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Old 03-01-2009, 07:38 PM   #1
roninroshi
 
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Respect/Lack there of.

Last week a friend of mine came for a short visit.He wanted to train at the local Dojo.My friend is 61 yrs old,holds Roku Dan from Honbu was given a Shihan rank by Kissumoru Ueshiba trained w/O'Sensei.He has 42 years on the mat!
His sister was O'Sensei's secretary and he had a close friendship w/O'Sensei as a young man.He has a photo of he and O'Sensei.he carries and is very proud of.I have had the good luck to have trained w/some really fine Sensei and my friend's Kokyu is off the charts.He has many friends in the Japanese "old school" Aikido community.
We arrived at the Dojo and were informed that the Sensei was unable to teach that evening and had appointed a Nidan to teach.Having been involved in Aikido since 1980 and trained in martial arts since 1958 I have a deep understanding of protocol especially in Japanese martial arts.I introduced my friend to the Nidan instructor and gave him a quick overview of my friends history.The Nidan was annoyed by my friends presence and went on to teach the class w/a minimal intro concerning my friend and began to teach w/out defering to a senior in rank,experience and age.I was amazed by this lack of courtesy and lack of understanding in regards to proper etiquette.
After class my friend did a short teaching using the Nidan as Uke.
The entire time Nidan rolled his eyes as if he had other things to do.
My point in this what has gone wrong in Aikido are we only concerned w/teaching techniques w/out principle and respect for the Japanese culture.I will mention this to the Sensei,write a letter to his Sensei also a friend of the Shihan I have written about and hope some wisdom might show up at this Dojo.
Has anyone on this forum had a simular experience?

Last edited by roninroshi : 03-01-2009 at 07:41 PM.
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Old 03-01-2009, 08:06 PM   #2
Brett Charvat
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Re: Respect/Lack there of.

Mr. Gorski,

I was in attendance last Wednesday evening at the dojo in question. I must say I'm disappointed (though not surprised) by your post here. I can assure you that every member of our dojo treated your guest with nothing but the utmost respect. Perhaps the "disrespect" you thought you witnessed was simply the admittedly awkward situation in which we found ourselves. Indeed, the instructor in question did not ask our guest to teach. I'm sorry if you find that offensive, but in my ten years of training, both here and in Japan, I've never once witnessed a guest at any of the dojo I have trained at expect to become the teacher for a class, unless prior arrangements had been made. As we were unfortunately without our dojo-cho that evening, the appointed instructor did what he thought was proper. I personally would be mortified if I was at a dojo to train as a guest and simply had the class thrust upon me.

Again, I apologize that our treatment of your friend offended you, but I strongly disagree with your assesment of Wednesday evening's instructor as rude, annoyed, and lacking in etiquette. Rest assured that if our instructor had understood that your guest's intention was to teach the class, it would have been gladly given over to him.

Brett Charvat
Big Sky Aikido
Bozeman, Montana
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Old 03-01-2009, 08:28 PM   #3
roninroshi
 
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Re: Respect/Lack there of.

Thanks for the reply Brett.My friend had no intention to teach.My post is regarding the basic lack of respect given to a visiting practioner of higher rank and experience.It is a common courtesy practiced in every Dojo I have ever attended.Your apology is very gracious and Mr.S was not offended at all...he would have been if such an incident had occured in Japan... but we both know this would never be the case.A few students did express thanks for the info he passed on.My post concerns the Yudansha who should know better.
I ran this by a few of my Aikido Yudansha friends before posting and they concured w/my thinking on this.
Again my appreciation for your post in regards to this.
BTW...I did not mention the Dojo or instructor for reasons of privacy and respect.
Perhaps my "old school" thinking is abit out of fashion.

Last edited by roninroshi : 03-01-2009 at 08:37 PM.
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Old 03-01-2009, 09:19 PM   #4
Brett Charvat
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Re: Respect/Lack there of.

