Re: Senshin Center's Exchange "Arriving"
Very interesting thread. I have learned very much from reading through it.
Given the initial exchange between David V. and Demetrio, I am very much inclined to agree with David's position. I myself would be very wary of anyone who asked me the kind of questions given in the exchange between the Deshi and the Sensei in David's web site, especially the question about my 'political leanings' in aikido. Even now, if I were to be asked this question, I wonder how I would answer it. I would probably request the prospective deshi to clarify the question.
However, I also wonder whether David is not setting up a 'straw man' in his example of the exchange between the Deshi and the Sensei. I do not know. I am curious as to whether the questions asked by the deshi actually reflect David's actual experience, or are the kind of questions that David feels shoud be asked by any prospective deshi. Either way, they are valid questions, but only if asked from within a certain cultural context.
Writing from my own knowledge of the deshi/sensei relationship, I think that if I were a real deshi approaching a real sensei, I doubt whether I would actually ask the questions posed in the dialogue. Perhaps this is an 'American' or 'Western' phenomenon. (I have used the quotes here to signal possibilities, not judgments. I know that there are various uchi-deshi schemes available in the US and elsewhere, but I assume from David's example that the deshi has some knowledge of the martial arts and of aikido.)
My own teaching experience spans 30 years or so, the last 25 of which have been spent in Japan, and I have never encountered an experienced aikidoka coming to a dojo with the questions David suggests in his thread and this is why I think it might be a 'western' phenomenon. I know that the Dutch, for example, want to know about both lineage, but place more emphasis on actual performance on the tatami, which they want to 'feel'. But I also believe that this questioning makes absolutely no difference to the quality of their own training. It certainly does not enhance it. And the only way it might hinder their training is if they refused to participate in a training seminar because of the 'political' allegiance of a sensei, who is technically very advanced.
I myself approached the dojo of ChibaSensei after two years of aikido training. I watched his class and I also felt that it was the best I had ever seen, from my limited experience. However, I can honestly say that the questions posed by the deshi in David's thread never occurred to me. I simply asked Chiba Sensei if I could train in his dojo (Notice that I did not ask if I could become his student, which is suggested by the connotation of the term 'deshi': I was not sufficiently aware of the issues to ask such a question.) Of course, perhaps I should have asked the questions that David highlighted, but I think that the answers would not have been enlightening.
So I suggest that prospective deshi, if they really want to train like deshi, might well have come close to solving many of the questions involving training issues that David suggests before approaching the sensei. In fact I suspect that the actual training situation in David's dojo is much more accommodating to such students than 'general' dojos, where all comers are welcomed with no éÉrobation period, and it is much harder to single out, and respond effectively, to prospective deshi.
I would very much like to have a dojo like David has established here in Japan. This is very difficult and I am nowhere close to establishing why. When Chiba Sensei returned to Japan in the 70s, he found that even he could not establish such a dojo., despite his impressive training history. So he abandoned ship and moved to California, the location chosen in large part because of his back problems.
This leaves the 'federation' question and the question about 'political leanings'. My own students are aware of organization issues only if they look at the various websites pertaining to the dojo. They are never told about it. This is a result of a decision made by me never to mix political issues with training, especially in the early stages. In the later stages, the political issues are presented only as necessary. The local political issues really only involve whether to to take a Hombu grading, or not.
Best wishes to all,
Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 01-21-2006 at 07:38 AM.