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senshincenter
01-18-2006, 01:11 PM
Dear Mr. Valadez:

I'm a spanish aikido practitioner who occasionally reads the aikiweb forums.

I have found your posts insightful even in the rare occasions when i don't share your points of view about some subjects. Sometimes i think i don't really understand you because my poor english skills added to your writing style (only joking about your writing style).

I've also started to read some of your writings in your webpage, and also found them very interesting, but one of these writings in particular is giving me trouble.

Enough trouble that I was thinking to start a thread about it in the aikiweb forums, but thinking twice about it, concluded it coud be better to approach you via PM and share with you my concerns.

I'm talking about this:"Arriving" (http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/writs/exchanges/arriving.html)

I feel there are deep thoughts in this dialogue, like in your other writings, and i'm putting myself to do more than scratching the surface of them.

I'm not asking you to explain the philosophy of your writings because i'm sure you have more interesting things to do and, more important, because is a thing that i feel i have to do by myself.

However, i think the "Arrival" is, at least in its surface, misleading to prospective students. Quoting an Aikido instructor whose writings i also have found as insighful as yours:

A martial arts school should have a good set of roots. The instructor should be able to say where he or she studied. It should be possible to ask his or her instructor or organization for a reference. There are instructors that have caused problems for an organization and transferred to another organization or teach freelance to hide from their past.

Now, there is my question:

Don't you think "Arriving" can be misinterpreted by some people, and this misinterpretation can drive someone under an unethical instructor?

Thanks for your time.

Yours,

(name omitted)

(Name Omitted),

Please feel free to call me Dave. Thank you very much for taking the time to write. You can also always reach me through my private email - senshincenter@impulse.net. Additionally, you should feel free to start any thread in relation on our writings, videos, etc., whenever youd like - I think that is perfectly fine, so no worries there please. And, by the way, your English is certainly very good - so I'm sure it is my writing style that is at fault when it comes to ease of understanding.

I agree with you - at least to some degree. For me - I think one of the main points of the exchange is not so much that one cannot ask these questions or that an instructor should never have to answer them, etc. Rather the point is that a student, any student, should not (in this case) believe that he or she will gain any more insight into an instructor's skill (to perform and to teach) by hearing of his/her "credentials" than by watching and/or doing class. In short, the exchange, in a way, is a critique against the idea that paperwork makes the aikidoka, the teacher, or the dojo.

If you will allow me to note a few things from the exchange...

I think it is important to read that the prospective student has given witness to the fact that what he/she saw was some of the best Aikido he/she has ever seen. Additionally, it is important to note that the sensei asks him/her if his/her question is in regards to being able to learn within the dojo - to which the deshi answers "yes."

In summary, you have a person supposing that he cannot learn from some of the best Aikido he/she has ever seen until he/she gains the false guarantees of institutional paperwork. In a way, the instructor is saying, "You should not feel that institutional documentation should be the center of your training." The instructor is not really saying, I will not tell you of such things, so you should not ask of such things. The latter is very different from the former.

Therefore, it is not so much that the sensei does not want to speak of these things. After all, he/she suggests that they are not only there but that they would indeed impress the deshi (now knowing what kind of deshi he/she is dealing with). It is more that the sensei is trying to bring the student to what is actually real about training - the sensei/deshi relationship in and of itself. This is why the teacher tells the deshi that such questions are fair to ask - fair enough for any teacher. However, this is why he says that such questions may not be very fair to the (i.e. this particular) deshi asking them. The implication is that they are not fair here to this deshi that is trying to be so careful with his/her decision to train.

Nevertheless, the deshi continues onward, repeating the logic that he/she cannot commit to a teacher regardless of what he/she has seen first hand but only through what others have said should be there second-hand. He/she asks, Should not all sound decisions be based upon all relevant information? At this point, the teacher focuses in on the words relevant information, and he/she understands them in terms of committing to ones training and/or to ones sensei/deshi relationship. The sensei then gives the only real qualities that should support a deshis level of commitment, the only attributes that are truly relevant to a sensei/deshi relation. He/she says, You have watched class and determined that there is quality in what you have seen. You are looking for a place to train. Please feel free to train here as long as those two things remain relevant. What is it the teacher is saying to this deshi, this deshi that is so caught up in the institution that he/she cannot even believe what he/she is seeing with his/her own eyes, this deshi that needs some sort of cultural fiction to tell him/her what to believe? The teacher tells him/her, to really commit to a sensei/deshi relationship, all you need is a desire to commit and a sense that you are committing to something of quality.

I think, in my opinion, this exchanges points to something that is very troubling in Aikido today. I am not sure how ready the world of Aikido is to see this or to hear this. However, it is my feeling that for Aikido to progress, and/or even to meet its often-stated ideals, aikidoka will have to get back to what is real in the art and in the practice. For me, that means that one will have to, in many ways, and for many reasons, seek to gain some distance from the fictions that today support the art. In my opinion, the supposed guarantee of institutional paperwork is one of those fictions we should look to distance ourselves from. What is real does not require such guarantees. Thus, we should be very skeptical of those things or of those persons that feel they need such things.

Additionally, I think it is might ease some of the pains that come from going from what is not real to what is real if one remembers that this takes place in a dojo where any deshi is free to enter a trail period a month long trial period, one free obligation and total commitment. Our dojo believes that to enter a dojo is no light matter. We believe this so much that we allow potential members to learn all they can learn about the dojo with no obligation to the dojo they are to get on the mat and train, come to our gatherings, have long discussions with me as dojocho, raise issues and questions at the end of class, participate in our email list, etc. There is no need for dues, no need for a gi or any other piece of equipment (all will be provided), no need to following etiquette strictly, no need to meet the two day a week minimum training requirement, no need to fulfill the intended training schedule protocol, etc. The only thing a potential member should do during this trial month period is to get to know the dojo as much as possible to determine if the dojo can actually meet his/her needs and/or desires (however accurately or inaccurately these things are known). For us, this is much more safe, cautionary, and worthy of the weight of the decision being made than simply saying, Look newbie, here are my papers. As you can read, you should obviously be training here. Additionally, one might be eased by remembering that this is taking place where any deshi can freely read the history of the instructor in question on the dojo website and/or hear it from other deshi who have already committed to the dojo even hear it from the instructor himself when the issue is raised under different conditions.

As for giving folks the wrong impression Im not sure any writer can take credit for the interpretation of his/her reader. However, I will try to remain mindful of such things.

Again, many thanks,
dmv
ps. I will go ahead and post this as a thread as a sign of good faith and appreciation toward you for having raised these issues. Ill leave it to you to go public or remain anonymous either way is fine with me.

Writing in question: http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/writs/exchanges/arriving.html

Demetrio Cereijo
01-19-2006, 10:56 AM
Dave,

Thanks for answering my question, and explaining the purpose of this particular exhcange as critique against the idea that paperwork makes the aikidoka, the teacher, or the dojo.

This idea reflects, in my personal experience, a desire of the prospective student to belong to a "established" or "recognized" group and this desire weights more than his desire to learn the art.

