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01-02-2005, 01:30 AM
AikiWeb Poll for the week of January 2, 2005:

Do you think your aikido organization would surive without its chief instructor(s)?

I don't do aikido
Yes
No
Our dojo is not part of an organization


Here are the current results (http://www.aikiweb.com/polls/results.html?poll_id=254).

Joe Bowen
01-02-2005, 11:59 PM
First, I'm assuming that by "Chief Instructor(s)", you are referring to the folks that started the organizations, like for example, Yamada Sensei in the USAF East, Saotome Sensei in the ASU, or Youn Sensei in the KAF. Second, I'm assuming that when you say "without" that the Chief Instructor(s) have either passed on or have retired, but have not left the organization under less than honorable circumstances (like say, being arrested and sentenced to 8 yrs for statutory rape).
Given these assumptions, I can point to two prime examples of organizations surviving without their chief instructors. First and perhaps best so far is the American Aikido Association. After, Toyota Sensei's unfortunate death (God rest his soul), the technical direction has fallen onto the shoulders of Andrew Sato Sensei (6th Dan) who I might add seems to be doing an excellent job. True, Toyota Sensei's widow is still involved in the administration of the AAA, and Toyota Sensei's son is training to eventually fulfill the top spot of the organization. Will this cause trouble for the AAA? Perhaps. I've only met Sato Sensei, and the Toyota Family on a limited number of occasions, and I am not a member of the AAA, but based on my limited impression of all three of them, I think they'll be alright. They all seem to be level-headed, well-grounded people.
Second example, is the Iwama organization. Now here is an interesting case. Some might say the organization died with Saito Sensei and the new Iwama Ryu Aikido organization which split recently from the Aikikai is not a continuation of Saito Sensei's organization, but I beg to differ. Whatever the reasons for Saito Jr's split from the Aikikai, his decision actually continues Saito Sensei's organization. Here's the reasoning. Iwama dojo Dan certificates were issued by Aikikai Hombu, however, the Aiki Ken and Jo certifications were not, and were unique to Iwama. Isoyama Sensei's installation as the Dojocho of the Iwama Dojo ensures that quality Aikido instruction will take place and the Aikido tradition will continue, but it does not ensure the Saito tradition will continue. While I'm pretty confident (but not a 100% sure) that Saito Jr was offered some type of position in the organization that was going to replace his fathers administration at the Iwama dojo, there probably was no guarantee that things would remain the same. Saito Sensei's Dream would not be the same. Now, don't misunderstand me. I honestly think Isoyama Sensei is the right man for the job, imminently qualified to run the Iwama dojo and if I were Doshu and had a 8th Dan willing to assume the mantel, I'd take him over a 5th or 6th Dan any day. All I'm saying is that Saito Jr's decision to split, actually ensures the continuation of his father's methodology of instruction and Aikido tradition.
So, can organizations survive without their chief instructor(s)? Most definitely, will they change? Most assuredly.

joe

PeterR
01-03-2005, 12:07 AM
Under the above conditions.

The JAA continues to thrive long after Tomiki K.'s death.

The organization founded by Kobyashi K. in Osaka continues to function as does the one founded by Benson Tanaka. Lot's of examples of such.

How many examples are there of total disintegration when 7th or 8th Dan level heads of organizations died. Individual dojos are another matter.

Jorge Garcia
01-03-2005, 09:16 AM
I think that the answer to the question if an organization can survive without it's chief instructor is that "it depends". It depends if the organization has a successor in place and mechanisms for the orderly transition of authority. The Midwest Aikido Federation was extremely stable until it's founder and chief instructor, Akira Tohei sensei passed away. He had no successor and the federation has gradually whittled itself down to a shadow of what it once was. I think what little is left of it is in doubt due to its small size and so many major defections. The AAA is also a well established organization and had a little trouble during the initial transition but this latest development may not bode well because the rank and file must perceive the replacement of a chief instructor to be fair and not political in nature. If the rank and file lose respect for the top, then things can devolve quickly.I think the lesson that the MAF learned is that family name and founder memory is not always enough.
Best,

akiy
01-03-2005, 11:07 AM
I wonder if this somehow prompted the question for the poll?
Nope. Not at all.

