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Old 12-20-2007, 07:36 PM   #1
Joseph Madden
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The aura of invincibility and the cult of personality

Why do some sensei have a reputation for being the best? Why do some students travel the wide world over seeking out certain teachers for that summer training seminar? Why are these students seemingly wasting their time when they only get to train with their "heroes" for mere moments? Why this cult of personality? Am I missing something? Kimeda Sensei is my teacher. He will always be my teacher. I've had the opportunity to be taught for a limited period by some the "best" but I've never felt the need to leave my dojo. For some it may be that they need to expand their experiences outside their home port. For others, I think there may be a little fanaticism (aikidoka Deadheads anyone). What do you think? Are there teachers who have the gift and the others are merely pretenders to the throne? Is there an aura of invincibility that guides students like moths to the flame (like blue hairs to Elvis)?
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Old 12-20-2007, 07:48 PM   #2
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: The aura of invincibility and the cult of personality

I really wouldn't know the answer to this question.

I think everyone is on their own path and must find there own way. Each person has a different way of exploring and experiences things.

I have had the pleasure and fortune to study with many people from many arts, perspectives, and walks of life. I can tell you that I have never walked away from a situation or meeting feeling that I had not been enriched from the experience.

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Old 12-20-2007, 08:06 PM   #3
Joseph Madden
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Re: The aura of invincibility and the cult of personality

It may be a question of ego. We've been taught that ascending the ego is one of the central conceits of budo. We must move past the ego in order to be fully enlightened. There lies the way. And yet for some it seems that ego seems to be what their after. They may appear to be lacking an ego or seem humble, but I get the sense that they want a little of that magic to rub off on them. That sensei mojo. So they can develop that aura of invincibility and have their own cult of personality. I know what I want and need from aikido. This is an egotistical remark. I (we) should merely be happy to have aikido in my (our) lives. When we should be moving away from ego, it appears we are wrapped up in it. Perhaps in a few years (decades) I will have less of an ego. Perhaps it took the masters that long to "get" it. Maybe O-Sensei saw Takeda and went "That's what I want". And Kancho saw O-Sensei and said the same thing.
I would like to believe that it is about moving to a higher plane.
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Old 12-20-2007, 10:10 PM   #4
Randy Sexton
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Re: The aura of invincibility and the cult of personality

We as human beings often seek for someone to show us the way and we are given directions from many teachers. However, at some point in our lives we begin to realize that we can innately sense the way to go when we breath in the fresh air and feel the sun upon our face. Train in the martial arts and learn your way and learn from the humble wise who have travelled the road before you. Your heart will guide you. Remember to be kind to those who need to seek the Masters for ego rather than for simple directions.
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Old 12-20-2007, 10:11 PM   #5
crbateman
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Re: The aura of invincibility and the cult of personality

IMHO, I think every Sensei deserves a look-see. Beyond that, I try not to have preconceived notions and expectations, although that is sometimes difficult. I'd rather just let it all sink in and then use what I can. Strangely, I rarely know what I am looking for, but usually know when I've found it...
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Old 12-20-2007, 10:23 PM   #6
Roman Kremianski
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Re: The aura of invincibility and the cult of personality

In my personal opinion, no one is ever going to be "fully enlightened", and traveling the world for the sake of reaching enlightenment seems ironically shallow.
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Old 12-20-2007, 10:58 PM   #7
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: The aura of invincibility and the cult of personality

If you know what you want and what you need, and you should be moving away from ego.....

Then why spend time here on aikiweb?

Isn't this looking "outside" the box? seeking answers? asking questions? looking for something that you don't have? loneliness?
connecting with others? telling others your thoughts, opinions?

doesn't that "hunger" come from the ego. Doesn't posting here "feed" the ego?

How do you separate yourself from your ego?

Why is it important to do this?

What happens when we are "egoless"?

is that possible?

what is the "higher plane"?

Is it a better place than "here" and "now"?

I have many more questions than answers for sure!

look at my quote at the bottom. I keep it there to remind myself about what is important about ego!

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Old 12-20-2007, 11:14 PM   #8
Carl Thompson
 
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Re: The aura of invincibility and the cult of personality

Quote:
Joseph Madden wrote: View Post
Why do some sensei have a reputation for being the best?
It depends on the sensei. They could be talented charlatans or they could be modest Aiki-wizards. If you really want to find out, the best way to do so is to actually train with them.

Quote:
Joseph Madden wrote: View Post
Why do some students travel the wide world over seeking out certain teachers for that summer training seminar?
It depends on the students, but finding the answer to your first question is one possible reason. Having actually found the answer is another.

