Dojo: aikido academy/alhambra,california
Location: Los Angeles, California
Join Date: Sep 2004
Re: Proficiency and Aikido
First of all, thank you for two great questions, the scopes of which I would dearly love to be answered in turn by established individuals, both in Aikikai Foundation’s community, and by those who are familiar with Aikikai Foundation’s purpose and policies. Perhaps Jun would like to split these two questions into threads for all to review and to participate meaningfully.
Where to start with my imperfect and incomplete understanding of all this.
The Aikikai Foundation is formally known as Hombu Dojo, World Headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. It is the home base for the Zaidan Hoojin Aikikai, encompassing all affiliated dojos in Japan. It is also the home base for the International Aikido Federation, with the illustrious Peter Goldsbury as chairman. Peter would be an excellent source for much of this discussion.
Over the decades, the late Doshu oversaw an unbelievable expansion of Aikido instruction and influence worldwide. Beginning with the assigning of former direct students of the Founder to foreign countries who formed fledgling organizations with direct ties to Headquarters, to the present, with a plethora of direct and indirect affiliations with Headquarters from all over the world.
This history of expansion must be considered entirely separately from the subsequent development of organizations formed by former students of the Founder, and, in many cases, former shihan from Aikikai Foundation. I will defer to the current leaders of these organizations to appropriately and correctly define their origins, goals and accomplishments.
When the term “Aikikai affiliated” is applied to organizations and individuals, such as myself, it merely refers to a nebulous kind of “identity”, connecting us with Aikikai Foundation in a rather inclusive, vs. exclusive arrangement. Aikikai Foundation has never been “an overseeing body” for its far flung membership, lacking the structure, expertise, or even the will to enforce any real or effective standard of uniformity of style, definition or working philosophy. Each and every affiliated organization, dojo and student are members by proclamation, rather than by any rigid, bureaucratic structure. We are pretty much left to ourselves to train, transmit and to represent the teachings of the Founder of Aikido, without censorship, official guidance or consequences for independent behavior. We are held accountable essentially by our own standards of behavior, our own sense of honor, and by the connection to the Founder’s Aikido, the Ueshiba family, and wirh those Aikikai certified instructors we choose to align ourselves with at any moment in time.
The Aikikai Foundation is not “a centralizing body for all the instructors within its purview”, since no such system was ever put in place. The late Doshu must have realized that it would prove futile to even try. The International Aikido Federation was formed, in part, to address this seeming defect, but to date has not been successful, to put it kindly. Each Shihan IS his own teacher. Proper respect was always reserved for anyone with the name Ueshiba, and it remains in effect today. Respect and allegiance to personal mentors and instructors are strictly up to the student to decide, and to change when the need arises.
You mention training with various Aikikai trained Shihans. Did you notice how different they each are or were? My recollections of training at Hombu Dojo, as well as at outlying dojos in Japan, reinforced for me that there were no identifiable or enforceable standards of instruction, philosophy or allegiance, other than arbitrary references to “the Founder and his Aikido”.
When I mentioned that the notion of “proficiency” was a “given”, amongst the organizations, I meant it in the largest sense possible. Various definitions abound on the internet, but the one I quote here states that proficiency is the “state of being proficient; advanced in the acquisition of any art, science or knowledge.” It is “skillfulness in the command of fundamentals deriving from practice and familiarity, with practice greatly improving proficiency.”. With these definitions alone, I would confidently state that the adepts from each of the organizations having ties to the teachings of the Founder, are proficient. It is not up to me to “qualify, endorse or otherwise certify” any of the countless practitioners of any legitimate form of Aikido. I am not qualified to attempt it.
You also appear to mention “competence” as being a necessary attribute and prerequisite for those who train effectively in martial arts, and Aikido in particular. Doesn’t this beg the question of “competent doing what?” The definition that works for me states that “competence…..is the ability to do something well, measured against a standard, especially ability acquired through experience or training.”. I would not deign to question that these organizations have deficient “standards” for their faithful devotees and established instructors, would you? I see the majority of sincere students of the martial arts, and of Aikido, as having the quality of being adequately or well qualified for the style or training they commit to. I remain very comfortable with allowing each honest seeker of Aiki truths to define for themselves, how competent and proficient they need and want to be.
I apologize for the length, and the mixed content of my response. It is my sincere hope and wish that we can continue our exciting dialogue, and to humbly learn from the revelations and perspectives to come.
Again, thank you for these great questions, that surely deserve a far wider and deeper scrutiny than is possible with this blog.
Last edited by aikishihan : 03-20-2010 at 06:21 PM.