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Old 07-07-2001, 01:56 PM   #1
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7/07/2001 1:56pm [from Jun Akiyama]
Website: http://www.birankai.org

T.K. Chiba sensei's new aikido organization, Birankai International, has a new website that was just recently launched. The website states that if you have any questions regarding this new organization to please direct it to Elizabeth Lynn, secretary of Birankai International.
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Old 07-17-2001, 07:43 AM   #2
Jorge Garcia
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I have been following this new development with some interest. Especially since learning that apparently, Saito Sensei of the Iwama Ryu style has been doing the same thing with his own Dan rankings and passports. I have wondered if this is not all the beginning of the end and if what little organizational unity that we have enjoyed in Aikido (and the Aikikai in particular) as an art is not about to descend into an abyss of fragmentaion. I suppose it may be inevitable. I cannot see how Shihans within the Aikikai system, creating their own separate rankings will help strengthen the role of Hombu dojo worldwide. While after the death of the founder there were several divisions that ocurred, the trend in recent years had been toward organizational unity rather than fragmentation largely due to the role of Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba. In the short run, the prestige of Hombu Dojo and the Ueshiba family name won out but now, as the individual prestige of certain great teachers is enhanced and we move further in time from the source, the danger again looms that we will descend into a franic cycle of division and fragmentaion. The new Doshu's position as reported by the Birankai is commendable but it may be the only option available to Hombu regardless of their personal opinion of this development.
On the other hand, it is clear that politically, Hombu dojo probably is and has been boxed in with regards to their political will to advance and promote non Japanese to the Shihan level. Also, I know that there has probably been some measure politicizing of Dan rankings within the Aikikai system which is also unescapable in any human system. I suppose we are all doing the best we can. I hope though that Aikido doesn't become like Karate or Kung Fu where you walk into a dojo and you see a number of certificates on the wall written in a foreign language and the lineage and names are so convoluted and obscure, that no one could possibly unravel them or trace them and the recognizable legitimacy of the family name of the founder is lost. That would mean that the unity we have enjoyed worldwide of being identified with the Ueshiba name will be gone forever. That unity is the reason I can go into any Aikikai related dojo in the world and practice with the confidence of a large amount of goodwill in the heart and feel assured that indeed, we are "brothers", regardless of organizational differences (i.e., USAF,AAA,Schools of Ueshiba,etc.) Try doing that at your local karate dojo next time you travel.

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
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Old 07-17-2001, 01:18 PM   #3
Steve
Dojo: Salina Aikido Club
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Quote:
Originally posted by Jorge Garcia
SNIP
That would mean that the unity we have enjoyed worldwide of being identified with the Ueshiba name will be gone forever. That unity is the reason I can go into any Aikikai related dojo in the world and practice with the confidence of a large amount of goodwill in the heart and feel assured that indeed, we are "brothers", regardless of organizational differences (i.e., USAF,AAA,Schools of Ueshiba,etc.) Try doing that at your local karate dojo next time you travel.
I wonder how much of that unity you feel springs from the relative newness of aikido and the small numbers of akidoka, compared to, say, karate. If everyone in town practiced aikido, would you feel this way when you walked into your dojo?

I agree aikido feels like a special kind of club to me because it is so new. It's kind of cool to know that the founder was almost one of my contemporaries. Sort of puts me closer to the center of attention. (New parlor game: How many degrees seperate O Sensi from Kevin Bacon?) But will the quality of training suffer? Dunno but I'm guessing it won't. -- Steve

Steve Hoffman
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That's going to leave a mark.
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Old 07-17-2001, 03:59 PM   #4
Jorge Garcia
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Quote:
Originally posted by Steve


I wonder how much of that unity you feel springs from the relative newness of aikido and the small numbers of akidoka, compared to, say, karate. If everyone in town practiced aikido, would you feel this way when you walked into your dojo?

I agree aikido feels like a special kind of club to me because it is so new. It's kind of cool to know that the founder was almost one of my contemporaries. Sort of puts me closer to the center of attention. (New parlor game: How many degrees seperate O Sensi from Kevin Bacon?) But will the quality of training suffer? Dunno but I'm guessing it won't. -- Steve
I feel that the newness of aikido is definitely a factor that accounts for it's essential unity as an art. The thing is that I am not assured that as an art, it will ever reach anything close to the popularity of karate or taekwondo because of several factors like the movies, the difficulty factors of the art, the lack of trophies and competition, the fact that childrens classes are harder to market and maintain in aikido, and the fact that aikido dojos tend to be non profit entities rather than for profit businesses. That last factor is probably the major reason that the so called "commercial" martial artist has arisen in our culture and frankly, if that ever happens at large in aikido, then we will be ruined as an art and we won't be any different than the worst of what's out there now.

