This is posted to the original question and I originally posted it on another forum. It is long winded. The early part of my life had a lot to do with the person I became and the way I teach and relate to others. Perhaps the reasons I sought out, and have stayed with Aikido is because of the kinds of interpersonal relationships I had early on in my life. Thank God (or who ever want) that I had these early lessons and relationships to balance out the horrific and really bad things that came into my life. These relationships taught me the value of following good people. I do not preach religion but teach Aikido. Although I have preached in church. I hope that some of the early lessons and ideals I developed have influenced in a positive way my teaching. I hope they have brought into my Aikido that which I believe the founder intended to be there. Honesty, sincerity, charity, love, hope, strength, and the physical ability and martial skill to make them possible, practical and believable. The follow is every word the truth. The manner of talking is as close to a nine year old Indiana boy growing up on Wabash River as I can remember.
Now Them Was Christians That Seeded My Faith
Sometimes on a Sunday morning when I was about eight or nine years old I would wake up and polish my shoes. Then I would go through the old beaten up dresser and find my best pair of slacks. I only had two pair of dress slacks and they was mostly for school. I laid them out on the bed and then went about polishing my old shoes and then I would go to the sheet used as a closet door and pull it back and find a button up the front shirt. I didn't often wear such cloths in the summer or on weekends but I was fixing to go to church and I laid out my very best. I would wash my face and hands before dressing in my finery and then I would comb my hair. Regardless of how hard I tried I still looked like a scruffy nine year old. I could never get that polished look I so admired in some of the church kids. Perhaps my slacks were little to and the shirt a little to faded, I don't know but I sure lacked that glimmer I longed for. I would walk out the front door turn right and go one block to the old church. I would marvel at the shinny cars parked around it. The men were dressed in suites with ties and the ladies all wore fine dresses with flowers and such on them and most had on hats. The boys wore new slacks with sharp creases in them, and crisp starched shirts with button down collars. The girls wore frilly dresses and had ribbons in their hair and every Sunday I went to church it felt like Easter to me.
Some of the men would line the steps going up to the church and shake hands with everyone going in. They'd say things like "how you today Brother, or Good Morning Sister" and they would all smile. When I walked up the steps they would say things like good morning and good to see you again and where you been. They treated me just like I was somebody. Just like I was one of them. You know what I mean? Like a regular person and just as good as they was. The preacher, he would be at top of the steps and he would tell me go right in an grab a seat. You know them Evangelical United Brethren folks let me set anywhere I wanted. Why I could go right up front if I wanted to and take a seat right there in the very first row. Not like the Baptist up the hill from my house that told me to set in the back and be quite. Oh them EUB Christians was some nice church folks. Those polished kids in their finery would treat me like I was welcome and never said nasty things to me, or as far as I know about me, or anyone else. Now them was some Christians I reckon.
Now I missed more church than I attended, a lot more. So one Sunday morning I was skipping church and headed down to my swimming spot at the Little Sugar Creek. When I got there what do you reckon I saw? There were folks all lined up and the a preacher was standing about waste deep in water and be was baptizing them. There was picnic tables set up with all manner of food. It was a most glorious sight with that sunshine and white robes and singing and the smell of fried chicken. I was standing there on that little grassy levee looking down and feeling like I been there before. Did you ever have that feeling? It's way down in your belly and it makes you feel all tingly and good. That preacher looked up at me and waved for me to come on down. I did and them lined up people put me right there in the front. The water was cool and it was a mighty hot day and the cool water running over my feet and past my knees and the warm air was blowing against my face and hair was something I will never forget. Then that preacher said a few words and dipped me under. I have had educated folks tell me about sensual reaction to external stimuli. They explain how the warm air and cool water combine to stimulate feelings which are based purely on physical principles That may be well and true but what I felt that morning was something spiritual and entirely different. You see me and that Little Sugar Creek were quite well acquainted with warn summer Sunday mornings. I had often felt something washed off me but never out of me. Plus I got to eat some of that good food. To be honest I got to eat a lot of that good food.
This was my first baptism. Oh, I was baptized more that once you see. At nine years old I thought anything that felt that good was worth overdoing. I didn't think Jesus would mind and besides he probably thought I could use a extra cleaning now and again.