I understand the concerns of an instructor if faced with a prospective student who, as you said, after seeing the quality of the instuction available puts more weight in the paperwork, lineage issues, political affiliation of the dojo or another type of cultural fiction than in the skills (both in technical performance and in didactical approach) he/she has witnessed.

However, i don't think the only truly relevant attributes to a sensei/deshi relation are the sensei skills as these are perceived by the prospective deshi.

Things like "paperwork" are relevant also to determine not if the prospective student can learn but hif he/she should learn. With this i'm not trying to say "paperwork" is more important than the skills (for me "paperwork" is unrelated to learning, i have learned with independent instructors, but i also have learned with instructors who were very involved in "paperwork"), but it has some value as data to grab a wider perspective about the sensei, the dojo and how they are related to the real world.

In the real world things like organizational politics, lineage wars, insurance companies and so on are also real and could have some weight in the decision making about joining a dojo. For instance (but exaggerating a bit), if the sensei was the former responsible of treasury in an organization, and was fired for bad practices, don't you think this fact gives some relevant data about the sensei. Of course the prospective deshi has to balance this data with the witnessed skills and make his/her decision about the relevance of past events confronted with the actual events he/she is witnessing.

In my opinion, we should also be skeptical when a sensei hides or avoids, even if it's done with the best intentions for the prospective student and the possible relation sensei/deshi like in the exchange, the "paperwork" issue because "paperwork" is also real.

Regards,

Demetrio

senshincenter
01-19-2006, 04:35 PM
Hi Demetrio,

Thanks for the reply. As I said, I think we have a lot of overlap in our positions.

As to your latest reply... Well, that's the federation viewpoint on paperwork, isn't it? I mean, they want you to think that paperwork reveals something and that it reveals something real and/or of merit. I mean the institution is dead once folks don't take its cultural capital serious. A lot of people believe in that stuff, so I won't say it is a crazy idea - it is just not my own idea.

For example, on paper, one could be a very outstanding person, aikidoka, teacher, etc., when in reality they are anything but. For this reason, I place more merit on spending time with someone over reading about them. I'm not sure how long you have trained, perhaps you've trained for a very long time, perhaps you've been fortunate all that time, but in my own experience, every ass I knew in real life looked great on paper (this is doubly true when it comes to Aikido). Alternately, if someone is an ass, hiding the paper that says it isn't going to hide the truth if you spend time with them. For these two reasons, you'll always find me giving more weight to spending time with a person (hence, as I said before, our month long trial period) over reading something about them. I give more weight to first hand experience over what others might say I should be experiencing.

Again - this is just my opinion, based upon my experience and even upon my own sense of justice and truth. Others will of course disagree and will thereby see a paper saying "8th Dan" as a guarantee that they are about to look upon someone who is wise, fair, just, perhaps even enlightened - incapable of pettiness, insecurities, fear, pride,and ignorance. Geesh, a lot of folks will even doubt their own senses because of that kind of paperwork being involved ("He can't really be the ass I think he is, he's a shihan! Right?") Heck, there has to be people out there that think like that, a whole lot of them. Equally then, there has to be a whole lot of people that look suspiciously at a man or a woman that simply says, "I am what I am - nothing more, nothing less. I seek nothing but to train harder tomorrow than I did today. You are free to join me, but if you do, you will gain no paper from it, no recognition for it - you will come to possess this same anonymity and this same ethic and that is all." If there wasn't these groups of people (i.e. the group that gives weight to paperwork and the group that sees a lack of paperwork as something suspicious), and if these groups of people weren't for the most part the same group of people, there wouldn't be 8th dans. So, yes, I can understand my own view as a bit "different" and thus as a bit scary. Nevertheless, for me, it is the one that rings true.

thanks, take care,
dmv

giriasis
01-19-2006, 09:12 PM
I don't think there is anything wrong with asking an instructor about their background. Their reaction is very telling about the person and teacher they are.

senshincenter
01-19-2006, 09:28 PM
I hope that one can see that I agree with that position - that there is nothing wrong with asking for background information. The issue, which I would not describe with the moral term "wrong," centers over whether or not it is wise to put so much stock in federation history and/or papers that one comes to doubt one's own first hand experience.

I think in many respects, a person after background is trying to be cautious - cautious against things like an abuse of power, etc. Yet, in my opinion, one of the greatest things that allows for an abuse of power to take place is that the supposed victim starts to doubt his/her own first hand experience. Thus, for me, something really "disjointed" is going on when a person thinks they are serving caution well whenever they cannot tell what they are seeing or feeling or sensing until someone else tells them what they are seeing, feeling, sensing, etc.

dmv

Marnen
01-20-2006, 10:15 AM
The issue, which I would not describe with the moral term "wrong," centers over whether or not it is wise to put so much stock in federation history and/or papers that one comes to doubt one's own first hand experience.

While I agree that one should not trust papers over actual experience, your essay has been disturbing me since I read it, and I've been trying to put my finger on why.

I think the passage I quoted above crystallizes my objection. Let's say I want to join your dojo. Of course, as a total newcomer, I'm going to observe your class before I do so. Of course I will watch what goes on there, and of course the perceived quality of what I see will be more influential on my decision than any teaching lineage would be.

But wait. "The perceived quality of what I see." What is that? I have seen, but if I'm a total newcomer to martial arts, how will I judge what I see? What basis do I have for comparison? Beyond a certain elementary level, how do I know what's "good" and "bad" training? Isn't that precisely what I'm coming to you to learn?

By asking me to disregard your teaching lineage and rank, you are asking me to disregard the only reasonably objective criteria I have access to and focus instead on something I have no basis to evaluate. This goes double in a non-competitive art like (most styles of) aikido, where I cannot even see how you stack up in competition against other practitioners who are not your students. (Note: this is not meant to be a value judgement for or against competition.)

I suspect you will respond that we all can evaluate what we see in a dojo if we just believe our own eyes. I answer: if that is true, why are so many ineffective or downright harmful schools thriving?

Your advice to judge you only by what you do and not by your lineage is excellent advice -- for one who has the expertise to do so. Newcomers cannot be assumed to have any such expertise.

Mary Eastland
01-20-2006, 10:21 AM
A newcomer could trust themselves. One does not need an" expert" to tell them what is good for them.
Mary

Josh Reyer
01-20-2006, 10:37 AM
By asking me to disregard your teaching lineage and rank, you are asking me to disregard the only reasonably objective criteria I have access to and focus instead on something I have no basis to evaluate. This goes double in a non-competitive art like (most styles of) aikido, where I cannot even see how you stack up in competition against other practitioners who are not your students. (Note: this is not meant to be a value judgement for or against competition.)


Think Mr. Valadez's idea of taking any lineage with a gigantic grain of salt is a fine one. And it's a natural extension of the idea that "a belt's just something to hold your gi pants up." Not to mention that the guy with the high dan, great lineage, and real skills may not be as good a teacher as the nidan beginners' class teacher without the great lineage. It's often found in sports that the best coaches and trainers are not always (indeed, not often) the most talented superstars. For the superstars, a lot of what makes them great is due to some innate talent, and they sometimes have difficulty seeing things from the POV of someone without that natural gift. And that's before considering the usual pitfalls of lineages: resume stuffing, and the like.

