Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Join Date: Jul 2001
Re: Who's eligible to teach Aikido? And what level a sensei should be?
Hello Mr Lezhnjov,
You have received some very good advice in this forum, but you need to relate the advice to the situation you are in.
The USA is a very mature country, as far as aikido is concerned. There are many Japanese teachers, nearly all directly connected to the Founder, Morihei Ueshiba, and these teachers, with their senior American students, many of whom are now Shihan in their own right, have created a huge population of practitioners. These practitioners have a vast range of choice: of belonging to organizations, or not; of training with independent teachers of a high technical level. So it is relatively easy for a prospective beginner to go to a dojo, watch training, talk to the shihan and satisfy herself/himself of the quality of the training and teaching. It is a buyer's market.
And so it should be. Because of the war, the US, the UK and mainland Europe were especially favored by the Aikikai in the number and quality of the Japanese shihans who were sent to these countries. Eastern Europe and the old Soviet Union were not at all favored: in fact they were pretty much ignored completely.
I myself was present at a meeting in the Aikikai Hombu, about 25 years ago, when the question arose of whether and how to spread aikido in the former Soviet Union. It was clear to me at this meeting that the Hombu did not have the faintest clue about what to do. They were not being stupid, of course: simply, the Hombu had never learned to think 'outside the box', in respect of aikido outside Japan. For the Hombu, aikido outside Japan was--and still is--a more unusual, mysterious, and sometimes unpredictable version of aikido inside Japan. Of course, there was no Japanese shihan the Hombu could send to reside in Russia and train a hard core of committed students, as O Sensei had done in Japan and had happened after the war in the US and Europe. A Russian student had come to Japan and had trained at the Aikikai Hombu. He returned home with a medium dan rank and became the head of the Russian organization covering the entire continent--with disastrous results.
Seeing the chaos in Russia (for the Russian yakuza had also discovered that running aikido dojos was a profitable activity), a group of friends in western Europe (Netherlands, Germany, Italy) decided to spread aikido in Eastern Europe. They enlisted the support of a Japanese shihan, named Masatake Fujita. Fujita Sensei is an 8th dan shihan and he regularly visited eastern Europe, usually from the Netherlands. The organizers of these trips, A H (Peter) Bacas and Giorgio Veneri, were both close friends of mine. They tried to fulfill a need that the Hombu had previously met, but could no longer do, and created fledgling groups all over eastern Europe, including the Ukraine.
Actually Fujita Sensei is just one out of a large number of Japanese shihans who have visited eastern Europe over the years. However, they were all visitors, who relied on their local students to create the same types of organization that the shihans in the USA have created--but without the years of tears and sweat that the latter had to endure.
The point of all this explanation is that aikido has not yet 'matured' in the Ukraine. I do not intend to be condescending or arrogant when I say this. I am simply stating that aikido has not been around long enough in the Ukraine to ensure the level of 'consumer choice' that exists in the USA.
So, I come back to the question in your OP of whether the person in your town is (1) eligible to teach aikido and (2) can really do so.
(1) Is the person eligible?
Well, this depends on a number of factors. In the US, I believe that anyone can open a dojo and teach aikido. The rule here is caveat emptor; buyer beware.
In the UK, teaching aikido in a municipal facility is impossible unless the organization has third-party insurance, which entails membership of the government-sponsored British Aikido Board (BAB).
The question of lineage is also important here. The person in your town might have been allowed, or commissioned, by his/her own teacher to open a dojo and teach students as part of of the training process. But this local teacher should be able to trace a lineage to someone directly trained by the Founder.
(2) Can the person really teach aikido?
I suppose this will depend in the person's technical ability and teaching ability: the two are not the same. This is something you have to judge for yourself, from attending the classes.
Your second general question: what level should a sensei be to effectively teach aikido. The explanation you give after your question reveals (to me) that you see a major gap between 'learning' and 'teaching'. Of course, you 'fluff' the question with remarks about 'philosophical' etc, but I believe that you are uneasy about entrusting your aikido training to someone who is only 2nd dan.
The Aikikai sets a general rule that the leader of an organization has to have the rank of 4th dan. So the person of 5th dan rank technically clears this condition. However, this a 'paper' condition. I myself know Fujita Sensei very well. I have taken ukemi from him for about 20 years and can see the technical quality of his senior students. I do not know the 5th dan in Kiyv, so I cannot form a judgment.
Apologies for the length of this post, but I hope it goes some way to answering your questions. I shall meet Doshu on June 30 and will relay your concerns to him directly.
Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 06-27-2009 at 08:13 AM.