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Conrad Gus
05-10-2012, 01:37 PM
In response to some of the "Aikikai - what is it good for?" sentiment I've been noticing on some threads, I thought it would be fun to hear from people about what they like about belonging to the aikikai. I'll go first:


Having an indirect relationship to people all over the world who share the same passion
Being accredited by a recognized international organization (I'm no mail-order black belt!)
Doshu is a great teacher and does a good job of "keeping the center" of aikido without stifling alternate expressions of the art


I'm sure others will have their own ideas.

Edit: Debate is fine, but I'm interested in benefits, not complaints. If you want to start an "Aikikai Sux" thread, fill your boots.

Chris Li
05-10-2012, 02:55 PM
In response to some of the "Aikikai - what is it good for?" sentiment I've been noticing on some threads, I thought it would be fun to hear from people about what they like about belonging to the aikikai. I'll go first:


Having an indirect relationship to people all over the world who share the same passion
Being accredited by a recognized international organization (I'm no mail-order black belt!)
Doshu is a great teacher and does a good job of "keeping the center" of aikido without stifling alternate expressions of the art


I'm sure others will have their own ideas.

Edit: Debate is fine, but I'm interested in benefits, not complaints. If you want to start an "Aikikai Sux" thread, fill your boots.

As I said in the other thread, I like the idea of some kind of a general umbrella organization.
I don't know about the mail order stuff - you send in the applications by mail, they send them back by mail, and no one on the other side really has any idea what they're for. Compare that to the accreditation process of many peer organizations in academics and you'll find the process sadly lacking.
Doshu does a fair job of holding the center as the figurehead of the Ueshiba family, but he's not really teaching anybody (IMO).

Conrad Gus
05-10-2012, 02:57 PM
Doshu does a fair job of holding the center as the figurehead of the Ueshiba family, but he's not really teaching anybody (IMO).


I've only seen him in person once, but I felt like I learned something. A lot of people like his DVDs as a baseline for technique.

Chris Li
05-10-2012, 03:01 PM
I've only seen him in person once, but I felt like I learned something. A lot of people like his DVDs as a baseline for technique.

Well, YMMV. I've seen him lots of times and felt the opposite - not in the least because the classes are too large for anybody to teach effectively.

Nothing against him - but the system is really not set up for him to give instruction.

Of course, I have Morihei on DVD. :D

Best,

Chrs

Gorgeous George
05-10-2012, 03:47 PM
Christopher: i'm curious about why you're so dismissive of the Aikikai (not a criticism: I have no dog in this fight, and am somewhat disillusioned with aikido right now...), given that you were recently awarded a high dan grade by it, weren't you?

Do they not object to those it regards as senior members of the organisation, disparaging, and undermining it?

Also: you have spent some time with Dan Harden, haven't you? - How do you relate his ability to that of the Aikikai rank-and-file teachers?

Chris Li
05-10-2012, 04:09 PM
Christopher: i'm curious about why you're so dismissive of the Aikikai (not a criticism: I have no dog in this fight, and am somewhat disillusioned with aikido right now...), given that you were recently awarded a high dan grade by it, weren't you?

Do they not object to those it regards as senior members of the organisation, disparaging, and undermining it?

Also: you have spent some time with Dan Harden, haven't you? - How do you relate his ability to that of the Aikikai rank-and-file teachers?

I'm don't think that I'm dismissive, I've said quite clearly that I like the idea of the Aikikai, or an organization like it.

Doshu and his father, and his son, have always been kind and friendly to me.

That doesn't mean that it doesn't have problems as an organization, or that there aren't things that could be done better.

If you're in an organization, you really ought to try to make it better, don't you think?

As to comparing with Dan - well, there really is no comparison...;)

Best,

Chris

dave9nine
05-10-2012, 04:55 PM
to lend further input towards Chris' point:

there is a corpus of academic study that bridges Communication studies and Business called Organizational Communication, or Organizational Studies; within this area, the Aikikai situation would be a textbook example of an organization that suffers from a number of issues (noted by Chris), primarily rooted in communication processes and including cross-cultural communication.

this is an example of work that is done in this area:
http://iag_puc_2007.msimoes.dyndns.org:10080/textos/Administracao/ADM_2825-Organizacoes/artigos/luscher%20et%20al.pdf

i guess i bring this up to further back the notion that a criticism of Aikikai need not be interpreted as 'dissmissive' or derisive or negative, and folks should take care in interpreting it this way. Critical organizational communication scholars would submit that it is perfectly within the realm of approriatness for a member of an organization--at any level in the hierarchy--to offer critique of the functioning of the organization. In fact, to not do so would be considered an example of an organization member giving up their agency and voice within the system, thus contributing further to any dysfunctions that may be present at any given level.

as a communication grad student i find it all pretty facsinating -- someone in my field could do a dissertation on this...

(*looks around, whistling)

aikishihan
05-11-2012, 11:37 AM
The Aikikai Foundation was meant to happen. Like any other visionary construct brought into functional reality, it was doomed before it began, as a cure all, be all, and do all, final answer to the reasons for its creation. Constructed by fallible humans, guided by incomplete thinking, questionable purposes and truly finite means, it nonetheless came to be in the aftermath of a horrendous world war and its destructive affect on the psyche and vision of a battered nation. It was here to stay, despite the challenges it faced, and the immensity of the task being taken on by its supporters. For these reasons alone, it deserves genuine respect, tolerant criticism, and patient compassion.

The United States of America is undoubtedly the greatest success story for democratic ideas being the basis for a nation unsurpassed in its vision, its achievements, its hope for the rest of the world, and its undeniable impact on the fortunes of many nations. Yet, it wallows in its own excesses, threatened from within from the rot of good intentions mixed with foul, and with the same engine that has caused other engines to falter, even as it tries mightily to right itself. Do we cry in despair, or do we follow the example of our forefathers and say, “we can fix this”, and proceed to do just so. I am proud to be an American, and count me in to the end of this fight. I also am a follower of a man named Ueshiba, his vision and his example. I too stand to be counted on, and in, for a similar fight for survival of the model, and for individual excellence.

It is said that the Founder was not in favor of such an organization, did little to encourage or substantively assist Kisshomaru Doshu in his labors, and pretty much tolerated the otherwise amazing efforts, mistakes and early successes of the pioneering efforts of all involved. He was content to remain in his role of a working genius, focused inwardly and perhaps selfishly on what pleased him, and inspired him most.

How well did the Doshu do? Opinions definitely vary, and honest research and fair assessments will invariably come up with a mixed bag of results, expectations and judgments , both from those who know, and the often times raucous majority of pundits who remain aggravatingly clueless. Such is the price of fame, success and authority hard won after decades of fighting the good fight for prosperity and purpose.

One must be careful to remember that the Aikikai Foundation was, is and will always remain essentially a uniquely Japanese creation, representative of many centuries of custom, tradition and easily misunderstood foundational truths. To expect such a traditional entity to become modern overnight, sensitive to international concerns, and to be responsible for satisfying any foreign appetites for and too often suspect motives demanding recognition and accountability is beyond ludicrous, and downright idiotic. The Aikikai Foundation and its leadership will never bow to such selfishly induced demands, nor should it ever feel the need to change simply to conform or to appease. If you don’t want to play, simply go away. Oh, and leave your Aikikai ranks behind.

Is the Aikikai Foundation perfect, or even reasonably attentive and heedful of its foreign based membership and their quite often valid complaints? Not even close, with no apologies or explanations that will suffice, or be offered anytime soon. Is this reason to deride and condemn the principals for not being “sensitive” to the “new realities” of modern sentiment and international reasoning? No. A thousand times no. It is the outside voices that must be moderated, and honor the fundamental basis for the Aikikai’s reasons to exist, and to carry forth their admittedly self assured policies and practices.

It is the outside membership that must do a much better job of appreciating the cultural differences, and arrive at new strategies to maintain the conversation with Aikikai leadership, and ultimately arrive at mutually satisfactory changes and implementation of those results. Yapping at their heels like disowned mutts is not the answer. It demeans the rest of us who truly value the Aikikai’s history, the preservation of the iemoto line of Ueshiba males, and the actually favorable basis of mutually accessible and viable communication, and exchange possibilities with Aikikai leadership and Moriteru Doshu. Let’s begin by acting as honorable diplomats, giving credit where it is due, and with politeness, logic and tact, continue cultivating the currently tenuously existing relationship with Aikikai Foundation.

Times are changing, and so is the Guard. Have more faith, more patience, and more examples of constructive and affirmative behavior, and the needed changes will happen sooner than later.

Chris Li
05-11-2012, 12:01 PM
One must be careful to remember that the Aikikai Foundation was, is and will always remain essentially a uniquely Japanese creation, representative of many centuries of custom, tradition and easily misunderstood foundational truths. To expect such a traditional entity to become modern overnight, sensitive to international concerns, and to be responsible for satisfying any foreign appetites for and too often suspect motives demanding recognition and accountability is beyond ludicrous, and downright idiotic. The Aikikai Foundation and its leadership will never bow to such selfishly induced demands, nor should it ever feel the need to change simply to conform or to appease. If you don’t want to play, simply go away. Oh, and leave your Aikikai ranks behind.


I'm not making any particular demands - I'm just saying that this is the reality of the situation. Demands or no, the ties that bind people to the Aikikai are fading fast - without a reason to maintain them they will fade completely.

If rank is the only tie...then they're definitely in trouble.

Best,

Chris

hughrbeyer
05-11-2012, 12:39 PM
It demeans the rest of us who truly value ... the preservation of the iemoto line of Ueshiba males...

Wow. If you wanted to crystallize and bottle everything I do NOT care about in my martial arts training, you couldn't do much better than this.

As for the Aikikai rank... I value my rank because of the guy who gave it to me, not because of the organization that stamped it.

aikishihan
05-11-2012, 01:49 PM
Mr. Beyer,

Despite your admitted uncaring and unappreciative show of disrespect for the Iemoto legacy, your Shihan of record certainly appears to maintain such respect, as well as for a deep sense of humble gratitude for the privilege.

As a faithful and honorable ex uchi deshi of the Founder, and of the late Kisshomaru Doshu, Mitsugi Saotome Sensei fully appreciates the principle of Ongaeshi, a moral obligation to repay kindness, and does so on both his own behalf as well as for yours. Perhaps you feel no such tradition based obligation to him yourself, although I sincerely hope that you, and others, do.

The fact that Saotome Sensei has always had the option and capacity of conferring his own ranks on his minions, makes it all the more remarkable that he still honors his students with Aikikai ranking, and with the concomitant direct, ongoing and official connection with the Founder’s legacy. Who amongst his students can knowingly doubt his deep sincerity, and dare rebuke his profound reasons for choosing this path?

A truly major misconception, that gives constant rebirth to an abortive fallacy, is that Aikikai ranking is a mere rubber stamp process, and otherwise meaningless. The truth of the matter is, despite epidemic ignorance and ego driven misdirection, this is a privilege earned by selected official representatives of Aikikai Foundation, who have been vetted over the decades by their proofs of faithful service. They are necessarily and heavily counted on to maintain quality control by their recommendations, as recommendations they will always be. It remains the purview and authority of the Doshu to accept or refuse such recommendations, both actions that both Doshu’s have taken in times past. I take my such privilege very seriously, as I believe Saotome Sensei does as well, since this represents the continuous link to the Founder’s legacy via his official organization.

If anyone feels that this is privilege to refuse, do so post haste, including the immediate return of all other ranks received under false pretenses, and kindly let your Sensei know the reasons why you feel that he has made such an egregious error.

This Aiki Web forum has declined immensely, and regrettably, over such a short period of time, in terms of valid and positive content, accountability for etiquette, the appreciation for basic human respect, and for the sharing example of good behavior to those new to its presentations. I believe we can and should do better.

In oneness,

Gorgeous George
05-11-2012, 01:55 PM
'minions' - haha.

Chris Li
05-11-2012, 02:11 PM
'minions' - haha.

Everybody who wants to be a minion - raise your hand (http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y70/kronos182/stuff/Despicable-Me-Minion-2.jpg)! :D

Best,

Chris

phitruong
05-11-2012, 02:28 PM
Everybody who wants to be a minion - raise your hand (http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y70/kronos182/stuff/Despicable-Me-Minion-2.jpg)! :D

Best,

Chris

is minion a step up from devil-spawn or a step down? if step-up (maybe down depends on the level of badness) then i am in, but no to less. i do have standards to maintain. :D

Chris Li
05-11-2012, 02:37 PM
is minion a step up from devil-spawn or a step down? if step-up (maybe down depends on the level of badness) then i am in, but no to less. i do have standards to maintain. :D

Definitely a step up from devil-spawn, but maybe a step down from devil-dog (http://smartfellowspress.com/Devil%20Dog%20Paperweight.jpg). :D

Best,

Chris

Fred Little
05-11-2012, 02:48 PM
The fact that Saotome Sensei has always had the option and capacity of conferring his own ranks on his minions, makes it all the more remarkable that he still honors his students with Aikikai ranking, and with the concomitant direct, ongoing and official connection with the Founder's legacy. Who amongst his students can knowingly doubt his deep sincerity, and dare rebuke his profound reasons for choosing this path?

Mr. Takahashi,

One must hope that your use of the word "minions," was not a willful attempt to offend but rather, a careless choice, or perhaps a reflexive projection of your own feelings about your own relationship with the Aikikai onto others who -- for historical, cultural, and personal reasons that may be distinct from the basis on which you construe your relationship to the Aikikai -- have a very different view of the situation which is not only (perhaps) no less legitimate than yours, but (certainly) rather more widely shared.

