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Old 12-04-2011, 08:27 PM   #93
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Christopher Li wrote: View Post

It is amazing - but I think it's healthy. It's very difficult to be a teacher in the martial arts because nobody says "no" to you.
I remember Jack Kornfield, the Vipashana teacher writing that being married is the "reality check" you need as a teacher, everyone oohs and aahs over you and then you go home and your wife tells you to pick up your damned underwear (or something to that effect).

I certainly haven't noticed that the whole thing works that way for the American teachers... maybe early on when there weren't many of them and they were seen as "special". Not any more. It is true that the whole "Sensei" thing can be a big trap... you start with folks treating you a certain way out of respect and at a certain point you start to feel "entitled"... kiss of death.

I do think it is completely unrealistic to think that a bunch of guys who were brought up to think of "sensei" as entailing a certain set of things which were largely cultural, should be expected to make fundamental changes to how they view things when they are in their seventies and eighties. And is it really our job to ask them to change? In some ways I think that is just cultural chauvinism going back their way. It's one thing to call someone to task for abusing students or committing criminal behavior, it's another to break with ones teacher because he called himself an uchi deshi when he was part of the professional training program at hombu, or he intentionally or unintentionally fudges the dates of how long he was with O-Sensei from how long he wanted to be with the Founder from how long he actually was with the Founder.

I am sorry but there's a whole Puritanical / Judgmental streak in America that we see all the time and it creates a lot of needless suffering. I am all for calling anyone to account over issues that are really important but this kind of stuff. Why? This isn't like lying on your job app. The guys telling these stories, which I think they actually believe in some measure didn't get anything from doing this. They didn't get the high paying job. No one decided to train with them over someone else based on a five or six year difference in time with O-Sensei. As I said, it's just the story they are telling themselves. If you know what the facts are already, and they are available for anyone who cares, what's the point of then taking the issue to the point of inflicting hurt or creating conflict. I don't see it.

I mean, it's the same with my own family. My parents find me completely incomprehensible. They are old style Republicans, not crazy right wing but Conservative to the point at which its difficult to have a conversation about much without it turning into a fight. They are in their eighties now. They aren't going to change at this point, they aren't one morning going to decide that my choice to teach Aikido was admirable and made any sense at all. As far as they are concerned, it was self indulgent and I kissed away the best education money could buy. So, it is what it is.

Aikido is on the point at which a new generation of leaders takes over. I think that many of these folks are already experienced enough with the foibles of the previous generation that they'll change certain things. Certainly the whole issue of Japanese culture vs American will be a lot less important when there are no organizations in America headed by Japanese teachers. That day is coming soon...

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside