Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: Frustrated by unconvincing aikido
Good posts Ron. Well said.
"Jon," while it may not be too relative to the thread, you might also want to check out AikidoJournal.com to get a more accurate understanding of Osensei's history. Your take on things could be called very romantic. Moreover, it is undoubtedly underlying your interpretation of the first post -- so maybe it is relative, though it should not be.
Here is a story I feel IS relative to the "rank" flashing element of this threadů
When I was living in Japan a friend of mine from the States took advantage of the opportunity of having a place to stay and a guide to show him around, etc., and so he came to visit me. Late in his visit, after joining me in my weekly training circuit of attending four to five dojo -- which is what one has to do in order to train daily on a regular basis -- I took him with me to a new dojo. Another friend I met recently trained there and he suggested that we should come to train and to join him and other members for a beer and some food afterwards. As it turned out, this dojo was ran by one of the senior students of the Shihan that ran our (my main) dojo -- so it was a very familiar style.
By this time, I had already pretty much gotten used to that strange irony that marks all of Japanese Aikido (for me). I am referring to the end-result that comes from the strange proximity that exists between how much significance is given to rank and how much "leeway" is taken with the notion that "shodan" can literally be understood as "beginner level." In other words, you got many folks with high rank, but with no skill, who make a big deal out of high rank. (Note: I am speaking generally here, and I am basing this on my experience. And though my experience and my interpretation of that experience has been in agreement with everyone else I know that has trained in Japan [both Japanese and foreign alike], if you got a different interpretation based upon a different experience -- more power to you. I would actually be quite happy to hear that there is some place somewhere in Japan where these elements are not all related in the way that I have described them here.)
So we go to this new friend's dojo. We start to train -- we were doing Sumi-otoshi from Tachi-waza Katate-dori. Very basic. My friend from the States and I are in hakama. He is a Nidan under Chiba Sensei. I am an Ikkyu under my Shihan in Kyoto. I am wearing a hakama because I was afforded the privilege due to the fact that I traveled with our other Shihan (our dojo had two) to be his Uke for seminars, demonstrations, etc. What I did not notice at first was that this dojo not only lined up according to rank at the beginning of class but they also trained according to rank -- such that the highest rank was always training closest to the Shomen and lower ranks, in sequential order, trained further from the Shomen.
As it turned out, I was training with the second highest rank in the dojo, and my friend was training with the highest ranked person from that dojo. So we are doing Sumi-otoshi and my friend's Uke just starts resisting his technique. The guy was obviously tired and probably was not too used to getting tired out by any "kohai." So he starts blocking my friend's technique in the most obvious and grievous of ways. However, my friend is over six feet tall and this guy is just your average middle-aged Japanese salary man. His resistance was really no resistance at all. My friend gave him the courtesy of allowing him to set up better for the breakfall, (not a thing commonly done in Chiba's culture among yudansha) assuming that that was his reason for resisting the technique. With the added opening my friend provided him with for the purposes of getting back in the technique, the guy only took a more solid base from which to offer more resistance. After that, my friend just proceeded to throw him anyways -- it was not a big deal for him. The guy goes flying through the air against his will and against his every hope. Bam!
He does not land so smoothly -- as one would imagine for anyone that is too attached to the ground in his or her mind when being required to take a breakfall. He gets up all pissed-off and starts yelling at my friend in Japanese. Only my friend does not speak Japanese. He starts looking at me to translate. I tell me friend, "He wants to know your rank" -- leaving out all the other insults and objections. My friend looks at him and says, "Ni-dan." Then the guys starts speaking in broken English, "Me, san-dan. You, ni-dan. You don't throw me like that -- very rude!" Then he says basically the same thing in Japanese for me to translate to my friend. I did.
My friend did not say anything back to him. Though we sure talked about it a lot on the train ride back home. We thought he was lame; that he is missing the big picture; that that kind of stuff should not be recognized or supported directly or indirectly by any Aikido institution; etc. However, there my friend simply silently bowed and went on to find another partner after allowing this "san-dan" to play his games for the rest of the pairing. As it turns out, the guy bows to me to partner with him next. We are still working on the same technique. Sure enough -- he does the same thing. However, before he could get whatever it was he was trying to get from such action, I simply took his energy into a Kokyu-nage in the other direction and sent him flying through the air. Bam! He gets up all sore -- rubbing his hip and he asks in Japanese, "What is your rank?" I tell him, "Ikkyu." He say, "No, you are not Ikkyu, you are Yon-dan."
This is how I see this whole thing: The guy was lame when he used his rank to feel superior to another, and the guy remained lame when he opted to use his rank to humble himself before another. For me, it is like this: If you understand the Way, rank is meaningless. If rank carries meaning for you, the kind that you can actually encase your own identity within and/or by which you can come to relate to others through, then you cannot possibly understand the Way. To be sure, it is always wise to not veer too far away from the insights that come to us from understanding all points of view as relative. However, if in doing so we violate some basic universal principles, we will not be doing anyone any good -- least of all ourselves.
Before one starts suggesting that there was something at the seminar worthy of learning but that was being missed because someone was too blinded by their own point of view, let us acknowledge that in all probability there was probably not anything worthy of learning being presented there. Or, if we really want to stick to the position that there is always something to learn, no matter where we are or who we are dealing with, then let us say that at best one was looking at a negative lesson -- a way how not to be. To be direct: When one offers their rank as an explanation for anything, what one should most of all seek to understand in such action is not something that may be hidden from view because of one's own subjectivity. Rather, one should seek to learn what is staring at you right in the face, waiting for you right there on the surface. One should seek to learn how not to become such a person. This is the important lesson that one, by all means, should not miss.
Last edited by senshincenter : 06-15-2005 at 04:38 PM.