Best regards,

Fred Little

Cliff Judge
05-11-2012, 02:48 PM
It is kinda neat that I can walk into the Hombu dojo and train there without letters of introduction and all that.

Though I got totally lost when I tried to find it when I was in Tokyo in March.

Chris Li
05-11-2012, 02:57 PM
It is kinda neat that I can walk into the Hombu dojo and train there without letters of introduction and all that.

Though I got totally lost when I tried to find it when I was in Tokyo in March.

Actually, I never had a problem walking in - even before Saotome reaffiliated.

Worst case, they'd make you pay the Aikikai registration fee (10,000 yen?) and then up you go...

It's an interesting place to visit, but I think that there are many better places to train in the Tokyo area if you want personal contact with an instructor.

Best,

Chris

Michael Hackett
05-11-2012, 03:59 PM
EVERYTHING is a step down from being a Devil Dog - even Phi knows that.

Marc Abrams
05-11-2012, 04:28 PM
I have sat back and watched with mixed feelings, this debate. I think that George Ledyard Sensei raised a valid question awhile back, when he questioned the relevance of Aikikai Hombu Dojo as we move into future times. There are outstanding instructors outside of Japan who will never get the recognition from Japan for the level of their abilities and their teaching abilities. This brings into question the claim as to the headquarters playing the role as judge, jury and executioner for the quality of people being brought up for rank certification.

Another valid point that Ledyard Sensei made was in pointing out that there are more Aikidoka outside of Japan than inside of Japan. Given that fact, I find it hard to believe that the "judges" from Japan are really able to put the attention to detail in making ranking decisions with those metrics.

The Aikikai is more than happy to allow Aikido groups to affiliate with them. It allows them to appoint someone from Japan to "oversee" the groups, as though that oversight is really necessary. What if the head of that particular group happens to be more highly skilled than the person doing the oversight? Respect should work both ways.

On a more personal note, my teacher was a direct student of O'Sensei. He was given the honor of traveling with O'Sensei's ashes to bring them home to their final resting place. One would think that his level of commitment to O'Sensei would transcend the fact that he left Aikikai to follow Tohei Sensei, later to branch out on his own. Each time, he left on respectful and good terms with both Aikikai and with Ki Society. The following is but one example of what I consider to be ridiculous and unacceptable behavior from the Aikikai headquarters. One of my Kohai who moved to another country and began training and teaching in a dojo that was affiliated with Aikikai. I was informed that Aikikai would not honor his dan rank! This rank was earned directly from a direct student of O'Sensei and under a criteria far more stringent that that of Aikikai. I just wonder if the person making that "informed decision" was also a direct student of O'Sensei. Here is another example of disrespectful and unacceptable behavior. I privately wrote to the Doshu, asking for a personal letter of acknowledgement that could have been included in a book that we created for my teacher to celebrate his 50th year of Aikido. The message that I received back from one of his minion, was that this was impossible. Impossible? Is this the respect that is given to someone who traveled with the ashes of one's grandfather?

Aikikai is and will always be a Japanese organization, based upon a long cultural history. We, who go out of our way to show respect for that heritage, do not ask for much in return. We do recognize that Aikido is a Japanese martial art that is now on an international scale, so much so that there are non-Japanese teachers who could easily walk into the Hombu dojo and teach people there at a very, very high level. If this organization wants to retain any kind of genuine relevance, outside of a lasting family tradition, then they can no longer hide behind the cultural ways of the past. We live in an international world in which mutual respect is a starting point between different cultures and groups of people. When that does not happen, the respect is not only lost, but very hard to re-establish. Double standards simply do not cut it for many of us as any kind of acceptable explanation for some things that do and do not occur from that organization.

Marc Abrams

sakumeikan
05-11-2012, 05:29 PM
Mr. Beyer,

Despite your admitted uncaring and unappreciative show of disrespect for the Iemoto legacy, your Shihan of record certainly appears to maintain such respect, as well as for a deep sense of humble gratitude for the privilege.

As a faithful and honorable ex uchi deshi of the Founder, and of the late Kisshomaru Doshu, Mitsugi Saotome Sensei fully appreciates the principle of Ongaeshi, a moral obligation to repay kindness, and does so on both his own behalf as well as for yours. Perhaps you feel no such tradition based obligation to him yourself, although I sincerely hope that you, and others, do.

The fact that Saotome Sensei has always had the option and capacity of conferring his own ranks on his minions, makes it all the more remarkable that he still honors his students with Aikikai ranking, and with the concomitant direct, ongoing and official connection with the Founder’s legacy. Who amongst his students can knowingly doubt his deep sincerity, and dare rebuke his profound reasons for choosing this path?

A truly major misconception, that gives constant rebirth to an abortive fallacy, is that Aikikai ranking is a mere rubber stamp process, and otherwise meaningless. The truth of the matter is, despite epidemic ignorance and ego driven misdirection, this is a privilege earned by selected official representatives of Aikikai Foundation, who have been vetted over the decades by their proofs of faithful service. They are necessarily and heavily counted on to maintain quality control by their recommendations, as recommendations they will always be. It remains the purview and authority of the Doshu to accept or refuse such recommendations, both actions that both Doshu’s have taken in times past. I take my such privilege very seriously, as I believe Saotome Sensei does as well, since this represents the continuous link to the Founder’s legacy via his official organization.

If anyone feels that this is privilege to refuse, do so post haste, including the immediate return of all other ranks received under false pretenses, and kindly let your Sensei know the reasons why you feel that he has made such an egregious error.

This Aiki Web forum has declined immensely, and regrettably, over such a short period of time, in terms of valid and positive content, accountability for etiquette, the appreciation for basic human respect, and for the sharing example of good behavior to those new to its presentations. I believe we can and should do better.

In oneness,
Dear Mr Takahashi,
Minions -poor choice of word to describe the membership .Please remember its the minions who help to pay the rent .Without them what would any patrician do??
Cheers, Joe

Peter Goldsbury
05-11-2012, 06:58 PM
Hello Francis,

お久し振り,

I note your remarks about the Aikikai in Post #8. Would you have the same view of the Kobukai, created in 1940, of which the Aikikai is a postwar continuation?

As for iemoto, I recollect that Kisshomaru Doshu disliked this term, but the present Doshu does not. He occasionally uses it in connection with the Aikikai. Of course, the validity of the term for any particular supposed example lies in the vertical links created by the iemoto with those who are part of the system. In this respect Kisshomaru Doshu was remarkably successful (though I think the jury is still out on Moriteru).

It is sometimes forgotten that the Aikikai, like the Hombu, are terms for the organization, but the organization is collection of individuals who carry out their assigned roles with varying degrees of success.

Best wishes,

PAG

aikishihan
05-11-2012, 07:52 PM
Hello Peter,

Kochira kosoo. Nanadan no koto, O medetoo Gozaimashita!

My scholarship is most meager as to be non existent. Yours is the counsel and legitimacy of research that I would seek in any matters of history of fact.

My information was gleaned from snippets of conversation overheard from those Japanese folk with direct ties with O Sensei, Kisshomaru Doshu, Osawa Sensei, Fujita Sensei etc.. The accuracy of my recollections is also most suspect, and I would appreciate any corrections and updates you would be so kind as to furnish.

As to Moriteru, his time is not yet past, so I believe that restraint, relevancy and respect is in order prior to offering any current judgment.

in oneness,

francis

hughrbeyer
05-11-2012, 09:56 PM
Mr. Takahashi:

"My Shihan" Saotome Sensei's relationship with the Aikikai is pretty much a matter between him and them. I don't think it would be appropriate for me to comment on it.

I think you read a little more disrespect into my words than I intended. I personally give loyalty to people, not institutions--but I respect the loyalty and commitment of those who see the world otherwise. I am simply not Japanese enough to have any particular commitment to a Ueshiba house family martial art. A commitment to Aikido as a universal art is quite another thing, and it seems likely that was O-Sensei's own vision--though I understand an argument can be made the other way as well.

Peace,

Hugh

George S. Ledyard
05-11-2012, 10:06 PM
I came late to this...

I think I am clearly on record, over the years, as to what my feelings are about my own personal relationship with Hombu. My teacher was trained there, I "grew up" on stories of the personalities there, later in my career I was actually able to train myself with a number of these, for me, almost mythical figures. In every case, without exception I was treated with a generous spirit that went beyond any expectation.

This was especially true of my brief time with Kisshomaru Ueshiba, who not only taught me and used me for ukemi in his classes I attended, but also had me in his home, shared tea with me, and signed my copy of his book which I had brought with me just for that purpose. It was a huge honor for me and I'll never forget what a gentleman he was to me.

My teacher continues to maintain his relationship with the Aikikai for reasons that I suspect Francis understands better than I. The current Doshu has no idea who I am nor does anyone currently teaching at Hombu (maybe with a couple exceptions who might perhaps remember brief meetings when they were younger and not yet the big dudes). I have openly questioned the relevance of the Aikikai to my own training. I do not see the Aikikai as fostering an Aikido that seems to have much of the Founder in it from a spiritual / philosophical standpoint nor do I see them developing an instructor corps that is technically manifesting the kind of Aikido that I find interesting these days. I feel we have more going on here in the States than they do there. That's my opinion and others are certainly free to have a totally different take on things.

Personally, I would be quite happy to have my certificates come directly from my own teacher. He is, in my opinion once again, one of the giants of post war Aikido and no certification could possibly have more credibility or mean more to me than his.

But he is my teacher. And with that relationship I inherit a network of his relationships. If Sensei still feels that there is something that motivates him to maintain his personal relationship with the Ueshiba family and the Aikikai then that is also my relationship as well. I have nothing against the relationship, it's just that any relationship I have with the folks in Tokyo are through Saotome Sensei personally. The ASU isn't even a recognized overseas organization... it is Saotome Sensei personally that has the relationship with Hombu and our relationship with Tokyo is through him personally. If he says that's the way it is, then he's my teacher and it is his call. If he were to decide to go his own way again... well, that would be his call as well.

I was one of the last round of promotions that Saotome Sensei did back in the day just before the rapprochement with Hombu Dojo. It was my 4th Dan and the certificate is signed by him. If you visit my dojo, that's the certificate that you see when you enter my school. My Fifth and Sixth Dan certificates are elsewhere. Sensei has looked at that the certificate and never said a word, he doesn't need to, he knows. I am his man. If Sensei thinks I should have my ranks signed by folks in Japan I have never met, because it is important to him that it be so, then that's what it is. It is more for him than it is for me. He knows that too, so we don't have to have further discussion on the subject.

I found myself a Japanese teacher of a Japanese art. I may not be Japanese myself, and therefor have my own ideas about these things, and I am pretty open about sharing them. But I long ago "bought in" and that doesn't entail taking just those things I prefer and leaving the others. If this is important to my teacher, than I am supportive. It's his history, his set of relationships, and his call. All that goes with his being my teacher.

aikilouis
05-12-2012, 04:56 AM
The Aikikai Foundation was meant to happen. Like any other visionary construct brought into functional reality, it was doomed before it began, as a cure all, be all, and do all, final answer to the reasons for its creation. Constructed by fallible humans, guided by incomplete thinking, questionable purposes and truly finite means, it nonetheless came to be in the aftermath of a horrendous world war and its destructive affect on the psyche and vision of a battered nation. It was here to stay, despite the challenges it faced, and the immensity of the task being taken on by its supporters. For these reasons alone, it deserves genuine respect, tolerant criticism, and patient compassion.

The United States of America is undoubtedly the greatest success story for democratic ideas being the basis for a nation unsurpassed in its vision, its achievements, its hope for the rest of the world, and its undeniable impact on the fortunes of many nations. Yet, it wallows in its own excesses, threatened from within from the rot of good intentions mixed with foul, and with the same engine that has caused other engines to falter, even as it tries mightily to right itself. Do we cry in despair, or do we follow the example of our forefathers and say, “we can fix this”, and proceed to do just so. I am proud to be an American, and count me in to the end of this fight. I also am a follower of a man named Ueshiba, his vision and his example. I too stand to be counted on, and in, for a similar fight for survival of the model, and for individual excellence.

It is said that the Founder was not in favor of such an organization, did little to encourage or substantively assist Kisshomaru Doshu in his labors, and pretty much tolerated the otherwise amazing efforts, mistakes and early successes of the pioneering efforts of all involved. He was content to remain in his role of a working genius, focused inwardly and perhaps selfishly on what pleased him, and inspired him most.

How well did the Doshu do? Opinions definitely vary, and honest research and fair assessments will invariably come up with a mixed bag of results, expectations and judgments , both from those who know, and the often times raucous majority of pundits who remain aggravatingly clueless. Such is the price of fame, success and authority hard won after decades of fighting the good fight for prosperity and purpose.

One must be careful to remember that the Aikikai Foundation was, is and will always remain essentially a uniquely Japanese creation, representative of many centuries of custom, tradition and easily misunderstood foundational truths. To expect such a traditional entity to become modern overnight, sensitive to international concerns, and to be responsible for satisfying any foreign appetites for and too often suspect motives demanding recognition and accountability is beyond ludicrous, and downright idiotic. The Aikikai Foundation and its leadership will never bow to such selfishly induced demands, nor should it ever feel the need to change simply to conform or to appease. If you don’t want to play, simply go away. Oh, and leave your Aikikai ranks behind.

Is the Aikikai Foundation perfect, or even reasonably attentive and heedful of its foreign based membership and their quite often valid complaints? Not even close, with no apologies or explanations that will suffice, or be offered anytime soon. Is this reason to deride and condemn the principals for not being “sensitive” to the “new realities” of modern sentiment and international reasoning? No. A thousand times no. It is the outside voices that must be moderated, and honor the fundamental basis for the Aikikai’s reasons to exist, and to carry forth their admittedly self assured policies and practices.