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
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Old 07-17-2001, 04:39 PM   #5
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I don't think that similarities felt from dojo to dojo have anything to do with an affiliation to the Hombu dojo, but rather have to do with the philosophy of Aikido, and the type of person drawn to it. I have been lucky enough to have teachers whose own teachers were O Sensei's students. And equally lucky to have some that were trained by someone of unknown and convoluted lineage (including one of the best I've had). Several highly ranked instructors have been at various times in their lives associated, not associated, associated, etc. with the Hombu, and I don't think it changed what they taught. I look at what and how I'm being taught, not who taught my teacher. And before anyone says "but you have to know the lineage of the teacher to be sure you are getting 'real' Aikido," look at how many arguements have arisen here over different styles of Aikido, all founded by students of the same teacher (O Sensei).
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Old 07-17-2001, 05:06 PM   #6
Erik
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This may be a bit unpopular but I sometimes wonder exactly what Hombu adds to the equation. Sure, they give the yudansha an Aikikai stamp of approval but beyond that I'm not sure they add much. Maybe they do/did a lot of work behind the scenes which I don't see? Maybe I'm thinking of them as a trade organization and they don't see it that way. Please correct me if I'm wrong in this perspective.

PS: I was part of an independent dojo in my formative years and we were very open to all styles and arts. Certainly more open than most. It's not the structure that makes the community work but the people within it.
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Old 07-17-2001, 11:44 PM   #7
Jorge Garcia
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I don't know that I intended for it to be thought that an affiliation to Hombu dojo was as important as the influence of Hombu dojo.The philosophy of aikido didn't come to any of us outside of the influence of a common source and it's an appreciation of that fact that lends itself to a common self identity that fosters an openness of communication where there might not ordinarily be one. I have experienced that from Texas,to California,to Pennsylvania,all the way to Spain and Germany and France. A person could encounter and meet friendly and open people anywhere totally outside of an aikido context. You could even find that openness in a dojo of a martial art unrelated to aikido at all. That's not what I am making reference to. I am refering to a bond though, that does exist because of a connection to the Aikikai headquarters that can in fact be enjoyed and that when lost, will be unrecoverable. That particular bond is in fact somewhat unique in the martial arts world and it is what I am referencing. I do not question that a person can experience good aikido, a positive philosophy or even an open spirit without the influence of Hombu dojo. Of course you can but that will always be here. The unique influence though of the source of aikido that can serve to remind us all of our common heritage will probably be gone someday because of our inability to appreciate it. I must add that I do not fault the Birankai or Iwama Ryu for doing what they have to do to unify their own curriculum and students. I just point out that we are passing from one era to another. We need to recognize what is about to pass away.

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
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Old 07-18-2001, 12:14 AM   #8
Jorge Garcia
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Quote:
Originally posted by Erik
This may be a bit unpopular but I sometimes wonder exactly what Hombu adds to the equation. Sure, they give the yudansha an Aikikai stamp of approval but beyond that I'm not sure they add much. Maybe they do/did a lot of work behind the scenes which I don't see? Maybe I'm thinking of them as a trade organization and they don't see it that way. Please correct me if I'm wrong in this perspective.

