Monday, August 22, 2016

I'm not mad, it's just my RBF (resting budo face)

A couple of weeks back, I attended a gasshuku (usually translated, literally, as a "training camp," it might more acceptably be called a "weekend intensive"). I am pleased to report that approximately 20% of the attendees were female. In my many years of seminars, this was the most women I've ever seen at an event like this in the U.S.; and it was most gratifying.

It could be because of the sheer number of women, but the organizers did not seem to be quite so pandering, either. There was no discussion (that I overheard) of whether it was "proper" for a woman to not put one knee down in certain squatting positions (a remark I have never heard a Japanese teacher make, but I have certainly heard it in the U.S.). And no one expected us to be "nice" or to "smile," not even for the group photo. It was a budo seminar, after all, where the object of the techniques we were learning was to badly hurt, or kill, an opponent. Come to think of it, smiling might have been considered a little creepy in this context.

I have been going to events like this in the U.S. for a very long time - about thirty years. Much of the time I was the only female; or one of two or three at most. (Inevitably, one or more of the other women would be married to a male participant). It was not that long ago that I was observing for a day at one event and was accosted by a woman (a non-participant) who was married to one of the attendees. She went on for entirely too long about some academic research she was involved in. I expect it was for several reasons: 1) a way to call attention to the fact that she was involved in something important; and 2) a way to keep occupied, because, truly, she was bored out of her skull. Somehow, I doubt very much that her husband trailed her to any academic conferences on her work. Then there were the "Who are you?" looks I would get at the ubiquitous Saturday night banquet, when wives and girlfriends would join us. There I was, no man in tow, actually taking part in the training and talking with their boyfriends and husbands as colleagues. The looks sometimes regarded me as a threat, or dismissed me as a woman who had nothing better to do than to be involved in this silly stuff, which they tolerated in their men, but considered a distraction from precious family time.

At the gasshuku, the women ranged from relative beginners to teachers in other art forms with varying degrees of experience in this one. The youngest person was about 14 and the eldest in her 80's someplace. Some had intimate connections to the male attendees (daughter, wife, girlfriend) but others did not. In a typical setup for budo, we were in a mixed group - young, old, different sizes, male and female, and we rotated down the line, trying the various kata with people of all sizes and relative strengths. It has been said before, but weapons are great equalizers. There was no nonsense of a tiny person somehow taking out someone large enough to simply pick her up and carry her over his shoulder. A sharp-bladed sickle, or a sword, in the hands of a small person forces the respect of her partner no matter his size.

It was not all awesomeness, however. One student with more experience suggested to a male participant a way in which he could improve his kamae and was rebuffed. She immediately retreated to a "Well, I could be wrong, I suppose, but that's how I do it," position. I have watched this young woman at events like this, since she started. Unlike myself, who has limited access to qualified teachers, she has had the benefit of twice-weekly training with well-qualified people. She has developed enviable abilities in a three-year time period. I had to step in. "Don't say that," I said. "I usually say, 'I do it like this, and no one has yet told me I'm wrong.'" (Translation: I'm right.) Women are bringing up the number of participants at last. It's really important, now that we are here, that we don't sell ourselves short.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The weekend that was

[Readers who (may?) have been looking for regular posts on this site have probably been disappointed lately, as have I, actually. Too much stuff happening. I have also been experiencing the most annoying of episodes for a writer - I think of things to say when I am no where near a keyboard or other means of writing; and when I do have the means, I discover I don't really have much to say after all!]

In the original sense of what a blog is (that is, a journal of some sort, not a commercial enterprise, or something I hope will turn into a book some day) I am pondering the meaning of a get-together with some fellow budoka that was held a few weeks ago. In true journal fashion, I am writing down thoughts in an effort to wrap my head around that weekend's events, and my reaction to them.

Even though, in a journal, background is not necessary, I will include a few sentences for context, in the event that, at some point, I don't remember what the hell I was writing about. One of my budo friends, whom I've known for about 20 years, invited me and one of my students to a weekend of training, along with about a dozen or so of his closest budo friends. I was reluctant to accept the invitation, and did not even confirm my acceptance until about a month out. I suppose the first thing to consider is my initial ambivalence.

