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November 2008

36. Re-Examination (aka "The Style Maven")

If a dojo is supposed to teach "the way" then we should probably assume that "the way" involves some form of re-evaluation of all aspects of our lives.  If we assume that, then it should logically follow that this "re-examination" should include clothing styles.

Having grown up on a ranch and having been a cat-skinner and cowboy (my brother was more serious about "cowboying" than I was and was a bull-rider for a time), I of course wore boots all the time.  Mom and Dad even had photos of me in diapers wearing my little cowboy boots.

Boots can be stylish and manly but their drawback becomes pretty obvious the second you try to run in them, walk a few miles in them, or move gracefully; in order, you run about as slow as the fat man at the circus , you end up crawling on your knees last mile because your feet hurt so badly and you have just about as much grace as a fat water buffalo.

None of the above lends itself to becoming a graceful Aikido player.  So, part of this re-examination should be clothing and the shoes that go with it.

After starting serious Aikido training 40 years ago and leaving the ranch for the big city I met and trained with some old-style, Japanese trained players who only wore moccasin's (for relaxing), Sperry Top-Siders (for casual everyday wear) or penny loafers (when dressed in a business suit.  The reason, as I quickly found out after following their example, was that by donning footwear that has a thin sole you can "feel" the floor and instantly adapt to whatever surface you're walking, running, fighting on.  The thin sole made for a more graceful, mobile, adaptable, efficient Aikido player.

Many players have grown so habituated to their lifelong style of dress that they are only able to visualize themselves wearing their wing-tips in a suit or their boots when in jeans or their gum-soled shoes to work for comfort.  None of those make for a very graceful or coordinated martial artist so you must be flexible enough to make adjustments.

Example; I wear a suit to work everyday with a silk tie.  My dress shirts are always monogrammed, my tie has a crease in it, my suits are custom tailored and my shoes are always shined.  Normal requirement would be to wear wing tips and not penny loafers but my compromise in order to get better, thin soled shoes on my feet is to wear high level loafers, generally with a tassel which is allowable for business suit or for formal evening wear (non-tux).

Long story story; you must be willing to examine everything in your life that can improve (or retard your development) and if necessary, make changes that will improve your progress but that will still fit within what you do for a living and how your live your life.  To refuse to examine such seemingly small and insignificant areas of your life is too limit how good your Aikido can really become.

L.F. WIlkinson Sensei
Aikibudo Kancho
Aikibudokan, Houston, TX
November 2008

35. Just What IS A Dojo?

Got to the office this AM after rolling down the freeway severely in excess of posted speeds (traffic was really light today for some odd reason, most unusual for Houston) had the thought come up of; fast traffic, fast life, short time.

You start martial training in Something Or Other before ending up in Aikido at at good dojo.  You glaum onto it like a Titanic passenger glaums onto the last life preserver after you realize that you wasted time doing some mumbo-jumbo that wasn't very real nor useful.

That's the way life works.  You look in the mirror one day at age 70 (57 in my case come next month) and you remember that idealistic 25 year old and you blurt out loud, "WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED????"

Well, the answer is as plain as the crows' feet around your eyes and the hair that isn't there anymore (unless you're female and then it's all over your upper lip).

:-O     waaaaaahhhhh

Life changes you; and if you actually try to see the value of the life lessons that the dojo has to offer and how it can positively impact your life, then you may look up one day and still see the same wrinkles and hair gain/loss but NOT think that you wasted your time.  The time spent getting older was a learning experience and not a waste.

Because I have come to regard a dojo or "Way Place" as being a place of severe self-improvement and personal growth, I have decided to open a new category on this blog in which I'll offer some comments and observations and, some downright deliberately provocative ideas for mass consumption (including going back to prior posts and re-categorizing some already posted).

For a start with this "What Is A Dojo?" section; go back and read the three posts of "How Long Will It Take?" in which we have a discussion of self-awareness and internal examination.

Enjoy ... think ... ponder ... question assumptions ... BECOME Aikido!

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei
Aikibudo Kancho
Aikibudokan, Houston, TX
November 2008

34. How Long Will It Take? (the sequel's sequel)

Let's end this thought with two real-life examples of how the overall concept of self-awareness/evaluation can work to improve your life; should you choose to pursue it.

