View Full Version : Poll: How necessary are organizations in aikido?

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02-26-2006, 12:30 AM
AikiWeb Poll for the week of February 26, 2006:

How necessary are organizations in aikido?

I don't do aikido
Critically necessary
Very necessary
Somewhat necessary
Not very necessary
Not at all necessary

Here are the current results (http://www.aikiweb.com/polls/results.html?poll_id=313).

02-26-2006, 01:49 AM
You left out the option for "a necessary evil" ;)

I think a parent organization for any martial art is vitally important. It provides a sense of connection to a greater whole. It also provides a sense of lineage and hierarchy, which provides legitimacy of rank to those that follow.

OTOH, the inherent pitfalls of any organized community can do a great disservice to those it aims to serve.

A necessary evil, IMO.

Pauliina Lievonen
02-26-2006, 02:54 AM
I don't think organisations in aikido are so much necessary as they are inevitable. :D


Mark Uttech
02-26-2006, 06:16 AM
An organization is like a family name, a company name, a trademark, an attempt to give something reliability, or to create some type of stability. It is also a type of human grasping, an attempt to "keep things the way they always were..." right in the middle of change and adaptability. It is like a vow, even though you vow the impossible; still, you want to try.

02-26-2006, 08:25 AM
Vital. If we do not maintain organizations with all their inherent faults, we will go the way some of the other martial arts where the only place rank, etc has any value is in the individual dojo.

02-26-2006, 11:15 AM
IMHO, while they have their political liabilities due to the infamous human ego factor, I do believe that are necessary and inevitable if we are to preserve and pass on this beautiful art. This is where if wee see and support the similarities more than the difference, we may have a better chance of not diluting the art.

02-27-2006, 09:30 AM
Y'all covered it.

I don't know that rank has inherent value other than to help us know where we fit in. The first time in my life I ever knew and was happy with 'my place' - meaning being told what was expected of me, and corrected if I was wrong, was in a dojo. If that sentence was unclear I'll supplement it - the first place I experienced social sanity was in a dojo.

So, if the organization Serves its members it is good.


Jennifer Grahn
02-27-2006, 04:32 PM
aikido is a dictatorship. :p

George S. Ledyard
02-27-2006, 08:25 PM
The instant you have students not training under the immediate supervision of a teacher, you have an organization, even if it hasn't yet been given a name.

Aikido has alway had an organization of sorts but originally it was quite loose made up of the uchi deshi who trained under the Founder on a daily basis in his home dojo and the soto deshi who had their own dojos which the Founder would periodically visit, usually for some extended period of time. The head of the "organization" was O-Sensei. The small number of "members" made it possible to maintain the direct transmission from the Founder.

The moment the decision was made to take Aikido "public" larger, formal organization was inevitable. It is the organization's job to define what the art is and will become, to maintain standards etc. It is the job of the organization to put forth the ideas of the leadership via organizing training such as camps and seminars which allow the people out in the hinterlands who never otherwise get a chance to train under one of the high level instructors to do so.

There are certainly individuals who don't have any need for an organization. Those who can train directly under a high level teacher or one of his personal students get the transmission directly. But the rest of the folks need some mechanism whereby someone is looking out for their insterests, keeping their traiing on track, certifyiung instructors so that new people can better decide who they should train with, etc.

The problem with most organizations is that they are used, not to bring their members along in the optimal manner but rather to bolster the status of the head of the organzation, promote blind loyalty to the leadership, restrict the members exposure to any ideas that might come from without, etc.

Organizations are necessary to structure the training of tens of thousands of practitioners. When they are properly constituted they exist for the benefit of the members. When they are run by little minded, paraniod teachers they serve only to keep the membership in line. This type of organization exists to control the membership, not optimize their training. One can see examples of all of these types of organizations if one looks around the Aikido world...

Peter Goldsbury
02-28-2006, 03:10 AM
It is sometimes forgotten that O Sensei's Kobukan Dojo (and branches) became the Zaidan Houjin Kobukai (Kobukai Foundation) in 1940 and was officially recognized by the Japanese military government at that time. The head of the organization was Admiral Isamu Takeshita.

Was it necessary? Probably. Japan was fighting the Pacific War and everyone was pressed into helping the war effort. The martial arts were clearly in the front line in instilling the necessary 'fighting spirit' among the general population. I think it would have been very difficult for Ueshiba's organization to have remained outside the Dai Nippon Butokukai. In 1947, the Zaidan Houjin Kobukai became the Zaidan Houjin Aikikai and official recognition came from the Japanese Ministry of Education.