I should remind myself that I have spent many hours training with this friend, both in the US and Japan. After getting kicked out of my old group, he was one of the few people who believed my version of events. More than any single individual, he has been instrumental in helping me rebuild my practice, starting at a time when I was mentally strung out and considering quitting altogether. In that sense, I certainly owe him a debt I can probably never repay.

But that was not the reason for my reluctance. Here's where I insult a whole group of budo practitioners: The most enthusiastic acceptances for the weekend event came from aikidoka. I certainly have no problem with aikido in itself, and I have met some very good practitioners. Nope (or at least, not really). My problem was that aikidoka enjoy a practice that involves a lot of falling down. I study weapons systems that involve very little of that type of movement; and, being of a "certain age" and with what my chiropractor calls "an interesting back," I decided that this was not the weekend for me. So, not long after the happily affirmative chorus ensued, I asked my friend if we would indeed be doing any of the sort of practice I might find useful or fun.

"I'm sure we'll do something," he (kind of) assured me. So, I am supposed to spend hundreds of dollars on an air ticket for what might well only be a weekend-long party. In spite of my affection for my friend, and for some of the colleagues who were already on board with the event, that was not a good answer. Instead of an opportunity to work on some new material with people who knew better than me, I would instead stand next to the mat and watch other people throw each other around. Call me grumpy, or old, or both if you like. If it had been a short car ride away, I may well have thought better of the idea; instead, I was reluctant.

My ambivalence was complicated by the fact that a separate invitation was given to one of my students. I like this person - he has been the one guy I have worked with lately who has put his budo money where his mouth is. And I'm not ashamed to say that sometimes an energetic, young newbie can kick a teacher's butt up a few notches. I took him around the first time, but after that, his excitement was so contagious with my friend and his colleagues that he has earned invitations all on his own ever since. He is so well-liked by my friend that one confused individual once asked me whose student he actually was. The fact that he accepted his invitation immediately, and with enthusiasm roughly on a par with that of the aikidoka, made me wonder a little as well.

So many weird things.

Then there were the women. There were four on the first day, and five on the second. Needless to say (or at least it should be needless), I am a great supporter of women in budo, and having one-third of the attendees being female was a very cool thing. I have spent a certain amount of time writing in this space, as well as in other spaces, about the dearth of women in US budo circles. Every now and then, I come across an article touting the meritocracy of budo practice in the US only to think, "What about the rest of us?"

However, one of the downsides of the small number of US women practitioners is an innate, and IMO erroneous sense of competition among women budoka here. We are so used to being "the only woman" that we almost resent the presence of others as an intrusion (as in, there can only be one queen). Add to that the sensibility that we feel like we have to constantly prove that we deserve a place at the table and what you get is a weekend-long exercise in one-upmanship. I find it interesting that, in my experience, if women budoka are together working on something, there is usually a great spirit of cooperation; however, introduce guys into the mix and the atmosphere changes. (In fact, I don't think the behavior is exclusive to budo.) Not everyone reacted the same way, but it was enough. I have certainly done my share of story-telling, but one person so dominated the conversation throughout the entire weekend that there was nothing to do but retreat. My student suggested that such dominance was perhaps what was needed to be a successful onna budoka. If that is the case, I am doomed to obscurity, and with pleasure.

As to the curriculum, I was mostly right. Except for a session I taught myself (which I did not know I was supposed to teach until a short time beforehand), there was no formal weapons training. By insisting among some of my colleagues, we did manage a little informal work, for which I was very grateful.

As to socializing, I can sum things up in one story: I was sitting with a group of people, none of whom lived in NYC, who began to relate where they were when the World Trade Center attacks took place. Person after person remembered where they were and what they were doing, and when it got to the point where I might tell a relevant story, someone started a different topic. I live in NYC. My husband nearly got caught in the collapse of one of the towers. But never mind, moving on.