Hmm. I should have asked people to stay away from naming specific individuals and organizations in this thread as well...

-- Jun

Jorge Garcia
01-03-2005, 12:12 PM
Sorry Jun. I thought that was only for the "Frauds" thread for obvious reasons. I didn't realize the rule was universal since I don't post all that much but I am glad to comply.
Best,

Qatana
01-03-2005, 07:38 PM
It kinda defeats the purpose of a discussion to be limited to "yes" "no" maybe" and 'I don't do aikido".If we have to stop naming names in the context of a discussion, there won't be much left to talk about, will there? if we can't even let on what association we belong to or are referring to.

Discussion is one thing. Possible slander is quite another,and I can understand and support Jun's caution, but context does need to include content at times...

NagaBaba
01-03-2005, 09:26 PM
Aikido organizations have pyramidal structure and are based rather on charisma of head instructor. So if he disappears, members must find another charismatic teacher. It is very difficult process even with designed successor. Gasp between heads of present federations and next generation of their students is enormous so finding charismatic 6th dan instructor as a new head organization that is wide accepted by his pairs is almost impossible.

The only solution I see for the moment is kind of cooperation between heads of dojo from this organization based on friendship, and not on political games.
Otherwise organization will fell apart and a million new organizations will appear, as we see in karate example.

I sincerely hope that present federation’s leaders are well aware of these problems and working hard to create such friendship.

john.burn
01-04-2005, 06:00 AM
We lost our chief instructor back in may 2003 and thankfully, we're all still going strong. After Tom died his wife Barbara took over the reigns and became the head of our association.

So yes, it can be done! :)

Jorge Garcia
01-04-2005, 06:09 AM
This is really disturbing news because when an organization takes out it's chief instructor, they need to have a really good reason and that reason needs to be made known. Otherwise, it creates a terrific vacuum for rumors and untruths to flourish and that can also hurt said chief instructor and his family. It is interesting to me to note how news does get around and how slow to come out with "official" notification the organizations are.

Charles Hill
01-04-2005, 09:11 AM
I have a friend who used to train with the MAF extensively when Tohei Sensei was still alive, but after his passing, my friend would not recommend anyone to train with them, and instead was recommending folks check out the AAA folks in the Chicago area.

I highly recommend the Glen Ellyn Aikido Club led by Judy Leppert and Aikido of Harvard led by Terry Leonard. Both clubs have stayed in the MAF and are made up of some really great people. What happened with the MAF, in my opinion, is what happens with almost all organizations. The leader fails to clearly think what what he/she wants to happen after death and to implement that plan. We all seem to have a hard time thinking about our inevitable demise.

Charles

akiy
01-04-2005, 11:28 AM
Jun, all due respect for the rules, but isn't part of the purpose of the forum to allow information about the changes going on in the "Aikido World" to be spread?
Yes, of course. I just did not want the thread on a general subject to be taken over by one specific example.

-- Jun

Bronson
01-04-2005, 03:27 PM
Yes, because it has.

Bronson

akiy
01-04-2005, 04:08 PM
The posts regarding the AAA and Andrew Sato sensei have been split into a new thread here:

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7264

(Just to keep this poll separate from that subject...)

-- Jun

tedehara
01-06-2005, 05:37 AM
When a CEO dies or leaves a business, the board tries to get the best person to replace the position. In the case of AAA and MAF, they did not do this. They looked within their own organizations to find another Chief-Instructor. They did not look outside their "company".

While most people with twenty years in Aikido are considered experienced, my Chief-Instructor has double that time in. I cannot find anyone in the region, who has done Aikido longer. When I started, I could have jointed under Toyoda Sensei or Tohei Sensei, but I decided to go with Eley Sensei. He wasn't Japanese, but it didn't matter to me, since I wanted to learn Aikido. He was a good instructor then, right now he's so good it's almost scary. As far as I know, he was never approached by either organizations.