First Example:  On a personal level, my formal training was pretty dogmatic.  I've written about a little of my personal background and how severe it was in many regards.  Not many know that I've never NOT had a job; my first at age 10 making $7.50 per month as a janitor in a machine/wood shop sweeping up metal tailings from the lathes and and sawdust from the saws.  My college was also pretty specific since I majored in finance and economics after which I became a bank regulator working for the government.  I participated in closing banks, putting people in jail for defalcations and firing bank presidents for incompetance. (Pretty black and white huh?).

I was so "fixed" in place that my Aikido Sensei told me that I was a "book person" meaning that I categorized everything and lived life by a rule book.  At the time of course I didn't understand viscerally and the intellectual comprehension didn't do a thing for me.  I was clueless.

Time marches on (sounds like an old WW II newsreel doesn't it?) and as my career advanced and I moved up the corporate ladder I eventually found myself working for the RTC in asset liquidation and recovery (that's a wonderful "weasel phrase" for "You owe the bank/RTC money so pay up or I'll litigate your pants off)".  Still pretty black and white huh?

One day I woke up.

The "great awakening" occurred during two events that basically changed my entire view of the universe.  My father died and I filed for divorce from my ex-wife.  During the internal crisis these events created in me, I suddenly realized just how negative my attitude had become.  Twenty years of very rigid self-discipline and formalized training; twenty years of being a government regulator and of working with the FBI and other authorities to put people away, years of litigation and liquidation had created within me a very reserved, very dictatorial, very negative person.

Long story short; when I realized this I spent a long time looking inside myself with the end result being a second marriage to a woman totally unlike my ex, my mother or anybody else.  She was/is unique and her own woman and a great "Positive" in my life.  I quit my job because it was lucrative and highly professional but negative in nature and in attitude, allowing no positive outlook, no creativity and no individuality.  Go to work, follow the rule-book, don't deviate, be a drone.  I became self-employed and chose my work and who I will take as a client.

I simply became a whole new person because I took advantage of a personal crisis to do what I had advised others to do but had never actually done myself; look inward and evaluate who I was and what I held as my core values.  Because I did this, resulting in major changes in my life, my job and my family status, I became a much better Aikido player than I ever could have without the critical self-study.  In fact I believe that I couldn't run a dojo today if I hadn't changed; the "book person" being unable to work with people, much less carry a positive attitude to work/dojo/home every day.

Second example (or opportunity for whomever might fit this one):  An acquaintance is an attorney and works as a public defender, having decided at some point in the career that they'd rather do some public good in defense of the downtrodden instead of finding work at the Law Firm of Dewey, Cheatam and Howe (I know some of those too but that has to be a different blog-thought.

To examine this one lets' look very quickly at a comparison.  A corporate attorney deals with serious business people who are productive executives, forward looking, making money and likely employing lots of people.  The attorney is consulted on contract law, maybe a few patent cases, the occassional lawsuit and if they become involved in large cases like asbestos/tobacco/silicosis then they truly are helping the downtrodden find justice.

A PD (pubic defender) deals with the other end of the spectrum; crooks, drug dealers, crack addicts, child molesters and the like (take your pick, they likely didn't graduate cum laude as "Most Likely To Succeed").  So the PD chooses to work this end of the spectrum to make a difference.  OK.  I guess I can see that but as the hard core guy that I am my general thought is usually lock'm up, throw away the key and let them have a few years of taking a sledge hammer and making little rocks out of big rocks, Cool Hand Luke style.

Here's the rub.  We go to work on Monday at 8 and leave on Friday at 5.  During the course of that week we sit through 6 interrogations, 15 confessions, 3 attempted suicides, 5 examinations of tainted evidence, 4 taser demonstrations, 8 court/bail/arraignment hearings and 2 actual trials during which the best we can accomplish is to keep our client off death row while the judge blows a gasket and almost makes us and our client roommates at "Club Fed" becuase we didn't get that brief filed on time for the career criminal/crack dealer/capital offense case.

