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We're looking for our own spot, that won't be in a basement and will give us a place to grow. It's a fairly hot real estate market, and eight students probably can not support an entire storefront. But, sensei is out looking anyway, when she finds that some old friends are looking at one of the same places she's looking at for a yoga studio. One thing leads to another, and she's sharing a three year lease. We get Monday evening, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.
This more than doubles our possible mat time, and gives us a much nicer space, right off an expressway exit and a mass transit train stop. Sometime I need to put up pictures. We finally got to move in in September 2004.
Costanzo sensei's dojo is small in November 2003. There's one third kyu student, two that have passed one grading, and three unranked students, including myself. We have ten 3' by 6' gymnastics mats, put together in the best "t" shape we can, trying to work around the support pillars in the church basement where we're practicing. It's an odd space, but it works with the people we've got, and its nice enough that we continue to grow a couple of people every three months or so.
In February, we pick up an assistant instructor, Gabriel Coleman. He's a past student of Toyoda Sensei's who had stopped practicing, but he ran into Costanzo sensei, and she enticed him back into the realm of the active. That's a big help... He moved to Maine a few months ago, but he was definitely there for us when we needed him.
By early summer, we're starting to outgrow the mats and the space, and a lucky break happens...
I started with Aikido at Natsu Matsuri, the Chicago Buddhist Temple's summer festival, in June 2003. I saw an AAA demo led by John Bieszk, a godan with the Aikido Association of America. The demo was fun, the space was a little small, but it was enough to get me to sign up for the intro class at Tenshinkan dojo.
I expected to have Dianne Costanzo to teach my class, as that's what the flyer said. Paul Revenko-Jones taught the class instead, as Costanzo Sensei was teaching summer school. He convinced me that I could learn aikido, and shared the story that he was terrified before every aikido class for his first three months. I find my experience to be much the same.
After finishing the class, and signing up for another month at Tenshinkan, I catch up with Costanzo sensei, who is running a small dojo in the basement of a church in Oak Park, my hometown. My aikido life starts to begin.