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dyffcult 07-24-2005 12:54 AM

Returning after 15 years
About 15 years ago, I began my training at Aikido in Fresno, California (USA for those not in the know) under Patrick Cassidy Sensei. I trained every week -- five days a week for about two months. Cassidy Sensei then advised that he was moving to Iwama to train and invited me to attend. So less than a month later, I found myself in Iwama as an uchi deshi. I stayed for three months and then returned home.

During my three months in Iwama, I had the most amazing time. I was the only foreign female there for the majority of the time which was its own experience in itself. As the only female, I was given O'Sensei's bedroom in which to sleep. (The dreams I had!!!) Later, when more females arrived, I was moved to the Red Room, where I oversaw other female uchideshi.

There was this weird off the mat -- on the mat dispersion of "sempai." There was rank on the mat and rank by time in the dojo. Basically, I was required to teach all newcomers with less time than me how to behave at the Iwama dojo -- regardless of the person's rank in aikido. Without anyone ever explaining it to me, I was expected to teach those higher in Aikido rank then I, but with less experience with the dojo than I, the rules of the dojo. This was harder than I expected, expecially because I did not realize it was my job until sometime in the middle of my second month -- after I got my ass chewed out in Japanese that I didn't understand by Sensei.

Have to admit, I loved it when Pat Hendricks showed up and lifted the burden of responsibility from my shoulders.....

Anyway.... we all had weapons training each morning, regular class each night and children's class each day. Other classes, personal training, and pecial seminars seemed to fill up the days. Each morning began with chores. I guess because I was the only uchideshi female when I arrived, I was given the chore of cleaning and preparing the fresh flowers for the kamiama. Sometimes sexism is cool. Thereafter we all had weapons class. Hitohiro-san was my weapons partner almost every morning. When he was not, some other yondan or higher was.... I learned so much my head still spins. Nights were filled with practice, generally with students of much high rank then I. (One trains to the level of one's opponent -- imagine always training so far above one's current level.)

Before I left Iwama, Saito Sensei informed Patrick that he would be testing me. Of course, he didn't say on what day or night he would test me and I waited with baited breath and trained accordingly for a few weeks before the test occurred. Saito Sensei granted me a 2nd kyu grade following my test.

I have to admit that I found it very hard to train once I returned to the States. I was used to warming up and practicing my ukemi before class. I was used to forty five minutes or more of actual technique instruction and I was used to the same partner through the entire class.

The level of training in Japan versus the level of training in the States made it hard to continue my training... of course, my dojo was off again on again during this time as was my income. A few years later, the dojo was established, but I lived over 40 minutes away. Given the drive time (I do live in California <wicked grin>) and my dis-satisfaction with the level of instruction (all first dans at that time), and my longing for training Japanese style, I simply abandoned my training.

Two years ago I moved to the Bay area and enrolled in a local dojo only to find out it was not the style I prefer. I had already paid the registration fee, etc. Shortly thereafter, I found a dojo in my style, but took almost a year before I decided to enroll. Unfortunately I enrolled in my current dojo only to learn that my mental beliefs sadly outstripped my physical abilities -- in other words, I could no longer perform the aikido that my mind believed it could. In other words, I needed to lose weight and improve my breath.

I had gained over eighty pounds since my training in Japan and could barely survive a class -- even one labeled as a beginner. I have since lost a great deal of weight (30+lbs.) and plan on returning to the dojo beginning in August 2005 for active training.

So.... I miss my aikido. I miss it for my health. I miss it for my mind. I miss it for my spirit. I miss it for my body. I miss it for me. I miss my aikido.

Not only has aikido provided me with a lovely expression of physical exertion, but it calms my mind ... my soul. Aikido enhances every aspect of my life. Aikido creates focus.

When I practice aikido on a regular basis, I feel more centered, more balanced, more powerful.... more healthy. I remember practicing on a daily basis....the sweat....the exhaustion....the energy....the quiet calmness.... I am always more when I train.

I love aikido.

What do I fear in my upcoming training? I fear the American-style of training. I fear practicing ukemi -- for I tend to get highly disoriented upon repeated rolls... I fear multiple training partners during each session -- which require me to focus on the partner and not the technique. I fear the
American tendency to articulate a technique -- I learn better by watching.

So here I am.... A new, sorta old student of aikido....

Dirk Hanss 07-24-2005 07:23 AM

Re: Returning after 15 years
welcome to the club.
My story is not half as interesting as yours. But gaining weight, losing experience during a longer period of absence from Aikido is something we share ;).

I understand it is a pity, coming back to the States, not finding a dojo with the right style and inferior instuctions. Maybe you might have realized, that no aikido was not the best solution to avoid that "not as good as wished" aikido. Holding a second kyu and lots of ideas, if you had stayed, you probably would have your own dojo now.

Well, not necessarily, but even if you could havebrought in some ideas to the next dojo you can go to, it is your contribution to a better world :). Now you have plenty of ideas and not the possiblity to show how they work, as your body has to regain abilities. (Sorry, sometimes I do not know if I am talking abiout you or me)

About your ukemi: unless you really got a handicap, try to improve it slowly but steadily. Even if you might not get back to where you've been 15 years ago, ukemi is one thing you can always need in "real life" situations. Well, here I am talking about bike accidents and black ice. ;)

Cheers Dirk

akiy 07-24-2005 07:55 AM

Re: Returning after 15 years
Hi Brenda,

Nice to have you here. Thank you for your introduction.

I've trained with Patrick as well as Pat, Kim, and (although he's no longer at your current dojo) Hoa in the past. Good set of folks.

-- Jun

maikerus 07-25-2005 06:12 PM

Re: Returning after 15 years
Hi Brenda,


I have never trained at Iwama, but I have trained at the Yoshinkan Hombu and understand what you must be going through. Friends of mine who have returned to their home countries after doing some pretty intensive training here have expressed similar sentiments (I still live in Japan).

One of the most useful remarks a teacher of mine made to me as I was complaining about being told to work with beginners was that "You can learn something from everyone". Basically he meant that there is no wasted get out of if what you put into it and you can find something to practice no matter who your partner is. Over the years I have realized how true this is.

Welcome back and as your physical health catches up to your mental Aikido please consider the above. I think it will it does for me :)

Take care,


rachmass 07-28-2005 10:24 AM

Re: Returning after 15 years
Welcome back. Do not hold onto your prior training too hard, or you will miss wonderful opportunities for the future. Depending on where you end up training, you could well be in for an even more intense practice that what you received at Iwama (Chiba Sensei and Shibata Sensei come to mind, both are in CA, and Shibata not too far from where you are located). I see too many people short change themselves due to prior training. Afterall, nikkyu is not even at beginner stage, and from the sounds of it, you only practiced a year or so....., enjoy your new training, and let go of the past. Have fun and do not compare.

best wishes, Rachel

dyffcult 07-28-2005 09:52 PM

Re: Returning after 15 years
Thanks for the welcome!

Over the last few months, I have realized how much I miss aikido and what it provided in my life. Accordingly, I have been working on my attitude. Training is what you put into it. There may be things that are different than what I prefer, and even aspects that I do not enjoy, but it will still be training in an art that I love. So I will go. I will train. And I will love.

These boards (and others) and people like you guys reminded me of all that I loved and love about aikido. Reading the posts of others and the joy that they express (amongst a wide range of other things :-) is what made me determined to return to training.

Thanks again,


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