Mr. Gorski,

I must apologize again, this time for apparently misunderstanding the point of your original post. I thought that you (and perhaps even your friend) were offended that he was not offered the chance to teach, given his greater rank, experience, and age. Now I see that was not the point. After reading your last post, I see that you are offended because you believe that our instructor that evening was annoyed with your friend's presence and treated him with disrespect. Now I see clearly what the disconnect is. You are simply incorrect in your assessment of the situation.

BTW, I did mention the dojo in question by name because I am a proud member of it, and I know it to be a place of utmost respect and wonderful training.

Brett Charvat
Big Sky Aikido
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Old 03-02-2009, 04:19 AM   #5
Kent Enfield
 
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Re: Respect/Lack there of.

Why would an uninvited guest be asked to teach or even to help teach and how is not doing so disrespectful?

Kentokuseisei
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Old 03-02-2009, 10:25 AM   #6
JRY
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Re: Respect/Lack there of.

Quote:
Kent Enfield wrote: View Post
Why would an uninvited guest be asked to teach or even to help teach and how is not doing so disrespectful?
Its not that his friend didn't get to teach that's in question but the op feels that his friend was not shown the proper respect/etiquette.
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Old 03-02-2009, 11:01 AM   #7
gdandscompserv
 
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Re: Respect/Lack there of.

Personally, I would have turned the class over to the Shihan.
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Old 03-02-2009, 11:33 AM   #8
JO
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Re: Respect/Lack there of.

The original post is kind of vague as to what was lacking in terms of etiquette. Just saying people showed insufficient respect doesn't really tell us anything. I occasionally substitute for my sensei, so I ask Wayne Gorski, how would you expect me to act if put in this situation?

Assume that I have no prior knowledge, and little interest, in the subtler points of Japanese culture and etiquette. Though I generally know when to bow and in which direction, and all the other little dojo basics thast allow me to fit into a seminar taught by a Japanese instructor. I even consider such things worth following as a martial art such as aikido needs a behavioral code to be trained in seriously and safely, and a Japanese art existing on an international scale might as well use a Japanese code.

Jonathan Olson
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Old 03-02-2009, 11:59 AM   #9
ramenboy
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Re: Respect/Lack there of.

hey wayne, not sure if there a hard and fast rule written in stone about this. but yeah, in the east, we would normally defer to the higher rank (shihan, no less!), which is why probably, without the dojo-cho there, the instructor (who did not want to overstep his bounds with the dojo-cho) taught the class (he defeferred to his dojo cho)

there is also the notion in the east that maybe your friend should have been at least given the offer to teach, so he could politely decline (if that's what his intention was)


there's another thread on the forum of an instructor who's practiced for about the same amount of time as your friend, but has been kept at sandan, and was finally 'asked' to test for yondan. this is also an interesting question of respect/lack thereof ...

Last edited by ramenboy : 03-02-2009 at 12:05 PM.
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Old 03-02-2009, 12:07 PM   #10
heathererandolph
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Re: Respect/Lack there of.

Just wondering, what different action could the Nidan have taken that would have been more polite than his actions? If things had gone exactly the way you wanted them to, what should have happened?
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Old 03-02-2009, 03:40 PM   #11
sisley
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Re: Respect/Lack there of.

The one thing that disturbs me about this post is that it appears that the dojo-cho was never notified of the guest's desire to attend class. If that had happened, perhaps it would have solved the dojo-cho's need to ask the nidan to teach the class in the first place.

It also might be good to look at things from the nidan's perspective. Having been asked by the dojo-cho to lead the class, he's now put in an awkward position. Perhaps he really had something he wanted to teach that night. Perhaps he relished the opportunity to test his teaching skills. Who knows? Ask him. After all, wouldn't that be modeling the respect that you hope to receive?

--jimbo
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Old 03-02-2009, 06:00 PM   #12
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Re: Respect/Lack there of.

Dear Wayne,

How easy it is to walk into a dojo and be critical... Perhaps next time you want to insure your guest gets your interpretation of proper respect, you can put years of sweat, money, and time into creating the perfect dojo.

