Re: It Had to Be Felt #34: Suganuma Morito: The Calligrapher
I have so far experienced seminars with Suganuma sensei several times in Norway (where he was hosted by Bjorn Eirik Olsen sensei who spent a couple of years at his dojo in the '80s). Taking ukemi from Suganuma sensei was about smoothness and inevitability. There was nothing obviously flashy in what he taught - and my second seminar I was almost disappointed that not much was different to the previous seminar. And yet I then started to really appreciate his qualities as a person, as well as an exceptional aikido teacher.
He usually has a question and answer session in seminars, and in my first seminar mine was "what is the most important thing in Aikido?". His answer: "The connection between you and uke". I asked the same question a couple of years later - not trying to catch him out, but genuinely interested to see if he answered the same, or not - either response would be of interest. As it happens, he gave the same answer - he was also much amused when I admitted to my repeat question over dinner!
My resounding memories are of his personality on and off the mat. I was fascinated to feel his forearms (after encouragement by Olsen sensei) - how soft his muscles are when relaxed - somewhat different when taking ukemi! He manifests an intense yet encouraging focus as he moves around the mat, watching people, answering questions, showing techniques. The raptness of his gaze inspires people to do better - his zen experience training manifests itself effortlessly.
More than just an inspiring teacher on the mat, he is an inspiring man.