Quote:
Joseph Madden wrote: View Post
Why are these students seemingly wasting their time when they only get to train with their "heroes" for mere moments? Why this cult of personality? Am I missing something?
Which students? For that matter which sensei have this "cult of personality"? There are many sensei people travel long distances to train with. Only a few months ago, I imagine a reasonable number of people travelled to see Robert Mustard Sensei in my native UK for example. It sounds like you're missing training with other sensei and students because your current sensei is enough for you. This is a very good situation for you, since it saves you the bother of having to travel. Sorry if this sounds a bit harsh, but if you are really bothered by other people travelling to inform their training, I suggest you ask your own sensei why they should do it.

Quote:
Michael Kimeda wrote: View Post
Dont miss this seminar - no matter what style of aikido you do. Robert Mustard is one of the best!

Spike
Best regards

Carl
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Old 12-21-2007, 12:38 AM   #9
xuzen
 
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Re: The aura of invincibility and the cult of personality

Quote:
Joseph Madden wrote: View Post
Why do some sensei have a reputation for being the best? Why do some students travel the wide world over seeking out certain teachers for that summer training seminar? Why are these students seemingly wasting their time when they only get to train with their "heroes" for mere moments? Why this cult of personality? Am I missing something? Kimeda Sensei is my teacher. He will always be my teacher. I've had the opportunity to be taught for a limited period by some the "best" but I've never felt the need to leave my dojo. For some it may be that they need to expand their experiences outside their home port. For others, I think there may be a little fanaticism (aikidoka Deadheads anyone). What do you think? Are there teachers who have the gift and the others are merely pretenders to the throne? Is there an aura of invincibility that guides students like moths to the flame (like blue hairs to Elvis)?
It would be luverly to have some sort Michelin Star Guide in the aikido who's who.

One Star - Interesting

Two Stars - Worth a detour

Three Stars - Worth a trip.

Boon.

SHOMEN-ATE (TM), the solution to 90% of aikido and life's problems.
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Old 12-21-2007, 05:03 AM   #10
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Re: The aura of invincibility and the cult of personality

Yes, I am sure for some this could be "aura" and "cult". It could the "cult aura of the Sensei" that gets people to stay isolated too.

My Sensei (Dang Thong Phong of Tenshinkai) did seminars at other schools, invited people in, and encouraged us to train. He certainly doesn't have anything to hide and I certainly do feel there was anything missing in my training.

Yes, I go out of my way to train with people I believe can show me how to make my Aikido better. I have met some really good people along the way too.

Perhaps it is the practitioner, not the teacher, one should look at. Perhaps it is fear that motivates some to stay isolated at home never having anything to compare their training and instruction to. Perhaps it is courage, security, and a true desire to improve that motivates others to travel. Perhaps we all have our own reasons.

(I tend to find it interesting that we, in general, interpret negative intent and qualities into anyone who thinks and lives differently than we do. Just an observation.)

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 12-21-2007, 06:56 AM   #11
Pierre Kewcharoen
 
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Re: The aura of invincibility and the cult of personality

Here's a list of people who I have trained with. Don't know if you guys know them or have trained with them or if they are famous in the aikido world.

My Sensei- Fred Little

Meik Skoss Sensei-Probably the most dangerous guy Ive seen with a sword

Ken Nisson Sensei-Taught me the unbendable arm and how to be relaxed and soft

Paul Kang Sensei -From Bond Street Dojo

Chris Jordan Sensei-From Bond Street Dojo

Jim Sorrentino Sensei- awesome teacher, he let me test full strength on him. His forearms are as hard like tree trunks.

Mary Heiny Sensei- While sitting in a chair she had two very large guys grab her and then she made them tap out by a flick of a wrist. Enough said. Once you grab her you definitely feel the power of aikido.

I havent worked with Ellis Amdur but I want to.

It would be nice to see a an aikido tree to trace back teachers to the original students of O-Sensei. But that would take forever.

Last edited by Pierre Kewcharoen : 12-21-2007 at 07:06 AM.
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Old 12-21-2007, 07:14 AM   #12
Joseph Madden
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Re: The aura of invincibility and the cult of personality

We seemingly as martial artists like to believe that none of this is about ego or that we are moving away from ego when in actuality it all seems to be about ego. For the ego. By the ego. As Kevin mentioned , why post anything? why write anything? I can appreciate the excellent qualities of some of the higher ranking sensei and enjoy training with them. I don't think the martial arts are as "honest" and "humble" as we believe them to be. That's a bit of a disappointment to me. Not that I'll stop training.
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Old 12-21-2007, 07:16 AM   #13
Joseph Madden
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Re: The aura of invincibility and the cult of personality

Quote:
Roman Kremianski wrote: View Post
In my personal opinion, no one is ever going to be "fully enlightened", and traveling the world for the sake of reaching enlightenment seems ironically shallow.
I agree with you Roman, although I think some students may actually be trying to better themselves on a metaphysical level than merely physical.
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Old 12-21-2007, 07:16 AM   #14
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: The aura of invincibility and the cult of personality

We actually bring instructors in from other dojos, both with in our Dojo and from the outside. Some in related arts, but not even aikido.

