque Area. We are a small group - and a USA branch of the Ellis Schools of Traditional Aikido. I am also a maker of custom knives - and our company website is www.ds-tactical.org, but I can also be found through my blog-site www.rog99.blogspot.com or by reading the book I co-authored with my teachers, "Positive Aikido."

-Dave

Peter Goldsbury
07-23-2010, 07:37 PM
I began aikido training when I was 25, like you, and trained for 8 hours per week. However, I had already decided to finish my academic studies before settling down in one place. Accordingly, I trained in K Chiba's UK dojo for a period, but then I moved, from dojo to dojo, as I moved universities. So I never felt bad about changing dojos. I did not really settle until I came here.

Since I believed that K Chiba had a mystical view of the teacher-student relationship, I used to argue with him about teaching and learning, but he was always very reasonable. He always stressed that he wanted commitment: students who would do the training as he conceived it, no matter what. My own belief was that he had projected his own ideas about the teacher-student relationship on to aikido, but that there were other ways that did not involve so much fanaticism and fear of not proving one's commitment sufficiently. His students, however, especially his senior students, sometimes strove to 'out-Chiba' Chiba and they were the one who exhibited cult-like behavior, as they attempted to give guru status to their sensei and interpret whatever he said as having cosmic significance. Of course, they were encouraged.

Now, 41 years later, I run a dojo here in Japan and I have students. I do not believe that my aikido matches the 'style' of a certain teacher or teachers, though it is certainly my own. Anyway, I have experienced the type of training you describe--and I could also dish it out accordingly, but I changed, as the teachers changed, and without any regrets or nostalgia for a past golden age.

There is much more that I could write, but it would not be appropriate in an open forum. Feel free to PM me, if you wish.

PAG

I've lurked for a bit but now I'm at a crossroads of sorts so I made an account. This is a little on the long side, thanks in advance for reading.

First, some background:

I am studying Aikido under the Birankai (http://www.birankai.org/) organization. The Aikido we do is extreemly rough. This (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lo5Na1x6sAc) , I think, exemplifies what we do in the dojo. I have been training for almost a year now very rigorously. I go 4 days a week, 2 - 3 classes each day for a total of 9 - 10 hours a week. I test for 4th Kyu next month.

My issues:

As my training has progressed over the course of the last year my Sensei has become rougher and rougher on me, far more so than anyone else at the school. He tells me this is because I am a young guy (25) and can take the punishment. I was attracted to the school because I wanted something "real" and the rough nature appealed to that. I welcome the skinned and swollen knees and the bruises all along my arms but it's getting to the point that I am afraid he is going to break my body. I already exhibit most of the symptoms of a separated shoulder and I hurt, literally, all the time. I see that he has a broken body and I'm not sure whatever it is that Aikido is offering me is worth that price. He is a man that favors training in extremes. During the winter he begrudgingly installed a heater because people stopped coming. Similarly, I live in the desert southwest and the dojo doesn't have air conditioning. The temperature outside yesterday was about 105 and he had us training to the point where nearly everyone wanted to vomit (no one did!). I know that I wanted to die during the class. That was the point.

I have also been fighting my gut feeling that this is a cult. I realize that this is an ongoing point of contention for some people and I'm not trying to editorialize on the art as a whole. Moreover, I was attracted to the art because of the interesting philosophy underpinning it. That being said, there is an unsettling fanaticism in the dojo that doesn't sit well with me. Every time I turn around, there is another function to attend: Dojo improvements, potlucks, garage sales and on and on. I understand that these are standard community building exercises (A stated objective of Sensei is to build a thriving community around Aikido) but I feel increasingly trapped withing that community. The tipping point came last night, though. Sensei went to Japan to study at Ichikukai dojo some time ago and brought back the practice of misogi. For those not familiar with the practice: you sit in seiza, hold the knot of your obi and scream the syllables "to ho ka mi e mi ta me" while compressing your diaphragm each time. We did our second round of it ever last night and in the middle of it Sensei came up behind people and shoved their shoulders down with each syllable. It was dark, there was a room full of swaying people chanting a Shinto prayer, and then this. I got a really bad feeling and thought, "This is really fucked up."

At this point I'm thinking of walking away. This makes me sad and apprehensive. I have gotten a lot out or Aikido. I feel a great deal more confident in life. I have social anxiety and taking an Aikido perspective has made a world of difference. People have told me, " I can't belive how much more capable you are in life since starting Aikido." When I started, my weight was 160 lbs with 17% body fat. Today I weigh 175 with 11% body fat. I tend to over commit to things and I feel that if I walk away, for whatever reason, I will be a failure. I have heard Sensei talk of others who have left as being people who, "just don't have what it takes for the kind of training we do here."

On the other hand: I am tired of hurting all the time, not having any personal time that isn't spent doing Aikido, doing Aikido functions, or recovering from Aikido. The emphatic chanting and high-heat training don't sit well with me either.

In any case, I am in something of a feedback loop within myself and I'd like to hear anything you guys have to say just to gain some perspective on the situation.

Thanks for reading this thing. I think it helped just to type it all out.

In short: I feel like my body is being ruined and that my dojo is becoming a cult. I feel fed up and am thinking about leaving but I'm reluctant because of what I've gotten out of Aikido so far.

