PDA

View Full Version : Poll: Should an aikido instructor date a student of theirs?


Please visit our sponsor:
 

AikiWeb Sponsored Links - Place your Aikido link here for only $10!


AikiWeb System
05-02-2004, 01:15 AM
AikiWeb Poll for the week of May 2, 2004:

Should an aikido instructor date a student of theirs?

I don't do aikido
Yes
No


Here are the current results (http://www.aikiweb.com/polls/results.html?poll_id=218).

Chuck Clark
05-02-2004, 09:09 AM
As with most all of these polls, the answer is "It depends."

We must really understand "the rules" and follow them so we understand (very deeply) how to break them properly.

George S. Ledyard
05-02-2004, 10:01 AM
I think it can be done "cleanly" so to speak but one would have to be careful. Many pitfalls here. The most important thing is to be open with the folks from the dojo so evryone knows. Don't make it some secret, people get more upset later when they find out that you haven't been straight with them.

The second thing is to be very careful about favoring the new partner either on the mat or especially off the mat in the running of the dojo. It may be that you will be in a successful long lasting relationship, in which case over time, it will be natural for ones partner to be involved. But I can't count how many times in have heard about some relatively junior person throwing his / her weight around based on the fact that they had the Sensei's ear because they were the "partner of the moment". K.O.D. Kiss of Death for morale at the dojo.

My own partner does Aikido, we met on-line a year ago and we are as happy as can be, but she continues to primarily train with her own teacher, my friend Kimberly Richardson Sensei, just so we don't run into problems. Sort of like the old advice about not teaching your spouse how to drive.

Lan Powers
05-02-2004, 10:27 AM
[I]I voted no for the reasons quoted above by Mr. Ledyard. Although, as with most of these "open ended" questions there are too many variables for a absolute answer. No is easier, but it could work as yes in a perfect world. (We just, all too often fall short of that perfection)
Lan

Jeffrey A. Fong
05-02-2004, 03:25 PM
Many professionals have ethical codes which specifically prohibit mixing business and pleasure, the so called dual relationship - and with good reason. The relationship between sensei and student (particularly the serious student) can be extraordinarily intimate. Because the master possesses stature in the form of their knowledge, skill and personality, there is a distinct power differential that can influence the student's behavior both on and off the mat. When the product of that interaction is martial skill, development of character and a sense of social responsibility, then the sensei and his other students can relax in the virtue of their art. However, when sexual intimacy is blended into this relationship, the purpose of practice and more importantly, who is benefitting from it becomes less clear. Herein lies the conundrum. One does not have to look further than the fields of psychology/psychiatry (psychotherapy), law, education, etc. to see examples of the fall out from these kind of blended - and flawed - relationships. Obviously, there are some who are sufficiently evolved to pull this off, but they are, I reckon, the exception to the rule.

Doka
05-02-2004, 05:39 PM
Why not? I know of some who have ended up marrying one of their students!

Good luck to them!

DGLinden
05-02-2004, 05:53 PM
Well, hmmm. George dates his own student. I voted no, but in all truth met both of my wives (my first and second) on an Aikido mat as well as one I dated for 7 years trying to talk her into becoming the first. I think the important thing is sincerity.

Isn't the real question here about the instructor who sees his female students as prey? Fair game? I once knew an instructor who had as a personal goal to sleep with all his female students, and for the most part did. I found that despicable. Teachers should not abuse their special position of trust.

And before we get too far along it might be pointed out that a large number of shihans are married to former students.

rachmass
05-02-2004, 07:00 PM
Isn't the real question here about the instructor who sees his female students as prey?
please don't forget there are plenty of women teachers out there as well!

Having seen first-hand some very destructive results of teachers dating student's; I recommend against it in general. However, if it is extremely serious, then it can work out and work out very well. Just no dallying around with students without sincerity and honor. There is a power imbalance, and that in and of itself is a problem.

Doka
05-02-2004, 07:10 PM
It doesn't start out serious, so you can't make that judgement then. It starts out with attraction!

The way to avoid the imbalance (and I speak from experience) is that your partner must acknowledge your position in the dojo and you must leave that behind as you walk out the door. In fact, you tend to find that the balance swings the other way outside of the dojo!!! :D

zachbiesanz
05-02-2004, 10:43 PM
I'm with Mark. Relationships are only one of the many things you leave at the door. If you can work aiki into your relationship without working your relationship into aikido, you should be fine. In fact, better than fine. Love and harmony, right?

One idea I've heard is that when we all don the white pj's. we effectively become sexless. Gender and sexuality are other things to leave at the door. This might be more "ought" than "is" in some places. Hopefully not.

DGLinden
05-03-2004, 07:50 AM
Rachel, have you ever heard the old saying, 'When Mama aint happy, ain't nobody happy.'? I think I've seen some very senior people dealing with some disgruntled wives (and husbands) over these years. My point is that the balance you speak of is a natural one for those who are lucky enough to find true and lasting love with someone who also embraces Aikido training. Too many teachers want the 'sensei' experience to carry on off the mat. Dating is one place it does not belong.

Bronson
05-03-2004, 11:03 AM
I'm in the camp that says that an instructor shouldn't use the class as a place to troll for dates/sex. But, if two rational single adults meet in class and they can work it out so off-mat doesn't interfere with on-mat and vice versa then it could work out nicely. I've seen it work. My instructor is married to the dojo's senior student (she's senior because she's been there since the beginning...nothing hinky about her rank or position). I think it brings a nice dynamic to the dojo. It feels like we've all been taken in as part of the family.

