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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.
Suddenly without a dojo, I carefully assessed my training options. I thought very seriously about returning to Saskatoon and travelled there twice to see if I could land a job. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find decent employ, so I resigned myself to remaining in Winnipeg. I started to look around the city for other Aikido dojos. At that time, the only other one was a Ki-Society off-shoot. I attended a public demonstration at the dojo and saw Aikido technique very different from my own. Most of what I saw was no-touch stuff where uke simply dropped to the floor for no apparent reason. I was far from impressed. The teacher let his students do most of the demonstration except for the last five minutes or so during which he performed a few basic techniques. To my surprise, he was fairly skilled. He had good balance and timing, he moved quickly and cleanly, and even used some well-executed atemi. His demeanour, though, was very...peculiar. He appeared to have something of a god-complex going on. His students weren't merely respectful but sycophantic. It was terribly odd - almost embarrassing - to watch the interactions between teacher and students. I didn't like the vibe at all. It seemed to me this particular dojo was a bust.
So, what was I going to do? I was determined I wasn't simply going to stop training. I would do what I could with what I had. But what did I have? Not much, really. As I thought about how to approach continuing training I recalled that there was a YMCA a short distance from where I lived. I knew they would have lots of space and probably mats, so I went down and talked with the person in charge of programs who agreed to allow me use one half of their gym and a dozen mats three times a week. The deal was that I would teach for free whoever expressed an interest in learning Aikido. As you can imagine, I was perfectly okay with that!
The first night at the YMCA I set up the mats and practiced rolling, breakfalls, shikko, basic tai-sabaki, and performed, tai-chi style, two or three techniques. At first, I attracted curious stares, whispers, and covert smiles. Sometimes people would stand and watch me wordlessly for several minutes and then shrug and walk off. It was only after several weeks of solo training that a young guy walked up to me and asked me what I was doing. I explained a bit and then waited for him to ask any further questions. Instead, he said he wanted to give it a try, if I didn't mind.