View Full Version : Sensei's personality

7th June 2002, 02:51
Dear all:

When I started Aikido some years ago, I idealized my teacher and would believe anything he would say. After several years, I realized that he was not as honest and perfect as I thought.

What should I do, either to leave my school because I can not accept all the wrong things he does, or continue going to class but trying not to get involved with the dojo anymore.

Any suggestions will be helpful.

Many thanks.


7th June 2002, 03:11
Well, no one is perfect. What is the nature of his dishonesty? Please elaborate.

7th June 2002, 03:31

I don't think that anybody here can really answer that question for you.

Questions you should ask yourself:
1.) Are his wrong doings affecting your training in the Dojo? (no specifics were given)
2.) Did you maybe seek an Idol and not a MA Instructor when you joined?
3.) Can you still learn good solid MA from him?

And so on.


Neil Yamamoto
7th June 2002, 05:43
Sensei, just like anyone else, are human.

So, why should you treat them any different than anyone else you meet?

Sensei are capable of good, kindness, and all the warm fuzzy things that make people feel loved and valued. Sensei are also capable of incredible feats of stupidity and lack of common sense just like anyone else.

I was taught you were supposed to try and rise above that. I fail miserably at it by the way. Which is why I don't consider myself a sensei.

So, if your sensei is not someone you would care to spend time with outside of aikido training, why would you trust your learning an art that is supposed to help you improve at what you do in life to someone you don't like and most importantly, don't trust?

My opinion anyway.

7th June 2002, 06:57
You were an excited newbie those first year[s], and took everything said and done at face value. Most do the same thing when they first enter the dojo of their choice, especially those who did the research to find the right one.

Now you're not so sure you did the right thing because you know better now.

That describes a good percentage of people in budo today. Ask almost anyone for the mistake they made. Sometimes it is as you allude to, and sometimes it takes a decade of training before one knows it's time to move on.

But I have to agree with those who have posted thus far. You didn't supply any specifics at all, and it may only be that you wished your instructor to be that nice little corner of perfection you were lucky enough find, but life isn't like that, and everyone has imperfections.

To what degree is something you must work out on your own, or perhaps more experience and advice would be forthcoming if you would come forth with more detail.


Hanna B
7th June 2002, 08:07
Hi Alina! I quite understand if you do not want to share the details.

Would you be happy going to class but trying not to get involved with the dojo? If you would, or if that is the solution which is less bad that others, then I suppose you could stay.

Maybe you should ask youself if you would hesitate to learn pottery or skiing from the same person? If that would be OK and aikido not, what is the difference?

8th June 2002, 18:06
Hi Alina!

Seems to me that you have 3 choices:

1. Stay and ignore the behavior
2. Stay and try to change the behavior
3. Leave

There may be a valid reason for number 1. If the sensei is the only game in town or is a supreme master of his/her craft then maybe you'd look the other way at his/her drinking or whatever. Of course, this assumes you are getting something of high value from the individual which most of us are not. If the behavior puts you or someone else at risk then I don't know how you can ignore it.

The problem is that number 2 is almost impossible to implement. It's incredibly difficult to change behavior. It's difficult for a lot of reasons but the main ones are that the behavior has already been tacitly accepted by other students (you won't have been the first to notice all the attention paid to the young female students by the sensei) and you are the junior in the hiearchy. It may even have been tacitly accepted by the individuals seniors within the art. It just doesn't leave you with a big enough stick to force any behavioral changes.

That leaves you with number 3. Chances are, there are other dojos you could go to and practice which won't have the problems which bother you. I hate the idea that this is probably the best alternative but it probably is. Voting with your feet, unless you are willing to go public and that may not be a good idea, is about the best you can do.

As a final note, I've never met a perfect individual in this art. They are always flawed. Some in pretty major ways. The question you have to is ask is whether you can live with it or can do anything about it. I also think it's valid to ask if your moral values should even apply? There are a lot of folk's moral values which I think are incredibly wrong and there are a lot of people who think mine are wrong. Who should win out is a very difficult question.

Good luck in whatever you do. I wish I had better advice for you and for that matter myself on this topic.

