Date: 17 Aug 1998
This morning my Monday morning aikido instructor taught his last class. For 18 years straight he taught without missing a class, except when he switched off with another instructor. Snow storms, heat waves and everything in between, he was there on the mat at 7:00 AM. I was fortunate to have had the benefit of four of his years teaching.
He was by far by my favorite teacher. Though friendly with each other, we are not friends. Our personal relationship or lack of has nothing to do with why I enjoyed his teaching. The fact is it didn’t matter whether he liked you or not. If you were there to learn, he was there to teach. He was dedicated to his art and to those who want to learn it. I consider him among the best of the aikido teachers who kept the "martial" in the art. The atemi was always there in every technique and he showed it each and every time. No matter what the student’s level, he worked the waza at the "edge" of that person’s ability, be it a gentle roll or a bone jarring body slam. That he knew the exact level spoke of his attention to his students.
Once in awhile, one was paired with the "partner from hell". He knew. Instead of
being stuck, one would hear the welcomed bark, "change partners", after each waza. When the partner from hell went ballistic, the instructor was right there to quietly but firmly tell the offender to get off the mat. Decorum restored, the class went on with seriousness and underlying sense of shared purpose.
We should be thankful for good teachers. When we have a great teacher, it is a blessing because such teachers are rare. With this blessing, we also incur a debt. If we are fortunate, we will someday be able to pay this debt in kind... Not to the teacher, but to those who follow us on this path.
My instructor's decision to stop teaching was not an easy one. He has had health problems the past several years. He is giving up his freelance photography work and his Monday aikido class to teach in a school. The teaching job affords steady employment and more hours to pursue more personal interests, including working out, with whatever time he has been allotted in the grand scheme of
things. My best wishes and Godspeed in his battle with multiple sclerosis.