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Old 07-24-2009, 03:47 AM   #81
Peter Goldsbury
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Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
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Re: non-Japanese cannot become shihan anymore?

Hello Dan,

This is a first stab at a response. Apologies, but this will be a long post. Comments are marked PAG.

Dan Harden wrote: View Post
Interesting question. Not because of DR but rather to examine other modes of transmission in the more traditional Japanese arts as well.
In Koryu what you teach and even who you are allowed to teach is usually tightly controlled.
Once someone reaches the level of Menkyo kaiden (different titles for different arts) they are allowed to teach who they want and or to change the art any way they see fit- as if it is now a separate art. Let the chips fall where they may.
In any given art in any generation you might have several branches-with teachers adding a flavor to the central expression. It was not uncommon for some of those" flavors" to actually be BETTER than the central branch of any given art. That said there was no way to regain or rest control of the art back from those licensed to teach.
Since there is no Menkyo system in modern arts-to include Aikido; there is no completion or graduation set up in those arts. Therefore at any point the Aikikai could pull the rank of anyone. I am not making a judgment of whether or not a Shihan would care if the Hombu did that; just that it remains that they could. It seems aikido is interested in regaining more control of the art. The question remains whether it ever lost control to begin with.
PAG. If you set side-by-side the autonomy and independence offered by a full-blown menkyo system and the Aikikai, considered as a monolith, with the dan given under conditions of continued good behavior, I suppose the differences would be very striking. However, this has never been my own experience with the Aikikai. It seems to me that the Aikikai, like a Japanese koryu, operates on the understanding that once you give someone some responsibility: to run a department or a dojo, for example, then you also trust that person to use his best judgment within a very broad framework of rules—considered as customs with desirable outcomes, rather than as Kantian deontological imperatives. This point is so fundamental to Japanese culture that it is often missed: it is ‘hidden in plain sight'.
I have just checked on the Aikikai's website and find that I am one of the very few non-Japanese to run a dojo here. In addition, though it took some time to do so, I formally split from my old teacher and my dojo is now independent of any organization. Of course, I have a direct connection to the Aikikai and deliver kyu and dan ranks that are recognized by the Aikikai, but I have complete independence to teach aikido how I wish. I could, for example, invite M Akuzawa here on a regular basis and incorporate all of his training exercises into our aikido syllabus. So, in some sense my dojo is going against the trend overseas and I think the reason for this is, well, that aikido in Japan is considered ‘different' from aikido overseas, and also that I happened to have the clout to badger Doshu directly into giving me independence, for it would never have happened without his approval.
I also know the few people who at present run the Aikikai's international department. They work very hard and have Doshu's broad approval to run the department as they think fit. I am not certain when the new model originated, but I am reasonably certain that it was a reaction to squabbles among Japanese shihan in Europe and a response to calls for a network of continental ‘Hombu' outside Japan. The immediate occasion was a response to the abolition of the old one-country-one-organization model.

Dan Harden wrote: View Post
I think folks have missed some central issues and have yet to ask some very clear administrative questions of their official representatives.

I think in all the emotion on the thread the central question remains unanswered. The original question was not about what happened in the past, (Tissier and others) but rather about Peter's post about the new model and where the Aikikai is headed.
PAG. I think at the outset that this has to be stated quite clearly. The effect of the new model is that teaching titles (including shihan) make sense only within the organizations within which they have validity, whether these are individual dojo (in Japan), or overseas organizations, like the USAF, or the Aikikai as a whole.
The new model must also be seen in relation to the old model that it replaces. The old model was centered around individual direct disciples of the Founder, like Y Yamada and N Tamura (Mr Tani's first category), who lived and taught abroad and who ran their territories like aikido daimyo (after the established Hombu model in Japan). However, the new model effectively abolishes aikido daimyo shihan in the first category and severely limits the scope of shihan in the remaining categories. For the new model focuses entirely on aikido organizations, serviced from a ‘super-organization' in Japan. (The only problem with this model is the one I alluded to earlier in this post: the emphasis in Japan is on individuals, caused by a vertically structured organizational pattern.)
I think that K Chiba's Birankai is a response to the Hombu's new model. It is the model of an organization that is vertically structured and gives a degree of authority to a sub-class of students. (Some background: Way back in the 1980s I used to have arguments with Chiba Sensei about the structure of aikido organizations. At that time, he appeared to believe that aikido was essentially anarchic: the possibilities could never be constrained within an organizational structure. Aikido was essentially Thatcherite and there were no aikido social structures. The problem for me was that, while this might be true, aikido has been structured as an organization ever since O Sensei created the Kobukan. So the Birankai is first and foremost an organization. I think it depends on where you draw the line between the organization and the individual power of those who run the organizations.)

