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Respect and authority another misunderstanding of Japanese culture? Rate Topic: -----

#1 User is offline   Taigyo 

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 09:03 PM

Have been mentally wrestling with a difficult situation and I had what seems to be a significant insight. Amongst the many misunderstandings of Americans of Japanese culture, is the difference between showing someone respect and that person actually having authority over you. In seeing the way Japanese act around people of higher Judo rank Americans assume that they actually have some authority over the lower ranked people. This is because Americans rarely show deference to anyone unless they have actual authority over them. Thus they tend to view Judo rank as military rank, that is gives some authority over lower ranked people. This is entirely wrong. Judo rank only reflects the level of Judo learning of a particular individual, it does not confer any authority. Of course people will tend to show respect to people of great Judo learning, but they are in no way obliged to follow their instructions.

Teacher-student relationships fall under an entirely different situation. That is a personal agreement between two people. The teacher will do their best to pass on knowledge to the student and the student will do his best to follow the teachers instructions.
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#2 User is offline   Hanon 

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 10:24 PM

View PostTaigyo, on 29 April 2012 - 02:33 AM, said:

Have been mentally wrestling with a difficult situation and I had what seems to be a significant insight. Amongst the many misunderstandings of Americans of Japanese culture, is the difference between showing someone respect and that person actually having authority over you. In seeing the way Japanese act around people of higher Judo rank Americans assume that they actually have some authority over the lower ranked people. This is because Americans rarely show deference to anyone unless they have actual authority over them. Thus they tend to view Judo rank as military rank, that is gives some authority over lower ranked people. This is entirely wrong. Judo rank only reflects the level of Judo learning of a particular individual, it does not confer any authority. Of course people will tend to show respect to people of great Judo learning, but they are in no way obliged to follow their instructions.

Teacher-student relationships fall under an entirely different situation. That is a personal agreement between two people. The teacher will do their best to pass on knowledge to the student and the student will do his best to follow the teachers instructions.


Wow ANOTHER thread that is going to be fun fun fun....Bloody hell this forum these days is either dead or just a tinder box :lol: :lol:

Authority. Define it. Then define if or how it has or doesn't have a part to play on judo.

In any dojo I have been to there certainly is authority, has to be. Has to be someone who keeps the dojo safe and that will inculde enforcing the rules of judo, I can't see how that cannot be seen as authority or be seen as a negative thing?
Visitors to my dojo are always most welcome. There is no obvious authority but I can assure you it is there, it belongs to me and I would not have a second thought about enforcing it should the need arrise. I don't think authority is a bad thing, its part of life and the dojo is a refelection in a micro fashion of life.

I was raised in judo that I was to obey a higher rank and I did and still do, whats the problem with that? The thing that makes a good General a good General is not his ability to give orders but to take them as well as give them.

Maybe the word resposibility is better used for judo? Its still authority though no matter how you cut it. Sho dans grade some kyu ranks that means they have authority to do so. It takes a senior rank to grade a yo dan and a very senior rank or ranks to grade a kohaku rank. It is a form of authority. I for one wouldn't feel safe on a tatami where there was no authority and children would soon leave that dojo as they 'feel' this sense offered by a stable regime through authority and care, accutely.

One can of course abuse rank and or authority, its seen every day in every sphere of life, judo is no exception. Part of what makes a sensei 'a sensei' to me is the fact such a person holds such authority with kidness and its unseen. Those teachers who need to remind people they are 'in charge' are generally insecure and best avoided. I seldom take well to teachers who have the word sensei written on their gi etc. I don't think a sensei needs to be identified in such a fashion. Sensei come to the surface through there presence not some insignia that says they are sensei etc. Its all about balance.

