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Another student has, at various times, engaged me in a conversation about ego and rank. He says that we shouldn't consider either important.
I find it interesting because I have observed his interaction with the very new students and noticed that he tends to bark at them if they make a mistake. He never gives eye contact or recignizes them in a 'human' manner, he often attempts to correct my technique, to which I smile and nod, even though it isn't the instruction given by sensei, and he has even said that sensei is wrong at times.
I find that when I watch his movements it seems that he yanks stiffly through technique, which I find ironic because it to me reflects his personality type even in his conversational style. I have found that he will say something extreme and require an answer.
What is most challenging to me is that I respond to him in ways that I don't often do with others.
When he says 'sensei was wrong...' I find myself saying back 'By definition, sensei is never wrong...' Which isn't really true, and I don't think sensei would even agree to that. But I find that he makes these assertions about areas which he totally is uninformed enough to make a judgement, and he does it in front of the new students.
When he says 'there should be no ego...' I smile and nod, but I want to ask him if he's really prepared to embrace that. Could he take feedback from another student, even one who is dohai (equi-ranked), let alone a sempai? Over and over I have seen him bow to sensei after correction and go right back to doing what he was doing in the first place.
My general feeling about rank is that it is important that a student understand the etiquette in aikido enough so that if they go to another school, they will be able to navigate the requirements enough so that they won't be labeled a rube, and be associated as a rube from our school.
When we have trained together I have faltered in my aiki training at times and froze him out purely because he is trying to dominate through his technique. It hasn't happened every time, but when I see him rough up another student, I feel a want to not affirm that, yet really I wonder if I am reinforcing it.
When he first started training at this school, he used to try to throw in shihonage without bringing wrist to shoulder. To which I said 'Stop' and told him that he risks damaging my shoulder or elbow. He stopped and looked confused '...but that's how it's done.' he said. And from then on he would say that it was my shoulders which were weak and damaged.
In my attempt to keep community-minded, I have endeavoured to volunteer whenever possible to the needs of the school. Again I find my ai-keiko challenged because this guy had insisted that I also attend to his needs. Like immedaitely responding to his emails about things which only sensei could answer.
So I feel like my attention is kidnapped in a way, and I resent it. I know that part of my work is to address humility, partly because ego to me was one of my defenses as a kid in a harsh environment.
I wonder if what I see in him is a more extreme case of what I am trying to resolve in me. Not that I try to hurt other students, or dominate them, I've had positive feedback from students and kohai in terms of training and teaching. Maybe that I wonder where I am clueless to stepping on the toes of others, or where I might come off as too egotistical.
I try to be sincere in my actions. I try to find connection. It is a challenge to let go.