It is the outside membership that must do a much better job of appreciating the cultural differences, and arrive at new strategies to maintain the conversation with Aikikai leadership, and ultimately arrive at mutually satisfactory changes and implementation of those results. Yapping at their heels like disowned mutts is not the answer. It demeans the rest of us who truly value the Aikikai’s history, the preservation of the iemoto line of Ueshiba males, and the actually favorable basis of mutually accessible and viable communication, and exchange possibilities with Aikikai leadership and Moriteru Doshu. Let’s begin by acting as honorable diplomats, giving credit where it is due, and with politeness, logic and tact, continue cultivating the currently tenuously existing relationship with Aikikai Foundation.

Times are changing, and so is the Guard. Have more faith, more patience, and more examples of constructive and affirmative behavior, and the needed changes will happen sooner than later.

Mr. Beyer,

Despite your admitted uncaring and unappreciative show of disrespect for the Iemoto legacy, your Shihan of record certainly appears to maintain such respect, as well as for a deep sense of humble gratitude for the privilege.

As a faithful and honorable ex uchi deshi of the Founder, and of the late Kisshomaru Doshu, Mitsugi Saotome Sensei fully appreciates the principle of Ongaeshi, a moral obligation to repay kindness, and does so on both his own behalf as well as for yours. Perhaps you feel no such tradition based obligation to him yourself, although I sincerely hope that you, and others, do.

The fact that Saotome Sensei has always had the option and capacity of conferring his own ranks on his minions, makes it all the more remarkable that he still honors his students with Aikikai ranking, and with the concomitant direct, ongoing and official connection with the Founder’s legacy. Who amongst his students can knowingly doubt his deep sincerity, and dare rebuke his profound reasons for choosing this path?

A truly major misconception, that gives constant rebirth to an abortive fallacy, is that Aikikai ranking is a mere rubber stamp process, and otherwise meaningless. The truth of the matter is, despite epidemic ignorance and ego driven misdirection, this is a privilege earned by selected official representatives of Aikikai Foundation, who have been vetted over the decades by their proofs of faithful service. They are necessarily and heavily counted on to maintain quality control by their recommendations, as recommendations they will always be. It remains the purview and authority of the Doshu to accept or refuse such recommendations, both actions that both Doshu’s have taken in times past. I take my such privilege very seriously, as I believe Saotome Sensei does as well, since this represents the continuous link to the Founder’s legacy via his official organization.

If anyone feels that this is privilege to refuse, do so post haste, including the immediate return of all other ranks received under false pretenses, and kindly let your Sensei know the reasons why you feel that he has made such an egregious error.

This Aiki Web forum has declined immensely, and regrettably, over such a short period of time, in terms of valid and positive content, accountability for etiquette, the appreciation for basic human respect, and for the sharing example of good behavior to those new to its presentations. I believe we can and should do better.

In oneness,
Two big piles of contempt rolled in flowery language.

Alec Corper
05-12-2012, 10:02 AM
"Two big piles of contempt rolled in flowery language"
One sentence of simple truth dipped in a disreputable tone :o

akiy
05-12-2012, 10:13 AM
Folks,

Watch your tone, please. Let's keep the discussion civil and respectful.

-- Jun

Keith Larman
05-12-2012, 10:40 AM
Come over to the dark side, we have cookies... ;)

I'm not ranked in Aikikai. That limits me to some extent, I'm sure, and I would imagine that also denigrates me in some peoples' eyes. That's okay with me. When I was looking for training in Aikido near where I was I went where people I trusted said I should go. I found stuff I liked and I stayed. I continue to study and I also go outside the box a lot of play with really neat people who do really neat stuff outside the box as well. So I'm not terribly concerned about these sorts of issues. And I think there are more and more people like me, people who go to whomever we can that we hear/find/are told are good. I remember the great aikiweb seminar up in Seattle a few years ago. Mr. Ledyard doing his aikido. Aaron Clark doing his art which in my eyes combined fantastically rich aiki with judo and everything else. And of course Mr. Threadgill and his travelling budo magic and comedy act. Spectacular. Then local seminars Gary has set up with Mike Sigman and Dan Harden doing their things way outside the box (but maybe really should have been deeply in the box?). But I'm rambling...

The world is changing. I think a lot of people posting have some very good points. There are more high quality people out there than ever coming from what are increasingly diverse backgrounds. And I mean this with utmost respect to those within Aikikai, but to me Aikikai represents the mainstream but also in some sense or another the "generic". I do *not* mean the training is any less valuable. But I think as any organization gets larger it faces unique challenges and as such you end up with an organization that is either rather hands-off just kind of "pointing the direction" or a highly controlling group that will tend to stifle variation. To their credit they have gone with the former IMO, but that brings drawbacks as well.

So I just shrug. I don't worry about titles like shihan as even in our small organization we've had issues with how things were done and then the politics of personalities clashing. So I smile, train more, hope for more seminars from interesting people, and keep training. I find that increasingly my relationship with my affiliation becomes, well, complicated. I take pride in part of it. But I also find it less of "my identity" and rather just my comfortable home for when I'm not out challenging my comfort level somewhere else. The world of Aikido has grown huge, but paradoxically enough it is now a very small place due to the internet, communications, and awareness and openness of some generous souls.

Okay, stream of consciousness post complete. :)

Chris Li
05-12-2012, 11:54 AM
I was one of the last round of promotions that Saotome Sensei did back in the day just before the rapprochement with Hombu Dojo. It was my 4th Dan and the certificate is signed by him. If you visit my dojo, that's the certificate that you see when you enter my school. My Fifth and Sixth Dan certificates are elsewhere. Sensei has looked at that the certificate and never said a word, he doesn't need to, he knows. I am his man. If Sensei thinks I should have my ranks signed by folks in Japan I have never met, because it is important to him that it be so, then that's what it is. It is more for him than it is for me. He knows that too, so we don't have to have further discussion on the subject.


This is a big part of the problem - not a problem with George, but with the reality of the situation as it is evolving.

George really doesn't care particularly about hombu - any "allegiance" he gives is because of his teacher. I dare say that this is probably the case with most of Saotome's students.

When Saotome passes away, some of them will want to continue that connection for that reason - but my guess is that just as many will be in favor of dropping away.

Now look at the students of George and those other instructors. They have a connection to hombu, but now that connection is two steps removed. They don't care about hombu, and their teachers don't care about hombu. And so on, and so on...

Frankly, I've talked to any number of Aikido folks - yudansha, not higher ranking ones, but yudansha, that don't even really know what the Aikikai is.

The end seems inevitable - unless the Aikikai can modernize to an equitable professional organization that provides real resources and benefits to its members it runs the risk of being as relevant to most Aikido students as the Queen of England is to most Americans. Great to see on television, but I'm not sending her any money. :D

Best,

Chris

Basia Halliop
05-12-2012, 02:37 PM
I think I and many people I know feel some ties to local organizations. E.g., my dojo belongs to the USAF, and I feel some connection to the teachers and students I meet at USAF seminars and do feel an interest in decisions the organization makes, care about what I see, etc. It's not a super strong tie but it's certainly there (e.g. if my teacher decided to leave the organization for some reason, I'd like to still go to seminars but beyond that I wouldn't care so much. As long as my teacher kept teaching, my dojo would continue as always and my training would continue as always).

But Aikikai Hombu dojo? That's yet another step removed and basically in my mind if it occurs to me to think of them at all (which is rarely) they feel like they exist as an office somewhere you get certificates from. There are few teachers there I've even heard of, which I know is due to my own lack of research, but still... I don't know, any connection I personally have to it feels pretty abstract and far away. I don't have any objection to belonging to it, and I have a vague sense that networking is nice and it's good to build connections between different people training, but I don't really care one way or the other.

George S. Ledyard
05-12-2012, 02:38 PM
In the old days, it was simpler. There were two things folks wanted to know. Who is your teacher and how long have you trained? If you were fortunate enough to train directly with a teacher possessed of sound reputation then that told the asker what he or she needed to know.

For all my years from white belt to 4th Dan Saotome Sensei was independently operating in the US. He had formed the Aikido Schools of Ueshiba and did his own promotions. No one questioned the validity of my ranks just because they hadn't come from Hombu. They were given to me by a man who had trained with the Founder for fifteen years and was known to be one of the top post war students.

However, many people back in the day did not have a direct, daily relationship with a former uchi deshi level teacher. Most folk here in America were trained under far more junior black belts, in those days often just Shodans or Nidans. The most senior Americans at the time were 4th Dans and we knew every one of them by name. Credibility for their rankings came more from some association with a teacher or teachers through membership in an organization.

But this is now 35 years later. There already has been endless discussion on the forums that rank is next to meaningless. One can train with one 6th Dan who is fabulous and another who simply isn't on the same planet skill wise. Both with ranks from the same organization.

The organizations morphed over the years. When they first started, they were associations of the direct students of the head of the organization. Today most of the members of these organizations have never trained for any substantial period of time with the head of that organization and probably see that teacher once or twice a year for one week at most.

In a number of cases the original head of the organization has passed away and a splintering has occurred. I think this is exactly what will continue to happen going forward. We are actually on the path of returning to what organizations had been 35 years ago, i.e. associations of students with a direct link to a certain teacher and who have more frequent face time with that teacher. That teacher will have a much more personal investment in his or her students than is currently the case with the large organizations.

This is already happening... Clyde Takaguchi, Greg O'Conner, Larry Reynosa, amongst other well known teachers have all started their own associations. Mary Heiny Sensei, whereas she hasn't started an organization, has a personal relationship with her students and gives them ranking on her say so and with her authority. She is the senior woman in American Aikido... who is going to questions those ranks? Would anyone think that a 6th Dan directly from Mary Sensei would somehow be more valid if it were represented by a certificate that came from Japan, signed by someone who has never trained with or even met the student in question? I can't see it myself.

In my day, the credibility of a person's rank came from the idea that when you gave someone a black belt, you were putting your name on them in a personal sense. They became a representative of you as a teacher... people seeing that student would judge you as a teacher by that student as the product of that teaching. I still proceed that way. I don't give anyone rank that I don't feel proud of. If that student goes to another dojo, does anyone think that his or her organizational association is more important than the fact that he or she is my student, has hundreds or even thousands of hours with me personally? Everyone within a given organization knows this, of course. They are all members of the same association. So, what is important is who is your teacher.

The only reason that organizational association has any importance is in trying to provide some credibility to rankings granted by folks who are not well known, who didn't train with a famous teacher with his or her own top reputation. The "organization", at least as far as ranking is concerned, exists to give credibility to the ranks granted by teachers who do not have their own authority and reputation.

So, the real question is, does any given large organization really have all that much say directly about the quality of the Aikido in its membership. I would generally say not really. I would then go a step further and say that having a relationship with Hombu Dojo, while it might be important to many for other reasons, simply has no impact whatever on the quality of the ranks it is conferring. Folks can get a 6th Dan and never have set foot on the mat at headquarters. Their certificate will be signed by someone they have never trained with, even for a weekend, and who has no idea who they are.

So, to my thinking, it makes almost no sense to say that having ones rank certificates come through the Aikikai, or any other umbrella organization in Japan gives them one iota more credibility than a certificate simply granted by the teacher who actually provided the many years of training it took to get to that rank.

Now feeling a sentimental attachment to the family, the tradition, the history, and wishing to maintain a connection with all of that, now that makes sense to me. I can see how that would be important to many and if I were to ever start my own association, after my own teacher passed, I might very well associate for those reasons. But it wouldn't be so my ranking were validated. Any ranks I gave out would have meaning only because it was I who gave them, not because they came from Japan.

As I have said before, I see a future with many smaller organizations, less hierarchical than before. I think that many of the folks who will be in a position to form these groups may actually be fine with some association with the Aikikai. But the only place where I really differ from Francis, and this is really due to our quite different life experiences, is that I do not see it as our job to try to be more relevant to Hombu Dojo or to go more than half way to have that relationship. They are the ones with the organization. They are the ones who need to show me why I would want my student's rank to come from them rather than do them myself.

Everything that Francis has said about my teacher's sense of the iemoto involved in his relationship with Hombu is true. Sensei has continued his relationship with Headquarters and the current Doshu for reasons that I think are clear only to himself.

Francis would maintain that because Saotome Sensei is my teacher, I inherit some of the obligation and I totally understand where that comes from. But for me, it is different. 30 years ago I met Bruce Bookman Sensei when he came back from training in Japan with Chiba Sensei. His teacher and my teacher, while they respected each other, never really liked each other. Bruce and I talked and simply agreed that, as American students of these teachers, there was simply no reason we could see to carry on any disagreements to another generation and another country and we are great friends. I trained with him for a number of years at the same time I trained with Mary Heiny Sensei.

So, from my very early Aikido career I had to look at what I wanted to "buy into" in all these complicated Japanese relationships and obligations. It is not something I automatically inherit. I have to decide. Sensei's reason for his connection to Hombu are simply not mine. When Sensei passes, I feel that the Aikikai will have to provide me with a reason to feel they are relevant enough to associate. I also think it is my own job to make myself relevant to them as a teacher. If they decided to check with anyone over here about my own reputation I want them to feel like I am someone they would wish to have in their organization, that my reputation as a teacher speaks for itself.

Then, we have a two way street... they need to show me why I would want to associate and I need to make myself a teacher worthy of association. If either of us does not do that, then there is no reason to associate. Ranks I give out won't mean more just because they send out the certificates. And if they don't actively see a reason to have me in the organization, other then a ,monetary one, then why would I wish to be in such an organization.

