Re: Training at Aikikai Hombu Dojo - Experiences
I went to Japan 3 times with the purpose of doing Aikido and stayed each time for about a month. While I was not there to there to train at Hombu Dojo, I found myself there on a number of occasions. My experiences were mostly positive, especially this one.
My friend, who is a member of Hombu, coerced me into meeting her for Doshu's early morning class. I met her and we sat next to each other as everyone was lining up. Then, an older man came sort of swaggering over and asked if my friend and I were going to practice together. I could tell by my my friends speech and body language that this was someone important. The next thing I knew, she was getting up and this guy sat down next to me. I had heard stories about people at Hombu who took it upon themselves to knock visiting young Gaijin yudansha down a couple of notches. (I fit that demographic precisely)
My heart was racing as class began and I just said to myself "no matter what happens, just take your take your best ukemi and under no circumstances try to resist this guy". As we started to practice together, he gradually got faster and stronger with his technique. All I did was my best. I attacked hard and straight and then received his technique as best as I could. At some point my partner's gruff demeanor changed and he started to smile a little.
Doshu came over and said something that I didn't catch, but it must have been funny, because everyone around us chuckled. Then he threw me a few times and walked away.
After class, my partner was very friendly and asked if I'd like to have my picture taken with him in front of the shomen. As we walked to Shinjuku station after class, my friend told me that my unexpected partner was a 7th Dan that ran several Dojos just to the north of Tokyo.
I'm absolutely convinced that if I had tried to prove a point or if I had wilted and shown fear, that class would have been one of my worst Aikido experiences ever. Instead it is a very good memory.