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Old 02-01-2006, 12:44 AM   #152
L. Camejo
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Dojo: Ontario Martial Arts
Location: Mississauga, Ontario
Join Date: Aug 2001
Posts: 1,423
Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Michael Gallagher wrote:
If that's your justification for advising people to question their senseis, I hope you keep that in mind when some jerks start talking back to you.
I always encourage them to challenge me and what I am teaching. If a question comes that I cannot answer then it is my failing as an Instructor and I must seek to learn more. If a beginner shuts down my technique, then he is not a jerk, I am, for trying to teach something I don't fully understand and can't apply. This method keeps me honest and constantly seeking and learning among other things. It's not about an ego trip where I tell people what to do and they have to do it, but honest training among individuals with similar goals and a willingness to improve together, which is what this thread has always been about.

It's about not being afraid to ask an honest question because you see your Sensei as some sort of Aiki_God who is infallible in what he teaches. Yes he may have knowledge to impart to you, but he is not responsible for the limits of your knowledge or where you want to go with it, only you are. All an instructor can do is illuminate a small corner of the path - it is up to you to plumb the depths. To question your teacher while seeking the path is not an act of dissension or defiance to your instructor, it is a show of willingness to understand fully what is being taught imho. It is a compliment to his teaching and a show of caring and appreciation for what he is offering.

If in your training a few pointed questions one core principles equate defiance to your teacher then I feel sorry for you. Honestly.

It is the Sensei-worship approach that creates and feeds the culture of martial mediocrity in Aikido and other MA. By the very nature of the approach you give as regards not questioning, the teacher is never challenged or encouraged to maintain a certain standard of skill, technical understanding and application. He has no reason to since he is surrounded by doting students and assistant instructors in a mutual admiration society. These types of teachers are the ones who will botch a technique in training or a demo and blame their Uke instead of admitting one's own limitations in skill or application of a principle. This even happened with Ueshiba M. at a demo in Manchuria. In his case however his technical core was strong enough to deal with the strong attacks in the demo and still execute superb (though not as clean) technique. He still referred to Obha Sensei as an idiot though. We must seek to control the ego at every turn if we are to understand Mushin. Even Ueshiba M. was not perfect at this all the time, so intense and conscientious study and practice is necessary if we are to ever hope to be anywhere near his level, if not better.

I still don't get where you think I'm saying that one should question one's Sensei in a negative manner (i.e. one that attempts to challenge his claim to knowledge of the material he is teaching). But the blind faith approach imho is just that - blind. There is a middle ground of intense personal study while in partnership with one's Sensei that is not difficult to find if one wants to see it. Edwin and Alec (and earlier David) have alluded to it and in Aikido it is often done in conjunction with one's Sensei - questions and all.

All Sensei means is - one who has gone before. To add too much more weight onto this simple designation can be dangerous imho and many know the results of this sort of behaviour.

Let's suffice it to say that at this point your lenses are not allowing you to get what I am talking about and leave it at that. Maybe when you start teaching it'll come to you. A search for answers does not equal disrespect.

Either way - Train safe, train happy.

--Mushin Mugamae - No Mind No Posture. He who is possessed by nothing possesses everything.--
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