All that said, I think Mr. Valadez's idea of not asking nor caring about lineages works a lot better in his situation, where a student is usually vouched-for before hand (rather than walking in off the street) and has the opportunity to experience a month's free trial. For the typical dojo, getting as much info as possible is the way to go. (Although I still don't know what rank my current sensei is, nor am I particularly inclined to ask...)

Demetrio Cereijo
01-20-2006, 10:40 AM
A newcomer could trust themselves. One does not need an" expert" to tell them what is good for them.
Mary

Respectfully disagree.

Marnen
01-20-2006, 10:45 AM
A newcomer could trust themselves. One does not need an" expert" to tell them what is good for them.
Mary

Really? How do I "trust myself" to know that sensei is doing a drill in such a way that anyone who does it will have joint problems in 5 years? Or worse, that sensei is doing a drill in such a way that it won't work on anyone who doesn't expect it to work? These are things that you can't expect a newcomer to know.

Marnen
01-20-2006, 10:46 AM
Think Mr. Valadez's idea of taking any lineage with a gigantic grain of salt is a fine one. And it's a natural extension of the idea that "a belt's just something to hold your gi pants up." Not to mention that the guy with the high dan, great lineage, and real skills may not be as good a teacher as the nidan beginners' class teacher without the great lineage.
All that said, I think Mr. Valadez's idea of not asking nor caring about lineages works a lot better in his situation, where a student is usually vouched-for before hand (rather than walking in off the street) and has the opportunity to experience a month's free trial. For the typical dojo, getting as much info as possible is the way to go. (Although I still don't know what rank my current sensei is, nor am I particularly inclined to ask...)
Well put. This is precisely what I was trying to say.

MM
01-20-2006, 11:25 AM
While I agree that one should not trust papers over actual experience, your essay has been disturbing me since I read it, and I've been trying to put my finger on why.

I think the passage I quoted above crystallizes my objection. Let's say I want to join your dojo. Of course, as a total newcomer, I'm going to observe your class before I do so. Of course I will watch what goes on there, and of course the perceived quality of what I see will be more influential on my decision than any teaching lineage would be.

But wait. "The perceived quality of what I see." What is that? I have seen, but if I'm a total newcomer to martial arts, how will I judge what I see? What basis do I have for comparison? Beyond a certain elementary level, how do I know what's "good" and "bad" training? Isn't that precisely what I'm coming to you to learn?

By asking me to disregard your teaching lineage and rank, you are asking me to disregard the only reasonably objective criteria I have access to and focus instead on something I have no basis to evaluate.

Very sound reasoning overall. In general, I do agree with you. As a beginner, I'd have a very hard time determining quality of training of a martial art. BUT, if I am a beginner, then knowing the lineage isn't really going to do me any good. If I've never studied any of the lineages of a martial art, I still won't know if it's quality training or not. (And let's face it, not all schools in a lineage have "proper" or "quality" training.) But, yes, it would give me some more information to make a more informed decision.

To the heart of the matter with Mr. Valadez, his website, and his dojo. I read the "arriving" page. I also found on his website some pages detailing his lineage. And then I made the conclusion that Mr. Valadez had no problems with presenting his lineage. So, I came to the exact conclusion about the "arriving" page that he explained here in this thread.

So, for me, this thread's conversation about beginning students was not applicable. And that's what I'm trying to explain here. Somewhere else, yes, it probably would have been a major point of contention. I just don't think it is in this instance.

Mark

senshincenter
01-20-2006, 04:21 PM
Hello All,

Thank you so much for the time to write a reply. You are all very polite and that always has to be appreciated. Yet, though I am grateful, please, all of you, feel free to call me Dave, and please do not feel like this is a delicate subject for my person or our dojo. In fact, this is exactly the kind of exercise out of which our program and its protocols were formed. This is all good from my own personal point of view. It is through these questions, and through what I consider to be a REAL concern for the prospective student, that we have developed into the dojo you all are reading about on the Internet.

To the point: I think we have to see that the person in the Exchange is not a newbie. So on that account, we have to see that the Exchange is not open to the kind of criticism being raised by Marnen. I see Marnen as bringing up a hypothetical, under which it is thought that the current logic of the Exchange should not or could not hold up. I have no problem addressing hypotheticals, but we should all realize that we are now no longer dealing with the Exchange itself and/or what may have bothered some of us when we read the Exchange. That said, let us look at the hypothetical I think we may be surprised what it may reveal and/or lead us to discuss.

First, we should realize that the institution, which is the guarantor of the paperwork some are feeling a need for, tends to make sense of the world through political fictions. These fictions, when they function at a social level, always refer to the Same and to the Other. These entities, which can never be real in and of themselves, are understood in contrast to each other. This contrast has material affect and thus does exist at some level of reality. However, once one does away with the contrast (or even with the notion of conflict itself), the delusion that is the Same/Other dialectic, and the supporting institution itself, ceases to function for the individual. Until then, this is all very real and it all makes a great deal of sense. Yet, like with all delusions, it makes sense only as long as you do not think about things too carefully or too deeply.

Here we have this hypothetical he (lets assume his gender) is a newbie. He is Other. He is not like us. He is not of the Same. Since we are wise, he is not wise. Since we are informed, he is not informed. Since we are safe and secure where we are, he is not safe and secure where he is. Since we have not been taken advantage of in or through our training, he is or will be taken advantage of in or through his training. Since we are protected, he is not protected. Because he is not like us, he needs to be like us in order to get all that we have and to get all that he does not have now. Etc. After we contrast him to us, we start giving him things - attributes mostly our fears, our pride, and our ignorance (i.e. all of the things we do not like about ourselves). Yet, this process is artificial. This newbie remains a figment of our imagination or rather a figment of the institutions imagination. Moreover, since we are creating this person out of the thin air our institution allows us to breathe (or tells us to breathe), we cannot help but to make mistakes. Thus, we give him contradictory attributes for example, we provide him with cases where he is prone to ignorance one time but then later prone to wisdom. This is exactly the point being made by Mary and Mark when the question whether a newbie can understand paperwork or not.

In this fiction of the Other we create in order to understand the world politically, as the institution inspires us to do so, we say this newbie cannot understand what he sees or experiences when he is watching classes or doing classes, but he can determine what he sees or experiences when he reads a piece of paper. Of course, this pseudo-logic pans out IF we see the institutions paperwork as a kind of gold standard that is not subject to corruption, inaccuracy, and/or misleading the reader, etc. However, we should see, that this is exactly what the institution wants you to think which is precisely why you are thinking (with) it! If one were to think, really think, with his or her own mind, one knows that the paperwork of the institution is hardly free of corruption, inaccuracy that is indeed very prone to misleading the reader. As I said before, every fraud I ever knew in and out of Aikido came with papers. If you think about it, every fraud needs papers!

Once we lose the idea of institutional paperwork being some sort of gold standard, we are left with the contradiction of an abstract Other being able to understand paperwork but not being able to understand what they are seeing and/or feeling. In truth, for the newbie, there is no difference between the United States Aikido Federation and The Universal Soke Council of Enlightened Masters of the Universe.

