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Old 09-13-2002, 08:49 PM   #1
"Unregistered 666"
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Does This make me Racist?

I prefer my aikido filtered through an NON-"Japanese-as-a-First-language" Sensei be that an English, French, Italian or what-have-you.

Is it because I'm lazy? Or are we witnessing the imported-and-improved aikido for the next generation?

I'm not a xenophobe; if you have an opinion then answer my question: Does a prefer for gaijin Sensei make me racist?



P.S. Let's respect Jun's wishes and treat everyone taking advantage of this forum to respect.
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Old 09-14-2002, 12:26 AM   #2
Bronson
 
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Dunno. I believe that Rod Kobayashi Shihan (the founder of seidokan aikido) believed that americans learning aikido would learn better from americans. I may be wrong on that though. Harnack sensei, Ben....any thoughts?

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 09-14-2002, 02:21 AM   #3
Chuck.Gordon
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Re: Does This make me Racist?

Quote:
() wrote:
Is it because I'm lazy? Or are we witnessing the imported-and-improved aikido for the next generation?
Don't know about th elazy bit, but here're my thoughts on the use of Japanese in the dojo:

First, aikido IS a Japanese martial art. There are some terms and ideas that are best expressed IN Japanese (shall we try to define KI in English ... again). Other terms are simply easier to define using the Japanese (shiho nage vs. four-direction throw; kote gaeshi vs wrist/gauntles returning).

Learning a little of the language allows us to peek into the culture and mindset of the folks who created the budo and most important, it allows us to cross borders and play with other budoka who do not speak OUR native language. 'Rei' and 'shomen uchi' are the same in English dojo, German dojo, American dojo (although the accents can lead to a bit of bemusement and amusement ...)
Quote:
() wrote:
I'm not a xenophobe; if you have an opinion then answer my question: Does a prefer for gaijin Sensei make me racist?
Not, but it may be limiting for you.

Chuck

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Old 09-15-2002, 05:31 PM   #4
Bruce Baker
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I opened up that can of worms a number of months ago. I was met with incredulous and disparaging remarks, but in the great scheme of things, as time goes on, eventually we will have 8th and 9th dans in the world arena who are not Japanese in descent. When this starts to happen, it will be a matter of time before the use of Japanese terms becomes much like latin, another term for the teaching language of each country. I dare say, the root techniques might to become ingrained to a language as common terms. Will it happen in the next few years, no. Give it a hundred or so more years to ferment. Meanwhile, learn your lessons, as best you can.
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Old 09-15-2002, 08:00 PM   #5
tedehara
 
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Re: Does This make me Racist?

Quote:
...Does a prefer for gaijin Sensei make me racist?...
I chose to learn aikido, not how to be Japanese. Coming from a Japanese background gave me the confidence to chose a gaijin Sensei.

Yes, everything is done in English except names of techniques, which are given English equivalants along with the Japanese names.

Last edited by tedehara : 09-15-2002 at 08:08 PM.
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Old 09-15-2002, 08:11 PM   #6
Peter Goldsbury
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Well, I instruct at a group of dojos and the reason I do so is that I am not Japanese. The group had problems with Japanese instructors and wanted someone who understood Japanese culture but who was not Japanese, i.e., did not teach and run a class like the Japanese instructors they had had.

I am not sure that language is an issue. There are quite a number of Japanese terms that have come into English: karate, judo, karaoke, for example, as well as aikido, and I think the reason for this is that there is no English version acceptable to a sufficient number of language users to establish a norm. So far. But I think it is impossible to lay down prescriptive rules for vocabulary use. Speakers use the words that they feel express what they want to say.

Yours sincerely

P A Goldsbury
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Old 09-15-2002, 09:18 PM   #7
"Unregistered 666"
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Deeds not Words

Thank you Bronson, Chuck, Bruce, Ted and Peter.

For the record, language is not an issue for me. For a period when I studied abroad aikido's first language made me quite comfortable and I would never want to learn the terms in any other language than japanese.

That language, or any other, is floating around the planet with many others, in this medium and others. Aikido's connection to it's birth country will become less and less inportant. We have to understand the the players, the egoists, the gerrymanders and occasional aspirant within the historical context.

I just wonder to what degree can the art can be separated from Japanese culture and remain Aikido.

I really don't care. I want my teachers to cut to the truth, and give me the juice. No games. But I have to understand what they're saying.

