I feel a bit guilty about introducing the idea of an 8th dan in one of the posts...
It seems like in aikido we're trying to do something that is really very difficult to do, namely try to make sure the art is passed on, not by training a few individuals to a high level to be the professional teachers of the next generation, but by trying to get a bigger group of people with other priorities and obligations to take on that role.
Yes, I think that is precisely the issue. And I think the jury is out on whether it can be done. O-Sensei had to be persuaded to open up the art to the general populace to train. Before that it was basically private. You had to be "accepted" as a student and if you didn't measure up, you went away. But of course you didn't want to fail because someone had provided an introduction to O-Sensei for you and you'd never dream of embarrassing them by not stepping up.
Hombu has the idea right... There does need to be a professional training program to make sure that we have top notch instructors for the future. I think they correctly recognize that this can't be done adequately by folks simply training the way most folks do.
The problem I have wit what they are doing is that unlike the training that was provided to the uchi deshi of Saotome Sensei's generation, in which the deshi were given training well beyond what they were expected to teach to the genera; student populace, the current program seems to be nothing more than a teaching college to train deshi to teach a certain curriculum. It's teaching to the syllabus. So, while it ensures quality instructors of kihon waza, it is not attempting any kind of transmission of much of what was really deep about Aikido when the Founder was alive.
So, I think that if you look at the history of the art, the uchi deshi went forth and spread Aikido all over the world. Whatever you might think of their abilities relative to the old generation of thirties deshi, I see little sign that there is anyone in the Hombu pipeline of that caliber. So, these folks went all over the world and did their level best to pass on the Aikido that was taught to them. Now that Aikido isn't even being taught back at headquarters. So the transmission is down to us. As a senior student of one of these uchi deshi, the only way for the transmission to remain unbroken is for me to step up and master what I have been taught and pass it on again.
There is no professional training program here. I have no facilities for an uchi deshi live-in program. I don't have enough students to support taking prime time classes away from the general membership to devote to Professional training. So everyone trains together and the seniors are limited by the efforts of their juniors. That's why I stipulated a certain level of effort to even get promoted. If I filled the membership with a huge number of folks training once or twice a week, I wouldn't be able to get the training to a level at which someone who did really want to train could ever become excellent. At that point I wouldn't be doing my job, which is to ensure the transmission.
I laugh sometimes... Saotome Sensei was once giving me advice on how to make my dojo more "user friendly" so I could have more students and the place would be ore successful on a business basis. I told him that I hadn't really gotten in to it for that reason... I had always used our old DC dojo where I started Aikido with him as the model for what I was trying to reproduce with my own dojo. He looked wistful, sighed deeply, and said,"Probably can't do, not on West Coast."
While that is probably unfairly maligning some folks on the West Coast and letting other folks off the hook... he is right that I can't duplicate what I had with him back in the seventies. There simply aren't enough people who want to train that way. So I find myself trying to do the impossible in passing on what I learned training six or seven days a week for 35 years to a bunch of very good students who train half that. I have yet to figure out exactly how to do this task. I am always trying some new strategy or syllabus. While happy with how people are coming along, I am afraid that I will never be able to pass on all of what I have been taught. So I decide what is central, what is important, and focus on that.
So, why would I even be tempted to give any credence whatever to the idea that less training than what my folks are asked to do would ever be "enough"? Some folks have stated that they don't actually care of they get good at the art. Iwould say that training just because you find it enjoyable but having no investment in whether you get any better and not putting in the time that would allow you to do so, is a waste of time. And in the case of my dojo would act as a drag on the folks that I am really trying to train. There is no uchi deshi program that I can send them to that will teach them what I need to pass on. So, my little dojo is it. It happens there or it doesn't happen. I think this is true all over the country. So many folks sit back and just assume that someone else will do it. They don't see that they actually have any part in supporting the process, accept financially perhaps. But it is the mass of practitioners that are the sea in which the up and coming teachers swim. If that environment is poisoned by mediocrity and trivializing of the art, then that environment will not support the transmission of the depth and breadth of the art
Everyone is responsible for the transmission. That's the only way for this to work. People cannot get good training with people who are not. Dojos can't exist with out a certain number of students but I absolutely resist the notion that the rank and file are there just to support the training of the folks who are doing the "real" work, which is essentially what the folks who say they don't care if they get good are maintaining.
The generation of the uchi deshi is passing away as we have this discussion. Their work is virtually over. They've passed on what they could and time is running out to pass on much more. They will be gone soon and then its totally up to us. I have done my level best to figure out what was taught to me and I continue to train and change all the time. I look around and wonder where the next generation of teachers will come from when so many say they can't find even the minimum amount of time to train. What I have learned will be lost or perhaps pass on to so few that it can't have any larger impact. I cannot pass on what I know to folks who won't take on the job of learning. Simple as that. We are about to be in a time, for the very first time, of having no one left who trained with the Founder. Many martial arts never survived this stage. Perhaps they manged to exist for a time but no one was produced who was of the quality of the original teacher and his students. Perhaps the folks that don't care about whether they get better, will not care if Aikido loses its heart. They weren't going to get it anyway... But I have to care. It is my profession, my mission, and my duty to pass it on. When I see that folks generally aren't interested, I find it hard not to despair about the art. There are enough interested folks around to support me professionally... it's not my problem... it's that I don't see enough around who want to do the work that they are the ones who define the art. Instead I see increasingly, that it's the hobbyists who are defining the art. If that doesn't change, Aikido will end up with no more depth than the TKD taking place in your local shopping center.