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Old 01-02-2008, 04:45 PM   #26
Cypher
Dojo: Yoseikan Dojo, Dunn, NC
Location: Dunn, NC
Join Date: Dec 2007
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Re: Dojo etiquette?

Quote:
Dennis Hooker wrote: View Post
I was eating a meal with Sensei and a few others about 30 years ago. It was my habit to pick up the food with chopsticks and place the chopsticks in my mouth much like I did with a spoon or fork. Sensei said "don't eat like that". I said OK not having any idea what he was talking about. I checked my chin and shirt front for sloppy eating and found nothing. So I proceeded to eat again and Sensei said "don't eat like that". I said OK and not wanting to be a complete idiot I put down the bowl of vegetables and picked the bowl of rice thinking how can I mess this up. I placed the chopsticks in my mouth and sensei gently leaned over and gently tapped my hand and the chopsticks went into my throat gagging me slightly and sensei said "don't eat like that, not polite and dangerous". I now eat much differently with the chopsticks.

Dennis
Sounds like something my sensei would do. The worst experience I every had in Aikido was when my Sensei caught me smoking for the first time, he looked at me and turned right around to head back inside the dojo, told everyone to go home and that class was cancelled but asked me to stay. I spent the rest of the night trying to avoid being attacked. And that pretty much sums it up.

Tony,
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Old 01-02-2008, 10:35 PM   #27
Andrew R
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Re: Dojo etiquette?

Thank you all for your well thought out responses. I didn't think so many people would reply.

Quote:
Jonathan Lewis wrote: View Post
Andrew, In my admittedly inexpert opinion, you can't expect anyone else to know how you are feeling about your comment. I can't possibly know since I wasn't there, however from your description, to me your comment sounds extremely rude, unsafe, and counter to the purpose of a dojo.
Rude - you got some expert advise (if you don't consider it expert perhaps you should not be studying there?) When the expert gives you information a response such as "Well, my way would work too" on the face of it sounds like a petulant child.
Unsafe - It is next to impossible to explain all the reasons behind why we do something a particular way. If you need all the reasons before you follow instruction, you will eventually be hurt or hurt someone else. In this particular case, under 'real conditions (tm)' a slash to the face is less life threatening than a proper shomen, however in the dojo it is far MORE dangerous as it is far, far more likely to result in an injury to your partners eye. This distancing will not be tolerated by any responsible Aikido teacher.
Counter to the purpose - You are there to learn. First consider the instruction deeply, try to find the reasons for it on your own, then, eventually you make it part of your own way or not. Don't just treat serious instruction in an offhand manner.
Just tell us how you really feel...

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
A good book to help out with the whole etiquette thing. "In the Dojo" by Dave Lowry.

It will not lay down the gospel as to what is right and what is wrong, but it does a good job explaining the meaning behind many of the things we do.

I bought it this week, and read it in a couple of hours. I've been doing this for a while, and there was much I did not know!

Well worth the 15.00 USD or so it will cost to obtain it.

it may not help you avoid issues such as above, as it does not say "this is the way you do this"...but with a good overview on "WHY" we do the things we do, it might help you understand and make better choices.
Thank you very much; I'll check it out as soon as I can.

Quote:
Fred Little wrote: View Post

As for walking between the instructor and the shomen, my response is to simply say: "Don't do that again. If you want to talk about why after class, that's fine, but don't ever do that again."
FL
Again, I find this approach to be extremely off-putting and overbearing, at least in this situation. Your response would be appropriate if a student actually did something dangerous, but innocently and naively walking behind the sensei does not call for such a reaction. Being firm in enforcing the rules is not mutually exclusive with being polite. Maybe I would think differently after doing aikido for 20 odd years, but I doubt it. No doubt that in your dojo you have the right to say whatever you want, but don't be surprised then if I seek out a teacher that doesn't talk to me like a pile of dog shit.

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
Andrew, it kind of sounds to me like you've just bumped up against the point where martial arts etiquette stops being quaint and starts being real.
So I'm on the Real World?

Quote:
Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
I'd like to echo the idea that different dojos/instructors have different methods and ideas for etiquette. My sensei is usually very jolly while teaching, but there are times where he gets serious; I've read him as saying at some point a teacher has to apply pressure to his or her students, particularly if they think the student is serious about the training itself and not just doing it as some mild hobby. The first time my teacher was stern with me was a bit of a shock too. I'm often very casual (mom was a hippy) and tend to think everything should be fun, even when being serious. Still, it's valuable to experience these kinds of things. It's surprising how many people get uncomfortable when someone is being very direct in a serious tone.
Matt
Are there people who don't mind at all being talked to this way? I'm serious.

