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Sex, Lies & Aikido Senseis

by David Lynch

Published Online


“What shall we do with the drunken sensei?”

Whether or not it is actually sung to the tune of the old sea shanty, “What shall we do with the drunken sailor?” this question represents a genuine dilemma, encountered more often than one would expect.

Of course, there are worse vices than drinking (Hitler was a teetotaler!) but it is rather awkward when, to give one example, a high-ranking Japanese sensei visiting a foreign country is so drunk he is literally falling out of his chair only hours before he is due to conduct a seminar.

It is awkward but it is also instructive, insofar as the relationship between the ideals of aikido and the private lives of some of the leaders of the art is concerned. Indeed, it is difficult to detect any obvious correspondence between the two.

The other day I learned that I may have become persona non grata in some quarters for mentioning this type of behavior in my articles and thus “disrespecting the senseis”.

What can I say!

I am not crusading against the “evils of drink” and I personally couldn’t care less if aikido senseis choose to drink themselves silly, but I do rather resent it when the “messenger” is attacked for simply reporting the truth. And I find it disconcerting when people close rank to protect the spurious image of a sensei as some sort of super-human.

That is the way cults are created and real damage to individual personalities and society at large can occur.

If we could see senseis as they really are “warts and all” we would be better equipped to decide whether or not they have much to teach us beyond technique.

Meanwhile, what does one do with the drunken sensei?

For instance, when the sensei (another one!) is more or less permanently drunk-in-charge of a dojo, and insists his students get drunk with him as “part of their training” even in the middle of the day?

Or when, in more than one case that I know of, the sensei, sozzled on sake at a dojo party, gropes the nearest female student? (“Well at least he isn’t gay!” was one reaction.)

Perhaps I should have been careful not to disrespect the drunken sensei who lurched onto the stage during a Japanese cultural exhibition, patting his stomach and saying how much he had enjoyed the local wine at lunch. This sensei then went on to perform a very sloppy demonstration, to the obvious disgust of several kobudo masters present who were heard to mutter, “So that is aikido!”

Yes, I suppose one should not mention this sort of thing; after all, it might bring aikido into disrepute, and we can’t have that, can we?

Perhaps, for being so indiscrete, I should now expect a visit from one of those seniors “known for his powerful technique” who would explain to me just where I went wrong.

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