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Old 07-04-2004, 08:48 PM   #1
oudbruin
Dojo: Independent
Location: Trenton, Nieu Joisey( Ya gotta a problem wid dat?)
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Dojo horror story

I used to belong to one of the "organized sects" of aikido. Unfortunately I had several situations that have put me off of joining up with any "organized- affiliated"dojo.
The name of the dojo I used to belong to, is not being used to protect the innocent. Frankly, there are some really good / nice people in the organization. Unfortunately there are some folks that think the attainment of yudansha-hood elevates them to something just short to the second coming of Christ-(which was reserved for the guy who would visit from Japan).
Don't get me wrong, I believe in respect and proper homage. However, one yudansha told me (me being a lowly 6th kyu!) that I shouldn't dare to make eye contact with any of the yudansha or attempt to initiate any discussion with a yudansha. She also told me I was being very rude making eye contact to partner up for practice.( Gosh, Someone should have posted those rules of the dojo along with the rule about chewing gum!)
The final straw came when I was told that I had to ask permission from Sensei to take less ions in Tai chi and Kendo. I was patently told I should not study any other form of aikido.
While the Yudansha in that particular Dojo are proficient in their own form, their ignorance about other martial arts, amazed me. I was particularly put off by the narrow minded outlook and attitude displayed by those yudansha- in my mind, not showing a true attitude of Bushido.
I would like to hear if anyone else has a similar dojo horror story?

Fortunately, I have found a Dojo where Sensei and I both agree that we both put on our shoes the same way, and we also visit the loo the same way. He cultivates a more liberal multi-discipline approach to aikido, and leaves the elevation to godhood to the other Dojos.
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Old 07-04-2004, 10:55 PM   #2
otto
Dojo: Independent
Location: Maracaibo/Zulia
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Re: Dojo horror story

There are plenty of frauds out there , congrats on finding a better place.

Just Curious , did you talk to somone else in that dojo about leaving the place?

"Perfection is a Process"
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Old 07-05-2004, 01:53 AM   #3
PeterR
 
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Re: Dojo horror story

Wouldn't go so far as calling them frauds - some people just have a need to feel extra special. Of course what happens in a place like that is it keeps like minded and drives out others. The end result is a bunch of people looking in the mirror rather than polishing it.

Far better to realize early that you don't fit and find a place that you do.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 07-05-2004, 02:59 AM   #4
xuzen
 
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Re: Dojo horror story

Dear Bruce,

Are you sure, you were not in movieland? The way you describe the previous dojo sound like it can only come from movieland... Anyway congrats for moving on.

Regards
Boon
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Old 07-05-2004, 08:44 AM   #5
Bridge
Dojo: Slough Aikikai
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Re: Dojo horror story

Bruce,

That sounds quite scary! And not very healthy at all. Well done on finding yourself a new dojo!

Myself and a couple of mates once tried out a "Bushido" school once. There were only 3 of us in this private session in which the Sensei demonstrated some of the syllabus taken from karate, jiujitsu, aikido etc.

OK so far, but he had to switch "modes" between each demonstration, which we found freaky. Please excuse my ignorance if anyone out there thinks its normal.

Later we were singled out one by one to sit outside and listen to a tape recording of how the founder started up the school and how the "*name withheld to protect the innocent* Bushido School needs you" accompanied with whooshy noises. We never returned!

Also. My boyfriend did tai chi with some Sifu for a few years, and one of the instructors had a falling out with Sifu and reported him to Cultwatch. Apparently there was a long list of cult-type behaviour (including ceremonies before having a meal) exhibited by this Sifu.

Seems to be a bit of it about.
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Old 07-05-2004, 02:41 PM   #6
Aristeia
Location: Auckland
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Re: Dojo horror story

Quote:
Bruce Hammell wrote:
She also told me I was being very rude making eye contact to partner up for practice
This is the bit that astounds me the most. The rest is just ridculous ego posturing. This on the other hand is actually detrimental to development. The hardest thing to get some beginners to do is make sure they are training with seniors as much as possible. To actively discourage this boggles the mind.