No lame uke's "I'll fall because if if I don't I'll make Nage look like an ass" my sensei is super-human-powered-bullsh*t either.
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Old 09-20-2002, 11:11 AM   #8
kung fu hamster
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Some of my teachers have told me that there is a distinct difference in teaching style from 'old-time' Japanese sensei's and the American sensei's - the American way seems to be to break things down to manageable chunks and show a technique step-by-step. Old time Japanese style is to show the technique a couple of times and then you get to work training, no talking or explanations until you've practiced and they see how much explanation (if any) they have to supply. I also wonder if the old style didn't have an element of withholding 'secret teachings' for the select few who may have been tapped as successor, or top dog, whatever. I am sure this worked well if the object was to restrict the full transmission of teachings to a limited group -which in the beginning I believe O-Sensei was known to do (required introductions and weeding out, etc.). I think this would, in a contrary way, make the students hunger more for 'stealing' the knowledge. Maybe I'm way off base, but I do think you are making a point that the different teaching methodology is what makes it more difficult for you to learn aikido quickly. I whine all the time that I need the techniques 'broken down' for me, because I feel impelled to learn faster and of course it is easier if someone spoon-feeds me the step-by-step Arthur Murray footsteps on the floor. But I think the Japanese system/rationale behind letting one figure a lot of that out for oneself through observation is that it sharpens the awareness, the intuition, and makes the technique more completely yours if you figure out on your own what works for you. And maybe this methodology cuts down on the 'telephone' phenomena where sempai parrot whatever they think was told to them and they 'correct' junior students with adjustments that may not work. Sure takes a lot longer and is a heck of a lot more work, though.
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Old 09-20-2002, 12:58 PM   #9
"Unregistered666"
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Quote:
Linda Morimoto (kung fu hamster) wrote:
...
An interview in ATM with Yoshio Kuroiwa a few years ago relates directly to the issue of teachers and students, particularly about why it is perfectly reasonable for a teacher to NOT give away every technique to every student. I agree with Mr. Kuroiwa's reasons. I think students have to steal and make their own connections. Lazy students can continue with their thing. You get out of aikido what you put into it (more in fact if you watch and not just look).

So your point of east vs. west approach is well taken, however it is tangental to my central question.

Throughout my journey as student my perception has grown keener. My skills of perceptions are astute; rarely do I not 'get it.'

My central point is that I get more out of watching Western aikido sensei than non-westerners. Perhaps another less provocative way of phrasing my central question is:

I just wonder to what degree can the art can be separated from Japanese culture and remain Aikido.
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Old 09-20-2002, 05:41 PM   #10
Peter Goldsbury
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I think the idea (paradigm? image?) of a teacher as 'transactor of information' and of the 'teacher as model' (1) extends to other areas besides aikido and (2) the term 'sensei' covers both ideas.

These two ideas are paralleled by analogous ideas concerning students and studying. The central feature of the first idea is that the transaction of knowledge or ideas is primary, whereas the governing feature of the second idea is that a personal relationship between student and teacher is where this transaction takes place and the transaction is in some sense secondary to this relationship.

Now, whether these two ideas of a teacher reflect a difference between East and West is, in my opinion, hard to state with confidence. The master - student relationship in Japan has been heavily influenced by Chinese ideas, but, of course, it is also found outside Japan. A good example of such relationships can be found in the writings of Plato and Aristotle (and also their activities in their own respective schools).

Certainly, from my experience here in Japan, I know that these two different ideas of the teacher operate at the level of university teaching, especially with master or doctoral students. The teaching relationship I had with my own professors (in the US and the UK) is subtly different from the relationship I have with my Japanese Ph.D students here.

Of course, in the aikido dojo this difference also comes into play. Shihans ('teachers as models'), for example, are not found outside traditional Japanese arts like budo & bujutsu, flower-arranging and the piano. However, I myself find that I teach aikido more in a Japanese way here (techniques shown just a few times with a minimum of explanation, and this more tailored to the individuals I am explaining to) and less in a Japanese way outside Japan (with more overtly structured classes). However, in my own dojo in Hiroshima, I and my two German colleagues are actively trying to combine the two ways.

Whether this shows that aikido is shifting away from its Japanese roots is harder to say. Obviously it is in some sense because the Kobukan small dojo model is no longer possible. The Aikikai Hombu is much larger, more impersonal and factory-like, though these appearances are also deceiving.

Nor is the problem unique to aikido. There is a large body of opinion here to the effect that --싅 (yakyuu) is completely different from baseball and shouldn't even be translated as such. In sumo, there is always a problem when foreign giants like Konishiki regularly beat Japanese sumotori. They are sometimes considered to be lacking in a mysterious Japanese quality called hinkaku (usually translated as 'dignity'). Happily, there is relatively little of this nonsense in aikido.

Of course, aikido is not a koryu and the name has never been trademarked or copyrighted, but I am sure that if aikido were to move radically away from its Japanese cultural roots, the argument that it had thereby ceased to be aikido would probably come from Japan. The Aikikai are fairly sensitive about the matter, even now.

Best regards,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 10-12-2002, 11:35 PM   #11
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Quote:
I prefer my aikido filtered through an NON-"Japanese-as-a-First-language" Sensei be that an English, French, Italian or what-have-you
Well... unless you speak all those languages, why single out Japanese not to learn from? If you have a good reason, fine, if not, yes, there probably is some degree of bigotry there. So you figure it out. We don't have enough information to go on.
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Old 10-13-2002, 06:14 AM   #12
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Unregistered666, if you say:"I just wonder to what degree can the art can be separated from Japanese culture and remain Aikido." I'd first need to know from you what your definition of aikido is.

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. - H.P. Lovecraft
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Old 10-13-2002, 08:33 AM   #13
Hogan
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Speaking of differences in Japanese and American instructors - I have noticed that Japanese instructors do not tend to have "group practice", even if there are so many people you can't even fall safely, even if it is wall-to-wall with people. American teachers, however, I have noticed use "group practice" more often.