As a student who was also in class on Wednesday, I felt our substitute instructor handled things very well. I did not see him roll his eyes while taking ukemi from your friend, even though I was watching quite intently. I did, however, witness you answering your cell phone and having a loud conversation during class. If that's not an issue of etiquette, I don't know what is.

Good luck.

Sincerely,
Dee Metrick
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Old 03-02-2009, 06:26 PM   #13
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Respect/Lack there of.

Quote:
Kent Enfield wrote: View Post
Why would an uninvited guest be asked to teach or even to help teach and how is not doing so disrespectful?
The way I was trained, if someone very senior like that came as a guest, he would always be asked to teach. (Often, but not always he might decline.) Even more so when the instructor is so junior.

On the other hand, since the instructor was "subbing" for his own teacher, it gets a bit sticky. If he didn't personally know this guest teacher, he might have felt he was exceeding his brief to invite him to teach. There are a number of senior Aikido teachers I wouldn't let within a mile of my students. What if this guest had injured one of the students?

If one of my instructors had a fellow he didn't know at all from direct experience take over class for him, he had better be following the recommendation of someone he trusts implicitly. When I ask someone to teach, he or she is responsible in my place. I would be unhappy of something happened because my student has passed that responsibility to a stranger.

On the other hand, if one of the senior folks from our organization or one of my personal friends dropped in when I was away (unlikely as they would normally let me know first) it would be fine with me, and really expected, that my designated instructor offer them the chance to teach.

In the situation described, as Wayne is an old timer and known to the dojo folks, I would have expected the Nidan teaching class to have offered to have the guest teach. The ultimate responsibility for the guest's behavior would then reside with Wayne, who provided the introduction, if the guest behaved badly.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 03-02-2009, 06:27 PM   #14
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Re: Respect/Lack there of.

My opinion is following:

I think that visiting a dojo by high ranking instructors from outside is a very tricky situation.Not only from etiquette point of view, but i.e. it can be seen as an attempt to take over a teaching.

That is why, such visit must be carefully prepared. Dojo-cho must be informed and agree to such visit. I personally witnessed situation, when a shihan that was invited to teach seminar(it was planned many months before), didn't even enter to the dojo unless dojo-cho personally went out to invite him.

If high ranking instructor doesn't care to inform dojo-cho in advance,but want to practice anyway, he should adopt very low profile(not mention at all his rank and experience), and simply practice as any other student, not expecting any special treatment. This way, he will avoid any awkward situation and will not put in bad position instructor that is teaching a class.This way he can show his respect for teaching instructor and for whole dojo.
This is about creating harmonious relations with unknown aikidokas and it is a common sense.

Nagababa

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Old 03-02-2009, 07:10 PM   #15
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Respect/Lack there of.

Quote:
Szczepan Janczuk wrote: View Post
My opinion is following:

I think that visiting a dojo by high ranking instructors from outside is a very tricky situation.Not only from etiquette point of view, but i.e. it can be seen as an attempt to take over a teaching.

That is why, such visit must be carefully prepared. Dojo-cho must be informed and agree to such visit. I personally witnessed situation, when a shihan that was invited to teach seminar(it was planned many months before), didn't even enter to the dojo unless dojo-cho personally went out to invite him.

If high ranking instructor doesn't care to inform dojo-cho in advance,but want to practice anyway, he should adopt very low profile(not mention at all his rank and experience), and simply practice as any other student, not expecting any special treatment. This way, he will avoid any awkward situation and will not put in bad position instructor that is teaching a class.This way he can show his respect for teaching instructor and for whole dojo.
This is about creating harmonious relations with unknown aikidokas and it is a common sense.
I agree. An instructor traveling on his own would be very careful about his welcome BEFORE coming in to the dojo. Many times senior people visiting other places will not mention their rank or experience so as to avoid the whole male "testing" thing that goes on sometimes. The thing is, if you've been around, you always know. A person who has trained to a high level in anything simply moves differently from one who hasn't. You don't want people to think you are being "sneaky" either.