Both AAA and MAF are strong enough organizations to do a global search. This would be a possible response for a corporation that was replacing a CEO position. If a family does not have a member in the business, like a mini-doshu, they have to be willing to spend the bucks to get someone good.

There are organizations that have lasted for centuries and are still in existence today. There is no reason why an Aikido organization should fold, once it's founding Chief-Instructor is gone.

Jorge Garcia
01-06-2005, 10:20 AM
When a CEO dies or leaves a business, the board tries to get the best person to replace the position. In the case of AAA and MAF, they did not do this. They looked within their own organizations to find another Chief-Instructor. They did not look outside their "company".

Both AAA and MAF are strong enough organizations to do a global search. This would be a possible response for a corporation that was replacing a CEO position. If a family does not have a member in the business, like a mini-doshu, they have to be willing to spend the bucks to get someone good.

.

Ted, I think that you have brought up an interesting point. That is that there are other factors besides "the best person available" for replacing a chief instructor. A regular corporation would do a global search. As a matter of fact, many companies have policies against hiring at that level from within because they feel it could become "incestuous" and they see the need for fresh ideas and new blood. Look at the situation with Porter Goss and the CIA going on right now. In Aikido though, we develop loyalties toward the chief instructor, his style, his memory and sometimes, his family. Also, there is a troubling tendency for aikido followers to have a cult-like mentality toward our leaders to the point of obsession. That is one of the reasons we don't do a "global search".

aikidoc
01-06-2005, 10:57 AM
"When a CEO dies or leaves a business, the board tries to get the best person to replace the position. In the case of AAA and MAF, they did not do this. They looked within their own organizations to find another Chief-Instructor. They did not look outside their "company"."

Ted, I can't comment on the MAF. However, in regards to the AAA, where would they have looked? The owners of AAA-the Toyoda family-want to perpetuate the aikido of Toyoda Sensei. To do so, you have to find someone who has trained under him long enough to be extremely familiar with all aspects of his aikido. You are not going to find that in someone outside. AAA/AAI is Toyoda Sensei's legacy and the only way it can be passed on is by those familar with him, his values, his goals and his art. The former chief instructor had studied with him for 25 years exclusively. Whether it was the right decision in retrospect is not for me to judge, but Sato sensei was one of many logical choices.

The problem with most aikido organizations, and MAF was an example as well, is a lack of what businesses refer to as "succession planning". In business (when I worked in it) we put together succession plans by identifying potential candidates, identifying experiences/training needed, and determining whether they were likely able to move into a certain position and within what timeframe. These were formalized documents. Moves within the organization were made. For example training someone to be CEO might require movement into multiple departments within the company (engineers going to manufacturing for example). I wonder if any large aikido organization right now has a succession plan or has given much thought to successors and formalization of this process. This could be a critical issue in upcoming years since most of the top shihan are getting into the risk age bracket. Unexpected events can also occur-Toyoda's death was sudden and unexpected.

Jorge Garcia
01-06-2005, 12:27 PM
John Rigg's comments are interesting because Daito ryu went through a similar succession problem when Tokimune Takeda died and that whole controversy about succession that they had. That situation was aggravated by a lack of clarity as their ongoing debate demonstrates. The Daito ryu Roppokai is different in that although Soshi Okamoto sensei is still active and giving seminars, they have a strong board of directors and his successor has already been appointed and is in place ready to succeed him when he goes. It would be great if the Aikido groups could have as much wisdom.

Peter Goldsbury
01-07-2005, 05:05 AM
Interesting thread.

I think the question is bound up with some cultural differences.

In medieval Japan (I am thinking mainly of the early shogunate under the Hojo regents), long before any theory of budo appeared, the concept of 'dou' became prevalent and applied basically to wealthy individuals who had the means and the leisure to pursue 'shugyou' or training. For ordinary Japanese, simply surviving was itself a kind of shugyou.

