View Full Version : Acceptable injury rate?

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10-09-2002, 08:01 PM
Hello world,

I was wondering what would be considered an acceptable injury rate in aikido.

I have observed over the past few years one particular person involved in over half a dozen injuries that required medical intervention -- a few shoulder separations (Class III), a concussion, back and knee injuries requiring physical therapy at least, to name a few without providing too much identifying detail. There was only one other injury that required a hospital visit that did not involve this person during this period of time. I'm not talking about tweaks and bruises and accidentally hard atemi. I'm talking about interrupting class to take somebody to the hospital, or the person having to seek trained medical help to alleviate the problem and losing weeks to months of training time as a result of the incident. Ironically the person in common with all these incidents does not escape injury either but still insists that these are an unrelated string of accidents.

Is it reasonable to say that a safety line has been crossed?

10-09-2002, 11:25 PM
Since it is one particular person I might say yes but I would need to know more.. But if it is a sensei and these are senior students getting hurt.. I would say no. As a senior student you have the responsibility to take proper ukemi.

If this were say Chiba sensei and a few of his students, I might say this would be expected! :freaky:



10-09-2002, 11:46 PM
In five years of practice I have only witnessed in my dojo a few serious injuries (a couple of fractures and dislocations), but none crippling or lifethreatening. Still almost everybody has suffered a minor injury (hamstring pull, groin pull, knee contusion, cuts and bruises, blackeyes, twisted wrists and ankles, etc.) once in a while. The longest time I had to stop because of an injury was a month, because I lost my big toenail (someone landed hard on my foot) and I had to wait for it to grew back! Anyway I consider aikido practice very safe (that is, if you follow the instructions, if you remain focused and calm, if you care for your fellow student, if you do not force yourself, and if you work hard to have a good grasp of fundamentals and ukemi) even if sometimes an horrific injury can ocurr, just like in any other martial art or sport.

10-10-2002, 01:57 AM

1. A historical pattern of injuries.

2. The injuries all seem to involve a specific individual.

3. The individual likely taught most of the people injured.


It's the fault of the people around the individual.

:rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

10-12-2002, 07:57 PM
Hey all,

Just to clear things up:

1) the individual associated with the injuries is in fact a transplant from another dojo, has never taken rank with my sensei

2) sensei is aware that everyone is afraid of this person and has tried to communicate the need for control as well as power. not working.

3) if direct verbal communication does not work in getting results, and the person in question is too strong/fast to kaeshiwaza when they are barrelling through a technique, and one still does not feel safe (can't avoid dangerous person without being obvious), is leaving the dojo the only option for kohai? sensei persisted in letting this person teach even after so many injuries -- eventually no one came to this person's class. how to resolve this without tearing the dojo apart with open rebellion?

10-13-2002, 12:28 AM
...can't avoid dangerous person without being obvious...
So be obvious. Tell that person you don't want to practice with him/her 'cause you don't think it's safe. Say you're scared, say you don't like the odds, say you think they have lousy control, whatever seems appropriate to you. Nothing wrong with being obvious.

10-13-2002, 09:40 AM
And the truth is that you don't really have to say anything. You can just make sure you never, ever bow to them. Even if they are sitting right next to you, just turn the other way quickly. If you are stuck with them for some reason, with or without making it personal you can say that you're worried about getting injured, say you do not want to take the full ukemi, and ask them not to throw you.

Anat Amitay
10-13-2002, 10:10 AM
Hi there,

I guess that in this case, if I was involoved, I would take that person aside (after class) and tell them that the class, in the majority, feels afraid to practice with him since many accidents take place then. I don't know if he is the type that would listen or not, but in both cases, this would be my first step. Maybe he is not aware of this (and believe me, people can hurt you so many times in training and not feel they do it). If this doesn't work, talk with your sensei, maybe he as the teacher should talk with the guy.

Now in basic- if he is not doing it on perpose, maybe he's working in his own style (you did say he is from another dojo), then he should work slower and take more care. No aikidoka can come and do as they please, it is the job of both training partners to keep safe while working together.

If he doesn't care about what is happening, then his place is not in the dojo, and the group has a right to say so if their health is in danger, because the next time might be a life threatening situation.

In our dojo, we put alot into training, and for some we might be called- training hard. But we have bounderies, we take care. When I train with people from other dojos (in seminars etc), I train softer, since I don't know who they are, what rank they are and so on, if I feel I can work faster, harder or so with them, I will, but I let my feelings direct me or I ask them.

I'm not saying there can't be accidents in aikido, of course there can, but not in the situation you discribe.

train safe,


Leslie Parks
10-13-2002, 10:16 AM
Isn't aikido a self-defense art? Do NOT work with this person. "Dings" are one thing, sending multiple people to the hospital is quite another.

My guess is that this person is either without skill, without control, unaware, without compassion, or wishes to show all the students how "powerful" he is.

10-13-2002, 04:18 PM
Hi again, it's the anonymous coward who started this thread posting from a different address (same person who posted #1 and #5):

Response to post #6,7,8: People have already spoken with this person, and gotten a noncommittal response. no change in behaviour. Sensei constantly is nagging this person to demonstrate ability to do techniques softly and with control. no change. people already dive out of the way at "onegaishimasu", have seen multiple times this person get up with no voluntary partner. seen so many close calls at other injuries. sensei has gotten multiple complaints about this person's roughness. sensei seems at a loss of what to do, he likes this person and seems to want to help develop a little tenderness, but at what cost to the dojo? am tired of driving people to the hospital. love sensei, love the dojo, but am *so* sick of this. spoke to the person myself, got outraged response that i was out of line, that my perspective was irrelevant. all senior women gone already, many different situations, but all admitted to me that this person was part of their reasons of wanting to leave.

majority of senior people agree with me -- they approached sensei independently of me -- but none of us seem to be able to convince sensei to throw the dangerous person out without risking sensei's wrath/disfavor -- sensei seems hellbent on avoiding throwing this person (he admitted he didn't even consider this person his student) out. don't know what sensei's motivation is holding this person so dear. maybe when this person is not hurting people, is very energetic to train with if you are advanced enough uke and can always protect yourself, like if you were sensei. don't know. (person has hurt yudansha and upper kyu with otherwise excellent ukemi, so low overall quality of ukemi is not the problem). of course sensei has final authority. but we can see this is killing the dojo -- losing students, undercurrent of anger and resentment in class, no fun to train when constantly on edge.


