Review: Anno Sensei @ Aikido of Santa Cruz
I had a blast visiting the old dojo (Aikido of Santa Cruz) last night (Tuesday, Oct 8, 2013) and seeing Anno Sensei lead class one more time (perhaps the last time for me given his age and circumstances of travel).
Anno Sensei is a wonderful exemplar of his practice and view of Aikido and it's best principles. His example of how he practices and lives his life is inspiring and it was his admonition to me, as a mudansha, to open my heart and deepen my practice that ultimately led me to recognize my own teacher and the connection we both felt almost as soon as we met.
Despite his own disclaimers and continued desire to purify himself and his practice as he reaches the end of his life, I personally believe he is a far better exemplar than his own model, Ueshiba Morihei Sensei, whom he holds forth as an exemplar that we should all attempt to emulate. For myself, due to my own research, I have long since replaced Ueshiba as my model with many better models, both in budo and in how to live and take care of the people around me, and Anno Sensei's example is among those.
As to the physical training itself; for me, the practice was energetically and physically more of a paired yogic practice than a budo practice and entirely devoid of any physical demonstration of many fundamental budo principles, including kuzushi, tsukuri, kake, or my own understanding of the more esoteric concept of "aiki" (fitting appropriately). There's nothing wrong with that for those who are inclined to a more yogic practice so long as they are aware of the absence of those principles, but it is not for me, at least as a regular practice.
It was a wonderful evening and I enjoyed connecting with many old friends with whom I had not shared a mat with in more than 10 years, in some cases. The experience was very worthwhile.