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Old 09-20-2002, 05:41 PM   #10
Peter Goldsbury
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Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
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I think the idea (paradigm? image?) of a teacher as 'transactor of information' and of the 'teacher as model' (1) extends to other areas besides aikido and (2) the term 'sensei' covers both ideas.

These two ideas are paralleled by analogous ideas concerning students and studying. The central feature of the first idea is that the transaction of knowledge or ideas is primary, whereas the governing feature of the second idea is that a personal relationship between student and teacher is where this transaction takes place and the transaction is in some sense secondary to this relationship.

Now, whether these two ideas of a teacher reflect a difference between East and West is, in my opinion, hard to state with confidence. The master - student relationship in Japan has been heavily influenced by Chinese ideas, but, of course, it is also found outside Japan. A good example of such relationships can be found in the writings of Plato and Aristotle (and also their activities in their own respective schools).

Certainly, from my experience here in Japan, I know that these two different ideas of the teacher operate at the level of university teaching, especially with master or doctoral students. The teaching relationship I had with my own professors (in the US and the UK) is subtly different from the relationship I have with my Japanese Ph.D students here.

Of course, in the aikido dojo this difference also comes into play. Shihans ('teachers as models'), for example, are not found outside traditional Japanese arts like budo & bujutsu, flower-arranging and the piano. However, I myself find that I teach aikido more in a Japanese way here (techniques shown just a few times with a minimum of explanation, and this more tailored to the individuals I am explaining to) and less in a Japanese way outside Japan (with more overtly structured classes). However, in my own dojo in Hiroshima, I and my two German colleagues are actively trying to combine the two ways.

Whether this shows that aikido is shifting away from its Japanese roots is harder to say. Obviously it is in some sense because the Kobukan small dojo model is no longer possible. The Aikikai Hombu is much larger, more impersonal and factory-like, though these appearances are also deceiving.

Nor is the problem unique to aikido. There is a large body of opinion here to the effect that --싅 (yakyuu) is completely different from baseball and shouldn't even be translated as such. In sumo, there is always a problem when foreign giants like Konishiki regularly beat Japanese sumotori. They are sometimes considered to be lacking in a mysterious Japanese quality called hinkaku (usually translated as 'dignity'). Happily, there is relatively little of this nonsense in aikido.

Of course, aikido is not a koryu and the name has never been trademarked or copyrighted, but I am sure that if aikido were to move radically away from its Japanese cultural roots, the argument that it had thereby ceased to be aikido would probably come from Japan. The Aikikai are fairly sensitive about the matter, even now.

Best regards,

P A Goldsbury
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