On leading a dojo 2
I can see now why Hombu Dojo was and is so infuriatingly focused on basics. For one thing, such a focus is more inclusive. I visualize a vacuum cleaner type of apparatus, sucking up people on one end. On the other end is where the people get spit out, like a city park fountain of water. To be inclusive means to suck up as many people as possible. This is accomplished by focusing on the common “language” that is basic technique. Not only is the language common, it is only used to “say” common things. Those common words could be used to make unusual, abstract poetry or biting comments, but such use is not encouraged or commonly even conceived of. So the “language” is common as well as the “conversations”. This vacuum cleaner-fountain, where does it spit out the people? I think that in this model, how far or high the people get spit out is not really a concern. If you reach the heavens, great. If you just make it out of the fountain head, fine and dandy. The possibilities are what you make of it. The thing is, I don’t think that the very idea of reaching the heavens is even encouraged, except as some abstract, far-removed ideal. I’m sure that this is a reason for some of the prominent people who have left Hombu. After all, there are connotations and nuances of those common “words” that are overlooked at Hombu. There are certain combinations of those words that are neglected. There are ideas that can be expressed but remain untouched because of the conservative scope of Hombu.
I can see why a teacher might be inclined to neglect addressing the wide variety of students in a dojo. It takes energy and flexibility to interact in so many different ways, let alone interact and actually engage. Furthermore, presumably the traditional, organic course of development of a dojo was for the senior generation of students to implicitly and overtly take on the responsibility of transmitting the more common language and conversations, and each “tier” or “generation” of such students would incrementally get the appropriate word down to the newest students. And the newest students could look as far up as they were inclined, whether it was to their immediate seniors or to the shihan, and thereby gain a sense of where they were trying to get eventually. If for some reason the traditional, organic development didn’t occur, the shihan would be left without his expected support system. Then the practical and emotional burden of creating that system would all fall on him, all at once, relatively late in his “lifespan”.
I can see why a teacher or senior student might end up disengaged and distant from his peers and students. If there is little relating, peer-to-peer or hierarchically, then an individual’s expectation to be heard and have influence would diminish. If people don’t seem to be listening to me, I will grow weary of the effort to initiate dialogue with them. In fact, if I am in the senior position I would be justified, socially speaking, in expecting the junior person to initiate conversation and seek my input, opinion, guidance, etc. rather than vice versa. In fact, I could say, “My door is always open. Feel free to talk to me,” all I want and perceive no reason stopping the junior people from coming.
I can see why, more as a human being than a teacher, it feels unpalatable and tiring to explain to someone what I consider common sense, obvious, and self-evident. All the more when I feel I am demonstrating the concrete details and abstract sense of things on a regular basis. Maybe I even feel like it’s giving in and colluding with the students’ laziness and complacency if I explain things at their level. To pay attention to each student’s comprehension, and thereby have a sense of how far ahead to stay of them so that they must work to keep up, yet not be lost.