1) start war by presenting an established case for disciplinary action -- dates, names, events, seriousness of injuries to present to sensei and possibly other authority figures sensei respects (or even the sensei that person came from). Problem: sensei loses face, direct confrontation not aiki. feels terrible, probably won't be effective.

2) stop bringing up the issue, continue slow bleed of students to other dojos, and hope like hell that problem person doesn't kill somebody before sensei acts effectively to stop this behaviour, either by finally teaching the student some control or throwing him out Problem: he could kill somebody, but does not disrupt individual relationship with sensei.

3) boycott until problem is acknowledged and effectively addressed. Problem: lose training at this dojo due to stupid jerk.

4) leave dojo. Problem: lose dojo to stupid jerk!

thoughts? what are the stances of the national organizations on problems like this?

G DiPierro
10-13-2002, 07:37 PM
You have got yourself a real Aikido situation on your hands here! You have someone who is controlling you and others in your dojo by the use of force. Aikido, like all budo, is primarily the study of this kind of interaction. As Aikido students, this situation is a real-life test of your Aikido skill, and from what you have said, many of your advanced students have not been able to handle it successfully.

My advice to you, difficult as it may sound, is to stop blaming your problems on this person and look at what you can change in your own behavior. You can go around thinking that the only person that needs to change is this other person as much as you want, but don't expect your results to be any different. The reality is that the only person whose behavior you can change is you.

If you think this person is being too rough, then practice with him (or her) and teach him a lesson yourself. If you can't do this, then work on building your own skills until you can. If you don't know how to do this, then you might want to start by studying this person's style and copying it. That would be one way of taking an active, positive step towards solving your problem.

Aikido is first and foremost a martial art, and before you can reach the advanced techniques of conflict resolution you must first gain competancy wtih the basic ones. Your most basic strategy is always to fight back. This is what you were thinking of in your first option, but you need to give some thought to how to do this effectively. If you don't want to fight, you can just suck it up and deal with it. That's your second option. Or you can choose options three or four and let this person have control over this important part of your life. You have to decide what your priorities are in this case and whether you are willing to fight for what you want.

Deb Fisher
10-13-2002, 08:57 PM
Lame problem!

1. I have to agree with Giancarlo - you can't get anywhere thinking that *he's the one* who has to change, your own record states that. It never works to change other people, especially people who are okay with sending people to the hospital.

2. Don't necessarily agree with Giancarlo's notion that the mat is the right place to solve this. Training with someone you have a bit of a beef with, weird energy with, etc, can charge your training with a certain intensity that is good, desirable, martial. Sounds like attempting to handle this guy "on his level" could easily create an intensity that would wind up getting you driven to the hospital, though. I guess I would make a judgement call and ask myself not only how my skills measure up, or whether or not I could handle it, but also whether or not I want to use my training time to willingly engage in an encounter that's so obviously threatening... I mean, there's a difference between handling an attacker and asking someone to attack you.

3. I don't, however, see anything wrong with absolutely refusing to train with him, in the most obvious way possible. What if everybody politely refused to train with him? That seems like the safest, easiest, most direct way to meet your twin goals of keeping the dojo and not training with this guy. Perhaps your sensei would see that this guy is disrupting the entire class, affecting everybody. Perhaps this guy would see that the way of the warrior must also be the way of the healer... or else soon you've got no one to play with. But even if *they* don't see the light, you are safe and training.

Good luck to you,


10-13-2002, 09:44 PM

something is really going wrong in your dojo.

Normally, such a situation must not evolve

under a responsible sensei. A good aikido teacher has to take of all of his students, and should normally realize very quickly when someone is behaving in dangerous way.

Aikido is also about individual responsibility: If you cannot change the situation, nor your sensei is able to, it is

time to leave this dojo.

The fact that all senior women have already left is quite alarming.

I agree with Deb's third hint. Try this,

but make sure that all people scared of this guy will not practise with him.

Best wishes,


Kevin Wilbanks
10-13-2002, 09:56 PM
It sounds like it's gotten so out of hand that it is really the Sensei's problem and responsibility. Although it sounds like you and the other students have much affection for your teacher, your respect for him is deteriorating, and his whole school is disintegrating because he does not have the courage, will, or fortitude to deal with this person.

I was faced with a similar situation at my old dojo a few years ago. Although he wasn't sending people to the hospital, there was a man who was scaring all the women at the dojo and getting into stressful conflicts with some of the men. Many students complained to the sensei, but the sensei merely offered general assurances that he was dealing with it - to no apparent effect.

I sensed the situation in general, and couldn't miss it when this guy explicitly threatened to punch me in the face for inadvertantly squeezing his fingers too hard in sankyo instead of asking me to lighten up. On a different occasion, during an unsupervised free-practice session, he didn't like the conversation I was making and made a big challenge scene of telling me to shut up in front of several other students, throwing a horrible pall over everyone's training. I regret to say that at the time that I quietly accepted both these incidents, as I didn't know what else to do - I thought that if I threatened him or got into a real fight with him that I would be ending my relationship with the dojo and possibly getting into legal trouble, and I was uncertain whether anything like that was worth it. During this same period, I saw the sensei privately encouraging this man to test and take more leadership in the dojo, so I was confounded.

I could not understand why the sensei did not have the awareness or the balls to deal with this man, and instead was rolling out the red carpet for him. I'm sorry to say that the situation went a long way towards spoiling my relationship with both the sensei and the dojo, and was a contributing factor to my 1-2 year hiatus from Aikido. Along with other issues I had about the dojo and my practice, it tipped the scales toward staying away and finding something else to do.

Looking back on it, I can see that I should have confronted both the offensive student and the sensei... especially the sensei, because he was the authority who was allowing this man to continue to inflict his demented behavior problems on me and the rest of the dojo. I suppose it is possible that the sensei saw some potential value in continuing to give the guy a chance that was of enough benefit to him and other people he effected to be worth the risk.

I wonder though whether sensei even understood the risk... with the kind of threat and challenge this guy was throwing around in a martial arts scenario, I could easily see an altercation erupting that would result in someone dead or permanently disabled. I imagine that would put an abrupt and permanent end to the dojo, and it could happen in seconds...

In the case of situation in question here, I think you should try to light a fire under your sensei's ass. Either he doesn't understand that this yayhoo is single-handedly destroying his dojo, or he doesn't have the courage to kick the guy out. Either way, he needs your help. If he ultimately won't accept it, grab a raft and a paddle...

10-14-2002, 02:49 AM
Anonymous coward again, back at old IP:

Giancarlo: would escalation not be a pretty high risk of your strategy? do i not also risk turning into this person trying to emulate them? when the abused, try to "look like" the abuser they assume abusive properties (in fact people who perpetuate domestic violence were often victims of it before). sure i might wish to be so strong and powerful, but lose control and empathy at the same time. i have no wish for my aikido to look like his. agree that you cannot be a person of peace unless you know how to gracefully handle violence without losing control, the lamb cannot choose peace in the presence of the lion. have been pondering this -- person has over ten years experience more than me, outmasses me by a factor of 50% can't take him at my skill level in aikido. could end problem tomorrow with any number of violent options. not the point. is building a political faction to boycott training with him, and/or tell sensei explicitly that we reject training with him, aiki? Politics may succeed where blood spilled does not.

but what would my relationship with sensei be after such a confrontation, which challenges his authority to run things as he sees fit?

the point is not to blame other person, or anybody at all. the point is to change the system so that this stops happening, or change me so that it's not my problem anymore. what can i do? i can listen to others, and see if i'm the only one who feels this way -- then it would be appropriate to change my perspective if i was the freak. but others affected see the same problem i do. they simply left. have tried tenkan to see person's point of view, have stubbornly tried to adapt, can't find a viable compromise over *years* of trying. in fact, at first i was not aware that this person was the problem -- others who left shared their perspective which i grew to agree with with more evidence. the real question is whether it's my job to try to save the dojo, protect my kohai, engage in the politics of exclusion, or not. do we just let the jerks destroy a lovely system (dojo is like an ecosystem) while we choose to make our lives easier by letting them? do we engage in violent solutions when we finally have nowhere else to go? isn't it too late then?

four fundamental ways of dealing with conflict i've found:

change, leave, grow or die.

change the system

leave the system

grow to fit the system

let the system kill you

some combination of the above tactics always works, eventually, to bring the system back to stasis. i've tried to change the system, i've tried changing my perspective. could decide to narrow my focus to explicit self-preservation, not care that people around me are getting hurt, say nothing, refuse to train with this person, and keep on training. what kind of environment would the dojo be if everyone took that attitude?

sorry, trying to not sound accusatory. I'm just grappling with where my responsibility to myself begins/ends, my responsibility to others begins/ends. i've fulfilled my responsibility of trying to communicate to sensei and to this person, and it failed. what would you choose next? i would appreciate hearing more stories like Kevin's about analogous situations of conflict in the dojo and how they ultimately resolved.

Greg Jennings
10-14-2002, 06:51 AM
Actively refuse to train with the person. Don't just run the other way when it's time to choose partners. _Actively refuse_. Speak with your dojo mates. Get a commitment from them to do the same.

You can make it less confrontational by saying something like "I'm sorry, my ukemi isn't up to training the way you like to train".

If a substantial number of people refuse to train with the person, it will bring the situation to a head quickly which is best for everyone.

Best Regards,

G DiPierro
10-14-2002, 08:02 AM
Giancarlo: would escalation not be a pretty high risk of your strategy? do i not also risk turning into this person trying to emulate them? when the abused, try to "look like" the abuser they assume abusive properties (in fact people who perpetuate domestic violence were often victims of it before). sure i might wish to be so strong and powerful, but lose control and empathy at the same time. i have no wish for my aikido to look like his.Yes, there is a real risk of "looking like" the abuser with this strategy. There is a real risk of actually becoming an abuser yourself. I don't know if it is possible to avoid doing so. I'm getting into some dangerous territory here, but this may be a neccesary step in learning to see things from the perspective of the abuser well enough to be able to address the root cause of abuse. However, I don't think that this process actually creates anything that isn't already there. If one does become an abuser, then abusive strategies already existed, probably below the level of one's awareness.have been pondering this -- person has over ten years experience more than me, outmasses me by a factor of 50% can't take him at my skill level in aikido. could end problem tomorrow with any number of violent options.Such as what? Walking in with a gun? Picking up a jo and breaking this person's legs? Would you be willing to do this to save your dojo? I'm not saying that you neccesarily have to employ a physical strategy here, only that it is one way of approaching this. It also happens to be the one that this other person took, and so far his strategy seems to be uncounterable.is building a political faction to boycott training with him, and/or tell sensei explicitly that we reject training with him, aiki? Politics may succeed where blood spilled does not. but what would my relationship with sensei be after such a confrontation, which challenges his authority to run things as he sees fit?One way to look at it is that your teacher has chosen to let this person stay. He might have very good reasons for doing so. Perhaps he sees something in this person's Aikido that you and the other students do not. I would try to find out what this is. You could go to your teacher and explain that you do not feel safe practicing with this person and that you no longer wish to do so. If he says, "fine," then encourage others who feel the same way to go to him and do the same. If he says, "no," then try to find out what value he sees in having you practice with this person given the risks. Either way, you are putting him in a position where he has to take some responsibility for this situation.could decide to narrow my focus to explicit self-preservation, not care that people around me are getting hurt, say nothing, refuse to train with this person, and keep on training. what kind of environment would the dojo be if everyone took that attitude?Actually, if everyone was looking out for themselves and preventing their own injuries, then there wouldn't be a problem. However, because kohai are inexperienced, senpai have to take some of this responsibility for them. In that sense, you have a responsibility to protect them, but you first need to find an effective strategy of doing so.i would appreciate hearing more stories like Kevin's about analogous situations of conflict in the dojo and how they ultimately resolved.Well, I could tell you stories from the other side of a conflict like this. It's definately not as clear-cut as it seems. In one sense, the posters who said that this situation is the teacher's problem are right, because I have found that the fundamental problem involves the teacher more so than the students. What happens with the students is, for the most part, just a secondary effect of the teacher's behavior. I'm not going to say a whole lot about this in a public forum, but in my experience, problems with the students are inversely correlated with my level of communication with the teacher. If you are willing to contact me privately via email, I could go into more detail, but since you have posted anonymously it would be difficult to verify that the person contacting me is the same as the orginal poster.