All-in-all not near as positive or fun a week as the corporate attorney at Dewey, Cheatam and Howe has had, plus, as a PD our clients don't take us to lunch at Morton's or Ruth Cris and we dont' get any good cigars at Christmas either.

So Public Defender, how many years of this can you take before you become as negative, dogmatic and pedantic as I became after 20 years as a government regulator & litigation expert, investigating defalcations, helping indict white-collar criminals and living in court rooms as an expert witness while suing to execute on personal guaranty agreements and taking everything that the borrower has or can ever hope to have, forcing them into personal bankruptcy?

How many years of daily contact with the failures and dregs of society can a PD take; the attitudes ("The Man had it in for me"), the lame excuses ("I was framed."), the lies ("I promise to be better") before seeing the same guy for the 4th time except  different charges (possession instead of dealing).  How much can any sane/non-sociopath take before they begin to identify with their "dreg's client?

Worse yet, how many times does the PD have to defend someone really bad, like a murderer of an entire family of strangers, or the beating and maiming of a parent or sibling, or the sexual abuse of a child and then meet the client for the first time only to have them confess, look at you as their PD and then tell directly tell you, "Yeh, I did it and now it's your job to get me off!"  How much can you take?

OK.  So where is (your) moral outrage, or have you done this so long that you no longer remember what that means?

It's one thing to defend someone who has done something relatively minor for the first time and deserves a second chance and it's another entirely to knowingly defend and attempt to get off a repeat "client"/confessed child molester/murderer and go into court knowing the truth.  How does one do that and then go home to the wife and daughter and tell them that you, "Had a good day today". 

How do you do that with a straight face and then look in the mirror day after day, month after month, year after year and not have it change you?

The time I spent in bank regulation and asset recovery was valuable but as it turned out, it was only time to understand the full picture and get my resume punched.  My life didn't change for the better until I looked up and saw how much negativity had crept into my life and I took steps to mitigate it.  I had to make that change before I became someone that I wouldn't like and that today knowing what I now know, I wouldn't even let in the door of my dojo because of the negative energies they exuded.

Same for the Public Defender; how negative does the PD's life have to get before making the change to anything that has a more positive life force attached to it?

None of this is easy and granted, the examples I've laid out are more extreme than what most people face in their daily lives simply because the comparisons are so clear.  This really can apply not only to regulators and public defenders but to many areas; the mortgage broker lending to people who wont' be able to afford it when the ARM triples the monthly payment, the attorney in family practice who always takes the "sympathetic" side and ensures that the other spouse gets hosed even if they really are the good guy, the insurance agent who sells incomplete coverage because they want the commission, the restaurant owner who sells tainted food, the day care operator who hires sexual predators, and the list goes on and on and .........

How long can you cheat someone before you become the cheat?

How do you separate your "professional" persona from your "personal" persona?  How long can you try before they bleed over into each other?

Anytime we KNOWINGLY do something that we know is morally and ethically wrong, that we would spank our kids for doing, and then rationalize it away with such tripe as, "I'm doing the public good" or "He/she needs my help" or "If I don't do this then the next person will and they may not be as nice as I am" we are running the risk of changing who we are to the point that someday we'll look in the mirror and not only be unable to stand naked and count backwards from 100, but we won't even know who we are and we'll stand there looking at a burned out stranger and wonder what happened to that nice person we knew back in college who had so many dreams for the future.

Looking inside to see who we are and why we react the way we do and why we carry the attitudes and beliefs that we do and then understanding that our work, our family, our environment can create who we are without our realizing the impact is key to making positive life changes and being more open and receptive to the lessons of ethics, morality and Budo.

So Grasshopper;

How Long Will It Take? ...... for you to transcend your old paradigm and shift to a new one?

How Long Will It Take?  ...... before your vision broadens and your open eyes begin to see what is, instead of your closed eyes seeing what isn't?

How Long Will It Take? ...... to understand who you are and why you make the decisions that you do?

How Long Will It Take? ......for you to see whether or not your life and career are positive or negative and whether or not it has had any negative effects on your character?

How Long Will It Take? ...... for you to make the change to a positive paradigm so that people like being around you?