So, for as long as 'aikido' has existed in Japan, it has had an organizational structure and has been recognized by the national government.

The US does not have such a need for nationally based martial arts organizations. It is a vast country dedicated to the free market economy and so anyone can set up a dojo, claim to be a 'master' and teach the martial arts. Fine. With such freedom comes the need for websites like Baffling Budo/Bad Budo, over at E-Budo.

I am not claiming that martial arts organizations are strictly necessary. However, I think the total absence of such a need in the US colors the discussion in US-based discussion forums such as this. The US delegates at IAF Congresses are sometimes left shaking their heads and wondering what all the fuss is about.

Best wishes to all,

Jorge Garcia
02-28-2006, 03:33 AM
I agree completely with Leydard Sensei. I would also add that humans have no other way than organizationalism to transmit presence and authority. In their essence, organizations are transmitting the "presence" of a single individual or a group of people through hierarchical levels of people. This transmission is artificial in that it doesn't pass directly to the last level but indirectly from person to person. Authority is transmitted the same way so there is distance between the person at the top and the recipients down the line. As it is transmitted down the hierarchical levels, distortion of the original intent occurs and then there are problems at each level and especially for the last person to receive the transmission. Abuse therefore sometimes happens at the lower levels. That's how all organizations work due to human nature but they are all we have. The less levels you have, the easier it is to be in an organization and and things tend to work better. You can bypass the levels by the person at the top communicating directly with the lower levels but that effectively reduces the reach of that person thus negating the reason for having an organization in the first place. Doing that also increases the accountability at the top and makes the person responsible whereas if the person at the top hides from the lower levels, then all the responsibility remains with the individual levels.
The Aikikai can extend the presence of Doshu throughout the world due to the size of their organization. There is tremendous distance between Doshu and the guy who joins Aikido tomorrow and yet Doshus decisions will eventually reach that person but Doshu can have little feeling (speaking organizationally) for someone so distant. It is not to his advantage to intervene down the levels because of taking on too much responsibility but he does have to be aware of any ripples he can cause- especially in the levels close to him where he is exposed to criticism that might diminish his standing. The organization "extends" the presence of the man because it transmits his thoughts and ideas. It extends his authority as well in the decisions and pronouncements he makes. That is essentially how and an Aikido group, a government, or a company work. The more you want to do, the bigger organization you will need. This is the way humans band together to do anything that is bigger than one man.

Dirk Hanss
02-28-2006, 04:00 AM
Probably there are two questions included.
1st) Is an aaikdo organisation needed?
2nd) Do we need several independent organisations?

While the answer to the first question seems to be clearly that an organisation is at least helpful to spread the art and get a structure in teaching and grading, the second one is not as easy.

My opinion is that we could easily refrain from some of the organisations, at latest since the passing of O Sensei, there is no one who can dictate what is aikido and how to obtain it. Many organisations are founded to emphasise their assessment to the Do, and that is good as long as no one claims to have the real and only truth.

And then you have to accept exaggerations that in some regions there are times that nearly every shodan seems to create his own organisation just for egotisical reasons. Time will show their worth and many of them vanish or merge.

I do not like all the politics, that come up there, but I accept, that we are all on the Way and thus have human habits, some improved further some did not yet understand the idea of aikido.

Just my 2 cts.


02-28-2006, 09:27 AM
Lions, dogs, zebras, etc... travel in "organizations" for survival. For them survival depends on being together. They cannot travel to another "pack" because they will be killed.

I think what makes us unique is that a smaller group can survive without a large organization, only because we have the opportunity to go to a larger organization to train and learn from. As civilized humans we welcome outsiders in our dojos and seminars and that permits the transmission of O'Sensei's aikido.

Smaller dojos and organizations are needed for those that share a common goal - training in a similar manner or style. A smaller organization allows for those that are far removed from the really good Shihan to train under some kind of orderly fashion.

Now a whole other issue is being a part of a larger organization so that recognition of your rank is transferable to a place other than where you train. It depends on what an aikidoists plans to do with their aikido, whether they will be moving to a large city, another country, etc... and whether they will even find another organization that will recognize the rank. Of course, rank or no rank, I think that people will recognize whether you can or cannot do aikido. I have studied with people from large organization who were awesome, and others from the exact same organization that were awful. It still the responsibility of the student to learn the aikido that is being taught.

So, "How necessary are organizations?" - I voted: Somewhat necessary.

