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Old 05-20-2001, 11:08 PM   #11
George S. Ledyard
George S. Ledyard's Avatar
Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
This is a problem

Originally posted by Anonanon
Thanks colleen. I am less concerned about my personal experience than with discovering that a large number of other students had quit because they felt hit on excessively or been involved with this person, and that many of these people retained highly negative feelings about their experience. To some degree, I agree, instructors are just people, and their commitment to teaching or to aikido may make it difficult for them to meet people outside the dojo. On the other hand, in at least some dojos, there's an implicit or not-so-implicit "don't talk back to the sensei" rule in place, depending on how rigidly or traditionally the ranking system is enforced. This leaves less room for negotiation.
Anyone who thinks this is just a matter of consenting adults needs to read Sex in the Forbidden Zone : When Men in Power - Therapists, Doctors, Clergy, Teachers, and Others - Betray Women's Trust
by Peter Rutter.

If Aikido teachers were professionals in the mental health, medical, etc. fields they would be trained in the ethics and psychology of these types of relationships. Not only did most Aikido teachers not get any training in how to handle their role as Sensei in relation to members of the opposite sex but in fact most of their own role models were bad!

But in Aikido, no one wants to talk about these issues because so many people at the top are offenders. Ellis Amdur's book about Aikido "Duelling With O-Sensei" he talks about this at length.

Being an aikido teacher can be a very lonely occupation in many ways. Often the only people you meet are at the dojo. It may not be optimum but it is certainly understandable when a teacher has a relationship with a student. But the example mentioned above is far beyond that. You have a predatory relationship here with the females in the role of the prey. It is wrong, it is unethical, and it shouldn't be tolerated.

What is often the most disturbing is the way in which the other members of the dojo become co-dependent with the teacher's dysfunction. One of my friends is an Aikido teacher who really got himself into trouble with a number of his female students. His wife was in the dojo at the same time. When his relationship with her began to collapse the students all banded around him to "support" him. People who his wife had thought were her friends basically ostracized her. His inappropriate behavior was not only tolerated by the dojo, it was fully enabled by the dojo.

This continued until he found a really wonderful therapist who helped him cop to what he had been up to. He publicly admitted how he had been screwing up, got back together with his wife, and turned himself around completely. It was precisely at this point that things blew up in the dojo and many of his students left. Not when he was at his worst but at the point where he was getting his act together. All those folks who were all tied into his codependent dysfunction ended up leaving without copping to their own role in the whole thing.

People need to not put their teachers up on a pedestal to the extent that they cease to see what is really happening before their eyes. It does no one any good at all to tolerate behavior on the part of the Sensei that you wouldn't accept anywhere else.

This is a very important area of discussion. It doesn't get a lot of attention from the senior people because so many have been guilty at one time or another of behavior that they perhaps now recognize as inappropriate. (Or they don't recognize it, which is really scary). I know from personal experience how easy it is to get caught in the trap. In my own case I was able to get my act together before it caused irreparable damage to the dojo. But you won't find a lot of guys who are going to be very open about this area.

I think that female students need to keep describing these behaviors when they happen and keep this issue in our consciousness until there are no more people acting this way. And the male instructors who have done enough work to recognize these issues for what they are should weigh in in support of these efforts. Increasing awareness and making unacceptable behavior public knowledge, at least within your own community, is the only way in which these things are going to change.

Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 05-20-2001 at 11:16 PM.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside