David Skaggs wrote:
Meaning absolutely no disrespect for the memory of Kobayashi Sensei, there is a question I have.
Did the students feel that Kobayashi Sensei was unapproachable "off the mat" on a personal level?
A very perceptive question on your part, and diplomatically put. Sensei Kobayashi, by the time this episode occurred, was a very congenial and approachable guy.
Now, more than a decade earlier, I used to be rather in awe of him and a bit intimidated. Not afraid, mind you, just... well, in awe. Back then he was very serious and somewhat removed. Introverted and private when not on the mat. Over the years he seemed to realize this, and set about changing himself. He believed aikido should bring people together, and that good self defense was putting people around you at ease.
So, we had the privilege of watching a great man grow. He worked hard, not just on his art, but on himself as a human being. This impressed the hell out of me, especially considering that he was humble and pretty darn impeccable to begin with.
But over the years I got over my own reticence, and I saw him lighten up also. He even laughed at my jokes now and then. On rare times that I saw him, he would ask how things were with me, and he'd talk about family and business and anything else that mattered.
I'm not sure the exact dates when the things I wrote about in the article happened, but it wasn't too long before he died. It really took us all by surprise, because he'd seemed so vital and forward looking right to the end.
Anyway, I'm rambling. I remember his laughter. I remember that he encouraged everyone to try, and to be generous and share what we knew, regardless of rank. He was never after power or intimidation. He just wanted to make the world better, and he believed in the power of aikido to heal.
His personal training was to lead people to relax, and to help them find their balance rather than take it away from them.
From my perspective, he was a great success.
Thanks for asking,