Jorge Garcia
02-28-2006, 01:46 PM
I think that size of the organization is another issue. People try to build bigger and bigger organizations because it increases their power and ability to do things. The problem is that it also adds many levels of bureaucracy and distance form the rank and file members and if it gets big enough, the members exist for the organization rather than the reverse.Because organizations are impersonal and end up becoming inefficient if they get too large, I think the less organization, the better and the less bureaucracy the more appealing it is to me.

02-28-2006, 02:06 PM
I like Peter's comments very much - I think us U.S. folks have to keep in mind how different other areas might be from what we experience here.

Overall, a nice discussion. Thanks.

Just wondering about this one comment, made several times, on how organizations allow folks to train with and learn from a Shihan, etc. I'm a bit more skeptical when it comes to this claim. For me, I would have worded this as, "Organizations allow folks to be on the mat with shihan (if one continues on with this line of thought - "allowing them to inaccurately say that they have studied with and learned from the shihan.").

In reality, there's a whole lot of distance between learning and studying with a shihan (or any teacher for that matter) and just being on the mat with one at some seminar and/or camp - yet, and here's the funny part, organizations and organizers like to pretend that there's not. With the video age upon us, I'm not so sure we need organizations out there to fulfill this need still.


Peter Goldsbury
02-28-2006, 06:02 PM
Just wondering about this one comment, made several times, on how organizations allow folks to train with and learn from a Shihan, etc. I'm a bit more skeptical when it comes to this claim. For me, I would have worded this as, "Organizations allow folks to be on the mat with shihan (if one continues on with this line of thought - "allowing them to inaccurately say that they have studied with and learned from the shihan.").

I think that David V. is right on target here. I have in mind the large seminar that the IAF organizes every four years in Tokyo. These seminars have become more popular each time and I think one reason is that they allow overseas visitors to come to Japan, stay in the centre of Tokyo cheaply, and do other things as well. However, I find it very hard to believe that people come to the seminars just to practise with any individual shihan. There are too many people on the mat for this to happen.

What does happen is that a Japanese shihan living overseas comes to Japan participate in the seminar and brings a group of students. There is always a good atmosphere at these seminars and people tell me they are popular precisely because of the international flavor that that they give to aikido training. However, such seminars could never substitute for regular training in one's home dojo.

Best regards to all,

03-02-2006, 03:49 PM
Difficult to follow such august speakers. Different tack:

One of the funny artifacts of aikido organizations is interacting with other dojos that are of 'the other' group. (I'm affiliated with ASU, there is a reputedly excellent Federation dojo across town)

See how I worded that? I've met the 'other' Sensei and he seems a decent fellow, but I've never been to his school, yet when I speak of it I have to use my best diplomacy to be sure I am polite. In a medium size town like Tampa it seems silly to have different organizations at all. Oh, but I'm being silly - I've heard of the 'ecumenical' differences between 'us and them'.

I don't give a rat's rear about that stuff. In fact I think I'll promise myself to get over there and check out that other school (better get my hakama cleaned and pressed).

dave :)

03-03-2006, 06:21 AM
You have a student learning aikido from a teacher. The teacher keeps the student on track with his training. At times, the student learns the necessary techniques for the next test and at times the student learns things that aren't part of the "requirements". The teacher tries to teach in such a way that the student learns all the quality things that the teacher has learned. The student finds his/her own personal way in aikido.

Apply that to an organization. The organization exists to keep the members on track with its curriculum. The members learn the curriculum but at times are exposed to outside teachings from other organizations (usually from seminars). The organization does its best to instill a quality learning system for its members. The members find their own personal way in aikido.

For the most part this is what happens for everyone below advanced belts. The difference between organizations is how the *people* at the top decide to run their organization. And that is where politics enters the situation.

For all the rest of us, being in an organization is a lot like being in the dojo. Except the organization is not at the forefront of our thinking. It's an intangible object that occupies some of our time, mostly when we have to pay dues or test fees or attend seminars, etc. However, the teacher is at the forefront and does occupy our thinking while at the dojo. And at other times when reflecting on training outside the dojo.

Do we need organizations? Not really when you pare everything down. But, as others have said, man is a social creature. We create organizations such that like-minded people can have a place to get together. And with human nature the way it is, there is usually created a hierarchy to keep things in a somewhat orderly fashion. It's the way of organizations. But like-minded people will gather no matter if there is an organization or not. It just makes things easier and more orderly when there is one.