The Big WHY?
For decades I hid away in my little dojos here or there and tried to keep my head under the radar. Being both asked to teach seminars and to write, I deferred.
To begin with, I didn’t feel I was yet good enough. I had to teach (in my dojo) because I was the only guy in my country I knew of teaching what I wanted to train. I also feared that until I was as good as my teacher, my representation of him might besmirch his reputation and what he taught me. So I waited and trained.
My teacher died. And so I stopped traveling to Japan for martial arts instruction, broadened my studies due to the influences of my teacher (becoming ordained twice), and continued to wait and train. Then again, due to the influence of my teacher, I met another teacher under who’s instruction brought renewed clarity and understanding. So I waited and trained even while cajoled by my peers to get out and teach. But I felt it was too soon, and my ability and understanding too limited to step out from my basement just then. Yet, I taught anyone that came to learn.
Then a series of interesting things happened:
When I was in Europe my leg became swollen and hurt. When I came back to America my doctor looked at my leg and said I had non-visible varicose veins that were swelling and so I should wear compression stockings. Later, my wife trained to run the Portland Marathon with a friend. She wasn’t feeling confident and so I suggested that I could run with them. She told me she would let me do so on one condition, that I go back to my doctor and ask about my leg again since it had only gotten worse. I did, and as a percussion my doctor ordered an ultrasound of the leg. Then all hell broke loose. The ultrasound showed that I had a deep vein thrombosis in the main vein leading back to my heart. I could have a pulmonary embolism at any moment. Obviously, I didn’t run the marathon. (My wife and her friend did though!) Put on blood thinners for 6 months and told that I could never do martial arts again, (My blood clot coincided with my trip to Europe and significant damage to my lower leg due to an unsuccessful attempt at a leg sweep. I didn’t get swept at all, but my lower leg blew up!) this was a huge mental blow. Over time I realized that the “no martial arts” injunction was coming from the doctor that had “fixed” me every time I had a major martial arts related injury. She said I couldn’t do THAT anymore or I would die . . . And she was correct. I had to find out what I could get away with doing without dying! (I didn’t mention this to my doctor BTW.) Turned out I could do quite a lot. 6 months passed and I was off of the blood thinners and back in the game!!!
Then, my good friend/student/training partner had a heart attack. Younger than I am, he wasn’t over weight, out of shape, and didn’t have excessive chronic stress in his life (except for his association with me). And, boom! Near death comes knocking.
I was off of the blood thinners, my leg discolored and swollen most of the time, but I should have been fine and I felt fine.
Until . . .
The first time I taught in Spain my leg swelled. This wasn’t too surprising I had traveled from Portland, to Amsterdam and then to Spain. But it was discoloring and ached. It was a familiar sensation. When I got back to Zwolle the first class I taught happened to have an Emergency Room Doctor among the guys. After class, I apologized for doing so, but asked him about my leg. He took a look and agreed that it might be just a pulled muscle and if I waited two days and it got better, then all would be well, but if the pain and swelling remained, I should get another ultrasound. Thankfully, minutes after our conversation, he called my friend Walter and told him I’d better go get an ultrasound, regardless. So, off I go to a General Practitioner MD to get referred to the hospital. Walter took me to the hospital where I met the ER Doc! I got an ultrasound and . . . Deep Vein Thrombosis again!
I was due to, and did, fly back to the U.S.A. in two days. II flew back protected by the medication that the excellent medical care The Netherlands provided. Otherwise, it would have been likely that I would have had a pulmonary embolism on the plane and arrived back home dead.
So, it occurred to me, that while I am waiting to be ready to share what I have learned, I might well die and never share a thing. Nobody knows.
Then another interesting thing happened. A fellow named Scott Burke found heretofore unknown texts in Japan and made them freely available. This was a historical boon for Daito Ryu and Aikido. But for me, it was no less than a God send. For decades Aikido people told me that what I learned from Shirata Rinjiro was NOT Aikido, and Daito Ryu people assumed that, while what I was doing was obviously Daito Ryu. due to its source it could not be Daito Ryu. Well, Scott Burke shared texts from Ueshiba Morihei, Takuma Hisa, and two other individuals that explained and showed EXACTLY what Shirata Rinjiro taught me. For me, these weren’t just historical texts. Along with “Budo Renshu” and Budo, these were textual testimony for what I had learned. I can, and did, take any of these texts and easily teach from them.
The individuals that wrote those texts didn’t have to. They could have chosen not to for some superb reasons. It was likely that their efforts would be lost, or worse still “reconstructed” bereft of all meaningful content. How could they have known 70 years later a guy on the other side of the world would look at their texts and say, “Thank God!”
Considering those facts, it occurred to me I was being presumptuous. Who am I to think nobody, ever, would benefit from my effort to share what I had learned? I was assuming the power of God. I claimed to know the unknowable. Due my mistaken thoughts, my inaction deprived others the generosity I had benefited from.
So, in all humility, I shared. Though mocked, misunderstood, and maligned at times, I am sharing anyway. The rewards are worth any hardship. Because I am human, I will make mistakes. Acknowledging mistakes and explaining new understandings, models the best of how to learn and lead. That is a good thing. It is humbling. That too is a good thing.
True Aiki is simple. Takeda Sokaku said so himself. But it is hard to learn. It requires extended time with an individual that understands, can do, and can teach True Aiki. Patience, deep thought, unceasing effort, and perseverance are also unavoidable. I am convinced that it is impossible to learn True Aiki via word, picture, and/or video alone. Person to person contact is a must. History teaches that in all circumstances there are those that claim knowledge while: a) having none , b) having too little, and/or c) having no ability to manifest that knowledge. People have tried very hard in the past to prevent this, still it happened and happens.
I share person to person, and to whatever extent I can, via word and picture, knowing what I have shared has helped some to improve what they are doing because I met them face to face and saw and felt the change. I am unburdening myself of a debt to my teacher that has weighed upon me. I share in all of these ways with the faith and hope that the charity shown to me in these same ways (person, word, visually), are being, or will be, passed on somehow, at sometime, to someone, who will understand.
Will their understanding be different from mine and all those that came before me? Undoubtedly! It cannot be any other way. But if I can do anything about it, an ember, if not a flame, of the knowledge given, is being shared into the future. I belive that the greatest treasures in life are invisible. In the past they have been demonstrated in person, shared in word, and expressed visually. Most humans did not, do not, and will not appreciate the value of all that is offered them. Yet, the greatest treasures in life have been, and continue to be made freely available to all. I will do no less.
I will die. That is a given. I want to die knowing I have made an effort to pass along on the knowledge shared with me as best I can.
That is my Big WHY.