Thread: abusive sensei
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Old 09-25-2012, 05:44 PM   #11
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
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Re: abusive sensei

Philip Zeplin-Frederiksen wrote: View Post
This may not be the reply your looking for, but:

I don't necessarily see anything bad in a teacher like that. It certainly isn't for everyone, but there are indeed people who thrive and do their best under such circumstances. If you greatly dislike it, perhaps it's more the wrong place for you to be (nothing wrong with that), than that there is something wrong with that teacher?
Just my opinion, but yes, there is something wrong with that teacher. Personally, I wouldn't train with him. And I'd tell anyone who'd listen, not to as well. You think it takes any skill to hurt folks who have just given themselves to you in a prearranged form? First of all, it's simply not healthy to abuse your body that way. One gets beat up enough doing this art without having someone purposely subject your body to abuse. Second, what's the underlying point? The "teacher" will tell you it's to toughen you up or make your spirit stronger. But it's really about maintaining his superior place relative to the students. Martially speaking, anything which is imprinting fear and tension is bad martial arts. Teachers like this use fear and tension to ensure that their technique works. But it's maintaining his superior position at the student's expense. The student isn't actually learning what he or she should be learning and their bodies are paying the price.

You see this in other Martial Arts all the time, and such teachers would merely be called "tough" or "strict", not "abusive". In fact, it seems to remind me of stories I've heard of the old Yoshinkan days, say around the 60's or 70's, of how training was done. I've read about how Gozo would sometimes knock out his partners during demonstrations, yet again, no one calls that abuse.
And not to mention O Sensei... reading back to his early days, he certainly wasn't a "nice" teacher in any way. In fact, many of the training methods would probably be illegal today, or labeling him insane (training with live swords during night time?).
Actually there are many of us who consider the way Shioda Sensei treated his ukes to be abusive. There was and is a whole segment of Aikido culture in Japan that is dysfunctional. Ellis Amdur Sensei and Peter Goldsbury Sensei have written about this at length. Just because some famous Japanese teacher with a big Dan rank after his name did it doesn't mean it's all right. Many of these guys were / are not very nice people and certainly not the types of human beings we should be emulating. Yes, Takeda had his finger nails burned when he didn't learn fast enough...that's our lineage. I think we'd all generally agree that was abuse pure and simple. But where's the line? When does it just become hard training?

If there is intention to hurt or injure, it's abuse. It's one human being imposing his will on another. That's not training. Otake Sensei, the head of Katori Shinto Ryu Kenjutsu, told Ellis Amdur that he had never been injured during training. Yet he is one of the finest martial artists in Japan. I have heard that from any number of koryu teachers. The underlying culture of violence in some segments of the Aikido community and its acceptance by some practitioners is one of the least admirable things about Aikido. It's wrong. Period. You want to get tough, push the limits, etc, go play with the Systema folks for a bit. They'll take you there and make your body stronger and healthier while they do it. And you'll end up relaxed and calm, not fearful. This was never the samurai way... Injure a student and he can't fight. These folks were professionals. The abuse came into the martial arts with the demise of the professional warrior class and the development of an abusive, hazing oriented military culture in the Army in Japan. Many martial artists took those same attitudes from their military service into their dojos. It is interesting to note that this abusive culture was not prevalent in the Navy during the same period. Anyway, the fact that certain aspects of Japanese culture are not very admirable should make us, as foreigners learning these arts, doubly careful to take on what is positive and not be indiscriminant about what we look for in our models.

That said, it certainly sounds like that teaching style isn't for you, so why not try and find another dojo you can train at instead? Or is that not a possibility?
I think that folks who believe that this is the proper way to train need to examine where that's coming from? Some pain and certainly occasional injury can be a part of hard training. But in all the years I have done Aikido, I have never seen any of my teachers intentionally hurt someone or use pain as some sort of device for attitude adjustment or to let us know who is boss.

At the third Aiki Expo one of the Japanese teachers was at dinner literally talking about how he intentionally injures students as "part of their training." This man is a very prominent Aikido personage. My feeling at the time upon hearing this bs was "that's why we have firearms in America." What skill does it take to injure someone’s wrist when he just gave it to you, or dislocate an elbow on a strike, which you just told the student to do. At this point in my life, I've crossed a line and I won't put up with that kind of stuff, towards me or my students. As Ellis did back in the day, someone thinks that's what they should be doing, we can go outside and he can see if he can do it when I'm not cooperating. And I don't care if he's American or Japanese or what the Dan rank is he's got. All that goes away when it's a fight and pain and injury is about fighting.

As far as I am concerned, students who train with teachers who are like this are absolutely no different than women who stay with abusive males. I strongly suspect that many of the same issues are present.

Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 09-25-2012 at 05:47 PM.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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