Mel Barker
10-14-2002, 08:10 AM
"I'm sorry, my ukemi isn't up to training the way you like to train".

Greg, do you read Miss Manners? Sounds exactly like something she would say. Whenever I try such things on the spot, my snideness shows through. I find it best to be prepared (i.e. practice) these kind of replys till I can say it sweetly.

Castaneda said the four skills needed to deal with people are the ability to be sweet, cunning, patient, and ruthless.
"change, leave, grow or die.

change the system

leave the system

grow to fit the system

let the system kill you".
So true. I'm learning so much.

Best of luck,

Mel Barker


10-14-2002, 08:17 AM
IMHO, sounds like this person scares you and others. Perhaps you need to look at your own fears about training and why you took up a martial art.

Then, just politely say, "No thank you," and train with some one else. Its a preference not a problem who you personaly choose to train with.

I am surprised you Sensei has not corrected the situation. My Sensei has asked people (one) to leave because of an unacceptable injury rate.

Until again,


10-14-2002, 09:18 AM
This happened to me when I was about 14 in karate. I was big for my age, but still a kid. This dude was, well kicking the crap out of me during kumite, he was about 30 or so. This was due to his perception that I wasn't tough enough or something along those lines. Sensei warned him once during class; that he must take into consideration my age/ experience etc and try to help me learn, not beat it into me. He ignored this and Sensei angrily stopped our sparring. Sensei sent me off to work with someone else, then proceeded to beat the snot out of the dude.

Although I'm not sure if this is the correct action, it had the intended outcome. Dude learned his lesson, and Sensei took the responsibility to teach it to him as I was obviously not able to do so.

I would say that if your Sensei allows this situation to continue that the students must do whatever is necessary to ensure their own safety. That action could be actively petition Sensei to kick the guy out.

10-14-2002, 10:28 AM

Greg, do you read Miss Manners? Sounds exactly like something she would say.
I just have a very down-to-earth aikido instructor.

Like you, I have a problem with letting my sarcasm slip out.

One skill that you didn't mention is to remain silent. It's a great skill to have.

Silence in combination with a poker face or a look of concentration is even better, but correspondingly more difficult

Best Regards,

Greg Jennings
10-14-2002, 10:32 AM
The above is me, BTW. Must have lost my cookie on my office machine.

Best Regards,

Bruce Baker
10-14-2002, 01:13 PM
Where is this Dojo?

I think Kevin, Mongo,and Bruce need a field trip!

10-14-2002, 06:05 PM
uh-oh. dojo storming.

Janet Rosen
10-14-2002, 06:43 PM
Looking at issues of responsibility:

On a personal level, you are responsible for your own training, including your safety, therefore there is nothing wrong with politely refusing to train with this person. Period. No reasons, no excuses, just "no thank you, I prefer not to."

On an institutional level, the pattern of abuse is such that the chief instructor is seriously abdicating his or her responsibilities by not taking charge and throwing this person out. I would seriously question my committment to training with such an instructor unless there were literally NO other training options in town.

10-15-2002, 12:07 PM
This situation reminds me of a story I have heard about a meditation teacher who refused to removed an obnoxious student from his retreat center despite complaints from his other long time and loyal students about this man's behavior. When the students found out the teacher had actually begun paying him to attend, they were even more outraged. Eventually, the teacher explained that this man was providing very valuable lessons for all of them to practice equanimity, compassion, loving kindness and sympathetic joy which they were overlooking. Now, there is a difference between being obnoxious and being downright dangerous, however, the sensei may have something like this in his intentions. You still have the right to exercise the option of refusing to pair with this person. I would definitely excercise that option and hope that others in your dojo do the same. When a similar situation occurred in the dojo I train in, eventually the student left.

I highly recommend that you follow your gut-feeling anytime you are training with someone you feel is abusing you. (Or for that matter, even when you aren't training in the dojo.) If it feels like abuse, it is. When I began training, the sempai at the time paired with me and began doing some very rough things which I was not prepared to deal with since it was my first lesson. The first time, I said nothing, thinking I was just unaccustomed to being thrown around. The second time seemed to confirm my original opinion. When he did it a third time, I refused his hand to help me up, got up off the ground, dusted myself off and grabbed him by his shirt at his throat. I looked him in the eye and said, "Don't you ever do that to me again!". Of course, our sensei was aware of what was going on, but didn't interfere. I decided that if training meant I had to subject myself to abuse, then training in that dojo was not worth it. The sempai was in shock. He didn't know what to say or do, but he never tried it again. Eventually, he was demoted and left the dojo. But I learned a very valuable lesson about speaking up for myself which I never forgot.

