I remember that life-changing moment as though it happened yesterday. Imaizumi Sensei and I (along with our wives) were walking back home from a hike through a nature preserve. We were talking about his life in Aikido and he was recounting his experiences with the various teachers who had an influence upon his own representation of Aikido. He started to talk about his Aikido and then corrected himself. He said that his Aikido represented all that was given to him by his teachers. He went on to explain to me that he was given a gift from his teachers and that this gift had value based upon his having taken these teachings inside of himself and then passed them on to the next generation. He said that these precious gifts would lose all of their value if they were not passed on to the next generation. That idea struck me deeply and still reverberates inside of me today. That conversation played a major role and inspired me to change my life course and become a professional Aikido instructor. I already knew how instrumental Imaizumi Sensei was in changing my life and helping me to become a better person. I never really considered that I had any debt to repay. I knew that Aikido had become a permanent fixture in my life, but I had not realized the additional obligation that came with his guidance. This sense of debt and obligation was never placed from the outside upon me, but came from within and continues to be a guiding force.
Last night, Brad Gould, one of my first group of students when I opened my dojo, began the arduous task of passing his Shodan exam for Shin-Budo Kai Aikido. The first part of the examination process was the Aikido portion. He spent approximately one hour and forty minutes successfully executing 291 Aikido techniques, finishing the night with a one minute long, three person randori. His performance was nothing less than excellent. As I reflected on the first part of his test, it dawned on me that the gift that I was given continues to grow in value. I know how hard I work to continue to develop my martial art abilities. I know how hard I work to create students who are not only accomplished in what they can do, but can effectively teach what they do. It is difficult to be able to gauge the effectiveness of one’s own actions in shaping the lives of others. Last night, I was able to observe the tangible success of all of the hard work that I have put in to create a school that not only strives for excellence in budo, but achieves excellence. Brad still has the weapons portion of his Shodan test to pass next month. This will be another arduous climb in which his performance needs to demonstrate a degree of mastery of the many kata. The dojo has come together as a whole to help him reach this milestone. My wife, Mayda, has also stepped up in her commitment towards personally assuming responsibility for his weapons work. This process has been a critical step in creating the next generation of competent Aikidoka who can not only demonstrate genuine martial abilities, but can teach it.
As I continue to watch Imaizumi Sensei further refine and improve in his Aikido, I strive to work harder to catch up to his level. Part of this process is my work towards my ability to better understand what is going on and then teach it. I will continue to push myself to become more efficient and effective in developing my budo and in teaching it. Brad Gould’s performance last night was a remarkable inspiration to me to push myself harder. Imaizumi Sensei was taught by O’ Sensei, Tohei Sensei, Saito Sensei, Tada Sensei, Nishio Sensei, etc.. He has dedicated his life to pass these valuable gifts onto the next generation. I am one of that generation, who had dedicated his life to maintaining the continuity of these valuable gifts. I am very happy to see the next generation succeed in both the execution of Aikido techniques and in the ability to teach them to the next generation. I can only hope that my students continue to help to keep this unbroken chain of transmission intact so that the gifts continue to grow in value by being spread to a growing number of people.
Marc Abrams Sensei