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I teach Aikido at a small dojo in Winnipeg, Canada. Been doing so for many years now. This blog is just a collection of ruminations on teaching, descriptions of the events of daily practice, and the occasional funny story.
I have an interesting bunch of people with whom I train. I've taught Aikido to folks from all walks of life: welders, security guards, doctors, business men, students, musicians (a lot of these), soldiers, policemen, housewives, general labourers, etc. etc. Presently, I teach Aikido to a fairly diverse group ranging from a sixty-something Phd. in clinical psychology to a twenty-year-old auto-glass installer.
Jim, the retired-teacher-turned-clinical-psychologist is the oldest member of my dojo. He began his study of Aikido with an independent dojo - a sort of off-shoot of Ki Aikido. He trained there for a dozen years (I think) and reached the rank of nidan. Unfortunately, the dojo shrank to nothing and Jim found himself looking elsewhere to train. Eventually, Jim found my dojo and began to train with me. He's been with me for a number of years now (Five or six? I'm not sure...) and has been nothing but a boon to the dojo.
The transition from what Jim knew as Aikido to what I was teaching was...significant. Let's just say my style of Aikido was more "gritty." Anyway, Jim has stuck with me, endured the re-orientation of his Aikido, and is now a core member of my dojo. He's never quite lost the Ki Aikido-ish way of moving - a hopping, swinging, weight-underside style of action - but I don't really expect him to.
One of the things about Jim that stands out in my mind is his habit of dropping to his knees when he's put off balance. I mean, he drops straight down. Not forward and down, or back and down, but right, straight, down like he's been clotheslined. This means that sometimes he falls directly onto nage's toes. In fact - and this is why I mention it - he dropped onto my toes once so hard he caused blood to splurt from my big toenail. It made a bit of a mess on the mats. A week later he did it again - to the same toe! My toe turned dark purple for a few days and my nail fell off. Ouch!
In spite of being sixty, Jim still takes breakfalls. Pretty darn impressive, if you ask me - especially in view of the fact that Jim is a fairly big guy. I hope I can do the same when I'm his age.
'Working with Jim requires that you move with him, not against him. Imposing technique on Jim is very, very difficult. This is good, I think, because, of course, technique ideally should not be imposed. Throwing Jim requires a slower pace and a gentle, subtle energy which only flows from a gentle, peaceful mind. Practicing with him, then, means training with an open, harmonious attitude, which is, as you might expect, a very pleasant experience -- except, of course, for the toe crushing thing.