There is a kohaku rank in the USJA who has the complete one side of his gi littered with badges of goodness knows what. Neon lights would be his next move. Now that I call silly abuse of having no authority at all! :rolleyes:

Mike
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#3 User is offline   Cichorei Kano 

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 11:49 PM

View PostTaigyo, on 29 April 2012 - 07:03 AM, said:

Have been mentally wrestling with a difficult situation and I had what seems to be a significant insight. Amongst the many misunderstandings of Americans of Japanese culture, is the difference between showing someone respect and that person actually having authority over you. In seeing the way Japanese act around people of higher Judo rank Americans assume that they actually have some authority over the lower ranked people. This is because Americans rarely show deference to anyone unless they have actual authority over them. Thus they tend to view Judo rank as military rank, that is gives some authority over lower ranked people. This is entirely wrong. Judo rank only reflects the level of Judo learning of a particular individual, it does not confer any authority. Of course people will tend to show respect to people of great Judo learning, but they are in no way obliged to follow their instructions.

Teacher-student relationships fall under an entirely different situation. That is a personal agreement between two people. The teacher will do their best to pass on knowledge to the student and the student will do his best to follow the teachers instructions.


This is complex material one can't adequately address in a couple of lines, nor even in a single-page-long post. It has been fodder for social anthropologists for quite some time.

I am further limiting myself to making two remarks:

1. Rather than reinventing the wheel, I am referring to a number of publications which dive into this material. Even if they are not directly about judo, some of the mechanisms are the same:


A lot of work in this area has been done by the philospher Durkheim. Here are some of his basic thoughts:

http://www.brooklyns...1/durkheim.html


Specifically about Japanese, society, see:

Rohlen T.P.: Order in Japanese society: attachment, authority and routine. J. Jpn. Studies 15, 1: 5-40, 1989.


http://www.jstor.org...sid=56116882503


2. In the West we tend to have some distorted views on Japanese society. Two of these distortions are that Japanese society is completely uniform; the other, that it is characterized by the utmost politeness. Japanese sensei have personal feelings towards other Japanese sensei just like Westerners do. Japanese bicker about some Japanese sensei's promotions just like Westerners do, and Japanese sensei feel that certain other sensei don't have anything to teach them just like any others. Probably, the Japanese do a better job keeping those thoughts and comments behind closed doors or at least from Westerners unless they consider you in terms of comprehension of their culture one of them. Being fluent in Japanese helps, but is not the only thing. The shokai or introduction helps somewhat as an intermediate but is not even strictly necessary. They can form their own opinion, and they will.

In judo the mechanism of "group formation", "group identity", "group dynamics" greatly determine the sort of issues that you are raising. Specifically the issue of "latent group consciousness" does and is responsible for a lot of the pleasant or not so pleasant things in judo, since since the presence of "latent group consciousness" does not at all imply whether it is factually correct or justified. Some of these group consciousness-related things are implied by the Japanese 'kaisha' concept, which sociologically goes a lot further than simply imply the 'company' structure.

See for example "Japanese Society" by Nakane Chie from 1970

Largely available online: http://books.google....C&oi=fnd&pg=PR7


The issues that you are referring to ... in judo, and ... in Japan, really find their origin in Confucianism. Even though rooted in China, there are also considerable differences between China and Japan in this material. This has been addressed by:

Dien, Dora Shu-fang: Chinese authority-directed orientation and Japanese peer-group orientation: Questioning the notion of collectivism. Review of General Psychology, Vol 3, 4: 372-385, 1999.
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#4 User is offline   Taigyo 

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 01:16 AM

Mr. Hannon, I would say your example lies more in the area of student-teacher, and the fact that it is your dojo and so you are ultimately responsible. However, merely because you hold a higher Judo rank does not give you any authority over me if I am outside of your dojo.
Dynamics within the dojo are different, especially among adults. In a machi (community) dojo such as ours, though there is a senior instructor, the dojo belongs to everyone. Should godans opinion count for more than yodan when running the dojo? This is outside the student-teacher relationship.

Judo rank was established to recognize levels of Judo skill, it is an educational tool and was never meant to establish a power structure or pecking order.
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#5 User is offline   Cichorei Kano 

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 02:32 AM

View PostTaigyo, on 29 April 2012 - 11:16 AM, said:

Judo rank was established to recognize levels of Judo skill, it is an educational tool and was never meant to establish a power structure or pecking order.