Abasan
07-23-2010, 08:22 PM
I wouldn't like getting smacked in the face if I was just learning. But I guess, if you're a yudansha and still have no idea how to attack properly (as per your teacher's method), then MAYBE your teacher can wake you up. But in the end, you'd have to judge whether it was malicious, or just that the teacher thought that a tactile approach would be better than repeating ad nauseaum.

I don't know the context of your dojo's approach, and I certainly don't have the world experience of PAG to make my own reasoning, but have you even talked to your sensei about your concerns? Sometimes, misinterpretation and miscommunication leads you down invalid assumptions.

Janet Rosen
07-23-2010, 09:11 PM
His students, however, especially his senior students, sometimes strove to 'out-Chiba' Chiba and they were the one who exhibited cult-like behavior

Consistent w/ my experience.

DH
07-23-2010, 09:33 PM
Mr Patterson.
You should collect yourself, review and coalesce your thoughts into talking points and then perhaps write a letter to your teacher or hand it to him sealed.
Tell him you will not engage him until ...he... has had time to reflect on his answers. When the time comes meet in a public place, over lunch or dinner and discuss the issues. I can only tell you that this opens up many possibilities to you:
You will increase the chances of getting the most out of the both of you.
You will have increased the chances that it gave the teacher time to ask others what they think, ask his significant other, (note* it matters not who among them can see. IT is just that you are giving so many people opportunities for growth; maybe in stepping up now or in later years looking back and seeing their own culpability. Maybe six years down the line they will look back and say "Boy this is just what Travis was saying and I blew him off!!" and it comes back to reinforce an even stronger position then.

The first voice
Very few times are we the only one who sees something. I know it can feel that way at first, but trust me on this, many people see but they back away from confrontation till someone else goes first. Sure it takes courage to be the first. But rushing in pell mell and just thinking of you rarely is sufficient. Be the better man.

What if...he hears you and apologizes
What if...he doesn't, but ten years from now a group of men see you or reach out to you and thank you for what you said and did?
In either case the exchange opens up the both of you to learning something about yourselves and each other.

If he pulls the "I am the sensei crap" and shuts you down. then just sit back quietly and look him in the eye.. Tell him "This is no longer a conversation I'll talk...you listen." and state your case.
At the end of the day. DO NOT TOLLERATE ABUSE OR POOR JUDGMENT. It is unacceptable.

Here's a tip from me
'In the absence of a good leader...lead." Sometimes that means being the first and only voice (soon to be followed by others). Sometimes that means facing outragous opposition, Sometimes it ends very well with people learning and coming together, and sometimes.........sometimes it just means abandoning ship!!

Chiba was a world class abuser, I had my own run in with him which ended up with him on his back. Lets, also remember that he ended up apologizing to all of his students for being an abuser. I teach at a dojo that is under Chiba and the teacher there (retired spec ops) is no lightwieght by any ones standards, and is a perfect.... gentleman on and off the mat. Maybe someone allowed Chiba an opportunity for growth.
From some of the recent quotes I am hearing, it sounds like it is coming from a changed man.
Hey...I hated the guy, but people actually do change. Someone helpd the guy out didn't they.

Look long my friend
Think long.
Very few times is it just about you. You can be helping others who are going to step up behind you. You can help those above you. Do not allow them the arrogance (presumed or otherwise) of a position to speak for an entire art. There are a lot of good people out there working it.
Cheers
Dan

ninjaqutie
07-23-2010, 11:18 PM
I am studying Aikido under the Birankai organization. The Aikido we do is extremely rough. This , I think, exemplifies what we do in the dojo. I have been training for almost a year now very rigorously. I go 4 days a week, 2 - 3 classes each day for a total of 9 - 10 hours a week. I test for 4th Kyu next month.

Like you, I also study under the Birankai organization. Like you, I also train four days a week (2 to 3 classes a day depending on whether it is the summer or winter schedule). Also, like you, I have been training a little over a year and I will also be testing for 4th kyu soon. So, in a lot of ways, I feel like I can really relate to you.

Where we differ is I do not believe the aikido in my dojo is rough. Do you get whacked in the head with the occasional bokken, poked in the eye or hit in the face? Sure, but that is part of martial arts. It would be silly to believe I wouldn’t incur any injuries what so ever. HOWEVER, if you feel like your sensei is going to break your bones, something is wrong there. I believe a little pain is necessary to learn, however, I believe that pain should be stopped once you are showing compliance or tap (or something similar). For him to say you are young and can take it is just plain irrational. If anything, he should be trying to help you preserve your body so you can train even longer! There is a difference between accidentally injuring someone and maliciously injuring someone. It sounds like my dojo is the prior and yours is unfortunately the latter :(



My issues:

As my training has progressed over the course of the last year my Sensei has become rougher and rougher on me, far more so than anyone else at the school.

What do you mean by rougher? My sensei (and sempai) are a bit rougher with me then they did a year ago, but I would say it is proportional to my ability’s (most times anyway!). My sensei is also tougher on me at times. I think it is partly because I am one of the students who trains regularly and I look at it as a compliment. On the other hand, if your sensei is wrenching the techniques on you and is slamming you down to the mat to a point where you can’t take care of yourself, then again…. something is wrong!


I welcome the skinned and swollen knees and the bruises all along my arms but it's getting to the point that I am afraid he is going to break my body. I already exhibit most of the symptoms of a separated shoulder and I hurt, literally, all the time.

