This seems to be a less attended section here so I thought to add another entry to hopefully stimulate some discourse. I also thought this section might be a good way for me to reconnect with some old friends of mine I haven't seen for many years . . . . .
This is an essay I wrote for my own students whom seemed to enjoy it so I thought I might share it with you:
When I first went to Hombu Dojo and met Arikawa Sensei, his practice was almost terrifying. He had a reputation for being very tough and his kote-gaeshi and shiho-nage were particularly devastating. Up until that time, I didn't know someone could be thrown that hard into the mat, or that far across the room! It was almost scary. . . . . Even the way he looked (I shouldn't say this!) was kind of scary to me.
One day, he suddenly came into my room and really surprised me and I jumped up. He said, "While you are here at Hombu Dojo studying Aikido, you need to study Japanese culture as well, and sat me down and pulled out a book of Japanese poetry and began to explain it in great detail. . . . I was so impressed at how well educated he was. This ancient poetry collection, the Kokinshu, was very famous but very difficult to understand. I remember this incident very well.
Most people cannot understand it at all today. As a side note, to participate in the annual poetry contest held by the Imperial Family in Japan, you must master this collection of poems by heart or it is impossible to write traditional poetry. In ancient times, everyone was familiar with this famous collection of the most beautiful poems.
I was so surprised. He often came to visit me, bringing various books and magazines on Japanese culture to explain and introduce to me. One day, he even brought the Manyoshu - an ancient poetry collection, over one thousand years old, in which you need a very specialized Manyoshu dictionary just to read it! No one in Japan even speaks this ancient language today! I was so amazed again and again by Arikawa Sensei's great knowledge.
One day, he noticed that I was hungry because my stomach was making a slight growling noise (how embarrassing!) as he was talking to me - practice was so hard that sometimes we didn't even have time to eat. The very next day, he came and brought me a couple of oranges. Several days later, he brought me some Japanese cookies and another book. He did this many times over that I can't even remember.
I never mentioned this to anyone during my stay - on the outside in practice, he appeared so tough and hard and rarely spoke openly to us. At the same time, I found him to be such a well-educated and scholarly gentlemen, so very refined and educated. And indeed, so compassionate and generous to bring some snacks to one lowly student like me.
This is how teachers were in those days - there was no way to figure them out. We could never judge them so easily, we could only respect them and continually be surprised and impressed at their greatness. . . . .