I personally cannot stand NOT using group practice if the mat is so crowded you might as well just sit back and watch. Why is it Japanese instructors seem to be so reluctant to use groups ?
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Old 10-13-2002, 10:45 AM   #14
"Jeffrey F."
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Ai symbol Re: Does This make me Racist?

[quote=" ()"]I prefer my aikido filtered through an NON-"Japanese-as-a-First-language" Sensei be that an English, French, Italian or what-have-you.

Is it because I'm lazy? Or are we witnessing the imported-and-improved aikido for the next generation?

I'm not a xenophobe; if you have an opinion then answer my question: Does a prefer for gaijin Sensei make me racist?

Hmmm. Preferences can reflect ignorance or a sense of what is personally meaningful or worthwile. Is something a good fit? How does one accomodate individual learning styles? Still, despite the need to respect individual differences, I can't help but wonder whether the preference for "non-english as a first language senseis reflects an inability to move beyond a fixed way of perceiving one's environment. Aikido is not about verbal language. Rather, it is about understanding that includes language, but is not bound by syntax, grammer or vocabulary. To train with an open mind is to "hear" without fixed understanding.
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Old 10-13-2002, 09:00 PM   #15
Abasan
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Hogan,

How many Japanese sensei's exactly have you noticed that abstain from Group practice?

I've trained with no less then 7 in seminars and such, and all used it when the occassion makes it necessary.

However, I have heard that Aikikai hombu is quite crowded at times and that usually its partner2 practice and no group practice. The trick is to learn where to throw as nage, and control your uke enough to throw him close to you and as uke, to learn how to fall within 1 tatami mat confinement and get up fast!

Needless to say, breakfalls are not recommended.

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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Old 10-14-2002, 06:14 AM   #16
mike lee
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go beyond this and that

Quote:
Why is it Japanese instructors seem to be so reluctant to use groups ?
This has not been my experience. I attended seminars in Chicago during the early 1980s when Toyoda sensei had a pretty small dojo. One of my teachers, Rod Kobayashi, was also there on some occassions. They encouraged us to practice in groups to protect ourselves from getting injured.

P.S. The decision about who is the best teacher for you should not be based on race. Basically, I feel that I can learn something from just about any high-ranking teacher, no matter where he's from. My personal preference is for someone with big skill and small ego.

Last edited by mike lee : 10-14-2002 at 06:19 AM.
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Old 10-14-2002, 07:30 AM   #17
SeiserL
 
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IMHO, having a preference in how you personally learn best does not necessarily make you a "racist". Its possibly just looking for a match in your own learning strategy. Making it easier on yourself does not necessarily means its against the Japanese. Its just more egocentric, its all about you, not them.

On the other hand, it is a limitation that cuts you off from some very valuable learning opportunities. But, if you choose to limit yourself, you have that right.

I guess you will not be attending the Aiki Expo next year. Too bad. It was great this year. I look forward to learning from the people I don't understand. Their example was awesome.

Until again,

Lynn

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 10-14-2002, 08:06 AM   #18
Ron Tisdale
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Quote:
Bruce Baker wrote:
snip

as time goes on, eventually we will have 8th and 9th dans in the world arena who are not Japanese in descent.
That time is already here...Amos Parker, 8th dan Shihan, Yoshinkan Aikido.

Ron Tisdale
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Old 10-14-2002, 09:28 AM   #19
Hogan
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Quote:
Hogan, How many Japanese sensei's exactly have you noticed that abstain from Group practice?
I have worked with 8, and the only exception has been with Toyoda Sensei, whom Mike Lee later alluded to in the next post. But he later became an american citizen, "americanized" a little perhaps in his teachings ?

The other 7 have been from Japan, visiting, and never worked with groups. Went to a seminar recently where we would bump into people just standing on the mat. Trying to fall was a little dangerous, and frankly, took the fun out the whole weekend. We were more concerned about not hitting someone that actually doing the techinique properly wasn't a concern.
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Old 10-14-2002, 12:16 PM   #20
Bruce Baker
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Racist?

If you are running you are in the racist.

If you are not running, but getting run over, you are a victim.

If you get out of the way, you are a spectator.

If you ask the question,"Am I a Racist" even if you are ... there is still hope for you.
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Old 10-14-2002, 02:23 PM   #21
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Do you really have to ask? Would you change your mind if my answer to your question was "yes"?

There are good and bad Japanese Aikidoka; likewise for any other nationality.

Grow up!
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Old 10-14-2002, 09:15 PM   #22
shihonage
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Mary had a little lamb
Little lamb, little lamb
Mary had a little lamb
It's fleece was white as snow

It followed her to school one day
School one day, school one day
It followed her to school one day

Everywhere that Mary went,
Mary went,Mary went.
Everywhere that Mary went,
The lamb was sure to go.

It followed her to school one day
School one day, school one day
It followed her to school one day
Which was against the rules.

It made the children laugh and play,
laugh and play, laugh and play.
It made the children laugh and play,
To see a lamb at school.



Last edited by shihonage : 10-14-2002 at 09:21 PM.
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