Quote:
Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
This is pretty interesting stuff to me. I agree with you and think a lot of people view the cultural affectations as superfluous to martial training. It's my opinion that when applied meaningfully, they are more than mere dogma. Apart from the psychological affect of creating a particular state of mind, bowing, knowing where to walk, etc. help create a sense of spacial and temporal awareness (ie-maai).
When we don't know what is considered appropriate it can seem like a social mine-field. We're forced to pay attention and learn on our own in order to suite the tastes of our "masters." From what I understand, one of the main lessons of an uchi-deshi is how to read their sensei and respond before being told how. Uchi-deshi roles are just an extream form of "normal" deshi, and to me this translates directly into reading our partners in the world around us and is more important than knowing how to do ikkyo, etc. To my mind, the biggest aspect of learning martial arts is increasing awareness, both in the passive sense of evaluating the situation and in the active sense of interacting with it. After a while, dojo etiquette starts to become dogmatic again because one already knows what to do, and that begins to become more and more superfluous to learning itself, but it still helps to create a state of mind and practice that abstract, but still usefull, social maai.
Nearly everyone I've ever met tends to begin with their own sense of "good" etiquette and proceeds from there. In my experience, being able to adapt quickly to the etiquette of others is usually the first step in preventing conflict. This can include everything from speech patterns to body language, but adapting to new forms of etiquette has given me a far more enriched outlook not only on my view of the world around me, but of myself and it's taught me not to take myself so seriously as I have in the past. I'm getting a little tangential, but I think these ideas are overlooked pretty often and for me they've been invaluable.
Best regards,
Matthew
Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
I don't think it's tangential at all -- it's just that in modern Western society, many people don't understand the real reason for etiquette. It's not so you can one-up other people with your knowledge of which fork to use, it's so you can get along with other people, because both you and they know what certain behaviors mean and what is expected in different situations. In the world of Miss Manners, this means not irking people in social situations, or being able to operate smoothly within the workplace; in the martial classes of feudal Japan, it meant knowing which behaviors were threatening and constituted a challenge, and which behaviors were safe. And of course, if you're going to try and figure out which behaviors are threatening, all kinds of practical things come into it, like: who's holding a weapon, what kind of weapon, where are you standing relative to each other, which way are you facing, etc. -- maai and other related stuff. So you can see that the etiquette -- reishiki -- has intensely practical roots. When you violate reishiki, it's not just a matter of behaving rudely -- most likely, you have also threatened someone (possibly unknowingly) or exposed yourself in a way so as to invite an attack.
I see what you're both saying and you make excellent points but I can't tell you how many times the sensei turns his back to students during weapons class to walk somewhere else on the mat. He does not normally behave as if everyone wanted to harm him. I'm not so sure that the shomen thing was a lack of trust on his part so much as him being a stickler for reishiki, and that's why I think he could have been a little less stern when blocking my path.

I absolutely understand him (and want him to) helping me improve my sense of martial awareness, but one can be a demanding teacher without being a rude one.

Quote:
Fred Little wrote: View Post
Very much so.

A few years back, I was standing on a cocktail lounge patio having a friendly conversation with a retired USMC officer. As I was emphasizing a particular statement, I pointed at him. He leaned in and said, very quietly, "Please don't point at me."

He was serious, and I knew he was serious, but I've lived in New York long enough that talking with the hands has become quasi instinctive. I did it again. He reached out with a very soft palm and pushed my finger to one side, then said: "I asked you not to point at me. If it happens again, I'm not going to ask."

I apologized and thanked him. It didn't happen again. Aside from another hour or so of very interesting conversation that wouldn't have occurred otherwise, I also remain grateful for both the insight into a professional's sense of ma-ai and threat he provided and the professional restraint with which he provided it.

Make of that what you will.

FL
I'm not sure I would have continued the conversation after the second warning. The man obviously had a few screws loose upstairs. Yes, the conversation may have been interesting but risking my physical safety with a psychopath who construed common and harmless social gestures as threats does not sound like my idea of a good time.

________________________________________________________

Again, thank you all for your advice; it has all been duly noted. It really has made me see what happened in a different light.
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Old 01-02-2008, 11:12 PM   #28
Josh Reyer
 
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Re: Dojo etiquette?

Take this for what it's worth -

In Japan, what you did (the off-hand comment) would be unthinkable. Beyond the pale. The rudeness of your instructor's response from an American perspective is a drop in the ocean compared to the rudeness of your comment from a Japanese perspective. A Japanese student who did that would count himself lucky to get off with one stern comment. More likely he'd have his ass chewed out something fierce, if the instructor didn't terminate the relationship right there.

This is certainly not to say that a Japanese understanding of etiquette and teacher-student relationships should be imposed on new students who don't know any better. (Nor should it be taken to mean that Japanese dojo are humorless, joyless places wherein students mindlessly obey their teachers.) However, it may help for you to account that your teacher may have been "brought up" in that kind of Japanese mind-set, either by training in Japan, or with a Japanese teacher. Or, in fact, in the military, where chain of command and etiquette are highly valued and trained. So there's an element of culture shock, for him too, and as you may have taken his comment harder than he intended, so he may have taken your comment more seriously than you intended.

All that said, certainly there are those in the U.S. that are insufferable jerks with a slavish devotion to what they perceive as "proper" Japanese (and/or military) etiquette, at the expense of basic American manners. Screw them. I think what you need to do is wipe the slate clean, and look at the instructor as a whole - how he treats other students, as well as you. "Stern" is fine, as long as it's not "abusive", and as long you have an interest in what he has to teach.

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
- Chaucer
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Old 01-02-2008, 11:24 PM   #29
Ellis Amdur
 
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Re: Dojo etiquette?