I am not Hanon-sensei, but I simply would like to higlight that I agree with that statement, but there is a major difference in what it was established for and how it has evolved. For this we do not even have to consider the West; it suffices to consider Japan.

This evolution already took place during Kanô's life. Kanô himself described the dispute between the Butokukai and the Kôdôkan in terms of rank authority as one of the two greatest threats to jûdô though at the same time he suggested that it really should not be that difficult to dissolve. Even though it was an educational tool, the dispute in who had the authority to issue this educational tool caused 'authority/power' to become entirely intertwined with it.

The Oda Jôin incident (1918): "High dan ranks use their connections to the examining committees to promote those close to them regardless of whether or not they have ability and work only to erect a sort of security fence around themselves." (...)

There was regional discrimination involved and this had to do again with power. Jon Z once suggested that Oda suffered from being sidelined because of being from Sendai rather than Tôkyô. I can't confirm or deny it; Mifune was from Kuji, but then again, he became a close student of Kanô and was really embedded in the Kôdôkan.

Similar concerns regarding rank expressed by Inaba Tarô in the 1930s. This is all still while Kanô was alive and in Japan !

Similar to Oda's regional disadvantage, we cannot but notice that even today, the Kôdôkan has not for more than 6 decades promoted anyone to 10th dan while alive unless he was at the Kôdôkan in Tôkyô. That has nothing to do with education, but everything with power (and authority).

In 1905 and shortly after, Kanô jump-promoted several military men as appreciation for winning the Japanese-Russian war ...

That surely had nothing to do with education either, maybe not directly with power, but then certainly with politics and patriotism or nationalism (to be fair, Kanô changed direction later, though I notice that initially the Kôdôkan journal was called Kokushi, or 'the Patriot' ...)

The limitation of joshi ranks to 5th dan again illustrated the that education and power were intertwined; after all, if not, then it would imply the absurd argument that women could not be educated as much/far as men ... (in all fairness, it is not historically not really correct that Kanô simply limited women; women had started later on, and Kanô asked their own opinion about rank; he actually promoted his favorite female student pretty quickly, but during his life no woman had reached such an advanced level or lenghty experience that there was an immediate concern to promote them to these ranks; obviously from a modern Western point of view the mere fact that the question needed to be asked if women could be promoted to the same high ranks as men is in itself problematic enough ...)

My point ? The purely educational context of jûdô ranks was long gone even barely 25 years after the creation of jûdô.

It's probably not even specific for jûdô, as we see skill and authority intertwined even in koryû where likely the group is usually a lot more tight, and highly dominant Japanese with usually only few foreigners or not any at all. Successions have been disputed with regularity, schools have had schisms at succession. Each faction respects its own head, who clearly has authority, but other factions regularly dispute this by disputing lineage. Japanese koryû usually refrain from outright disputing another shihan's skills (publicly), but the dispute of authority, lineage, legitimacy implies precisely that; oftentimes it is additionally worded using euphemisms suggesting that X or Y did not learn the fully curriculum and therefore isn't the legitmate head, or similar ... So again, respect, authority and skill within the ryû are intertwined. After all, after suggesting that the head of a different faction doesn't really have the authority, then doesn't have all the skill, one may wonder if the question of respect even has to be addressed in that context. My conclusion there is that even in koryû how things are today often shows quite an evolution with how the branch was when it started.

This post has been edited by Cichorei Kano: 29 April 2012 - 03:50 AM

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#6 User is offline   seatea 

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 08:38 AM

View PostTaigyo, on 28 April 2012 - 10:03 PM, said:

Have been mentally wrestling with a difficult situation and I had what seems to be a significant insight. Amongst the many misunderstandings of Americans of Japanese culture, is the difference between showing someone respect and that person actually having authority over you. In seeing the way Japanese act around people of higher Judo rank Americans assume that they actually have some authority over the lower ranked people. This is because Americans rarely show deference to anyone unless they have actual authority over them. Thus they tend to view Judo rank as military rank, that is gives some authority over lower ranked people. This is entirely wrong. Judo rank only reflects the level of Judo learning of a particular individual, it does not confer any authority. Of course people will tend to show respect to people of great Judo learning, but they are in no way obliged to follow their instructions.

