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Tom Verhoeven 09-12-2012 06:40 PM

Re: Sensei?
 
Quote:

Todd Lyons wrote: (Post 315812)
"Uh... Hi Ben. Listen... you could learn a thing or two from Johnny's example. He was the man." :D

That is a good one! :D But it must be the time of day or something, for it took me a minute or so before I got it.:)
Tom

Peter Goldsbury 09-12-2012 07:19 PM

Re: Sensei?
 
Quote:

Tom Verhoeven wrote: (Post 315572)
As for your visits to the Netherlands, with all due respect, the organization that invited you, represented only a small part of the aikidoka of the Netherlands. There are dojo who do use the title sensei.and use it with a proper understanding of what it means.

Well, with respect to Holland, we will have to agree to disagree. I have been visiting that country since before all the splits. A discussion would increase the thread drift too much.

Quote:

Tom Verhoeven wrote: (Post 315572)
As for my own training and teaching; it is a reflection of the teachings and the structure of the dojo in Japan where I am a member of. It works for me and I am more then happy with it.

Good. I could say exactly the same thing about my situation here.

Quote:

Tom Verhoeven wrote: (Post 315572)
Best wishes from the Auvergne,

Tom

.

Thank you. Best wishes from Sanyo chiku.

PAG

MM 09-12-2012 08:44 PM

Re: Sensei?
 
Quote:

Tom Verhoeven wrote: (Post 315572)
Dear Peter,
The word skeptical was not meant as a criticism, nor did it refer only to the terms sensei, sempai kohai (although "sensei" is the subject of this thread). I think Chris is at times critical and skeptical about the Japanese ways, much in the same way as I am skeptical about the western ways of thinking. In itself I see this as a healthy attitude.

It is only that we differ of opinion; where he criticizes sempai - kohai structure there I see something worthwhile studying and applying. Also I think that it is not a structure that is alien to us; it is not much different from the hierarchical structure on board of ships, the kitchen of a restaurant or the fire-brigade. I have trained in several traditional kobudo dojo where this structure was in use without any problems. It is typically the members and instructors of Aikido dojo who have problems with it. . .

Best wishes from the Auvergne,

Tom

.

If I remember correctly, Peter has written a couple of posts about the sempai-kohei relationship here on Aikiweb. They are worth finding. If it wasnt Peter, my apologies. My memory is not always the best. Still, in areas like this, I would make sure that I was on very, very solid ground before debating either Peter or Chris. Just my opinion.

Basia Halliop 09-12-2012 10:30 PM

Re: Sensei?
 
Quote:

Todd Lyons wrote: (Post 315812)
"Uh... Hi Ben. Listen... you could learn a thing or two from Johnny's example. He was the man." :D

Surely you'd say Josef and Karol if you really meant to be informal, though? (Unless you actually meant Angelo)

Tom Verhoeven 09-14-2012 03:29 PM

Re: Sensei?
 
Quote:

Mark Murray wrote: (Post 315828)
If I remember correctly, Peter has written a couple of posts about the sempai-kohei relationship here on Aikiweb. They are worth finding. If it wasnt Peter, my apologies. My memory is not always the best. Still, in areas like this, I would make sure that I was on very, very solid ground before debating either Peter or Chris. Just my opinion.

Not to worry, I am here on just as solid ground as they are. But I appreciate your concern.

Tom

CitoMaramba 09-16-2012 06:56 AM

Re: Sensei?
 
Quote:

Basia Halliop wrote: (Post 315831)
Surely you'd say Josef and Karol if you really meant to be informal, though? (Unless you actually meant Angelo)

And between Angelo and Karol was Giovanni... but I would have only addressed them as "Your Holiness"... :D

Robert Cowham 09-16-2012 03:35 PM

Re: Sensei?
 
Quote:

Basia Halliop wrote: (Post 315570)
Personally I'd find it far far more creepy to bow to a political symbol than to a photo (especially in the context of a martial art where we are constantly bowing to other humans in a mutually respectful but totally non-worshiping way). I would not be comfortable bowing to a flag at all. YMMV.

I have been interested to observe a muslim practitioner in a dojo who stated up front that he had problems bowing to other people, and exemptions were granted. While I respect his religious views, I have thought on occasion that he applies them slightly variably himself, and I have a strong suspicion takes advantage occasionally of the "exemption" he has. It's a difficult area.