If one was truly concerned with the newbie, concerned outside of how such a person might be turned into a political fiction that one can use to make the Same more the same, one is going to do exactly what we do at our dojo. One is not going to rely on having the newbie view a class or rely upon having him do two free classes, with a free gi, and cheap ass wooden sword when it comes to having him make a sound decision. Nor is one going to rely upon lineage, paperwork, etc. One is going to give each person that is interested in joining the dojo a chance to experience as much of the dojo as possible before any type of commitment is made (be that emotional, physical, or financial) hence our month long trial period. During that time, out of concern for the newbie, you are going to encourage him to ask any and all questions of you (as sensei) and of your deshi (as fellow members). You are also going to seek to make all information regarding your past, your dojo, your family, your teaching angle, and your interpretation of the art, etc., available for viewing (e.g. our web site) and/or discussion (which is different from believing it to be the end of discussion and/or of first-hand experience). Additionally, you are going to make sure the newbie knows of all the other Aikido schools in the area regardless of whether or not they are of your political alliance and/or pedagogical leanings or even if they like you or not. Thus, you are going encourage them to check them out personally and/or provide access to their websites via your own website, etc. If you really care about this lost poor ignorant soul that supposedly exists out there and that would suffer tremendously if it were not for the graces and wisdom of our kindness, then this is exactly what you would do. You would not hand him a piece of paper written in a language he cannot read, sent to you from a long time ago and from the other side of the globe, signed by someone that probably wouldnt know you from no one.

The question then is not should we tell experienced practitioners to trust more their own experience than to wait for an institution to tell them what that experience should be. The question is why isnt every dojo that claims to have a concern for the new person being able to make informed decision having month-long commitment-free trial periods; why arent they totally open with all of their inner workings why isnt everything up for discussion; why do they not have links to other locally located non-politically affiliated Aikido dojo on their website, etc. why do they think a paper is supposed to take the place of all of this?

My opinion, but I sure would like to see some of the welfare protesters here tell their instructor that their dojo should have a month-long FREE trial period so that beginner's can make honest well-informed decisions and/or ask them if they can put a link to the "competing" Aikido dojo (or any other martial arts dojo) in the area on the dojo website. Honestly, how well do you think that would fly with your instructor? How about with your Shihan?

dmv

giriasis
01-20-2006, 07:35 PM
Thing is, my point wasn't that a person should have the "appropriate paperwork", but rather their response, demeanor in responding is telling not what they tell you. If they get defensive and questioning why even the person is asking then that tells a person A LOT.

giriasis
01-20-2006, 07:48 PM
In truth, for the newbie, there is no difference between the United States Aikido Federation and The Universal Soke Council of Enlightened Masters of the Universe.

Well, I have experienced both as a newbie and there was a difference. After 6 months with the soke (Juko-kai) and after 6 months with the USAF school, I could easily figure out who is full of it and who wasn't. 6 months is still pretty newbie status. The soke-dokey talked a lot. They talked a lot about how they were right and everyone else was wrong. The problem as newbie you start to believe what the soke-dokey is saying and then start buying into a system that is simply made up and nothing they profess it to be. They always talked about how great their "lineage" was how "traditional" they were. It was not true. The USAF school just taught aikido and spoke about their aikido, not the aikido of others. Classes were about training not trying to convince the students in the class that we're doing "the right thing."

If I had known what to look for in lineage when I started with Juko-kai then I would have been able to go to the more authentic aikido school that was just down the street from me. The USAF folks thought nothing of you asking about the sensei's background, if you started asking about the soke's background you start getting a lot of hemming an hawing, and he had so many certificates on his wall you couldn't make head or tails of it. Then if you push it you get the standard "well, if you don't think we're effective, then you can challenge, him." b.s.

If lineage is not an issue to you and if you are truly confident in your abilities then you shouldn't have a problem with saying I've trained, here and here, but I haven't train under a formal organization. Tell the truth, don't make excuses for you not having a perfect lineage. If you treat and respond to it as a big deal -- i.e. thesis statements as posts that I only skim, btw-- then the issue is that you have an issue with people asking you about your background. Stand on your own two feet and down't worry about it. Tell it like it is and let it go.

senshincenter
01-20-2006, 07:49 PM
Yes, I guess that would say something - but do you know or have you heard of anyone that did such a thing - where they were asked, "Where are you from?" and then they get defensive? Doesn't the person out to commit fraud now just pull some papers out for one to see? If that is the case, again, shouldn't one be more trusting of what they are seeing and feeling first hand and less trusting of the paperwork? Additionally, I would chalk this up as what I am saying anyhow - about how one should trust more what they are feeling and seeing first hand (in this case someone being defensive when asked about their past). If you look to the paperwork, it's going to tell you nothing about how or why this person is being defensive - if anything, if you believe in it, it's going to tell you what a great guy he really is, how he's just having an off day that day that you came in, how we're all human, whatever, etc.

On the other topic, how about commenting some on how your dojo helps newbies make informed decisions, etc.? No one else has said something... :-( This is the part I think would be the most interesting - the most helpful.

thanks,
dmv

senshincenter
01-20-2006, 08:01 PM
Well, I have experienced both as a newbie and there was a difference. After 6 months with the soke (Juko-kai) and after 6 months with the USAF school, I could easily figure out who is full of it and who wasn't. 6 months is still pretty newbie status. The soke-dokey talked a lot. They talked a lot about how they were right and everyone else was wrong. The problem as newbie you start to believe what the soke-dokey is saying and then start buying into a system that is simply made up and nothing they profess it to be. They always talked about how great their "lineage" was how "traditional" they were. It was not true. The USAF school just taught aikido and spoke about their aikido, not the aikido of others. Classes were about training not trying to convince the students in the class that we're doing "the right thing."

If I had known what to look for in lineage when I started with Juko-kai then I would have been able to go to the more authentic aikido school that was just down the street from me. The USAF folks thought nothing of you asking about the sensei's background, if you started asking about the soke's background you start getting a lot of hemming an hawing, and he had so many certificates on his wall you couldn't make head or tails of it. Then if you push it you get the standard "well, if you don't think we're effective, then you can challenge, him." b.s.

If lineage is not an issue to you and if you are truly confident in your abilities then you shouldn't have a problem with saying I've trained, here and here, but I haven't train under a formal organization. Tell the truth, don't make excuses for you not having a perfect lineage. If you treat and respond to it as a big deal -- i.e. thesis statements as posts that I only skim, btw-- then the issue is that you have an issue with people asking you about your background. Stand on your own two feet and down't worry about it. Tell it like it is and let it go.

Again, you are making my point - you did not know anything about lineage when you started, so one paper was as good as any other. You proved exactly that. The accurate information you were able to obtain eventually came only from first hand experience - which took you 6 months to digest (a bit long in my experience - I'm sure there were a lot of signs you just kept denying and/or overlooking for some reason).