I think it is good to look at things from a different perspective.

Inbreeding can be a bad thing.

I think that this is a big problem within aikido to be honest, given the way we train. The way we practice the art allows for affects and is hard to force reasonable accountability.

Again, each person and organization must figure out what the "middle road" should be.

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Old 12-21-2007, 09:48 AM   #15
James Davis
 
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Re: The aura of invincibility and the cult of personality

Quote:
Pierre Kewcharoen wrote: View Post
Mary Heiny Sensei- While sitting in a chair she had two very large guys grab her and then she made them tap out by a flick of a wrist. Enough said. Once you grab her you definitely feel the power of aikido.

I havent worked with Ellis Amdur but I want to.
Mary Heiny is awesome. I got to study with her in Miami a few years ago. She did this funny "Oh, woe is me" swoon movement and tossed a huge guy on his butt. My sensei and I got to talk with her at dinner afterwards, and she's very knowledgable. She told me that O'sensei definitely didn't treat her differently because she's a woman - the straight scoop from someone who trained with him.

I trained with Ellis Amdur at the Aikiweb seminar in Orlando. Reversals are fun!

My sensei asks me to get out there and get as much knowledge as I can, and share it with him so he can grow as well. He's not a know-it-all, but he still knows more than me.

"The only difference between Congress and drunken sailors is that drunken sailors spend their own money." -Tom Feeney, representative from Florida
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Old 12-21-2007, 10:17 AM   #16
ChrisMoses
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Re: The aura of invincibility and the cult of personality

Aikido is a cult of personality. It was OSensei's image and mystique that drew so many people in Japan to him. Overseas it was Tohei's slick moves and lofty talk that kept them coming in. Every large/successful dojo that I have been to orbits around a strong personality that draws people to them and inspires them to follow. I'm not saying it's good or bad, but it has certainly been that way from the very beginning. In some ways, it's one of the defining features of the art.

Chris Moses
TNBBC, "Putting the ME in MEdiocre!"
Budo Tanren at Seattle School of Aikido
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Old 12-21-2007, 10:23 AM   #17
Roman Kremianski
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Re: The aura of invincibility and the cult of personality

Quote:
Mary Heiny Sensei- While sitting in a chair she had two very large guys grab her and then she made them tap out by a flick of a wrist. Enough said. Once you grab her you definitely feel the power of aikido.
Two very large violent guys, or two of her very large students?
Just confused as to whether this was a demonstration in a dojo or an incident involving her sitting down at a bar.

I kinda think stories like that contribute to the cult personality of Aikido. The "My sensei is great because he/she did great things which means Aikido is badass" stories. My Sensei could do cool things too. But then again, he was 250lbs and had wrists thicker than my neck.

Last edited by Roman Kremianski : 12-21-2007 at 10:27 AM.
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Old 12-21-2007, 10:26 AM   #18
Amir Krause
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Re: The aura of invincibility and the cult of personality

Quote:
Joseph Madden wrote: View Post
Why do some sensei have a reputation for being the best? Why do some students travel the wide world over seeking out certain teachers for that summer training seminar? Why are these students seemingly wasting their time when they only get to train with their "heroes" for mere moments? Why this cult of personality? Am I missing something? Kimeda Sensei is my teacher. He will always be my teacher. I've had the opportunity to be taught for a limited period by some the "best" but I've never felt the need to leave my dojo. For some it may be that they need to expand their experiences outside their home port. For others, I think there may be a little fanaticism (aikidoka Deadheads anyone). What do you think? Are there teachers who have the gift and the others are merely pretenders to the throne? Is there an aura of invincibility that guides students like moths to the flame (like blue hairs to Elvis)?
Aren't some teachers better then others?
I rarely travel to study far away, but I did have some period of looking and seeing around. Until I was certain I made the right decision in electing my own teacher.

Some people have more of the gift than others, some are better techers, others are better pracitioners, and very few, are great at both.
There also are some pretenders and charletans.
Most teachers are somewhere in between.

Amir
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Old 12-21-2007, 10:34 AM   #19
cguzik
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Re: The aura of invincibility and the cult of personality

There are multiple issues here.

The first is, why go out of one's way to travel to a seminar with teachers other than one's primary instructor?