PS: I was part of an independent dojo in my formative years and we were very open to all styles and arts. Certainly more open than most. It's not the structure that makes the community work but the people within it.
In response to Erik, I think that the independent and non affiliated dojos can't pretend that they got here without the Aikikai.They merely choose to operate independently of it and that is their right but they are as indebted to Hombu dojo as much as those who are affiliated with it. None of us received aikido in a vacuum. Look at Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu. Sokaku Takeda taught thousands of individuals and yet it is commonly acknowleged that it has not spread outside Japan anything like aikido because they never had someone like Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba who simplified the art and organized it in such a way that it could spread. O Sensei was from the era where these arts were secret and without that central organizing influence, it is not likely we would be here today. The influence of the aikikai is incalculable in the history of martial arts. Liken it to the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life" when George Bailey got to see what Bedford Falls would have been like if he had never been born. I don't doubt that lots of us may not appreciate the connection that we have to the organizing source of aikido. I also do not mean to imply that those who are "independent" are second class in any way. I only suggest that our failure to understand what an Aikido world, without the influence of a Hombu dojo, would be like, is a lamentable thing. The people who make up a dojo are it's major influence-yes, even over it's organizing influence BUT they were not able to do the good they did outside of the sphere of that influence. That's the reason we start and finish every class by bowing to the picture of the Founder. The respect we give to the Founder with our bow is an acknowledgment of that fact. I may think I did a good job in life without my parents but I am wrong if I think I got here without them. A holy book says," No man is an island, none of us lives to himself, none of us dies to himself". We are all still connected by the influence of a common source, whether we realize it or not.

Last edited by Jorge Garcia : 07-18-2001 at 07:51 AM.

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
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Old 07-18-2001, 11:59 AM   #9
Erik
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Hi Jorge.

I don't debate much of what you have said. That they have done much to spread the art seems undeniable to me. That we should be grateful for that also seems appropriate to me.

Yet, it also seems as if your glasses are tinted the color of roses. I thought the following from the Birankai web site summed things up nicely.

There is a third way in which Birankai International will protect the unity of purpose Sensei wishes it to have. That is in the establishment of shihan title. For many years, the shihan of the North American Continental Shihankai have been negotiating with Hombu Dojo to allow for the recognition of non-Japanese teachers as shihan. In order for Aikido to truly take root outside Japan, it must develop, support, and honor teachers native to the countries where it is practiced. Unfortunately, over time, it has become apparent that the issuance of shihan title to non-Japanese must be resolved without the direct assistance of Hombu Dojo. Therefore, Chiba Sensei has given shihan title to three of the senior teachers in Birankai International US.

The bold part says a lot and it seems to me from my bleacher seat that maybe they could be doing a better job of this.

Last edited by Erik : 07-18-2001 at 12:17 PM.
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Old 07-18-2001, 01:35 PM   #10
Jorge Garcia
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Quote:
Originally posted by Erik
Hi Jorge.

I don't debate much of what you have said. That they have done much to spread the art seems undeniable to me. That we should be grateful for that also seems appropriate to me.

Yet, it also seems as if your glasses are tinted the color of roses. I thought the following from the Birankai web site summed things up nicely.

There is a third way in which Birankai International will protect the unity of purpose Sensei wishes it to have. That is in the establishment of shihan title. For many years, the shihan of the North American Continental Shihankai have been negotiating with Hombu Dojo to allow for the recognition of non-Japanese teachers as shihan. In order for Aikido to truly take root outside Japan, it must develop, support, and honor teachers native to the countries where it is practiced. Unfortunately, over time, it has become apparent that the issuance of shihan title to non-Japanese must be resolved without the direct assistance of Hombu Dojo. Therefore, Chiba Sensei has given shihan title to three of the senior teachers in Birankai International US.

The bold part says a lot and it seems to me from my bleacher seat that maybe they could be doing a better job of this.
Erik,
If my glasses are tinted, I'm afraid they can't be rose colored on that point because I conceded that issue in my first post when I said that Hombu dojo probably lacked the political will to promote non Japanese shihans. I don't believe I have disagreed in any of my posts with that action of the Birankai.
Just between you and me, I don't think Hombu dojo much cares about that because the use of the shihan title has already been in use, in an informal manner, throughout the aikikai world for years. That action by Chiba Sensei seems to me to be a way of preserving his group internally without having to depend on the politics of Japan to determine what's going to happen to him here in the US. Chiba Sensei is probably going to have more trouble with his fellow USAF Shihans over that action than he will from Hombu dojo because those designations put him outside the boundaries of the USAF as well.
Do you see my point though? Hombu dojo wasn't handing out Shihan titles at large anywhere in the world anyway so Chiba sensei doing it doesn't diminish the Aikikai at all.
My concern was that separate Dan rankings and passports are duplications that may diminish the source. I don't think there's anything to do about it and I concede that it is Chiba sensei's right to do so if he pleases. I only make an observation and hopefully, not a hard and fast judgement.

Last edited by Jorge Garcia : 07-18-2001 at 01:38 PM.