Bronson

rcoit
05-03-2004, 11:30 AM
Well, I'm passing on this one. Inasmuch as aikido implies a morality, it, as in most Eastern philosophies, takes life on face value. I am on my guard when ever I heard "should". It always means someone's interpretation supercedes someone else's. The question is biased. "yes" may mean a pair 'might' date or may mean a student 'should' date sensei (?all students!!!!). "No" may mean a pair can date but ill-advised, or may mean "never". "yes" & "no" for this question is bound to be insufficient or misunderstood. In an increasingly confused world, it is best to learn from Aikido and O Sensei - be master of your world and the universe will follow. "Should" & "should not" may be the root of many an offense.

j0nharris
05-03-2004, 11:44 AM
Well.. I'm one of the guys who ended up marrying a student, so what does that make me? :D
In all fairness, though, when we met, we were both students, and were married before I received my yudansha and started teaching on a regular basis.
I think we do pretty good job of keeping our personal stuff off the mat, though we have certainly had to work through it at times.

I agree that "trolling for dates" at the dojo is not a good thing, but it can be hard to avoid in a university setting ;)
That said, I don't think that either my wife or I were looking at the time... we got along well, and after knowing each other for a few months, I just couldn't help but ask her out. I think we were each old enough, too, to be responsible about it.

-jon

PeaceHeather
05-03-2004, 01:16 PM
I voted "no" only because of the potential for abuse. The way this question was phrased made me think of that first, and also of a massive difference in age or maturity between the two people involved -- not so good.

I do agree, though, that if the two people are mature, are able to keep the attraction where it belongs and the unequal sensei/student relationship where *it* belongs, then more power to them.

Heather

Nick Simpson
05-03-2004, 06:24 PM
Free Choice. It can end destructively or it can end nicely. But people have to make their own mistakes/decisions (and they will).

Doka
05-03-2004, 06:28 PM
Or it might not end! :)

Nick Simpson
05-03-2004, 07:37 PM
Hopefully.

Bronson
05-03-2004, 09:38 PM
Or it might not end! :)

All marriages end. By either divorce or death :dead:

Bronson, your little ray of sunshine ;)

Nick Simpson
05-04-2004, 07:18 AM
Wow, well, that was the first thing I read this morning upon waking up with my coffee and if it hasnt inspired me at the start of a new relationship :freaky:

SeiserL
05-04-2004, 09:34 AM
IMHO, NO!

IMHO, an instructor-student relationship is not on an equal footing, thus not very healthy. Also, it can set up some bad feeling, jealousy, and favoritism in the Dojo with the potential of destroying the entire school.

I think we need to protect our students, even from ourselves, and have some sense of ethics.

Theoretically, it may work. If an instructor has strong feeling about a student, they may want to first consider severing the instructor-student relationship before dating. In almost all professional fields, including teaching, there are ethical rules against dating your students. It just doesn't seem to work out well in the long run.

IMHO, the loss of ethics in the martial arts in general has really hindered its growth.

I know this is a very strong soapbox for me. Thus endeth the sermon. He gets off his soapbox and puts it temporarily away. He heads for the Dojo to work out his frustrations that this is even a question we have to ask.

Qatana
05-04-2004, 09:48 AM
My sensei's wife was a former student, one of his first i believe. His sensei is married to a student. There are several dojo members married to each other.

If it was me involved, i think i would try to find another teacher. I once dated my karate teacher and when it ended, so did our ability to train together...

Sharon Seymour
05-04-2004, 08:05 PM
(Carefully placing soapbox; stepping up onto soapbox)

Instructors should not date students. Period. People meeting on the mat when both are students is another matter. This is a hot issue with me, and I realize I am very black/white about it.

(Stepping down off soapbox; returning to Lynn - thanks for the image!).

Lachlan Kadick
05-05-2004, 02:41 PM
I believe that it depends upon the instructor. If the instructor is unable to keep from holding someone in a special position in a class, than should he even be instructing at all? And I as well agree that all of the issues that the instructor and student have off the mat should be left off of the mat. There is no reason that a good instructor should not be allowed to have a healthy relationship with a student.

Doka
05-05-2004, 02:51 PM
(Carefully placing soapbox; stepping up onto soapbox)

Instructors should not date students. Period. People meeting on the mat when both are students is another matter. This is a hot issue with me, and I realize I am very black/white about it.

(Stepping down off soapbox; returning to Lynn - thanks for the image!).

So by your reasoning, all those Sensei-Student husband and wife couples should never have existed?

I hope nobody listens to you. What the world needs more is love!

;)

AsimHanif
05-05-2004, 03:23 PM
I have to admit the results of this poll surprised me. I tend to agree with Lynn on this one. As an instructor whether you admit it or not, you are in a position of power. If both are intent on pursuing the relationship, I think the appropriate thing to is for the student/teacher relationship to end.
This also brings up the point of instructors dating parents of students. I'm a little uncomfortable with that one too. I guess I'm a conservative liberal:-)

DanielR
05-05-2004, 03:46 PM
The aspect of instructor being in a position of power has been brought up several times in this thread. While I'd agree with this in the context of a school or even a college, it seems to me that it's not quite the same in an Aikido dojo. If we're talking about adult students, then it is my understanding that these days most Aikido dojos do not exhibit the sort of "sensei cult", a complete submission of students to the sensei's authority, that would've indeed put the sensei into a position of power. If this assessment is fair, then I'd say that two reasonable and responsible adults could maintain a relationship without undermining the dojo's atmosphere.

