Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History
Memory is a very funny thing. I began my Aikido training in Sarasota Fla. with Saotome Sensei in Feb. of 1977. I am sure of this (though I won't go into how). For the first week, or so, classes were taught by John Messores and Patti Saotome (nee Taft) as Saotome Sensei was at Oberlin for part of their winter term. I remember clearly the first time I saw Saotome Sensei but not the date. During these years I and my girlfriend (now wife) trained daily with Saotome Sensei. That's my story as I remember it but it's not entirely true. I couldn't train every single day. I was a working musician who held a day job and played gigs in the evening. Still, my experience was the privilege of training with Saotome Sensei and calling him my Sensei. During those years Ikeda Sensei came to the dojo to study with Saotome Sensei. When Saotome moved from Sarasota to Washington D.C. Ikeda Sensei became the head instructor at Sarasota Aikikai. I don't remember the exact date. I therfore consider both Saotome Sensei and Ikeda Sensei to be my sensei. Sensei's move to D.C. was preceded by quite a few extended "trips" to the area. This is how it goes. My point here is that like Ledyard Sensei I am privileged to have engaged in the process of learning the little Aikido that I know from these extraordinary people. I am extremely fortunate to have been where I was when I was. I'm sure it is that way for Saotome Sensei also and his relation to O'sensei.
For those of us with 30 plus years of training we tend to take things like our Sensei's linage seriously. For someone to, even with the best of intentions, appear to cast a cloud over something that is very near and dear to us (30 years is a long time to dedicate to an art or teacher) may cause a bad taste. For some this isn't a problem but for others it is. I've seen this discussion get quite ugly. If we are truly dedicated to the principles of Aikido maybe we should agree to disagree, brush off our wounded egos and move on. If we, in the Aikido community, can't get along with each other how can the philosophy of Aiki be respected outside of our small circle. O'sensei provided us with "a way to reconcile the world." Shouldn't we accept the responsibility of living our lives peacefully instead of "calling each other out."
We are losing fine teachers and aikidoka every year. I believe it behooves us to take advantage of the opportunity to learn from those who actually knew and trained with the founder of our art instead of picking petty quarrels with each other.