janet dtantirojanarat


10-15-2002, 12:43 PM
I guess everyone has a story. For me, it was a highly skilled student who had a little bit of trouble with an inferiority complex. His AiKiDo was beautiful to watch but, unfortuntaely, he often hurt people (hospitalization wasn't common but it was scary to work with him). He was with me in one dojo for a while where he eventually left because the sensei held him back from testing. Then I changed dojos and he would show up at the new dojo with some regularity. The interesting thing in light of this thread is that the new teacher seemed to have some sort of philosophical commitment to the idea that we have to deal with the conflicts life throws at us. As such, he felt that he as a teacher and we as students would learn something from the very idea that dealing with this guy was inevitable. He extended his friendship towards the guy, and would talk to him after class or over beers about AiKiDo and about life. He would try to balance giving the man a free rein to be himself with the gently offered comment. I think that in the long run this 'worked' to a large extent. Still, we're talking about years of having to put up with the man and we're also not talking about a night-and-day change in personality. He is still himself, still obnoxious, still carrying a chip on his shoulder, still takes pleasure in intimidating others. I guess the biggest change is that people aren't actively scared to work with him anymore and he doesn't chase people out of the dojo. In some ways that's a big change and a big success.

My own response to him was largely passive. I tended to insist that we work (at least more or less) 4 and 4 since he had a thing about enjoying being nage much more than he enjoyed being uke. I scrupulously respected his rank. I took my ukemi with him in a way that felt as safe as possible to me without seeking to challenge his skills: I saw it as an exercise in figuring out how to feel safe in a dangerous situation. If he had been hospitalizing people, I would have refused to work with him. A number of times, I felt that a situation was getting out of hand, and I had a word with my sensei. This was rarely 'succesful' in any obvious or immediate way, but I figured that was ok. It was my job to do my job, and I would let my sensei do his in whatever way he best understood. I learned a lot from my sensei about not trying to do other peoples jobs for them, no matter how much I feel like I could do it better. Taking responsibility for yourself first is the recurring theme in this thread and I feel it is really at the heart of the issue.

One piece of advice I would offer to 'anonymous coward' ;) is the following. It seems as though you are wrestling a lot with the question of how to deal with the situation, and at the same time wrestling with the question of whether or not to leave the dojo. I recommend laying one of these questions aside for a while. Either figure out whether you are staying or going, or assume you are staying (and stuck with the situation) and try to decide how to handle it. When you try to do both at the same time, you undermine your ability to think clearly about either one. It's always possible to switch to the other question if your situation or your attitude changes. That is, if you decide to stick it out and assume you are stuck and think about your strategies, then it is still possible later to decide to leave.

And, one more piece of advice (wasn't I just saying that I learned how to do my own job and not others? :rolleyes: ), choosing not to train with your dojo-mate and letting other people know about your decision doesn't have to be seen as a 'political ostracism' or a 'dojo rebellion.' You are doing what you are comfortable with. You are sharing your strategy with others. They will make their own decisions and their own judgements.

10-15-2002, 12:54 PM
hello again, anonymous coward here,

thanks to all for your insights, i hope they keep coming.

yes, at first i did think that sensei keeping this student was an exercise in patience for the rest of the dojo. insert parable about the shepherd who spent almost all his time on the one wayward lamb instead of the rest of his flock.

and even normally kind people could have something going on in their lives that causes hit to shappen. but when you see injuries happen repeatedly, with no attitude to try to amend the process by which they are happening, not even any acknowledgement by the party-in-common that there even is a pattern that is screamingly obvious to even people at a seminar, who are from many different dojos, then there is a *big* problem.

and this to ponder: can you really beat this insensitivity out of somebody? it does offer some comic relief to contemplate big bruisin' aikidoka to come open a can of whoopass on this guy, see how he likes being treated that way, etc. but it probably just makes them even more entrenched in the habits of being a bully, they are even determined to never be vulnerable again, and need to prove it even more on the people around them once they've been whooped. so it will escalate. and i derive no satisfaction from seeing this person hurt; in fact, i've tried so hard in part because i think they are going to get irreparably hurt eventually and want to minimize that possibility.

this is what i think at this point:

i train in aikido because i do believe it holds the key of breaking us out of this vicious cycle of violence, internally and externally. we learn respect, blending, connection, and non-attachment to any technique or perspective. that's enough to handle 70-80% of the situations we deal with everyday. don't take things personally for the most part.

but that 20-30%...

sometimes if we don't take things to heart, we miss a chance to learn something very fundamental. this person at the heart of the conflict seems to have mastered not taking anything personally, not criticism from sensei, not feedback from others. he is disconnected because staying connected puts him in a ego-vulnerable position. it's these disconnected people that i don't know how to handle other than to out-wait, out-manuver, out-politic, over-power. this puts me back in the cycle of violence. i could apply machievelli and sun tzu and use politics to drive him from the dojo; that would be effective. it's a question of intent, how far should one be willing to go before simply leaving becomes the more ethical option?

giancarlo: i would be deeply interested in any insight you have into the "others" perspective. of course it's not clear cut. i've twisted my brain around for some time now trying to see this person's motives, (if for no other reason than to try to develop harmonious blends to them), and evaluate if there might be any noble ones there. other than arrogant egotism, including judging that one is qualified to push others to the point to injury, what other motives could you ascribe to this other person?

10-15-2002, 01:03 PM
sometimes if we don't take things to heart, we miss a chance to learn something very fundamental. this person at the heart of the conflict seems to have mastered not taking anything personally, not criticism from sensei, not feedback from others. he is disconnected because staying connected puts him in a ego- vulnerable position. it's these disconnected people that i don't know how to handle other than to out-wait, out-manuver, out- politic, over-power. this puts me back in the cycle of violence. i could apply machievelli and sun tzu and use politics to drive him from the dojo; that would be effective. it's a question of intent, how far should one be willing to go before simply leaving becomes the more ethical option?I really enjoy your perspectives, oh anonymous coward.

You seem to want two things at once. 1) to win, in the sense of changing the way this other person behaves or getting the dojo to be how you want it to be. 2) not to win, in the sense of not over-XXXX the man and not having forced or coerced him into anything.