AsimHanif
05-05-2004, 04:00 PM
Hey Daniel - good point. I would say though that power has many connotations. It doesn't have to be overtly authoritarian. But if you are the person in a position of leadership that is also a position of power. So in that case you would have people looking to you for guidance. As stated in another thread, you may never know the full mentality or maturity of people in the dojo. Some come looking for pie in the sky and anyone who is in a position of leadership may fit the bill. It is easy to take advantage of that situation although the instructor him or herself may not fully be aware. It is totally plausible that the instructor may think the other half is capable of making a rational decision but in fact the other half may be infatuated by the instructor's position. The instructor has to be the mature one at all times.

DanielR
05-05-2004, 04:40 PM
Hi Asim,

I think the poll's question is only relevant with regards to an instructor who will not willingly take advantage of a student who's as infatuated with the instructor as you describe - to a point of inability of responsible and rational behavior. Assuming this type of an instructor, I would venture to argue that it should be possible for such a person to distinguish the situation where he/she might potentially exploit a student in a vulnerable position, avoid pursuing this relationship and attempt to neutralize the situation without harming particular student or the dojo. I absolutely agree with your demand for the instructor to be the mature one at all times; I'd just add to this that the sign of maturity in a situation like this could very well be the instructor sitting down with the student for an honest talk about each other's reasons for pursuing the relationship and expectations from it.
I guess I'm just trying to find a way to approach this problem from the perspective of presumption of innocence rather than a imposing a sweeping ban to prevent unfortunate incidents.

kironin
05-05-2004, 05:02 PM
The instructor has to be the mature one at all times.

:rolleyes:

and apparently also a celibate monk also.

Some of my students are older than me, some of my students are younger. Some are married, some are not. Some have a lot more experience in leadership or other areas than I do. Some don't.

It would be fairly arrogant of me to assume greater maturity based on having a higher aikido rank and experience on the mat.

It's hardly the same thing as teacher-student relationship in a University.
No one gets a grade or a degree that could affect their financial future and sought after career. A black belt from the other schools in town wears just as well.

I have never dated any of my students, but life is too short and love too rare to be excluding the right someone just because they happen to express interest in something I am putting a lot of time and passion in.

aikidoc
05-05-2004, 05:31 PM
Can such relationships work out positively. Sure. Saotome sensei is married to a former student and has been for years. Is their potential for abuse-absolutely. One former high ranking 6th dan was kicked out of aikido for dating a minor (I don't know how extensive the relationship was). Unfortunately, with people being people such relationships are frought with risks-sexual harrassment, disruption of the dojo, criminal prosecution, psychological/physical abuse, child abuse/pedophilia-to name a few. None of which would help the art of aikido. If you are going to do it, select your partners carefully and get it in writing and keep it above ground. I'm aware of one instructor that was married and dating a student. His wife found out and his shihan had to intervene. Things can get real ugly.

Jeffrey A. Fong
05-05-2004, 06:56 PM
(Borrowing Sharon and Lynn's soapbox)
Certainly, the world needs love, but what is needed as badly are good judgement and reliable interpersonal boundaries. Peers meeting on the mat and falling in love is one thing. A person in a position of authority has the responsibility of maintaining clarity in a professional relationship. As I noted in a previous post on this subject, these types of liaisons can make it difficult to know who is profitting from "training." This is why doctors, psychologists and other professionals are prohibited by their ethical codes from engaging in dual relationships. The importance of sensei-student relationship deserves no less serious consideration.
(getting off soapbox, too, whew!)

Williamross77
05-05-2004, 10:21 PM
I have seen the bad side of this issue. it should be an unspoken rule that dating a student is bad Karma if not just bad ediquett. Not that i can tell senior instructors how to behave, i just know the disappointment that a student will have when this occurs. while it was not in an Aikido school this occured it still has a very silent effect on the student body and Honor of the school.

Largo
05-06-2004, 12:23 AM
I didn't vote, because saying 'yes' sounded like saying instructors can't date anyone else. Anyways, in my university's karate club, our sensei was married to one of the students (note- this means karate student, not university student.). She was undoubtedly the top student in the dojo (she was a replacement in the olympics, apparantly, so I don't think it was favortism).


I suppose it could work. Or it could blow up. Just like anything else. My sensei and his wife were excellent teachers who both made up for gaps that the other had.

DGLinden
05-06-2004, 05:39 AM
To the Other Daniel,
Aikido is a cult of personality. Students come to train not because they know who the instructor trained with, under or over. They come because initially they like the school and the first impression of the Teacher on the mat. They stay because they like the other students and the teacher on the mat. By the time most students, both men and women, have had a chance to make an informed opinion of the people and school they train in they have bonded and few leave for a better school. So in that regard a teacher is truly in a position, if not of power, at least authority. It should not be abused by dating students. Having said that, and my apologies to Lynn, mia culpa, mia culpa. But now I'm old so I can say that others shouldn't.

Mark Balogh
05-06-2004, 05:55 AM
I think the issue here is of instructors abusing their position or making a habit of this kind of thing. I was told by my sensei that martial energy and sexual energy are very different and the latter has no part in martial arts training. This was a real issue for his teacher as well. However, my opinion is that if feelings are becoming serious, i.e. both people really like each other, they should go for it. You might only get one chance at happiness. :)

John Longford
05-06-2004, 05:58 AM
There cannot be a set answer.
I have seen some Senseis abuse their position and others who have not.
Personally I once dated one of my students (the only one I hasten to add) for a long period. I also since then introduced my girlfriend (now my wife) to Aikido.
I always ensured that neither of them received special treatment and also insisted that other instructors graded them making it clear that the descisions were entirely theirs.
That said the situation is fraught with difficulty.
I would make one thing clear I have nothing but contempt for teachers who date their students for the sake of it.

