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September 01, 2015

Distance

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In education or teaching the distance or space between the teacher and the student is very important.

If the distance or space between them is close enough, it is possible to deal with private matters. If the distance is too far, it would be difficult to become involved and participative with each other in any kind of private situation.

The easiest relationship to make reference to would be space between members in a family.

In a family, there are times when we have to give advice and be involved with situations, even if it might be a very sensitive situation. Therefore it is simply necessary for us to step in closely in order to say something.

In schools, the distance between individuals in relationships is not likely to be as close as in family relationships. In particular, the distance difference between relationships teacher and students have, is going to be quite different than those relationships between parents and children. Thus, there are things a teacher can and cannot do.

The main role of a school is to provide students with a forum for learning, as well as to develop and cultivate social skills. Therefore it is appreciated that schools fulfill their responsibilities. But when it comes to matters of discipline that involve teaching the basics of becoming independent, this responsibility belongs to parents and family. Discipline should not be out-sourced.

Lessons relating to nurturing should be taught at home and should not be pushed over to schools to be responsible for. If, for instance, a teacher was given this responsibility he or she might be violating the student’s privacy.

The space involving work relationships is even more distant than family and school relationships, as advice can only be given on work related issues to fellow staff members.

Family or school related issues cannot be forced on to the work environment making work relationships responsible in this way. If this happens it could lead to power harassment.

Within families, schools and work companies there are different distances that have to be recognized and understood.

A clear example that can be understood easily is the relationship between a mentor (“shisho”) and disciple (“deshi”).

The relationship between mentor and disciple is not the same as a relationship between teacher and student.

A mentor’s relationship with his or her disciple is based on wanting to tell, to teach, and to pass on knowledge to a particular disciple that can be trusted completely. A disciple’s relationship with his or her mentor is one of yearning to learn everything and accept any advice from the mentor.

This relationship is not just about understanding interests. In some cases it is as deep as, or even closer than, a relationship between parents and children. This can be felt and carried through only because the distance between mentor and student is very close. 

This is why it would be very fortunate and special if and when a disciple is able to meet or find a good mentor.

In the past, there was a program for “Uchideshi Training”. Each Uchideshi took 10 years to learn everything completely and graduate. Efficiency in training and education cannot be measured, which is why this program also had limitations in development.

At present, instead of having the “Uchideshi Training Program” we have started an “Instructors Development Program”. We select Instructors from around Japan that will be able to continue the development of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido for the near future and next generation. Recently, by trying to develop a closer distance with these instructors, I have started teaching and practicing even more often with them.

Also recently, I have started receiving requests for interviews regarding relationships between teachers and students.

Currently in Japan, there is a problem with students inheriting high level skills from high level teachers of crafts, cultural arts, activities which have a high level of importance to Japanese culture and many years of history. People have discovered that the education at schools and companies is not enough, and they have started to review the relationship between master and disciple (teacher and student).

When communicating and teaching, the master cannot always say things that are easy to listen to by their disciple. Most first time disciples who are just beginning to learn, feel that it is too difficult or too much trouble to go through. However, these feelings usually only last temporarily and the results, achievements, and lessons learned have far more value in the long run.

The fear of being disliked or hated, have increasingly started to influence parents making them unable to discipline their children, as well as teachers having difficulty in giving advice or having control of their students, and even bosses being unable to lead and advise their employees.

One of the main reasons contributing to this is the inability to understand the proper distance involving relationships. If we are unable to understand our role and our responsibilities clearly, how are we then able to comment, guide or give advice of caution to those that need it. We may not be giving advice appropriate to the circumstance of the situation.

Even in the world of professional athletes, the trend of coaches nowadays is to only give good comments and advice that players are interested in hearing. This apparently is what seems to be considered a “good coaching”.

If a person only wants to hear good comments and advice from their work and personal relationships, it would not be an exaggeration to say that he or she has wasted their chance to continue to learn and improve.

Currently in Japan, roles in homes, schools and work (societies) are not clear. If these roles continue to remain unclear it would become more difficult to fulfill responsibilities.

What I believe is that responsibilities should be clear and learning the difference in distance or space involving relationships is important in fulfilling our roles.

Needless to say, Shinshin Toitsu Aikido Dojos and classes have a role to play and we will continue to fulfill our responsibilities.

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