March 22, 2004

Sensei Care

I just finished reading Fool's Fate by Robin Hobb. It's a sci-fi/fantasy novel with magic and dragons. I thought the quote below describe sensei care very well. The "Wit" mentioned below is one of the types of magic in the novel. Web and Thick are two of the characters.

When he was with me, Web focused on making me see how the Wit connected all living things...He showed me how he could extend his Wit and wrap it around Thick, to become more perceptive of his needs and feelings, even though Thick remained unaware of him. It was not an easy discipline to master, for it involved surrendering my own needs and interests to subservience to his. "Watch a mother with an infant, any kind of a mother, human or beast. There you will see this done on the simplest and most instintive level. If one is willing to work at it, one can extend that same sort of perception to others. It is a worthwhile thing to do, for it conveys a level of understanding of one another that makes hate almost impossible. Seldom can one hate a person if one understands that person."

I still haven't gotten sensei care quite right as a I realized at the last Kangeiko when I put hot tea in front of the sensei as they were eating their breakfast. They were content with their cold beverages and food. They didn't even think to touch the tea until near the end of the meal when it had grown cold. Luckily someone else had offered them hot tea at that point.

Posted by rob at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

March 08, 2004

What should the purpose of the ISF be ?

At the end of the Shintaido North East Kangeiko, Bill Burtis asked us all to think about what we would like the International Shintaido Federation's (ISF) to be.

Below are my thoughts on what the ISF might be. The reader should keep in mind that I have a very limited knowledge of how the ISF is currently organized and how it has been organized in the past. It is quite possible (even likely) that I may make some large, incorrect, assumptions for which I apologize in advance. I hope that even with these assumptions, these ideas may be useful to someone. Also, please be clear that these suggestions are mine and mine alone. They do not represent the opinion of any Shintaido organization.

ISF Mission

After reviewing the mission statements for a few different sport and martial arts organizations, I think this might be the mission for the ISF.
  • promote the development of Shintaido throughout the world, to tighten the ties of friendship which unite Shintaido practitioners of all countries, by setting up lasting relations between representative groups, and to nurture the improvement of our practice in every way.

  • to see that international examinations open to members are organized in accordance with ISF Rules.

  • to establish Rules according to which international examinations must be organized.

  • to seek continual improvement in the technical standard of Shintaido and in the extent of participation in Shintaido throughout the world.

  • to endeavour to increase participation at all levels, to enhance the popularity of the sport, to develop new sources of revenue, and to manage the sport through a systematic planning process.

  • provide a means whereby Shintaido practitioners from all over the world can meet and practice the art together under the direction of high-ranking teachers, especially those teachers directly affiliated to the Shintaido Hombu.

This mission is a synthesis of text from the International Fencing Federation, International Table Tennis Federation, and International Aikido Federation.

Questions & Issues Caused

There are many implications of the mission stated above. Here are some of the issues that I can see and possible solutions.

Membership by National Organization or Individual?

One thing that I noticed when visiting various organization websites is that in many cases the membership in the International Federation is not by individual, but by National Organization. One problem with this system appears to be that only one organization can be recognized from each country. Another problem with requiring a National Organization to join the ISF is that some countries do not currently have (nor do they desire) a National Organization. Therefore, it seems like it will probably be best to continue with membership on an individual basis. If the ISF continues with individual memberships, I suggest that there be clear benefits to the ISF membership, and that there be an easy, well understood way to join and renew memberships.

It is also a little confusing to have individual memebership rather than national memberships, because I would imagine that the ISF would be assisting national organizations to establish themselves and not supporting the keiko of individuals. Perhaps there should be something added to the mission once it is determined which of these is the goal of ISF. (See the International Kendo Federation for their description which made me wonder.)

ISF Rules

The concept of Rules comes from the websites for the sports (fencing, table tennis) but I think it applies to Shintaido as well. While we don't have competitions (and I am certainly not advocating any) we do have an examination system. I believe this system should be standardized and the same ranking system should be used by all organizations within the ISF. I have recently become aware that Shintaido of America, Japanese Shintaido Association, and French Shintaido may not have the same ranking system, particularly at the beginning levels of Shintaido rankings. (Shintaido of America has an Advanced Student evaluation, Japanese Shintaido Association has nyuumonka, shoutouka, chuutouka, koutouka, and honka shuugyou before Assistant, and French Shintaido has Intermediate and Advanced Student ranks)

I noticed on the International Kendo Federation website they list one of their "major activities" as being "To provide standards (guidelines) for the Dan/Kyu examinations". I would like to see ISF provide standards (guidelines seems too vague to me) that all exams in the examination system must follow in order for practitioners to progress through the exam system. I believe that standardizing this would be helpful so that when students travel internationally to practice, organizers and goreisha they meet can have some minimal expectations of what they know.

Continual Technical Improvement

I believe that we should continue to improve Shintaido to find new ways of achieving the goals of Shintaido. It is my understanding that until Haguro 2000, there was an International Technical Committee (ITC). I would suggest that the ISF needs to create a new technical committee as part of it's organization. I would further suggest that it might make the most sense to create the new technical committee by returning the ITC members to the committe. I would however, suggest one change. Each member that used to be on the ITC should be asked to appoint a trainee. The trainee would be obligated to attend any ITC meetings/keikos to learn how one approaches the problem of doing research and development within a body movement. I am only guessing, but I believe there are probably skills involved that are outside the normal skills used by a practitioner or sensei in the course of teaching "normal" keiko. To make this committe viable, the ISF will need to provide transportation costs for members to meet and practice.

Hombu, Japan Shintaido Association, and ISF

I am confused by the concept of a Hombu. It is referenced at the International Aikido Federation and a few other sites. In reading the description there, it sounds like one role of the international organization is to be a link from the Hombu to the world.

One question I have is how is the Hombu separate from the Japanese organization for the group ?

In our case, is there a Hombu entity that can be separated from the Japan Shintaido Association ?

What role would the Japan Shintaido Association have in the ISF ? My first thought is that it should be treated exactly the same way as any other national organization. (But that brings us back to the problem at the beginning of this document about whether national organizations or individuals are members of the ISF.) Being treated the same as other national organizations would mean that Japanese Shintaido would be able to make recommendations to the ISF for policy changs as any other country would. However Japanese Shintaido would not be given special rights to unilaterally decide policy changes (curriculum, exams, etc...) simply because they are in the same country as the Hombu.

Organizational Structure & Language

What structure makes sense for the board ? It seems that if ISF is to be truly international then, all the nations should somehow be represented. It's my understanding that right now only Japan, England, and the US are represented on the ISF board and that seems to leave out Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Australia, etc...

That also brings us to the question of language(s). What should the official languages of International Shintaido be ? I found it interesting that the International Judo Federation lists English, French, Spanish and Arabic as their official languages. It is strange to me to not see Japanese there.

Where should the ISF be located ?

Many of the organizations I reviewed are headquarted in Switzerland. I'm not sure of why that is, though I suspect it may be for the sports federations to be close to the International Olympic Committee which is also headquartered in Switzerland. I am not certain if there's any reason to assume that the ISF be headquartered in Japan or not.


In writing all this down, I don't feel like I have a clear idea of what exactly I want the ISF to do. That said, one of my greatest goals for the ISF is to provide consistency to Shintaido in all the countries where it is practiced. I would take comfort in the knowledge that I could know that I would be able to participate in keiko or watch examinations taking place in foreign countries without getting confused or worse injured.

My greatest hope for this text is that it helps others to think about what they might want the ISF to be.

Reference Links

Posted by rob at 01:47 PM | Comments (0)