MM
01-20-2006, 08:31 PM
Dave,
We usually give about two weeks for someone to come in and practice with no obligations. But there's no timeframe for just coming in and watching to get a better idea of what we do. We don't have a website. We're in more of a rural area, and we're about the only aikido dojo in 40 miles. But, there are a few others outside that range and we'd recommend them as places to look into if the person didn't like what we were doing but wanted to still do aikido. There are quite a few karate places around and we mention them if that's more to their liking. In fact, some of our students are from other arts and are cross training.

Does that help?

Mark

senshincenter
01-20-2006, 08:51 PM
Yes - thanks Mark. I think this is very much in line with what we do as well. It's very nice to see/read - not becuase it is what we do but because that is the way I think a dojo is being the most resposible to its future members.

thanks for sharing,
dmv

giriasis
01-20-2006, 08:51 PM
Again, you are making my point - you did not know anything about lineage when you started, so one paper was as good as any other. You proved exactly that. The accurate information you were able to obtain eventually came only from first hand experience - which took you 6 months to digest (a bit long in my experience - I'm sure there were a lot of signs you just kept denying and/or overlooking for some reason).

No I'm not making my point. If I had asked they would have become defense. These days I'd be able to find all kinds on info on Juko Kai. I would have asked. They would have gotten defensive. In the USAF school, the information is offered on their web site. No questions needed to be ask. And it didn't take me 6 months to figure it out. I started to notice problems right off, but I didn't participate on board like this to know that their actions were wrong. Part of the reason boards like this are so important is that people, absolute newbies, will know what the right questions are and what are clues that you're dealing with a fraud. They'll know by their reaction.

You're still defending being defensive that is telling me something about who you are. If lineage is not big deal to you then don't make a big deal out of someone asking about it. Tell him you unaffliated and leave it at that. Why the thesis?

MM
01-20-2006, 09:13 PM
No I'm not making my point. If I had asked they would have become defense. These days I'd be able to find all kinds on info on Juko Kai. I would have asked. They would have gotten defensive. In the USAF school, the information is offered on their web site. No questions needed to be ask. And it didn't take me 6 months to figure it out. I started to notice problems right off, but I didn't participate on board like this to know that their actions were wrong. Part of the reason boards like this are so important is that people, absolute newbies, will know what the right questions are and what are clues that you're dealing with a fraud. They'll know by their reaction.

You're still defending being defensive that is telling me something about who you are. If lineage is not big deal to you then don't make a big deal out of someone asking about it. Tell him you unaffliated and leave it at that. Why the thesis?

Hello Anne Marie,

I think you have a valid point in your first paragraph, but (personally) I don't believe that Dave is talking about that kind of situation. And to illustrate that point, if you visit his website, you can view his school's lineage. :)

The point he makes using that "arrival" page is that a person who is looking to study a martial art should never be so hung up on lineage and papers proving said lineage that they miss the high quality teachings happening right in front of them. In other words, in one's search for that pot of gold, just don't overlook a pile of tarnished coins because you're searching for something shiny gold colored.

Mark

senshincenter
01-20-2006, 09:25 PM
Ann Marie,

Please, my history is there for all to see and even for one to experience. On our website - one can read it all, see video of me moving, figure out my training week, etc. You are missing major points of the thread by not reading posts in full. The thread was not at all about me personally withholding anything - everyone else here but you has managed to get that point. If things are proving too complex for you, go with that the whole way through and opt not to comment then for fear you are not understanding things - take some responsibility here for not understanding things if you are not going to read things.

If these small conversations on my part are proving to be a thesis in your world - that is going to say more about you than about me. These are very off the cuff comments for me. But, if it is a reason you are looking for - a reason why these discussions might prove useful - here's one...

Take your dojo's website.. You claim to be in a "safe" place now - learning what is being promised, etc. However, I could see nothing at all about helping a student make sound decisions. There are no links to other martial arts dojo and/or other Aikido dojo not politically affiliated with yours, no trial periods mentioned, etc. Moreover, there is a whole lot of disinformation going on. First off, USAF is not one united body - that is a fiction if ever there was one. The website gives the appearance that it is - almost as if one trained at your dojo, for example, one would be in someway closely affiliated with an instructor like Chiba Sensei. In fact, for example, Eastern and Western Region are very much at odds in terms of how one should understand Aikido - with the latter very often not considering the former martial at all in many cases. Basic curriculum is also very different, even ukemi, and so too are many of the basics themselves - with a given basic from one federation flat-out seen as wrong in the other federation (e.g. Western Region's view of Eastern Region's Irimi Nage). Additionally, there is this big thing about the dojo being some sort of direct line to Osensei himself when in fact the dojo is mostly influenced by Yamada who was more influenced by Kisshomaru (who clearly made a conscious break from his father's Aikido) than by anyone else - a comment Chiba Sensei has publicly vocalized on an Eastern Region video tape. Additionally, Stanley Pranin's research has also strongly made the case that these "students of the Founder" would hardly be accepted as "students" by today's standard - no more than an Eastern Region's high ranking practitioner can be said to have studied Chiba Sensei's weapons system just because he did it at a few summer camps once or visited Chiba Sensei's dojo here or there only to retool it in some sort of Kisshomaru-esque fashion. This is not to say that the Aikido at your dojo is not good and/or that it is not what you want your Aikido to look like - but this does make the case, in my opinion, that paperwork is more about disinformation than about anything else and that thus one should learn to trust other forms of information more fully - particularly first hand experience.

No one is hiding anything when he/she is being asked to look at things with their own eyes - in fact, one is trying to reveal everything.

Charles Hill
01-20-2006, 10:51 PM
I instituted a 10 time, twice a week introductory course for 3000 yen (a little less money than two tickets to a movie.) I make it clear that while I hope that everyone will continue to practice with us forever, I understand that not everyone will and that I will teach things that can really enrich one`s life even if they never do Aikido again.

When I explained my idea for the course to the local shihan, he wasn`t pleased,but made the comment that when the idea failed, the failure would be good for me. Someone asked me why I wanted to do the intro course and I answered that I wanted to make it easy to quit Aikido without the person feeling like they failed. The silence afterward was deafening so I didn`t go on to explain that I sure don`t want to practice with people who didn`t want to be there 100%.

It has become clear that through advertising problems and such that a beginners` course is not feasible, so I am now looking for ways for students to be able to start at any time while still retaining the feeling described above. Any ideas?

Charles

giriasis
01-20-2006, 11:09 PM
Yes, I guess that would say something - but do you know or have you heard of anyone that did such a thing - where they were asked, "Where are you from?" and then they get defensive? Doesn't the person out to commit fraud now just pull some papers out for one to see? If that is the case, again, shouldn't one be more trusting of what they are seeing and feeling first hand and less trusting of the paperwork?