Now, I have actually been associated with the Aikikai before my own teacher re-associated. I have a San Dan certificate signed by Mary Heiny Sensei (I also have one from Saotome Sensei) that was put through by Chiba Sensei when I was running a dojo in his Western Region of the Federation. I also had a Shidoin certificate from way back then. So, one could say that I have been a member of the Aikikai for a very long time. I have no problem having that association. If Sensei passes, I would maintain that association unless I was given a reason not to. But, I think that it is more the case that the Aikikai needs us more than we need it. I think we are going back to a time when things were more personal. So, I think that Hombu needs to find a way to make itself more "personal" and more "relevant". I have no problem with obligations when it's a two way street. But I don't see pursuing a relationship with the Aikikai that doesn't in some way deliver value back.

This will be a process of working itself out and I am open to any number of possibilities. Some of the folks posting have very close personal relationships in Japan and others, like myself, do not. I think that the one thing that will have to happen at some point is for the Aikikai in Japan to recognize just what has been happening over here all these years. There is stuff happening here that isn't happening anywhere else. Some recognition is required on the part of the Aikikai that Aikido doesn't just proceed outwards from Hombu as a hub but is actually developing in many areas and proceeding outwards from many hubs. American teachers are going all over the world now. Gleason Sensei just got back from Australia and New Zealand, Ikeda Sensei is all over Europe, I just got back from the UK. Dan Harden and Mike Sigman are all over Europe as well. Allen Beebe goes over to Holland regularly. There are many more... these are just the folks known on these forums. And you see Christian Tissier coming here regularly. So Europe is coming here. This process will continue for some time I think and it is a process entirely independent of any involvement with the Aikikai. We have become our own hubs from which our own Aikido is going forth. Any Aikikai which hopes to thrive in the future will need to take this into account and find some way of incorporating that fact into its purpose or it will simply be marginalized completely.

I do not see any of this as "oppositional". I completely understand Francis Takahashi's desire to maintain a strong relationship with the Ueshiba family and ny extension the Aikikai. I do not see my own feeling that it isn't as important to me as something that I would argue with him about. He and I have talked at length about our various feelings about these things and we both understand and respect each other's points of view. I certainly didn't in any way take offense at his description of us as students of Saotome Sensei as being his minions. That is a word that has vast shades of meaning based on whose minion you are exactly. It can mean anything from "Spawn of Satan", to a flunky, to merely a "follower of". I am quite sure when Francis used the term, he intended to give it the last interpretation, and in that sense I have always been one of Sensei's "minions". I think it an apt term for describing the relationship that one has with most Japanese teachers. So, I don't see any offense there at all. This is going to be an on-going dialog for the next fifteen to twenty years. Some of it will eventually be decided based on a comparison between the quality of instructor that Hombu puts out via the uchi deshi program and the quality of teacher we seniors are creating at our own dojos all over. People will eventually go with the folks that seem to offer the best chance for them to get better at the art. I think that is still the bottom line. We'll see who the students of tomorrow feel are doing the best job in that respect. Who has the best Aikido and who can teach it the best? Is there really another reason to pursue an association?

Chris Li
05-12-2012, 03:24 PM
The one quibble that I have with George's post (which I think is great) is the long focus on rank and how credible it is or should be in certain situations.

Personally, I don't recognize anybody's rank - I question them all, whether they come from Mary, Saotome or Morihei himself. Other than that, we meet, we train, and I start to form on opinion.

The whole rank thing, which was started only to meet requirements of the pre-war Dai-Nihon Butokukai, was IMO a big mistake - especially the attempts to implement it organizationally.

Take a look at any professional organization in the United States - one thing they have in common is that they have no ranks. There are certain minimum requirements and certifications (much more similar to the certificate system in Koryu than to the Dan-I system), but other than that you don't have, for example, a 5th Dan Optometrist vs a 7 Dan Optometrist.

I would say - get rid of all the ranks, except as a personal and optional thing between a teacher and a student, and create an association based on providing real benefits and resources to its members, not on mail order certificates conferring imaginary levels of proficiency.

Best,

Chris

danj
05-12-2012, 04:37 PM
I'd like to introduce you to another international aikido organisation, it has all of the major tick boxes and then some. The headmaster is of Japanese origin, it is remarkably flat in structure, though if you listen for a while you will recognise the shihan. Membership is easy, and there is a gold star if you are financial. Participation is easy and many a hiden about the art, the founder or some new insight is revealed. There is tremendous access to teachers, to question and also opportunities for seminars.

Aikiweb, Soke Aikiyama's creation has a light yoke and transcends many boundaries. In part the future that is suggested to arrive in 10-20 yrs time is already here. It has fostered for the large part open sharing (and questioning) and so much more. Sustaining, I suspect many in their quiet practice of the art throughout the world.

Peter Goldsbury
05-12-2012, 06:54 PM
Hello Chris,

What real benefits and resources are you thinking of? It will help to ground the discussion if you give some examples.

Best wishes,

PAG

ToddDJones
05-12-2012, 08:25 PM
In 1987, Chiba sensei asked me what I thought of the state of aikido in the US; part of my reply included an observation what a shame it was that the masters of the “Art of Harmony” couldn’t seem to get along. In reading these forums lately, I cannot help but wonder: was that appraisal too harsh? We all have clay feet…

Why can’t we all just get along? As I write this, in the back of my head, I’m hearing the voice of Jack Nicholson playing the President of the United States in the movie Mars Attacks. Probably because it was just before the Martian ambassador shouted “Ack, ack, ack” and vaporized him with a ray gun, right in the Oval office.

In stark contrast, Takahashi sensei’s consistent salutation “In Oneness” doesn’t imply peace through superior firepower. It’s a call to action. For if indeed, aikido is a “way to reconcile the world” then it requires each of us to re-examine our core beliefs in light of the fact that doing so will necessitate some philosophic flexibility, not unlike the physical ukemi we enjoy. The discipline we apply in the dojo must inculcate in how we interact with the world.

Anyone who knows Takahashi sensei, knows he holds the members of the ASU in very high regard. And although the term is commonly used as a pejorative, the true definition bears thoughtful consideration: a “minion” is a favorite or a dependent. Knowing Francis as I do, I am confident that he meant the former… no doubt, unintentionally offending some of his dearest friends.

Francis is passionate in his support of the Ueshiba family, and rightly so as an anointed shihan, but not because he is a shihan. He believes in the Founder’s vision, as, I hope, most of us do. In that vein, I request that we all try to treat each other with a little more understanding and compassion.

Now, back on the thread topic: As for me, the biggest benefit of my association with the Aikikai has been the friendships I’ve developed with some really fine people from all over the planet, most holding very different opinions on all sorts of important topics. Somehow, we don’t let it get in the way…

Anybody else want to reconcile?

hughrbeyer
05-12-2012, 10:26 PM
Keith: You have cookies, but do you share?

I think organizations are like friends. They say you choose your friends but I'm not sure that's true... I find that friends happen to you, and they all come with their quirks and shortcomings which you might never choose if you were choosing, but you're not, so you put up with them because after all, they're your friends.

Organizations are like that. You get involved, and then you get attached, and they're never perfect, and neither are the people in them, but between the shared history and the personal attachments what are you going to do? And it's not like there's some perfect organization somewhere else that would be better.

Henrypsim
05-12-2012, 10:36 PM
I'm not making any particular demands - I'm just saying that this is the reality of the situation. Demands or no, the ties that bind people to the Aikikai are fading fast - without a reason to maintain them they will fade completely.

If rank is the only tie...then they're definitely in trouble.

Best,

Chris

Hsing I chuan, Tai Chi, Baqua all came froma the Toaist who had their monestery in a mountain called Mo Don (translation) a very long time ago. Now, there are different schools of Tai Chi such as Chen's style, Yang style, I Liq chuan etc. which have their own schools. However, their martial arts roots all came from the Taoist who started it in Mo Don mountain. I believe there is still a Mo Don style martial arts "Doshu" somewhere in China (don't know for sure). However, who cares in this day and age. No one ever said that I learn the Mo Don style martial arts, they all said I learn Chen style Tai Chi etc. The root of O-sensei's Aikido all came from the Taoist in China. He modify it and created Aikido and call it Japanese. Really, who cares. He created something good and spread around the world. That in itself is significant and important. Did anybody really care or know where O-sensei's root knowledge really came from.....NO and is not to be expected. No Aikidoka would ever say that I am learning Mo Don martial arts through Aikido. Now I am coming to my point.

Aikido as we know it is extremely new as compared to Mo Don Taoist martial arts. O-sensei is the "creator". Just like Mo Don Taoist in the old days, Their disciples were Taoist monks who later taught the general chinese public. Students in those days still consider themselves as Mo Don style martial artist just like us consider ourselves as Aikidokas. Today, the general chinese public would consider themselves as Chen Tai Chi disciples, or Yang Tai Chi diciples or I Liq Chuan diciples etc. NO ONE WOULD CONSIDER THEMSELVES AS MO DON TAOIST DISCIPLES eventhough the root of it all came from the MO DON TAOIST. In the future, the same will eventually happen to Hombu unless, Hombu can progressively offer something "new" to its members besides "rubber stamp" ranks so its members can regard it like a centralized "research" center that will continue to benefit its members. If not, as younger Aikidokas replaces the senior Aikidokas, loyalty will slowly fad with memory (just as young Japanese tourist were laughing and enjoying the Arizona memorial in Hawaii while some old American soldiers were in tears. Such is life)

However, this is today, where everything is commercialized. I do not believe Hombu will ever disappear, it will be just another commercialized martial arts school that can claim that the founder of Aikido was here, but it will definitely lose its present prestige just like the MO DON Taoist style martial arts as time marches on.

As a second point, I differ from Chris Li who said "there is no comparison between Hombu Aikido and Dan Harden. In my opinion....yes there is a comparison. Hombu as I understand it does not teach what Dan teaches. However, O-sensei DID try to teach what Dan is teaching now to his students. Some might have gotten it (don't know) but the fact remains that Hombu does not teach it. What Dan is teaching is what makes O-sensei so powerful. Now, isn't that the "secret of Aikido?" Therefore, I conclude that what Dan teaches is nothing new to Aikido, it is just not being taught by Hombu assumming that they know how to teach it.

MY STATEMENT ABOVE IS PURELY FOR DISCUSSION AND EXERCISING MY AMERICAN RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF SPEECH. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO OFFEND ANY INDIVIDUAL, ORGANIZATION, DOJO OR ANY STYLY OF MARTIAL ARTS.

Chris Li
05-13-2012, 12:27 AM
Hello Chris,

What real benefits and resources are you thinking of? It will help to ground the discussion if you give some examples.

Best wishes,

PAG

Well, why would you join any professional organization? The reasons are pretty much the same.

There's peer review and accreditation - many schools run on this kind of a system.

There's improved and centralized networking possibilities.

There's the power of group advocacy and public relations.

There's group insurance plans and other programs only open to large associations.

There's the benefit of improved information resources and advice - for example legal help, help with incorporation, professional marketing etc.

Most professions in the US have some kind of professional organization or organizations associated with them for the same reasons, and many times people are happy to join.

What benefits does the Aikikai provide in comparison?

Some people will point out that there's nothing stopping anybody from running their own organization along these lines and still remain affiliated with the Aikikai, and yes, that's true. But then, what are the benefits you get from sending your money to Japan? The same problem remains.

Best,

Chris

Chris Li
05-13-2012, 12:32 AM
The one quibble that I have with George's post (which I think is great) is the long focus on rank and how credible it is or should be in certain situations.

I thought of one more quibble - the era that George thinks we are returning to, smaller groups centered around a central instructor, didn't work all that well the first time, as I remember things...

Best,

Christ

sakumeikan
05-13-2012, 09:04 AM
In 1987, Chiba sensei asked me what I thought of the state of aikido in the US; part of my reply included an observation what a shame it was that the masters of the "Art of Harmony" couldn't seem to get along. In reading these forums lately, I cannot help but wonder: was that appraisal too harsh? We all have clay feet…

Why can't we all just get along? As I write this, in the back of my head, I'm hearing the voice of Jack Nicholson playing the President of the United States in the movie Mars Attacks. Probably because it was just before the Martian ambassador shouted "Ack, ack, ack" and vaporized him with a ray gun, right in the Oval office.

In stark contrast, Takahashi sensei's consistent salutation "In Oneness" doesn't imply peace through superior firepower. It's a call to action. For if indeed, aikido is a "way to reconcile the world" then it requires each of us to re-examine our core beliefs in light of the fact that doing so will necessitate some philosophic flexibility, not unlike the physical ukemi we enjoy. The discipline we apply in the dojo must inculcate in how we interact with the world.

Anyone who knows Takahashi sensei, knows he holds the members of the ASU in very high regard. And although the term is commonly used as a pejorative, the true definition bears thoughtful consideration: a "minion" is a favorite or a dependent. Knowing Francis as I do, I am confident that he meant the former… no doubt, unintentionally offending some of his dearest friends.

Francis is passionate in his support of the Ueshiba family, and rightly so as an anointed shihan, but not because he is a shihan. He believes in the Founder's vision, as, I hope, most of us do. In that vein, I request that we all try to treat each other with a little more understanding and compassion.

Now, back on the thread topic: As for me, the biggest benefit of my association with the Aikikai has been the friendships I've developed with some really fine people from all over the planet, most holding very different opinions on all sorts of important topics. Somehow, we don't let it get in the way…

Anybody else want to reconcile?