Like before, I wonder if there isn't some mileage in separating these two desires and pursuing them independently. Let the part of you that wants to win and change the dojo realy pursue that without holding it back. Let yourself notice and be aware of the things you really feel will be effective. But, also let the other part of you, that is looking to be compassionate and understanding and humble and open and doesn't want to win express itself as well. If you don't put these two sides of what you want into conflict, I think you may find that they don't actually contradict each other very much at all.

10-15-2002, 02:39 PM
Not 1 month ago I was hit in the face by a 6th dan, Yoshinkan. I had been his uke all weekend, and this was the last day of training. Sensei was demonstrating Shihonage as done from Shumatsu Dosa Ichi. The first movement involves atemi to the uke's face. He began demonstrating it in front of the class, and on the 3rd or 4th demonstration, I'm not sure where my mind was, I forgot to block. Sensei looked me dead in the eye and changed his backfist to an open palm and slapped me right on the mouth and nose, saying "Uke should block here."

I simply put my hand up between his hand and my face and said "Hai, sensei." That was it. I feel in no way that he was abusing me. He hit me firm enough to sting for a couple of minutes, but he didn't jar my teeth loose or anything. I don't feel in any way abused my this. I've been a shodan for two years and test for my nidan in the Spring. It's my responisiblity to rember what to do and when to block. In my opinion this sensei helped me with my training, he did not hamper it. As it is said: "Pain is a good teacher."

I realize there abuse can come about, and a dojo is no place for it. If you think you're being abused, deal with the situation or get out. But don't think you're going to seriously practice a martial art for any length of time and not get hit.


G DiPierro
10-15-2002, 03:02 PM
giancarlo: i would be deeply interested in any insight you have into the "others" perspective... other than arrogant egotism, including judging that one is qualified to push others to the point to injury, what other motives could you ascribe to this other person?OK, let's see what we can do here. We know this person comes from another dojo, and we can assume that the practice in that dojo was more aggressive and intense than in your current dojo. I'm also assuming that this person did not leave that dojo by choice but was forced to by circumstances. So this person probably misses the old dojo, the teacher, the other students, and the type of practice there. For this person, that kind of intense practice is probably how much of the joy of Aikido is experienced. It seems reasonable that this person would truly like to raise the level of intensity of practice in your dojo and to thereby share that joy with you.

However, your dojo has for the most part been less than receptive to this person's efforts. You said that this person was at one point teaching a class but eventually nobody showed up. How do you think that made this person feel? How would it make you feel if you were teaching a class in a new dojo and nobody came? You would probably feel rejected and hurt, and that's probably how this person felt. Maybe that caused some anger or maybe it just caused this person to not care one way or other about the students in your dojo. Just as your dojo did not show much respect for this person's Aikido, this person did not show much respect your dojo's Aikido.

When neither of you respects the other's Aikido, who do you think is going to the worst of the deal? It's certainly not going to be the person who is stronger, faster, more aggressive and more technically skilled. And that's exactly why this person does not want to change. When you look at it that way, it sure seems like this person can go on like this for a lot longer than the rest of you can. Several advanced people have left their own dojo because of this person and you are thinking of doing the same. Do you think the situation looks nearly as bad from this other person's perspective? I doubt it. Based on what's taking place on the mat, it seems like this person is justified in thinking that the people in your dojo are the ones that are going to have to give in first.

Essentially, your dojo is "fighting" with this person. You have a lot of options, but I think that you are finally realizing that if you continue along with your current strategy you will ultimately lose. That is to say, the costs will be far greater to your dojo than they will be to this person. Another option for you is to just kick this person out, which may seem to be a winning strategy in the short run, but as Aikido students, we should know that a strategy based on simply defeating the other person can never be a truly winning strategy. Perhaps this is why your teacher is reluctant to take that step.

Personally, I think that your dojo as a whole and this person have a lot of learning to do about each other. That's why I mentioned the importance of communication with the teacher in my last post. Generally, the dojo tends to follow the teacher's lead. Of course, this is more true of the kohai than the sempai who have enough experience to think for themselves, but when push comes to shove even the sempai are going to side with the teacher. Also, you shouldn't underestimate the importance of your teacher's opinion to this other person. Even if neither considers it to be a teacher-student relationship, it is still a sempai-kohai relationship.

Even as a student, though, there are steps that you can take to improve the situation. You can lead an effort to communicate better with person and, by your example, demonstrate to others a respect for this person's skills. Also, you can try to make this person feel like a welcome addition to your dojo rather than like someone you would really like to see go somewhere else. If you go around thinking that this person is just a "stupid jerk" that you would like to get rid of it will do nothing to help the situation.

10-16-2002, 01:56 AM
hmmm. anonymous coward again. interesting extrapolation of perspectives, giancarlo.

you assume that this person was unwelcome from day one, and that he is a recent transplant. incorrect. there was a great deal of affection and welcome from the dojo to this person. for the first year, while i was still friendly with this person, i enjoyed training with him. only a couple of accidents, one hospital visit the first year. ok, it could happen to anyone. adaptation could take awhile.

second year, people began to feel wary of him. he trashed beginners, and would on one hand verbally emphasize how important training safely meant, but words would not match his actions. more injuries. complaints to sensei. sensei speaks to him respectfully. he says ok, but his actions again don't match his words.

i get curious about his old dojo. find out about a seminar his old sensei is holding, and offer to go with him to train at the old dojo. go there and train with his dojomates and his sensei. funny, i'm treated with kindness, openness and respect. my training is, even after only a couple of years, enough to hold my own with his dojomates. lo and behold! they're wary of him too! none of them welcome him back. when he needs help putting on his hakama for the first time no one volunteers to help him. he has to ask several times before a yudansha reluctantly shows him.

