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Old 07-05-2011, 01:43 AM   #13
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: Open Letter to My Students

Graham Christian wrote: View Post
Hi George.
It's me, the outsider here. Hope you don't mind me giving a few thoughts from the outside.

I think I understand what you're saying here and agree that now and again we have to do something we don't feel quite comfortable with, with regards to others. I call this 'time for the sword' albeit in essence it's a compassionate sword really.

That's my summary of the above, read with admiration.

That brings me to solution. We can't really expect others to have Aikido as their world and yet we may expect certain things from them. This as I see it is the dilemma you face.

Maybe it's a lesson for you to learn? Hear me out on this.

It is your 'world' your 'dream' that you are creating and running with goals for the future. Now in your world the rules are put there by you and when things don't go as planned it's review time. I say this just so you know how I'm thinking and that it moved me to write.

Your communication alone may be enough for the future plans. If you feel it isn't then how about this idea:

You could have it as part of your grading system that all students at the different levels have to have attended a certain amount of seminars to progress.

This of course would work both ways, it would mean you have to do more and more have to attend.

Note please this is not my way but given as food for thought that may help or not.

At worst it's just unasked for banter from that guy in the hat.

Hi Graham,
Thanks for the response...

I don't think you can do what I do and not constantly get thrown up against yourself and your desires and expectations. Virtually nothing happens quite the way one wants nor do folks generally feel the need to meet your expectations.

I have thought a lot about this. I am quite capable of seeing what it is that people would like and could find a way of creating that. I am absolutely sure I cold have more students and the dojo could thrive in a way that it has never done. I have never been quite willing to make those changes. I have experimented with what is possible within certain self imposed limitations. But these explorations have taught me that there is a point at which I am unwilling to structure what I do differently, just to make the whole enterprise more "popular" or financially successful.

I think that this touches on the nature of leadership and what that entails. I was told by Sensei when I was just a white belt that he was "training leaders". I have chosen to follow that path.

I think a leader is someone who moves along a path and encourages others to follow. He or she cannot make anyone pursue that same path. But whether or not anyone anyone else at all follows along behind, one keeps going because it is ones path to do so. I think it is incumbent on leaders to make an effort to communicate to those that might follow along just why they should be making the effort.

As you move "up the mountain", as Ikeda Sensei puts it, you discover an array of things that one who has not gotten to the same point will not yet have experienced. Part of being a leader, I think, is trying to point the way to what the student might accomplish if the effort weren't allowed to come up short. Some levels of effort will not now, or ever, even allow you to glimpse the top of the mountain while other levels of commitment might give at least a sense of what could be had. Someone has to tell the students what that is... even when they won't like hearing it.

Anyway, I have changed vastly over time... I have been running a dojo now for 25 years. I am far more positive and "user friendly" now than when younger. I am far less judgmental about the choices folks make. I just think it is incumbent on me as a teacher to let my students know what the expectations are when they train at my dojo and hopefully develop an understanding that these expectations are not arbitrary but are based on my experience and my own estimation of what it takes to get out of the art at least a bit of what could be had on some deep level and what is required to support a dojo community that is serious about pursuing an Aikido that has both depth and breadth. O-Sensei was once asked which he would prefer, a student of great ability or one who would work hard in his training, He said that he'd go for the student who would work hard every time.

What we face today is something of a crisis of s different order than what he was referring to. Aikido is in danger of becoming an an that does not attract either the student of great ability or the student who is willing to work hard. It is in danger of losing the very characteristics that make it Budo and morphing into something that is just a hobby done by nice folks in their spare time.

This discussion needs to be had, over and over. Each teacher will decide for himself or herself what it is they require from their students. Each student will decide what he or she is willing to do. The main thing I want is for people to be clear about what they are doing. I have yet to hear anyone state that they are doing "Aikido-lite". Not one person... yet there are a set of choices that one can make about his training which virtually guarantees that Aikido-lite is the only thing that is happening.

That is not what I am trying to teach, that is not what I am personally pursuing, and it is not what our dojo is about. So periodically clear explanations of what I personally am trying to accomplish and certainly, what my expectations as chief instructor are need to be made. People can then decide for themselves what to do about it all.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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