Dear Todd,
I too respect the vision of O Sensei , however my vision at times is at odds with the vision of others.My problem as I see ?it is this do I need to visit an optician or do the others require this service?I believe my vision is at times diametrically the opposite of some people.Perhaps I have watched too many ThreeStooges/Laurel & Hardy/Party political broadcasts in my day/or I have been abducted by aliens??Cheers, Joe.

George S. Ledyard
05-13-2012, 10:01 AM
I thought of one more quibble - the era that George thinks we are returning to, smaller groups centered around a central instructor, didn't work all that well the first time, as I remember things...

Best,

Christ

What I see is the return to that type of structure but with the difference that these organizations or associations will interact more, encourage more cross training, and I hope, being smaller, will encourage a higher quality standard than large organizations have been able to do.

The main reason I see this as the future is that the very people who will likely be heading up these groups are already starting to do what I am talking about. You see more and more events in which very senior teachers from different existing organizations are teaching together and in the process sharing what they have been doing. Increasingly, you see major teachers at the 6th and 7th Dan levels completely re-tooling their own training. While I think that most existing organizations are not fertile ground for radically altering how Aikido training is conceived, those senior individuals who are currently doing so will almost certainly decide to go their own way at some point in the future, if for no there reason than to be able to pass on their new knowledge to their students which will require re-doing the "requirements" used for periodic testing.

While I am sympathetic to Chris's desire to rid ourselves of a ranking system that doesn't really mean much, I do not see large scale abandonment of tests and ranking. In general most people want to feel as if they are progressing towards something. Arts such as the various Koryu or Systema which do not have ranks but simply have certain levels of instructor certification are generally very small communities with nothing like the total numbers doing Aikido. I think any dojo deciding going that direction will necessarily be small. Nothing wrong with that but many dojos simply will not choose that option. Personally, I doubt that I could keep my doors open with the number of students that I've have if we went that direction. Various experiments with pass fail or no grades at all back in the 60's and 70's found the same thing... people wanted a measuring stick.

I also think that grades offer at least one measuring stick that potential new students look for, whether or not they mean what they are purported to mean. Hence the focus on bogus grades and titles on the part of less scrupulous folks running schools. They do it because it does draw students who, at that point in their training, don't know any better.

And frankly, I find that testing for ranks is a strong motivating factor for people who train on a regular basis to kick their training up a notch or two periodically. We have a tradition of fairly strong tests at my dojo and no one wants to be the one who goes out in front of Sensei and the other guests at a seminar not looking like their test was up to that standard. It isn't about passing the test or the rank per se, it's meeting a "perceived standard" that is somewhat unique to our dojo.

So, I can't see ranking going away and I am not sure I'd want it to. By the time folks have been around for a number of years, they have enough experience to know that rank alone doesn't mean much. Once again, it comes down to rank from whom? If yo know the teacher, you have a decent idea what that rank means. If you aren't familiar with the teacher in question, you really don't know what the rank means.

Chris Li
05-13-2012, 11:41 AM
What I see is the return to that type of structure but with the difference that these organizations or associations will interact more, encourage more cross training, and I hope, being smaller, will encourage a higher quality standard than large organizations have been able to do.

I hope so too, but I also hope you're not being over optimistic. The track record to date (not just in Aikido) tends to make me skeptical.


While I am sympathetic to Chris's desire to rid ourselves of a ranking system that doesn't really mean much, I do not see large scale abandonment of tests and ranking. In general most people want to feel as if they are progressing towards something. Arts such as the various Koryu or Systema which do not have ranks but simply have certain levels of instructor certification are generally very small communities with nothing like the total numbers doing Aikido. I think any dojo deciding going that direction will necessarily be small. Nothing wrong with that but many dojos simply will not choose that option. Personally, I doubt that I could keep my doors open with the number of students that I've have if we went that direction. Various experiments with pass fail or no grades at all back in the 60's and 70's found the same thing... people wanted a measuring stick.

I don't see any large scale abandonment happening either, but I do think it would be worthwhile.

You've put your finger on it though - it's the commercial aspect that really makes such a thing unfeasible. But a lot of that is also how expectations are managed.

Best,

Chris

aikishihan
05-13-2012, 01:47 PM
First of all, my deep gratitude and acknowledgment of Aiki brotherhood with both George Ledyard Shihan, and with Todd Jones Sensei. They stepped in to help clarify my intentions and purpose in a way that only true friends can and would do. Without asking.

This is a sterling example of what George is alluding to when his faith in the Aiki in all of us, and in the love that sincere and committed students all have for the Founder’s art, is justified by acts of kindness and sincere outreach. I do have many good friends in the ASU, and humbly apologize for any misunderstanding or mistype. After all, I am from Hawaii, where much of my education was mail ordered.

I accept and embrace George’s hope that Aikido in the United States will grow into yet unknown and uncharted areas, but with changes that truly reflect the mood, aspirations and needs of our students and teachers now, and in the future. Japan is free to join with us, or go it alone as they have unfortunately made clear with recent policies. Yes, I do advocate continuing dialogue with Aikikai leadership in a spirit of Aiki that, perhaps, they have misplaced, despite it being championed by Kisshomaru Doshu for so long. It is not for me to judge, but to carry forth the best that I can.

I also acknowledge George’s admonition to be prepared for an uncertain future, one where our much loved mentors and spiritual guideposts are no longer with us. How well are we doing in preparing for a change in stewardship, not of organizational goals, but of the true mission, teachings and vision of Aiki for the world given us by the Founder, Morihei Ueshiba. Which of us will choose to be worthy architects to join, and continue the building of his “Silver Bridge” of Aikido to the rest of the world?

Not as a pessimist, but as a realist, I know that many will be called, but few will be chosen, and even fewer will respond with positive action. It is what it is, as the popular saying goes, and yet, we need not succumb to inaction, indecision and insecurity. With leaders like George Ledyard Shihan, Hiroshi Ikeda Shihan, Todd Jones Sensei, Steve Fasen Sensei, etc. etc. etc., we can choose to be proactive about the future of our Aikido, and that of those who choose to join our efforts in affirmative ways.

Perhaps the real Benefits of the Aikikai tradition and history, is to maintain the momentum started by the pioneers they initially sent out, and to allow current leadership to exponentially expand the vision, the outreach and to live the dream.

Peter Goldsbury
05-13-2012, 04:58 PM
Well, why would you join any professional organization? The reasons are pretty much the same.

There's peer review and accreditation - many schools run on this kind of a system.

There's improved and centralized networking possibilities.

There's the power of group advocacy and public relations.

There's group insurance plans and other programs only open to large associations.

There's the benefit of improved information resources and advice - for example legal help, help with incorporation, professional marketing etc.

Most professions in the US have some kind of professional organization or organizations associated with them for the same reasons, and many times people are happy to join.

What benefits does the Aikikai provide in comparison?

Some people will point out that there's nothing stopping anybody from running their own organization along these lines and still remain affiliated with the Aikikai, and yes, that's true. But then, what are the benefits you get from sending your money to Japan? The same problem remains.

Best,

Chris

Hello Chris (you prefer this to Christopher, right?),

Can you think of any worldwide professional organizations with the headquarters established in Japan?

My personal view is that the Aikikai has its position within international aikido solely because of history and the dan ranking system, for the dan ranking system is the main feature of the Aikikai's international regulations.

If you replace the ranking system with something else, more appropriate to a koryu art, that leaves just the history, coupled perhaps with Japan's view, based on its interpretation of history, that its martial arts culture is unique--and therefore that its way of doing aikido is unique.

The lists of new dan holders published each month in the Aikido Shimbun suggests that some of these recipients might well buy into this way of thinking. I am impressed at the growing numbers of participants at the seminars held in conjunction with the 4-yearly IAF meeting. (Personally, the idea of 1,000 people attending a seminar given by one person, whom most of the participants cannot even see, leaves me completely cold.) Very few of these come from the US, by the way. The main participants from the US are Yamada Shihan and the heads of the USAF.

Best wishes,

PAG

Chris Li
05-13-2012, 05:46 PM
Hello Chris (you prefer this to Christopher, right?),

Sure, but anything's fine, really.


Can you think of any worldwide professional organizations with the headquarters established in Japan?

Nope - that doesn't mean that there can't be one of course, and the Aikikai is in kind of a unique position in which to implement it.


My personal view is that the Aikikai has its position within international aikido solely because of history and the dan ranking system, for the dan ranking system is the main feature of the Aikikai's international regulations.

I agree - and what I'm saying is that alone is not, IMO, going to be enough to sustain them as a relevant international organization.


If you replace the ranking system with something else, more appropriate to a koryu art, that leaves just the history, coupled perhaps with Japan's view, based on its interpretation of history, that its martial arts culture is unique--and therefore that its way of doing aikido is unique.

I don't seriously think that the replacement of the ranking system will ever happen - I'm just suggesting that it may not be such a bad idea if it did.


The lists of new dan holders published each month in the Aikido Shimbun suggests that some of these recipients might well buy into this way of thinking. I am impressed at the growing numbers of participants at the seminars held in conjunction with the 4-yearly IAF meeting. (Personally, the idea of 1,000 people attending a seminar given by one person, whom most of the participants cannot even see, leaves me completely cold.) Very few of these come from the US, by the way. The main participants from the US are Yamada Shihan and the heads of the USAF.

You may be right, many people may buy into it - although I wonder if that is really sustainable, and if it is, if it is worth sustaining.

Best,

Chris

Noreaster
05-13-2012, 06:47 PM
When you peel back the layers you come to the core issues of ego and money.

Chris Li
05-13-2012, 08:23 PM
When you peel back the layers you come to the core issues of ego and money.

Well, I've got plenty of ego, but where's my money? :D

Best,

Chris

Henrypsim
05-14-2012, 02:19 AM
Well, I've got plenty of ego, but where's my money? :D

Best,

Chris

Write a book!!!!

sakumeikan
05-14-2012, 03:11 AM
Well, I've got plenty of ego, but where's my money? :D

Best,

Chris

Dear Chris,
Here was I sitting here thinking I was the only guy in town who had the same situation as you.Maybe we should ask for donations from Hombu or sing Buddy ,can you share a 50 dollar bill?[Song updated to make allowance for inflation].When /where shall the duet recording of the cd take place?Joe.

sakumeikan
05-14-2012, 06:19 AM
Hello Chris (you prefer this to Christopher, right?),

Can you think of any worldwide professional organizations with the headquarters established in Japan?

My personal view is that the Aikikai has its position within international aikido solely because of history and the dan ranking system, for the dan ranking system is the main feature of the Aikikai's international regulations.

If you replace the ranking system with something else, more appropriate to a koryu art, that leaves just the history, coupled perhaps with Japan's view, based on its interpretation of history, that its martial arts culture is unique--and therefore that its way of doing aikido is unique.

The lists of new dan holders published each month in the Aikido Shimbun suggests that some of these recipients might well buy into this way of thinking. I am impressed at the growing numbers of participants at the seminars held in conjunction with the 4-yearly IAF meeting. (Personally, the idea of 1,000 people attending a seminar given by one person, whom most of the participants cannot even see, leaves me completely cold.) Very few of these come from the US, by the way. The main participants from the US are Yamada Shihan and the heads of the USAF.

Best wishes,

PAG

Dear Peter,
While you might find the prospect of a thousand people at a seminar where one man teaches the class,leaves you cold I bet the finance officer of the event will be thinking that Xmas comes more than once a year!!As an alternative for others why not visit some U.K summer schools, and the 1000 guys would get more for their yen, euros etc imo.?Hope you are well, Cheers, Joe

phitruong
05-14-2012, 06:54 AM
you know with the money i spent on the dan certificates, i still have not figured out how to get a free cup of coffee at the local starbuck. or even get a discount for towing when my car broke down, similar to the AAA discount. definitely couldn't get a free donut hole. there is something very wrong about the idea of paying for holes.

i don't know about you folks, but my vote on the benefits of the aikikai improvement would be getting some sort of worldwide discount at various coffee and donut shops. those stuffs help my aiki immensely. extra bonus if we could get some movie rental discount too. :)

ps, did anyone even get a free T-shirt for all the money you sent to honbu? just wondering because i have been waiting for mine for awhile. must be slow postal service.

danj
05-15-2012, 12:23 AM
Dear Peter,
While you might find the prospect of a thousand people at a seminar where one man teaches the class,leaves you cold I bet the finance officer of the event will be thinking that Xmas comes more than once a year!!As an alternative for others why not visit some U.K summer schools, and the 1000 guys would get more for their yen, euros etc imo.?Hope you are well, Cheers, Joe

I've heard from a few that have attended and from what i hear its wall to wall shihans, who are training as students too. The learning from taking ukemi, and having them teach by taking ukemi for you sounds like something to really treasure and quite unique.

dan

JJF
05-15-2012, 06:57 AM
It's interesting to note that this discussion is almost entirely driven by american aikido people who - for some reason - seem to have a quarrel with Aikikai one way or the other.

Consider this: what if a European country turned out to have more practitioners of something very american... say baseball, cheer leading or line dancing, and we started arguing that the national center for this activity should be moved to say Paris... "wait a minute now." I bet you would say. "this is an american tradition, so before we do something that drastic we need to make sure that you are fit to take care of it. First start at national federation, and we'll send some of our best people to check out how you are doing.". Is this entirely unlikely?

Next you would offer us a chance to become part of your national organisation (for a small fee) and have our teachers education validated by the international HQ in the US. This is pretty much how it works now - also for such organisations as Scientology. So how come it should be different when it comes to the Aikikai.

Aikido is a japanese budo. The "original" origins of it in china/India/other places aside. So let's accept that Aikido head quarter - for now - is in Japan, and let's get the best out of it. It's an organisation, and those that participate actively get a saying. Yes it's inconvenient that it's in Japan (assuming your not living there) but that's just the way it is.