This kind of thing can be very embarrassing... One of my friends is a very high ranking Hapkido teacher. He and his wife went to my old dojo and attended the Aikido class. The seniors were arrogant and treated him poorly. They didn't know who he was... he could have destroyed these fellows at the drop of a hat but he simply smiled a lot and then told me about it later. I was mortified. But then again, EVERYONE should be treated respectfully even when they aren't some big deal.

It's always best to call ahead. Better still to have an introduction. I'll get e-mails from teachers whose students are coming to town and wish to visit. That is the proper way to do things!

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
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Old 03-02-2009, 09:10 PM   #16
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Re: Respect/Lack there of.

Quote:
Jerome Cervantes wrote: View Post

there's another thread on the forum of an instructor who's practiced for about the same amount of time as your friend, but has been kept at sandan, and was finally 'asked' to test for yondan. this is also an interesting question of respect/lack thereof ...
Sounds like favortism to me. Everyone seems to be TOO concerned with rank and following traditions. Just enjoy the art. Personally I think promotions have a lot to do with how much one can kiss up. Not always but sometimes.

Here's an example. Steven Seagal goes to Japan for what...12 or 14 years. Then comes back to the States with a 7th degree.

THAT isn't possible. I know some who have been doing Aikido for 25 years and they are 4th dans. Seagal married the daughter of the dojo owner and they popped out a couple of kids.

No wonder Bruce Lee made fun of the crazy non sense like belts and rank. I f I practice Aikido for 2 years and never test, while others in my dojo test and get high ranks, that doesn't mean they are better than I am just because I don't have a certain color belt hanging around my waste.

Personally I like the spiritual side of Aikido. I hope I have offended no one but sometimes it drives me crazy at how people are only focused on a tradition or what color belt they have.
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Old 03-02-2009, 09:20 PM   #17
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Re: Respect/Lack there of.

Here'a another silly example of tradition taking away from the art. I used to train with ASU. With ASU you get your hakima after the first test.
I probably had three tests under my belt when I went to a seminar hosted by the federation (if I remember correctly). Anyway, the teacher noticed I was wearing my hakima but my belt was white. He asked me if I was a shodan and I said no.
He then told me I would not be allowed to wear my hakima during the seminar. It's like something magical happens once I take the shodan test and have a black belt around my waste. Insane.

Disrespect and ego problems come when there are too many traditions to follow.
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Old 03-02-2009, 11:14 PM   #18
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Respect/Lack there of.

Quote:
John Furgerson III wrote: View Post
Personally I like the spiritual side of Aikido. I hope I have offended no one but sometimes it drives me crazy at how people are only focused on a tradition or what color belt they have.
Budo begins and ends with "rei" which is often translated as etiquette but it has a deeper and more complex meaning than just that. The color of the belt isn't the issue here. It is what is proper behavior. This is still a Japanese martial art. The most senior teachers are Japanese. If you don't have the remotest idea of what is proper, you can offend someone deeply without even knowing you have done so. You can remove yourself from consideration as a serious student by being sloppy with your behavior. That's what "rei" is about. It is about respect, honor, and paying attention.

As someone who has spent his entire adult life working on this art, it is very important to me that people who have earned respect through many years of sacrifice and effort receive their due. That is what this conversation is about. I don't know enough about the particular circumstance Wayne described to have a real opinion, but the thread does bring up an important topic for discussion. Because we are not Japanese, there is a tendency to treat etiquette as something imposed on us from outside. So we take a more do your own thing attitude about such things. Etiquette is definitely not about doing your own thing.

To paraphrase a saying that gets used a lot by gun proponents, "an armed society is a polite society". Etiquette is how warriors interact with each other. Paying attention to the details is how a warrior survives. Etiquette is the first form of conflict resolution. That's why people consider these things to be important.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
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Old 03-03-2009, 08:52 AM   #19
NagaBaba
 
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Re: Respect/Lack there of.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
I agree. An instructor traveling on his own would be very careful about his welcome BEFORE coming in to the dojo. Many times senior people visiting other places will not mention their rank or experience so as to avoid the whole male "testing" thing that goes on sometimes. The thing is, if you've been around, you always know. A person who has trained to a high level in anything simply moves differently from one who hasn't. You don't want people to think you are being "sneaky" either.

