Re: Underqualified Sensei
To preface this post I will say that I have the utmost respect for Ledyard sensei.
I train in the Seattle area and have had the fortunate occasion to be on the mat with him a couple times and to see a wonderful demonstration at a fund raiser auction a couple years back.
I also have had the good fortune to read many of Ledyard sensei's articles and postings and found all of them well written, educational and thought provoking.
With that said I would like to comment specifically on a point or two raised in Ledyard sensei's most recent post in this thread
Note: I'm having issues with figuring out how to quote only a section of a post, therefore my "quotes" will be contained in actual quotation marks.
Ledyard sensei wrote:
"If a school is successful over time it is so first and foremost because the students are "happy". Most practitioners are "hobbyists". They are not Budo practitioners who will structure their entire adults lives around their training. They participate at various levels of commitment, some more than others by magnitudes. But if the training were not "interesting" and "fun" they wouldn't be there."
If happiness be not a result of progressing in Budo, or any other discilpline, then one may wonder what the motivation to continue might be.
I believe, from my own experience and getting to know many other aikido practioners over the last few years, that structuring one's life around their training is inherent in the training.
The degree of "structure" or of "training" one may employ is not for me to judge but rather to be grateful of. Whether one trains once a week or seven days a week I need them in my training. And I appreciate whatever they are able to offer.
I believe the term "hobbyists" might belittle the sincere efforts of one who elects to train but chooses not to elect to, for instance, leave their wife and children and go off to Japan to train for three years or to even train at home more than they already can, or choose to.
If my training wasn't "interesting" and wasn't "fun", I certainly would not be there.
Does this mean those are the only of attributes of my training? Of course not. My training is also difficult, both physically and emotionally at times. There have been a few times when I said to myself, "That's it! I can't do it. I'm not good at it, etc."
And it was the "interesting" parts that kept me coming back. The "interesting" parts about doing what I could do to become a better person to help "reconcile the world". To facing my fears, to living that most interesting of concepts I learned in my training. That true victory is self victory.
And the fun? I can't imagine why someone would want to take a flying roll or highfall if it wasn't fun. Or to be drawn in so expertly by a nage who, by his/her very actions, causes one to involuntarily grin from ear to ear before he/she even begins to be thrown.
I have fun. Most of the time. And when I don't, I get to examine my motivations, my fears or insecurities, for that day which may have not been left at the dojo front door. And I get to learn from them. Yes, this is very interesting stuff.
I have been training a mere six years. I do not purport to know much of anything about how aikido does relate, or ought to relate to practitioners of it. I only know for sure how it relates to me.
And if one iota of any art which stresses the diminishment of ego - without the diminishment of self, which I believe aikido accomplishes in a masterful way - remains with me, regardless of how much I train, then that art is nothing but a success.
There is another "art" of which I have trained in for near 23 years. It's unofficial motto regarding many things is to "attract, rather than promote".
This "motto" has worked rather well in creating what many think to be a considerably profound social movement of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Aikido, by its very nature is attractive, I believe it may be made more, or less so, only by its members but never by the aikido itself. Aikido, as with any social construct, requires people to be of purpose. People. Fallible, sincere, terrible, beautiful beyond words...just regular ole' crazy people.
That component alone is pretty darn interesting and can make the whole thing worthwhile.
The beautiful and incredible people...When I was at my first dojo, there were many times where I thought, regardless of my own training, just being in the same room with and watching our chief instructor was well more than a good enough reason to be there. An honor in fact.
And I feel the exact same way at my current dojo.
I wonder if OSensei's vision of aikido as a force of positive change in this world was one in which the art itself would only achieve true "mastery" if all its practitioners devoted themselves to it as he did?
Of course "mastery" is a difficult thing to comprehend. It being finite and our universe being quite a bit more. But that's another conversation.
I do understand that it is easy for the original intent of a thing to be changed and altered and even greatly damaged through a lack of respect for its founding premises. It happens all the time.
It's a good thing the founding premises, for me, of aikido are that it is non-competitive and that true victory is self victory.
It's pretty hard to mess that up.
In closing I wish to state in no unceratin terms that I believe a very important aspect of aikido training for me is offering a sincere and healthy respect for those who have come before me. My senseis.
On the mat the only thing I offer is "onagashimasu", "domo aragoto gasimashita" and "yes sensei". In the dojo, off the mat, it is the same to the degree appropriate and obvious for the situation.
In this open forum where anyone may exchange thoughts and ideas "off the mat" and "out of the dojo" so to speak, I still believe it imperative to offer respect to those who have come before me.
My sincere desire is that the preceding thoughts are considered in those terms.