The fact that Aikido is not a democracy is a given. Neither is it a fresher version of an anachronistic return to feudal thinking, where there needs to be superior people over inferior people for the system to function.
The Aikikai model of shihan, shidoin, fukushidoin, etc. including the stale and irrational notion of sempai – kohai relationships as being necessary trappings for Aikido organizations , is a major reason for the ever widening disconnect with Aikikai and its Shihan driven identities, versus the remainder of legitimate Aikido organizations, dojos and genuine Aikido leaders throughout the world.
How often have I had to endure listening to a Japanese person tell me that I would never understand the Founder’s Aikido, simply because I “was not Japanese”. The Founder never told me that. Nidai Doshu never told me that. Kisaburo Osawa Sensei never told me that, Senseis Kobayashi, Masuda, Kanai, Chiba etc. never told me that. In fact, they treated me the very opposite, in that they led me to believe that I could and would eventually understand.
Even within the greater identity of world wide Aikikai affiliated dojos and organizations, that continually maintain direct or indirect ties to Aikikai Foundation, there is no formal or de facto recognition of any pre-eminent position that Aikikai Foundatiom has over the conduct of training, qualification for instruction, or even for ranking. Their position is that certain individuals have been granted authority to recommend dan ranks, and that they must trust these individuals to perform the job correctly without oversight or review.
The vast majority of dan certificates are given out without any system of verification that such recipients are indeed following any established guidelines, or that meaningful sanctions exist if they do not. The vast body of those having Nidan and higher, have never, and will never go to Japan or see the Doshu. This number will unfortunately only increase exponentially over time.
The art of the Founder’s Aiki, and of his Aikido, was never intended as a political theory or as an organizational base,nor was its existence dependent on any bureaucratic or politically run system of checks and balances.
The late Doshu, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, is credited with many of the formal trappings of both the Aikikai Foundation, and of the International Aikido Federation. The Founder refused to be connected in any way with such matters, nor did he interfere with the Doshu’s work. He simply trained daily in his mind and within his own agenda, insisting that his students do the same.
You mention that we should be concerned with the “welfare of the whole rather than self interest”. Now who is being idealistic?
Martial integrity is mainly about self interest, which is based on finding a system of thought and action compatible with one’s very own and deepest held beliefs and values. Aikido is not “socialist” in any way, shape or form, as it is also not to be identified with any other form of social identity or group definition.
Lastly, for now, we are servants of no one. We are our own masters, our own teachers, our very own best friends. When we teach others, we also remain students ourselves. Shidoo Geiko means “training by teaching”. It does not, nor should ever connote any sense of superiority over another person. It is our privilege to be both teacher and student, exchanging our roles freely as the situation permits. In this way, we remain “green and growing”, ever alert to new insights into the Aiki Universe, as clearly introduced to us by the Founder.
From my admittedly unique perspective, I truly believe this to be a key legacy from O Sensei to all of us, and one we dare not squander or relinquish.
Click here to view the original article in Aikido Academy USA. Reproduced with the permission of the author.