Like you, because of the amount of hours I train, I am also usually sore. Like you, I also frequently have mat burn, swollen knees from a lot of suwariwaza and bruises. Sometimes I come home and just crash on the couch and don’t move until I manage to force myself to go upstairs and get ready for bed. The difference there is that I have NEVER, not once thought that I was going to get a “broken body” (not quite sure if you mean broken bones or just a worn out body…). If training makes you feel that way, then the training does seem extreme.


He is a man that favors training in extremes. During the winter he begrudgingly installed a heater because people stopped coming. Similarly, I live in the desert southwest and the dojo doesn't have air conditioning. The temperature outside yesterday was about 105.

My old dojo was in an un-insulated garage, so the heater was really pointless. We kept warm in the winter by training vigorously. It sure was cold and the mats were hard, but once we got warmed up, it wasn’t so bad. Both my old dojo and my current dojo do not have AC. My old dojo was on the east coast, so we had heat and humidity to deal with. Now that I live in Oregon, I don’t have the humidity issue, but I have trained in 104 and 105 heat no problem. HOWEVER, neither of these dojo’s pushed us to the point that everyone wanted to vomit! Both of the places I have trained were strict on water though (only before and after class). So, I really tried to focus on hydrating before and after class.


Every time I turn around, there is another function to attend: Dojo improvements, potlucks, garage sales and on and on. I understand that these are standard community building exercises (A stated objective of Sensei is to build a thriving community around Aikido) but I feel increasingly trapped withing that community.

I personally believe that things like this are great! I wish my dojo had more events like that. My question for you is, are you obligated to go to these? What happens if you don’t go to these? Are you punished or reprimanded? Our sensei would be upset if we didn’t go, but I know for a fact he wouldn’t look down on us or treat us horrible if we weren’t able (or wanted) to attend.


At this point I'm thinking of walking away. This makes me sad and apprehensive. I have gotten a lot out or Aikido. I feel a great deal more confident in life. I have social anxiety and taking an Aikido perspective has made a world of difference……….On the other hand: I am tired of hurting all the time, not having any personal time that isn't spent doing Aikido, doing Aikido functions, or recovering from Aikido. The emphatic chanting and high-heat training don't sit well with me either.

Of course you are going to be sad to walk away. You have put a lot of effort and passion into your training. It is never easy to walk away from something. Even though it sounds like you have a bad taste in your mouth, I’m sure you also have some fond memories (or at least I hope you do) that makes walking away a bit hard. In the end, you have to do what is best for YOU! Don’t let him guilt trip you into staying just to prove that you can tough it out. That is just his attempt to bully you into staying. It sounds like you would be happier training somewhere else and I can’t blame you for that. The one thing I would say is don’t write off birankai just because of your experience with your teacher. If another organization interests you, sure try it out! If you find a dojo that is completely non affiliated with an organization, that is great too! However, I would encourage you not to pass up a school or instructor just because they are students of chiba sensei or are under the birankai umbrella. Go find a dojo where you will be happy and thrive in a non cultish, body friendly environment. Best of luck to you!!!!!!!


His students, however, especially his senior students, sometimes strove to 'out-Chiba' Chiba and they were the one who exhibited cult-like behavior, as they attempted to give guru status to their sensei and interpret whatever he said as having cosmic significance. Of course, they were encouraged.

Hhhm… I find this interesting. Maybe my sensei (and a few others of chiba’s that I know are the exception here, but I have never gotten that impression. I guess a big factor here is the personality of the person who trained under chiba. Maybe it also has to do with the fact that my sensei and some of the others I know also trained under other teachers as well. I am sure that makes a difference as well.

Nafis Zahir
07-23-2010, 11:28 PM
Travis,

I train in the Birankai and I really love the hard core training. I came into the Birankai at a time when Chiba Sensei had mellowed out. Even so, I still think that his Aikido is devastating. I think that Chiba Sensei came to understand that he can relax, not be so hard, yet still be very serious and just as deadly. It is a learning process. He is someone I really respect as a martial artist.

That being said, I will tell you this. Everyone has their own threshold of tolerance. Only you know what yours is. You have to follow your first mind and at the same time, sit down and weigh your options. Pit the positives of staying against the negatives of staying. Even if you decide to leave, you will take the experience of being there with you and you can turn it into something postive that will help you continue to grow in Aikido as you move on and progress. Also, once you make your decision, accept it, remain calm and try not to leave bitter. There comes a time when we all move on at some point.

Lastly, I hope that what I have written, as well as others, helps you put things in perspective, but the decision is yours and yours alone. You have to do what you think is best for you. You may find out later that there are a few positive things that you got out of your time at that dojo. You may decide to leave that dojo, but if you love Aikido, then stick with. This is your journey.

DH
07-24-2010, 10:12 AM
Travis,

I train in the Birankai and I really love the hard core training. I came into the Birankai at a time when Chiba Sensei had mellowed out. Even so, I still think that his Aikido is devastating. I think that Chiba Sensei came to understand that he can relax, not be so hard, yet still be very serious and just as deadly. It is a learning process. He is someone I really respect as a martial artist.

That being said, I will tell you this. Everyone has their own threshold of tolerance. Only you know what yours is. You have to follow your first mind and at the same time, sit down and weigh your options. Pit the positives of staying against the negatives of staying. Even if you decide to leave, you will take the experience of being there with you and you can turn it into something postive that will help you continue to grow in Aikido as you move on and progress. Also, once you make your decision, accept it, remain calm and try not to leave bitter. There comes a time when we all move on at some point.

