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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 trained in S'toon for 3 years and attained the rank of sankyu by the end of that time. Shortly after getting my sankyu rank, life circumstances took me to Winnipeg. I quickly found the Winnipeg Aikikai, a dojo training in the St. James YMCA. The group at the time was headed by a fellow named Eric, who was a rank higher than me. The club had mostly middle-aged guys in it who were used to an easier pace to practice than was the norm in S'toon. Naturally, I trained with the vigor usual to my experience in Aikido the first time I was with these men. I later heard that, as a result, they hoped I wouldn't return. I roughed them up, apparently, though this was not my intent. You see, not only was I learning Aikido but I was also powerlifting, which made for a very "feisty" flavour to my technique. The fellows at the Winnipeg dojo, at least at first, definitely found this style of Aikido an "acquired taste." Nonetheless, they put up with me and allowed me to continue to train with them.
Apart from Eric, I was the only one with a rank higher than gokyu in the dojo. Eric was often away on work-related matters, and so it fell to me as the next highest-ranked person in the dojo to "teach." Eventually, Eric ceased to train altogether and I became the "teacher" by default. Ugh.
I was keenly aware of the inappropriateness of my situation as a sankyu-ranked Aikido instructor but I didn't see how I could avoid it. Suffice it to say, I was extremely insecure in this role and so tried to carry on as though I knew exactly what I was doing. I don't think anyone was fooled into believing this, however.
In any event, my fellow students and I carried on as best we could with training. Occasionally, we would have Bob M., a sandan from a nearby club in Ontario, come to teach. He and I didn't initially hit it off. My insecurity as instructor coupled with a difference of opinion on how vigorously to train created a somewhat strained condition between us. The tension eased eventually but in the meantime I gained a reputation as an inordinately rough, even dangerous, Aikidoist, which I don't think Bob took any pains to discourage. Looking back, there was truth to this rumour; I did train pretty roughly. The thinking, though, seemed to be that I did so because I was bloodthirsty and mean, rather than simply eager to train with martial vigor. But I was not then, nor am I now, motivated from such things in my practice. I wished only to have strong and effective Aikido.
One fellow in the dojo had become thoroughly disapproving of my role as instructor. I'll just call him "C." He was an older guy, stiff as a board in practice, and more eager to talk about Aikido than to do it. He began secretly to talk with Kawahara Shihan about sending a teacher to the Winnipeg dojo. Finally, one day, C. informed me that an instructor was coming, sent out of the blue, by a concerned Kawahara Shihan. C. didn't tell me that he had provoked this turn of events, however. There was no "out of the blue," only the conniving, deceitful machinations of C.
I felt surprised, of course, and relieved. The coming instructor was sandan-ranked and, from all accounts, very skilled. I was looking forward to his arrival. The dojo had moved from the YMCA to a school facility where we had permanently laid down almost 2000 sq. feet of mats. Due to city-wide advertising through a city-published activities guide, we had sometimes twenty-plus people on the mats training and nearly a dozen people watching. The dojo was really hopping! The advent of a sandan into this situation would only have been a boon, I thought, to the dojo. Unfortunately, nothing could have been farther from the truth.