This kind of thing can be very embarrassing... One of my friends is a very high ranking Hapkido teacher. He and his wife went to my old dojo and attended the Aikido class. The seniors were arrogant and treated him poorly. They didn't know who he was... he could have destroyed these fellows at the drop of a hat but he simply smiled a lot and then told me about it later. I was mortified. But then again, EVERYONE should be treated respectfully even when they aren't some big deal.

It's always best to call ahead. Better still to have an introduction. I'll get e-mails from teachers whose students are coming to town and wish to visit. That is the proper way to do things!
From what we know, it is very clear that Wayne made a huge mistake and now is trying to reject the responsability on hosting dojo by writing the letters to everybody. Instead of honestly tell his friend about his fault.

I hope that this topic will help him to improve his jugment for next time

Nagababa

ask for divine protection Ame no Murakumo Kuki Samuhara no Ryuo
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Old 03-03-2009, 09:01 AM   #20
Joe McParland
 
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Re: Respect/Lack there of.

It sounds as if the visitor gave a very good lesson.

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Old 03-03-2009, 11:15 AM   #21
Jorge Garcia
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Re: Respect/Lack there of.

A few years ago, I received an email from the dojo Secretary of a dojo in England. It said that their teacher was visiting relatives in Houston and they were asking if he could practice with us over the weekend. I looked up his name on Google and found out it was Terry Ezra, 6th dan, Aikikai. After checking around, I responded that he was not only welcome to practice with us, I insisted that he teach all the classes that weekend if he wouldn't mind. They thanked me and he did come to the dojo and taught all the classes. He was wonderful in his Aikido and we took him out to eat dinner and got to know him. He insisted not to be paid so I gave him a thank you card (and paid him anyway). We now have him come and teach us every year and look forward to it. He has been really good for us and demonstrated a protocol that made everything easy and introduced no complications for us.
best wishes,
Jorge

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Old 03-03-2009, 12:39 PM   #22
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Respect/Lack there of.

Quote:
Jorge Garcia wrote: View Post
A few years ago, I received an email from the dojo Secretary of a dojo in England. It said that their teacher was visiting relatives in Houston and they were asking if he could practice with us over the weekend. I looked up his name on Google and found out it was Terry Ezra, 6th dan, Aikikai. After checking around, I responded that he was not only welcome to practice with us, I insisted that he teach all the classes that weekend if he wouldn't mind. They thanked me and he did come to the dojo and taught all the classes. He was wonderful in his Aikido and we took him out to eat dinner and got to know him. He insisted not to be paid so I gave him a thank you card (and paid him anyway). We now have him come and teach us every year and look forward to it. He has been really good for us and demonstrated a protocol that made everything easy and introduced no complications for us.
best wishes,
Jorge
Yes, by following the correct protocol you can go from being strangers to being friends. That is one of the reasons why a basic understanding of these things is important. I sometimes see dojos where etiquette is sloppy or even non existent. They may be happy but their people can't go anywhere without causing offense.

Saotome Sensei once went to teach a seminar at some dojo. When he walked into the dojo, one of the students (someone who should have known better) yelled across the room, "Hey Saotome! How are you?" Sensei said that for the whole weekend that person didn't exist; he was a non-person as far as Sensei was concerned. Of course, that sort of behavior isn't polite in any culture. It's just sloppy behavior. "Rei" is about not being sloppy.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 03-03-2009, 01:01 PM   #23
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Respect/Lack there of.

Quote:
Szczepan Janczuk wrote: View Post
From what we know, it is very clear that Wayne made a huge mistake and now is trying to reject the responsability on hosting dojo by writing the letters to everybody. Instead of honestly tell his friend about his fault.

I hope that this topic will help him to improve his jugment for next time
This is a good point as well... I happen to know there is more going on here than what has been publicly stated so I am not specifically referring to this case.

