Yondan (4th degree black belt)
I began my study of aikido in 1989 at Indiana University. After graduating from the university, I moved to Washington, D.C. where I continued my training at the Aikido Shobukan Dojo. I had the privilege to learn from a great many wonderful teachers there – these were the people I’d seen in books and videos. It was an exciting time for me – aikido was extremely popular due to the films of Steven Seagal – and I devoted a good deal of time to my training.
Later, I returned to the Midwest, continued training, and started teaching. It has been my good fortune to have studied with some excellent teachers…and good people. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to two people in particular: “Hank” Higashida Sensei and the late Kevin Choate Sensei. Both have left an indelible mark on my attitude toward training and my understanding of aikido.
Specifically, I am speaking about learning aikido “techniques” versus aikido. While there are martial techniques that are generally considered “aikido,” I think the most important part of aikido training lies in paying attention to balance, breathing, and relaxationwhile someone is trying to hit you or grab you. Aikido is not about how I demonstrate a technique, or how someone else demonstrates a technique. Rather, it is about learning how move your body to impact the movement of someone else whether that someone else is your training partner or someone intent on doing you harm. In either case, it is important to understand yourself and how you move. This is the most important lesson that I’ve learned from my teachers and hope to pass along to students at the dojo.