George S. Ledyard wrote:
If we are going to pass on an Aikido that has anything at all to do with what O-Sensei created, we need Aikido teachers, not just Aikido demonstrators.
In this discussion, this is one of the key components and I am afraid I don't have any good news to share. I have been a professional educator for some time both in the school system, in Aikido and in church venues. What you have out there are gifted teachers, gifted learners and then there's all the rest.
1) A gifted teacher is one that has the ability to sense the need of the student and who can create a paradigm or method that will help that individual to understand by means of an external communication. The "gift" is the ability to sense the need and then the ability to know the learners capacity and construct a bridge of communication. I do that in my school classes and it is on the spot work that is very individualized. I am a non conformist in that sense in that I throw everything the class is doing out the window to do that. My peers are more concerned about moving the entire class forward thus sacrificing those "teaching moments". I call that "group" or "mass education". In that past, I have also been known to refer to that as "forced education". It's the "just do it" or the "I have to do it" mentality.
By this definition, I have had very poor teachers in my life.There are so many people who are teaching that have no gift for teaching. I see my own instructors teaching and making mistake after mistake not realizing or seeing who they have in their class. They make no adjustments. It is a gift to be able to see, sense, and act appropriately. The rank is not the issue. I know a 6th dan and an 8th dan who are great practitioners but poor communicators of what what they are doing on any level.
2) The gifted learner is one who seems to have an innate ability to see, internalize,and improve on what they look at. In my life, I have had two students like this. One in the school where I work and one in Aikido. They were truly amazing but I knew it wasn't me, it was a gift inside of them that very few have. I might suggest that Saotome Shihan is a person like that. My own teacher is that way as well. This is something a "system" cannot give. It comes from God.
3) Then there's all the rest. We are believers in systems. I am not opposed to them but having been heavily involved in the educational systems, I am convinced they hinder learning more than they help it. They are impersonal, they work toward group education which tends to bypass and minimize the individual. The system has no place for gifted teachers or gifted learners in the long run. Look at the hard time most geniuses had in school, even in the area of their genius. Most people don't know that the more we have certified and reformed our educational institutions, the lower our test scores have dropped over the last 50 years. The companies that make the exams who work for the institutions have dumbed down the standard achievement tests every year so the drop in test scores wouldn't be so noticeable. Yet, in the colonial times and even during the medieval period, the great minds were nurtured in systems that catered to in the individual and not to the group. Their methods were completely different than what we do today. I am hopelessly at a loss for words here. It would take volumes to explain what I am trying to say. I just have little faith in our modern systems.
What can we do?
Nothing I'm afraid. As Aikido or any learning endeavor grows and has more adherents that want to learn, it will become more difficult to sense and act on the needs of the individuals. Eventually, the massive needs will cause a collapse of the system as it falls under it's own weight and then decentralization will occur and things will build up naturally through that process. When nature takes things down, things are restored for a time, until we get too large and massive to feel and sense the needs. Movements of all kinds, be they religions, philosophies or social groups rise up in response to felt needs and gifted people arise and have the freedom to use their giftings and there is blessing and growth. Then as larger numbers of people want to experience the gifting of the gifted person , they organize things to be able to spread it to larger numbers of people. Then the movement begins to lose the personal touch and leadership of the gifted person. Disciples arise claiming closeness to the source and are respected for that but the gifting had already started to divide itself. Gradually, new layers are created and as we get further from the source, more diffusion occurs as those who never saw or felt the original gifted one mispercieve, change or adapt things so that the original structure starts to veer off course. Now and then, there are new gifted ones but as the new organizations are arising (seeking to preserve their version of "the gift'), they reject new gifted ones and they end up starting new groups and more diffusion occurs. It is all heading in the wrong direction until we have to start anew.
Aikido lite is what we let the students do when we can't get them to understand or do what we are doing as instructors.
That's it in a nutshell.