10th June 2002, 04:19
Originally posted by Alina
Dear all:

When I started Aikido some years ago, I idealized my teacher and would believe anything he would say. After several years, I realized that he was not as honest and perfect as I thought.

What should I do, either to leave my school because I can not accept all the wrong things he does, or continue going to class but trying not to get involved with the dojo anymore.

Any suggestions will be helpful.

Many thanks.


Probably quite a common occurence. What is shows is that you learned something about yourself. You are now wiser - the very purpose of the art :-)

Rupert Atkinson

Jeff Hamacher
10th June 2002, 05:17
i have to agree with the general drift of the responses so far. you seem to have accepted gracefully the fact that your teacher is human and thus given to errors in judgement or behaviour. now you have to think carefully about the nature and degree of his misdemeanors, and whether or not they have a significant effect on the quality of training that you get at his dojo. note, of course, that "significant" is purely a matter of individual perception; it's really just a question of being honest with yourself about your personal limits.

i've known an aikido teacher who was a terrible sexual harrasser after he'd had a few drinks, and yet it seemed that many of his female students kept coming to his classes for the quality of training. his aikido and his teaching were truly first-rate, but how much harrassment would one of his "targets" be willing to take? i knew another teacher who held some not-so-thinly-veiled intolerant attitudes towards non-japanese, and more than a few times he verbally abused me and other non-japanese students just for sport, because he knew that we wouldn't dare respond. thankfully, i didn't have to deal with much of the fallout from these habits; my principal teachers of aikido were generally much more level-headed individuals.

12th June 2002, 17:19
Hey -
Does anyone feel that this sort of thing is especially intolerable from an Aikido sensei? I mean, all the -do arts purport to improve character, and aikido especially aims at love, tolerance and spiritual improvement. Personally, I've found many examples of this sort of hypocrisy within the aikido community, and it's one of the reasons I prefer ju-jitsu. If we're jerks, we're straighforward about it. There's no pretending to be a saint, preaching saintly behavior, and then acting like a devil. (Or should I say a Catholic priest?)

Josh Gepner

Jeff Hamacher
12th June 2002, 23:19
anybody who thinks that aikido is some kind of new-age, universal brother-sister-hood of peace, love, and understanding has completely missed the point. i would encourage any aikido exponent to stop putting their martial art on a pedestal and just get back to training, because aikido has no greater value (and no lesser value, i might add) than any other form of martial training. furthermore, we all need to remind ourselves that every martial arts teacher is human, and to borrow on the words of Meik (or was it Dianne?) Skoss, "they put their hakama on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us."

Benjamin Peters
12th June 2002, 23:24
When I started Aikido some years ago, I idealized my teacher and would believe anything he would say. After several years, I realized that he was not as honest and perfect as I thought.

Rationalize all your thoughts into things you can substatiate and recall. Be as objective as you can. Ultimately only you can make the decision.

Best decision is to leave if the teacher is in your eyes doing "bad" by you, the students and the art. Even if the teacher doesn't mean it, it is being done - actions speak and tell lots about a person.

13th June 2002, 05:19
One of my tenets as I try to educate newbies who are thinking about studying a martial art is never forget about using their "good old-fashioned common sense."

More succinctly, I tell them replace the word "dojo" with the word "health club", and then ask the same question to resolve the issue.

So for this thread, would you tolerate whatever this offending behavior is from your health club manager?

Since in fact you are paying them your money to participate, so in fact you are their customer.

Not a perfect analogy, since health clubs are a dime a dozen compared to a dojo.

It does however help keep things in perspective.

13th June 2002, 11:59
Dear all:

I have combined in my question my past experience in my country of origin and the experience of a friend here in the US.

From what I have read and seen, it seems that the bad behavior of a Sensei, inside and/or outside the dojo (say, harrasing students, being dishonest to people with lies, drinking, etc.) is not so uncommon.

Perhaps I am wrong, but I always supposed that if a person is training MA especially Aikido, for decades, she/he does it because wants to improve technically and especially spiritualy.

Regarding to my question, since I do not think I will not be able to change Sensei's personality, and there is no other school in the area with the same style, perhaps the option would be to continue practicing but not getting involved with anything in the dojo. Although this could seem a selfish attitude, especially if everybody does the same, perhaps this could help change Sensei's behavior?