Lastly, I hope that what I have written, as well as others, helps you put things in perspective, but the decision is yours and yours alone. You have to do what you think is best for you. You may find out later that there are a few positive things that you got out of your time at that dojo. You may decide to leave that dojo, but if you love Aikido, then stick with. This is your journey.
Yet I have seen:
Him abusing student A.
I have then seen student A. wreck both shoulders of student B.
What did his father say to him when it happened twice?
"What are you in...some kind of Cult?"

Unfortunately, even when the abuser finds himself and realizes what a mess he has made it doesn't mean he can always fix that mess. Certain things get "wired" into people.
"I was abused by the teacher I love, so this must be the way."
It can turn into a complicated mess better left for the professionals, but as you have read here and elsewhere, the damage was far ranging. I don't have the credentials but I know "mean" when I see it.
Is there more that can be done to "re-set" the teachers he created that still abuse. Probably. But as I pointed out he is trying and there are some nice people under him as well.
Here we are though in 2010 with Travis; yet another example.
All in all this has not created quite "the legacy" the man wanted to be known for, I'm sure.

One last thing
As far the tough guy nonsense. I can compare him to some real tough men; like Cotoure or Rickson..I don't hear of them abusing people. Training accidents aside, repeatedly wrecking people who cooperate with you is not tough it's sick, needy, and actually pretty weak..

Dan

massless
07-24-2010, 11:26 AM
Thank you all for your thoughtful responses. They have given me a great deal to think about and they have had the desires effect on me by getting me out of my own personal feedback loop. I realized that I wrote the original message when my thoughts and feelings were muddled. Here is where I am at so far:

I am definitely suffering burnout. This is associated with a lot of misdirected anger. I realized that I hurt all the time because I train all the time. I'm going to dramatically cut my hours after my test. I took one day off last week with no explicit reason and the feeling of relief it gave me was amazing. I felt as though I was in control of my life again.

While I enjoy the rough training, I do feel that it has become recklessly hard. Between the high heat training and some of the recent classes, I am worried somewhat for my safety.

Misogi really bothers me. It is a rigorous religious ritual that is meant to induce a certain state of mind and it's crossing a personal boundary for me. We talk in the dojo of the importance of embracing that which is uncomfortable to allow for growth but I don't really want any part of this.

Tomorrow I am going to speak to a senior student about my concerns, see what she says, and take it from there.

Thank you all again for helping me to sort out what I think and feel so I can communicate my concerns clearly to myself and others.

NagaBaba
07-24-2010, 11:29 AM
In short: I feel like my body is being ruined and that my dojo is becoming a cult. I feel fed up and am thinking about leaving but I'm reluctant because of what I've gotten out of Aikido so far.
Many ppl don't like what Chiba sensei is teaching,because they simply don't understand it. For me, sensei is one of best teachers I've ever met, and I had a chance to practice with many of O sensei students.

It is true, some of his students are overzealous, but generally this type of training transforms your body and mind and prepare it to discover a true goal of aikido practice. It will very very difficult, if not possible, to find similar approach out of Birankai. So if you quit now, very probably you will not be able to practice aikido anymore.

Body transformation - it is an illusion to think you can do it without injuries. However when you are young(25) , they heals fast.That is the reason for vigorous training now, Later you can always slow down.
Mind transformation - if I was you, I'd try for longer time those "strange" exercise your instructor is proposing. It has nothing to do with 'sect", it is a part of spiritual training.

I think the key words are 'commitment' and 'sincerity'. You are developing it now to be able to still practice 50 years later...

mathewjgano
07-24-2010, 11:55 AM
I'd just like to echo the idea that while misogi might feel like a religious activity, it's just another form of meditation...there are a variety of forms of misogi. Also, I've known at least one atheist who practiced misogi...was it a religious experience for him?

Aikibu
07-24-2010, 12:11 PM
As the saying goes where there is smoke there's fire....

At the very least I would say take a month off to gain some perspective...

After a month ask yourself if you miss it. If you do then go back. If you don't then move on to another system of Aikido if you like...

I have visited a few Birankai Place over the years and my experience is similar to Dan Hardin's....

Sometimes folks place personalities above principles and Aikido can be rife with that kind of perspective and that seems to be the case with your Dojo (Though you have to admit I only have your perspective.)

As for Misogi Again it appears to be personalities above principles

I prefer to share my practice(s) with folks who are somewhat modest and humble about their own practice. :)

William Hazen

Rob Watson
07-24-2010, 03:04 PM
Man, I feel compelled to say something but I really don't have much to stand on ...

Basically I'd say that our training is our own responsibility. I too longed for the rough and tumble but when it came to it I really was biting off more than I could chew but was not secure enough in my own belief in myself to acknowledge my limit and back away and ratchet down the intensity so I ended up permanently injured. I was young, strong and eager but now I'm old, strong, eager and broken.

I fault no one but myself (at the time I certainly was ready to blame others).

I'd also say that 4th kyu is way too early to be put through what you have described. 'Grooming' up to yudansha to enable the level of training and exploration that from the outside looks to be abuse plain and simple is one thing but jumping straight into it for mudansha is not the way. I use 'grooming' purposely as it is a loaded word. To wax metaphorical one can build much more from soft clay that can be fired into solidity than simply starting with a chunk of granite and chipping away to see what is left. One method builds while the other destroys.