I do believe the seed of my Christian faith was planted on such an occasion as these. Planted by tolerant people who didn't mind a small dirty boy hanging around. People who didn't mind giving more than getting. Now them was some Christians . Now I have often times neglected that seed and for long periods failed to water and fertilize it but it never died and with each true expression of faith it sprouted new roots. Now I will be the first to admit that for years those roots that went out to my heart and my mind, to my feelings and my compassion were barley covered in the soil of the Word, but that seed put out a tap root than went all the way to the core of my soul. You couldn't rip it out with a hoe. Regardless of my personal actions I believe the kindness of Christians and the promise of Christ shaped me. I believe those sun drenched Sunday mornings in the sanctuary and those snow covered evenings in the church basement at youth service, that so often fill my memory, are the gardeners of my life.
One evening in late summer I was invited by the man that conducted the Sunday youth service to a cookout at his house. It was only a block or so from where I lived but it was in another world altogether. Well I can tell you I was excited. I was going to have a hot dog and maybe even a humbugger and a Coca Cola. Maybe even two if no one was looking. I got much more than I bargained for that evening. That one evening I gained a new insight to life. There were lots of other kids there and even a few more grown up men. It was nearly nine o'clock at night and there was a big bonfire going and marshmallows roasting on sticks and not one of them men was drunk. Not only that but none of those men had been drinking beer or whisky. I thought all men got drunk on Saturday night. All my remembering life I could not remember a Saturday when it had not happened. Not only were they sober but they was having a good time. At that moment I realized how other people lived. I was happy that it could be that way. Folks at that church shared with me, ate with me and prayed with me. Finer people I have never known and more honest people were never born. I believe this with all my heart. These were people that rejoiced in their faith and were not to afraid or to timid to express it. These were people not beaten down and repressed by life, but let their joy and their faith and their testimony flow out. These were the people that planted the seed of faith in me. Yes that was when the seed was planted. Now the sprouting of the shoot was something else again. That tender sprout that eventually came up to face the world and the sun had to push it's way through some mighty rocky soil. Why it was stopped entirely sometimes for years. But it never died because it was seeded well. The tap root ran deep. I am near 60 years old now and I believe that sprout turned into a fairly strong stalk a few years ago. It evened flowered with the birth of my granddaughter. I sure hope it bears good fruit and if I'm lucky I can plant a few seeds of faith my own self before I die.
Now I been gone most of twenty five years and I no longer attend Church regularly but my family does. My sister Karin and her husband Mike still attends that same church. Some people say Dennis why don't come to this church or attend that one? My wife never prods me but often invites me to her church and I sometimes go. You see, I am not a man to keep his mouth shut. If I think a good Amen praise the lord and halleluiah brother needs saying I apt to say it. That turns some folks right off, makes them look at you funny. So I set there stiff and wordless. Now I can set on my porch Sunday morning playing the banjo and sing Walking In Jerusalem Just Like John or I'll Fly Way or some other praiseful song as loud and off key as I want and I don't embarrass anyone. I can talk right out loud to Jesus if I want and I can get mad at him for some of his decisions. Oh yes, sometimes I get mad at him and tell him off and you know some folks just don't like that. You see I believe that there are some things God is willing to talk about. I think he just wants to see how much "You" really believe in your request. Of course I most often loose the argument but I feel better because he was willing to talk about it. Sometimes though I am a sore looser and stay mad for a long time. I suppose that is why after the planting of the Christian seed the sprouting of the Christian shoot, the growing of the Christian stalk, the flowering of the Christian devotion the producing of the Christian seed is taking so long.
So what has this long winded tirade got to do with Aikido? Just to show that there are some good Christians people, some good Aikido people, some good black people, some good white people, some good can be found it most every group. Of course some folks just look for the bad people and point them out as examples. Religion is not a bad thing but people can be. Once in Pensacola at the University of West Florida I had two young men form the middle east join the Aikido club at different times. They were both of the Islamic faith and sworn enemies. They would never work out together and entered the dojo through different doors. Two years latter they were friends and when they went home each left me their prayer rug. Aikido can be a good thing for your faith.
Dennis Hooker www.shindai.com