Bryant Pierpont
05-06-2004, 06:50 AM
There are some great marriages that began on the mat...but, while I've not done any research, I would risk that there have been more problems. A teacher has a responsibility to his or her students and has their trust. If he or she feels an irresistable attraction, maybe one of them should change dojos. My first dojo blew up over this type of behavior. If you lead, you bear responsibility.

B

DGLinden
05-06-2004, 06:52 AM
John, in a similar sense, do you encourage or discourage couples from training together? I've noticed over my 35 odd years on the mat that this rarely works in the long term. Any comments?

John Longford
05-06-2004, 07:21 AM
Daniel,
I have found that couples almost without exception do not train well together, particularly those married or in long term relationships.
Come to think of it I cannot recall any that do.
So yes I do try to discourage it although this is not often necssary.

DGLinden
05-06-2004, 09:10 AM
John,
Thank you for that observation. It has been my experience as well. If fact, as a way to relate it to this thread I remember during my first year training a young woman breaking into tears when the instructor corrected her technique. I recall her saying "But Richard, I'm trying!!!!" At the time I assumed my instructor's name was 'Sensei'. Didn't know his first name at all. I guess in retrospect I can figure out what that was all about.

DanielR
05-06-2004, 10:06 AM
Mr. Linden, thank you for your comments,
Aikido is a cult of personality. Students come to train not because they know who the instructor trained with, under or over. They come because initially they like the school and the first impression of the Teacher on the mat. They stay because they like the other students and the teacher on the mat. By the time most students, both men and women, have had a chance to make an informed opinion of the people and school they train in they have bonded and few leave for a better school.
I have indeed considered this before submitting my first post on the subject, but I think I then ruled it out because I thought the extent of abuse of this kind of power should be quite limited, especially in the US where the awareness to potential abuses is very high, and especially among adults. But I do agree with you - an aikido student that has decided to stick with a particular dojo for all the good things it has to offer, will tolerate a certain amount of things perceived as negative for the sake of continuing to train in that dojo.
So in that regard a teacher is truly in a position, if not of power, at least authority. It should not be abused by dating students.
It should not be abused. However, I think it's the definition of abuse and the ways of dealing with what generally is agreed to be an abuse that are being questioned here. What I see in comments of opponents of instructor-student relationships is the emphasis on the potential of an abuse. We know bad things happened as a result of such relationships, so we know this potential exists. To prevent negative incidents from happening again, we suggest that all instructors refrain from pursuing such relationships.
My take on this approach is that we seem to be attempting to correct one injustice with another, and basically the total amount of injustice in this situation doesn't change, we've just changed the subset of victims.
There's also an additional question - where do we draw the line? If we frown upon instructor-student relationships, shouldn't we view yudansha/mudansha relationships in the same light? A mudansha's progress in Aikido depends considerably on his/her training partners, and especially on higher-ranking ones, so following the same definition of power, we might conclude that yudansha have a certain amount of power as well. In my opinion, in general it's better to err on the side of greater personal freedom.

Mary Eastland
05-06-2004, 05:04 PM
"Aikido is a cult of personality."

I could not disagree more. Aikido is much more than the person who teaches it and the students who learn.

I feel that teachers can relate wonderful Aikido without accepting anyone's power. A dojo that fosters this kind of atmosphere is much healthier than an establishment that proclaims that one person has influence because they have practiced Aikido longer than than everyone else.

I have belonged to an organization that was a cult of personality. I hated it.


I now belong to another organization where the emphasis is on the art of Aikido not on the instructor's personality.

Adults who practice Aikido are just that; adults. They can only give their power away. It can not be taken from them.

Mary Eastland

Doka
05-06-2004, 05:17 PM
Would it be wrong for the co-ordinator of the stamp collectors club to date a member?

Remember - to a lot of people Aikido is a hobby!

DGLinden
05-06-2004, 10:29 PM
Your disagreement does not make it any less true. Sorry. Aikido is a cult of personality. Bottom line.

But this thread is about teachers who date students, anyway, so I'm sorry I brought that up.

Kenny
05-07-2004, 02:40 AM
Wow this question has everything going for it, sex, drugs, violence... Well two out of three ain't bad!

I'm very curious about the wording of this one.
A more neutral poll would have asked "Is it OK" or will it harm the teaching or something less loaded than should.
Were we late and in a hurry or did we know that many martial arts teachers date there students and in spite of the large failure rate of those relationships many martial arts teachers do end up marrying one of their students.
I'd like to see the followup polls
To students:
How many students think it's OK to tell their teachers, hey please keep your stinky relationship mess out of the dojo (respectfullly of course), because I agree with those who say you have to keep it out but if no one is brave enough to tell you when you're over the line then how will you know if you're over the line?
Student:
If you've ever dated a martial arts teacher over all would you rate that relationship better or worse than your relationship with people who were not your martial arts teacher.

And
Teachers:
How many teachers who think it's OK to date their students think it's OK for the other students to let you know when you are making your personal relationship a dojo issue because if you don't explicitly tell your senior students something like, "if my sexual relationship(s) with one/some of the student(s) becomes an issue for the dojo I expect you to let me know about it." then as a teacher you are more than likely going to harm your dojo on your way to finding your perfect mate.

Like some of the previous posters I've seen quite a few student/teacher and student/sensei relationships and of course many of them are messy and all of my favorite teachers are as far as I can tell in very happy stable marriages with former students.

I think we should remember the lesson we learned from Bruce Klickstien who sexually abused his underage students, I've seen some of the damage he caused and it's deplorable. I think we should remember that mentor/apprentice relationships are rife with potential for abuse, and I think we should remember that in a free country consenting adults are allowed to date whomever they chose.