Quote:
Just tell us how you really feel...
I think this response to Jonathan Lewis' post, along with a number of other smart-assed responses and smiley "just kidding" emoticons - sums your character perfectly. As your response goes on, you "count coup" on the instructor, tallying when he's open and when he's not & critique him for being a stickler for reigi, . Funny, you want to do aikido - but Ueshiba - a stickler for reigi - would send someone out of his dojo in a rage if they crossed their arms while watching him, much less tell him that he was incorrect in what he was teaching.
You are studying with someone who is an expert at a martial discipline (if not, why study with him?). You, in that wonderful American democratic spirit, feel the need to share what (you think) you know. Because you are equals, right? And he has no call to be rude! A martial art - a study of violence - and he egregiously runs the risk of hurting feelings, by not being "supportive."
He was kind enough (for he owes you nothing) to teach you something, and you have to prove him "not as right as he thinks." !!!???
Yes, there is true that one will not, likely, be in a sword fight. But it is profoundly disrespectful to human life to practice with a weapon without a fundamentally serious attitude. It sounds like your teacher is serious in what he does. Part of training is an acute sensitivity to the mood of your instructor. Why? Not because you owe him or her slavish devotion - but you use the instructor to hone that sensitivity in the laboratory of the dojo so you have access to it in the real world, thereby being able to read people's intentions. Yes, that "real world."
And I would wager something - based on the way you have responded to people who have offered you their take on the situation - you have probably breezily ignored any number of wishes and rules of the dojo , and his "rudeness" very possibly may have occured only after finding you didn't notice anything less.
Quote:
I absolutely understand him (and want him to) helping me improve my sense of martial awareness, but one can be a demanding teacher without being a rude one.
And this is it in a nutshell. You would like to improve your "martial awareness," this ability to be a warrior or a fighting man - (and what other kind of martial awareness is there?) - but you will decide how you will learn this, not the instructor. Heaven forfend that the assailant you face some day might also be rude!

Ellis Amdur
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Old 01-03-2008, 12:44 AM   #30
Dan Richards
Dojo: Latham Eclectic
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Re: Dojo etiquette?

Quote:
Andrew Riegle wrote: View Post
Your response would be appropriate if a student actually did something dangerous...
Any student in a dojo on the mat during an aikido class is doing something dangerous.
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Old 01-03-2008, 01:39 AM   #31
Michael Hackett
Dojo: Kenshinkan Dojo (Aikido of North County) Vista, CA
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Re: Dojo etiquette?

Sorry, but I have to agree with most of the folks here. Dojo etiquette is much more than simply rules of common courtesy, but based on safety. Bowing in for example, helps a student focus on training to the exclusion of everything else - and if a student is inattentive, people can get hurt. My Sensei is one of the most pleasant and understanding people I've ever met; unfailingly courteous and almost always soft-spoken. I've heard him raise his voice twice in almost five years. Each time has been a case where someone was behaving in a dangerous manner. He is also a stickler for proper conduct and that relieves him from having to raise his voice or behave sternly. My sempai mirror his demeanor and I hope that I do as well.

As for your account of the weapons work. I can't imagine questioning any qualified teacher while on the mat and certainly not for the second time. I would expect to have class stopped immediately and to be escorted off the mat. What you described was dangerous and a stern rebuke was a very light response indeed.

No, don't drink the Kool-Aid, but please understand that a certain amount of conformity is necessary to the welfare of everyone training around you. You may not understand the necessity yet, and perhaps no one has taken the time to explain everything to you, but I doubt your instructor has it in for you. If you think otherwise, if you don't have confidence in your teacher and don't trust his judgment, find another place to train. I think I would feel right at home in your current dojo.

Michael
"Leave the gun. Bring the cannoli."
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Old 01-03-2008, 03:11 AM   #32
ElizabethCastor
 
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Re: Dojo etiquette?

Hey Andrew...

I've been keeping tabs with this thread for a while now and its has been pretty interesting. I thought that I would take a moment to add my humble 2 pennies.

The first thing that really catches my attention is your statements that make the situations sound nearly abusive. I am kind of confused on this point... I wish I could have heard the teacher's tone when these comments were made! All I have to go on are your descriptions...
Quote:
Andrew Riegle wrote: View Post
Again, I find this approach to be extremely off-putting and overbearing, at least in this situation.
....don't be surprised then if I seek out a teacher that doesn't talk to me like a pile of dog shit.
I suppose that I am especially confused because of your other descriptions in this thread...
Quote:
Andrew Riegle wrote: View Post
My sensei is a very good one and usually very kind one....
He does not normally behave as if everyone wanted to harm him.
However, as you have heard all over this thread (and the MANY others that are similar). Each sensei has his/her own particular concerns and focus points. Your aikido training is not like a Las Vegas buffet line... you don't get to select the lessons you want to learn, the ones you will ignore and the ones that are just and old fogey mumbling along.

Additionally, you need to be careful about assuming which behaviors on your part are negligent and careless and which are merely cosmetic annoyances.
Ex)
Quote:
Andrew Riegle wrote: View Post
A few weeks earlier he was standing about 10 feet in front of the shomen with his back to it, talking to another student.
Quote:
Andrew Riegle wrote: View Post
I can't tell you how many times the sensei turns his back to students during weapons class to walk somewhere else on the mat.
This is part of the ettiquette that has been described here... your sensei is MORE of an equal to O Sensei than you are... by walking between them (even though one is 'just' a picture) is tantamount to proclaiming to the dojo that you think you are better.

Also, consider this...sensei could be showing you a certain level of respect by trusting you to weild weapons behind his back. This is a very subtle way to recognize that trust/repect relationship that you all have.
________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________

Now from your first posting, these were honest mistakes. You may need to just take your lumps for it and move along.

I am seeing that you are carefully observing the sensei where/who he turns his back to, when/how/what is he getting upset about. What may serve you better is to select a senior ranking student or even a mid-level student from your dojo and let them in on your confusions/frustrations. Watch these people just as closely... they are more like your peers showing you what YOU need to be doing (obviosly emulating sensei isn't working ) and these peers may be more likely to give you the gentle guidance that you seek. After all, in some dojos it should never be the sensei's job to teach reigi, instead the sempai (older students) have that job. It may be that sensei was trying to let others know that too.