Later on, during the Genroku era (mid-Tokugawa), there was an explosion of general interest in 'Zen' arts (i.e., arts leading to some form of 'enlightenment') and the concept of 'dou' gave rise to that of 'iemoto'. In other words, the 'dou' paradigm meant the allegiance to an individual teacher by individual students, whereas the 'iemoto' paradigm meant allegiance to the organization by large numbers of students.

The Aikikai Hombu fits the iemoto paradigm very well and Mitsuteru Ueshiba is presently being groomed to become the fourth Doshu. However, the iemoto paradigm has not really extended to local Aikikai organizations, both in Japan and abroad. I have myself asked some prominent Hombu shihans what steps they have taken to ensure that the art thay have spent their lives teaching survives to a new generation and the answers have been varied. One shihan, very traditional, thought that his art would die with him. All he could do was to show his inheritance from Morihei Ueshiba and leave it at that: it was up to his students to develop their own aikido, based on what he had taught them, and do what they thought best.

I believe my own teacher thinks in this way. His sons refused to practise aikido from very early on and so there is no family member to take on the job of chief instructor. In any case there has been a centrifugal tendency in the last few years, with all the senior instructors of shihan level starting their own dojos. So I think we will have a collegiate system, with all the senior yudansha of shihan level being involved in any major decisions, but basically running their own mini-organizations.

I think this tendency is endemic in the way the Japanese run organizations and might be one area where overseas aikido organizations have something to teach the Japanese.

aikidoc
01-07-2005, 07:07 AM
Peter's comments underscore the problem here. I think most non-Japanese members at a senior yudansha (20 plus years of training) level will struggle with being told here's the son of your leader's organization. Your job is to train him to teach you or be your chief instructor. In some cases the process here is not started at an early age but rather when the son is much older rather than like the doshu now being groomed. It's happening with one organization now and rumors have it that it has caused a major political rift. Time will tell.

tedehara
01-09-2005, 11:51 AM
This situation reminds me of the practice of using family to pass down sword instruction within clans. Just because the father was good at the sword, doesn't mean the son would be. Soon it became standard practice for the samurai to travel around to find the best teachers, since the ones provided by the clans were not always adequate to someone who really wanted to improve.

The legacy of the Chief Instructors are their students. The organizations they left are the medium that they used to develop those students. It's proper that those organizations honor their memories, but you've also got to move on.

Anyone who is really a Chief Instructor will have their own way of doing things. It doesn't matter who they studied with. This is seen in the direct students of the founder. All his students have different styles because they are different people.

Some organizations do not want innovation, they want preservation. Preservation of the status quo. Unfortunately the world is a place of change and those who do not keep up, are left behind.

Jorge Garcia
01-09-2005, 12:43 PM
This situation reminds me of the practice of using family to pass down sword instruction within clans. Just because the father was good at the sword, doesn't mean the son would be. Soon it became standard practice for the samurai to travel around to find the best teachers, since the ones provided by the clans were not always adequate to someone who really wanted to improve.

The legacy of the Chief Instructors are their students. The organizations they left are the medium that they used to develop those students. It's proper that those organizations honor their memories, but you've also got to move on.

Anyone who is really a Chief Instructor will have their own way of doing things. It doesn't matter who they studied with. This is seen in the direct students of the founder. All his students have different styles because they are different people.

Some organizations do not want innovation, they want preservation. Preservation of the status quo. Unfortunately the world is a place of change and those who do not keep up, are left behind.

That's excellent Ted. The Aikikai practice of passing the leadership from father to son is more of a symbolic feature that gives some authority within certain parameters although not absolute. Clearly, there is no intention to force one style to be the only way things are done whereas in the case John Riggs mentioned, the hope is that one style and methodology will be preserved and I think that Ted's comments indicate that trying to do that probably isn't the best idea. I think that the freedom to do it the old way is better than the rule that you must do it the old way because future generations won't have the same loyalties to the dead instructor that those who saw him had (as far as technique goes). I do my techniques like my instructor taught me, I never trained with O Sensei although we all hope they are passing on the best of O Sensei, it will still change as it goes from one person to another.

aikidoc
01-09-2005, 01:48 PM
Good points Ted and Jorge.