To really go out on a limb I'd also say that I don't recall mention that the founder ever insisting anyone do anything. He trained himself and others followed. If they could not keep up they were left to their own devices. I try to keep up with my sensei but I fail. I still do my best and do make progress. Others do more and others do less but we all progress together.

In my own case the worst patch was after 3rd kyu because I was really self deluded and believed the fantasy. I got better eventually, mostly. These days when the overly eager 3+ kyus come around I point out to them that the correct form is more important than whatever it is they are able to perform and they really need to slow down and dial back the power to find the correct form otherwise they will be going backwards. Some listen, others I liberally apply reversal (or just stop them) to demonstrate the weakness of their efforts.Right or wrong, at least I hope to have helped prevent them repeating my mistakes.

oisin bourke
07-24-2010, 06:51 PM
Body transformation - it is an illusion to think you can do it without injuries.



That is pure attitude is pure stupidity IMO. Sure, you're going to get knocks and perhaps some acute injuries if you're unlucky, but training in a way that you're chronically injuring yourself is just bad training.

What's the point in having phenomenal skills in your later years if you can't walk or use your hands properly?

You shouldn't be giving such dumb advice on a public forum.

RED
07-24-2010, 07:24 PM
sounds like burn out.
I don't personally know you situation, so I can't tell you to leave or not man. But Aikido is about love. If you don't love it, don't do it. Everyone gets burn out every now and again, especially if they train a lot.
If you have a zeal to return after your burn out it might be because you honestly love Aikido... if not; well, don't do anything you don't honestly love.

kidoman
07-24-2010, 09:37 PM
Sometimes moving on may seem difficult, but I was once in a similar situation. Moving on was the best thing I did for my Aikido. While you remain there look for some good in the bad, if that is possible. What have you learned? Don't let one dojo be the reason why you continue training or quit. Aikido is much bigger than that. and remember no one has the right to violate you physically or mentally. Maybe speak to your Sensei instead of Sempai. One on one away from the dojo.

Marc Abrams
07-25-2010, 08:03 AM
I started off in a "hard" style of karate, went on to many years of wrestling...... I grew-up knowing "hard" through some of the best of the "hard" in those various areas. The practices would push to beyond what you thought were your limits. The one common denominator was that NONE of those teachers inflicted the kind of injuries on their students that Chiba Sensei has been known to do.

I was finishing my doctorate in San Diego and became interested in Aikido, both as a martial art and as a vehicle to "rewire" some of the nasty and violent ways that I had become accustom to responding to threats. I was working as a therapist and this "side" of me was not something that I was comfortable with anymore. I heard that a teacher of O'Sensei was teaching in San Diego so I went to observe a class. I watched the class and let saying to myself that this teacher was an abusive thug. I had NEVER seen a teacher at that level take advantage of that position and as a result, students got hurt. It struck me as disingenuous and an overt abuse of power. This teacher was Chiba Sensei.

One year later, i was in Stamford, Connecticut and started training with Imaizumi Sensei. He was also a student of O'Sensei. I was immediately sold. He lived his art. His humbleness was matched only by his effective application of Aikido contained within Kihon waza. I have been studying with him since 1988 and he has NEVER injured a student. His first student since coming to New York still studies with him and has NEVER seen him injure a student. There is a Shin Budo Kai dojo in Albuquerque that i suggest you check out. Imaizumi Sensei will be teaching a seminar there during the second weekend of September.

I have had some unpleasant first hand, second-hand, third-hand.... accounts with some of Chiba Sensei's teachers, which indicates to me that an abuser has simply passed on an abusive tradition that is NOT part of Aikido. When people some how try and justify abuse as having some role, do not walk, run. It is just a big, stinking, festering pile of bull dung. Hard training is different from abusive training. You do some some injuries from hard training from time-to-time. The injuries should be the result of accidents, pushing yourself too hard, or some other easily identifiable cause. IT SHOULD NEVER BE THE RESULT OF YOUR TEACHER BEING TOO ROUGH ON YOU.

The misogi practice that you mentioned was something that Imaizumi Sensei went through in his younger days and we do a "version" of that training during the winter time. This practice is also not abusive and totally voluntary.

I remember being your age and loving to push my body to the limits. I thrived on that kind of environment for many years. That being said, I never would train with anybody who was obviously abusive. Zero injury rate should be the goal of any training environment. The saying "No Pain, No Gain" should be replaced by "What Kind of Pain, What Kind of Gain." Gaining some machismo provado at the expense of your long-term body health is for the deluded, sheep, and/or ignorant. Train smart, hard and safe. If that cannot be assured at your dojo, leave while you still have a body without life-long legacies of bad training that will haunt you later in life.

Marc Abrams

Amir Krause
07-25-2010, 08:50 AM
Without first hand experience, any response given above related to the way YOU are treated is mostly hearsay.

I think the actual truth does not matter, the important thing is that You are feeling abused in a cult like organization your feelings might be based on objective facts, or on your own subjective interpretation.

It does not matter!

While you could be passing through some refinement process as Szczepan explains. I strongly doubt anyone having a successful transformation once faith in the teacher is lost.

Find a different place,
or
Stay in the same place, but for some period create some distance: train only once/twice a week, do not come to any activity aside from practice for a while.

Examine yourself after a period, see if you are developing your own independence and inner strength and then decide on your own route.