My own line of teaching leads to Inaba sensei of the Meiji Jingu Shiseikan - he is devout in his Shinto beliefs and explains them as the basis of his Budo - and yet he also challenges others to find the equivalent for their culture and religious beliefs - he is not seeking to convert people to Shinto.

In Japanese Budo, there are plenty of people that tend to be (or at least aspire to be) "more Japanese than the Japanese" - a position which I find entertaining at times :) I remember visiting a dojo in the USA where the (caucasian) teacher seemed to be speaking (almost grunting) pidgin Japanese but with a Scottish accent (I grew up and went to university in Scotland) - his aikido was fine but I did find the scenario a little bizarre!

My own personal predilections are to seek to separate where possible the Japanese cultural baggage from the core truths - not an easy task, and the risk is to throw baby out with bathwater - but life is full of risks :) Interestingly the more experience I gain, the more I realise how careful you need to be in distinguishing what is valuable, and what is baggage - and yet in a way the more I realise the value of basic respect for others - it costs nothing to be polite and act as a gentleman (showing my age and gender...).

hughrbeyer 09-16-2012 10:03 PM

Re: Sensei?
 
Quote:

Robert Cowham wrote: (Post 315952)
In Japanese Budo, there are plenty of people that tend to be (or at least aspire to be) "more Japanese than the Japanese" - a position which I find entertaining at times :) I remember visiting a dojo in the USA where the (caucasian) teacher seemed to be speaking (almost grunting) pidgin Japanese but with a Scottish accent (I grew up and went to university in Scotland) - his aikido was fine but I did find the scenario a little bizarre!

Be careful about your interpretation here. My own sensei spent 10 years learning aikido in Japan, and when he's on the mat a bunch of Japanese mannerisms and syntax reappear. But it's not put on--that's the context in which he learned aikido, so being on the mat re-creates them. Might be the same for the guy you saw.

Also, there's value in ritual itself, if the activity you're engaged in has any significance at all. We create ritual to express the significance of what we do--even a baseball game has ritual, as the roshi of the Zen monastery I visit used to explain. The ritual of the dojo ties us to the history of aikido and has value in itself--if we don't use the ritual that's given to us, what do we do instead? Invent it?

Robert Cowham 09-17-2012 03:28 AM

Re: Sensei?
 
Quote:

Hugh Beyer wrote: (Post 315959)
Be careful about your interpretation here. My own sensei spent 10 years learning aikido in Japan, and when he's on the mat a bunch of Japanese mannerisms and syntax reappear. But it's not put on--that's the context in which he learned aikido, so being on the mat re-creates them. Might be the same for the guy you saw.

Also, there's value in ritual itself, if the activity you're engaged in has any significance at all. We create ritual to express the significance of what we do--even a baseball game has ritual, as the roshi of the Zen monastery I visit used to explain.

Valid point - it's all a question of degree, and perhaps a matter of personal preference and style. You pays yer money and makes yer choice!

Done in a genuine way, I have no problem with it.

Quote:

The ritual of the dojo ties us to the history of aikido and has value in itself--if we don't use the ritual that's given to us, what do we do instead? Invent it?
I don't think we should be frightened of inventing our own rituals - though of course there are plenty of dangers inherent in this.

Each dojo in any case tends to have its own personality and way of practice. As a teacher it is obvious to me how my own bad habits are magnified in my students!

The core for me is respect and a spirit of research. For example my major influence has been Inaba sensei of the Meiji Jingu Shiseikan - he frequently talks about and demonstrates how his own Shinto beliefs are the core of his Budo. But he also says that he is not seeking to convert people, he is instead challenging them to find their own core consistent with their culture and heritage. There are times when I "channel my inner Inaba sensei" on the mat - I am sure that can look strange to others too.

oisin bourke 09-17-2012 06:21 AM

Re: Sensei?
 
Quote:

Robert Cowham wrote: (Post 315963)
The core for me is respect and a spirit of research. For example my major influence has been Inaba sensei of the Meiji Jingu Shiseikan - he frequently talks about and demonstrates how his own Shinto beliefs are the core of his Budo. But he also says that he is not seeking to convert people, he is instead challenging them to find their own core consistent with their culture and heritage. There are times when I "channel my inner Inaba sensei" on the mat - I am sure that can look strange to others too.

Here is an interview with Inaba Sensei from the Japan Times website;

"Losing is always a sore subject. Japan lost the war in 1945 and it's still bleeding from its wounds. We have not recovered from the aftereffects of the Occupation. Healing takes time because the wounds are picked again and again so the scabs can never fall off.