But when things like this happen, responsibility falls on both sides. Even if one had done all the things properly on one side, if the other side fails to do so it is your fault. If their etiquette was bad you should never have taken a guest there to be embarrassed. As host it is your job to know.

As a Chief Instructor, it would be a total embarrassment for me if one of my students was humiliated because of the actions of my dojo members.

One of the posters felt that the guest had indeed been treated very kindly... The problem here is that the guest was Japanese. What we think is appropriate, friendly, and kind can appear to be overly familiar, too informal, and disrespectful. It can very much depend on how "old school" the guest is and how used to the eccentric ways of Americans he is.

It must be part of a student's training to learn this stuff. It is a disservice to them not to because then they don't know how to behave when they are on their own. They can't go to Japan without causing embarrassment. They can't train with outside Japanese teachers without reflecting badly back on their own dojo or organization.

As Joe said, there are a lot of lessons to be learned here, by everyone. In Budo it's all about not having a "suki" or "opening". When something goes bad, there are no excuses. It is always your responsibility even if you think you didn't do anything wrong. It is your job to foresee issues and make sure you "close the openings".

This kind of thing ends up being embarrassing all around. That's why it's so important to know how to do things properly. The fact is, Japanese etiquette is so Byzantine that only they really get it (and folks like Peter Goldsbury or Phil Relnick who live there for decades). So if you make a creditable effort, they cut you all sorts of slack because they know you don't really get it.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 03-03-2009, 02:25 PM   #24
heathererandolph
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Re: Respect/Lack there of.

What I'm not so sure of is if this gentleman was acutely upset and felt disrespected? Even though he knows tradition is different here, he may have realized he did not say he is coming beforehand and therefore was intending to keep a "low profile" as Szczepan thought may be possible. He may have enjoyed his time on the mat and not been hugely disturbed by anyone's behavior. I can understand Wayne being concerned, it would not be great to have word go around that the dojo was horribly inconsiderate and even be blamed himself for subjecting this gentleman to such treatment. I think the guest has to be given credit though. If he's the type of person he seems to be from the description, he's probably seen worse in his lifetime and is probably proud to see so many Americans embracing Aikido, since it appears to me that the dojo is quite large so someone is obviously doing something right. If there is a problem, I'm sure he realizes that any disrespect was not intentional. A thank you gift sent to his home address may be in order just to ensure the guest knows that everyone enjoyed his visit.
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Old 03-03-2009, 02:51 PM   #25
Stephen Duncan
Dojo: Big Sky Aikido
Location: Reno
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 1
United_States
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Re: Respect/Lack there of.

Dear Wayne,

As with all things, there are always at least two sides to every situation. One is the side of intent, the other is the perception of that intent. I cannot speak for the perception of this situation, but I feel confident that I can speak for the intent of the Nidan in this situation.

Although I was not present during this event, I have trained with this Nidan since his first day as an Aikidoka. Through the years I have never seen or felt any disrespect in any way shape or form, either to a dojo member or a guest. This particular Nidan is always one of the first to engage any guest or new member with previous training as a person that can offer new insight into the world of Aikido and relishes learning anything new from anyone.

I have on occasion also been asked to substitute for the dojo-cho as well as other sensei in another dojo. I admit that I may be somewhat ignorant to all of the etiquette that is needed to not offend any given person. if given the same situation, my first priority would always be to my sensei and the well-being of the dojo. To allow someone who I know absolutely nothing about to take over the class would not be looking out for my dojo-mates or the dojo. I am sorry to say that even though you and I have lived in the same town for many years, and I know "of" you, I have only had the pleasure one or two times to train with you personally. With what was previously suggested about vouching for and taking responsiblity for someone of this high rank, I would have to say that I still do not know enough about you that your vouching for this shihan would be enough for me to put the safety of the dojo at risk if given the same circumstances.

From reading all of the previous comments, it would seem there are many opinions, all coming from one's own personal perception. I do not know who is the most right. I do know that this particular nidan is one of the many very respectful people I have trained with in aikido. I would suggest that somehow the perception was skewed by some expectation that was not in his power or authority to meet.
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