Re: An open letter to the martial arts community about conduct in the dojo
On of the things I liked about this letter was it addressed the roles of the student and the teacher. As a consumer of aikido, students can be better prepared to deal this misconduct and look for symptoms of misconduct. As a disseminator of aikido, teachers can look for feedback to [more] successfully disseminate aikido.
As pointed out, the martial arts seems to be a good combination of authority, fantasy and charisma that makes it susceptible to romanticism, if not abuse. And I would agree, that environment is more susceptible than, say, knitting.
Second, abuse it one of those things that hangs in the shadows, we do not see it until "we see it." It is important for abused to step forward and identify improper behavior so it may be stopped. It is also embarrassing and scary. I think crafting environments where we minimize the fear and embarrassment is necessary to addressing the issue. Everyone knows a "creeper." Some guy who is "over-friendly" with women on the mat and is studiously avoided by all women. The problem is that we do not approach that guy and say, "hey, stop creeping." We all just ignore him and hope he'll change; maybe he does, maybe he doesn't. Maybe not before he abuses someone. At some point, polite ignorance does not solve the problem. I have said this before... Humans are the only species that will identify danger, then pretend it isn't there. It takes a good deal of courage to walk up to your instructor and say, "that guy creeps me out. Can you talk to him? It takes a good deal of courage to walk up to that guy and say, "you're creeping people out. We do not accept that behavior on the mat. Thank you for stopping/leaving." You ask me, I don't care what belt you wear, if you have the guts to say either of those things, you are more courageous than most.
Some of the questions Dan brought up start to establish goals. I think we can argue which goals are better or worse, but I think goals are important to creating a clear path of instruction and learning. Deviation from that path should indicate deviation from what [you] want out of aikido. 2 years to shodan? Maybe, but more importantly, a clear path of instruction for 2 years of training. 2 years to shodan? Maybe, but more importantly, a clear path of commitment and expectation of training.Often, abuse begins with a shift of expectation. "Oh, that's just person X, he hugs all the women. You'll get use to it." We have many friendships in aikido. It is important to distinguish slight changes in expectation to understand what relationship your training partners [really] expect. Clear, concise and open expectations help define behavior. Now, if your claim is 2 years to shodan, you better back up that expectation or your students have a right to say, "What's going on? You said two years and I am a black belt."
I am not 100% in agreement with George Sensei. He is not the average instructor. I believe George sensei to probably be the best teaching aikido instructor that I have ever seen. He is working on a teaching method that works for him; I don't think most people could even teach the way George Sensei does, let alone transmit aikido as well as he does. Maybe in a couple of generations if the competency level is raised we'll talk again... (or in December when he comes to our dojo).
Ultimately, I think Mary's point is the best advice - buyer beware. The problem is that the dojo environment also contains this psychological pressure that sometimes students are not aware of as impacting their decision-making process. This is consistent with psychological pressure that can also accompany more traditional abusive relationships.