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei

Aikibudo Kancho

Aikibudokan, Houston, TX

November 2008

33. How Long Will It Take? (sequel)

In my prior post I commented on the necessary proclivity (and responsibility if you get right down to it) of high-level Sensei to challenge their students to look beyond the ideas and attitudes that we tend to carry in our heads.  These ideas/attitudes are basically boundaries beyond which we don't allow foreign ideas in that might threaten our paradigmatic view of the world.  These boundaries and defenses are put up to protect us from the Big Bad Wolf, whether that wolf is an idea that threatens our political and social views, or implies a potential emotional closeness to others that might hurt us or cause us to change our internal view of ourselves.

After all, change is difficult and we fight against it every step of the way.

Over a sufficient period of time these boundaries calcify, hardening into a brick wall and any perceived attempt by anyone to approach that wall or jump over that wall or challenge the existence of that wall causes us to flinch with such knee-jerk reactions as; "That's wrong!" or "I disagree!" or "I think you're wrong so prove it to me!" or the all-too-common reaction of Gen X and Gen Y and Gen ??? of "Whateverrrrr!".

It's gotten to the point to which everytime I hear the phrase "Whatever!" I just want to reach out a slap the holy snot out of them two times; once to get their attention and once to be sure they don't forget.  I don't of course and for the most part bite my tongue in the interest of maintaining a positive attitude, outlook and pleasant ambiance; but people who use that phrase to defensively back-out of the interaction and then walk away by essentially dismissing you and your comments and thoughts, are engaged in nothing more than condescending disrepect.

The big problem here for social contact and positive outlooks and effective communications skills is that in today's society very few people are called down for their bad manners.  That lack of manners and common respect for others is simply rampant in today's society where people wander around, lost inside themselves and totally oblivious to the impact they have on others even while they seem to expect that all those around them service their emotional needs and laugh at their jokes.

I see this a lot more than what I care to think about in the dojo as people come in to view class and act as if they are at a football game.  Recently I had a male visitor come in wearing his shoes (even though the sign on the door quite clearly says "Shoes off BEFORE entering dojo and place them in the shoe rack inside".  He proceeds to just stroll in wearing his hat and sits on the edge of the mat during class.  UH, DUUHHH!!!  "Can I show you my poor upbringing now?"

After we get through the shoe issue and I tell him to not sit on the mat since he is not a dojo player and to sit/enter the mat area without permission is a big Budo NO-NO, I inform him that wearing a hat inside is also very bad manners.  The dojo is my house or my "way place" and to wear his hat inside is rude exactly the same as if he came into my home wearing his hat while he sits plops his butt in my chair and puts his feet on the furniture.

OH MY, the look I got over a $7 piece of dirty head covering; but he did take it off.

This man was so "INTO" his own cloistered head-space that he was totally unable to see the sign, think about any safety issues involved with sitting on the mat while 250 pound guys are getting thrown around and didn't think about the hat and bad manners for even a second ............ and this guy wants me to teach him how to throw people down, choke them unconscious, perform dangerous joint locks and do sacrifice throws ............ SURE, YOU BET and I'm going to take a dull butcher knife and cut off both of my legs while you watch ............ yeah right.  I need this guy on my mat like I need a carbuncle in the middle of my forehead.

Someone that clueless, that self-absorbed, that unwilling to sit down and look inside himself and examine what makes himself tick and what kind of person he really is on the inside is not worthy of being taught Aikido or any other martial art.  He is so "into himself" that he would likely fail to pay attention to his mood, attitude and actions on the mat and hurt someone.

Reading this you can't tell that I screen my players very tightly can you?  We haven't sent anyone to the hospital, called an ambulance or had someone get surgery in the 10 years now that we've been open and we intend to maintain that record.  (knock, knock, knock)  That's me knocking on wood to call out the nice forest tengu and have some good luck continuing that streak.

You will never make a good, high-level player or a top-notch Sensei unless you can "get into your own head" and understand exactly why you are:

*in a off-mood,

*why you are angry over something that happened at work,

*why you came to the dojo AFTER having a screaming s_____-fit with your spouse,

*or why you are so preoccupied,

and understand it BEFORE you step on the mat.

After you step on the mat and after you insult the new white belt and after grab that wrist and after you throw them on their head and after you give them a concussion, is waaay too late.  You simply MUST understand your behaviors and motivations BEFORE an accident strikes.

