Are you in an AIKIDO CULT? Miles Kessler

Are you in an AIKIDO CULT? Miles Kessler


Are you in an AIKIDO CULT? It would be a mistake to think Aikido doesn't have cults. When power is concentrated on a singular teacher at the top, there is always the possibility of some unhealthy shadows slipping into the group dynamics. Combine that with the Japanese "budo" ideal of not questioning the hierarchy, then you've got the perfect conditions for cultish tendencies to brew.


I was committed to a group back in the day that was quasi-cultish. Whereas I did gain so much from my teacher and the group, I only fully understood its cultish tendencies once I moved on. 

Having that perspective makes it easier to see cult-like tendencies in other groups in the Aikido world.

Take a look at this helpful checklist from "Cult Recovery 101" and see if it applies to you or your group:

The group is focused on a living leader to whom members seem to display excessively zealous, unquestioning commitment.

Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged, publicly reprimanded, or even punished.

Called-out members are encouraged to make public apologies.

Members constantly "explain" the leader's behavior as a correction for perceived injustices.

Mind-numbing techniques (such as meditation, chanting, denunciation sessions, and mental and physical abuse) are used to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).

The leader dictates sometimes in great detail how members should think, act, and feel.

The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and its members (for example the leader is considered the only one with special abilities, and is Messiah-like who has a special mission to save humanity).

The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which causes conflict with the wider community.

The group’s leader is not accountable to any authorities.

The leadership may induce feelings of guilt, or fear in members in order to control them.

Members regularly "walk on eggshells" so as not to bruise the leader's fragile ego.

Any group that doesn't allow critical questioning of authority (as is the case in Japanese martial culture) can be susceptible to cult-like dynamics. Transparency, questioning, and critical reason are, as always, the best disinfectants.

Miles Kessler

Integral Aikido Principles - with Miles Kessler Sensei