An alternative model seems to be the one favored at times by Sokaku Takeda: of a teacher with no home base, but with a core of committed disciples, who are trained in intensive bursts by a teacher who constantly moves from place to place. However, I think Daito-ryu abandoned this model quite early on.

Secondly, though it is out of date (in terms of who is in each category and was out of date as soon as it was issued), the general framework of M Tani's classification of shihan into four general internal categories is unlikely to change, since it is based on some clear political decisions made within the Hombu. The Aikikai still need to maintain the official status of super-shihans like N Tamura and Y Yamada, whose deshi relationship with O Sensei and Kisshomaru Doshu is the reason for this status. On the other hand, there will soon be no one left with this close deshi relationship and it remains to be seen whether the Aikikai will award the status of Hombu Shihan to those who have an analogous relationship with the present Doshu. As for the other categories in Mr Tani's list, there is no sign that the appointment of shihan will end, so long as there are people around to fill these categories, and people in Japan will still popularly be regarded as shihan when they reach 6th dan, even there are no official pieces of paper.

Dan Harden wrote: View Post
1. Will there be any issuance of shihan rank to anyone of any race in any branch that will be recognized by hombu...OTHER than Japanese people trained at the hombu.
PAG. There is nothing in the system to prevent this, but I think that it is extremely unlikely that the imbalance of Japanese/non-Japanese in Mr Tani's four shihan categories will change any time soon. It is built into the system that the first two categories of shihan are Japanese—and this is actually quite unfair to Christian Tissier, who did his time in the Hombu and should really be included in the second category. However, this appears not to be an issue for the French.
There is also a very high possibility that members of the third category will be Japanese, since they need to function as ‘internal' members of the Aikikai Hombu. As far as I know, there is only one non-Japanese, Anthony Hind, who has been training as a deshi in the Hombu long enough to have reasonable rank, but he is no longer there. I also know very well from my own experience outside aikido in Japan that the playing field is rarely level and that the goalposts can change unexpectedly.

Dan Harden wrote: View Post
2. Is the future...again future- going to see ONLY Japanese teachers from hombu as recognized shihan by the aikikai? Will western teachers trained at the aikikai to 6th dan in Japan be recognized as shihan? In other words clearing up issues of race over affiliation.
Those are narrow and specific parameters.
PAG. For this to happen, I think you would need to see an influx of foreign members of the Hombu Teaching Department and I think this is extremely unlikely to happen. As I stated above, Anthony Hind is the only recent long-term foreign deshi I know of. Other foreigners have trained—and lived—in the Hombu for a limited period of time, but have returned home. My reason for thinking in this way is my experience in the Japanese national university system—which, like the Hombu, is bound by the shackles of traditional Japanese thinking. I was the first fully tenured foreign professor in my university, but the reason why I was reasonably successful is that I was able to function fully as a Japanese—attending and chairing committees, standing up in meetings and giving largely meaningless allocutions in fluent Japanese, but also able to function as a native speaker of English where necessary (such as composing university entrance examination questions of such difficulty that my Japanese colleagues could not answer them: this was never held against me).

