1/23/2011 3:39pm, #1
Has the idea of Teacher and Student changed?
(Puts on serious Skippy face)
For my first 'thread starter' venture in this forum, I'd like to ask a question that has been running around my head for a while now.
It has struck me as odd the amount of unwavering loyalty that people show to their Teacher and will defend their honor until they are blue in the face. Now, I am not saying that loyalty is a bad thing in any sense of the word, but the extreme cases that I've read on the Bullshido forums, as well as heard about locally, got me wondering just how much of the idea of a Teacher has been changed somehow when it came to the West along with the Japanese arts
In regards to Japanese arts:
- How has the idea and roles of Teacher and Student changed over the years, especially in reference to the introduction of Japanese martial arts to the West?
- Is the history of the relationship of Teacher and Student in 'old' Japan consistent with what we've seen on this board and elsewhere (unwavering support)?
- Was there a concept of a 'Master' in 'old' Japan? (Something akin to how Hatsumi is seen today)
- As it stands today, is the idea of Teacher and Student different in Japan and, say, the United States? Or is there a fundamental difference in the relationship?
Note: by 'old', I'm not quite sure what I mean. I think it is an open-ended interpretation to see how the relationship has evolved if anybody has info on that.
1/23/2011 9:26pm, #2
- Join Date
- Sep 2006
- Judo & BJJ
There are some things very deeply ingrained in Japanese culture that pass into the martial arts. It's hard to separate one from the other. Look up the concept of sempai/kohai http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Senpai_and_k%C5%8Dhai Japan has a very hierarchical culture and there's a lot of what's called "social distance" between junior and superior. Americans have perhaps the least social distance of any society...
2/03/2011 3:28am, #3
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- Dec 2010
- Aikido, Kajukembo
Good topic. I think that some of the "unwavering support" for a teacher may come from the student's own ego and want of legitimacy. For some, it is not enough to learn a system, but they want to be apart of something that's genuine. This is hard when the only references they have for ninja are movies and comic books.
2/03/2011 4:34pm, #4
Anyway, the OP's premise is further undermined by the same unwavering defend-my-master-until-I-die behavior being seen in RBSD students, and RBSD is a western-originated phenomenom.
"The only important elements in any society
are the artistic and the criminal,
because they alone, by questioning the society's values,
can force it to change."-Samuel R. Delany
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THIS IS GOING TO BE THE BEST NON-EUCLIDIAN SPLATTERJOUST EVER
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2/03/2011 5:11pm, #5
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- Judo & BJJ
Ironically, you're projecting your Americanism on to other people, something that's not correct. Social distance isn't necessarily a good thing or a bad thing, it just is what it is. Americans think low social distance is a good thing, but people in other cultures would disagree.
Americans have a leveling, casual culture. If you had the ability, would you talk to President Obama to praise him or damn him? Ordinary Japanese would never think of such a thing with their leaders.
Have you ever dealt with Japanese? I speak Japanese (badly), lived with a Japanese woman for several years, have been to Japan and deal with Japanese professionally. I still don't understand them. They're different from Americans (duh). Values and social expectations are different. Family structure is different.
It's actually at least as much of an English-speaker thing as an American thing. Japanese language has honorific and humble forms, for example, that clearly demarcate roles. Even so, there's less social distance in American than in, say, Britain (especially Britain of 50+ years ago).
Japanese society creates social distance in a way that US society does not -- Japanese will never, ever question their teachers, for example. They'll remain silent rather than ask questions. Group is far more important to Japanese than Americans. Most Americans wouldn't have a problem calling a teacher out on his or her ignorance (got me in trouble a time or two...)
There's less social distance among Americans than Japanese. It's just fact. Not that it's good or bad, just reality. You have to understand the Japanese relationship between superior and subordinates, and especially teacher and student, to appreciate what's going on.
2/03/2011 6:10pm, #6
2/03/2011 6:22pm, #7
Also, I don't have a premise to begin with. I am asking if there is any historical evidence which reflects the "don't ask questions" attitude that we see today, especially when it comes to pop culture references to martial arts? Or, is that portrayal a concept introduced in the West as Eastern culture began to find its way abroad?
2/03/2011 7:37pm, #8
I think, regarding gendai budo, what we are seeing is the results of the Imperial Rescript on Education in a society with a (neo)confucian model of social relationships and a lot of servicemen with poor Japanese language skills (read: baka gaijin) who were taught the basics by instructors with poor English language skills while stationed in Japan/Ryūkyū and brougth them back home.
Military mindset + I don't know what the **** are you saying = don't question master (drill sgt.). STFU and train you piece of ****.
2/03/2011 8:59pm, #9
7/21/2011 11:00pm, #10
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- Mar 2010
- Aikido/JJJ/Judo/GoJu Ryu
To examplify Res's statement about Japanese society, there is an old Japanese saying about "the nail sticking up from the floor gets hammered back down," or something like that.
I feel a lot of deference towards one's teacher derives from the atmosphere of the dojo. People can be conditioned to deify their teachers...which is bad. I am a traditionalist, so I feel there should certainly be an intimiate relationship with one's teacher. Often students would have to put complete trust in their teacher, and teachers would test student's sincerity by challenging that trust. A writer, and martial artist, once wrote "I find it odd that some long term students have never been to their sensei's house." I agree with this. Transfering the martial arts from one person to another requires a solid relationship with that person. What I am getting at is this type of relationship will naturally make one defensive of their teacher, just as one would be of a friend. The relationship is special, and people want to defend that. Plus, if its a good school, they are proud and devoted. Try running around Ohio State Universty campus with a Wolverines jacket on. Its good and healthy, in my opinion. I would even like to see some good old fashioned Dojo Storming come back. I'm at the end of a 17 hour workday, so sorry if I'm incoherent.