so it ain't that he trained at a "macho" dojo before. i certainly held my own there, and never felt scared of the way they were training, nor of his sensei, who was kind enough to throw me in offering a correction once, so i felt how he blended with me and rolled neatly out of the throw; he did not behave in any of the ways i saw this person behave, so he is not emulating his previous sensei. certainly his dojomates did not miss him.

as for efficacy of his technique, and whether or not my dojo has something to learn from him on that level, well, he's been hurt more often than anyone else training with him. *he's been one of the people in the hospital, more than once*. how is that a reflection of technical expertise? how is that anything other than self-blindness? shouldn't a really well-trained martial artist, as a first rule, be able to protect themselves from harm as the priority, above and beyond trashing anybody else? people are disgusted with him! he talks a big game, is first to show how It's Done(tm), even with sensei watching (essentially teaching when teacher is right there, usually a big no-no in our dojo), barks at people when they aren't doing exactly what he thinks they should be doing, and then when people are hurt shows no concern for their recovery, no desire to understand what might have gone wrong, and no desire to listen when people try to respectfully communicate with him.

sorry, maybe i didn't make it clear that the dojo gave him a few years worth of patience before no one showed up when he taught. that happened after he hurt somebody while he was teaching and then made dismissive jokes about the injury instead of evaluating how bad it was. hairline bone fracture, later diagnosis concluded. can you really claim that somebody with this lack of self-control, lack of understanding self-limits (in the sense of himself getting hurt!), and lack of connection with others is anything other than a violent thug? of course at this point there is an overwhelming lack of respect for his aikido. hard, fast and out of control is not synonymous with competence or superiority. training with him is like handling a live grenade with the pin pulled out. i don't think the grenade really has the advantage of the situation when it's going to self-destruct too.

we've shown this guy years worth of patience. we're running out of ukes. the reason senior people left is for various individual scenarios, but they got fundamentally fed up too. i don't want to risk being a parapeligic, i heard more than once. it is a communication problem, i agree. how else can we try to say it? people have said politely, no thank you, i'm not up to training that way tonight. how about we go slowly? didn't work, he speeds up on the second throw. people took him aside after class, said, hey, you know, that's a cool way you have falling -- how do you practice that -- and he showed off that fall so hard and so fast (throwing himself, no nage) that he tore his own joints apart. (one of the times he went to the hospital). like watching oil and water separate over time, people came to avoid training with him. and it still has not come to a head, but it's like water building behind a dam. am i going to have to explode in a big tantrum the next time i have to take someone to the hospital to see some response?

my real dilemma is this:

how do we get past all this history, all these reasons not to trust this person, back to some form of reciprocally satisfactory situation? it would be sheer folly to ignore all this evidence. and yet, you are correct that we do not trust or respect this person, and that isolation is exacerbating the problem. while he may very well have something to teach us, the price may be too damned high. we are locked in our perspectives and that is not very aiki at all.

maybe i should visit another dojo for awhile with no explanation and see if there is a magic perspective that will suddenly solve the situation. at least my frustration will diminish, and maybe that's all that i should care about anymore.

G DiPierro
10-17-2002, 11:38 AM
he's been hurt more often than anyone else training with him. *he's been one of the people in the hospital, more than once*.This section makes the situation completely different. It's no longer just a case of someone injuring other people, but it's a reciprocal situation, perhaps with this other person getting the worst of it. The question I have to ask is why is this person getting injured so much? You mentioned one case where he threw himself into what I assume was some sort of breakfall and hurt himself. Granted, that's a little unusual, but OTOH I usually find it more difficult to do some kinds of ukemi without a nage, partly because they are rarely practiced that way.

What about the other situations? How is this person getting hurt? Is it as nage or uke? With beginners or advanced people? One obvious conclusion would be that your advanced students are treating him just like he is treating other people. Giving him a taste of his own medicine. If that's the situation then you need to take a look at what's going on with your own students. Using some sort of enforcement strategy is not out of line in a martial arts dojo, but, if that's what they are doing, it clearly has not been effective in this case and they are going to have to try something else.

Another possibility is that this person could be causing his own injuries, though I'm not exactly sure how this could happen. Is he resisting? While this does invite injury, it is not that hard to choose to not to injure someone in this situation. Or perhaps he is attacking more intensely than his ukemi skills would suggest is proper, and he can't handle the technique he is getting. In our dojo there are some older, less experienced guys who like to attack hard and fast to see if this stuff really works. I'm happy to oblige them, but they often have a difficult time with the ensuing ukemi, even when I impart no power of my own to the throw. But I would never put them in a situation where they could be seriously injured, and I try not to let them put themselves in such a situation either.

The only other possibility that I can think of is that he is attacking so hard that others cannot defend themselves without injuring him. If this is the case, then I would try to find out what is motivating this person to this kind of practice. How does he feel about his own injuries? Does he think they are just a normal part of practice? Does he blame his practice partners for them? Is he at all upset about the situation? I would also try to talk to the teacher or senior students from this person's old dojo. I would assume that they know this person better than you do and therefore might be able to advise you about what's going on and how to handle it.

10-17-2002, 12:27 PM

There's something about your approach here that troubles me, but I can't quite put my finger on it. Maybe it feels like you are trying to assign blame? Maybe it feels like you are trying to cast the interactions in the dojo into some sort of normative model of what dojos and aikidoka should be like? I'm not sure.

One thing about your approach which certainly does resonate well with me is this: the more a person tries to understand a situation, the more effectively they will deal with it. The questions that you ask are all good questions, and it never hurts to think about good questions.

I've been thinking about this thread a little recently. I feel quite helpless in the face of the situation 'anonymous coward' describes. Sort of like I've been asked how to do AiKiDo while tied up in a chair with three guys attacking me. It's not clear there is a good answer, or, perhaps, even the best answer will not necessarily save me.

The other thought I had, though, is that I may be putting myself into this bind by some sense that I have to 'solve' coward's issue for them. Maybe I need to recognize that good and talented people have worried about this, and that it may be, for me, about realizing the limitations we face in this world.

