Dojo: Shindai Aikikai, Orlando FL
Location: Windermere, Florida
Join Date: Nov 2009
Re: Dennis Hooker Passes Away
The man that was my Sensei (Dennis Hooker Shihan) for over a quarter century has stepped away from the conflict of life. He was not my first teacher or my last, but he will forever be the greatest influence and the teacher I attribute my allegiances to. I was not his first student, his most talented or his best. Like everyone he touched however, he treated and challenged me that way. He inspired me and so many others beyond the limits they set for themselves. I believe his legacy will prove in fact that his best student has yet to be seen, because the ripples of his life will continue to reach out through all he has inspired.
Sensei was a hard man to know, but I think I knew him better than most on many levels. He was an intensely private and proud individual. He told me many times that he had students, acquaintances, associates, but that I was one of his best friends. It was hard to balance Sensei and friend. After 25 years, much to his annoyance, I still had a hard time calling him by his first name outside the dojo, never inside. I never did in the presence of any other student. Being his friend was as hard as being his student, but I will always treasure the gift of both. Another gift he gave me was his endorsement and his trust. He trusted me with his dojo. The weight of this does not pass with him. His example and passion will be continued as best we can. The door to his Shindai Dojo will always remain open so that others will always be able to enter his heart.
Aikido teaches principle commonalities to the human condition in that we all have strengths and weakness, loves and dislikes, accomplishments and failures, and ultimately we all share life's end. Hooker Sensei wasn't afraid of death as long as it had meaning. We agreed that our lives are ultimately framed by the friends we have, what we were able to give, and what the positive influences we were able to provide. Well, he always wanted to go out on his own terms too. Maybe that happened. I look at Sensei this way, mourning his loss in part for those who will not hear his voice directly, but I also celebrating his passing through, and what he gave to all of us. To know Hooker Sensei off the mat was a difficult thing, just to catch him after he left the mat was difficult the last few years was an accomplishment. On the mat however, he bared his soul and shared all he was. For most that was enough. He had more challenges than most men I have known or ever will, and he inspired all by dealing in them with stoic Herculean effort .
Sensei was complex, a bit of an enigma at times, but he always gave in full measures, sharing and inspiring passion in the dojo for Aikido, Budo, sword. He will be remembered for this as well as his legendary perseverance. We watched him stumble to the mat on occasion barely being able to walk, laboring to breath or stand straight, but when his feet touch the mat decades of spirit straightened his spine and propelled everything that was left. He did this until he could no longer walk to the mat. Sensei was at times gruff and seemingly emotionally opaque, but I knew intimately the integrity of his Budo, which was illuminated by how much he kept others from knowing the pains that ultimately took him. It was a warrior thing.
The warrior persona is sought and much claimed in the martial arts, but in my experience few walk the walk. Sensei was a warrior. In aikido guidance along the path is often sought in the principles and philosophies of Budo. He made Shindai a budokan 25 years ago. Someone described sensei as an old school Budo man. So true. He was a true and principled warrior. He showed those who could see that being a warrior was not a matter of rank, branch of service, power, speed, the ability to dominate or destroy, any organization or affiliation, campaign or circumstance, but how you balanced the engagements with the battles you had to fight. He was without question martially superior, but that was rarely his message. He exemplified a standard that showed, despite difficulty, injury or circumstance, it was how you chose to endure that proved your metal. You never questioned that he would put himself in harm's way or die for his convictions and the ones he loved. He will be remembered as a warrior for the right reasons.
Mata Aimashou Sensei