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Old 01-31-2013, 01:53 PM   #34
Conrad Gus
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Dojo: Victoria Family Aikido
Location: Victoria, BC
Join Date: Dec 2001
Posts: 268
Re: On Friction

Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
I've gotten some second hand reports that some people <somewhere> were offended by one or another of the columns that have been posted in the last few months. The offended parties reportedly felt that the writer was inaccurate in their description of the instructor, or didn't have enough - or the right - experience to write about the person. In several cases, they felt that the person "designated" to write the first column didn't have the "right," the "experience" or the "knowledge."

It's a shame that this is the response to such fine essays (fine even if there are errors in fact or viewpoint). It is interesting in a way. Removing the opportunity to engage in an argument full of attacks, hurt feelings, arguments, even electronic threats leaves, for some people, only silence.

The problem, often, with argumentation, is that it narrows things - often making them smaller. Like whittling a piece of wood down to splinters, nothing of substance is left.

The phenomenological method, however, is one of expansion. It requires discipline, however. It requires strength of will, even strength of character, to refrain from arguing directly with the other. In argument, one often attacks the writer, rather than informing the reader. If you had a different experience - if your teacher was profoundly different from the one with the same name and birthdate that the other person wrote about, simply hit the reply button, and follow the requirements of the IHTBF columns. Post your experience in as rich detail as the original writer. Consider this - there are so many different O-sensei Ueshiba Morihei. The loss of any one of those descriptions, be it that of Sunadomari, Tomiki, Shioda, Tohei or Ueshiba Kisshomaru, would result in the loss, for us, of something of O-sensei himself. We will never meet him - we can only see him and feel him through others.

Your teacher is the same. If this set of columns really flourishes, in time, there may be eight or ten posts regarding an instructor. There will be no cross-talk, no reference to others' writing. When you turn a gem, each facet reflects the light in turn. If one polished that gemstone round, it would be little more than a bead of translucent or clear mineral. The sharp edges of the facets is what creates the gemstone's beauty.

So, to those who have read a column, and either fumed silently, or spoken to others in alarm, anger or outrage - put all that aside (the phenomenologists call that bracketing) and write your experience as if it is the only possible viewpoint. From where you stand, it is. Trust us, the readers, to read the various accounts of a teacher, and form a picture from all your stories.

Ellis Amdur
The "bar" for being able to post is not extraordinarily high. The requirement is having had first-hand experience with the teacher. It doesn't matter if the person was a white belt at the time, or was only thrown one time at a seminar. Those are the parameters, and the data is going to reflect the parameters, but I understand why some would say that the parameters are too loose.

Of course, if the parameters are tightened up, the volume of data is going to be a lot smaller. Say you make it a requirement that only long-time direct students can post their experiences. The data set will be smaller and more uniform, but also less interesting.

Then there's the whole "etiquette" thing. A lot of people (myself included) were taught that it is bad form to publicly critique a teacher (positively or negatively). It's an old-school, Japanese notion, but it will impose a certain limit on what kind of responses the project gets.

Having said all of that, the project was designed the way it was designed and is very interesting to read. I think it's more valuable to have something along these lines than to have nothing at all because of the difficulties of creating a project that is "fair" or "perfect". I hope that the project gets lots of responses in order to meet its goal of reflecting a wide range of perspectives for each featured instructor.
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