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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.
So, Jimmy was gone but I still had a small group of students. We practiced together for nearly a year during which time I obtained official sanction by Kawahara Sensei to establish my own dojo. He had some misgivings, of course, and commanded me to attend at least two seminars a year with him. Fair enough.
Near the end of the year I was running an Aikido program at the north YMCA. Two fellows approached me out of the blue asking if I would consider being their teacher. These fellows knew nothing of the group I was teaching at the Y, however. They had some knowledge of me through having observed a couple of classes while I was still running things at the school. They had just quit the independent Ki-Aikido offshoot dojo where the sycophantic students and the megalomaniacal teacher were training (see earlier installment) but wanted very much to continue practicing Aikido. So, they decided to see if I might teach them.
Immediately after leaving their Ki-Aikido dojo, they had gone to the school dojo expecting to find me there but ecountered T. instead. Apparently, one of the two fellows - named John - actually practiced with T but got a nasty roughing up when he inadvertently practiced with T's girlfriend. John had no idea when he trained for part of the class with this woman that she was romantically involved with T. It was only after T nearly dislocated John's shoulder in a sudden and unexplained moment of aggression toward him that he was sureptitiously informed by other students that he had been practicing with T's girlfriend and that if he wanted to leave the dojo unharmed he'd better not do so again. As far as John was concerned, he had had quite enough of "***hole teachers" (to use John's description) so he did not return to T. for more Aikido training. Instead, John and his friend Jeff began to search for me, hoping I might be willing to teach them.
What has always appalled me about John's experience with T. (apart from T's treatment of John) is that, although other students knew T. was behaving terribly, they continued to train with him. Why would they do that? To this day I can't think of a reasonable answer.
In any event, T's loss of John and Jeff was my very great gain. Of all of the students I have had so far, John and Jeff have been the greatest contributors to my Aikido development. Without them I would never have reached sandan. Between the two of them, they have probably taken some ten to fifteen thousand throws from me - most of them during a time when i believed driving uke into the mat hard meant I was doing the technique right. I can never thank them enough for their donation of time, energy and limbs to my Aikido growth.
John was...bouncy. His movement was quick and responsive like a boxer's would be. Jeff was...flexible. He wasn't quite as quick and light as John, but was more relaxed and absorbing. If you put the two movement styles together in one body, you would have the perfect uke. I would throw them non-stop sometimes for an hour and a half! They never complained and gave me all they could as ukes.
John and Jeff were also very serious about setting the right tone in the dojo. No talking, no slacking, and if you were really tired, either sit out or suck it up and keep going. They were all business in training and pushed the other students to be the same. They weren't unkind, mind you, just took what they were doing on the mats very seriously. They liked to laugh and joke with other students but never in a way that diminished the vigor and intensity of training.
It was with John that I gave my first-ever public demonstration of Aikido. I doubt John will ever forget that experience! I thought he was going to faint when we walked out onto the mats thinking we were doing a demo before some thirty people only to find some three hundred staring at us! Just thinking about John's goggling expression as he saw the crowd makes me laugh! I'll tell you all about it next time.