And to all of you that - discretely - claims that US probably have far more and far better aikido instructors than any other place in the world: Guess what.. It might be so, but until you have proof thereof please get down from the high horse and pull in the same direction as everybody else. Being part of something big is not necessarily a bad thing, You might enjoy it if you embrace it.

JJ

phitruong
05-15-2012, 07:56 AM
And to all of you that - discretely - claims that US probably have far more and far better aikido instructors than any other place in the world: Guess what.. It might be so, but until you have proof thereof please get down from the high horse and pull in the same direction as everybody else. Being part of something big is not necessarily a bad thing, You might enjoy it if you embrace it.

JJ

i don't think we ever claimed that the US is the center of the aikido world, or we are better or even hint at that. what we do is that annoying habit of questioning everything, including the authority, which usually doesn't go well with asian culture, since they have been, for generations, conditioned to obey authority; much easier to rule folks that way. also, the US folks sort of enjoy the whole nail sticking out instead of staying down. personally, i still am waiting for the aikikai t-shirt that said "i paid hundreds of dollars and this is the t-shirt i got". i have been waiting for years now. must be really slow postal service. meanwhile, i will go down the local starbuck and get me a latte with my discount card which i earned. wonder if i show them my yudansha cert, i would get more discount... probably not, but who know, i might impress the ladies. ;)

Alec Corper
05-15-2012, 08:12 AM
Most people in Europe below 4th Dan have nothing to do with the Aikikai Hombu so they have no problem with it. above that level you will also have no problem if you know how to work the system and you want to. I personally don't have a problem with it. I see it as the Ueshiba family business and they have a right to make it work if they can and the market stretches to it. On the other hand, the maze of conflicting regulations, some that only seem to count for non Japanese, the arrogance of some of the "Shihans", the mystery of what you are paying for when you receive your dan grades, etc, can lead to a sometimes jaundiced feeling. I am not anti-Japan, I have been there 10 times over the last 20 years, I follow a Japanese Shihan, but I am not blind to their shortcomings, nor ours (mine). We have a right and responsibility to question, as Phi says, and the predominance of Americans here makes sense, many europeans can't read English :D

Marc Abrams
05-15-2012, 08:16 AM
It's interesting to note that this discussion is almost entirely driven by american aikido people who - for some reason - seem to have a quarrel with Aikikai one way or the other.

Consider this: what if a European country turned out to have more practitioners of something very american... say baseball, cheer leading or line dancing, and we started arguing that the national center for this activity should be moved to say Paris... "wait a minute now." I bet you would say. "this is an american tradition, so before we do something that drastic we need to make sure that you are fit to take care of it. First start at national federation, and we'll send some of our best people to check out how you are doing.". Is this entirely unlikely?

Next you would offer us a chance to become part of your national organisation (for a small fee) and have our teachers education validated by the international HQ in the US. This is pretty much how it works now - also for such organisations as Scientology. So how come it should be different when it comes to the Aikikai.

Aikido is a japanese budo. The "original" origins of it in china/India/other places aside. So let's accept that Aikido head quarter - for now - is in Japan, and let's get the best out of it. It's an organisation, and those that participate actively get a saying. Yes it's inconvenient that it's in Japan (assuming your not living there) but that's just the way it is.

And to all of you that - discretely - claims that US probably have far more and far better aikido instructors than any other place in the world: Guess what.. It might be so, but until you have proof thereof please get down from the high horse and pull in the same direction as everybody else. Being part of something big is not necessarily a bad thing, You might enjoy it if you embrace it.

JJ

Jorgen:

Have you ever heard of the sport Baseball? Internationally, we do not always win. Frankly, I do not recall the types of difficulties with that you have alluded to above in how Americans might react to somebody doing something better than us, that we invented.

Thank you for sharing with us your "issues" with us Americans. I would suggest more fiber in your diet. it will help you pass what ever bones you have stuck up your large colon with Americans.... Back to horseback riding with all of my other cowboy friends.....;)

Marc Abrams

Mary Eastland
05-15-2012, 08:40 AM
I believe the founder of Aikido had a vision that Aikido was for the world. Our differences can be transcended as we get on the mat and practice sincerely.

We all have our stories about how it was, what it is like now and how it will be. None of that matters except to the ego. No matter how it is justified, we all make our own choices.

I have a high rank from a small organzation where my husband is the head teacher. I know how that must seem to to others. It doesn't matter. What matters happens on the mat and in our lives.

JJF
05-15-2012, 08:47 AM
Jorgen:
Have you ever heard of the sport Baseball? Internationally, we do not always win. Frankly, I do not recall the types of difficulties with that you have alluded to above in how Americans might react to somebody doing something better than us, that we invented.

Thank you for sharing with us your "issues" with us Americans. I would suggest more fiber in your diet. it will help you pass what ever bones you have stuck up your large colon with Americans.... Back to horseback riding with all of my other cowboy friends.....;)

Marc Abrams

Hi Marc

well.. I get plenty of fiber.. and I have good friends in America, so if my statement seems to you as an attack on Americans as a whole then it was far from my intention. English is not my first language so I might not state my point as precise as they should be. For you to interpret this as a hostile attitude towards the whole US is your choice and not my intention. However I do find it puzzling that there seem to be a little stars and stripes next to pretty much every post (in this and a few other dialogues on this forum) that criticize the Aikikai. It may be due to the fact that most posts here are by Americans, but it just still seems like something that is worth giving a little thought.

To quote just two posts from the above debate you yourself wrote in post #20:
"We do recognize that Aikido is a Japanese martial art that is now on an international scale, so much so that there are non-Japanese teachers who could easily walk into the Hombu dojo and teach people there at a very, very high level. If this organization wants to retain any kind of genuine relevance, outside of a lasting family tradition, then they can no longer hide behind the cultural ways of the past."

I know this is taken out of context, and you have some otherwise very interesting arguments in that post with which I agree. Albeit in post #32 Mr. Ledyard said:
"There is stuff happening here that isn't happening anywhere else. Some recognition is required on the part of the Aikikai that Aikido doesn't just proceed outwards from Hombu as a hub but is actually developing in many areas and proceeding outwards from many hubs. American teachers are going all over the world now."

These were a few of the comments that made me feel a little bit offended by the whole thread and the point I hoped to get across was:.. yes.. it may be so.. but the Aikikai is already created by Japanese people, and it is not fair to expect it to be run by american standards.

My gastric system aside I guess I struck a nerve. It just seems funny to me that it is okay to play the "Japanese people are just taking care of their own kind" but not okay to point out that there is a chance that american aikidoists (in this forum, in this debate) can have a tendency to do the same.

Anyway. I am probably just fanning the flames here. And these posts will never have the level of detail to get our opinions across in a way that will not appear offending to at least some readers, so I'll just leave it for now. If anybody want to discuss this in more detail I'll be happy to meet you on or off the mat for a beer and a frank discussion if the chance should arise.

Cheers!

JJ

PS: just had to add: Mary Eastland: The first two paragraphs of your post #58 are what I wished I'd written. Thank you.

phitruong
05-15-2012, 08:58 AM
We all have our stories about how it was, what it is like now and how it will be. None of that matters except to the ego. No matter how it is justified, we all make our own choices.
.

ego is a funny thing. it tends to show up where one least expected, usually in places where we stop questioning or searching. for example, the other day, i realized that my waffle is kinda small so i ended up eating two in a row. folks might say size does not matter. i, on the other hand, the left one, the other left, begged the differ. :)

Cliff Judge
05-15-2012, 09:46 AM
The one quibble that I have with George's post (which I think is great) is the long focus on rank and how credible it is or should be in certain situations.

Personally, I don't recognize anybody's rank - I question them all, whether they come from Mary, Saotome or Morihei himself. Other than that, we meet, we train, and I start to form on opinion.

The whole rank thing, which was started only to meet requirements of the pre-war Dai-Nihon Butokukai, was IMO a big mistake - especially the attempts to implement it organizationally.

Take a look at any professional organization in the United States - one thing they have in common is that they have no ranks. There are certain minimum requirements and certifications (much more similar to the certificate system in Koryu than to the Dan-I system), but other than that you don't have, for example, a 5th Dan Optometrist vs a 7 Dan Optometrist.

I would say - get rid of all the ranks, except as a personal and optional thing between a teacher and a student, and create an association based on providing real benefits and resources to its members, not on mail order certificates conferring imaginary levels of proficiency.

Best,

Chris

I think moving to a koryu-style system of licenses wouldn't work. It would wipe Aikido out, leaving very small groups that would not be as interested in coming together and training. There would be much less quality control.

Essentially, what you would be doing would be removing kyu ranks and most of the dan ranks. When you were fortunate enough to get an interested prospective new student, the first recognition she would receive would be a "you are officially a beginner" certificate after some years of training. Then after that, another several years of hard training until a "you can do this stuff well enough for us to tell you a little bit about what you are actually doing" certificate. Then many more years until a "you can do this in public" license, and then years after that if you can endure the disillusion and outrage, you MAY get a "you now officially own what you have been doing and can go out in the world and teach it" license.

There is no assurance at all of quality in this setup. You could still have instructors giving ranks out for whatever reason. But worse, this kind of system doesn't seem to have much to offer someone who is not very serious. You are not going to get people who are looking for something that is good general exercise with a kinda cool philosophy, or even the people who really, really love it but just cannot keep rolling that boulder up the mountain week after week.

So you aren't going to make rent, bottom line.

Now, I think a very personal, hands-on relationship between student and instructor is a better way to transmit skills than the "lecture" style of most mainstream Aikido dojos, where the instructor manifests some awesome stuff and then everybody pairs off and works on it to the best of their understanding and ability. But the lecture style accommodates a wider range of student. And furthermore, the lecture style is traditional - Osensei and Takeda both had personal students but they also taught seminars. Yoshinkan was designed from the ground up to be taught to large groups.

if you shrink the classes and select only the most focused students, aside from shrinking the global Aikido population dramatically, I think you will also make the groups less interested in training with each other for a variety of reasons. You would be less interested in attending a seminar over the weekend with a visiting shihan, because what are you going to do afterwards? Come back to your regular class, where you are being personally molded by your own sensei, and try out the new stuff you learned at the seminar? Also, since you've removed the rent base from the art, you are probably only training in someone's garage on weekends anyways. So you'd have to miss your regular class. I have been training with two small koryu groups on weekends and it is just too important for me to attend every single class i can, to skip off and attend all of the wonderful Aikido seminars that are hosted around my area. Its not just that I have such a limited opportunity to practice these things regularly, its that I have an obligation to my instructors to be there so that they aren't wasting their time. I think deepening the relationship between student and teacher with a koryu-style system of training and rank will raise these issues of obligation.

Several koryu of which I am aware seem to have adopted kyu/dan systems anyways, for the purpose of fostering larger communities. The iaido and jodo that is practiced under the auspices of the kendo federation, for example, and also Hontai Yoshin ryu. So that tells me that when the decision is made to "go global" the more impersonal, organizationally-oriented belt rank system is a comfortable fit.

The internationally-recognized belt ranks might be one of the best services the Aikikai can provide. It provides a sense of commonality to practitioners around the world. Even if quality fluctuates, if you've got people from different parts of the world willing to train with each other, there's the chance that the quality gaps can close themselves as people meet and train with people who are better than they are.

grondahl
05-15-2012, 09:56 AM
Essentially, what you would be doing would be removing kyu ranks and most of the dan ranks. When you were fortunate enough to get an interested prospective new student, the first recognition she would receive would be a "you are officially a beginner" certificate after some years of training. Then after that, another several years of hard training until a "you can do this stuff well enough for us to tell you a little bit about what you are actually doing" certificate. Then many more years until a "you can do this in public" license, and then years after that if you can endure the disillusion and outrage, you MAY get a "you now officially own what you have been doing and can go out in the world and teach it" license.

There is no assurance at all of quality in this setup. You could still have instructors giving ranks out for whatever reason. But worse, this kind of system doesn't seem to have much to offer someone who is not very serious. You are not going to get people who are looking for something that is good general exercise with a kinda cool philosophy, or even the people who really, really love it but just cannot keep rolling that boulder up the mountain week after week.

So you aren't going to make rent, bottom line.



Do you really think that´s the prospect of getting ranked that keeps members in? Not the joy of training, the challenge in learning something really difficult, the social aspect of being a member of a dojo etc?

Cliff Judge
05-15-2012, 10:30 AM
Do you really think that�s the prospect of getting ranked that keeps members in? Not the joy of training, the challenge in learning something really difficult, the social aspect of being a member of a dojo etc?

Absolutely! It feeds into and out of all of the things you mentioned. (Feeds out of? :freaky: )

Kyu and early dan ranks provide attainable goals to strive towards, there is a certain amount of ceremony to it, its a chance for students to show what they are made of, and if successful, the student gets this gold star in terms of a new rank.

Seeing as how the first four or five years of training would be probationary in an older art, the kyu ranks give beginners a sense that they are actually getting somewhere.

Chris Li
05-15-2012, 10:33 AM
I think moving to a koryu-style system of licenses wouldn't work. It would wipe Aikido out, leaving very small groups that would not be as interested in coming together and training. There would be much less quality control.

I wasn't aware that there's any quality control now! :D

I don't think that small groups is a bad thing, per se, but you're right - I don't see it happening.



There is no assurance at all of quality in this setup. You could still have instructors giving ranks out for whatever reason. But worse, this kind of system doesn't seem to have much to offer someone who is not very serious. You are not going to get people who are looking for something that is good general exercise with a kinda cool philosophy, or even the people who really, really love it but just cannot keep rolling that boulder up the mountain week after week.