Next posting - How Long Will It Take? (the sequel's sequel) in which I'll complete this thought with two real to life examples of how self-awareness and challenging our view of the world and changing our paradigm's can result in becoming both a better person/spouse/father/friend and, a better Aikido player.

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei
Aikibudo Kancho
Aikibudokan, Houston, TX
November 2008

32. How Long Will It Take?

I made the determination to actually step out and be a little provocative when I began this blog.  While other "bloggers" in the Blog-O Sphere delve into politics, or personal rants or whatever their "mood du' joir" causes them to get lost in and write about, I decided to take a different tack; much like a  sailor tacking into the wind at a little different angle than the rest of the kids in their day-sailers (I had a Harpoon 6.5 Meter that had as much cloth up as a Windjammer and that was much like life; fast but hard to control if you didn't know what you were doing).

When I first started martial arts (Tae Kwon Do) back in high school there was no discussion of Budo or martial ethics or history or anything else.  It was 100% technical (punch like this, not like that) and competitive (the tournament is next month, we must get ready) and fitness oriented (ok class, another 1,000 snap side kicks if you please).

Training in Judo was a little better (but not by much) since it too has deteriorated into a martial sport with a greater emphasis placed on tournament garnered promotion points than on what Aikido views as the improvement of mind, body and spirit.

My Sensei was unique and sometimes difficult to understand.  Although he was and remains his own man, there were many aspects of how he ran his dojo that stick with me to this day not the least of which was continually challenging the views that all of us from the newest white belt to the most senior black belt held regarding ethics, morality and personal behavior.

The concept as I viewed it then and still today was that of challenging all of to break out of the shoe box that most of us wear around our heads as we stumble forward in life.  The shoe box has a little pin-hole in the end that we look out of (kinda' like the old sun eclipse viewers that we all made in grade school).  The pin-hole however severely limits our perceptions of reality vs. illusion, and because of that we are always limited in both our personal growth and in our Aikido development.

In other words, unless we have spent some serious "head" time in studying ourselves, we have so little understanding of who we really are that we can't possibly understand nor effectively communicate with others.  We wear the shoe box and continually frame every action, every thought and every word in light of how it benefits us and how it reinforces our limited view of the universe.  We are in a very real sense continually seeking self-validation of our inner view.

Worst of all, we don't even realize how limited our understanding really is until we run off our family and friends, or get thrown out of the dojo for stupid behavior that we could have easily avoided if we had just stopped for a moment to think about it.

His intent, whether he consciously realized it or not (maybe it was just his intuitive abilities that made him speak very bluntly from time to time) was to create the overall net effect "Shocking" us out of our complacencies.  He wasn't a "shrink" holding therapy sessions; he was instead a Sensei.  Sensei for those who don't know has meaning beyond simply that of "Teacher".  It literally means, "he who was born before" in the life sense of "been there, done that" and of a lesson learned the hard way.  Keeping the t-shirt matters little but remembering the lesson is everything.

So in the great tradition of all "True" Sensei I continue that process of not only teaching Aikido but of challenging my students to become more that what they were when they first came to me.

After all, the Japanese did not take the common Western view of just teaching classes for money.  They viewed martial arts and Budo as a means by which everyone grows in understanding and abilities and by doing so, gain an deeper understanding of just who they really are as a person and this process created the closely linked dojo family that old stories talk about and into which you had to earn your way and earn the respect.

My old Sensei used to be fond of saying that all of us were so close that anyone of us could be anywhere in the world, make a phone call to a stranger (who was also a member of the group and a fellow Aikido player) and immediately have a place to stay for the night and some food; the deeper understanding and more mature attitude creating a bond among fellow seekers of the way.

As far as the dojo goes I view myself as a teacher of The Way like a character out of  George Lucas film guiding a young Padawan learner.  I take the dojo very personally and very seriously since my life on the mat has made me who I am today, has improved my life and my wife and family's lives and indeed, the dojo was where I met my wife who if pressed will say the same that I am now writing, except she might be even blunter about it.