Believe that the end is always good. In Shinto, our creation story begins with great happiness and lovemaking and Amaterasu the sun goddess giving birth to many children. Shinto is all about positive feelings and I think this is why Japanese people are optimists and never give up. Even after the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we were immediately rebuilding and never blamed the United States ever. Life is just too fun to waste.

We lost the war, but at least we have the Emperor. Japanese culture originates with him. Our nation's foundation is Shinto, with the Emperor as the highest priest who listens to the sun goddess and offers her festivals and ceremonies. He is the one person who knows the feelings and wishes of both the goddess and the people.

In the Japanese language words and emotions are perfectly matched. When foreigners speak Japanese, they are much kinder and gentler than when they use their mother tongue. Their facial expressions soften and they are unable to say yes or no clearly. Japanese food also contributes to this metamorphosis after five days living here on miso soup and rice, the color of their faces is healthier and they look better."

Now, I find these statements... uncomfortable, but the question is, if your sensei starts publicly making statements like this, what does one do?

Robert Cowham 09-17-2012 07:57 AM

Re: Sensei?
 
Quote:

Oisin Bourke wrote: (Post 315964)
Now, I find these statements... uncomfortable, but the question is, if your sensei starts publicly making statements like this, what does one do?

I consider it a challenge to research these things more deeply for myself. I am not Japanese, I don't have the same beliefs regarding the Emperor. As a Brit and a practising Anglican, I could potentially substitute the Queen (as head of the church) for the Emperor and all would be well - after all, we all know that God is an Englishman ;) But then again, may be not!

For me it is interesting to seek to understand the underlying essence and core truths - a large project. Maybe if I ate more miso and rice it would do my weight some good :)

Robert Cowham 09-17-2012 09:16 AM

Re: Sensei?
 
Quick follow up, I need to mention Peter Goldsbury's hugely informative essays including aspects of O Sensei's religious beliefs - what do we need to understand and believe in order to study and progress in Aikido?

Also, from Ellis Amdur's "Hidden in Plain Site":
Quote:

Ueshiba saw himself as a kind of avatar, instrumental in ushering in a golden age of redemption, the unification of Heaven, Earth, and Man. To a considerable degree, he was unconcerned about whether others became avatars like himself. He regarded aikido practitioners as living out their fate as appointed by their 'chief guardian deity,' doing the work of the "spiritual proletariat," accumulating merit and energy through aikido practice.
For those of us studying Aikido (and related arts) for more than just purely physical aspects, why are we doing what we are doing? What do we accept from our teacher's beliefs and what do we create for ourselves?

Eric Winters 09-17-2012 08:32 PM

Re: Sensei?
 
Quote:

Robert Cowham wrote: (Post 315965)
I consider it a challenge to research these things more deeply for myself. I am not Japanese, I don't have the same beliefs regarding the Emperor. As a Brit and a practising Anglican, I could potentially substitute the Queen (as head of the church) for the Emperor and all would be well - after all, we all know that God is an Englishman ;) But then again, may be not!

For me it is interesting to seek to understand the underlying essence and core truths - a large project. Maybe if I ate more miso and rice it would do my weight some good :)

You have got it TOTALLY WRONG. The DEVIL is an Englishman. Just look at all the movies the Devil always has a British accent. :D

Eric

hughrbeyer 09-18-2012 03:38 PM

Re: Sensei?
 
Quote:

Oisin Bourke wrote: (Post 315964)
In the Japanese language words and emotions are perfectly matched. When foreigners speak Japanese, they are much kinder and gentler than when they use their mother tongue. Their facial expressions soften and they are unable to say yes or no clearly. Japanese food also contributes to this metamorphosis after five days living here on miso soup and rice, the color of their faces is healthier and they look better."

Now, I find these statements... uncomfortable, but the question is, if your sensei starts publicly making statements like this, what does one do?

Choose one or more of the following:

1. Know that that's what your sensei thinks, which doesn't create an obligation on you to think it.

2. Be glad you're learning aikido from him, not languages or culture or nutrition.

3. Look for the underlying truths in what he says. Does speaking Japanese influence how you think? It certainly discourages saying yes or no clearly--is that a good thing? How does it change social interactions? Etc etc.

Robert Cowham 09-19-2012 03:08 PM

Re: Sensei?
 
Quote:

Eric Winters wrote: (Post 315995)
You have got it TOTALLY WRONG. The DEVIL is an Englishman. Just look at all the movies the Devil always has a British accent. :D

There was certainly a spate of Hollywood movies with English accented baddies - but we just treat that as sour grapes and magnanimously rise above it :)

Patrick Hutchinson 09-19-2012 06:02 PM

Re: Sensei?
 