And BTW yes I have followed my own advice and when I saw relationships that were stinking up the dojo I respectfully voiced my opinion and my opinion was listened to; and probably in no way due to my actions the stink finally went away and the dojo lost another student!

George S. Ledyard
05-07-2004, 04:49 PM
Ok, let's get real. If you are an Aikido Teacher, as I am, where do you think the only place you actually meet any new people is? While other folks are out and about doing all sorts of things on their weekends I am apt to be at a seminar or teaching something at my own dojo. And of course, when and if you meet someone new, how likely is it that you have found someone who will tolerate the fact that your idea of a vacation is to go off to a camp and train? Someone who works a regular job and thinks its fine to simply say hi as they arrive home and you leave for the dojo? You're more likely to win the lottery.

So you'll either meet someone you like at the dojo or perhaps you'll meet someone at a seminar or a camp and if the relationship starts to take off they move to your town and start training. So now you have your partner at the dojo.. you might not have met them there but they're there nevertheless.

Almsot every really senior teacher of martial arts I know is married to someone who trains. Who else can they talk to about what is central in their life? Who else wants to hang out with all those dojo folks that form the extended family that a dojo community actually is? It really needs to be someone who likes the same things or I can't see it working.

I think a lot of this stuff about what the Sensei should or shouldn't do about dating is a bit sanctimonious. I put up with my student's realtionships, divorces, conflicts on and off the mat, losing students because they have broken up with another memere of the dojo, etc. This is all part of being human. This is what people's lives are made up of. My students can damn well put up with my own attempts to find what I'd like in my own life, just like they are.

People need to have a bit of compassion and take a look at what they think their "Sensei" represents. I remember when I was going through a divorce it was one of the most difficult times of my life. I woke up every morning and the first thing I did was throw up. It was all I could do to function at all yet I had a student come up to me and complain that my classes weren't as inspiring as they had been. It was all I could do to get on the mat at that point. But I was making every class, I wasn't shirking my responsibilities. But this person felt, and I assume that others, not so bold, felt that way, that I wasn't being entertaining enough as I usually was.

Aikido teachers are regular human beings just like everybody else. Their position requires them to behave ethically but it doesn't require them to be monks or forego the basic human interactions that their stuidents take for granted. I see my responsibility to be straight and above board with all of my students about what goes on in my life. If I am dating someone at the dojo it won't be a secret.The vast majority of the abuse of power situations involving Senseis involved secrecy, deception, predatory activities, etc. these were not normal people attempting to have normal relationships.

So I would say ease up a bit and stop placing your teacher so high on a pedetal that he or she can only disappoint you. They have the same stuff going on in their lives as everybody else and those that pretend not to are probably lying.

aikidoc
05-07-2004, 05:35 PM
George's points are well taken, especially for professional instructors and those meeting others at seminars-it is their life. Even though the visible ones can create problems, its the behind the scenes and secretive relationships that are likely to be more problematic. In an instructor student relationship, favoritism, however, can be destructive. Care must be taken in such relationships to not disrupt the dojo. However, if you own it, it's your foot so you do have the right to shoot it.

Doka
05-07-2004, 05:58 PM
George has perfect aim on the head of the nail. In fact, I know fellow instructors who will only date non-aikidoka. He is a single dad now and puts it down to martial arts!!! My wife is an aikidoka and I can train whenever I want, but I do consider her always and don't disappear all the time (at least not without her) to seminar!

Erik
05-07-2004, 06:06 PM
Wow this question has everything going for it, sex, drugs, violence... Well two out of three ain't bad!

Indeed, it's just livened up a bit.

How many students think it's OK to tell their teachers, hey please keep your stinky relationship mess out of the dojo (respectfullly of course), because I agree with those who say you have to keep it out but if no one is brave enough to tell you when you're over the line then how will you know if you're over the line?

Well, how many students will walk up to a teacher, let's say a particularly senior teacher (I have a couple in mind but I'll leave it at that), and have this sort of discussion? In the first place it's likely to require a senior student, one who has invested much in the dojo, and that alone provides both a disincentive and if it's a regular behavior a long borne acceptance. In other words, with the exception of a few rare folks it doesn't happen.

DGLinden
05-07-2004, 06:26 PM
George,
You really need to quit holding it all in and let us know what you really think.
Dan

kironin
05-07-2004, 11:15 PM
Your disagreement does not make it any less true. Sorry. Aikido is a cult of personality. Bottom line.


The worst experiences I have had have been in dojos that either are like this or attempt to be like this. I think it's a pretty sad state of affairs that some senior teachers actually think this is the way things have to be.

Craig

kironin
05-07-2004, 11:23 PM
I think a lot of this stuff about what the Sensei should or shouldn't do about dating is a bit sanctimonious. I put up with my student's realtionships, divorces, conflicts on and off the mat, losing students because they have broken up with another memere of the dojo, etc. This is all part of being human. This is what people's lives are made up of. My students can damn well put up with my own attempts to find what I'd like in my own life, just like they are.


RIGHT ON! Brother!