My student had a boffo time. *Everyone* loved him. One person extolled his loyalty to me (it's not that I didn't agree; it's that I know that loyalty is one of those things that shifts with life forces). Another colleague chided me for not showing him more affection (I am not affectionate with students. It's difficult enough for me, emotionally, just to teach them). After feeling a little like the skunk at the garden party, I realized that I was the only person to come from out of town who even had a student willing to do likewise, so I took some consolation in that.

All the attendees have expressed their enjoyment of the weekend. They got to try different styles of empty-hand, and even some real-world application of technique. But I am still (as you can see) sorting out my feelings on the event. I care about my friend, and some of the others, and I wonder if I should publish this post. I don't want any hurt feelings. More importantly, I am wrestling with wanting to be included, though at the same time, I keep thinking I don't belong. I wonder what I should do about next year if the event takes place again. Insist on some more relevant training, or decline to take part? I hate making time and expense a factor in whether I think going to a party is worthwhile, but for me, for now, it is. My friend has written about how happy he is (and I'm glad). He expressed how pleased he was that there was so little "ego" on display. True for him, maybe, but I am still grappling (empty-handed even) with mine.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

For the love of Wednesdays

Last night, I made it to NJ dojo, after 1/2 hour of dodging trucks, cars, and heedless pedestrians. My commute always seems to include at least a few drivers who want to kill themselves and take as many people as possible with them. I hate this type of driving, whether on Route 80 or dodging everyone and everything on Broadway on the way to the George Washington Bridge. Add to that the kind of week I have had so far, and it's small wonder I got to the dojo parking lot and heaved a big sigh of relief.

However, within moments of being inside, where the last few minutes of the combination Daito ryu and Shinri classes were taking place, I was laughing as loudly as anyone as I went to change my clothes. I'm not sure how to explain what was so funny in a way that readers would get it - let's just say that one partner attempted a spectacular throw, an errant foot landed off target, and two people ended up curled into fetal positions on the floor, followed first by giggling, then by fits of laughter by them, and then by everyone in the room.

Clearly a mistake had been made. "Do that again," I said, "I missed it the first time."

The two men tried again, made the same mistake, and landed on the floor again in the same positions, followed by more laughter. This is what serious practice among adults can look like here.

And no one is doubting that seriousness. As I've written here before, the instructor makes the potential danger of the techniques apparent over and over again, and last night was no exception. But for the moment, the seriousness gave way to peals of laughter among students who trust both the instructor and each other. By the end of the practice, the problem still had not been totally resolved, but enough progress had been made that both students and instructor felt slightly more reassured that somehow, someday, they would learn the throw.

Of necessity, the iaido practice is generally both more formal and more dignified. As dangerous as Daito techniques and Shinri throws can be, swords are dangerous objects by their nature. You don't need another person to cause injury; you can get hurt all by yourself. And yet, a certain amount of good humor and wit often accompanies this practice too. For an hour and a half, until 10:30pm, we worked together through a set of kata, trading ideas, theories and analogies to pull the best possible technique out of each other. It was the NJ instructor's class, but sometimes I was able to contribute a thought or analogy that helped out the others. We have worked on this set of kata for awhile, but, typically for iaido, there is always some other principle, some other small detail that hadn't come up before, to add to the mix.

I have tried to get some of my NYC students to come to NJ. Nothing doing. New JERSEY? No way. But what's not to like? We stay late. I get home later. Sometimes I can't sleep once I do get home, tired as I am, my head filled with ideas - for training, for teaching, for DOING. Getting up the next morning, faced with work and a schlep to my other dojo and another late night, is a bear. My spouse thinks I'm crazy, though, at the same time, he's become resigned. I think he's become resigned to Wednesday night madness because it's obvious I have so much fun (at least, I hope that's what he thinks). I go to my Thursday practice and I often bring relevant ideas to my NYC students that were forged off the highway, in a low-ceilinged TKD space, in suburbia.

By Friday, I'm a zombie. Training three nights in a row is exhausting. I'm crazy, yes (I must be). But it's worth it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Second class Budoka, or, just because I'm nice doesn't mean I'm weak

Been awhile. Too many other commitments (including at least one other blog I write for under my "real" name). Plus another (self-financed) night of okeiko each week.