"When your only tool is a hammer every problem starts to look like a nail"
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Old 07-05-2004, 03:16 PM   #7
rachmass
Dojo: Aikido of Cincinnati/Huron Valley Aikikai
Location: Somerset Michigan
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Re: Dojo horror story

Sorry, but the initial post seems a bit off to me, and perhaps only telling one side of the story. Some dojos are very formal in tenor, and maybe this is just a case of a very formal dojo and some misunderstandings. It is not unusual for a teacher to suggest that a student not get involved in other martial arts when at the beginning of their aikido practice (so as to concentrate on one before dabbling in another).

Now, the not looking a yudansha in the eyes thing is really weird!

But, often there are really strong heirarchies with regard to the way people are dealt with in the dojo. Sometimes senior students come off as acting like know it alls, when they really aren't. I've seen very humble and sweet yudansha be unapproachable, not because of the way they act, but because of the culture in the dojo (too much hero worshipping). I really do not know the situation in your dojo, however this initial post leads me to believe there is a lot more to the situation that meets the eye.

best, Rachel
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Old 07-06-2004, 01:34 AM   #8
Michael Brown
Dojo: Aikido of San Jose
Location: San Jose, CA
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Re: Dojo horror story

Dear Bruce,
Sounds like you already have mastered one of the best aikido techniques around---you ran!! But seriously, it seems like you were in a school where they were so into themselves as 'martial artists' and from what I've seen in some western practioners of Aikido, a desire to be more Japanese than the Japanese. What a crazy place. As for studying other martial arts, some may caution you not to at this early stage in your development as an aikidoist, if only to help you concentrate more on one art at a time. That is not some rule written in stone, to be sure. I personally would not advise that you not study other arts; you do what you need to do. Just wherever you do train, follow what the instructor is trying to teach, and then maybe after class, experiment with other things. Good luck with your training, and you are definitely welcome to come and train with us if you are ever out this way (and, you can look each of us in the eyes...).
-Mike
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Old 07-06-2004, 04:23 AM   #9
oudbruin
Dojo: Independent
Location: Trenton, Nieu Joisey( Ya gotta a problem wid dat?)
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Re: Dojo horror story

Let me assure you it wasn't "movieland" Just a non-profit dojo in "scenic" Princeton, N.J.
Kim Taylor in "Iaido Journal" relates about how some martial arts dojo do a "Sales Job" by making thier place seem special- Ya know standing outside the dojo for a week, ring the bell for a month each day, not being allowed to participate in the dojo for a year but simply required to watch and not say a thing..
Haven't seen any requirements to stand on my head-yet...:-)
Seriously, the best dojo is the one where the only requirement is pay the $ and show up for class. All the rest is harassment & unnecessary BS, of which, I have plenty in my life.
The thing that saddened me about "voting with my feet", was that there are some nice (yudansha) people who were interested in my learning technique, and not interested in the postering.
Interesting enought, I understand that there have been a number of "defections" in the last few years for exactly the same reasons. It's too bad that this dojo is turning off a number of people in the name of "good practice, disclipline & order"
The local Aikikai dojo-(run by a couple who are kind and gentle and display solid technical knowledge without the attitude I was seeing at the "non-profit", have a number of the "non-profit" dojo's defectors..Guess I'm not alone after all.
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Old 07-06-2004, 11:53 AM   #10
BC
Location: Chicago, IL
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Re: Dojo horror story

Bruce:

I'm pretty sure I know of your new-found dojo. That couple is very nice, and both seem very well qualified. I visited the dojo a couple years ago when I was there, and was given a warm welcome and some good instruction! Congradulations on finding a more appropriate dojo to practice.

Robert Cronin
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Old 07-06-2004, 12:38 PM   #11
Janet Rosen
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Re: Dojo horror story

Quote:
Rachel Massey wrote:
Sorry, but the initial post seems a bit off to me, and perhaps only telling one side of the story. Some dojos are very formal in tenor, and maybe this is just a case of a very formal dojo and some misunderstandings.
best, Rachel
Rachel, dojos like that exist. Sometimes affiliated with major organizations. I've met them at seminars, the instructors and the students. They are weird. But they are out there.

Janet Rosen
http://www.zanshinart.com
"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 07-06-2004, 10:10 PM   #12
aikibum
Dojo: DU Aikido
Location: Denver
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Re: Dojo horror story

We have a dojo here in Denver that is in many ways similar to the one described by Bruce. I trained at this place for a couple of months after returning from 2 years training and teaching in Japan.