The family approach of handing down the art would seem to work in the modern sense only when is operates somewhat in the old ways. That is, grooming the young inheritor from an early age. When such grooming takes place there is likely less resistance to the tradtion since the inheritor has been likely groomed by the top people for years. They have and investment in the inheritor. I would see more resistance and less loyalty when the ultimate inheritor has spent little time learning the art and then gets a crash course to bring them up to speed. Now you are likely to have resentment since the inheritor may be younger than the number of years of training for senior yudansha. Senior yudansh being told in such a situation that they are responsible for training someone to be their boss would seem to me more likely to resent the assignment. I think this is likely more problematic in American dojos where the family art tradition is not a strong part of the culture.

Another problem is the flexibility issue Jorge pointed out. Forcing it to become the founders way or highway approach is not likely to work well. Especially, if the founder was flexible himself and allowed people to evolve as long as most of the testing showed his technique. When the founder dies and the organization demonstrates a lack of flexibility you are going to have fallout.

Jorge Garcia
01-09-2005, 04:23 PM
I think we have all had the experience in some low level job of having to train our supervisor that the company just hired. That just doesn't give you any respect for him and it would be worse if he was a kid with the family name because people resent the feeling that being born of privilege has its perks- especially in America. In the case that John mentioned, if the kid started young and spent 30 years as a student in class, the older ones that helped him would know that at least he paid his dues and if the dad died suddenly, they would be more than glad to help finish the job because they would know that if all things had been perfect, he would have finished in the ordinary way. When they try to fast track a kid that didn't show any previous interest, the death of the dad seems a poor reason to invest all that authority and responsibility on someone who can't possibly know what 30 years on the mat really means.

philipsmith
01-10-2005, 09:01 AM
As the son of a chief instructor I have been following this thread with more than a little interest.

I do Aikido for my own reasons and would never expect to hold a senior position on any basis other than merit. I have seen father to son transmissions in UK organisations almost all of which have caused problems.

We have a board type system where the association is run by its senior Shidoin, all of whom have autonomy as regards teaching and their students, but who co-operate over grading issues, appointment of Fukushidoin & Shidoin etc. That way we believe is why our association will remain strong even after my fathers inevitable retirement from Aikido as it avoids the cult of personality spoken of by an earlier poster.

One other issue. Sons are almost always compared to their fathers, and usually in a negative way if their parent happens to be a particularly dynamic and charismatic leader (as chief instructors tend to be). I feel that there is enough "Aikido isn't what it used to be" amongst certain sections of the greater Aikido community without adding "Well of course he's not like his father" to it.

I wonder how many talented Aikidoka we have lost because people have expected them to be likr their father?

John Boswell
01-10-2005, 11:16 AM
Philip,

I concur with you on the father-son comparison. It shouldn't happen but it does. No two people are ever the same and such debates are best left unsaid, but it is human nature to compare.

All one can do is to be true to oneself. I came to the conclusion long ago that I am my own person and refuse and sometimes put down all forms of discussion having to do with "X wasn't as good as Y." Whether it is father/son, teacher/student, founder/successor, etc. Whenever such comments come up I try to be quick in coming out with the truth:" X is NOT Y so don't even go there!"

Kato Shihan said at a seminar I was lucky enough to attend, that one's aikido needs to be fluid as water. That relates to this situation as well. When people try to compare themselves or you to another... let it roll on by. To "fight" such arguements gives validity to their argument... and that strenghtens them. Telling everyone you will allow no such remarks and end it... thus letting it pass, I believe is the best way to work it and be done with the matter.

I hope that makes sense.

