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Old 01-20-2006, 09:15 AM   #6
Dojo: Vassar College Aikido Club
Location: Poughkeepsie, NY
Join Date: Oct 2002
Posts: 20
Re: Senshin Center's Exchange "Arriving"

David Valadez wrote:
The issue, which I would not describe with the moral term "wrong," centers over whether or not it is wise to put so much stock in federation history and/or papers that one comes to doubt one's own first hand experience.
While I agree that one should not trust papers over actual experience, your essay has been disturbing me since I read it, and I've been trying to put my finger on why.

I think the passage I quoted above crystallizes my objection. Let's say I want to join your dojo. Of course, as a total newcomer, I'm going to observe your class before I do so. Of course I will watch what goes on there, and of course the perceived quality of what I see will be more influential on my decision than any teaching lineage would be.

But wait. "The perceived quality of what I see." What is that? I have seen, but if I'm a total newcomer to martial arts, how will I judge what I see? What basis do I have for comparison? Beyond a certain elementary level, how do I know what's "good" and "bad" training? Isn't that precisely what I'm coming to you to learn?

By asking me to disregard your teaching lineage and rank, you are asking me to disregard the only reasonably objective criteria I have access to and focus instead on something I have no basis to evaluate. This goes double in a non-competitive art like (most styles of) aikido, where I cannot even see how you stack up in competition against other practitioners who are not your students. (Note: this is not meant to be a value judgement for or against competition.)

I suspect you will respond that we all can evaluate what we see in a dojo if we just believe our own eyes. I answer: if that is true, why are so many ineffective or downright harmful schools thriving?

Your advice to judge you only by what you do and not by your lineage is excellent advice -- for one who has the expertise to do so. Newcomers cannot be assumed to have any such expertise.
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