ALL of it! Say it again!

excellent!!!!!
Craig
:D

Jeffrey A. Fong
05-08-2004, 11:05 AM
One of the things that I appreciate most about this forum is the breadth of discussion - and here it is, in all its glory! Folks, this is not about whether aididoka have the right to have relationships or whether sensei are "just folk"; to conceptualize the issue in these terms distorts the issue. And once again, the problem is not whether the dojo's "Godhead" is entitled to scratch an itch, its whether this sort of indulgence should occur within the context of a professional relationship. That's what it is, isn't it. As your student, I pay you, I respect you, I bow to you, I trust you....etc. Right? Additionally, it is because we are all "human" that we have to make sure we ritualistically observe certain rules during the course of interactions, because it is so human to err. Ethics are not meant to be convenient. They represent the core of character, individually and socially. While it may be politically incorrect to advise one to be dogmatic in such circumstances, one runs the risk of the sort of relativism that is being offered by some that clarifies nothing and helps no one. Ouch.... I think I just had a stroke :)

DanielR
05-08-2004, 01:01 PM
While it may be politically incorrect to advise one to be dogmatic in such circumstances, one runs the risk of the sort of relativism that is being offered by some that clarifies nothing and helps no one. But Jeffrey, aren't you running the exact same risk when advising one to be dogmatic? The application of ethics as you suggest here hasn't been made into a law, which makes it non-absolute in the societal sense. Then it's relative as well, isn't it?

Jeffrey A. Fong
05-08-2004, 03:13 PM
Unfortunately, law and ethics are not always one in the same. Principles, ethics, spirtual beliefs, or whatever one wishes to call them, are not cast in stone, but reflect our community's consensus of what is "right" or "wrong." Arbitrary? You bet. Absolute? Only by definition. Its faith in the principle(s) that allows us to trust one another both on and off the mat.

DGLinden
05-08-2004, 04:30 PM
Jeff,
Actually, The whole idea of the evolution of human understanding is that certain of these 'principles, ethics and spiritual beliefs' are, in fact 'Cast In Stone'. The symbol of the monolith, that rock in the Muslim religion. Or the stone tablets in Judeo/Christian faith

The story of the the ten commandments, in fact, illustrates that very notion; that certain of men's moral imperatives are not open to discussion or interpretation. "Thou shall not steal." is carved in stone.

Oh, and that other one about adultery? Well, maybe we can mess around with the interpretations of that, for Sensei.

To a large extent George is correct in that most serious teachers are all about their dojos and have a limited amount of time to 'cruise for chicks'. So be it. And there are a lot of really fine men and women out there who have found loving, lasting soul-mates on the mat. Really, I think this thread was Jun's subtle attempt at having the community address the issue of abuse of authority situations, because there are simply too many success stories for Sensei/Student dating to be perceived as a sanctionable problem.

Lachlan Kadick
05-08-2004, 05:54 PM
Is there really much of an arguement in this? Aikido is a philosophy and a martial arts, and the instructor is just the person who teachs it to us, if a student and an instructor wish to have a relationship, why can't they?

Jeanne Shepard
05-08-2004, 06:17 PM
Due to a personal experience, I thought i knew exactly how I felt about this question, but, mainly because of the arguments pro and con, I'm not so sure anymore.
What a great thread!

Jeanne

Kenny
05-09-2004, 01:28 AM
People need to have a bit of compassion and take a look at what they think their "Sensei" represents. ...
So I would say ease up a bit and stop placing your teacher so high on a pedestal that he or she can only disappoint you. They have the same stuff going on in their lives as everybody else and those that pretend not to are probably lying.
No not just a little compassion a lot of compassion, it's what I want from my teachers as they observe my feeble attempts to master this amazing art and like respect the more you give the more you'll recieve and with 100% certainty that your teacher is just someone who's walked the path longer than you and maybe just maybe when they lose their center, "simply recognize it sooner, and get back faster."

arderljohn
05-09-2004, 01:46 AM
For me. It's okey, and it depends on the situation. like if the Instructor is single or vice versa thats better. but, if both party is no longer free or one of them are married they better and part ways. to avoid the trouble...
remenber, Aikido is art of love and peace. :)

Kenny
05-09-2004, 02:35 AM
Well, how many students will walk up to a teacher, let's say a particularly senior teacher (I have a couple in mind but I'll leave it at that), and have this sort of discussion? In the first place it's likely to require a senior student, one who has invested much in the dojo, and that alone provides both a disincentive and if it's a regular behavior a long borne acceptance. In other words, with the exception of a few rare folks it doesn't happen.
This is one of the least talked about dynamics in the dojo (or any master apprentice relationship).
The student's responsibility to be honest with their teacher. Which is exactly why I think the most valuable thing we as students can do is be/speak honestly to our teachers about those difficult things. People all over the place are dying to tell them how great their Nikyu is and how good that class was and what great thing they learned last week thanks to the lesson. That's not how they became what they are so why is it all they need now? Gratitude, respect hell yeah give it to them in spades.
I heard someone say the other day "when you keep something difficult from your spouse you rob them of the privilege of living up to their vows."
This really encapsulates how I feel about, "I didn't say anything because I wasn't sure how you'd take it".
When I step out there to the front of the class I'm asking everyone in the dojo for their most sincere attack. Hell who cares if you can kick my ass it's been done before and I don't think I really learned alot from it. But if you can help me cut through the fog surrounding my truth then all of us will move on the path to becoming true human beings.

Bryant Pierpont
05-09-2004, 06:44 PM
There are major differences between an Aikido Sensei and club presidents.

We don't bow to stamp club presidents. We don't put our life (or at least health ;-) ) in their hands. We don't grab each other in chess clubs. Sitting in front of the class, we make you the Sensei. During that class, we need to follow you. O'Sensei taught spirituality as well as defense. We can't avoid that reality...as difficult as it may be to honor it.

Aikido isn't a hobby. Not really. I don't expect perfection from my teachers. But, they expect me to respect the dojo and to never take advantage of a weaker student to make a technique look better.

I expect the same of them...for all kinds of techniques.

I don't live in a fairy-tale land. Things will happen but they should be the rarest of exception and never casual.

Ledyard-Sensei - I know you are a great teacher. I mean that with total sincerity and I have total respect for that. But, there are other places to meet people. As a student, I want to believe the special attention I get is for pure reasons.

Those of us who teach (I don't teach Aikido or budo of any form) have a unique role and a unique responsibility...much like those of us in supervisory roles in companies. We can't date our employees. I know from personal experience how easy and how destructive that can be. We have to find another way.

I sincerely apologize if I seem sanctimonious.

Bryant

GaiaM
05-09-2004, 08:28 PM
[QUOTE]As a student, I want to believe the special attention I get is for pure reasons.[QUOTE]

This is very important, but I don't think it is impossible to reconcile with Ledyard Sensei's post, which I also agree with. It is a sensei's responsibility to not let sexual interest/tension influence their interaction with students in the dojo. However, if a student and sensei meet through the dojo but get to know each other outside of this setting, there is nothing inherently wrong with that relationship.

My sensei is one of my closest friends. We didn't know each other until I became his student. It is certainly interesting to know him in both ways, but it works. Dating is somewhat different because there is more potential for getting hurt, but the idea is the same. Inside the dojo, I receive attention based on my technique and my dedication to the dojo. My relationship to him as my teacher is very very strong. I have immese respect for both his aikido and his teaching style and I show that respect in the appropriate ways. But outside the dojo we are just friends and we joke around and give each other a hard time equally. We have been there for each other in hard times and shared lots of good ones, just like close friends should.

I think all this is possible in a romantic relationship as well, as long as both people are able keep the two separate (dojo and non-dojo). That said, there are plenty of good reasons to NOT date your students. Each person must make their own decision, weighing the risks and and potential cost to the dojo community carefully. Same goes for relationships between students... But we're all human in the end and must do the best we can for ourselves and those around us. Each situation is unique...

Ok, climbing off the soap box now :-)

Gaia

kironin
05-09-2004, 10:48 PM
That's what it is, isn't it. As your student, I pay you, I respect you, I bow to you


Maybe you don't realize but many places, your payment simply goes to keep the lights on and the doors open. The teacher gets no compensation. This is not their profession or a job, yet they are willing devote a lot time, passion, and their own money to it.

Also, I have never had anyone bow to me that I am not bowing back just as deeply to them.

Craig

Ghost Fox
05-10-2004, 08:34 AM
Question - Should the senior student be held under the same restriction as the sensei? Also, should dating be kept within certain circles, e.g. mudansha dating only mudansha and yudansha dating only yudansha? For example should a yondan in the dojo be able to swoop down on some unsuspecting white belt that just joined the dojo? Just wondering where the line is.

GaiaM
05-10-2004, 10:34 AM
Relationships between dojo members have similar possible consequences as those between students and senseis. But, as I said before, the people involved in each individual situation have to weigh the risks carefully and make their own decisions.

Also as I said before, it is important to separate behavior and expectations WITHIN the dojo from those in the outside world. In the dojo, senseis and senior students have a responsibility to newer students to be role models and teachers and function within the traditions of dojo behavior. However, outside of the dojo we are all just people. A yondan might be interested in a 5th kyu or vice versa and it might be the 5th kyu who is the older or more mature. So please, don't impose "restrictions" on people - just remember that your friendship or relationship should stay as separate as possible from your AIKIDO relationship.

This means that you have to get to know someone outside of the aikido world. I think before anyone considers starting a relationship within the dojo community they should spend time together doing things entirely unrelated to aikido. This is just one of many ways to decrease the chances of an uncomfortable situation for the individuals and the dojo community.

Gaia

Robert Rumpf
05-10-2004, 10:35 AM
I agree with the point made above that it is only natural and healthy for people with common interests to meet and get involved. Any problems that develop out of that were there in those people beforehand, and are most likely there afterwards too.

Given the extensive legal framework in place (in America) to potentially punish against almost any sort of infraction real or imagined, not to mention the possible damage that even frivolous, vindictive accusations can cause, there is ample room for people to fight abuse if it becomes a problem.

Also.. from the whole power relationship perspective, have you have seen a relationship between two people who were equal in all things? There is always some sort of inequality, and it is in fact that inequality that provides the dynamic of a relationship. Two individuals balanced in each and every particular would most likely bore each other.

I think that the give and take in terms of power in a relationship is analagous to the shifting of weight between feet that must happen for someone to move. If one insists on spreading one's weight equally between both feet continuously, than one can't walk.

One can argue that two people should be in a relationship balanced overall, but that is a different thing than saying that they should have equal power in all areas of their respective lives.

That said, I think that there should be a grace period with respect to people new to the art being approached - at least if you expect to see them stay. I have seen plenty of successful relationships between senior aikidoka, and some even between seniors and juniors. I have also seen some new students scared off, presumably by an amorous senior. I think it is better to let people acclimate to the art and the dojo culture for 3 - 6 months or so before trying to complicate things with other types of involvement.

Past a certain point, adults need to be responsible for assessing the risks to themselves and others as well as the potential gains and acting on that assessment. Other people need to leave them alone until it affects them, or until the person is no longer capable of protecting themselves.

Here's a question: anyone in a dojo with any explicit relationship prohibitions of any nature? How are they enforced, and what happens when people break the rules?