I was at first ok with the "kibishii" (formal) nature of this dojo; but then after a while, it started getting to me. The sensei would not accept my ranking (even though it was straight from Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo) and I was told in no uncertain terms I would have to start over at 5th kyu.

I guess my whole problem was that I'd trained in Japan, a couple of times, under very high ranking Hombu yudansha. THEY weren't as formal as this place; in fact, Fukui Aikikai (where I practiced) was as friendly and welcoming and laid back a place as you could wish for. Certainly we were polite and followed the forms, but we were all there for one thing: Aikido.

I think the saddest thing about this particular Denver dojo is that many yudansha have left; some from differences with sensei, others for their own reasons. My current instructor (at the local ASU dojo) is also a former student from this dojo, and he echoes much of what I said. It's a shame. I guess that style works for some people, but I figure if Ikeda sensei from Boulder Aikikai greets you with a big smile while he's wearing jeans and Tevas, then that works for me. To me, the best Aikido happens when that same spirit is displayed on the mat: welcome, be careful, be open, and have FUN!!!

Ever think about how many pictures you've seen of O sensei where he had a HUGE smile on his face? (Lots of 'em!!!)

Peace to all.
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Old 07-07-2004, 12:06 PM   #13
rachmass
Dojo: Aikido of Cincinnati/Huron Valley Aikikai
Location: Somerset Michigan
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Re: Dojo horror story

Janet, I have been in the aikido world since 1982, and have seen all types of dojos. My point was that perhaps there was more to the telling, and I wanted to see if there were other issues that didn't get touched on. Yes, I've seen some wierd stuff over the years too :-)

cheers, Rachel
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Old 07-10-2004, 05:26 AM   #14
Jorx
Dojo: Pärnu Aikidoclub Singitai
Location: Pärnu, Estonia
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Re: Dojo horror story

I'll throw in a little bit of flamery...

Where is the line?

Being told not to make eye-contact with yudansha is not okey while being told to bow every time while you start technique with partner is okay? Is it?

Referring to Joe-sensei as Sensei not Joe is respect but more is weirdness?

The fact that teacher answers your question about muay thai kneekick or wrestling takedown with "Train more then you'll see, dont worry about that right now." Is okay but being told that you should not take up another martial art is not?

Where to draw the thin line? Should we draw it?
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Old 07-10-2004, 06:06 AM   #15
white rose
Dojo: White Rose Aikikai
Location: Washington
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Re: Dojo horror story

I was in an Aikido group that had a inner circle for senior grades only.

I was never high enough in the group to be asked to join thank God ( I think I may have wet myself half way through) but from what people who did join have said some very strange things when on.

They had a kind for rite to go through to be in this inner circle . This was to be bind folded and lead into a dark room were all the other members stood in a line with flaming touch;s. You had to swear an oath or something like that. I find this very odd, I think its a much better idea to go to the pub after training for few rounds of liquid pain killer. It seemed all you was a sweat shirt with inner circle on it.

Sean
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Old 07-14-2004, 07:08 PM   #16
Amassus
 
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Re: Dojo horror story

This thread makes me so proud to be involved with a warm-fuzzies dojo, where everyone is there to train and look after one another. That's it. Be polite, train, go home.

Hell, the instructor of our dojo doesn't even separate himself from the rest of the class when bowing before and after the session. He joins the line with the rest of us. Seeing someone that humble speaks volumes about a person. He wants to teach aikido, pure and simple, politics are not his concern. Of course this means our club is not affiliated with any larger organisation which is a shame.
Just for the record, he is a sandan, not that he would tell you unless asked specifically.

"flows like water, reflects like a mirror, and responds like an echo." Chaung-tse
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Old 07-25-2004, 09:45 PM   #17
Lyle Laizure
 
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Re: Dojo horror story

There was a visitor once to my sensei's school that was rather abrasive in his actions. I won't go into detail about his actions but needless to say some of the senior students (non-yudansha) approached him (he was a nidan in aikijujitsu) and explained to him his inapproprate behavior. He took a holier than thou attitude telling the student that in his style a lower ranked student weren't even allowed to talk to the yudansha unless spoken to first and would never even consider reprimanding a higher rank. Well the student told one of the yudansha who promptly addressed the visitor and corrected his attitude.