There are several reasons for doing so, many of which have nothing to do with ego:

1. To have an opportunity to get on the mat with people who you don't know. In many smaller dojo, it is common to get used to how your dojo partners move. You get used to each other, and learn to anticipate how each other moves. Training with strangers helps keep it real.

2. To see how others do things differently, and to challenge your observational skills - can you watch a different instructor, see what she is doing, and replicate it without bringing your own baggage and habits into the waza?

3. To train with and hang with people you don't get to see all that often.

4. To wave the flag. It's important to have dojo representation at events within your organization. This doesn't have to be about ego... it's about group cohesion and harmony.

5. Because the seminar instructor can do things your teacher cannot. Or because they can teach it better. Or they can teach in a way that better resonates with you.

The next issue is about the premise that, because certain instructors have a big seminar following -- some even have groupies -- that this is an ego issue. It's quite possible that the above reasons contribute much more to peoples' desire to attend these events than anything about the instructor's ego.

Now, does having such a following of groupies provide a challenge when it comes to keeping one's ego in check? I bet it does.

Finally, I challenge the premise that the purpose of this practice is to transcend the ego or attain some sort of enlightenment. According to many traditions, the only thing to attain is right here, right now -- and acceptance of this ego as it is might be more the point than trying to somehow get to a place where it's not.

I suppose it's also questionable whether Sokaku Takeda or Morihei Ueshiba are any sort of good role model for those who aspire to not have a big ego.

Last edited by cguzik : 12-21-2007 at 10:40 AM.
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Old 12-21-2007, 10:56 AM   #20
Ron Tisdale
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Re: The aura of invincibility and the cult of personality

Frankly, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. You have an issue that some go to seminars outside of their main instructor? Why is that wrong, exactly? Why do you think that is about ego? Whose ego?

I see some assumptions, but nothing to back that up. Just my opinion.

I go outside because:

I enjoy the feeling of getting thrown in different ways by different people.

I enjoy finding out whether what works on others that are similarly indoctrinated in the same style, works on people not so indoctrinated.

I enjoy learning different things.

I like people.

I used to write a lot about my experiences because: I like writing and I enjoy sharing.

If that is egotistical, so be it.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 12-21-2007, 11:39 AM   #21
John Connolly
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Re: The aura of invincibility and the cult of personality

We are men (and women), not dogs to follow a master. There are many who can teach us wonderful skills, philosophy, etc. It's fine to have a favorite, be friends with your teacher, admire your teacher, but in the end, it's about your development, so learn and play with anyone.

I've been at the same dojo for the last (Jeez, it it 6 years now?) 6 years, but only because we are into martial arts experimentation, encourage the building of skills from outside sources, and I like BSing over beers with these guys. My teacher is incredibly good, but that's not what keeps me coming back to learn. It's that he encourages all kinds of learning, no matter what the source (which also means I improve in skill, not just sit in awe at my teacher's feet-- woof woof!).
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Old 12-21-2007, 11:58 AM   #22
Joseph Madden
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Re: The aura of invincibility and the cult of personality

I think people have misunderstood my intentions with regards to this post. I am merely stating a perception with regards to ego or the egocentric nature of the martial arts in general. I'm not knocking training with other sensei or meeting new people or any new experience. I was asking for opinions on what seems to me to be the cultish nature and/or deity worship of some martial art practitioners and if this was a positive/negative. And there are some students that I know of who, frankly, are like giddy schoolgirls every time that particular sensei comes to town. There's respect and admiration. Then there's fanaticism.
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Old 12-21-2007, 12:17 PM   #23
Ron Tisdale
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Re: The aura of invincibility and the cult of personality

Sorry then, my bad, must have misunderstood your words.

Yeah, can't stand the giddy school girls myself!

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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Old 12-21-2007, 12:18 PM   #24
Roman Kremianski
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Re: The aura of invincibility and the cult of personality

In regards to the following post: I by no means hold a degree in Psychology, nor have I ever majored in it.

I think the whole "Getting rid of your ego" argument is parallel to the similar recent "Getting rid of pain" debate. It was said that eliminating the feeling of pain was not a good idea, because it is there for a reason. I believe the same can be said about ego.

People shouldn't work to completely degrade and humble themselves in order to extinguish whatever ego they think they have. People will always in my opinion (an opinion based purely on the experiences of dealing with people) have some form of ego, because it's required. Without ego, people would not strive to get further in their careers or work to improve their physical shape or even pursue the opposite sex.

An overgrown ego is a problem. Everybody has a standard ego. Getting rid of an overgrown ego is quite easy.
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Old 12-21-2007, 12:27 PM   #25
Ron Tisdale
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Re: The aura of invincibility and the cult of personality

Quote:
Getting rid of an overgrown ego is quite easy...
Yeah, few rounds of boxing or judo randori usually does it for me...

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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