One the folks in my dojo emailed me her commentary about the this thread:
I was really stuck that David seems to have more than an average share of generosity and tact. I was especially impressed throughout the forum whenever anyone said anything that seemed contradictory he found the value in their point and praised/thanked them for it. Very gracious -- his scholarly irimi-nage is first rate. And, thanks to all for the experience of seeing a real community of dedicated students and scholars at work.
There were many posts that had the "Ok, but …" feel to them. Contributors as a whole were seemingly disconcerted that this forum was going to turn into "It's alright to manipulate and shame others for the purpose of growth". Clearly this ends-means argument was never the intent of the original discussion. Lots of great stuff came up but only a some of it was firmly centered on the proposed idea.
I think the forum never really got to deeply discuss the occurrences and uses of shame in training. I believe this happened because the main focus became defining shame rather than investigating it. This quote from post #68 clarifies the original intention well: "Basically, shame is useless if it doesn't reside within, and attempting to titillate or sensitize shame in another is just another form of mind manipulation, even if the intent is clean. Truth stands on it's own.
And it always should be the thing sought after by both the teacher and the student." (Italics mine).
In his article, "Who's in Crisis?" (http://ellisamdur.com/article_whosincrisis.html
) Ellis Amdur provides a fascinating definition of shame that I think it highly pertinent to this discussion despite its original context as part of a presentation to law enforcement and mental health professionals. "Shame does not mean to be embarrassed. It is the experience of being exposed, without the possibility of escape. Shame is inextricably intertwined with vulnerability -- not merely the fact that we could be harmed or even die, because that is the lot of all humanity."
Starting with this definition in regard to martial arts training puts us in an entirely different mental framework. Shame as exposure without the possibility of escape. In considering a personal feeling of shame (not an imposed disapproval from another), I suggest that the feeling of embarrassment or social unease/unworthiness is irrelevant. A true experience of shame is the experience of having a previously unknown part of yourself (and a not so lovely part at that) revealed (usually suddenly). This kind of self shock is not dissimilar to the physical shock that we experience when coming in with a committed attack to find it instantaneously rendered ineffective by our partner's readiness/stance/feeling.
The value of that training is making the in-the-moment choice when habit and prior conditioning as well as urgency stand against you. Do you default to what is comfortable and known or do you find access your real self and make the tough and correct decision from that core? The tough decision (and the right decision) is composed of courage, perseverance, and honesty. I use "courage" as choosing the path of truth regardless of one's feelings/opinions about the situation or possible outcomes/consequences. Perseverance is a hybrid of imperturbable confidence in doing what is right and undefeatable spirit. And "honesty" is honesty in everything you are as well as honesty of action. I believe that this kind of experience and the practice in making the choice is vital to real martial arts training in both the intensity of physical attack and the intensity of self-illumination forms.
I agree wholeheartedly that it is not an instructor's or fellow student's place to attempt to create such situations for us in training. It is extremely arrogant for one person to assume that they know the unknown inner workings of another person so well that they know what it is that person needs to face at a given moment, when the student himself isn't even aware. My feeling is don't try to take that power, you really don't want (and are by definition incapable of fulfilling) the associated responsibilities. Moreover, I believe it is not necessary, if we are training wholeheartedly this experience will arise when the student needs it without any assistance.