Ummmm...You have heard of Juko-kai right? Don Cunningham life was threatened for pointing out their fraudulent practices. He was taken to court for naming them in a journal article about their practices -- he won that fight. Members of my former dojo told me if I didn't like the claims they were making I should "challenge" them and they'd show me what "effective is." This is Juko-kai I'm talking about not the differences between Chiba aikido or Yamada aikido. :rolleyes:


Yes, newbies going in won't know the difference between the All Japan Kobudo Bushido Organization and the Aikikai/Ki Society/Yoshinkan, but they will know what it means to have a question answered simply, directly and respectfully. My recommendation to people is to run fast from people giving a hyped up sales pitch, playing games, reprimanding or growing defensive with their question. Such a rationale is not based on whether Chiba, Yamada, Tomiki, or Sarchonarski is better or most qualified but on how well the prospective student is treated as a human being. A potential student does not surrender their dignity when they walk into a dojo. You see I believe instructors should have some humility, enough to treat those who are not their equal in martial arts with decency and respect. Juko Kai was the high sales pitch variety. Someone would walk into the door and on went the sales starting with "we're more effective than Aikikai" of course these folks have never trained with folks like Shibata or Chiba Sensei.

When I read you initial response to your "arrival" all I could see was someone getting reprimanded for asking a commonly asked question -- and a question that newbies are told to ask. If you didn't want to place an emphasis on it, why not respond by telling them all the information he needs to know is on your website? No, you choose to "teach him" something instead.

And I'll go back to what I was trying to say. I tell people looking for a martial art to ask this question. I tell them to ask where they train, how long and with whom. It's not about lineage it's about whether and instructor will be respectful to you as a student, and whether they will treat you as a human being. If they are straight and honest and don't play power games, then it will be a good school -- regardless of association, rank, etc.

senshincenter
01-21-2006, 02:44 AM
The real funny part for me is that if you had known me when you were at your first school, and you told me of even one odd "feeling" you got from that first dojo, I would have told you the exact same thing: "Don't put so much trust in their paperwork - go with your gut, trust yourself more - don't reinterpret what you are experiencing in light of the papers they are showing you." Had you heard all this then, I bet you would not have stayed the whole six months. I bet you'd have a whole different view of things now - even be a whole different person maybe (who knows).

Of course I am trying to teach folks that come into our dojo something - this is especially true when it comes to the cultivation of self-reliance (which is central to practicing true Budo). That is a big part of being an independent dojo. Even in our kids class - kids come in blaming each other for falling and/or for not getting a ball as fast as they would like, for doing a move not so "perfect," or even for getting hurt when on the mat, etc. One of the first lessons they are taught is how take responsibility for such things - for what happens to them on the mat. Why? Because they can't really learn anything until they figure that one out. Hence, we got three year olds with two weeks of practice that can trip over someone and get up and say "my fault" and keep on going short-quick with the task at hand. When they can do that, they stop being at the mercy of others. For me, this is how I understood Mary's point - which contrary to Demetrio's polite disagreement is actually proved by your story. You knew something was up - I mean, who can't figure something was up when you are told you should challenge your teacher just for raising a question on the tactical efficiency of a given move? What you lacked was not accurate information. What you lacked then was the self-reliance to act upon what you already knew (what you were already experiencing). Like Mary said it is - you knew something was up and you didn't need an expert to tell you something was up. You just needed for yourself to be able to tell yourself to act upon what you knew - or rather you needed six months to do that - or maybe you just needed to find an another expert to tell you how to think (e.g. your trust for boards like this over your first hand experience). Only you can say if you are now self-reliant and free from your past dojo or whether you are just free from your past dojo. Regardless, at our dojo, one is expected to cultivate self-reliance. Thus, training, all training, will work out from that center - the core of what we consider to be Budo - and one will be guided to do it from the first steps into the building. It, self-reliance, true independence, these things are not for everyone - Nietzsche I think had a lot to say about that. But for some, even for the person in the Exchange, it was exactly what he needed and he is ever appreciative for that first direction toward self-reliance.

senshincenter
01-21-2006, 03:01 AM
I instituted a 10 time, twice a week introductory course for 3000 yen (a little less money than two tickets to a movie.) I make it clear that while I hope that everyone will continue to practice with us forever, I understand that not everyone will and that I will teach things that can really enrich one`s life even if they never do Aikido again.

When I explained my idea for the course to the local shihan, he wasn`t pleased,but made the comment that when the idea failed, the failure would be good for me. Someone asked me why I wanted to do the intro course and I answered that I wanted to make it easy to quit Aikido without the person feeling like they failed. The silence afterward was deafening so I didn`t go on to explain that I sure don`t want to practice with people who didn`t want to be there 100%.

It has become clear that through advertising problems and such that a beginners` course is not feasible, so I am now looking for ways for students to be able to start at any time while still retaining the feeling described above. Any ideas?

Charles

Well Charles, I think you can figure out my position on this. You got the right idea - one should have a dojo or should at least try to have a dojo with folks that want to train 100%. We don't like to kick folks out, or drive them away, but we try to train at a level where if one does not have a 100% desire to be there, the training will most likely backfire on them (e.g. injure them, make them bitter, make them more filled with fear, pride, and ignorance, etc.). For folks that can't must up the 100% desire, we either extend the trial period for them as they might require or request, or we ask them to try again later when they are more sure, or if they have prior training we extend "guest status" to them (where they basically can join in on any class with no commitment to the dojo). We do this because it is not doing anyone any good to expect 50% folks to train in a 100% environment.

A lot of folks are just fine with being surrounded by 50% desire-filled folks on the mat but such a mat will never be as fruitful as anyone would desire. Go figure. For them, it is absurd to try and make Aikido easy to quit - but I get your point just fine. I wonder how dismissive your higher-ups would have been if you just said the inverse, "Hey, aren't we limiting ourselves by surrounding ourselves with more folks that don't really want to be here - that don't really want to do the work - than do really want to be here - that really do want to do the work?"

In short, self-reliance and the institution will never mix, never get along. Self-reliance is the antithesis to the institution. History has proven this time and time again. The only way that I can see a delegate of the institution going for these kinds of ideas is if he/she is a rebel at heart and has some part of their heart that wonders every now and then how they ever got where they are now from where they used to be.

dmv

Peter Goldsbury
01-21-2006, 08:32 AM
Very interesting thread. I have learned very much from reading through it.

Given the initial exchange between David V. and Demetrio, I am very much inclined to agree with David's position. I myself would be very wary of anyone who asked me the kind of questions given in the exchange between the Deshi and the Sensei in David's web site, especially the question about my 'political leanings' in aikido. Even now, if I were to be asked this question, I wonder how I would answer it. I would probably request the prospective deshi to clarify the question.

However, I also wonder whether David is not setting up a 'straw man' in his example of the exchange between the Deshi and the Sensei. I do not know. I am curious as to whether the questions asked by the deshi actually reflect David's actual experience, or are the kind of questions that David feels shoud be asked by any prospective deshi. Either way, they are valid questions, but only if asked from within a certain cultural context.

Writing from my own knowledge of the deshi/sensei relationship, I think that if I were a real deshi approaching a real sensei, I doubt whether I would actually ask the questions posed in the dialogue. Perhaps this is an 'American' or 'Western' phenomenon. (I have used the quotes here to signal possibilities, not judgments. I know that there are various uchi-deshi schemes available in the US and elsewhere, but I assume from David's example that the deshi has some knowledge of the martial arts and of aikido.)