Teacher-student relationships fall under an entirely different situation. That is a personal agreement between two people. The teacher will do their best to pass on knowledge to the student and the student will do his best to follow the teachers instructions.

Your post made me think of this.

Quote

Classical judo, as taught in all other Seattle judo clubs, encourages mindless repetition of losing skills. Critical thinking is also discouraged through repeated bowing to the dojo, tatami, sensei, and kamiza (god shelf, usually including a pictrure of Jigoro Kano), all ways to insinuate the Shinto religion. If you want to practice judo as an American in the Seattle area, come to the U.S. Judo Training Center in Renton.


Opinions on bowing.

This link was posted on a forum largely populated by BJJ practitioners, mostly for laughs and most took it in the spirit the original poster intended. However, a small number surprised me with their vehement loathing of bowing; some admitted to doing it only resentfully, because they wouldn't be allowed to train if they didn't, others said they would never do Judo or train at BJJ gym where bowing was required. They said it was a sign of submission and it was un-American (their words).
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#7 User is offline   Still learning 

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 10:57 AM

I was brought up on the understanding that respect had to be earned. I will always therefore respect the grade but neccessarily the man.

I regularly train with 2 fifth dans who have my complete respect because how they have developed themselves, achieved their grade and are keen to assist others. However I also know a 6th for whom I have no respect, as I have never seen him do any Judo, offer any advice, he just parks himself on the edge of the mat doing apparently nothing.
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#8 User is offline   Hanon 

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 01:00 PM

View PostTaigyo, on 29 April 2012 - 06:46 AM, said:

Mr. Hannon, I would say your example lies more in the area of student-teacher, and the fact that it is your dojo and so you are ultimately responsible. However, merely because you hold a higher Judo rank does not give you any authority over me if I am outside of your dojo.
Dynamics within the dojo are different, especially among adults. In a machi (community) dojo such as ours, though there is a senior instructor, the dojo belongs to everyone. Should godans opinion count for more than yodan when running the dojo? This is outside the student-teacher relationship.

Judo rank was established to recognize levels of Judo skill, it is an educational tool and was never meant to establish a power structure or pecking order.


Hiya,

I do enjoy your posts. They are thoughtful and thought provoking. :manoyes:

I agree with what you write above. I have a dojo. My dojo is not a toy to be played with. Students can and do get hurt with accidents. It is MY responsibility to ensure the safety of my pupils, after all they are part of my extended family, and I take my teaching responsibility very seriously. I have had my son and now have my grandson on the tatami so my guide is simple, treat others as you would have them treat ones own.

I understand your question I truly do, I agree with your points. This is not enough though to end there. Rank is seen by far too many as a licence of authority rather than a responsibility to be an example in deed.

Do you realise who has always has the real authority in judo? Its the pupil. If the pupil doesnt like the sensei or their peers the dojo will close. What good is the title sensei or the rank of go dan or ku dan if one has no one to work and share judo with?

As you write rank is a personal sign a judoka has achieved a certain skill level up to around go dan. After that the rank should be shown not in just the colour but in how the person wears it and behaves in it.

Again I agree with you that there are those who gain this kohaku rank, sit on it, then lord it over all who they see as below them. There are presently three Ku dan. Two of them I will treat with deep respect and deference the other one can......let me say I would keep away from him.

The only person who has real authority over you is yourself and the law of the land.

Authority in terms of judo comes from respect. I was raised in judo to respect age. If I speak here with a person who is older than me I will show them a different respect even though I may be 6 dans higher than they. It is how I was raised and part of me.