Dan Harden wrote: View Post
If that is so, can the IAF address the issue in a more formal way? Isn't part of it's mandate to explain and interpret the Japanese honne for us unaware westerners in a clear manner?
PAG. No, this is not part of the IAF's mandate. Interpreting the Japanese honne for the folks on AikiWeb is something that I myself have been doing ever since I attended the first Aiki Expo. I have been doing it as someone who has lived in Japan for longer than most non-Japanese aikidoka—and as someone who also happens to be Chairman of the IAF. It is an interesting coincidence that two contributors of Jun's monthly AikiWeb columns happen to be to the two most senior elected officials in the IAF. I am Chairman and Stefan Stenudd is Vice-Chairman. I cannot speak for Stefan, but I do not see any conflict of interest in being a good Chairman and looking after the interests of IAF members and also contributing to Aikiweb. However, my successor could be someone who does not live here, or whose knowledge of the Japanese honne extends no further than his/her own local training.

Dan Harden wrote: View Post
3. Will the current 6th dans see their 7th dan rank and possible 8th dan recognized by the Aikikai but never be recognized as a shihan by the Aikikai? They get one- but never the other?
PAG. This is quite possible. In fact I know a number of Japanese with 7th dan rank who have not been recognized as shihan in Japan. Mr Tani himself is one such person and he is right inside the Hombu.

Dan Harden wrote: View Post
4. Do you think their teachers lets say Saotome should just promote them to Shihan anyway even though it will be virtually meaningless outside of the ASU?
PAG. I am sure this could happen. The USAF has taken it upon itself to promote as many shihan as possible. In some respects, this is a response to K Chiba's creation of the Birankai, where he gives his own shihan titles and also his own dan ranks. I have had some very interesting conversations with Doshu about this.

Dan Harden wrote: View Post
5. If the Aikikai removes its support from various Japanese Shihan abroad, thus limit their teaching creds, then isn't the aikikai inviting students to leave those teachers and re-align with aikikai approved super teachers.
PAG. This could happen in the short term, but I think it is unlikely. The tendency is that there soon will be no more Aikikai approved super teachers.

Dan Harden wrote: View Post
6. Under what conditions did does a Japanese teacher training under a Japanese teacher -like Ikeda under Saotome -get to be recognized as a Shihan but not Gleason, or Ledyard?
PAG. I think that in this discussion the ASU is an anomaly. As far as I know, Hiroshi Ikeda is M Saotome's anointed successor as head of the ASU, but he does not appear anywhere on M Tani's list. Actually, I wonder whether there are any shihan at all in the ASU (apart from M Saotome himself, who is popularly regarded as a ‘Hombu Super Shihan' by default). As I stated before, when I once asked Doshu why the ASU was not on the Aikikai's list of recognized organizations in the US, his response was that everything was handled via M Saotome. However, this is not really a matter for the IAF to be concerned with.

Dan Harden wrote: View Post
Other than translating and interpreting for us, does the IAF have the capacity to interject in decisions? Lacking that, can it clear up a rather ambiguous state of affairs and answer pointed questions?
PAG. Well, although the IAF is part of the Aikikai's organizational structure, it is not the Aikikai Hombu. As such, it does not have the structural capacity to interject in Hombu decision-making. However, it does have a ‘non-structural' capacity and it does interject. Actually, the last time it did interject was at the request of Yamada Sensei.

Dan Harden wrote: View Post
Has any action, input, opinion, or stance been taken since that time (aprox. 2007) to respond to those Western practitioners unhappy with the decisions of the Aikikai? Or is it a case that the opinions are not necessarily "unrepresented," but rather that they are just "meaningless" in the long run?
PAG. Yes, I think so. However, this has been taken by individual officers and not by the IAF as a whole, at a Congress, for example.

Dan Harden wrote: View Post
PAG. And best wishes to you, too. I went to the barbers yesterday, so I do not have much hair to let down, but I hope I have let it down long enough.

However, I am sure that you will get back to me if I haven't.


P A Goldsbury
Hiroshima, Japan
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