So you aren't going to make rent, bottom line.

Then the concern becomes - should we be trying to make rent, or should we be trying to do Aikido?


if you shrink the classes and select only the most focused students, aside from shrinking the global Aikido population dramatically, I think you will also make the groups less interested in training with each other for a variety of reasons. You would be less interested in attending a seminar over the weekend with a visiting shihan, because what are you going to do afterwards? Come back to your regular class, where you are being personally molded by your own sensei, and try out the new stuff you learned at the seminar? Also, since you've removed the rent base from the art, you are probably only training in someone's garage on weekends anyways.

There's the cash thing again ;) .

Nobody said anything about deliberately shrinking the classes or selecting only the most focused students. Universities turn out millions of students who interact with each other and attend seminars with other academics. All with only three basic degrees - and you don't have to pay any more for them than the regular tuition.

Best,

Chris

Chris Li
05-15-2012, 10:38 AM
Absolutely! It feeds into and out of all of the things you mentioned. (Feeds out of? :freaky: )

Kyu and early dan ranks provide attainable goals to strive towards, there is a certain amount of ceremony to it, its a chance for students to show what they are made of, and if successful, the student gets this gold star in terms of a new rank.

Seeing as how the first four or five years of training would be probationary in an older art, the kyu ranks give beginners a sense that they are actually getting somewhere.

And that's exactly how they were used in Japan - for children, until they got adopted by Jigoro Kano and caught fire. For children, I think that they're great! :p

Best,

Chris

chillzATL
05-15-2012, 11:42 AM
It seems to me that the big issue in this thread really comes down to quality vs rank in which case you just do your own thing. The aikikai doesn't offer much beyond legacy and organizational recognition, but if the concern is quality then you just ditch them and do your own thing.

A lot of crap gets heaped on the post-war guys for making "Modern Aikido" but Ueshiba had as much a hand in that as anyone. For every "this is not my aikido" story there's two pictures of him letting kids kokyunage him, smiling the entire time or quotes of him talking about how aikido is for everyone, young, old, kids, cats, dogs, sharks with lasers. It should be quite obvious that in his later years, aikido was no longer just about the martial application of aiki. Doing aikido became more important than being able to do something with aikido.

George S. Ledyard
05-15-2012, 11:56 AM
And to all of you that - discretely - claims that US probably have far more and far better aikido instructors than any other place in the world: Guess what.. It might be so, but until you have proof thereof please get down from the high horse and pull in the same direction as everybody else. Being part of something big is not necessarily a bad thing, You might enjoy it if you embrace it.

JJ

This is globalizing from statements made in these forums to the effect that many people here in the States who are familiar with training at Hombu Dojo back in O-Sensei's day and shortly thereafter, see what is taking place there now, and are generally familiar with the best of training here in the States believe that much of the training available here in the States is superior to that available at the Hombu Dojo.

This isn't some American "high horse" point of view. I am cordial with three of the Japanese Shihan who trained at Hombu back in what might be seen as the post war Golden Age. They say precisely the same thing. In fact that was one of the things they tried to do when they came here, i.e. preserve a kind of training that was seen as disappearing at headquarters.

I have not heard or read that anyone here in the States believes that we have more (definitely not true) or better (as variable here as any place) instructors than other countries. Yes, this forum tends to have a bit US centric slant because the number of folks posting here on the English threads of Aikiweb are from the states and that's what folks know best.

No, the focus of these comments has little or nothing to do with Europe, South America, Australia, or even dojos in Japan other than the Aikikai Hombu Dojo. It is the headquarters dojo that has the uchi deshi, professional teacher training program. In other words, as one of the only professional instructor training programs in the world, we can suppose that the product of their efforts will be amongst the top instructors around the world. Certainly their graduates get the higher ranks and are sent all over the world to teach when Hombu receives requests for instructors. Since this is true, one would hope that they would be producing instructors of the highest technical ability as they did back in the days up to the 70's.

So, the discussion revolves around the prevalent attitude at Hombu that Aikido is the Ueshiba family art and they are the hub from which proper Aikido proceeds outwards to the rest of us (the US and the rest of the world alike). Personally, I do not believe that. Aikido went forth a long time ago and any number of really talented and devoted people have run with the art for many decades. Many of us received training from our teachers that simply is not available at Headquarters any more. I am sure the same can be said of many European senior teachers, like Christian Tissier. I would much rather train under him than any of the teachers currently at headquarters because, regardless of their individual talents, they are expected to teach a certain syllabus that is fairly simple. Many of the senior teachers who have taught at Hombu have their own dojos and what they teach at their own places can often be quite different than what they teach under the official auspices of Hombu.

So, to get the discussion back on track... the original post wanted a discussion of what was good about association with the Aikikai Hombu Dojo. My perception has been that the number one reason dojos in the States have had for wishing to have this association was to have their ranks validated by the Aikikai Headquarters. We have pretty much exhausted that particular discussion.

So what other positive elements are there. I suppose a connection with the family and Aikido history.... after all this is the dojo at which my own teacher was trained and at which he was an important teacher for many years. There any number of very senior American teachers who do not maintain a relationship with the Aikikai Hombu Dojo. It was Francis Takahashi Sensei's position that we have to go more than half way to meet the Doshu and the folks at Hombu. I see it somewhat differently... I look at my friends who are quite happily teaching and awarding their own ranks, producing wonderful students. traveling teaching seminars, etc. It seems to me that, if the headquarters organization wishes to be inclusive and bring serious practitioners like this into the fold, it is up to them to be relevant, to provide some reason why we over here would wish to associate. I mean, association requires paperwork, entails money being sent to Japan that might otherwise stay here, and compels one to give up direct control of time in grade requirement etc. So, my question is still why? There has to be some compelling reason to give up something... in other words, what comes back? I just don't see that, for many folks, especially our most senior teachers in the States and elsewhere, there is anything very compelling that comes back to them for associating...

Conrad Gus
05-15-2012, 12:08 PM
In my day, the credibility of a person's rank came from the idea that when you gave someone a black belt, you were putting your name on them in a personal sense. They became a representative of you as a teacher... people seeing that student would judge you as a teacher by that student as the product of that teaching. I still proceed that way. I don't give anyone rank that I don't feel proud of. If that student goes to another dojo, does anyone think that his or her organizational association is more important than the fact that he or she is my student, has hundreds or even thousands of hours with me personally? Everyone within a given organization knows this, of course. They are all members of the same association. So, what is important is who is your teacher.


I like the way George puts this, and I would argue that it is still true today.

For those people who have "no connection" to hombu today, and whose teachers have no connection, you would probably only have to walk back one or two more generations of teachers to get to someone that was an original student of O-Sensei. So even though there is no current interaction, there is still a connection indirectly through the lineage of teachers. I think this is very important and it is disingenuous to disregard it just to make a point.

Of course, the aikikai isn't the only game in town with a connection to O-Sensei, it's just the largest. Being in the aikikai or another well-respected aikido organization (Yoshinkan, Tomiki, etc.) means that you are part of a lineage and your skills and teaching align (at least a little bit!) with what the rest of the lineage is doing. It's not just paying a bunch of money for a certificate from someone who doesn't care who you are (BTW, my certificates are all beautifully hand-painted - is that not standard?).

If you get an aikido rank from this guy (http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&sqi=2&ved=0CFsQtwIwAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DHzh9koy7b1E&ei=rIiyT__1PKiviAK05pnnAw&usg=AFQjCNFG6DJr1AuoQ2Hhg1ztUJIIvdf-cA), you might have a more difficult time convincing people you are legit.

I think there is something really enjoyable about being a part of a lineage and a tradition that has spread all over the world. If you read the original post (or the thread title), I was interested in benefits, but I guess aikiweb is more interested in complaining this week.

Conrad Gus
05-15-2012, 12:10 PM
It seems to me that the big issue in this thread really comes down to quality vs rank in which case you just do your own thing. The aikikai doesn't offer much beyond legacy and organizational recognition, but if the concern is quality then you just ditch them and do your own thing.

A lot of crap gets heaped on the post-war guys for making "Modern Aikido" but Ueshiba had as much a hand in that as anyone. For every "this is not my aikido" story there's two pictures of him letting kids kokyunage him, smiling the entire time or quotes of him talking about how aikido is for everyone, young, old, kids, cats, dogs, sharks with lasers. It should be quite obvious that in his later years, aikido was no longer just about the martial application of aiki. Doing aikido became more important than being able to do something with aikido.

I think you mean "lasers". :D (Sorry, just watched the Austin Powers series last week).

philipsmith
05-15-2012, 12:34 PM
I've been following the thread with interest, and its made me question why I feel a link with Hombu is soe important.

I have over the years trained with many guys who were not associated with the Hombu, either having lost the connection a long time ago or who never had it in the first place.

In the main (although their were some exceptions) I found their Aikido to be either crude or ineffective or both; with the instructors "stuck in a rut" even to the point of saying things like "Modern Aikido is not a martial art".

This I believe to be a symptom of isolation and maybe the best aspect of being associated with the Hombu - and especially of having regular contact through visiting Shihan - is that the student can measure themselves (and be measured) to a common standard against others throughout the Aikido world.

HL1978
05-15-2012, 12:41 PM
It's interesting to note that this discussion is almost entirely driven by american aikido people who - for some reason - seem to have a quarrel with Aikikai one way or the other.

Consider this: what if a European country turned out to have more practitioners of something very american... say baseball, cheer leading or line dancing, and we started arguing that the national center for this activity should be moved to say Paris... "wait a minute now." I bet you would say. "this is an american tradition, so before we do something that drastic we need to make sure that you are fit to take care of it. First start at national federation, and we'll send some of our best people to check out how you are doing.". Is this entirely unlikely?

Next you would offer us a chance to become part of your national organisation (for a small fee) and have our teachers education validated by the international HQ in the US. This is pretty much how it works now - also for such organisations as Scientology. So how come it should be different when it comes to the Aikikai.

Aikido is a japanese budo. The "original" origins of it in china/India/other places aside. So let's accept that Aikido head quarter - for now - is in Japan, and let's get the best out of it. It's an organisation, and those that participate actively get a saying. Yes it's inconvenient that it's in Japan (assuming your not living there) but that's just the way it is.

And to all of you that - discretely - claims that US probably have far more and far better aikido instructors than any other place in the world: Guess what.. It might be so, but until you have proof thereof please get down from the high horse and pull in the same direction as everybody else. Being part of something big is not necessarily a bad thing, You might enjoy it if you embrace it.

JJ

I'm no longer an Aikikai affiliated person (haven't been in 16 years or so), nor do I currently practice aikido anymore. From following conversations in Aikiweb in the past few years, one would have to recognize that Americans have been pushing for reasserting "aiki" into aikido. I'm not looking to turn this thread into a debate over that, but arguably Americans are trying to better aikido by returning it to what some might consider its roots. There is of course institutional inertia working against them, as it doesn't seem like the honbu overall is advocating for change.

What are the benefits of a large organization? Well asides from conferring rank and standardization, both of which have their merits and faults, the main ones to me would be networking and leveraging of resources.

Networking would certainly allow for one to train elsewhere or utilize relationships for the exchange of information. For a rank and file member, how much benefit do they gain from leveraging of resources? That to me is questionable. Perhaps, it allows for organization of large seminars or bringing over big named instructors or some combination thereof, but to a rank and file member there are additional monetary costs (seminars usually aren't free by big name people), and the question then becomes how much face time do they really get during such a seminar? Standardization is beneficial to some extent, as much like a McDonald's franchise, you can walk in the door and pretty much know what you are getting (portion sizes and some additional menu items aside, McDonalds in Japan and Germany taste much the same as in New York City). On the other hand, it can stifle innovation and evolution of an art, unless those at the top allow for change.

Now one could leverage the resources of a large organization like the aikikai and start some sort of standards committees to investigate various changes, much like the Japanese do in the tech world, but who knows if Budo is ready for that, the Americans seem to be, and I have no way to speak for the europeans.

From a personal perspective, my experience with large budo organizations has been almost exclusively negative, but I probably don't have the same experiences as the average martial artist who walks into a dojo which has a large national or international affiliation.

mathewjgano
05-15-2012, 02:11 PM
I like the way George puts this, and I would argue that it is still true today.

For those people who have "no connection" to hombu today, and whose teachers have no connection, you would probably only have to walk back one or two more generations of teachers to get to someone that was an original student of O-Sensei. So even though there is no current interaction, there is still a connection indirectly through the lineage of teachers. I think this is very important and it is disingenuous to disregard it just to make a point.

Of course, the aikikai isn't the only game in town with a connection to O-Sensei, it's just the largest. Being in the aikikai or another well-respected aikido organization (Yoshinkan, Tomiki, etc.) means that you are part of a lineage and your skills and teaching align (at least a little bit!) with what the rest of the lineage is doing. It's not just paying a bunch of money for a certificate from someone who doesn't care who you are (BTW, my certificates are all beautifully hand-painted - is that not standard?).

If you get an aikido rank from this guy (http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&sqi=2&ved=0CFsQtwIwAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DHzh9koy7b1E&ei=rIiyT__1PKiviAK05pnnAw&usg=AFQjCNFG6DJr1AuoQ2Hhg1ztUJIIvdf-cA), you might have a more difficult time convincing people you are legit.

I think there is something really enjoyable about being a part of a lineage and a tradition that has spread all over the world. If you read the original post (or the thread title), I was interested in benefits, but I guess aikiweb is more interested in complaining this week.