Lastly, consider that you are training a MARTIAL art. It may not be as flashy, dynamic, and fast paced as others but it still follows a code of ethics that is clearly still strange to you. There are aikido lessons to be had in even these minor conflicts. Step off line, blend and redirect.

Quote:
Andrew Riegle wrote: View Post
No doubt that in your dojo you have the right to say whatever you want.
The truth is NO... I'm willing to bet my next paycheck that no aikidoka would EVER feel that they have the right to tell their sensei just any ol' offhand comment that springs to mind. I mean E - V - E - R. This person gave you the gift of thier knowledge and experience at a time when you didn't know that stuff. They helped you get to where you are now. You continue to show your respect for that gift until the day that you or sensei "shuffle off this mortal coil". I'm also willing to wager that even your sensei would never spout off to his previous teachers. (please don't read that to mean undying loyalty and subservience... I simply mean good, clean, honest, respect)

I say this from experience... my teacher is incredibly nice and understanding but I've often gotten the 'look of death' and just barely caught myself.

My father had a comment:
Quote:
Papa C wrote:
Don't let your attitude/mouth write checks that your body can't cash.
Anyway, in closing your ORIGINAL questions were:
Quote:
Andrew Riegle wrote: View Post
...Was I in the wrong? Was he? Were we both? Am I taking this too seriously? Does anyone have similar experiences or insights to share?
Yes, sorry to say you were. No your sensei was not. Maybe you're taking this too seriously right now, maybe not. You got redirected, unfortunately not the way you preferred. You have the collective experience of these 15+ folks and their opinions (which seem to concur). I suppose that if this behavior disturbs you a LOT and it continues you may need to find a place that better fits your needs.

Well, that's considerably longer than I had planned but there it is... take what you want and leave the rest

Happy training!

Last edited by ElizabethCastor : 01-03-2008 at 03:21 AM. Reason: spelling/grammar
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Old 01-03-2008, 07:01 AM   #33
Andrew R
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Re: Dojo etiquette?

Quote:
Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
I think this response to Jonathan Lewis' post, along with a number of other smart-assed responses and smiley "just kidding" emoticons - sums your character perfectly.
You're absolutely right. I'm so ashamed that I had the audacity to use emoticons. I'm going to commit seppuku now... (Oh no, I did it again!)

Quote:
Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
As your response goes on, you "count coup" on the instructor, tallying when he's open and when he's not & critique him for being a stickler for reigi, . Funny, you want to do aikido - but Ueshiba - a stickler for reigi - would send someone out of his dojo in a rage if they crossed their arms while watching him, much less tell him that he was incorrect in what he was teaching.
You are studying with someone who is an expert at a martial discipline (if not, why study with him?). You, in that wonderful American democratic spirit, feel the need to share what (you think) you know. Because you are equals, right? And he has no call to be rude! A martial art - a study of violence - and he egregiously runs the risk of hurting feelings, by not being "supportive."
He was kind enough (for he owes you nothing) to teach you something, and you have to prove him "not as right as he thinks." !!!???
Yes, there is true that one will not, likely, be in a sword fight. But it is profoundly disrespectful to human life to practice with a weapon without a fundamentally serious attitude. It sounds like your teacher is serious in what he does. Part of training is an acute sensitivity to the mood of your instructor. Why? Not because you owe him or her slavish devotion - but you use the instructor to hone that sensitivity in the laboratory of the dojo so you have access to it in the real world, thereby being able to read people's intentions. Yes, that "real world."
And I would wager something - based on the way you have responded to people who have offered you their take on the situation - you have probably breezily ignored any number of wishes and rules of the dojo , and his "rudeness" very possibly may have occured only after finding you didn't notice anything less.
And this is it in a nutshell. You would like to improve your "martial awareness," this ability to be a warrior or a fighting man - (and what other kind of martial awareness is there?) - but you will decide how you will learn this, not the instructor. Heaven forfend that the assailant you face some day might also be rude!
Ellis Amdur
Seriously, though, how on earth can you try to describe my "character" when you don't even know me? You and Jonathan Lewis both make good points, but the messages you've tried to convey have been overpowered by the condescending tone in which you've tried to convey them. You're right, maybe my instructor can get away with that because "he was kind enough to teach" me, but I certainly don't appreciate it from people I've never met and to whom I owe nothing. I've never taken well to needless rudeness by strangers.

Quote:
Dan Richards wrote: View Post
Any student in a dojo on the mat during an aikido class is doing something dangerous.
This sounds like propaganda for DARE. I'm sorry, but this statement is preposterous.

Quote:
Elizabeth Castor wrote: View Post
The truth is NO... I'm willing to bet my next paycheck that no aikidoka would EVER feel that they have the right to tell their sensei just any ol' offhand comment that springs to mind. I mean E - V - E - R.
Just to clarify, it seems you thought I meant I was talking about the student's right. I made that comment to someone who was ostensibly a teacher, and I was refering collectively to teachers. I did not at all mean that the student should be able to act as he pleases...
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Old 01-03-2008, 08:16 AM   #34
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Dojo etiquette?

Let me put character in another perspective.

1. Aikido is a very small community. At best you are probably 3 degrees of separation from anyone on this list, or any senior teacher.

Meaning that probably if you through a name out there to someone that has been studying a few years, then the chances are they have a friend that is a student of that guy, or has trained with him at some point.

