Recently an Ontario coaching organization offered a course on “Making Ethical Decisions”. I was not able to attend, but I would like to offer my personal thoughts.

Ethics is the study of morality. It is the branch of philosophy that examines questions of good and evil, right and wrong, important and unimportant. How does this apply to Aikido?

I would argue that, given the goals of Aikido training, an Aikido instructor is obliged to live by an elevated moral code. No one can be perfect, but striving for the best level is fundamental.

To begin with, the instructor must obey the law. Criminal behaviour is obviously unacceptable, and ignorance of the law is no excuse. Nowadays that extends also to the Human Rights Code.

Sexual contact with students who are minors is a criminal offence. Sexual relations with adult students are usually wrong because the instructor may be taking advantage of a position of authority.

Discrimination on the basis of race, colour, ethnicity, gender, etc., is morally wrong and also illegal. All students must be treated with respect and given the opportunity to learn. Having said that, there is nothing wrong with acknowledging those students who are not necessarily the most talented but the most hard-working and committed. Furthermore, students need to realize that Aikido is a culturally specific, Japanese-derived activity based on O-Sensei’s vision that Aikido must be open to men and women, the young and the old, the athletic and the non-athletic. Aikido involves the peoples of all nations and ethno-cultural backgrounds practicing together, changing partners, and accepting close physical contact.

Judging tests presents a challenge. It is important not to evaluate based on how much the instructor likes a particular candidate. Decisions must be founded on the skills demonstrated and the attitude displayed.

Of course, these are merely general guidelines. Situations will undoubtedly arise where the appropriate action is not immediately clear. However, keeping these guidelines firmly in mind will always provide a starting point for making moral decisions based on ethical thinking.

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