A couple of weeks ago I dumped a student. Under the circumstances, it was an easy call. The person was very happy to claim me as a teacher in the publicity for his commercial karate-and-whatever-else-I-can-claim dojo, but he never came to okeiko unless it suited his ultra-busy schedule. This, in itself is no reason to burn a bridge, but he was publicizing himself as a teacher of jodo, which he was presumably studying with me. The thing is, I teach that class as a workshop. While I have been studying jodo off and on (lately, over the past four years - on), I do not have formal rank. I have permission from my teachers to teach what I know; but it would be the height of hubris for me to call myself a teacher of the art form, which would require a teaching license. The subtlety of actually being qualified was lost on this particular person. Eventually, he pushed a little too far, and I told him (in a nice way) to fuck off.

As one of my colleagues to whom I related the story put it - "why is this always happening to you?"

I would dispute the "always" part, but yeah, as readers of this space know, there have been times when I have had to dismiss someone whom I thought was unsuitable. I have written at other times that koryu budo is not for everyone, though, at the same time, it is for anyone who is interested in sincerely pursuing it. Unlike some of my colleagues, I do not believe that studying koryu can transform someone into a better person (whatever that is). I believe, as in this case, and in some others, that koryu practice can be revealing of character instead. Students may be transformed through their own efforts, not because of something in the nature of koryu itself. As someone who works with a sponsor, I am in the unenviable position of not being able to screen newbies as much as I would like; though, after the last dustup, some guidelines for prospective students have been put in place (or I would have walked out on the sponsor, and he knew it).

But back to the main point. The dumpee (I like that) earned my displeasure by going behind my back to register for a ranking test with a national organization. Some of the organizers he contacted were people I had known in the past. I am fairly certain they thought it was strange for one of my students to appear out of the blue and schedule his own ranking test. When I confronted him, my "student" said he simply "forgot" to tell me (not getting that he should have *asked* me, if in fact I was his teacher, and that teachers normally recommend students for rank). I called bullshit on his poor memory too.

Now, take a moment to think about this: if I were a man, do we think any of this would have happened in this way? Do we really think a student would simply (a) act on his own and (b) not bother to involve me in the discussion? Really? And this is not the first time a (male) student went around/over my head/behind my back/otherwise used my expertise and connections to pursue his own agenda.

Why is this [always] happening to me?

I find myself in pretty good company, actually. My teacher (a guy) was used in a similar way by an erstwhile student at least once. He was also a pretty nice man, unless riled. Once riled, you really wanted to get as far away from his temper as possible. I can say for myself that I am also pretty slow to anger, but, similarly, once pushed, no fun to be around.

Which is what happened. The good thing about being slow to anger is that once you get there, it feels really justified. A swirl of indignant emails and angry phone calls later, I had gotten rid of the problem person for good. To top it all off, I emailed my sponsor and told him after all was settled that the guy was no longer to attend my okeiko. No more arguments; no more he-seemed-like-a- nice-guy-to-me crap. I decided, and he had to accept the decision.

But yes, that just-because-I'm-nice-doesn't-mean-I'm-weak thing. As I said, it doesn't just apply to women, though in this case the problem student was good-looking, and I expect I am the first woman in his life who simply said No. No, I'm not good with the idea that you went behind my back. No, you can no longer claim me as your "teacher." No, I will not come to your dojo because you are "too busy" to come to my okeiko. No.

When I was an adjunct professor, students who misinterpreted my enthusiasm for my subject and willingness to help people with finding resources for the class, etc., were (to a man, I may say) nonplussed when I gave my first exam. My exams reflected whatever material I said would be covered, and they were difficult. Not impossible, and bearable for those who actually studied. But there was always a handful who figured differently, and paid the price for it (I also had a system for tamping down cheating, in case anyone was so foolish as to try). These students were not only shocked that the "nice" teacher had given them a difficult test, they were floored when their appeals for a better grade were brushed aside. After all, I would explain, the students who had actually studied had done so much better - it wasn't exactly fair to them if I arbitrarily passed the lazy ones, now was it? Some people subsequently pulled their act together and improved, and some did not. C'est la vie.

