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Now here's another book I should have read long ago, Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" so I should try to find a copy and finally read it!
But just the title reminded me of my trips to Boston, around 1979-1980 if I remember correctly. I was teaching at the local YMCA here, for those of you who remember me mentioning it in earlier entries. I had an assistant, and he had his own assistant, a rugby player, and they loved to "bash" each other. At least that's what they called it, although I don't think we had any flying breakfalls. The only time anyone from that group got injured was the time the rugby player and one of the young women students got bored in my class and snuck off to the (no doors, so don't get any ideas!) wrestling room that had mats and injured each other. I must have afterwards given them the message, "now you see why we do things the way we do..."
But more on that group later, with Larry in charge I knew I could take off for Boston without any worries. My friend from summer camp 1973 liived in Marblehead, and a former student from the Y lived around Central Square, so I had places to stay and people I really wanted to visit and who really wanted me to visit them!
But now I remember another story, "The Wizard of Oz." Not that it directly relates to my going to Boston, but Kanai Sensei was rather mysterious and fascinating, yet I think, besides the excellent Aikido training, it's what he drew out of people. I got a lot of confidence from going up there. It was good for my assistant to teach once a month. But here, I'm getting ahead of myself. We had no class here on Fridays, we just had Monday through Thursday, so I started out by taking the bus to the train Friday morning.
Then it was hinted that it would be a good idea to take the Beginners' Class Thursdays. I wondered if it was because they did certain techniques differently.... Evan, who had studied in New York showed me the ukemi rolls were done with bending down on one leg and rolling back almost like the start of the famous Russian dance.....
Beginners' class was available Tuesdays too, but all I would have to do to catch one would be to go up a day early. Since I was too "ascared" (quote from the comic strip Rugrats about the toddlers) to be at the front of the mat where the strong ukes were, it was hard to catch exactly what Kanai Sensei was doing when he introduced each technique in the regular class.
When I arrived at the Beginners' Class the next time I came up to Boston I found the class had a lot of yudansha in it, presumably all looking to see the secrets of Aikido as Kanai Sensei took the techniques apart for us. Instead of , say, four techniques in an hour, it was one technique where he showed each of four parts of one technique. That was such a great opportunity!
Years later, I heard New York Aikikai had a problem with starting a beginners' class. The black belts would flood it, trying to learn the techniques in great detail as Yamada Sensei demonstrated them for the beginners. I think they had to stop separating the classes. No point. Everyone ended up in the beginners' classes.
Yamada Sensei always emphasized basics. One year, not very many months after I returned from Japan, and before I started visiting Ginny and Beverly in Boston, I remember one time he invited our little YMCA dojo plus the large New Haven Aikikai dojo for a special afternoon seminar one Saturday. We were doing what he called tenkan practice where uke grabs with one hand. I remembered this particular class when I saw someone had mentioned Tai no Henko when I logged onto Aiki Web this morning. Sensei gave me a mischievous look and started talking Japanese, since I had liived there for a year and a half. Well, at least he wasn't trying to embarrass me in front of uke....
"Nannen keiko ...." (I forget whether or not he used the more tough form of the verb we had learned from the Japanese movies with Toshiro Mifune)
"How many years have you been practicing?"
Ouch. That might have been one of the times I could almost smell clorox to use on my belt!