My own teaching experience spans 30 years or so, the last 25 of which have been spent in Japan, and I have never encountered an experienced aikidoka coming to a dojo with the questions David suggests in his thread and this is why I think it might be a 'western' phenomenon. I know that the Dutch, for example, want to know about both lineage, but place more emphasis on actual performance on the tatami, which they want to 'feel'. But I also believe that this questioning makes absolutely no difference to the quality of their own training. It certainly does not enhance it. And the only way it might hinder their training is if they refused to participate in a training seminar because of the 'political' allegiance of a sensei, who is technically very advanced.

I myself approached the dojo of ChibaSensei after two years of aikido training. I watched his class and I also felt that it was the best I had ever seen, from my limited experience. However, I can honestly say that the questions posed by the deshi in David's thread never occurred to me. I simply asked Chiba Sensei if I could train in his dojo (Notice that I did not ask if I could become his student, which is suggested by the connotation of the term 'deshi': I was not sufficiently aware of the issues to ask such a question.) Of course, perhaps I should have asked the questions that David highlighted, but I think that the answers would not have been enlightening.

So I suggest that prospective deshi, if they really want to train like deshi, might well have come close to solving many of the questions involving training issues that David suggests before approaching the sensei. In fact I suspect that the actual training situation in David's dojo is much more accommodating to such students than 'general' dojos, where all comers are welcomed with no robation period, and it is much harder to single out, and respond effectively, to prospective deshi.

I would very much like to have a dojo like David has established here in Japan. This is very difficult and I am nowhere close to establishing why. When Chiba Sensei returned to Japan in the 70s, he found that even he could not establish such a dojo., despite his impressive training history. So he abandoned ship and moved to California, the location chosen in large part because of his back problems.

This leaves the 'federation' question and the question about 'political leanings'. My own students are aware of organization issues only if they look at the various websites pertaining to the dojo. They are never told about it. This is a result of a decision made by me never to mix political issues with training, especially in the early stages. In the later stages, the political issues are presented only as necessary. The local political issues really only involve whether to to take a Hombu grading, or not.

Best wishes to all,

Pauliina Lievonen
01-21-2006, 09:32 AM
And the only way it might hinder their training is if they refused to participate in a training seminar because of the 'political' allegiance of a sensei, who is technically very advanced.

Well, this certainly happens a lot here. Not a lot of people who attend seminars organised by someone else than their own organisation. For honesty's sake I'll have to say that I don't either.

kvaak
Pauliina

senshincenter
01-21-2006, 11:33 AM
I agree with Peter about the context. I am not sure how often these kinds of questions come up worldwide - though others in this thread have suggested that it should be widespread. I think why it came up for us (though it doesnt seem to anymore) is because our context is centered on independence - and that we are neighbored by three other Aikido schools that one could suggest are very much into federation alliance. For me, independence is part of a training ethic if one will allow, it serves a purpose much like hermitage might (in some ways) in some monastic systems. Independence is part of a practical asceticism that one undertakes to discover what one cannot discover when holding (or being held by) institutional support.

Therefore, it is a strange combination in our case when someone comes in and that person is very used to being held by institutional support. You got a person that might not have asked those questions (such as they might not do were they to walk into the dojo of a competing federation) coming into a place where they make virtually no sense. It is sort of like when a beginner first learns the breakfall. When they walk, they have to fall a little bit every step, only they never reach for the ground with their hands. They know where the ground is it is under their alternate foot. However, when they are doing the breakfall, though their foot is on the ground, they feel inclined to reach for the ground with their hands nevertheless. In other words, they feel the loss of the support (institutional support) they were used to having, and so they reach for it. They reach for it because they are now in a place where it is no longer present.

It is also very similar when someone wants to know my rank I say, I have no rank. In the same way, one can imagine, we get a certain type of deshi via these choices I have made we get deshi that are more able to endure what this type of practical asceticism requires. In other words, ask yourself, you experienced aikidoka, Whom would you rather train with the deshi that wants to know rank, is inspired by rank, feels rank is meaningful, etc., or the deshi that makes a choice to train knowing that in the end they too will have no rank? For some of us the answer is obvious. It is the same way for me in valuing things like a month long trial period over paperwork.

We are not out to be restrictive we are not a koryu. Moreover, I deeply believe in the widespread dissemination of Aikido. However, we seek to assist students in helping them enter into the dojo in a certain way one way and not another. That one way is of course adaptable, but it nevertheless stands in contrast to anyway. As a result, we risk losing students (like Charles does) in manners thought insane, thought to be financially irresponsible, and even immoral by other federation-based Aikido dojo. For us, for me, this makes sense. If we were not looked at in this way by the bulk of federation practitioners, we would not be doing our own practical asceticism.

We have just moved into our new location. It is very nice and it has given us now many more training hours (as one can see on our website). More people are discovering us. Yesterday a prospective student came by to join up. After answering his questions which did not include questions of paperwork, lineage, etc. I asked him if he had seen the other Aikido schools yet (this though Im sure some of them would look at our understanding of Aikido and state we are not doing Aikido, and this though one of the schools has in the past sought to attack us via the ranting of a spousal abuser). He said they are never there but he had tried. I gave him the most likely hours of training for them and said he should be sure to check them out in person if he could. I told him to do the same for other martial arts he might be interested in though he said he felt he wanted to do Aikido. I told him this was part of making a sound decision since training is not a thing that one should undertake in an ill informed manner How informed you are by first-hand experience is how seriously you can make your decision. At the same time I told him our protocol of the two day a week training minimum, and how we encourage that folks train as much as they can, etc. I told him of our month long trial period and that we would even provide him with a gi to use during that time, etc.

Later, I relayed all of this in a conversation to another deshi. She asked, Why didnt you just let him sign up right then and there? My answer: Because wed be doing him a disservice and it would not just be the disservice of not helping him to be informed. The true disservice of just signing someone up is the disservice of expecting them to possess a capacity for commitment but offering them no means to cultivate commitment. It is the disservice of expecting him to train seriously but of not providing an avenue for him to act seriously. Moreover, in providing this disservice to him, the dojo does a disservice to itself. What I have found is that folks get this, if you give then a chance - even newbies. They do not walk away insulted or feeling unwanted when we do not hurry up to have them sign away their first-born. They either return to the dojo more in possession of what they actually want from their training (since no one consciously begins training only to not take it seriously), or they return to say they cannot undertake the training at this time. In this way, it is a win-win situation for both the potential member and the dojo.