All the best to you and your practice in the future! From what you have said, you have a fine organization that is well grounded and strong. I hope it is and that it remains so for many years to come. :)

NagaBaba
01-11-2005, 10:09 PM
I wonder how many talented Aikidoka we have lost because people have expected them to be likr their father?
you can be only yourself.
Not very many children of japanese shihans practice aikido, interesting, no?

skyetide
01-12-2005, 07:56 AM
Interesting thread. I wonder if it is even possible to preserve a chief instructor’s aikido after they have passed on? I would not expect the next chief to be the same. I would welcome a different perspective in keeping with the same testing requirements. This is why I attend seminars. I imagine that it will, as I progress, keep my own aikido fresh. I am fairly new to aikido, but it seems to me that it is a fluid art on several levels. How can freezing it in one shihan’s manner be healthy? Little grows in frozen ground. I think honoring the founder/shihan is good…but I wonder, if the shihan were still alive, would his aikido be the same as when he died? An instructor of mine said something interesting to me the other day. He said don’t look at where the teacher was….look to where he was going.

I am surprised that an art that (to me) is about harmony could find it’s instructors at war with each other. Perhaps I was just naïve in thinking that people who have studied such a beautiful art/way for so long would automatically believe and act in harmony. One reason I left TKD was the ugly politics that I saw as I went up in rank. I guess it is not necessarily the path that gets one to the destination.

In response to Philip’s post, I would have no problem with a son or daughter inheriting the right to an organization and having his/her own aikido…given that that person has “paid their dues” as someone else put it and not just had a “crash course”. A crash course and full take over seems, well…I’ll say it… immodest to me and a bit out of the aikido spirit. I do feel loyal to my instructors. I am so grateful to them for taking the time and having the compassion and patience to help me. I would feel disrespectful stepping into a position of power over them before I had put in a few decades of mat time….no matter what my bloodline. It would be like being given a live blade before I had barely had experience with a bokken.

aikidoc
01-12-2005, 09:18 AM
"He said don't look at where the teacher was….look to where he was going."

Excellent point Tanya. It often happens that students love their master instructor so much that they do not want to evolve their aikido beyond what he or she was teaching. Yet, if you look at the aikido of the master it evolved over time.

nellas
01-25-2006, 02:00 PM
I have had the unfortunate experience of having gone through this event on a couple of occasions (and oddly enough this topic was discussed at last night's class).

The first being nearly 10 years ago when my original sensei, Paul Sylvain Sensei (1950-1996 -- 6th Dan, Shihan - Valley Aikido, Hadley, MA - USAF) passed away in an automobile accident. Fortunately, we were a dojo with a deep bench of very experienced yudansha. Sylvain's sensei's widow (4th Dan herself) took over as dojo-cho and the chief instructor role was shared by the two senior students both who were 5th Dan (Larry Levitt and David Stier).

Due to career choices, I had moved away and after searching for a few years located a dojo to continue my training (Zenshinkan, Worcester, MA - AAA). Sadly enough, I found that we shared a common bond as they too had lost their instructor - Edward Haupt Sensei (1943-1999 -- 4th Dan). A handful of his senior students made the decision to continue the dojo on in his memory. During the first couple of years, Damon Apodaca Sensei (4th Dan -- Enshinkan Dojo - Newport, RI -- AAA, now USAF) served as our chief instructor at the recommendation of Toyota Sensei. Soon thereafter, the mantle of chief instructor transitioned directly to Toyota Sensei who served in that capacity for us until his passing in 2001.

While no loss is easy to tolerate, having long-term and dedicated students in a dojo that can assume the mantle of leadership and continue its operation is a huge asset that can make the transition easier. While no one person can fully capture and transmit the skills and experience of a teacher who has passed, those that remain have incorporated bits and pieces of their teacher and that teacher's influence will go on. This has been true throughout the lineage of Aikido - O'Sensei may be gone but those who have been directly taught by him have passed on their knowledge to those who come after.

Remember that tomorrow is promised to no one and yesterday gets harder to remember as time passes. For those of you who have not lost a teacher, count yourself lucky and take full advantage of each class that you do have and glean as much knowledge as you can for you never know when you may be called upon to carry the torch.