But the problem remains: my old sempai, as he was kicking me out of my old dojo, told me I was the most "ungenerous" teacher he had ever met; meaning, in effect, that I was not "nice" (I was more overtly hardassed then). Women, I discovered, are supposed to be "nice," while men who are hardassed disciplinarians command respect; at least that is how it seems to work in U.S. dojo. As "nice" women, we are supposed to be helpful. We are not supposed to mind if our expertise is exploited to serve our students' self-interests. I have decided that, like the Buddha, I can take the middle path. I can be nice, and I can also be a hardass.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

A dojo is not a class - part II

A number of years ago, I was going through a rather tough time emotionally. I asked a friend of mine, a Buddhist monk, if he could recommend some sutras I could read to calm my mind. He sent three. I printed them out and lugged them around with me for months, reading through them practically every day. I was not looking for comfort, I was looking for a sense of perspective.

I don't remember everything in the sutras. I do remember one portion read something similar to what your mom might have told you: hang around with the wrong crowd and you will begin to identify with it (or be identified with it). Another part that stuck with me was: people will attribute their own motivations to you.

That's a simple thought, right? And yet, when you think about it, you begin to see it everywhere in interacting with people. With regard to the situation that had upset me, years ago now, it was certainly true that I was thinking overall about the welfare of the group I was involved in. The person who ultimately managed to kick me out was thinking of himself as the font of all wisdom. He had decided that I must be thinking the same thing, and there could only be ONE font. Etc. (That's not to say I had not thought of myself as a source of relevant information for these people, but it was not my only, nor my primary interest.)

I am bringing this up because, as I said, people will attribute their motivations to you. After a dry, hot August, with my sponsor complaining about low class attendance impacting his bottom line, I thought of a simple way to kill several birds with one stone. Without going into detail, the idea would have increased income to the sponsor, allowed him to perhaps come to okeiko more often, and give me the autonomy I think a dojo should have, as opposed to a class. It would also allow me to build up a small amount of cash so I could invite teachers for seminars without having to front money I could only hope to recoup though fees. Win-win-win-win. The only caveat was that I would have to pay less to the sponsor than he might have gotten from a total stranger, but it seemed like a reasonable enough deal - it was more than he had been getting, and I was his teacher, right? He would be able to continue to attend okeiko for free, which was worth quite a bit. I was certain enough that this scheme would work that I ran it past some of the students, vaguely and confidentially, since implementing such an idea would impact how they paid for classes. Everyone agreed it was a good idea. I decided to run it past the sponsor.

Except that I had barely seen him over the past two months. I wrote several times that I wanted to talk to him (without committing any specifics to print). Eventually, inevitably, he heard a rumor that I was thinking of breaking my relationship with him (and I was; but only as a sponsor, not as a student). I received a hastily and badly-written email stating that IF I wanted to pay rent, I could pay the same as any other client (an amount that is actually overpriced for the space and location, given everything).

Let's just say the note reflected a boss-contractor relationship, rather than a student-teacher relationship. As to the motivation he was attributing to me, I'm not sure. I can state that my interest was for the welfare of the group, something that I thought would also be of interest to him as a student. In other words, I thought I could attribute my motivation to him. Unfortunately, though it isn't written that way, the sutra works both ways, and I was wrong.

One of my old, old budo colleagues once told me not to teach at other people's dojo. I don't entirely disagree. It's true I can't claim any students there as my own, but, currently, at least, people who invite me seem very grateful for what I can offer, and - they pay me. As much as I can use the extra money myself, I have decided to put my ill-gotten gains towards rent for a space that I could consider the dojo's "forever home." It may be small and only once a week or so, but it would be all ours.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The New Guy - Part II

Writers are storytellers. I am no exception. Even though I am not happy to revisit this episode, the nine or so followers among the readers of this blog might like to know how the story of the New Guy ended.

The following jodo okeiko was huge, at least in our terms. All of the upper level people were there, and the New Guy sort of faded into the mix. Good, I thought. Maybe he was just nervous and is now finding his groove. Fine.