I share your thinking. I think it may have been too much to ask for a "half-full only" glass of water, though.

mathewjgano
05-15-2012, 03:51 PM
I'd like to add that I've really enjoyed this thread. I've been able to read some really well-thought and well-worded insights into something that interests me, despite my not being a member of the Aikikai. I see it as the central organizational extension of O Sensei's lineage; certainly that of his family; and because I study their art to whatever extent I can be said to study it, it's of interest to me.
Thank you.
Sincerely,
Matthew

Peter Goldsbury
05-15-2012, 07:47 PM
Dear Peter,
While you might find the prospect of a thousand people at a seminar where one man teaches the class,leaves you cold I bet the finance officer of the event will be thinking that Xmas comes more than once a year!!As an alternative for others why not visit some U.K summer schools, and the 1000 guys would get more for their yen, euros etc imo.?Hope you are well, Cheers, Joe

Hello Joe,

The large seminars are a feature of any training event that Doshu himself attends, especially when he travels abroad. In Japan, too, at IAF meetings, 800-1,000 tatami is the minimum number of mats required for people to train without being uncomfortably aware of bumping into people. My own view is that, in terms of seeing what Doshu is actually doing and teaching, such seminars are not at all useful. On the other hand, other aspects of such seminars have been mentioned, like being part of the crowd in a general papal audience. Visitors to Tanabe in 2008 generally enjoyed the experience, partly because Tanabe still has the atmosphere of a small country town, with the sea and mountains not far away. It all adds to the exotic flavour of doing aikido in Japan.

Best wishes,

PAG

Peter Goldsbury
05-15-2012, 08:14 PM
Hello Peter,

Kochira kosoo. Nanadan no koto, O medetoo Gozaimashita!

My scholarship is most meager as to be non existent. Yours is the counsel and legitimacy of research that I would seek in any matters of history of fact.

My information was gleaned from snippets of conversation overheard from those Japanese folk with direct ties with O Sensei, Kisshomaru Doshu, Osawa Sensei, Fujita Sensei etc.. The accuracy of my recollections is also most suspect, and I would appreciate any corrections and updates you would be so kind as to furnish.

As to Moriteru, his time is not yet past, so I believe that restraint, relevancy and respect is in order prior to offering any current judgment.

in oneness,

francis

Hello Francis,

Many thanks for the response.

Did you ever know Seiichi Seko? When I knew him, he was IAF General Secretary. Originally he worked for Kinya Fujita, designer of golf courses, who was instrumental in setting up the original Kobukai in 1940. Fujita was one of Morihei Ueshiba's circle of acquaintances and friends during the war years. Of course, he also trained at the Kobukan, but I do not know how intensively. He might have been one of those who attended the morning class before going off to his office, much like many others did from 1955 onwards, when the Hombu resumed serious operations. Mr Seko did all the paperwork for the 1948 registration of the Aikikai with the government, but the initiative came once again from Fujita, who saw the advantage of a foundation for the postwar reconstruction of aikido. So, both in 1940 and in 1948, the creation of the organization was due in large part to political circumstances and to the efforts of business acquaintances. It would be a major mistake, however, to write off such people as Fujita as interested solely in commercial gain. Morihei Ueshiba himself knew the value of such a powerful circle of acquaintances. Neither in 1940 nor in 1948 could the dojo have survived without the support of such acquaintances.

The interesting issue is what happens when the political circumstances change and the original reasons for the creation of such an organization cease to exist. The organization then needs to reinvent itself, but the my own experience suggests that, with Japan especially, organizations are only as good as the people in them.

Best wishes,

PAG

oisin bourke
05-16-2012, 02:00 AM
And that's exactly how they were used in Japan - for children, until they got adopted by Jigoro Kano and caught fire. For children, I think that they're great! :p

Best,

Chris

My view is that the whole dan ranking thing really developed in response to the needs of Japanese post -war industrial society. You had a large section of the working population, ensconced in lifetime employment with the same company/State department. Spending decades with the same dojo practicing a few times a week (as opposed to an intensive apprenticeship) suited most of these people down to the ground.

On top of that, they recieved twice yearly bonus payments that increased with their years of service. The whole economy was geared to producing goods to coincide with the payments of these bonuses. I bet you could work out a formula corresponding the increase in expense for each Dan grade with the increase in the recipient's bonus.

Still, in fairness, Aikikai grades costs are chickenfeed compared to what you're expected to pay in other arts, such as tea ceremony, ikebana etc.It's a widespread problem.

I've never been a member of the Aikikai. BTW.

aikishihan
05-16-2012, 08:24 AM
Hello Peter,

Again, your insider's knowledge and experience proves so invaluable. You do realize that both the East and the West remain in desperate need of your brand of diplomacy, now, and into the future for traditional Aikido identity and structure. Not sure about what to save, but thanks for being there.

No, I did not have the opportunity to meet Seko san, although I was aware of his presence. I was way too junior in my minionship to have any contact with such leadership, content only to interact with Kisshomaru Doshu, Masatake Fujita, and the American Shihans.

It is my sincere hope that the underpinings of support from the Japanese government for Aikikai Foundation will continue as strongly as ever, but realize that the players have changed. All the more reason for Hombu to take much better care of their cash cow, the international yudansha registration system. This too, however, appears to be in great jeopardy for Hombu, although a historically great opportunity for others.

Yoroshiku onegaeshimasu!!!!

francis

Dan Richards
05-16-2012, 02:57 PM
Aikikai didn't invent aiki-based arts, anymore than McDonald's invented hamburgers. What Aikikai and Aikido did - like McDonald's - was create a production standard, and a corporate hierarchy, along with the marketing reach. I entered Aikido through Aikikai in NYC, and am happy I did so. I've been out of Aikikai for many years.

I've simply moved on to higher-quality hamburgers. But, as with Aikikai, I do enjoy popping into a McDonald's every now and then.

I do have respect for good teachers, and I have respect for lineage. I don't need to have respect for organizations. I trained for many years within Nishio Aikido, and received direct instruction from Sensei Shoji Nishio. Nishio's direct teachers read like a who's who of modern Japanese martial arts.

I enjoy that there are Aikikai's and McDonald's in the world. But I don't need - or even want - Aikikai's approval and/or rank to train aiki arts anymore than I need McDonald's approval and/or rank to make hamburgers.

So, who was talking about Aikikai coffee discounts? I'm lovin' it. : )

Conrad Gus
05-16-2012, 07:42 PM
Aikikai didn't invent aiki-based arts, anymore than McDonald's invented hamburgers. What Aikikai and Aikido did - like McDonald's - was create a production standard, and a corporate hierarchy, along with the marketing reach. I entered Aikido through Aikikai in NYC, and am happy I did so. I've been out of Aikikai for many years.

I've simply moved on to higher-quality hamburgers. But, as with Aikikai, I do enjoy popping into a McDonald's every now and then.

I do have respect for good teachers, and I have respect for lineage. I don't need to have respect for organizations. I trained for many years within Nishio Aikido, and received direct instruction from Sensei Shoji Nishio. Nishio's direct teachers read like a who's who of modern Japanese martial arts.

I enjoy that there are Aikikai's and McDonald's in the world. But I don't need - or even want - Aikikai's approval and/or rank to train aiki arts anymore than I need McDonald's approval and/or rank to make hamburgers.

So, who was talking about Aikikai coffee discounts? I'm lovin' it. : )

I was taught that it is not very polite to publicly compare or criticize senior instructors (Yamada Sensei vs. Nishio Sensei, for example). You have every right to your opinion, but it is a bit presumptuous to think that you have the experience to really understand aikido deeply enough to judge them (like calling one person's teaching legacy the McDonald's of aikido).

I know you are not 8 dan because in 2007 you were shodan according to this blog post (http://www.myspace.com/strandaikido/blog/337973443).

Do what you like, but I'm just pointing out that it's not classy and some people might get offended.

Chris Li
05-16-2012, 07:47 PM
I was taught that it is not very polite to publicly compare or criticize senior instructors (Yamada Sensei vs. Nishio Sensei, for example). You have every right to your opinion, but it is a bit presumptuous to think that you have the experience to really understand aikido deeply enough to judge them (like calling one person's teaching legacy the McDonald's of aikido).

I know you are not 8 dan because in 2007 you were shodan according to this blog post (http://www.myspace.com/strandaikido/blog/337973443).

Do what you like, but I'm just pointing out that it's not classy and some people might get offended.

Just curious - what does being 8th dan (or any dan) have to do with anything?

Best,

Chris

phitruong
05-17-2012, 07:27 AM
Just curious - what does being 8th dan (or any dan) have to do with anything?

Chris

of course it does. there is the black rope, not to moldy. then there might be a nicer, crisper looking skirt, that might have an inscription of Joe-Bob on it. there might even be an aiki glow about your person (possibly dues to background/foreground radiation). then as you go higher, you have the privilege to pay more for your cert. :)

Cliff Judge
05-17-2012, 08:26 AM
Then the concern becomes - should we be trying to make rent, or should we be trying to do Aikido?

Here's a theory. There are significant issues with how it translates to reality, obviously, but here is the theory nontheless:

If we focus on the Aikido, nobody is making any money and no matter how enthusiastic, everyone is a hobbyist, even the shihan. The training will be more intimate, there will be a higher average level of quality because the instructors will be more deeply invested in their students, and also more selective about choosing students. But - the instructors will only be as good as a talented person can get training a couple hours a week, because you need to eat.

If we make rent we can afford a nice dojo space and we can allow our teachers to work a little less at the day job so they can train more and get better and hopefully figure out how to make us better. If we keep all the groups' rents connected, then there should be opportunities for some people to TRAIN professionally - as in, spending 40 or more hours a week training, for years, before becoming professional teachers.

The latter model requires that Aikido be inclusive and welcoming of people who are just in it to be a part of a community, for some exercise, or for some other, lighter purpose. People who never stay for the second class.

Maybe there are two core issues that mainstream Aikido grapples with here. I don't have answers for either of them.

1) The normal folks need to be given something that is honestly worthwhile. Most of us on this board don't want to be a "normal" trainee and many senior folks sound rather disdainful of these people quite often. I think it is actually a problem for Aikido if the twice a week trainees can't get something substantial out of their training if they persist at that level for a couple of years. We don't need Aikido to be more "pure".

2) Maybe one of the reasons why the Aikikai is often derided around here is that it is a pyramid that provides opportunities for individuals to become professional teachers and also professional students - but those people only seem to come up through certain blood ties and other connections in Japan. A young man from Mexico came through Shobukan a couple years ago, he was 19 and had been doing Aikido since he was 12. I guess we are saying, hey, if the Aikikai wants to be an international organization, why can't this kid or someone like him find his way to Hombu on a trajectory to eventually become a shihan?

I guess, to wit, the Aikikai is a pyramid, and the perception is that there is very restricted mobility between the levels of the pyramid, and those at the top seldom seem to be sufficiently appreciative of the contributions of those at the lower levels to holding the whole thing up.

Chris Li
05-17-2012, 10:20 AM
Here's a theory. There are significant issues with how it translates to reality, obviously, but here is the theory nontheless:

If we focus on the Aikido, nobody is making any money and no matter how enthusiastic, everyone is a hobbyist, even the shihan. The training will be more intimate, there will be a higher average level of quality because the instructors will be more deeply invested in their students, and also more selective about choosing students. But - the instructors will only be as good as a talented person can get training a couple hours a week, because you need to eat.

I know some very good instructors who were never professional, so I'm not sure that really holds up. There is also the assumption that professional teachers are spending a lot of time training - and I'm not sure that holds up either.



1) The normal folks need to be given something that is honestly worthwhile. Most of us on this board don't want to be a "normal" trainee and many senior folks sound rather disdainful of these people quite often. I think it is actually a problem for Aikido if the twice a week trainees can't get something substantial out of their training if they persist at that level for a couple of years. We don't need Aikido to be more "pure".

Training in non-professional dojo is better for those people, it's cheaper. :D


2) Maybe one of the reasons why the Aikikai is often derided around here is that it is a pyramid that provides opportunities for individuals to become professional teachers and also professional students - but those people only seem to come up through certain blood ties and other connections in Japan. A young man from Mexico came through Shobukan a couple years ago, he was 19 and had been doing Aikido since he was 12. I guess we are saying, hey, if the Aikikai wants to be an international organization, why can't this kid or someone like him find his way to Hombu on a trajectory to eventually become a shihan?

I guess, to wit, the Aikikai is a pyramid, and the perception is that there is very restricted mobility between the levels of the pyramid, and those at the top seldom seem to be sufficiently appreciative of the contributions of those at the lower levels to holding the whole thing up.

It's not unique to the Aikikai, it's a general problem. That is, absent the personal connection, why belong to an organization that gives you nothing in the way of any real benefits?

Best,

Chris

Autrelle Holland
05-17-2012, 02:49 PM
Aikikai didn't invent aiki-based arts, anymore than McDonald's invented hamburgers. What Aikikai and Aikido did - like McDonald's - was create a production standard, and a corporate hierarchy, along with the marketing reach. I entered Aikido through Aikikai in NYC, and am happy I did so. I've been out of Aikikai for many years.

I've simply moved on to higher-quality hamburgers. But, as with Aikikai, I do enjoy popping into a McDonald's every now and then.

I do have respect for good teachers, and I have respect for lineage. I don't need to have respect for organizations. I trained for many years within Nishio Aikido, and received direct instruction from Sensei Shoji Nishio. Nishio's direct teachers read like a who's who of modern Japanese martial arts.

I enjoy that there are Aikikai's and McDonald's in the world. But I don't need - or even want - Aikikai's approval and/or rank to train aiki arts anymore than I need McDonald's approval and/or rank to make hamburgers.

So, who was talking about Aikikai coffee discounts? I'm lovin' it. : )

Same here! You ever come out down to FL?