I always wondered why all the orcs had Cockney accents in the LOTR movies.

Jonathan Guzzo 09-27-2012 05:39 PM

Re: Sensei?
 
This thread is a little old, but it's interesting. I don't post much, but thought I would in this one.

In our dojo, the instructor is always called sensei--no exceptions. When bowing in seiza, we put our left hand down first, then the right. When rising from the bow, we raise the right hand first, then the left. When moving into seiza from hanmi, we put our left knee down first, then the right. When standing, we raise the right knee first, then the left.

When walking off the mat with a weapon, we back away--never turning our backs to the shomen.

Lots of little points of etiquette allow the mind to string together continuous attention and give us a common nonverbal language. At the same time, the spirit in our dojo is very light. There is a lot of laughter, no drama, and we are all devoted to one another. We train rigorously in a clean, uncluttered style with lots of martial directness. It's a great place, and I think the etiquette is one of the things that makes it so.

Jonathan

Adam Huss 10-01-2012 10:39 PM

Re: Sensei?
 
Quote:

Jonathan Guzzo wrote: (Post 316342)
This thread is a little old, but it's interesting. I don't post much, but thought I would in this one.

In our dojo, the instructor is always called sensei--no exceptions. When bowing in seiza, we put our left hand down first, then the right. When rising from the bow, we raise the right hand first, then the left. When moving into seiza from hanmi, we put our left knee down first, then the right. When standing, we raise the right knee first, then the left.

When walking off the mat with a weapon, we back away--never turning our backs to the shomen.

Lots of little points of etiquette allow the mind to string together continuous attention and give us a common nonverbal language. At the same time, the spirit in our dojo is very light. There is a lot of laughter, no drama, and we are all devoted to one another. We train rigorously in a clean, uncluttered style with lots of martial directness. It's a great place, and I think the etiquette is one of the things that makes it so.

Jonathan

Jonathan,

I completely agree. These little minutiae that we adhere to may seem frivolous to many people. Why bow? Why step onto the mat with a specific foot? Why hand a weapon off in a particular manner? Some argue over what is right and what is wrong. This is, to some degrees, ridiculous! These are practical actions. They are done for self-developmentment, not the appeasement of some nebulous historical traditions. The Japanese did not do these things arbitrarily, so why should we? I understand that people may not understand the reasons behind some of these actions, which makes it no surprise they don't place value to them. The actual act isn't so important as the intent behind it and the benefit one gets from it (if they let themselves).

For example, I totally get why you back out of the dojo with weapons vice turning your back to the shomen. It makes sense. My group has the exact opposite tradition, we would never walk backwards with weapons for practical purposes (of course we bow out shomen ho when leaving the mat). Even though we have opposite traditions when it comes to leaving the mat, the result in the same benefits....developing awareness (doing something for a particular reason at a particular time), forcing yourself to live in the moment (vice plodding off the mat, giving a half ass bow, with that cold gatorade in your near future in your head), etc.

Etiquette is such an important part of training and is such a practical part of budo training.

lars beyer 10-12-2012 05:19 PM

Re: Sensei?
 
Quote:

Adam Huss wrote: (Post 316490)
Jonathan,

I completely agree. These little minutiae that we adhere to may seem frivolous to many people. Why bow? Why step onto the mat with a specific foot? Why hand a weapon off in a particular manner? Some argue over what is right and what is wrong. This is, to some degrees, ridiculous! These are practical actions. They are done for self-developmentment, not the appeasement of some nebulous historical traditions. The Japanese did not do these things arbitrarily, so why should we? I understand that people may not understand the reasons behind some of these actions, which makes it no surprise they don't place value to them. The actual act isn't so important as the intent behind it and the benefit one gets from it (if they let themselves).

For example, I totally get why you back out of the dojo with weapons vice turning your back to the shomen. It makes sense. My group has the exact opposite tradition, we would never walk backwards with weapons for practical purposes (of course we bow out shomen ho when leaving the mat). Even though we have opposite traditions when it comes to leaving the mat, the result in the same benefits....developing awareness (doing something for a particular reason at a particular time), forcing yourself to live in the moment (vice plodding off the mat, giving a half ass bow, with that cold gatorade in your near future in your head), etc.

Etiquette is such an important part of training and is such a practical part of budo training.

Agree


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