His first email said he'd left his old dojo and was looking for a place where he could get a good workout. He wasn't interested in philosophical bull. I told him we have a strong philosophical bent—our shihan had once been an Omoto Kyo priest. Our loving community is our biggest strength. We're a dojo that welcomes everyone, has strict rules for etiquette and how people are treated. Still, we were within minutes of his home, so he came in. He stayed.
His ukemi was soft, fluid, and beautifully close. He could do techniques I'd not seen, all sorts of variations, but he didn't seem interested in anything he didn't already know and do well. He could teach a person how to roll in about two minutes. He complained about our kihon waza, did his versions instead, and rolled his eyes when asked to do what was being demonstrated.
He particularly liked the young, athletic ukes. Some were afraid of him, chose not to partner with him; others sought him out. Even though he had other obligations, he was always willing to stay after class with anyone who wanted extra help. Sometimes he seemed to know just what a student needed. Other times he could be nasty, yelling and insulting. If he was staying, one of the instructors stayed too.
Our etiquette annoyed him. In my class, I didn't call him down as often or as forcefully as I should have. Ah, my same old issue—not taking up my space. I liked him, despite his orneriness, and I let him push too far. That was my mistake. Really, he made me laugh, even when I had no idea how to deal with him. I teased him into compliance when I should have demanded it or shown him the door. I did him, myself, or the dojo no favors by being too nice. That's not the kind of softness my teacher teaches.
He pushed hard. I didn't always like being pushed or yelled at--one night I cried-- but I saw how his prickly, cantankerous personality was shaking things up in our nice dojo. He was knocking me out of my comfortable routines, and because he had much to teach me, I let him. To this day, some of my favorite variations are ones he showed me. Although I didn't fully trust him, I looked forward to working with him. Maybe because I couldn't trust him to take care of me, I had to take care of myself. That's not a bad lesson, just one we will not teach in our dojo.
I thought we were strong enough, loving enough, to be a dojo where he could stay. We weren't. I had a hard time letting go and wished the situation had ended better. Years later, looking back, I realize how hard changing dojo and doing different kihon waza must be for a senior student, just as I recognize how difficult this lesson was for me. For me, relationships are most important in aikido, and I mourn departures. Yet now I know, some departures are necessary.
We have to teach what we've been entrusted to teach, the way we've been entrusted to teach it. Either we're what students are looking for and they stay, or we aren't and they don't. As our shihan wisely told us when we confessed our failures, "Welcome everybody and run after nobody."
"The Mirror" is a collaborative column written by a group of women who describe themselves as:
Re: Letting Go
Let people come.
Let the technique work.
Let people go.
Well said. Compliments.
Re: Letting Go
Re: Letting Go
Thanks for reading! This was a tough lesson for me--I really do hate departures.
Re: Letting Go
So glad that we can interact and share our thoughts, thanks to Jun and his splendid efforts to bring Aiki awareness to higher levels.
Your insights are most interesting, and definitely different from my thinking on certain subjects. I certainly can learn from the differences, as well as the similarities.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your special experiences!
Please do not be too hard on yourself, as shidoo geiko means training by teaching. That you are willing to do so, despite the price you feel you are paying,speaks volumes about your commitment to your students,and to your study of the Founder's discoveries.
A wise person once told me that "you pick out the kind of person you want to be, and then you try your best to be that person.".
Yes, we all have our pick of potential teachers where ever we go. Let us never neglect to consult the teacher within us, for the wisdom and understanding collected there.
Re: Letting Go
Thank you for your kind comments, Sensei. And yes, thank you to Jun for all the work he does to provide the aikido community with Aikiweb.
"Your insights are most interesting, and definitely different from my thinking on certain subjects." I would really like to hear where those differences are, and talk about them with you.
"Please do not be too hard on yourself, as shidoo geiko means training by teaching." Thank you for those words, too. I am not trying to be hard on myself, but I have to admit that in this situation I had some failings. Failings are opportunities to improve, right? Sometimes I have to learn the same lesson again and again, and sometimes I figure out what needs to change the first time it happens. Even after nine years, running a dojo is something I am growing into, and luckily, we have a wonderful team of people making decisions, not just me. When I first was asked to take the dojo, I had the ideal that we could make everyone happy. But of course, like keeping one's posture during a technique, one must be what one is and some people will stay and some will leave.
"A wise person once told me that "'you pick out the kind of person you want to be, and then you try your best to be that person.'" What a lovely quote. Yes, that's it exactly.
Thank you again for your thoughts,
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