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Aug 30, 2009
About the Teacher
by: Agchan

One more thing: I don't want to portray my teacher in a negative light. After all, I'm his student. I will say a few words about what I have observed about him.

His students are very obedient, trusting and filial toward him. He may be hot-tempered, ironical or even mean in his remarks, but he is never neglecting anybody. Moreover, he takes indeed a fatherly care of the youngest, drives them home, buys dinner, and provides equipment for those who cannot afford it. He teaches handicapped kids - for free.

When I performed fumikomi for the first time, he told me I must be handicapped myself if I could not make the striking and stamping precisely simultaneous. I was angry but then I remembered his handicapped students... I discovered it might be a good way to reach some self-distance.

I already have gone half-deaf to his remarks.

I would have left the dojo already if I felt there are no principles in his teaching. He is a passionate follower of the "old ways", apparently. Presently I'm still the student who gets the most scolding. I think he is not right to force me into "Koreanness". But I'm leaving my 'European reasoning' behind just out of curiosity what the result of the unusual cultural experiment will be.

I wonder if Inazo Nitobe has any paragraph for this in his Bushido code.

Kendo-Guide.Com: Many people have their own way. What your sensei shows is only one part of him. It is a good opportunity for you to learn a way that is different from yours or that of your culture.

When we confront oppositions, we tend to seek how bad or wrong the others are and how good or right we are. It is a human nature, I think.

To your teacher, you may be a foreigner who doesn?t really understand the way he teaches. To him, you may be very mysterious.

I don?t know you and your teacher and I certainly don?t know how you and your teacher interact each other so I cannot say much. Since I don?t know you guys and I can only talk to you, this is my suggestion to you.

I really think it is a good opportunity for you to look into yourself. Why does your teacher make you upset or even angry? Is it the way he talks to you? If so, why does he talk to you like that? Is it because he is a mean and ironic old man?

If you just cannot stand his personality, then there is nothing much you can do, I think.

Or are you doing something inappropriate in their culture unconsciously?

You may want to look into this unconscious behaviour of yours. You may not have any, but it is a very important self-observation process in kendo too.

As a person who lives outside his own country, I really wish you all the best, mate!

Aug 30, 2009
About the right attitudes
by: Agchan

Well, then the Sabumnim is doing his best to bring me into perfection in reaching the "empty mind" through mounting hindrances in concentration to overcome. ;)

Chris, thank you for your encouraging remarks. I suppose that my 'foreignness' is much more of a potential than my personal skills. Okay, I don't want it to sound like a false modesty - I just don't know yet myself what I can achieve in kendo.

Sensei, your words about "striking with one's heart" went into my head immediately. I'm trying to be sincere in my attitudes. I wouldn't be such a rebel in the dojo, though, if I didn't feel that the teacher is somehow trespassing the limits of my loyalty.

The day he ordered me to put my hand on my heart while bowing to the Korean flag (I refused and I just bowed), I bought some ribbons, made a miniature of my country's flag and sew in the inner part of my keiko-gi (exactly on my heart).

I feel temptation to show it to the teacher but I won't. I just acknowledge that our ethical systems don't match in this case.

What do you say, Sensei..? Is it the right attitude? I don't want to sound like a fierce nationalist. Just in this case I cannot let it go.

Kendo-Guide.Com: What you believe in and what your teacher believes in must be different. It is normal to me that Korean people put their hand on their heart but I don't see why non-Korean have to do that. It is my personal opinion though.

And I think it is not about kendo it is about something that is not directly related to etiquette/manners in a d?j?. If you have to do that as a part of their d?j? etiquette, then you have to consider changing the d?j?.

I am sure that there are many people out there who disagree with some kendo etiquette/manners because they are different from their beliefs.

Some don't want to bow to the sh?men (the front). Some d?j? may require them to bow to the sh?men. Some d?j? may not require anyone to do that. Some people refuse to bow to anything or anyone.

If I have students who refuse to perform etiquette/manners in the d?j?, I will ask them why. If we can reach some kind of agreement, then I think it should be OK.

If you go to Japan, you have to take off your shoes before entering a house. If you refuse, probably you will not be able to get into any houses in Japan.

If you cannot do certain things because they are against your beliefs, you probably don't want to make a big deal out of it. You should respect their ways and you should look for a place that accept your way.

I think it is the best way.

Aug 29, 2009
Thank you
by: Agchan

Actually, I have been living in Korea for over 4 years, in an "academic environment" and I think I adjusted to the Korean style in human relations.

In our dojo I have been made to "behave as a true Korean", being given a Korean name and ordered to bow in front of the Korean flag.

I was told that "I cannot really understand the culture and become happy in this country unless I become one of them".

I'm trying to tolerate my teacher's outbursts of anger when I make mistakes, striking me with his shinai when I drag my left foot behind, ordering me to perform fumikomi in the 6th week of training, without any feedback or preparation. I think few Europeans would digest such a style of 'education'.

I will continue practicing kendo, because I find it really fulfilling.

Korean kumdo originated in Japanese kendo and does not differ much, as far as I know, besides that it applies several different techniques at once.

Thank you once again, Sensei, and thank you for this page, which is sometimes my only feedback.

Kendo-Guide.Com: Thank you for coming back and giving us some more info about what is going on at your dojo. I am glad that this site is helpful to you.

Not only the Korean but also the Japanese have an attitude of ?no foreigners can understand our culture and tradition?. I think this is normal attitude of a nation (any country) towards foreigners. Of course, not everyone has that kind of attitude.

I see New Zealand as my second home country. Do the New Zealander see me as a Kiwi? Probably not, even though I now have more mates in New Zealand than in Japan and I love the people and culture. Of course, my mates in NZ see me as their friends beyond my nationality.

When I was job hunting in US, I was suggested to work with other Japanese because I am Japanese after a job interview.

My point here is not to worry about how other people see you and treat you. You cannot change the fact that you are a foreigner. If that is the way they treat foreigners, let it be.

My teacher told me to strike with my heart not only with my shinai. If I apply this teaching to our situation (being a foreigner), this is what I think.

"When we have the right attitudes and strong will to learn something from others and keep going back to them ("keep striking" in kendo), they will start seeing what inside you."

Keeping the right attitude under any circumstances is one of our goals in kendo. At my level, keeping the right attitude is the best I can do at the moment.

I am sure that people with more life experience can give us better interpretation of "strike with our heart".

But if your teacher seems to give you hard time with no reason whatsoever, you may want to change the dojo.

But as Chris G said in his comment, your teacher may be seeing potential in you. So observe him and decide.

I admire how respectful you are to other culture.

Wish you all the best, mate!

Aug 28, 2009
He probably sees potential
by: Chris G

Another way that you can look at it is that he is just working you hard because he sees potential in you.  Sometimes, a sensei (sabumnim in this case, I believe) might look at how hard you are trying or how much you enjoy it and see that you could become very good with some work. 

The issue is that it's not always very apparent to see and sometimes comes out as being overly critical and mean, but he might only just want the best of you.
Also, since you said you are a foreigner, he probably thinks that you might be able to take your knowledge to your home country and spread Kumdo to more people.

Kendo-Guide.Com:  Thanks for your post. That is absolutely another possibility. In old days, Japanese sensei never gave us good feedback. Only criticism. But it did not mean bad. It means good. The more you get criticised about your kendo, like don?t do this, don?t do that, the more they care about you.

So yes, it is definitely a possibility.

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