I mention this because this is my own personal opinion on how one should approach a dojo and/or a new teacher. It is not in keeping with what is becoming in vogue on these boards. I personally never approached one of my past teachers by asking for their credentials like Peter. What I was interested in was never to be found on paper (hence, why we as a dojo are like we are, I guess). For me, a large part of becoming a deshi means practicing faith. Practicing faith cannot be done if one wants to know where the ground is every time they are about to take a step. (Chiba Sensei often mentioned that Zen analogy of stepping off the top of a 1000-foot pole.) For me, spiritually speaking, it would be more damaging to rob oneself of the chance to cultivate and practice faith (and self-reliance) than to risk spending a few hours, days, or weeks with some loser who cant help you and might even hurt you. This is not to say that I feel these questions that folks might like to ask nowadays are wrong personally, I just feel they arent worth what they are costing. There are other ways, more real ways, of gaining the sense of security one supposedly wants from such questions ways that dont have one robbing him/herself of a chance to practice more faith in ones life. In my opinion, one should practice those ways they are the ways one finds through the door of self-reliance.

dmv

kironin
01-21-2006, 10:18 PM
I agree with Peter about the context. I am not sure how often these kinds of questions come up worldwide - though others in this thread have suggested that it should be widespread. I think why it came up for us (though it doesn't seem to anymore) is because our context is centered on independence - and that we are neighbored by three other Aikido schools that one could suggest are very much into federation alliance. For me, independence is part of a training ethic -- if one will allow, it serves a purpose much like hermitage might (in some ways) in some monastic systems. Independence is part of a practical "asceticism" that one undertakes to discover what one cannot discover when holding (or being held by) institutional support.
...
dmv


I think in part, this may be why for me this discussion seems a little strange or much to do about nothing. To me , you make way too much out of the idea of independence. A very American/western emphasis that is itself really a fiction also.

My experience with new students is the main concern is times and location. I often tell students watching a class about other schools in town, but most times they seem not terribly excited to find out the next closest school is 10 miles away. I always invite them to try a class and I welcome them to watch as many classes as they want. If I had the time and resources available to have people dipping their toes in the water for a month with no monetary commitment, it sounds like a nice utopian idea. Maybe it's not a problem in California, but in Texas I still get a lot of blank looks when I mention aikido. Students coming through nowadays generally have already looked through our website and others in town before they show up in person or call.

With prospective students that have had training experience elsewhere, I have never had questions about lineage rather it's about whether or not they can keep the rank they got in some other organization. And at that point, I am certainly trying to steer them to a school in town that could likely transfer their rank without any extra steps.

senshincenter
01-21-2006, 10:50 PM
I think in part, this may be why for me this discussion seems a little strange or much to do about nothing. To me , you make way too much out of the idea of independence. A very American/western emphasis that is itself really a fiction also.

Well I would never disagree that independence is not fictional - one is not after the "really real" in seeking independence. One is after a capacity to practice non-attachment to all subjective realities and/or sense of identities, etc. However, I would disagree with the American/Western comment.

Independence understood as utilizing self-reliance for ascetic or ascetic-like reasons is hardly a Western and/or Modern notion. There is a long list of noteworthy and beloved personalities in Japanese cultural history for example - e.g. Ikkyu, Ryokan, etc. Japanese and Chinese history are filled with these type of folks. The independence that these kind of people demonstrated had hardly anything to do with Jeffersonian Independence and/or individualism, etc. Same word, different heart, different meaning, different means, different end.

Every thread is going to be much to do about nothing to someone - even every post. That's why one chooses to read and write - it's a given of this form of communication that some topics and some comments will seem irrelevant to some and/or to everyone at some given moment in their life. Still, you posted, so thanks for that.

dmv

kironin
01-21-2006, 11:46 PM
Independence understood as utilizing self-reliance for ascetic or ascetic-like reasons is hardly a Western and/or Modern notion. There is a long list of noteworthy and beloved personalities in Japanese cultural history for example - e.g. Ikkyu, Ryokan, etc. Japanese and Chinese history are filled with these type of folks. The independence that these kind of people demonstrated had hardly anything to do with Jeffersonian Independence and/or individualism, etc. Same word, different heart, different meaning, different means, different end.
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dmv

I find these notions of independence just as romantic and fictional as the Jeffersonian idea of individualism. There is little virtue in asceticism except if you live in a culture wealthy enough to allow you the luxury of it. Self-reliance is a virtue itself that need not be utilized for anything else. A two year old may need to go through forms of denial to claim it's notion of independence, but a mature human being while expressing in action virtues such as self-reliance should be self-aware to really know and see through the illusion of independence in whatever form a culture has defined the notion in its stories.

senshincenter
01-22-2006, 12:41 AM
I find these notions of independence just as romantic and fictional as the Jeffersonian idea of individualism. There is little virtue in asceticism except if you live in a culture wealthy enough to allow you the luxury of it. Self-reliance is a virtue itself that need not be utilized for anything else. A two year old may need to go through forms of denial to claim it's notion of independence, but a mature human being while expressing in action virtues such as self-reliance should be self-aware to really know and see through the illusion of independence in whatever form a culture has defined the notion in its stories.

Your working definition of asceticism is too narrow for me. Indeed, if you are understanding it as the practice related to the mythic character in robes or half-naked - you are right. But the general idea - the idea of spiritual cultivation through self-discipline and various types of denial, etc., is indeed more valid today than ever - in my opinion. Asceticism is more needed today than ever. If it's not for you - that is one thing - but only one thing and only for you. Perhaps we are talking about different things then.

For me, no virtue is a virtue in and of itself. Virtues, like self-reliance, are virtues solely by how we use them and particularly how we use them toward communal or social ends. In my opinion, to be "self-reliant" and to have no way of utilizing it toward a social or communal end is to be spiritually (even emotionally) impotent and thus self-alienated. We'll have to disagree on this.

One would think that denial (or delusion, or attachment, etc.) is a thing reducible to two year olds, but for any adult that has taken the cultivation of his/her spirit seriously, he/she knows that this is unfortunately not true. Additionally, such adults learn not to consider themselves above childlike habitual responses. For these people, it is not a lesser mature state that reflects and notes that one is driven by fear, by pride, and/or by ignorance. If anything, for many, such things would be understood in the reverse - where boasts to be above such things are seen as the more immature state of existence. To each his own then - if you are above it and then wish to identify others who make no such claims about their own person as two year olds, etc. - more power to you. I personally can make no such claims about myself. Additionally, I opt not to understand others of a similar nature as two year olds and/or as spiritually immature.

Spirituality without romanticism is dead. Aikido without romanticism is dead as well. First, one begins with ideals and with an attraction to such ideals, and then one works to make them real. Romanticism is the seed of realization - be that spiritual or martial. You called a place with month-long trial periods a utopia - a "no place." It once was a "no place" for me as well - an ideal I had romanticized - but now it is real. It's hardly a utopia for me. With work, it became real. In other words, I did the work, a month-long trial period is real; you didn't do the work, a month-long trial period is not real. The problem then is not with ideals, or even with romanticism, the problem is with not doing the work to make things real. If romanticism is one's excuse for not doing the work, or for denying that there is work to do, or if it is used to excuse one's lack of work by saying the work cannot be done, then, yes, I would agree with your critique against romanticism. However, then I think we are talking about two different things again. Fictions, romantic or otherwise, are not the problem - the lack of work is the issue. For those that do the work, utility is very much found in fictions (in this case, the utility of being able to gain some distance from one's own fictions).

But this is now a different thread topic - we've strayed too far for me to comment more on this here (in my opinion). Perhaps, should you start another thread on the positive or negative nature of romanticism in our training, you can let me know and we can post more there on this topic. Otherwise, I get your point that these issues are not issues for you - fair enough.

Thanks again,
dmv