You’re not my father!

A friend and fellow aikidoka sent me this link and this other link regarding the master/student relationship. It’s an interesting read, as I don’t think anyone has ever practiced a martial art without the instructor taking on some sort of parental role.

Except, I think, at Aikido Kokikai Silver Firs.

Let me explain. In most clubs, the Sensei is often the oldest, or near oldest, individual in the room. Most martial arts practitioners are young (and by young, I mean in their 20s and 30s). This age difference, combined with the heightened teacher/student relationship emphasized by martial arts, frequently puts the Sensei in a position of parental authority. This is not an Aikido phenomenon: I have seen it in nearly every martial arts school I have visited.

But there are exceptions, and I think Aikido Kokikai Silver Firs is one of them.

Unlike other clubs, I am not the oldest member of our dojo. In fact, if we took a poll, I would probably be right in the middle. Many of my students are parents of teenagers. It would be surprising to have such an individual give me a “parental” role; in any other situation, it would be they who would have that sort of responsibility. The rest of my students are either my age or are the same age as the kids of some of my older students. No matter how you slice it, there isn’t an opportunity for me to be anything more than just a teacher of Aikido.

I’m actually very grateful for that. It is hard enough, I feel, just trying to articulate how a technique works. It is harder still when you attempt to make the learning process interactive, instead of merely lecturing one’s students. The additional parental responsibilities, which include advice for school, advice on work, and guidance through other aspects of life, would simply be overwhelming. Many teachers that I’ve met have said they are uncomfortable with their role in this regard. Unfortunately, there is little they can do about it.

Perhaps I am overstating the types of authority a student grants his or her sensei. But I don’t think so. And so I’m pleased that I can focus solely on Aikido, and only be responsible for parenting my own daughter.

One thought on “You’re not my father!

  1. Hi there, I’ve only recently discovered your blog and I’m slowly trawling through your entries, so forgive me if this comment is way outdated. =)

    I’m only in my mid-20s, but I am a psychologist, working with clients dealing with mental health problems and relationship issues. More often than not, my clients are older than I am – sometimes older than my own parents. Nonetheless, as the therapist, I am expected/tasked to take somewhat of a ‘parenting’ role.

    I am not my clients’ father, as much as you are your students’ father. Nonetheless, we have a role where we guide and support them in their journey to actualise their potential. It is however, *their* journey.

    In that context, we take on the mantle of “parent” or “guardian”, just as any teacher would in a academic classroom. This relationship will change as time passes, and the student may end up becoming a peer and so forth.

    So I am of the opinion that as much as you would like to believe that you do not take on the “parental” role in your dojo, I suspect that you are. Naturally, I wonder why you appear to object to this notion, but that might be another discussion for another day. =)

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