George S. Ledyard
You didn't think we in the West were the ones that screwed things up did you? I used to feel guilty, feeling that we in the West were wrecking Aikido. I don't any more as it is eminently clear that the Japanese are quite capable of wrecking things own their own without any help at all from us.
Seriously, there are Japanese teachers who want nothing to do with this type of political behavior and there are those that purpetrate it. In the West we have those that buy into it and keep it going here and we have folks that don't. Our only hope is to simply not buy into it. I am good friends with a senior student of teachers who do not in any way get along with my own teacher. We simply decided that we didn't need to buy into conflicts which started back in the "old country".
I frankly don't know why anyone would be surprised at the described political events at the shrine. At the Aiki Expo, the very people who are now being excluded at the shrine were told by their teacher not to attend the classes offered by the other teachers... What goes around, comes around.
The students, especially the seniors, of one of the oldest and largest Aikido organizations in the United States are not allowed to train with people from outside their limited set of organizational affiliations. I periodically meet them at various seminars when they have "snuck out" to train with new teachers. They are always worried that Sensei X will find out. Not only does the Shihan in question enforce this but the other seniors bring heavy peer pressure on anyone who steps out of line by attending non- approved events.
I have a friend who is a student of a Japanese Shihan with whom he trained in Japan. He currently trains at a dojo here in the states. He wanted to bring his teacher over to do a seminar. One would not have thought that this would be a problem as the teacher in question had been a honbu dojo instructor for many years and is listed on the Aikikai website as one of their affiliated teachers. But the dojo in question received word from the Shihan that oversees them in the states that they were not to host the Shihan from Japan. So my friend had to set up the seminar on his own and any mistaken association with his home dojo was quickly disowned.
This is all complete crap as far as I am concerned. You have American Aikido practitioners of 6th dan and 7th dan who feel they have to restrict their training because some Japanese Shihan gets paranoid. This kind of carry over from feudal times is ridiculous and we need to start acting like the adults we are, not kids dependent on some adult figure for our survival. Obviously, we cannot change what the Japanese choose to do at home. But we do not have to buy into this here, period. We need to refuse to participate.
I train with anyone I feel has something to show me. Anyone from any organization, any student of any teacher, is welcome at my dojo, and, in fact, is welcome at virtually all the events our organization holds. For this type of thing to continue you have to have people who perpetuate it. Just stop. Just say no. Take your lumps from that Shihan who tells you not to train with so and so. The only ability these guys have to control things come from the fact that they can withdraw their support from individuals who cross them. If people collectively just said they didn't want to play any more, what do you think would happen? Can you see the Shihan disowning all of his seniors students? I don't think so... He'd learn to live with it. Maybe he'd find that his students still love him even if they see some other teachers. Maybe he might feel the need to innovate a little to keep his students instead of restricting access. Now, that's a concept...
I think that this is one aspect ofthe whole Japanese thing that we can simply REFUSE to participate in. If no one around the wrold payed any attention to these ridiculous political machinations, I suspect that not only would the leaders in Japan learn to live with it, but they would probably start to change themselves. We can be the incentive for them to do so if we choose.
I feel that there are levels at which we must refuse passively/actively and levels at which we need to speak loudly. To refuse simply is not always enough. There are those out there who have been politically banned and no one is saying anything. Some people go into their 'it isn't any of my business' routines, some others don't know segregation when it's under their noses, and some others still participate aggressively in the defemation of character who step out of line.
I've been involved in this garbage in my own training and as a consequence I'm sensitive to it(kind of like an allergy). I tend to speak up loudly when I notice this infraction of power, sometimes too loudly, because it is soooooo damaging.
I fee if we aren't courageous enough to speak up within our own communities we can't expect to have or to believe in aiko, the spirit of loving protection.
This is our training. Let's make it as powerful and as beautiful as our lifetimes will allow.
In Much Love to Everyone in Aikido,