2. Aikido is an art that requires at least a modicum of cooperation and respect for it to work. Even if you don't like someone, you at least of the courtesy to "shut up and train". (Again, I refer to #1).
(You will hear "shut up and train" ALOT in aikido, and we mean it in a postive way, not in a condscending way...unless you become a nusiance.

3. Yea, aikido is about cooperation, between those doing it. However, it is really transmitted from the "top down". i.e. if you want to learn it, you have to pretty much study with someone that is better than you. Typically those people have many years of experience. (Again, I refer to #1). It also requires you to invoke #2 in order to keep in harmony with #1.

4. Aikido does not require you to become a pacifist robot that blindly accepts what your teachers tell you without having an opinion...everyone knows you have an opinion and we expect you to think for yourself. The catch is that in order to do #3, you have to understand #1, and #2, and keep in perspective that while you are in the dojo...that you must keep your opinions to yourself, unless those that are higher rank than you ask for your opinion. It is simply the way a hierachial martial society works!

I am in the military, have been in it for 24 years...it always works that way. It is also that way in the dojo....there's a reason it is that way. No it is not to "boss people around" or to "enforce a napoleon complex" for sado masochistic people...it is to keep things safe and to allow for a healthy, progressive, and stable environment.

So, I could go on...but I think this point is made.

Anyway, I did find it interesting that you stated a few things in your first post, which tells us a few things about your and quite possibly your character...or at least your naviity.

1. You have been training for only 4 months. That tells me that you reallly don't have enough stick time to voice an opinion about much martially concerning aikido period. Heck, I've been at this for 10 years...I don't have an opinion when I enter my dojo! AND I'd tell you that I'd NEVER say what you said, even jokingly while holding a bokken! (by the number of post I have here...obviously I have opinions..right??? )

2. I found it interesting that you posted "in the clear" when we have an anonymous feature that allows you to keep things 100% anonymous for discreteness. Granted you don't list your dojo, so yea, a certain amount of anonomity is afforded your sensei, but not much. This tells me a few other things.

a. You are probably naive to think that he or others in your dojo don't read aikiweb and can't extrapolate who Andrew Riegle might be. So, are you concerned at all about how this might be taken if they did figure this out? About the problems it may cause for your and other in your dojo? It is either naivity or you don't really care, take your pick.

b. OR, you are not using your REAL NAME in the post to cover up your tracks, thus you are not being honest with us.

So, this tells me that you are a new student, that had his feeling hurt that is probably frustrated that this is a strange new world that grew up thinking, as Ellis Amdur put it, thinking that the laws of a democratic society apply everywhere in every situation, that is naive about how things work in the world of aikido.

Am I making some assumptions? Yes, life is about making assumptions in absence of facts, it allows us to "fill in the gaps" and move forward...we always make assumptions in maritial arts....our job is to reduce the ones we have to make...that is what makes us more skilllful!

Anyway....I'd recommend keeping in mind that when you "throw out your dirty laundry" in the aikido community that it is a small community. We know each other...or at least we know someone who knows someone, and the people you piss off, regardless of your feelings are people that you may one day be training with, or may recieve instruction from. You'd be suprised!

I have found it to be a wonderful community. We don't agree on various things...philosophy, religion, techniques, shomenuchi, martial effectiveness etc.

One thing that I'd say we all agree on it respect and the seriousness in which we take "good order and discipline" within our community. Within that you will find that we are all in line with that.

Coupled with the fact that it is a small community, you can quickly find that you are not welcome if their is a chance that you can be a danger to yourself, others, or you disrupt the learning process of others.

Just consider that as you proceed!

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Old 01-03-2008, 08:21 AM   #35
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Re: Dojo etiquette?

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Andrew Riegle wrote: View Post
....... but I certainly don't appreciate it from people I've never met and to whom I owe nothing. I've never taken well to needless rudeness by strangers.....
Then don't publish on a public bulletin board.

I've never met Ellis either, but I do know of his reputation, and knowledge of traditional Japanese martial arts, if he ever posted in response to something I'd written, I'd take it note of what he had to say, regardless

A difficult problem is easily solved by asking yourself the question, "Just how would the Lone Ranger handle this?"
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Old 01-03-2008, 08:35 AM   #36
Dennis Hooker
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Re: Dojo etiquette?

I do know Ellis and I am not a beginner. If he took the time to criticize something I said I would take it to heart and try to do better. He is a man of Integrity and honesty.
Dennis Hooker

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Bryan Bateman wrote: View Post
Then don't publish on a public bulletin board.

I've never met Ellis either, but I do know of his reputation, and knowledge of traditional Japanese martial arts, if he ever posted in response to something I'd written, I'd take it note of what he had to say, regardless

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Old 01-03-2008, 08:52 AM   #37
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Re: Dojo etiquette?

Quote:
2. I found it interesting that you posted "in the clear" when we have an anonymous feature that allows you to keep things 100% anonymous for discreteness. Granted you don't list your dojo, so yea, a certain amount of anonomity is afforded your sensei, but not much. This tells me a few other things.

a. You are probably naive to think that he or others in your dojo don't read aikiweb and can't extrapolate who Andrew Riegle might be. So, are you concerned at all about how this might be taken if they did figure this out? About the problems it may cause for your and other in your dojo? It is either naivity or you don't really care, take your pick.

b. OR, you are not using your REAL NAME in the post to cover up your tracks, thus you are not being honest with us."
Actually I didn't even know about the anonymous forum... I hadn't really scoured the forums too much before posting.