Or not. The following week found only three of us again, and again he could not keep his mouth shut. When I explained a slight difference in bunkai that differed from how he had been given to understand it (or how he thought he understood it), he rolled his eyes in exasperation. He was also incorrect in his assumption for why his way of doing the kata was somehow "better." I am the first person to admit my limited knowledge of jodo but I do know what I know. I am pretty good at learning things and above everything else, I trust my teachers and sempai. The sempai, to be honest, may miss on occasion, but never in a way that would seriously mislead. And I train with some of the top teachers on the planet. I decided to have a chat with him at the next okeiko - either shut up and get with the program or find some other group to train with.

In the interim I considered how I should talk to him. Ordinarily one would settle differences outside the room. That was the approach I decided to take. However, the next okeiko was also small, and again, he began "correcting" the student who was training with us. We blew him off until after the closing reishiki, at which point I began to tell him, in front of the other (by this time, very affronted) student, that we were studying a particular tradition of jodo. I was going to say that it may be slightly at odds with his experience, etc., but that he should get with the program if he wanted to continue, etc., but I did not get that far. No sooner did I get the above 1/2 sentence out then he went completely off. He began shouting at me. Among other things, he shouted that he was NOT trying to "take over the class," but "when I see a mistake, I'm going to correct it. After all, I've been doing this for a long time."

"So. Have. I." I hissed. Meanwhile thinking, oh buddy, you are so out of here...

He stormed out. Afterwards, my student remarked that he was unlikely to come back. I said, "You know what? I'm going to make sure." The next day, I fired off a short email to the sponsor (who is, by the way, also a student). I told him, briefly, what happened, and said, very clearly, that even though he was the sponsor I was only telling him the New Guy was not welcome and that I was not interested in his opinion. Budo training needs to be extremely polite or else things become very dangerous very quickly. I had always reserved the right to not teach someone I thought was unsuitable. We needed to get in touch with him and tell him.

To my complete surprise, the sponsor went completely "bro" on me (sorry, guys, but I'm not sure how else to put it). He said, "He didn't seem that bad to me."

I believe people near me when I read that saw the steam jetting out of my ears. I AM THIS GUY'S TEACHER, AND HE'S GOING TO ARGUE WITH ME. I understood that, as the sponsor, he was unhappy losing an additional class fee, but he totally forgot that he was also a student and his only proper response would be to trust my judgment and agree, even if reluctantly.

Incredibly, an email exchange between myself, my student/sponsor, and eventually a jodo sempai whom I brought in to back me up (not that I ever, ever should have needed him) went on all day. Finally, the sempai, who knew the New Guy's previous teacher, agreed to contact him to see if we could find out anything further about the New Guy's history. But here's the thing: I know from experience (see the first post on this subject) that violent, rude, abusive people are only that way with those whom they consider targets. With virtually everyone else, they can be perfectly well-behaved. "I don't care if this guy was a prince with his old teacher," I said. "He goes. That's it."

The effects of a rude, impolite student go beyond just aggravating the instructor. Two of the offended students were already making excuses for why they could not come, or could not stay, for jodo okeiko. If the sponsor thought he was going to lose one class fee for bouncing someone who was not appropriate, he was going to find out that losing an entire class would be a lot more fiscally painful. And the disintegration can come about very quickly. I needed to resolve this right away.

The response from the previous (or, as the person himself put it FORMER) teacher, was swift. The New Guy was so unsuitable, he had actually forbidden him to come to his okeiko. "Please extend my apologies to [the instructor]," he wrote, expressing some serious mortification. Vindication; though, as I said, it should not have been necessary at all.

Naturally, I was the one who had to let New Guy know he should look for another class. Maybe he has found one. I don't know. But, if previous experience is any guide, I tend to keep looking over my shoulder. He would not be the first person to come after me to personally express his frustration, let's say. And his former teacher mentioned his persistence. So I am careful not to leave the dojo by myself after okeiko, for now. The two students whom he let loose on were grateful to see him gone, and are back in class. Aside from questioning myself regarding the wisdom of having a sponsor, I have decided to let the issue go for now, since (I hope) it has been taken care of.

