This past weekend, March 6, 7, 8, 2015, I had a great trip. It was not to any far location overseas, or my usual scuba trips– but yes my scuba diving trips are all great. The trip was far enough that it required being on some of America’s most travelled roads, yet close enough that it was travelled by auto in a 5-6 hour drive.
The trip was to see a direct student of Morihiro SaitoShihan. Saito Shihan was the most loyal, direct student of Morihei Ueshiba (O’Sensei), the founder of Aikido, the martial art that I have been studying for the past 10 years.
In the years of my studying, I have been truly blessed with opportunities to attend many seminars and receive instruction from direct students of O’Sensei, or their students. I have also been blessed to have a Sensei who encourages his students to go to seminars and other dojos, which was not allowed in some of the other styles of martial arts that I have studied.
This past weekend I had the distinct honor to participate in a Seminar hosted by Brian Hill Sensei, the Dojo-Cho of River City Aikido in Richmond, Virginia USA. The visiting Sensei was Mark Larson Sensei, direct student of Morihiro Saito Shihan. I attended the seminar with my Aikido Sensei Steve Kanney, Dojo-Cho of Aikido Westchester NY (formerly Scarsdale Aikido), my Sempai Gregory T., and my Kohais Joseph D., Jason C., Ozzie P., Marco S,, Milton F, and Cristian C.
There were two things that made this seminar very memorable. The first was that it was the first time a large group from our dojo attended a seminar– a total of 9 of us. The second was the fact that a direct student of Morihiro Saito Shihan was teaching.
I have had the opportunity to attend many seminars in my 10 years of studying Aikido. This seminar, I was amazed at a few things. Some members of our dojo that were present for this seminar have only been studying Aikido for as little as 3 months , 6 months, and one about 1 year. The others ranged from 1 year and over. When I first started Aikido, I wish I had the courage to go to a seminar when I had only 3 months of training, let alone a seminar of this quality.
I waited about 1 year and 4 months before I had the honor of going to my first seminar in Woodstock Aikido to receive teaching by the late Seiichi Sugano Shihan, who was a direct student of O’Sensei. I remember that I felt so intimidated, because the seminar was filled with so many participants wearing Hakamas, which meant they were black belts, but there I was. I handed my book in before the start of the first session, changed alongside of those black belts, feeling many things. Once on the mat after the stretching, the first technique was demonstrated by Sugano Shihan. It was about 1 turn to the left and 8 seconds when one of those black belts bowed towards me (indicating he wanted to practice with me) when I realized that I should have gone to seminars long before. So thank you to my Kohais who came to this seminar, I wish I had the courage to do that in my early practice of Aikido–you picked a great one to start with.
As for the seminar with Mark Larson Sensei, before the seminar started I had some feelings similar to my first seminar. Now, 10 years later, I was going to a seminar as a Shodan to receive instruction from a direct student of the late Saito Shihan. Yes, I was nervous up until Larson Sensei started to talk. The very first thing he said that he wanted to preserve what he was entrusted with from Saito Shihan: the sharing of Iwama Aikido. Once I heard that, all my feelings subsided. I had a great time meeting Larson Sensei and other Aikidokas from around the United States. But the most interesting thing for me was how Larson Sensei is so humble as a person and so generous as Sensei.
This is Aikido, as O’Sensei wished it to be. I have been humbled by this experience, and look forward to my continued study of Aikido. I am slowly understanding more, the many thanks to my Sensei Steve Kanney for his encouragement to always go to quality seminars. Because of him, I have been exposed to many quality Senseis, and now Larson Sensei. Thank You.