I am not "just another business man" in the dojo.  A Japanese Shidan once accused me of that until she put me through 6 weeks on a road trip and 3 full dawn to dusk days of intense training after that which almost destroyed my knee such that I limped through the last day but continued to take sacrifice throw after sacrifice throw while learning Koshiki-no-Kata.  After watching my focus and desire and realizing that I was unwilling to give up, she paid me one of the greast compliments I have ever received on the mat.  She said that I was a "real Aikido-man" and not a "salary-man".

That "business" side of me is reserved for my commercial insurance practice and on advising clients how not to get sued by taking the appropriate management/human resource steps and by purchasing the correctly structured risk management tools (workers comp, general liability, product liability, business personal property, etc.) necessary to mitigate any mis-steps or simple mistakes.

Likewise the dojo functions much the same if viewed in a similar manner. 

How do we improve our lives?

How do we "mitigate" the risks inherent in the ethical/moral morass that we encounter on the job every single day?

How do make the decision to take that job, accept that client, fire that vendor?

More importantly, what do we base those critical decisions on if we can't understand what makes us tick on the inside?

How do live our lives in any kind of rational, ethical, moral sense if we are completely unable to stand naked in front of the mirror, look at ourself with no trappings of status such as jewelry or clothing, with no one in the house with us, and be completely at home with how we look and who we are, our self-perception as-it-were?

If you can't do that it in front of the mirror and count backwards from 100 to zero without becoming insecure about it and then stopping and reaching for the clothes (and putting back on your public "mask") then what does that mean in terms of totally accepting who you are as a person, and why are you so uncomfortable with yourself?

Do you have an issue with your ethical or moral compass or personal habits that bothers you on a subconscious level with any conscious realization of exactly why?

So this is where this blog "is at"; to use a term from my teenage discovery period back in the '60's.

Self-discovery.  You cannot advance very much past the technical level in Aikido without going through the process.

Next post we'll take a look at a very specific incident to make this concept more clear.

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei
Aikibudo Kancho
Aikibudokan, Houston, TX
November 2008

31. Tolerance vs. Intolerance (Which one do I Pick?)

In this age of PC/political correctness (which I do my level best to ignore) and of being "tolerant", we seem to have forgotten that as Budo-men and women, as Aikido players and as Sensei (teachers) that part of what we are attempting to learn and to live is the idea of telling the difference between the wheat and the chaff; or to put it more crudely, the difference between an honest man and a "glad-hander".

For those too young to know what a glad-hander is (since it's a pretty old term and of everyone I know I'm about the only one still using it); a glad-hander is, well, like a really slick politician (kinda like a certain up-coming guy from Chicago who is gonna' get'him some votes tomorrow on Nov. the 4th).

You know the kind; "Hey, glad to meet ya', gimme your vote.  Nice to meet you!  You work in the fishing industry?  Well when I'm elected I'm gonna' vote for bigger salmon subsidies.  You bet I am 'cause I like those tuna patties, er, ah, I mean salmon croquettes.  Hey, how are you?  What?  You're a member of Green Peace?  Well, I'm absolutely 100% in favor of stopping those fishing boats from taking the last fish so I'm gonna make everyone eat chicken instead.  Yes!  A chicken in every pot!"

Well, you get the idea.  They're your best bud' until they meet shake hands with the next guy and then they're HIS best bud.  I personally have no use for what my Grand Dad used to call a Bull-Sheeet artist and I have spent the better part of my life trying to recognize the difference and be vocal about my opposition.

How can I keep myself straight and teach my child the same, if I allow marginal people to hang around where they can exert influence?  Get rid of them and hang out with straight, ethical people instead.

So about 6 months ago (yes I know, why are you taking so long to get this out ...... well I've been busy with too many fish to fry ;-) bwahaha) a guy/gal walked into the dojo and was carrying a workout bag filled with black gi's and white gi's and technicolor gi's and boxing gloves and MMA open finger gloves and ....... you name it and he/she had it.   The first words out of his/her mouth were, "Where's the Sensei?  I came to try out the dojo."

