Re: Article: Transmission in Aikido, Part II by George S. Ledyard
I went to a lecture recently where university education as a universal right was strongly defended. This is fine, but the lecturer did not discuss the other aspect of the matter, which was how to create an opportunity for genuine shugyou type learning in this new scheme of things. To take a similar example, my own university experience was of one-to-one tutorials, where the professors adapted the training to my own concerns. It was very productive and far superior to university education in large impersonal classes, such as occurred in France before the student riots in 1968. I entered tertiary education in 1962 and I was very happy to be where I was at the time. However, a method of one-to-one teaching by the tutorial method was not financially viable as a way of university teaching in general.
Similarly, in the martial arts, specifically aikido, the "real goods" are best experienced in one-on-one training with the shihan, or in a very small group in the shihan's home dojo. Perhaps this was the situation at the Kobukan in the very beginning, or at the Hombu and in Iwama just after WWII. It would not have been economically viable, however.
In the lecture I mentioned above, elite, mass and universal education were seen as stages in the evolution of university education in Japan. However, the three terms can also be understood as frames or paradigms and as such the teaching & learning transaction they connote can take place simultaneously. Thus, you could have regular private lessons at the Aikikai Hombu with a shihan, if he agrees to teach you, or with one of the members of the Instruction Department. This would be intensive, but expensive, much more expensive than the regular classes. Much less expensive and perhaps as demanding would be to take all the regular classes offered. I think there are 5 or 6 classes offered daily and a smaller number at weekends, and the beauty here is that you would experience the teaching styles of the entire Instruction Department. I think very few people choose either of these training methods, but they are available. More usual is to take fewer classes, but at regular times and then one's partner can be anyone from a beginner to an 8th dan shihan\and they do not change partners at the Hombu.
In Hiroshima I trained for many years at the main dojo of the resident shihan. Training encompassed much more than basic techniques and it was common to have a similar spectrum of training partners as at the Hombu. Here also we do not change partners during a class unless the instructor tells us to, so it was sometimes possible to train regularly with a 5th or 6th dan student. However, more of my 6th dan colleagues have opened their own dojos, as I have, and so it is now more unusual for people of such rank to train together. There is also an idea that at 6th dan level you should not need regular training with the shihan: in other words, that you should have acquired the means to create your own ways of self-development.