This forum has been extremely quiet for a while, but the episode of Edward Karaa and the 4th Dan has raised a general, and pressing, issue. Basically, the issue is this: if you are the witness or the victim of violence in the dojo, which, in your opinion, goes beyond the boundaries of hard training or what could be explained by the parameters of the master-student relationship as you understand this, what is the best way of making a complaint? I have tried to make this as general as possible and make no judgment whatever, either about Edward himself (with whom I have had some private correspondence on the matter), or the organization of which he was a member.
I think it has to be understood that the master-student relationship which is at the core of aikido training and the organizational structure of the dojo are two different things and do not always smoothly coalesce. An instructor might be an excellent teacher, but the organization of the dojo, or the persons with whom the instructor surrounds himself/herself, might, in the opinion of the dojo rank and file, leave much to be desired. My own experience leads me to think that this situation is more common than expected.
1. First, there is the violence itself. I think we would all claim to draw the line between rough training (possibly resulting in unintended injury), and deliberately going out to punish, through techniques, someone for slights or wrongdoings, real or imagined. I have seen this done quite often and put down such behaviour to lack of maturity, on the part of the instructor or senior students. However, I think it is easier to delineate the black and white here than to deal with the multiple shades of grey and wonder whether we could do this in a ‘universal' way, i.e., one that does not depend on a particular context for interpretation.
2. Then there is the organizational context. It is a fact that the average dojo has more than one power centre. In other words, the shihan or instructor does not run the dojo single-handed, but entrusts the organization and also some of the instruction, to other individuals, who, willy-nilly, derive power from this: power which can always be used well or less well. Depending on one's definition of violence, the setting up of dojo groups or cliques by power holders might also be grounds for complaint by rank and file members.
3. Then there is the method of complaint itself. In the recent case the person doing the
complaining wanted to canvas prevailing views anonymously and so chose to portray himself as a witness. The general reaction was strong support, but more recent posts in the forum suggest he lost some credibility here, since it was only later that it was revealed that he himself had been the victim and there was another viewpoint as to what actually happened (which relates to Point 1, above). However, the incident also revealed that the Internet is a very powerful medium. Even during the process of establishing what had actually happened, I was requested to drop the matter and the final episode was a lengthy telephone conversation with the shihan involved, at the latter's request. An unfortunate consequence was the break up of dojo friendships and the decision to stop practicing aikido. My own feeling was that possibly a genuine complaint should not have led to such results.
Thus I am interested in hearing the Voice of Experience here, since the matter will certainly arise at the next IAF Congress.
Best regards to all,