Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Join Date: Jul 2001
Re: Financial Obligations and Sensei
You have asked for comments from 'senior' members of Aikweb. Perhaps I qualify. I think a quick answer to your question is: Well, It depends. Obviously this is not satisfactory, so let me expand a little. (Warning: This will be a long post.)
Certainly, a direct comparison between Ueshiba/Takeda and presentday aikido would be relevant only for the attitude that Ueshiba displayed towards Takeda. I do not know much about Sokaku Takeda's financial circumstances, but he used to charge for each technique he taught and charged a lot. Morihei Ueshiba was financially supported by his family, but possesed almost no business acumen. So his wife ran the family finances (and this is also the norm in modern Japan). Two important points are (1) that it was a seller's market. If you wanted to be taught by the top-class guy, you paid. Period. (2) Ueshiba came from a wealthy farming family and had the means and the leisure to wander round the country looking for the top-class guys. Don't forget that Takeda also required recommendations and Yoshida recomended Ueshiba, who was not samurai class.
So this was a 'pure' master/deshi relationship and this has always been portrayed as the ideal of the sensei/student relationship in aikido. How has this happened, for the modern reality is somewhat different?
Like Harvey Konigsberg, I was an early student of a Japanese 'despatched' shihan. My shihan was K Chiba and I trained with Chiba Sensei not long after he came to reside in the UK. I know that he had a very tough time when he first came. For a start he was fearsome as an aikidoka and teacher. His English was virtually non-existent, so he was pretty unapproachable and also could not explain to anybody the finer points of sensei/stuident etiquette. In any case, he could not spell out the obligations students had towards their sensei, because this is something that is not supposed to be said: it is supposed to understood as part of 'budo culture'.
Actually, I know well that almost every professional aikido shihan who was despatched abroad: Yamada, Tamura, Kanai, Chiba, Tada, Asai all had major problems, even of survival, after they arrived in their 'adopted' countries. Why? Their students did not have a clue about how to care for a professional sensei--this awesome being from another planet--and the sensei was not able tell them because of the 'budo code'. They were supposed to behave like samurai: to live frugally and display all the traditional bushido virtues.
You mentioned that Hiroshi Kato never mentions money. Of course, he doesn't. Discussing money inappropriately is absolutely taboo in Japan. You can see this from reading Stanley Pranin's interviews with the old Kobukan students. I think it is in the Kunigoshi interview. O Sensei himself never concerned hmself with money, but there was a financial problem at some point and a wealthy student/sponsor quickly stepped in to solve the problem. O Sensei's wife was the one who dealt with it behind the scenes: a classic example of omote/ura, but also an old-style solution: an exclusive martial art, practised by those with the means and leisure to do so.
You can think of the Kobukan and the early despatched shihans like Yamada, Kanai and Chiba as a 'golden age'. When they went abroad to teach aikido, it was the time of the new beginning, after the war, but the Hombu really had no clue about how to prepare them for living abroad and teaching aikido. It did not really matter, for they would get by with youthful raw enthusiasm and fighting spirit.
Now things are different. The Aikikai Hombu is organized much more as a business operation and if you invite a Hombu shihan to give a training seminar abroad, you need to apply to the Hombu and they will tell you exactly what your financial obligations are. There is a certain nostalgia for the 'golden age' among the older Japanese shihans: a feeling that things have changed for the worse. I think this is simply nostalgia, but it is a very powerful feeling.
I think the diference is due to two fundamental changes that were made: (1) aikido was to be no longer an elitist martial art, but available for everybody and dedicated to general health and world peace; (2) aikido was to be taught and practised outside Japan and therefore subject to other cultural influences, including matters of money and finance. This second point means that we need to take account of how non-Japanese see the relationship between sensei and student in financial terms. I believe that the relationship is seen much more as a kind of contract between teacher and student, even if the terms of the contract are not spelled out in detail.
With Kato Shihan I think there are two relevant factors here: (1) Mr Kato is a traditional Japanese budoka and so I think he is likely to see the sensei/student relationship in traditional terms; (2) Though he has trained at the Hombu over the years, Mr Kato is not technically a Hombu shihan and so any arrangements made for his trips abroad are made individually, not through the Aikikai Hombu.
So, I would think that one rule of thumb is: he should not in any way be financially out of pocket because of his trips to the US. You have a duty to make sure that everything is covered from the time he leaves his house until the time he returns. Of course, you have known him for a long time, so I am sure you know this and do this. Another rule of thumb is: someone should be deputed to look after him: taking him to and from the dojo; looking after his personal needs (for each class a clean keikogi, properly washed and pressed, with a correctly folded hakama); and anticipating his needs for 'private' time, for R & R and also for discussion with students.
Should he be paid a fee of some sort, over and above the financial matters involved in the last paragraph? It is diffcult to give a hard and fast rule here. If you invite a Hombu shihan, any instruction fee is to be paid to the Hombu and not to the shihan directly: the shihan receives only 'pocket money'.Let me explain what we do in the IAF.
During an IAF Congress there is a training seminar and all the Hombu instructors of 7th dan and above instruct during the seminar. Usually, each shihan instructs for about 80 minutes. The established payment is 50,000 Japanese yen for 7th and 8th dan shihans and 100,000 yen for 9th dan shihans and Doshu. Payment is made in cash by the General Secretary to the 7th dan and 8th dan shihans, but by the Chairman to the 9th dan shihans and to Doshu. So Tada Sensei came to my room at the Congress and I presented him with a white envelope containing new 10,000 notes wrapped in white paper. I did the same with Doshu, but I went to his room. The Hombu organized all this as accepted Japanese practice. The only difference was that all the shihans have to sign a receipt for the money, since it has to appear in the IAF accounts.
I think your situation with Kato Sensei is similar to the situation I have with a group of dojos in Europe. I am technically their senior instructor and visit the group in spring and summer. In the summer school we hold the annual dan examinations. The group covers my expenses from the time I leave my house in Hiroshima until the time I return. Since my travel expenses are large and since I am not a professional aikido instructor, I do not expect, and do not receive, an instruction fee. However, this is causing problems within the organization, because no teaching fee means no 'value' is placed on my instruction. This is true whether you see the situation in terms of the traditional Japanese teacher/student relationship , or in terms of the more contractual 'western' relationship.
I think Takeda Sokaku understood the financial aspects of the traditional teacher/student very well, which is why he was hardly ever beaten and charged for each technique he taught.
Best wishes (and feel free to PM me, if you wish).
Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 07-24-2006 at 06:28 AM.