I have met many wonderful people, mostly gentlemen, given the one-sided nature of budo in the U.S., and many more excellent people in Japan through my practice. Unfortunately, there are some bad students out there, no matter where, and it is the responsibility of instructors to keep them out of their dojo. They owe it to their students as well as to themselves.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The bigots among us

Over the past year or so, I've unfriended FBers who expressed sexist, racist or homophobic opinions. Being aware that some pundits suggest we are limiting our exposure to others' opinions, I have done my best to be tolerant; but, eventually, inevitably, someone posts something that sets me off and - - I delete them from my feed, I hope forever.

The most recent unfriending took place this week when a sometime student who had sent me a friend request a few months ago put up an egregiously homophobic comment. I actually liked this guy - he was a lay minister and a teacher at a charter school who was very into the idea of empowering less-advantaged children. But, like any number of "conservative Christians" (as we call them), he considers homosexuality an abomination. After I unfriended him, I told the sponsor we should take him off of our dojo discussion group, both for the remark and the fact that after a few months he had stopped coming to okeiko anyway. My sponsor agreed (without an argument, for a change), especially after he saw the post. (News flash - not all budoka are straight.)

People's social opinions are no longer private. FB and related media are treated like people's living rooms, where they seem to feel comfortable expressing opinions and ideas that once were confined to personal discourse among family and real, not virtual friends. As a kid, I was aghast (along with much of the country) at the sitcom "All in the Family" for its very revealing Archie Bunker character - the casual working-class bigot who said exactly what he thought. The show started a national conversation about who Americans were, or thought they were - one of the few times a tv show had provoked such a reaction. As the series went on, Archie found out that people not like him are not so different in attitude (including that his black neighbor did not trust white people any more than Archie trusted blacks). Ultimately, his social views began to evolve. (I once heard that the actor who played him convinced the creators of the show that Archie should be portrayed as being more complex, which he ultimately was).

The thing that really bothers me is that the people I have been unfriending are fellow budoka, because that's what my FB list mostly consists of (along with family members and the occasional old high schoolmate). And it has set me to thinking: as budo teachers, do we have ethical responsibilities when it comes to deciding who we teach, or who we consider colleagues?

This is not a new topic. About 10 years ago, a group of budoka had a yearly forum at which they presented papers that addressed issues of sexism and other ethical topics as they related to their practice. One guy presented on a teacher who used his position of authority to sexually abuse a female student (he was caught, convicted and sent to jail for a few years). In another story, an aikidoka recommended a friend to his teacher, in spite of having an "edgy" temper. A few months later the guy disappeared. Upon inquiry, the aikidoka found out the guy had been arrested for using his newly acquired skills to put his wife in the hospital. The teacher was mortified, and the aikidoka was upset that he had recommended him, but until his arrest, he had no idea the person was violent or abusive.

In my own practice, I once refused to teach a guy who was mentally at least - if not also physically - abusing his girlfriend. My sempai at the time was irritated with me, because he noted that everyone involved was "an adult," and their private behavior was not my problem. I responded that the girlfriend was a victim and I was not going to teach someone capable of behaving in that way. (He was also disrespectful to me personally for Teaching While Female. Eventually, he and the sempai had a falling out and the issue became moot in any case.)

Koryu budo is a small world - I recently attended a seminar that was also attended by an "unfriend" who had expressed an obviously racist point of view, prompting me to delete him from my feed. I mentioned the episode to a few of the other people I was training with. The person is a disciplined budoka who is quite good at what he does; and, outside of a certain arrogance, is not a bad training partner either. But it's hard for me to have any kind of even casual relationship with him, knowing what I know. At the same time, I was not sure it was the right thing to "out" him to a couple of my colleagues. The sempai leading the seminar noted that he did not want to have a political discussion with him, but otherwise was ok teaching him. I am not. At the seminar, I was cordial and kept my distance.

My sponsor has said it's not his business to consider potential customers' points of view; even though, as a minority himself, he is not comfortable with racist remarks. I'm not comfortable either, and would prefer that any bigots lurking among my FB friends keep their opinions to themselves. But, unfortunately, the political discourse has recently made it okay for people to express their distrust of anyone not like themselves. Naively, they assume that their FB feed consists of users who think similarly. They now have one less "friend" who disagrees with them.