Amir

ninjaqutie
07-26-2010, 05:59 PM
Found this and thought it touched a bit on the "cult meditation" that you mentioned :)

http://www.brooklynaikikai.com/training/misogi.html

Nafis Zahir
07-27-2010, 02:42 AM
Yet I have seen:
Him abusing student A.
I have then seen student A. wreck both shoulders of student B.
What did his father say to him when it happened twice?
"What are you in...some kind of Cult?"

Unfortunately, even when the abuser finds himself and realizes what a mess he has made it doesn't mean he can always fix that mess. Certain things get "wired" into people.
"I was abused by the teacher I love, so this must be the way."
It can turn into a complicated mess better left for the professionals, but as you have read here and elsewhere, the damage was far ranging. I don't have the credentials but I know "mean" when I see it.
Is there more that can be done to "re-set" the teachers he created that still abuse. Probably. But as I pointed out he is trying and there are some nice people under him as well.
Here we are though in 2010 with Travis; yet another example.
All in all this has not created quite "the legacy" the man wanted to be known for, I'm sure.

One last thing
As far the tough guy nonsense. I can compare him to some real tough men; like Cotoure or Rickson..I don't hear of them abusing people. Training accidents aside, repeatedly wrecking people who cooperate with you is not tough it's sick, needy, and actually pretty weak..

Dan

Sensei, I am in no position to argur with you. I know that you know better than I do, but I train under an instructor who trained under Chiba Sensei and I have never seen him hurt anyone. I have also trained with several other instructors and the same applies. They all train hard and when they use me for ukemi they turn it up a few notches. I am almost twice Travis age and I think that we train at a little higher level than the average Aikido school. Most of the training I've seen does not prepare the average student to defend themselves on the street. I am not saying that the training has to be mean, but it should be serious.

On another note, I have heard stories from several of O'Sensei's students about what it was like to train back in those days. Many times there were bruised, broken and bloodied. Do you think that the training was very serious or that O'Sensei was being mean? One student even got his leg broken when O'Sensei executed a Ikkyo! Powerful or mean?

Nafis Zahir
07-27-2010, 02:47 AM
Many ppl don't like what Chiba sensei is teaching,because they simply don't understand it. For me, sensei is one of best teachers I've ever met, and I had a chance to practice with many of O sensei students.


I agree. I'm not saying that at one time Chiba Sensei was not too rough on his students, but the level of training that I have received has been rewarding. Like I said before, I've trained with many of the Birankai Instructors and I have not any any problems or complaints.

Hellis
07-27-2010, 05:30 AM
TK Chiba Sensei arrived in the UK in 1966. I left the Hut dojo in 1967 to join Chiba Sensei, I was his assistant until 1972. His technique was never rough, but yes it was hard and effective. As an early student of British Aikido from 1957 under Kenshiro Abbe Sensei I enjoyed the hard prractice, that was why I changed from Judo to Aikido. I would not have had it any other way. There is a simple answer to the original poster, if you are not happy where you are, move on. It maybe that your teacher considers that you are responding well to your training and is moving you up a gear.
The Chiba Sensei I meet today is a much more mellow man these days. I rate him in my top three teachers over the last 53 years.
Kenshiro Abbe Sensei ~ Masahilo Nakazono Sensei ~ TK Chiba Sensei.
Henry Ellis
Ellis Schools of Traditonal Aikido
http://kenshiroabbe.blogspot.com/

DH
07-27-2010, 09:05 AM
Sensei, I am in no position to argue with you. I know that you know better than I do, but I train under an instructor who trained under Chiba Sensei and I have never seen him hurt anyone. I have also trained with several other instructors and the same applies.
You wouldn't be arguing with me. I'm the guy who also wrote this.

Lets, also remember that he (Chiba) ended up apologizing to all of his students for being an abuser. I teach at a dojo that is under Chiba and the teacher there (retired spec ops) is no lightwieght by any ones standards, and is a perfect.... gentleman on and off the mat. Maybe someone allowed Chiba an opportunity for growth.
From some of the recent quotes I am hearing, it sounds like it is coming from a changed man.

.......Do not allow them the arrogance (presumed or otherwise) of a position to speak for an entire art. There are a lot of good people out there working it.
Cheers
Dan

Unfortunately, you are reading here of peoples own experiences with teachers out there who continue to support the negatvie general opinion....it's probably not wise to tell each one that a) they don't know what they're talking about b) they don't know the difference between hard training an abuse.

I am not saying that the training has to be mean, but it should be serious.
What is "serious" about cooperative training where you strike with a shomen of all things...and get cold cocked in the face?
What is serious about seeing a 157lb 1st kyu offer his elbow for a demonstration of a kata and has it wrecked for almost a year?
What is "serious" about having one shoulder....then the other torn out from cooperative training?

What is serious ...to me... is when both parties are equally capable and are sparring with attacks and counters and both are fully engaged.

There are various teachers who I hear advocating this so called "seriousness in training" but I never seem to see or hear of them doing that kind of serious training with men who are capable...and more than willing to show them what serious can do.

Again to use Randy and Rickson; they have managed careers without a lot of serious injuries...I would like to be there when someone tells them they are not serious and they just don't get what serious training really means!:rolleyes:

Last you brought up Ueshiba
I am only aware of reports of training accidents in randori not of repetitive accidents in doing kata. Nor am I aware of a pattern of creating teachers under him who abuse.