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
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Old 07-18-2001, 02:35 PM   #11
Erik
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Quote:
Originally posted by Jorge Garcia
Just between you and me, I don't think Hombu dojo much cares about that because the use of the shihan title has already been in use, in an informal manner, throughout the aikikai world for years. That action by Chiba Sensei seems to me to be a way of preserving his group internally without having to depend on the politics of Japan to determine what's going to happen to him here in the US. Chiba Sensei is probably going to have more trouble with his fellow USAF Shihans over that action than he will from Hombu dojo because those designations put him outside the boundaries of the USAF as well.
Been wondering about that actually but I have no ties to the USAF whatsoever and nothing to go on in regards to their structure. Anyways, I think you hit the point with the lack of political will but what I'm really driving at is the whole concept of belonging to an association whether it be the Aikikai or one of the sub-organizations such as USAF, ASU, AANC or the like. I think the concept in general could be improved.

We belong to the Aikikai, send them money, get rank and really not much more (at least for most of us). More typically when you become a member of an organization there is a direct tangible benefit to doing so. The organization helps promote your business, offers training in running the business, marketing literature or even just a good housekeeping seal of approval. There appear to be few tangible benefits to organizational membership beyond semi-sort of-standardized rank. I think that if the concept as applied is to survive and thrive membership needs to be made more meaningful on some level and I think it could be. I have a sense that certain organizations (AAA possibly) have done this sort of thing but I'm not sure how much.

I remember when that independent dojo suddenly wasn't. There were annual fees (dan fees were more), higher testing fees, dan testing was to be performed at a very remote location and camp attendance was required. All that was fine, I suppose, but the monetary outflow was significant for a small dojo. And what came back? Not much from my perspective. All I'm saying is that I'm not sure that model is an optimal one.

Last edited by Erik : 07-18-2001 at 02:49 PM.
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Old 07-18-2001, 11:54 PM   #12
Jorge Garcia
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I appreciate what you're saying but I still think that you're still missing my point. I was not claiming that there was a monetary or business benefit to an association with the Aikikai. That's why I said that independent dojos weren't second class in my scenario. If finances and business are the issue, I say a dojo is better off staying independent. My argument rather, is that there is an intrinsic value to having an Aikikai Hombu dojo as the central point of a common identity and hertitage and that what it gives all aikidoists is priceless. It is priceless with regard to our self identity and the effect that it has to promote a real unity in the hearts of all aikidoists if we believe in and value that center point. My point was that when something unprecedented like major Aikikai shihan beginning to issue their own Dan rankings occurs, then we are seeing the end of an era that will never come again due to the normal fragmentation that will follow. It is akin to being able to live in the time period in Christianity when the Church on earth was still united under apostolic leadership versus the checkerboard, cafeteria style, consumer oriented Christianity we have in our day. Seeing what has happened, so many Christians long for the day when things were still in their pristine state and we dream of what could have been! As we look back, we say, if only this one or that one could have sacrificed self interest for the whole! We still have that opportunity today in aikido. Not because Hombu dojo is perfect or is intrinsically superior in some way but because for a few inconveniences and concessions, we could keep aikido from going the way of karate and judo for another generation but it does not appear that will happen.
As for your comments on what you got from Hombu dojo vs. before, I agree. Institutionally, the testing, the seminars,and the dues are all for Aikido (at large) and not for the local dojo. I have always thought that of seminars. They are in no way for the aikidoist, but they are for the art at large. By supporting the institution in this way, we as individual aikidoists and individual dojos can repay the art for all it has given us. Lest we get into too selfish a mood, we must understand that the symbolic institutions in any culture represent us, the people, and if we see ourselves far removed from them, it is only because our perspective is unbalanced in that we are failing to see that as the centerpoint is strenghtened and enhanced, so are we. You cannot give sacrificially without getting back down the line. That is the vital nature of the relationship between the individual and the symbols of authority in his culture.
At any rate, I have probably exhausted all reasonable means to explain myself so I will cease posting along this line. Thanks for the vigorous discussion!

Last edited by Jorge Garcia : 07-19-2001 at 07:16 AM.

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Old 07-19-2001, 12:58 AM   #13
Erik
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[i]Originally posted by Jorge Garcia
At any rate, I have probably exhausted all reasonable means to explain myself so I will cease posting along this line. Thanks for the vigorous discussion!
It was indeed.

Last edited by Erik : 07-19-2001 at 01:16 AM.
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