A similar thought occured regarding coward's options. AiKiDo (as I understand it) has a lot to do with accepting the world as it is and not trying to change the inevitable. If we focus on recognizing the difference between what we do influence and what we don't influence, we become much more effective than when we get those things confused. It sounds like coward sees her options as basically being either to stay with the dojo or to quit. Maybe these really are her only options.

10-18-2002, 08:03 PM
anonymous coward again.

it seems deeply ironic to me that i pursue an art that hopes to create peace in the wider world, while home is such a strident place. i can't even use aiki techniques well enough to figure out how to solve these problems so close to my own life!

giancarlo: you ask a lot of penetrating questions. i'm afraid to list all the incidents in great detail because i'm certain that some people on this list could figure out who i'm talking about and where this is happening. Uke is the one getting injured most of the time. And it's not any one particular technique, or entry, or with specifically skilled people or beginners. I've tried seeing into his head and i feel like it's a self-absorbed steel ball--nothing gets in, nothing gets out. why he chose something like aikido baffles me, except he parrots the talk (practice safely, connection is important, he says) but doesn't walk the walk. maybe he really does idealize what i consider important about the art, but falls way short of implementing the ideals. when does shooting for an ideal that one falls so short of, become instead a willful hypocritical self-blindness? i don't know.

i don't believe my dojo is trying to punish this person deliberately.

i don't believe an effective way to communicate is happening.

it's breaking my heart to be witness to what should be preventable suffering.

and i can see how sensei's hope to reach this person is part of the equation, a positive intention that's not working.

well, there's the serenity prayer:

god grant me the courage to change the things i can, the strength to accept the things i can, and the wisdom to know the difference!

but progress depends on the people who are too unreasonable to accept the situation. i had wanted progress.

by posting anonymously, i wanted to see if there was a protocol that someone knew of, or a perspective that someone had that might lead to clarity more effectively than the ones i had tried. also, by staying anonymous, i could be anyone, anywhere -- maybe i'm angry and frustrated with *you* and you don't let yourself realize it, maybe someone somewhere will be inspired to greater sensitivity.

i don't think i should do the things i can see would be effective, but brutal. i think leaving now before i become someone i can't necessarily stop being is a wise idea. at the very least, i will continue training, and be far away when that grenade explodes, as it seems inevitable to me will eventually happen. and maybe stopping my anger is the contribution i can make towards a peaceful resolution.

maybe, if i keep to the path, my skills will eventually grow to be able to handle anything this person could do. maybe, i will someday meet this person on the mat again and discover i *outrank* him. petty little thoughts. but they might just work, because i can always work on me.

thanks to all. i will keep reading to see if anybody does have a magic answer, but i think i've made my choice.

h20 dog
10-20-2002, 04:19 PM
i have sort of the same problem with a fellow practioner. it seems that he always has one up you or prove that he has the greater skill level;thow i am still learning to roll:over kill on projection ect..I HAVE READ THAT YOU WILL RECIEVE AN INJURY FROM A NEW PRATIONER,THAN A PRACTIONER OF THAN ONE OF LONGER STUDY;I FIND EASIER NOT TO ENGAGE!!!

10-21-2002, 09:10 AM
IMHO, while we need to accept that injuries happen by mistakes along the learning curve, there is no acceptable injury rate. If you injure somebody in training, you obviously did the technqiue wrong.

Until again,


01-14-2004, 08:02 PM
To Anonymous User,

If the injury is caused by a locking technique, I can teach you a way to avoid it.

To make locking work, the nage must make sure that the shoulder and elbow of the uke is up.

So to render the locking technique ineffective, uke must learn to lower the shoulder and elbow, thus deny the nage the connection he/she need to make the technique work.

One simple way to achieve this is to look at your own hand, the hand that have been caught, and try to lower your shoulder by moving in towards the nage when the nage perform the technique, thus deny the nage the connection he/she need. Most aikido students will not be able to complete the locking technique when you do so especially "fighters".

They will wonder whether your arm is make of rubber or what.

To do so you are applying the non-resisting principle to save yourself by following the flow. Remember it only work, when your eyes are looking at your hand.

Try it out and find the wonder of aikido, be a lover not a fighter.

Good luck and happy new year!

01-14-2004, 08:21 PM
To Anonymous User,

Once again, if the technique is a throwing technique, you can minimize injury by following the flow.

To learn to follow the flow, the most essential thing you need to do, is look where you go. Expand your horizon , keep your head level and look far away at the direction your nage direct you to.

Your head can not turn to other direction, it can cause instability easily, you will lost your center and posture. By looking at the direction where the nage direct you to, you can easily regain your posture and stability.

Follow the flow and take ukemi, your problem will be over. Take ukemi without follow the flow, you are asking for trouble. So blame yourself, not the fighters if you don't know how to save yourself.

In a dojo, there are bound to have all sort of fighters, some pretend to be a lover. To run a way is not the solution, aikido never ever teach you to run away, aikido teach you to confront with the problem by applying non-resisting principle.

If you need a good book to read about, go and search for "Aikido Inside Out", this is an online book, the author is one of the very few who understand about principle of non-resisting. Forget about harmony, there is no harmony in dojo, there are always funny people around to make your life difficult.

Learn the non-resisting principle by following the flow, you will become undefeatable, so where is the injury?

Lover boy.

01-15-2004, 10:51 AM
Maybe I'm off base. Maybe I'm not aiki/harmonious, but here's my opinion:

Your body and mind are the only things you truly own. You have the right to protect them. You have the right to refuse training with someone you think is dangerous.

If I were in this situation, I wouldn't attend classes if he instructed. If he was a student in the same class, I wouldn't partner with him at all. I also would not feel bad about out. Would I be showing bias against him- Your darn right! But my opinion would change if his behaviors changed.

Hanna B
01-15-2004, 01:05 PM
Hey, this thread is from 2002...

Jeanne Shepard
01-15-2004, 08:00 PM
I find myself wanting to sit down with this person and say "Hey, whats going on?..."