Lyle Laizure
www.hinodedojo.com
Deru kugi wa uta reru
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Old 07-26-2004, 05:23 PM   #18
senseimike
 
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Re: Dojo horror story

To add a bit of closure to Lyle's story, after some of the yudansha had spoken to this student about his behavior, he continued to wear his aikijutitsu rank and hakama, and attempted to "pull rank" over everyone in the dojo (the highest ranked sempai at the time were nidan). This all ended at a seminar one time, when a visiting sensei, ranked rokudan and a stickler for respect, tradition, and honor (might i add ex marine) schooled this fellow in the honor of being sempai, through ukemi. I remember that he did show up in a white belt the next class and even tested for 5th kyu before returning to his high holy attitude. Luckily he decided that our area needed an aikijujitsu school and went on his way. He was a real jewel and I'm sure he had plenty to offer, to someone.
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Old 07-27-2004, 05:06 PM   #19
Murgen
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Re: Dojo horror story

I'm new to Aikido and have been trying to get as much as I can the last few months.

Personally feel it is great to have a sensei who trains in other martial arts. My sensei holds an instructors ranking in Muay Thai and fought professionally to win 2 championships and teaches Muay Thai privately. He also trains in Wing Chung and Karate. I think it helps in class because he can show the differences betweens these arts and explain why we do it this way in Aikido. Because If we do it this way we are NOT doing Aikido but something else. He tells us flat out that all arts are effective, but they just go about it differently. But, in this class we learn Aikido so we flow and harmonize with the UKE instead of block and counterpunch.

The dojo is traditional, but it is very forgiving to us newbies who are learning the etiquette used in a dojo. We are taught a little bit more on respect and etiquette each class which is a much more friendly way to assimilate it. I think I would leave a dojo as well if they told me I couldn't make eye contact with the sensei. I feel luckily and honored to be able to train there, but we are all people. And we are all on a journey to perfect our chosen art (even the sensei's).
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Old 07-27-2004, 07:42 PM   #20
Don
Dojo: aikido of charlotte
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Re: Dojo horror story

Its a shame that people get the way they were described in the original post. I think its important to observe etiquitte insofar as safety, common respect, and adhering to the art's origins. But, last time I checked none of us were gods and we don't live in a caste system or culture. On the mat, if someone is teaching, it seems to me you should respect that and pay attention, because if nothing else, you might get hurt, or hurt someone else if you don't pay attention to what's going on. But you know what, a couple of years ago, while at summer camp, a few of us were visting a friend who happens to be a high ranking sensei in our organization (USAF). This happened to be in some family housing. After a while, who should come up to the patio, but our head shihan. He an the sensei we were visiting go back 30 odd years. Well, he comes in and of course we (those of us who were visiting) were all like "oh yes sensei this and oh yes sensei that..." After about 5 minutes though, we all realized he was just a nice guy to be around. Now that doesn't mean that we go up and slap him on the back everytime we see him, but its not Moses approaching Mt. Sianai to see God anymore either.

My point is, anyone who has the kind of control and ego issues that were described here, maybe ought to wonder to themselves why it is they are taking an art that can hurt people. Jeez!
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Old 07-29-2004, 01:22 AM   #21
Tokonara
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Re: Dojo horror story

While I am sure your situation has validity. Please allow me to, hopelfully, make some clarification. From your discription it seems to me that there was an amount of Kyutei-saho or "court custom" being observed in your previous dojo. I observe similiar customs in my dojo. However, I believe you made the correct choice in leaving. From your description, which is only one sided, It seemed that these customs which were in place to put, initially, a warrior people at ease within close quarters of each other, were misunderstood and misused. Within the court of fuedal Japan there was a great deal of ettiqutte to be followed. The tradition I contribute to and maintain in my own life adheres to this saho. However, one should never see themselves as superior. Yes, there is a manner in which to address, approach, and arrange ourselves to and around eachother within our dojo but it is seen as courtesy more than a matter of superiority. I almost feel like apologizing to you for their behaivior! It may sound strange but I can not stand it when I see such misuse.
I suppose the experience could be summed up with the expression "Lost in translation" on their part. I hope this gives you some understanding. I am sorry for your experience.
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