Christopher Li (Chris Li) wrote:
I'd agree with George Ledyard that there seem to be fewer people aiming at becoming professional Aikido bums. In a way, this is probably an effect of the greater availablity of Aikido. For example, if you look around Japan (where there are a lot of Aikido folks) it's very unusual these days to see anybody attempting, or hoping to attempt, to do this kind of thing professionally, or even to see anybody trying to set up a permanent establishment. It's not hard to run into folks (not just in Aikido, but in many arts) who have been training 30 or 40 years, but don't have dojo of their own - many of them don't even teach.
Other things - the general level of knowledge is much higher now than it was when I started (when almost nobody had even heard of Daito-ryu), and I think that's a good thing.
There are also a great many more qualified teachers available in the west now, especially non-Japanese teachers, and I think that's also a good thing.
OTOH, as things move away from the "owned and operated by students of M. Ueshiba" model that initially prevailed in Aikido I worry that things will start to fragment, which is already happening to some extent, although that's also a component of size and numbers. Not so much technically, since Aikido has never been unified technically, but in terms of purpose and motivation.
I also see an increasing trend in many sectors towards a "Budo aversion", in which Aikido practice is completely divorced from anything "warlike and violent". For example, I recall one person who told me that they would walk out of any dojo that practiced with rubber guns, presumably because such a tool of violence would be anathema to the peaceful ideals of Aikido. It didn't help, but I pointed out that there are many pictures of M. Ueshiba training, not only with pointy weapons of destruction, but also wooden model guns (for bayonet training), and that he taught such things even post-war.
What do you think?
I should preface these remarks by the observation that my experience has been solely with the Aikikai. However, I am very much aware that there are many non-Aikikai participants in this forum, but what I say needs to understood in that context.
I would be very curious to know what proportion of the dojo-leaders / shihans on the Aikikai list are actually professional aikido instructors. I suspect that, outside the Aikikai itself, there are very few. Here in Hiroshima I have noticed a pattern that senior instructors will open their own local dojos and teach there in the evenings on a regular basis, after the have finished work. The unfortunate consequence of this is that it is very rare, extremely rare, for higher grades (5th dan 6th dan level) to train together. I also have followed the trend and have a dojo which is operated in the evenings, but we still reserve time for the instructors themselves to train together, with only enough senior students to make up the numbers.
I also think the Aikikai are making strenuous efforts to ensure that the "owned and operated by students of M. Ueshiba" model continues for as long as possible. These efforts are being made, though, in the context of declining manpower & the diminishing attractiveness of the career of aikido shihan in presentday Japan and thus the inability of the Aikikai to replace shihans like Toyoda and Tohei, for example, as the older generation passes away. What you have now are weekend seminars around Japan and gasshuku abroad taught by Moriteru Doshu and Shidoubu instructors. The Aikido Shimbun is always full of these events.
Two things upset me about this, both connected with Japan's seeming inability to conduct international relations on a satisfactory basis. The model is still too much "Aikido is a Japanese martial art, which foreigners can practise almost as well as we can". This causes friction when a young 6th dan Shidou-bu instructor goes abroad to teach at a seminar where there are foreigners equal in rank. The other is the continuing need for "gaiatsu" and the great difficulty of actually talking to the Aikikai about pressing international matters, mainly because the world outside Japan is mainly seen as a place where Japanese instructors go to give seminars.
I think the "budo aversion" syndrome is also a sign of the times. I see this most clearly in the university, where the martial arts clubs are having great trouble to recruit enough students. There the message has to be, "Come along and enjoy it: 楽しんで下さい"; there is little idea of a challenge to be accepted which might make a difference to your life. In my own dojo, however, quite a few of the non-student members like to train as a relief from stress. We place great stress on stretching exercises and ukemi and this is quite hard for some of the older students. And I have never been asked here whether aikido works in a 'real' situation.