Recently, I was fortunate enough to attend an Aikido seminar given by a relatively unknown Aikido teacher. This was his first time to teach outside of Japan. He was not tall, in fact, he may even be considered small even in Japan. I attended this seminar because I did not know this teacher, and I was very curious. When I saw him, he was very calm and relaxed. During the seminar, he demonstrated a technique, then went around and gave tips to the seminar participants. He let as much people as possible feel his Aikido– as he went around, he partnered with us, he did the technique to us, then he took ukemi for us. When I first saw this I said to myself,
“Wow! This is a teacher who really loves Aikido.”
His teaching style is very honest and down to earth. His Aikido looks very calm, straightforward, unhurried, centered, with little to no excesses in movement. Looking at his Aikido, I thought to myself, this has to be felt. Then finally he went over to me and my partner. Now I am a big guy and he was small. He told me to grab him firmly and I did. Then in a split second, he had my balance, and he threw me very gently but powerfully, very unhurriedly, and dare I say it, very skillfully. His Aikido was masterful. There was no resistance in his Aikido. He is an excellent teacher.
I have had the privilege of having many teachers in Aikido. All my teachers taught me something valuable. But there were only a few who taught me Aikido in a way that shook the very foundations of how I understand our art with a single touch. This is what I mean by touching greatness. Have you ever had a teacher like this? Have you ever had a teacher who made you realize how wonderful Aikido is, and that you have so much more to learn? I treasure these teachers. Teachers who teach me something revolutionary (at least for me). Teachers who walk the talk. Teachers who share what they know indiscriminately. Teachers who transmit their skill in such a way that leaves you smiling. Teachers who inspire by showing the possibilities. Teachers who, with a single “touch”, leaves you hungry to learn more.
There are many skilled teachers with unique takes on Aikido. I urge everyone to remain open to learning; always keeping Shoshin. The mark of an excellent teacher is their ability to impart learning in such a way that leaves you wanting to train again and again. These teachers shake the very foundations of your understanding of the art. After training with them, you are once again the beginner, trying to understand something new. They “destroy” your conceptions (or misconceptions) of Aikido, so as to pave the way for you to build something better.
Excellent teachers teach tools through techniques.
They show the steps to help us understand the concepts. They encourage us to think and rethink. They catalyze unlearning and relearning in order for us to learn and progress. Excellent teachers make us realize we still have a long way to go, and guides us well as to how to get there. An excellent teacher shows us the way.