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  • #46
    This thread has gone through 2 threadomancies already, so...
    here, the thing that other people alluded to.


    • #47
      Originally posted by dillon View Post
      The "spirit of martial arts" on an individual level is about things like perseverance, discipline, self-reflection, etc. However, the "spirit of martial arts" on a social level for the Japanese is about subservience.
      This quote reminds me of this article in Wikipedia:

      「*上の相手に対して構えると失礼 あたるとされる。高野佐三郎は17*の*、片手上段に構えたことで 対戦相手の岡田定五郎(30*)の怒りを買い、袴を血に染め 昏倒するまで突かれた。」
      If Rikaichan serves, it translates as follows:
      "Assuming joudan against a person of higher rank is considered equivalent to disrespect. When Takano Sasaburou was 17 years old [~140 years ago], he assumed katate-joudan against his opponent, Okada Sadagorou (30 y.o. at the time). This angered Okada so much, that Takano was thrust at until he fainted with his hakama dyed red with blood."

      With those two things taken together(along with the timeless Japanese proverb about how the nail that sticks out gets hammered down), I have to wonder something.

      In other threads, in the past, it has been asked if "it would still be kendou if you took away the Japanese clothes and etiquette"; in other words, if the essence of kendou includes those things. I personally don't think that's the biggest question. To me, the biggest question is:

      Would it still be kendou if this demand for subservience was not present? Is this vertical social structure essential to the practice of kendou?

      If in Westen doujou this demand was not present, I wouldn't have to wonder. But it is, and I do; not just in doujou but also on the Internet. Worse yet, it extends beyond the martial arts per se; The lower ranks are expected to also defer to higher ranks on tangentially-related issues such as the Japanese language, physics etc.

      Judging by myself: having such authority is very, very tempting. It is, in my experience, easy to get used to it, and to react negatively when it's challenged, regardless of why or how. But it is far too easy to be correct when other people are not allowed to disagree with you, and it's not the kind of correctness that I aspire to. For that reason, I encourage others (regardless of rank) to look up respectable third-party sources, and if something I teach disagrees with them, to discuss it with me so we can find out what's true.


      • #48
        Originally posted by Anorymous View Post
        Would it still be kendou if this demand for subservience was not present? Is this vertical social structure essential to the practice of kendou?

        In the context of practicing kendo in Japan, absolutely. As I mentioned, one of the desirable side effects of putting children into kendo practice is that it reinforces Confucian social values, values that shape every Japanese person's life well into adulthood and even into the grave.

        However, in the West there is no need for kendo to teach people how to navigate Japanese societal norms other than maybe how to stay on the good side of a visiting high ranking sensei. It is not an aim of kendo to make Westerners more subservient in their social interactions. Nevertheless, even in the West we still have a Confucian pedagogical approach in kendo for a number of pragmatic reasons.

        The first is that kendo was only relatively recently spread beyond Eastern Asia and diaspora Japanese communities. Its Confucian pedagogical structure is not going to change overnight. It is inherent in how kendo is taught. Kendo pedagogy is changing though, but not as fast as some would like and too fast for others.

        The second is that most Westerners (myself included) started kendo as adults and basically learn kendo the same way it is taught to children in Japan. This creates emotional friction for independent adults. Kendo is profoundly difficult enough that I doubt it is possible to skip this early rote learning don't question the sensei's teaching stage.

        Imagine having to teach someone how to read and write in English but they've never even seen the alphabet. Then imagine teaching while ABC's and the student says, "I heard there's this bloke named Shakespeare. I want practice writing sonnets." Unlike Shakespeare, people tend not to appreciate how difficult kendo really is.

        The situation changes with adult kendo, generally from yondan (although much later if you're in a dojo where yondan is a low grade). Now the kendoist is basically on their own. The sensei will only step in to nudge the student in the right direction after the student has failed a bunch of times and go begging for advice.

        Keishicho btw, does not teach jodan but allow its practice, despite the fact that Chiba-sensei served as shihan for a time. If you are Tokyo Police and want to pick up jodan, you are free to try it and free to receive loads of tsuki for the effort. That's not a subservience thing, it's a jodan thing.

        Could we in theory get rid of the vertical heirarchy in kendo and it remains kendo?

        I think the real question is, do you trust your sensei?

        Abuse of authority, in many forms, happens. In fact, the ZNKR just had a corruption scandal last year with their national iaido grading panel. On a more pedestrian level, I've had keiko with egotistical high grade kendo sensei that like to tell people a thing or two in a condescending manner that suggests they enjoy the perceived power trip. I just listened, gave thanks for the keiko, and filed it away as another piece of information. Then back in my home dojo I continued focusing on what was being taught by my own sensei with whom I have a bond of trust.

        Without that bond of trust, the Confucian model for teacher-student and other relationships can be pretty dysfunctional.



        • #49
          Originally posted by dillon View Post
          Without that bond of trust, the Confucian model for teacher-student and other relationships can be pretty dysfunctional.Š
          I have, in my life, met several people who demanded that kind of subservience. I have also met several people to whom I could give such subservience. I have yet to meet one person that belongs to both of those categories at once.

          The trust you mentioned is a great factor. However, there is another factor to take into account: The so-called “leadership as a service”. I learned that term in a book called Peopleware, where it described some people who, when given a position of power, their main concern is how to use it for others' benefit, not their own. Such people tend to not request power, as they mainly think of the responsibilities involved, not the benefits. Then again, they don't really have to request it either; seeing as it is in other people's best interests to give them power, they do so much more freely.

          To paraphrase the words of Margaret Thatcher: “Any person who has to say «I am in power» is not.”