I have heard these defensive arguments before...even from those who were damaged. As I said, they find it validating for their injuries.
Why are you defending behavior that Chiba himself has publicly apologize for and walked away from?
Dan

chuunen baka
07-27-2010, 10:31 AM
Travis,
By posting, you have answered your own question. All you can get here is affirmation that change would be better then no change.

I've done a number of martial arts over the years, each with its own spiritual or even religious content. You have to set your own limits on what you are prepared to tolerate on the non-physical side of the art as practised in your dojo. Personally I find short periods of mediation useful but my hackles rise at anything much beyond that.

Anyway, you're young, fit, tough and keen. The martial arts world should be your oyster. Time to move on.

lbb
07-27-2010, 11:55 AM
I'd say that it is time to move on, but to do so in a very careful and thoughtful way. Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that go bad, through no fault of our own...but sometimes, also,we either choose situations that are either bad to start with, or we choose to stay in situations that are headed in the wrong direction. We can't control another person's attempts to be abusive or to create a cult or to train in ways that are harmful to others, but we can control whether we have anything to do with them. That's the part that I think you need to ponder now: what you chose then and why, and how you want to make your choices now.

A lot of things in your post make your situation sound like you really jumped into aikido with both feet, that you invested a great deal of energy into it, and also that you invested it with great expectations -- which seem to have been largely met up to a point. It's quite common for an enthusiastic beginner (not just in aikido but in many other things as well) to surf on a wave of revelations and epiphanies for quite a while. That life-changing energy sure is addictive, much like the energy of a new relationship. But just as with a new relationship, after a while you get beyond the newness phase, and the "birthday" sensation of an endless succession of new gifts goes away. Even in the most non-abusive situation in the world, this will happen. This is when the hyper-enthusiastic beginner has to ask some questions that they may not want to ask, because they may not like the answer.

If you feel that the dojo you're training at has become abusive, you definitely need to walk away. The question is whether you should proceed to walk into another dojo. Your new dojo may not be abusive, but it isn't going to take you back to that newbie-new excitement where you had a new revelation every day -- they're going to come a lot fewer and farther between, and you'll sweat harder for each one. You have to ask yourself if you're the kind of person who can sustain interest and commitment in something that doesn't have those juicy rewards all the time. Most people aren't, to be honest -- this is why martial arts training will always be a minority interest. You may not be in that minority. If that is so. better to accept the fact and simply walk away. It's not a value judgment, just the way things are.

I would also suggest -- and this may be a bit controversial, but here goes -- that you not postpone your decision until after your test. If you are going to walk away from it, be willing to walk away from it now. Don't be one of those students who develops "test tunnel vision" and doggedly trains to the test, all the while ignoring the truth that they really don't want to be there any more. The important test that you are facing now is one of integrity and self-knowledge, and it matters a lot more than 4th kyu.

Best of luck, Travis.

sakumeikan
07-28-2010, 12:59 AM
I've lurked for a bit but now I'm at a crossroads of sorts so I made an account. This is a little on the long side, thanks in advance for reading.

First, some background:

I am studying Aikido under the Birankai (http://www.birankai.org/) organization. The Aikido we do is extreemly rough. This (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lo5Na1x6sAc) , I think, exemplifies what we do in the dojo. I have been training for almost a year now very rigorously. I go 4 days a week, 2 - 3 classes each day for a total of 9 - 10 hours a week. I test for 4th Kyu next month.

My issues:

As my training has progressed over the course of the last year my Sensei has become rougher and rougher on me, far more so than anyone else at the school. He tells me this is because I am a young guy (25) and can take the punishment. I was attracted to the school because I wanted something "real" and the rough nature appealed to that. I welcome the skinned and swollen knees and the bruises all along my arms but it's getting to the point that I am afraid he is going to break my body. I already exhibit most of the symptoms of a separated shoulder and I hurt, literally, all the time. I see that he has a broken body and I'm not sure whatever it is that Aikido is offering me is worth that price. He is a man that favors training in extremes. During the winter he begrudgingly installed a heater because people stopped coming. Similarly, I live in the desert southwest and the dojo doesn't have air conditioning. The temperature outside yesterday was about 105 and he had us training to the point where nearly everyone wanted to vomit (no one did!). I know that I wanted to die during the class. That was the point.

I have also been fighting my gut feeling that this is a cult. I realize that this is an ongoing point of contention for some people and I'm not trying to editorialize on the art as a whole. Moreover, I was attracted to the art because of the interesting philosophy underpinning it. That being said, there is an unsettling fanaticism in the dojo that doesn't sit well with me. Every time I turn around, there is another function to attend: Dojo improvements, potlucks, garage sales and on and on. I understand that these are standard community building exercises (A stated objective of Sensei is to build a thriving community around Aikido) but I feel increasingly trapped withing that community. The tipping point came last night, though. Sensei went to Japan to study at Ichikukai dojo some time ago and brought back the practice of misogi. For those not familiar with the practice: you sit in seiza, hold the knot of your obi and scream the syllables "to ho ka mi e mi ta me" while compressing your diaphragm each time. We did our second round of it ever last night and in the middle of it Sensei came up behind people and shoved their shoulders down with each syllable. It was dark, there was a room full of swaying people chanting a Shinto prayer, and then this. I got a really bad feeling and thought, "This is really fucked up."