Does rank in judo bring authority...? It can but its not automatic. Respect comes first. I have to EARN your repect you dont have to offer it to me. It is my responsibility by example and hard work on my part to gain your respect. If I do that you may accept I have some form of authotity when I speak on matters of judo. IF I pi55 you of with my attitude and upset you you would never accept me as a person nor a peer and especially a senior rank. Why should you? Further, in pi55ing you off I have lost a judoka who may teach me and I may teach him, to this end it is in MY best interests to ensure I keep a balance and respect all I work with in judo. :manoyes:

Now at my age if I find a person of hachi dan and above and I don't take to his manner I simply avoid that person. If I have to come into contact I show manners and in terms of judo show respect in front of others. If said hachi dan said something I din't take to I would shut up but off the tatami I may go and speak with said hachi dan making my case. I may not bother. IN general if I decide to step onto a tatami I accept the teachers right to be responsible for me. If I can't accept that I simply avoid stepping on his tatami.

Rank is not a licence to be a pig, it is a grave responsibility to show ones worthy of ones rank and work hard to gain the respect from ones peers. It takes a life time.

Mike
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#9 User is offline   Hanon 

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 01:04 PM

View PostStill learning, on 29 April 2012 - 04:27 PM, said:


..........However I also know a 6th for whom I have no respect, as I have never seen him do any Judo, offer any advice, he just parks himself on the edge of the mat doing apparently nothing.




There are worse situations :huh: . Said rokudan could be walking around the outside of the tatami shouting at every ones effort just abusing them :o . Most regions have one of those! They also get on my nerves.

Mike
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#10 User is offline   Taigyo 

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 02:48 PM

Well, SeaTea I most certainly do not go along with all the aniti-bowing, Shinto plot to take over the world hooey. I have no problem with bowing and showing respect especially where it is real. When I meet my teacher I am quite happy to bow as I am glad to see him and am quite grateful for all he has done for me.

As you said Mr. Hannon, the student is the one with the power. It is his choice to pursue studies with a particular teacher or not. I have often stated that higher ranks do not have authority over their juniors, rather a responsibility to them. In turn, out of gratitude for being taught and guided the juniors show their seniors respect. I know this is ideal and is rarely realized anywhere, but then Judo is an idealistic enterprise. It is the difference between a senior black belt expecting to have his bag carried for him, and a student who wants to express his gratitude offering to carry the senior black belt's bag.

The human desire for power is always present. I have practiced a Koryu for quite a few years now and in some ways it is far better. As you say, Koryu exists in relatively small groups so my experience is not the same as others. In my art the groups orbit around particular menkyo kaiden. The menkyo kaiden basically functions as the benevolent(hopefully) dictator of the group. In our case the menkyo kaiden is a really great guy and I have always been treated well, but I know this is not true of other groups. The within group dynamics are also a bit different, perhaps since the rank structure is more limited in extent (4 steps rather than potentially 16) there is less to bicker over. I know there are a lot of ho ha about legitimacy, back biting, etc., but it seems to be more between groups than within. Actually it is somewhat to be expected from groups that formerly expected to face one another on the battlefield or dueling grounds.

Though gendai budo sought to shake off the feudal nature of koryu, some shadows remain, such as the status and authority of the Kano family, none of whom have shown any particular ability in Judo since the founder.

The responsibility to maintain a safe dojo where proper learning can occur and the authority over individuals that stems from it are generally the last thing people seem to think about when they are trying to establish the legitimacy of the authority they seek. In fact, this is the form of authority and responsibility that can be most easily shared among a group that understands and agrees upon the conditions that are necessary for a safe dojo that is a good place to learn. It should really be the same with Judo, all are working towards a more or less agreed upon end. But then again conflict can also arise because of disagreements of what the point of this exercise actually is.
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#11 User is offline   Hedgehogey 

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 04:12 PM

View Postseatea, on 29 April 2012 - 04:38 AM, said:

Opinions on bowing.