I of course did the funny thing (well, to me it's funny) of saying "The Sensei?", and then looking over my right and then my left shoulder and then staring at him/her and saying, "Well, I guess that's me."  Then I said that #1, it's bad manners to walk into any dojo carrying a bag because that presumes that they'll be immediately accepted like it's the YMCA and #2, no-one walks into a dojo to "Try it out" because that's even worse manners since a dojo "accepts" you after a try-out of YOUR ethics and YOUR focus, and NOT the other way around and #3, all potential students without exception have to sit through one full class while I get to know them and then they had to come back for 2 weeks of free lessons so that I could watch how they interact with other people and allow my Yudansha to get a personal "feel" of who they are and what their real intent is.

Long story short; during the conversation I figured out that he/she was heavily involved in activities that I don't personally approve of.  They are only marginally illegal (if at all) but are most certainly immoral by prevailing standards of decency and additionally they're unethical; since the activity is known to be emotionally draining so in order to find fresh participants, it's necessary to take the prospect through a "grooming" period (unless they are already "in the game" so-to-speak) before closing the deal and inviting them in.

While we had a pleasant conversation, I realized that allowing this individual to  train with us would expose my players to his ideas and his outside activities; the dojo in effect would become the "farm-team" from which new prospects could be garnered.

When I related all of this to one of my senior players his first comment was that he didn't think that we should be judgemental of other people if what they did outside the dojo didn't impinge on how they acted on the mat and that it was his view that we shouldn't voice opinions or comdemn the activity or the person.  My return comment was pretty direct; we should be judgemental and we should be critical and we need to be vocal about it IF the circumstances warrant.

In the case of the dojo visitor it wasn't necessary since they had good manners and were pleasant and took my recommendation that they train somewhere else.

Thomas Mann said it best, "Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil".  While the scenario didn't result in the revealing of a great"evil" per se, it did reveal an interesting side to how the world has changed over my relatively short life-time; to wit everyone has grown so afraid of expressing an opinion and taking a chance on being called "intolerant" or "mean-spirited" that marginal behaviors are running rampant even in dojo.  They are not being called down and this, in-and-of-itself is creating stresses that we don't need in our lives, much less on the tatami where we are supposed to be studying "how to die" and not "how to keep our mouths shut".

Why stay silent if you see something so totally and completely diametrically opposite to what you, your family and your associates view as illegal/immoral/unethical?

What if I had been "tolerant" of this individual (or given in to my senior black belt's opinion) and knowing what I knew, allow them to train on my mat because I think I need another student or I'm afraid of being "intolerant"?  They come out and suddenly every player on the mat knows about the marginal behavior AND, since I as Sensei allowed them to train that I implicitly approve of that behavior.  Now, instead of gaining one more student I lose 6 because people tend to vote with their feet, even if they are not willing to stand up and be vocal and complain to Sensei about the "new person".

One of the many responsibilities of being Sensei includes that of being Hanshi (exemplar).  How can you be an exemplar if you are afraid to voice your opinion and call a spade a spade, thereby allowing marginal people and their illegal/immoral/unethical behaviors to invade the mat, and by extension, the personal lives of all the students off the mat?

Sensei sets the tone and by doing so, sets the example that he expects others to follow and live by and then they in turn, set for others.

Understand that by NO means am I advocating becoming Don Quixote, or wearing tin foil on your head, or starting arguments or fights every time you see something that sets you off; BUT I am recommending that a Sensei has to take a stand once in a while regarding when to become vocal.  By not taking a stand at the appropriate moment you allow damage to the Budo-ambiance of the dojo and "dis-earn" the trust that the students have placed with you.

Remember that the term "dojo" means "way place" or "place to learn the way" 9presumably of both the technical, mental and spiritual aspects of Budo.  Silence has no place here when setting the tone and communicating the Budo virtues and the behavioral ideal of facing up to and dealing with marginalized peoples and behaviors especially as it impacts the dojo.

Who knows?  Maybe if more people stood up more often and actually took a stand against what the vast majority of people look upon as being illegal/immoral/unethical then this current presidential election cycle wouldn't have degenerated to the low-point that it's currently at, and we'd have had a full year of much more intelligent discussion with a clear cut winner already recognized.

Remember, "Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil".

Thomas Mann
L.F. Wilkinson Sensei
Aikibudo Kancho
Aikibudokan, Houston, TX
November 2008