At this point I'm thinking of walking away. This makes me sad and apprehensive. I have gotten a lot out or Aikido. I feel a great deal more confident in life. I have social anxiety and taking an Aikido perspective has made a world of difference. People have told me, " I can't belive how much more capable you are in life since starting Aikido." When I started, my weight was 160 lbs with 17% body fat. Today I weigh 175 with 11% body fat. I tend to over commit to things and I feel that if I walk away, for whatever reason, I will be a failure. I have heard Sensei talk of others who have left as being people who, "just don't have what it takes for the kind of training we do here."

On the other hand: I am tired of hurting all the time, not having any personal time that isn't spent doing Aikido, doing Aikido functions, or recovering from Aikido. The emphatic chanting and high-heat training don't sit well with me either.

In any case, I am in something of a feedback loop within myself and I'd like to hear anything you guys have to say just to gain some perspective on the situation.

Thanks for reading this thing. I think it helped just to type it all out.

In short: I feel like my body is being ruined and that my dojo is becoming a cult. I feel fed up and am thinking about leaving but I'm reluctant because of what I've gotten out of Aikido so far.

It seems to me that you are not using common sense.If you are finding the demands of the dojo hard why do you simply just attend less classes? As far as the meditation element is concerned again if you fancy training in this go for it , if not thats ok as well.
The social side of Aikido is ok, but again if you are attending all the pot lucks etc and your not happy the answer is simple , DONT GO to them.
Maybe you are simply overtraining.Seems to me your trying too hard.As far as damaged knees are concerned and your body feeling the stress again use COMMON SENSE.No need to put your body through the wringer .I have been doing Aikido for over 40 years with Chiba Sensei and I speak with some experience of hard training.Train sensibly not hard is the answer.
Good luck, keep in touch, hope this helps, Joe.

SmilingNage
07-28-2010, 01:30 PM
If they are trying to hurt you on purpose, walk away. Its the only choice.
If your body hurts, reduce your training or take a few days to recover. Hit the ice packs and warm soaks regiment to get your body healed. Dont continue to be a walking wounded. Training wounded can lead to more injuries to same areas or open yourself to new ones as you try to protect or over compensate for your old injuries.

Sometimes, in certain dojos, when young bucks like yourself bite off a bit more than you can chew, seniors will come by give some lessons in hubris. I m not saying this is the case or that is right to do this. But it is the culture, the unofficial dojo pecking order, so to speak, of certain dojos. So I wonder if you made less of a "splash" during class, the problem would go away.

I can only say this, improve your ukemi should you choose to stay. That is the only way to to keep injuries from getting you. From experience, I would be the 1st on there and the last one to leave. Get in early to go over ukemi drills before class, after class do more drills or have a senior "toss" you around so you can learn the "feeling" you have to develop for self preservation and safely negotiating throws and or joint locks. Only then can learn to ride that bubble between being just in the right spot where you can take the fall or should you choose reversal.

From me to you, take a few days off let your body heal. Maybe work on some weapons, I think you will find your answers then.

mathewjgano
07-30-2010, 05:54 PM
:eek: :hypno: :confused:
eh...what do you mean, Mr. Kidd?:D

David Yap
07-31-2010, 10:37 AM
Ah...the Cobra-kai of Aikido. Why not? When there are so many volunteering to be hurt.

bulevardi
08-05-2010, 04:46 AM
And there's a fine line between "hard training" and "abuse".
Indeed. It depends aswel what you prefer personally:
- some people just want to train hard to get physically exhausted, but on a human friendly way.
- some people like a dominant teacher and like to get abused.

If there's another dojo in the neighbourhood: change.

donburi
09-13-2010, 07:52 PM
I'm always surprised at the effect of taking a break from regular practice. On several occasions I came back on the mat only to find it ridiculously easy despite not having trained for weeks. By contrast, none of that ease could be felt while (over) training.
Try it!

WilliB
09-13-2010, 11:50 PM
Just out of curiousity: Is there a U-tube clip out there that shows this T-Chiba guy doing his rough stuff? I u-tubed little for "T. Chiba" and "Birankai" but could find nothing that I wouldn´t also see in our place (standard Aikikai).
(I am NOT arguing about this! Just curious.)

As for the original poster, of course I agree with everybody else that of course he should look for another place.

Gorgeous George
09-14-2010, 10:33 AM
Just out of curiousity: Is there a U-tube clip out there that shows this T-Chiba guy doing his rough stuff? I u-tubed little for "T. Chiba" and "Birankai" but could find nothing that I wouldn´t also see in our place (standard Aikikai).
(I am NOT arguing about this! Just curious.)

As for the original poster, of course I agree with everybody else that of course he should look for another place.

Perhaps searching for T K Chiba or Chiba sensei would yield more pertinent results (although there is also a kendo teacher called Chiba sensei, apparently):

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=t+k+chiba&aq=f

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lo5Na1x6sAc

I must confess that I haven't seen any video of Chiba Sensei breaking arms etc., and I note that he has quite a few female followers. And I guess that if you don't want to be taught aikido in a particular way, then you can always leave and find a new teacher - something i've done before.

From what little i've read, Chiba sensei is regarded as recognising peoples' limits, and training them in such a way as to push and increase them; and there are a lot of people who appreciate his teaching style.

Chris Farnham
09-14-2010, 06:33 PM
Most of the You Tube clips I have seen are relatively recent and feature the somewhat gentler Chiba Sensei mentioned by some on the thread. Wili, if you have ever seen Miyamoto Sensei from Hombu Dojo, he is a close follower of Chiba Sensei.