Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: Senshin Center's Exchange "Arriving"
Thank you so much for the time to write a reply. You are all very polite and that always has to be appreciated. Yet, though I am grateful, please, all of you, feel free to call me "Dave," and please do not feel like this is a "delicate" subject for my person or our dojo. In fact, this is exactly the kind of exercise out of which our program and its protocols were formed. This is all good from my own personal point of view. It is through these questions, and through what I consider to be a REAL concern for the prospective student, that we have developed into the dojo you all are reading about on the Internet.
To the point: I think we have to see that the person in the Exchange is not a newbie. So on that account, we have to see that the Exchange is not open to the kind of criticism being raised by Marnen. I see Marnen as bringing up a hypothetical, under which it is thought that the current logic of the Exchange should not or could not hold up. I have no problem addressing hypotheticals, but we should all realize that we are now no longer dealing with the Exchange itself and/or what may have bothered some of us when we read the Exchange. That said, let us look at the hypothetical -- I think we may be surprised what it may reveal and/or lead us to discuss.
First, we should realize that the institution, which is the guarantor of the paperwork some are feeling a need for, tends to make sense of the world through political fictions. These fictions, when they function at a social level, always refer to the "Same" and to the "Other." These entities, which can never be real in and of themselves, are understood in contrast to each other. This contrast has material affect and thus does exist at some level of reality. However, once one does away with the contrast (or even with the notion of conflict itself), the delusion that is the Same/Other dialectic, and the supporting institution itself, ceases to function for the individual. Until then, this is all very real and it all makes a great deal of sense. Yet, like with all delusions, it makes sense only as long as you do not think about things too carefully or too deeply.
Here we have this hypothetical -- he (let's assume his gender) is a newbie. He is Other. He is not like us. He is not of the Same. Since we are wise, he is not wise. Since we are informed, he is not informed. Since we are safe and secure where we are, he is not safe and secure where he is. Since we have not been taken advantage of in or through our training, he is or will be taken advantage of in or through his training. Since we are protected, he is not protected. Because he is not like us, he needs to be like us in order to get all that we have and to get all that he does not have now. Etc. After we contrast him to us, we start giving him things - attributes -- mostly our fears, our pride, and our ignorance (i.e. all of the things we do not like about ourselves). Yet, this process is artificial. This newbie remains a figment of our imagination -- or rather a figment of the institution's imagination. Moreover, since we are creating this person out of the thin air our institution allows us to breathe (or tells us to breathe), we cannot help but to make mistakes. Thus, we give him contradictory attributes -- for example, we provide him with cases where he is prone to ignorance one time but then later prone to wisdom. This is exactly the point being made by Mary and Mark when the question whether a newbie can understand paperwork or not.
In this fiction of the Other we create in order to understand the world politically, as the institution inspires us to do so, we say this newbie cannot understand what he sees or experiences when he is watching classes or doing classes, but he can determine what he sees or experiences when he reads a piece of paper. Of course, this pseudo-logic pans out IF we see the institution's paperwork as a kind of gold standard that is not subject to corruption, inaccuracy, and/or misleading the reader, etc. However, we should see, that this is exactly what the institution wants you to think -- which is precisely why you are thinking (with) it! If one were to think, really think, with his or her own mind, one knows that the paperwork of the institution is hardly free of corruption, inaccuracy -- that is indeed very prone to misleading the reader. As I said before, every fraud I ever knew -- in and out of Aikido -- came with papers. If you think about it, every fraud needs papers!
Once we lose the idea of institutional paperwork being some sort of gold standard, we are left with the contradiction of an abstract Other being able to understand paperwork but not being able to understand what they are seeing and/or feeling. In truth, for the newbie, there is no difference between the United States Aikido Federation and The Universal Soke Council of Enlightened Masters of the Universe.
If one was truly concerned with the newbie, concerned outside of how such a "person" might be turned into a political fiction that one can use to make the Same more the same, one is going to do exactly what we do at our dojo. One is not going to rely on having the newbie view a class or rely upon having him do "two free classes, with a free gi, and cheap ass wooden sword" when it comes to having him make a sound decision. Nor is one going to rely upon lineage, paperwork, etc. One is going to give each person that is interested in joining the dojo a chance to experience as much of the dojo as possible before any type of commitment is made (be that emotional, physical, or financial) -- hence our month long trial period. During that time, out of concern for the newbie, you are going to encourage him to ask any and all questions of you (as sensei) and of your deshi (as fellow members). You are also going to seek to make all information regarding your past, your dojo, your family, your teaching angle, and your interpretation of the art, etc., available for viewing (e.g. our web site) and/or discussion (which is different from believing it to be the end of discussion and/or of first-hand experience). Additionally, you are going to make sure the newbie knows of all the other Aikido schools in the area -- regardless of whether or not they are of your political alliance and/or pedagogical leanings or even if they like you or not. Thus, you are going encourage them to check them out personally and/or provide access to their websites via your own website, etc. If you really care about this lost poor ignorant soul that supposedly exists out there and that would suffer tremendously if it were not for the graces and wisdom of our kindness, then this is exactly what you would do. You would not hand him a piece of paper written in a language he cannot read, sent to you from a long time ago and from the other side of the globe, signed by someone that probably wouldn't know you from no one.
The question then is not should we tell experienced practitioners to trust more their own experience than to wait for an institution to tell them what that experience should be. The question is why isn't every dojo that claims to have a concern for the new person being able to make informed decision having month-long commitment-free trial periods; why aren't they totally open with all of their inner workings -- why isn't everything up for discussion; why do they not have links to other locally located non-politically affiliated Aikido dojo on their website, etc. -- why do they think a paper is supposed to take the place of all of this?
My opinion, but I sure would like to see some of the welfare protesters here tell their instructor that their dojo should have a month-long FREE trial period so that beginner's can make honest well-informed decisions and/or ask them if they can put a link to the "competing" Aikido dojo (or any other martial arts dojo) in the area on the dojo website. Honestly, how well do you think that would fly with your instructor? How about with your Shihan?