There is no argument that those fortunate enough to have trained under one or more direct disciples of the Founder undoubtedly received a rare, unique and even priceless education for their persistence. Yet I cannot accept any notion that this very fact places these fortunate students in any preeminent position of implied authority, expertise or entitlement for special status. The range of teaching styles and actual teaching abilities of these direct students is so wide and varied as to discount any necessary favorable advantage over those who did not have that privilege. It is my viewpoint that culture, social development and human capacity for wisdom and knowledge is cumulative in nature, kind of like fine wine that improves with age and accumulated experience.
I think we are talking about the nature of leadership here. The first generation of teachers was largely imposed, in the sense that they were either sent over from Japan or were the very first Americans to start training and were therefore the only choices. They were truly pioneers. But now, the situation is completely different.
The ASU alone has 25 or so Rokudans right now , and Saotome Sensei is still quite active. By the time he retires or passes on and Ikeda Sensei takes up the senior leadership position, there will likely be a few more. I think the other najor organizations are pretty much in the same boat, perhaps with a few 7th Dans now.
I don't think a one of us has
any preeminent position of implied authority, expertise or entitlement for special status
, not a single one. Right now, any status or authority we might have has been conferred by our teacher. When he is gone, no one will care.
There is a huge community of Aikido people who are out there who have trained for 35 - 50 years. I absolutely do not think that any hereditary entitlement for future leadership exists. There will be folks who end up as leaders but this time it won't be imposed.
Next time around folks will be picking their leaders. They will have a very wide set of choices, not with the political constraints that existed back in the sixties and seventies. So the folks that end up as leaders next time around will be the folks that rose to the occasion and provided leadership. I am talking about the kind of leadership that "attracts" because the leader walks his talk. It will be a leadership that concerns itself with the welfare of the folks being led, because if it doesn't people will simply leave. There will be lots of choices.
Respect, which is essential for people to feel about their leadership, is earned, not conferred or inherited. I remember a person I worked with once haranguing her assistants, "You WILL respect me." All I could think was, by the time it gets to the point at which you have to even say that, it's too late.
I do think that it is the time now to start, for those who have aspirations in this direction. I do not think it is appropriate or necessary to wait until those who have gone before get out of the way to start. We have had training over the years from a number of world class teachers. If there isn't to be a huge hole left by their passing, we need to start acting like world class teachers ourselves. People who may have had the habit of hiding their light because they were in the shadow of some big kahuna need to start letting themselves shine now.
People naturally want leadership... if you do not provide good leadership, they will follow bad leaders. I look at the senior teachers, Japanese and American, who will be passed or retired within a short time. Ask yourselves who amongst them has a student or students who looks as "big" as they are? Who looks to have the stature, the skill, the charisma? In many cases you will see folks who look like they might eventually develop that, but the passing of the responsibility for the transmission is imminent. People need to step up now and become the leaders that will be needed in the future.
In a corporate setting, a manager is reviewed partly on his ability to develop talent. In the military, leadership is developed and trained, it doesn't just happen. Aikido is a bit different. Rank has been a big factor in determining who the leaders are. Their preparation for being leaders might have been based soley on their abilities to drop an opponent on the mat at will. Some folks figured it out and some folks clearly did not. But we sure as hell never had a good leadership development program. So without that, the next generation of leaders will be the folks who figure it out for themselves. That needs to be happening right now and not later when it's too late.
No, the next time around it will be the Aikido community that confers authority in the leaders who step up and provide the kind of leadership that speaks to people. No one will invest in someone just because they trained Japan, or had a Shihan teacher. Francis is a leader not because of his background, in fact many folks aren't that familiar with his background, but because of who he is. He consistently moves through life trying to leave every interaction he has with another person with that person feeling enhance somehow because of it. This is a man who wakes up every day and "fights the good fight". It's going to be people like this that folks will gravitate towards when the old order of imposed structures disintegrates.
It's going to be interesting to watch this process over the next ten years. The other thing to remember is that the folks mostly likely to step in on the short run aren't young either, so we should be looking out and making sure we are developing the next generation of folks by mentoring them and providing good leadership examples.