Dojo: Phoenix (Jersey) School for Therapeutic Arts
Join Date: Mar 2011
Politics in Aikido
Over the years my school have been affilated to two national aikido organisations (mid 70's to 1996 and 1996 to 2005). Being isolated in Jersey, a small island (9 x 5 miles) 100 miles south of the British mainland, we were often left to our own devices other than twice yearly course in the island that we organised, arranging for instructors from the pool of high ranking yudansha available to us within that particular association.
Also, when time and finances permitted (we have to fly anywhere to get off the island, boat takes too long, as does swimming), . some of us managed to attend sporadic courses on the mainland to further our study. In fact between 1986 and 1989 I travelled every month to train with my mentor, missing very few weekends.
My mentor, as he got older, was gently forced out and finally found himself extricated from the very organisation he founded. My point is this. Politics, empire building, call it what you will, was instrumental in driving a wedge into what was, up until then, a well run organisation. People jockeying for a position of authority started attempting to influence the personal lives of students, other than just what goes on during training. Disgusted with how they had treated my Sensei, coupled with my concern in the way that things were being engineered I reluctantly withdrew my school from the association.
As luck would have it, a short while later, I encountered a teacher where things just seemed to 'fall into place' and with the permission of my Sensei (out of coutesy and not a requirement by him) I started training with him and travelling up to his dojo in the north of the UK on a regular basis. Then, deja vu after ten years of excellent instruction and a harmonious atmosphere, when this time, it was the Sensei who started trying to influence the private lives of students, some might call it controlling behaviour, surfaced, often supported by those in the tier below him (his seconds in command).
For a second time in my 32 years study I felt it was better for my health and the survival of my school to politely withdraw. This is when another former student in the UK told me that he had insured his club as an independent school. I soon followed suit. One of the main problems the he encountered was his friends, also members of the original group, had been expressly forbidden to train anywhere else, which goes against my understanding that everyone has something to offer, you take what assists you and offend no-one by leaving what does not.
At the same time that I registered my school as an independent, I also created the Phoenix Circle of Friendship. Its only ethos being that it should be for friends and aikidoka to come together, in an atmosphere of harmony and friendship, without politics, to share aikido and martial arts knowledge. Nothing more nothing less. No-one is in charge of the Circle it exists purely in the minds of those that identify with those simple ideals.
So far, it has worked on an international scale and we have over 15 schools or individuals who know that they will be welcomed into each others training halls just to train and socialise. We have schools and individuals in Jersey, UK, France, Eire, Italy, Switzerland and the West Indies.
And, just to emphasise things come in full circle, my UK mentor is now back teaching with us and offering us technical advice where needed and my original sensei (now back in Italy) is a regular host to me teaching at his dojo. I know utopia is unobtainable, I am not that naiive, but I feel that this is the nearest to it that I can get. I know politics and sports often go hand in hand, but I for one, would rather it did not. Shouldn't we all just get along?