But regardless, even if I had known about the anonymous forum I don't know if I would have used it. It's not like my sensei couldn't figure out who I was if he read my post. I didn't slander anyone and I didn't say anything I would never say to my sensei. I have a lot of respect for him but I still preferred to get the opinions of others outside my dojo. In all truth I've been on vacation and couldn't talk to anyone in my dojo if I wanted to. This has just been bugging me.

Thanks for the enlightening words.
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Old 01-03-2008, 08:58 AM   #38
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Dojo etiquette?

Andrew, you need to get a clue. I'm with Ellis...If you ask a question, be willing to listen to the answer. If you ask for instruction, be willing to take it.

You don't have to follow it...but answering back in a rude fashion just makes you look bad. Maybe Japanese Budo isn't for you...there is nothing wrong with self-selecting yourself right out of it. Life is too short to pursue things you aren't interested in.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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Old 01-03-2008, 11:22 AM   #39
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Re: Dojo etiquette?

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Andrew Riegle wrote: View Post
Seriously, though, how on earth can you try to describe my "character" when you don't even know me? You and Jonathan Lewis both make good points, but the messages you've tried to convey have been overpowered by the condescending tone in which you've tried to convey them. You're right, maybe my instructor can get away with that because "he was kind enough to teach" me, but I certainly don't appreciate it from people I've never met and to whom I owe nothing. I've never taken well to needless rudeness by strangers.
You're fighting this really hard, Andrew, and I don't think it's going to help you, because I don't think it's a good fight. I think I see a bit where you're coming from, though, and it's an understandable place -- or at least, I think I understand a bit of it. Allow me to ramble...

In the west, we tend to be proud of our "independence". I put that in quotes because it's the label we use for a whole host of attitudes and behaviors. Our belief in "independence" results in behaviors such as self-reliance, free-thinking, and creativity...but it also manifests itself in stubbornness, mistrustfulness, and failure to get with the program even when it's to our own benefit. Yet we so revere our notion of "independence", and these behaviors are so much a part of our makeup, that we often fail to see the line between healthy "independence", which allows us to make intelligent judgments and keeps us from drinking the kool-ade, and attitudes and behaviors that harm us, isolate us, and hinder our own development.

There are many areas where unhealthy "independence" will mess you up, but a learning environment of any kind is one of the most striking. It's hard to learn anything if you cannot trust your teacher. Even in a purely intellectual realm, you must at some point accept that what the teacher says is true and move on -- you can't simply say, "Prove it!", because while the teacher no doubt could, you as a novice could not understand the proof. At some point, if you are to learn, you have to set aside your need to understand the reason why at every step. You have to just do it. After time, the understanding will come -- but it's not something you could have understood as a noob.

Now you're probably feeling pretty peeved at me, thinking I'm calling you stubborn and mistrustful and a noob and all that. I'm really not -- at least, not you specifically. I'm talking about a way that some tendencies that are very common in members of our society, and how they can be really counterproductive. And in the context of a Japanese dojo, they're frankly dysfunctional, and they need to be dropped at the door, for the following reasons:
  1. They are disrespectful. Wow, does it ever raise people's hackles when you say this! Another problem we have in the west is distinguishing between healthy respect and unhealthy servility. It's counterproductive, because it creates a wall between us and people who have a lot to teach. No one wants to teach someone who doesn't have regard for their knowledge. Also, there is the whole "when in Rome" thing -- when you go into a new environment, the rules of politeness change, and to be polite, you must go along with them. Consider, for example, the case where two people are facing each other in a hallway and talking, and you must pass by. In the US, we would probably walk behind one or the other of them, and would consider it rude to walk between them...but in Korea, it would be considered impolite to walk behind someone. Insisting on doing things the way they're done in general society, and particularly taking offense at something that is not offensive in the context of the dojo, is disrespectful and counterproductive.
  2. They can lead to unsafe situations. This has already been explained at length, so I won't belabor it. I'll simply say that safety is one of the most important reasons to simply do as you're told in the dojo, to the best of your ability. Failure to do so means that even if you're not doing something inherently dangerous, you'll be behaving in unexpected ways, and that always increases the possibility of injury.
  3. They hamper your ability to learn. If you don't let go of some so-called "independence", your training will be like the coyote running through the glue trap. There's a lot hidden in the small details of how we do things, which you can't fully appreciate without some mileage. Warmup exercises that seem like silly and embarrassing hand-waving suddenly start to feel right somehow; then one day you find them coming out as you execute a technique, and suddenly the technique is stronger, is surer, has more meaning. If you had said, back on day 1, "Sensei, why are we doing this silly waving-our-arms thing?", would you have understood an explanation? Without even a day's worth of training in techniques as a framework? Or would you simply have interrupted your learning (and others') demanding a verbal explanation that you wouldn't understand?
Anyway...apologies for the long ramble. I'm not saying that you embody all these negative things, Andrew. I am saying that our culture does predispose us in these ways, and that they're things we need to give up if we want to train in a dojo. Personally, I think we're better off without them -- if we can find a safe place to do so, where our trust won't be abused. You have a better chance of finding that environment in a dojo than in most other places. So, please consider this. If you decide, after thinking it over, that you can't let those things go, then think about whether the dojo -- any dojo -- is a good place for you, at least for right now.
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Old 01-03-2008, 12:04 PM   #40
Aristeia
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Re: Dojo etiquette?

let me add to this. Even if you don't accept your attitude (in this particular instance, or I'd guess in general) creates a safety issue, it certainly distracts from the training. Sensei was making a point, it was a point he needed you to get and show him you had adjusted your technique so he could move on to helping the next guy. "Flippant" comments which underneath look to say "well I could do it my way" just waste time - his, yours, the rest of the students. That's possibly why he came down on you - particularly if this is a habitual thing which I'd suspect it is. That suspicion based on your tone in this thread (which lets remember *you* started) and the fact that in my experience such behaviour never occurs in isolation.

And it's not even just about a strict japanese inspired environment. I run a BJJ school -when I teach BJJ I am *much* less formal than I was when I taught Aikido - it's a completely different culture, no bowing no overt ritual etc. But comments of an ilk of the one you've described annoy me just as much as a coach on the BJJ mat as they did when I was teaching Aikido. Because they are self serving, show a resistance to instruction and waste time.

"When your only tool is a hammer every problem starts to look like a nail"
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Old 01-03-2008, 12:23 PM   #41
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Re: Dojo etiquette?

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Andrew Riegle wrote: View Post
Are there people who don't mind at all being talked to this way? I'm serious. ...I'm not so sure that the shomen thing was a lack of trust on his part so much as him being a stickler for reishiki, and that's why I think he could have been a little less stern when blocking my path.

I absolutely understand him (and want him to) helping me improve my sense of martial awareness, but one can be a demanding teacher without being a rude one.
My guess is that there are people who don't mind being talked to that way, yes. I've known folks who seemed to speak in harsher tones simply as a matter of fact...one roomate in particular who came from south Philadelphia took quite some time to get used to for me. Colloquial mannerisms aside, part of the point of such speech is to instill a sense of importance. I can't say what the thinking of your sensei was/is, which is why i suggested you ask him or a senior student. It's my opinion that in order to assess rudeness, one has to understand the intent behind the actions. Your sensei may be misreading you for all I know, but maybe he thinks a little altruistic severity of speech is something you need to interact with. Maybe he'd be right; maybe he'd be wrong. It's impossible for me to tell one way or the other and there are as many possible reasons as one can imagine there to be. Still, I do think there is a severe tradition in the martial arts, even Aikido, and that it can serve a good purpose. OSensei was often laughing and often stern from what I've seen of photos and read from first-hand accounts. I think this speaks to an important and subtle, though perhaps complicated, element of Aikido.
We can all make inferances about your personality here and we may or may not be correct, but clearly you feel offended and if you want to resolve those feelings, you should address them directly...though obviously with tact. To that, the "yeah but..." function in my brain says even if your sensei somehow fell short in his ability to remain polite (as opposed to having a good intent for being stern), you should still be demonstrative of the tact you feel he was lacking. And with that tact, I would hope you would be open-minded enough to accept a reasonable response, whatever that might be.
Personally, I'm of the opinion that insults can't be given; they can only be taken. Since I've begun to adopt this view I've found fewer and fewer people bother me, and I've met some "interesting" folks. Add to that the fact the we all have our baggage and each of us works on that baggage from different starting points and it begins to get even easier for me. I guarentee you that you're more in tune with some things than your sensei, and this may be a situation where this is the case, but for all I can tell from this detached mode of communication called the internet, it could potentially be the other way around too.
You say he's probably just being a stickler for reishiki (as opposed to fretting over trust), but reishiki, for some, is emblematic of something much more important than simple niceties. Add to that the cultural affect of the often strict hierarchy of Japanese Budo and it makes it seem like your sensei may just be repeating the kind of lessons he was taught.

Gambarimashyo!
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Old 01-03-2008, 01:12 PM   #42
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Re: Dojo etiquette?

This reminds of those people who violate the rules of the road while driving and get irate when you honk your horn at them.

You did something wrong and were called on it. Admit your responsibility, say thank you and don't do it again. Later when you're a senior student you can pass this info on to juniors.

Bronson

"A pacifist is not really a pacifist if he is unable to make a choice between violence and non-violence. A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence."
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Old 01-03-2008, 01:46 PM   #43
Joseph Madden
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Re: Dojo etiquette?

Being able to read your sensei is a talent that be fostered only through repetitive training, like any other aspect of the art. Being a newcomer to the art you haven't yet learned this particular aspect. When I first started training I was lucky to have some excellent seniors who told me what was expected from a new student with regards to the rules of the dojo along with my own independent research into reishiki. Often times seniors forget to tell new students what is expected of them on the mat and this can make for some embarrassing moments. Sometimes students don't want to hear about rules and they eventually leave the dojo. My question to you is; Did any senior students mention these rules to you? Where the rules of the dojo made apparent before you started?
Did you make yourself aware of any rules that would be expected of you before you started training by doing research? Mary had earlier mentioned the difference between the independent spirit of western culture and the assimilative nature of some eastern cultures. By stepping into a dojo you are essentially walking into another world. Before deciding on whether or not to leave your dojo, continue to watch and learn for awhile. You may be surprised by what you find.
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Old 01-03-2008, 02:50 PM   #44
Michael Hackett
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Re: Dojo etiquette?

Darn, Bronson said it all in just twenty words! Everything else is just frosting on his cake. Well done, Mr. B!

Michael
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Old 01-03-2008, 03:04 PM   #45
Rupert Atkinson
 
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Re: Dojo etiquette?

I have met stern teachers and have never had a problem with it at all - it is part of the experience. I am not stern though, and am not really bothered if beginners make mistakes - let's face it, everything they do is a mistake for years - well, it was for me.