Rob

GaiaM
05-10-2004, 11:12 AM
I'd also be interested to hear from people who have attempted these relationships... did it work? what, if any, problems did it bring up? Aikido is a big part of my life andI expect to face this dilemma eventually. I would love some insight... Perhaps we need to move this conversation to the anonymous forum?
Gaia

AsimHanif
05-10-2004, 11:13 AM
In response to Craigs reply,
there's a big difference between being a celibate monk and being an instructor who doesn't misuse his authority. The maturity I speak of relates to the ethics of being a teacher. Of course being an instructor doesn't mean you know it all but I believe an instructor has an ethical duty to not go there.
As for saying it's not the same as an academic situation, I agree. It may be more damaging because the student is seeking a growth in far more delicate areas than a grade. The repercussions can be potentially more damaging.
This doesn't mean that a student and teacher can't connect on a romatic level in the dojo. I just feel that if they are intent on pursuing the relationship it would be responsible for the student (or instructor) to continue practice at another dojo. Matters of the heart are about responsibility not convenience.
I agree with John about the potential for sexual harassment issues to arise.
On a practical note, it seems that as aikidoists were train to mitigate potential hazards down the road - why not this???
Ledyard Sensei, I usually agree with you on many issues but not on this one. I have seen it too many times. I'm sure some of us have also seen the "disciple" syndrom, wear some student takes every word from their instructor as gospel. All of this is very damaging behavior. Who is really in control? Aikido is about balance and for an instructor to not have the heart to go outside of his own dojo to seek romance is weak.
I am getting the feeling that some instructors are trying to justify their insecurities and that the only way they can troll for dates is to use the dojo environment. It's easy to be on the mat but once they get off they are at a loss.
Next person, can have the soap box now.

George S. Ledyard
05-10-2004, 11:28 AM
Those of us who teach (I don't teach Aikido or budo of any form) have a unique role and a unique responsibility...much like those of us in supervisory roles in companies. We can't date our employees. I know from personal experience how easy and how destructive that can be. We have to find another way.

I sincerely apologize if I seem sanctimonious.

Bryant
Hi Bryant,
Certainly no offense taken. What you say is probably the ideal. Things are certainly much simpler in a dojo when you aren't having a relationship there. That's true for the students and it's true for the teacher. But I think there is still an underlying issue that is unstated here. I think it is the fundamental uncertainty which goes with a relationship that people find so distressing in the dojo. When a relationship is in it initial stages everything is uncertain and people are trying to work out how they will relate as they go forward. Since this would include how they would relate in the dojo it makes things uncertain for everyone since the dojo is a complex web of social interactions.

I agree that it is not the ideal place to go through this process but realistically, especially for someone who is a professional instructor, it's going to happen. The people who insist that there is something unethical about his are unrealistically harsh I believe.

I don't think people feel this way about the Sensei being married to someone who trains at the dojo... As I stated earlier, most of the senior teachers I know are divorced from someone who didn't train and are re-married to someone who does train, except for the few who met someone on the mat at the start and never got divorced. Whether this works or not depends on the people, just like everything does. But I don't think folks see this as the same thing as dating within the dojo. So I think it is the uncertainty which makes it a problem for people. Once the relationship is clearly a long term committed one, I think people no longer feel that it threatens the harmony of the dojo (it may enhance it).

In a small company one of you would be expected to leave if you got married. In a larger one an effort would be made to move you to different divisions and you would never work directly with each other. I don't think that anyone thinks this should happen in a dojo (although there are probably some cases in which they wish it would). I can just see Saotome Sensei asking his wife, Patty Saotome (a teacher in her own right), to train in another organization or Ikeda Sensei asking his wife to train at another dojo in town. Linda Holliday Sensei's husband trains and teaches at her dojo. None of this is seen as out of the ordinary.

So it seems to me that what people have the most difficulty with is not the relationship within the dojo but rather the forming and developing of the relationship. Once everything is pretty stable with a nice assigned status such as Husband or Wife, things change.

It's a lot about what your expectations are rather than any actual details of the situation. I met my second wife at the dojo. For the students who were there at the time it was probably weird but they handled it. When the new folks enrolled my partner was there already. No one thought anything about it because it was just the way things were when they started. When I got divorced those people noticed when my partner wasn't there any more. But the people who started after that didn't know the difference. So a relationship went through an entire cycle, start to finish, and the dojo lived through all of it just fine. Only a couple of people in the dojo actually trained long enough to see the whole thing. This is what happens in people's lives. Whereas, it might be ideal to compartmentalize everything and keep it all separate I don't think that's likely to happen very often.

Bryant Pierpont
05-10-2004, 06:52 PM
Hi Ledyard:Sensei:

Thank you for taking the time to reply. I agree that once the status is permanent (or maybe established is a better word - I'm on my second marriage), everyone is much more comfortable. My concern is the "predatory" teacher. I've seen it in dojos, businesses, and other arenas. The result is always catastrophic...at least initially.

We are also totally in agreement that the perfect world doesn't exist - and it probably wouldn't be much fun anyway.

B

Doka
05-10-2004, 06:59 PM
I think this is where a lot of disagreement has come about. People are talking about different things. In the most part, those who are for are thinking about trusting, loving and long term relationships, and those who are against are thinking of the sexual predator.

Maybe "date" was the wrong word - open to too many interpretations. "Have a relationship with" would have been better, or "prey on" would be clearer in the later example.

I have ejected people (including instructors) from my dojo for the crime of "preying" on students. My heart is in joy when I see two entering in to a loving relationship.

Jeanne Shepard
05-10-2004, 07:37 PM
I doubt that anyone who "preys" on his(her students is like ly to admit it, or be insightful enough to realize that that is what they are doing. Most of these people would simply say they were "pursuing relationships."

Jeanne

Doka
05-10-2004, 07:43 PM
You would think!!! But they do!!!