Another question, how common is to find this kind of problem in other martial arts?

Best wishes.


Don Cunningham
13th June 2002, 12:21
Determining abuse or just inappropriate behavior can be difficult, especially in a teacher-student relationship. I discuss the problems and potential dangers of training with fraudulent instructors in my interview (http://www.fight.sphosting.com/cunningham.html) on the Martial Arts Research Center (http://www.fight.sphosting.com/main.html) web site, but the following advice applies to most any instructor/student situation:

The bottom line is that you should step back and ask yourself if you honestly believe what they tell you about their background. If not, I recommend you find someone that you can trust. If you are being sexually, physically, or mentally abused by an instructor, you should notify the authorities immediately no matter what you think about their martial arts qualifications. If they are abusing you, the chances are good they are also hurting others or will in the future.

14th June 2002, 06:01
You have, at least, provided more information with your post, but still, it is difficult to read. Sensei is a person, and some do like to, after a nice hard session of keiko to go out, with students and have a few beers. Some have bad habits not easy to rid oneself from, such as smoking tobacco.

That out of the way, I don't condone a teacher who lies to students or is impaired by alcohol or other substances. That does have a way of carrying over to the student, especially new ones who think it all is OK because "sensei says" or "sensei does." That's a problem in any MA, including aikido and others, especially when the MA is said to be the opposite of what you are complaining of.

Perhaps, with a background in something which basically, is another system of taijutsu, or grappling, it may be wise to find the right teacher without being so specific in what you want. It would be a shame to stay with such a teacher because he has good technique. That isn't always the most important thing. Some have incredible technique with a behavior straight out of the trash. Check out a judo or other jujutsu/taijutsu style budo, and do so with a teacher you think you can get on with, someone from whom you can also learn.

If your goal is to do your best and learn what you can of aikido, you may need a break. Not one in which you stop training, just one who knows how to teach and connect with the students. If aikido isn't around, a good judo or other taijutsu-based MA will give you a foundation on which to build.

With a good teacher, it may be what you need, as most grappling styles, stripped of the excesses, are basically the same thing.


Jerry Johnson
20th June 2002, 21:53
Originally posted by Alina
Dear all:

I have combined in my question my past experience in my country of origin and the experience of a friend here in the US.


I don't like to give advice. But I would like to address some concerns via my perspective because this is a pretty universal thing. It doesn't just happen in Aikido. The following is not directed to Alina.

1. I thing people need to stop looking for a savior, father figure, the choose one or how ever you look at it. See Joseph Campbell.

2. Martial arts isn't a religion and your not going to find any more spiritual answers then redesigning your bathroom the feng-shuei (sp) way. Martial arts contain tenets to follow. Tenets that are check and balances, a safety valve. Martial arts are about and related to fighting and they are not the Holy Grail. Aikido has a component of religion which is both political and apart of the art it's self. If you join Aikido your are not considered a convert or a member of an anti-shinto group ( not that there is anything wrong with that). Being a martial artist isn't the same as being Catholic, Hindu, or milk-toast. Martial arts don't have the answers. If you feel the need to seek out Japanese zen for sanity then the best thing to do is join a zen temple and let the priest wack the hell out of you as you sit in sezia for hours. It works better then martial arts.

3. De-romanticize your assumption about martial arts. Turn off the karate kid, ninja turtles, and Jet Le movies in your head. Expectations and assumptions are fatal.

4. Most people who become jade with martial arts or experience the same deflation as Alina did become better bitter when reality hits and they realize they are in Kansas with the Scare Crow and not Club Med with all the beautiful people.

5. In all the above replace the word Martial art Sensei with college professor, coach, etc. Many people fall in worship or in love, act a fans, with such figures. This is something to be avoided. John Lennon said to the fan that he befriend before he was killed that essentially [John] was just a personal like everyone else.

6. If you are or feel that your are being physically, verbally or otherwise abused, or made to worship someone... leave. No hobby or relationship is worth that type of treatment. You can't change people, and all that other relationship rot. If your making excuses to leave you need to see the Doctor of Drama.. Oprah....but seriously if this is the case you need to seek professional help.