This link was posted on a forum largely populated by BJJ practitioners, mostly for laughs and most took it in the spirit the original poster intended. However, a small number surprised me with their vehement loathing of bowing; some admitted to doing it only resentfully, because they wouldn't be allowed to train if they didn't, others said they would never do Judo or train at BJJ gym where bowing was required. They said it was a sign of submission and it was un-American (their words).


Now i'm no fan of the fetishistic Japanophilia a lot of judoka seem to ooze out their pores, but that article is...wow. It's like a 1910 "Beware the Yellow Peril!" pamphlet.
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#12 User is offline   Taigyo 

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 07:07 PM

View PostHedgehogey, on 29 April 2012 - 05:12 PM, said:

Now i'm no fan of the fetishistic Japanophilia a lot of judoka seem to ooze out their pores, but that article is...wow. It's like a 1910 "Beware the Yellow Peril!" pamphlet.

Yeah, I have always been fascinated by the conclusion that a religion as vaguely defined as Shinto, with basically no written doctrine could get it together enough to launch a scheme for world domination.

As with all cultures, Japan has its positive and negative aspects (a lot more of the former than most are willing to believe). Studying something that has aspects of another culture has value, perhaps one of the key values is that by providing a contrast it may help you to actually understand your own culture better. Copying things without real understanding has many of the same risks of discarding things in the name of "Americanization". T
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#14 User is offline   Joseph Svinth 

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 07:11 PM

[
Opinions on bowing.

This link was posted on a forum largely populated by BJJ practitioners, mostly for laughs and most took it in the spirit the original poster intended. However, a small number surprised me with their vehement loathing of bowing; some admitted to doing it only resentfully, because they wouldn't be allowed to train if they didn't, others said they would never do Judo or train at BJJ gym where bowing was required. They said it was a sign of submission and it was un-American (their words).
[/quote]

That case was already lost in court.

Having read the court's decision, it appears that neither side's attorneys bothered hiring any professors of comparative Asian religion to speak as expert witnessess. Otherwise, the court would have known that bowing has nothing to do with Shintoism.

Be that as it may, the court ruled that the published rules of the international organizations require bowing at judo tournaments. Consequently, in sanctioned judo tournaments, one either a) bows to the mat, the opponent, and the official, or b) doesn't play. It really is that simple.
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#15 User is offline   Francois 

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 11:39 PM

View PostTaigyo, on 28 April 2012 - 02:03 PM, said:

Edit

Amongst the many misunderstandings of Americans of Japanese culture, is the difference between showing someone respect and that person actually having authority over you. In seeing the way Japanese act around people of higher Judo rank Americans assume that they actually have some authority over the lower ranked people.
<snip>



What is your perception of how Japanese act around people of hiher Judo rank......? Having grown up in the "Japanese" environment I may not understand fully what you call Americans assuming higher ranks having authority over lower ranks.
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#16 User is offline   Taigyo 

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Posted 30 April 2012 - 02:07 AM

View Postptnippon, on 30 April 2012 - 12:39 AM, said:

What is your perception of how Japanese act around people of hiher Judo rank......? Having grown up in the "Japanese" environment I may not understand fully what you call Americans assuming higher ranks having authority over lower ranks.

Well, I guess I am an atypical American but here is generally what I would say
1. Bowing, of course the high ranks bow back but most Americans are unaware that this is a mutual exchange of respect
2. Extreme deference, no one would ever dream of interrupting, or walking in front of a high ranking sensei without apologizing.
3. VIP treatment, this type of treatment in America is typically reserved for those highly placed in politics or the military, or the very rich and/or famous. Everyone scrambles to attend to their every desire and need.
4. No one would ever question or disagree with a high ranking sensei (not to their face anyway).

While I am aware these are may not be entirely accurate in fact, I think that this is the general impression that most Americans would come away with after observing such interactions. In America this type of treatment is reserved for the rich and powerful. Why would you treat someone in this way unless they had some power over you?
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