And just look back to your skool days - certain kids - probably in every skool on the planet - will say: "What are you looking at kid?" This is a certain part of skool life etiquette that kids learn. It means: "Learn not to look at me as I find it threatening." It is also used to spoil for trouble and to exert authority. So kids learn not to look these bullies in the eyes. That is a kind of martial skool etiquette.

Some people, however, still do it when they are grown up ... Others, learn to do it when grown up and enjoy it ... Others apply it to different contexts ... it is everywhere ... especially in traditional dojos. I just take it with a pinch of salt. Ya can't be too serious.

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Old 01-03-2008, 07:43 PM   #46
Cypher
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Re: Dojo etiquette?

Wow, this thread really went some where in the last 24 hours........
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Old 01-03-2008, 08:18 PM   #47
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Re: Dojo etiquette?

As I'm reading this, I'm finding myself reminded of The Mirror's latest article:

"Points of etiquette that to me don't seem to have any practical purpose at all are difficult to remember, and corrections are harder to swallow, too. But why is it really so unpleasant? If it makes me feel humiliated or ridiculed or embarrassed, where are those feelings coming from? If openly asking his students to follow common points of etiquette is a sign of a teacher's big ego, what size is my ego that I find it so demeaning?"

I think this ties in nicely with Mary's excellent posts, and also with what Michael said here:

"But comments of an ilk of the one you've described annoy me just as much as a coach on the BJJ mat as they did when I was teaching Aikido. Because they are self serving, show a resistance to instruction and waste time."

For me, there is one issue here, and that one issue is coming to its singularity via two things that are always interrelated in traditional martial arts training: reconciliation of the ego, and exposure to danger. That is to say, at least in my experience, the more ego you got to reconcile, the more dangerous you are (because of the more reactionary - out of control - you are), the more the training is going to have you face a danger, one where non-reactionary control is mandated, the more you are going to reconcile your fear, pride, and ignorance (i.e. ego attachment).

So, from one point of view, it might be possible to see a flippant remark as no big deal, but from another point of view, one I consider to be very relevant to martial arts training, there is no more a telling sign of what work needs to be done, and what direction one should head in order to do it.

One could gain a lot more from this situation by asking himself not "Why did he say that to me?" or "Wasn't that rude?" but instead asking, "What kind of heart/mind, what level of ego reconciliation, is necessary to simply have had answered "Yes Sensei" and do what was instructe - ?. In other words, it's in the contrast of the two types of heart/mind that you see what is trained and what is not - what is cultivated and what is not - via your Budo training.

When we train in firearms, we have different stages for our handguns, and also for the range, throughout the various exercises. For example, we would have our weapons unloaded, actions open, etc., whenever we are not on the firing line. When we load our weapons, we will only do so on the firing line. When we do that, the range is often referred to as "hot" - so too with our weapons, etc. However, when we are not on the firing line, when our weapons are not loaded, when our actions are open, when the range is not "hot," we don't go around pointing our weapons at folks, for example. We don't go around acting or "knowing" like everything is safe, and everything is no big deal, where no one is going to get shot or hurt, etc. Instead, we treat the weapons in the same exact way as if they were loaded and the range was hot.

Additionally, there are many training exercises we do with weapons that cannot fire, such as red guns, aluminum guns, or weapons that have been modified with training barrels. And guess what? We still treat those as if they are hot. Why? Because that's the culture, that's the training, that's the profession. In these situations, no one would ever dream of even pointing a toy gun, let alone a clear and safe weapon, at someone - not unless they wanted everyone around them to know that they don't belong there. Additionally, if they did, plastic, unloaded, aluminum, training barrel, etc., any rangermaster worth his/her salt is going to give them a lot more than a few choice words for such actions.

I'm not relating this because I think it is exactly the same situation. However, there is a lot of overlap, and that overlap is this: Folks that train in weapons, if they are professionals, are going to treat said weapons seriously - always. Part of the reason why the teacher's response might seem rude is because one might want to treat the situation as if it is no big deal, the way one might want to treat pointing an aluminum gun at someone as no big deal, the way one might want to treat a flippant remark as no big deal, etc. However, if you are dealing with professionals, while they know its an aluminum gun, while they know it's just a flippant remark, just a wooden sword that you are not swinging around, just walking passed behind them, etc., they will do everything they can to serious your act up, and quick, because not getting you to serious up has you not acting like a professional, has you acting like some that is not trained, as someone unsafe to be around, etc.

True, there may have been many ways for your teacher to handle the situation, but it's not so out of the ordinary how he did. Additionally, I do not think that alternative courses of action would have worked all that much for you - my opinion. Because at the heart of the matter is that you were looking to make light of things that your instructor wanted you to take seriously. In that light, no matter what he said, it was going to come out rude, as nothing he would have said could have been light. For if he said anything light, he would have deviated from the lesson at hand and violated his own professional code of conduct. And an instructor that would do the latter is not an instructor you'd really want to train under. Meaning, if he did what you think you really wanted, you would have been the worse for it than by getting a little verbal-judo atemi on the nose, as you would have lost a teacher worth having.

d

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Old 01-04-2008, 08:16 AM   #48
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Dojo etiquette?

Darn...David, that was beautiful.

Best,
Ron

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Old 01-04-2008, 01:52 PM   #49
Rupert Atkinson
 
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Re: Dojo etiquette?

Excellent post, David. On reflection maybe I should be a little more serious ... thanks.

And now that I have boosted your ego a little - what are you going to do about it

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Old 01-04-2008, 03:35 PM   #50
Aristeia
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Re: Dojo etiquette?

spot on David. That post should be part of a newbie's handbook...

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