Last week I had one of the most wonderful experiences of my career in Aikido. I attended another weapons training camp in Iwama but that wasn’t it. I met, trained with and swapped gossip with a famous American teacher but that wasn’t it either. The wonderful experience was that my son attended his first adult class, Doshu’s ichiban geiko, and trained with me.
The previous week I had watched Doshu vigorously throwing Waka-Sensei around and when it was over Doshu tossed in some gentle fatherly ribbing. It looked like great fun and when Doshu saw my smile he asked what was up with that. I told him that I wished that I could do that with my son too. When Doshu found out that Ray was eleven, he told me to bring him in on a school holiday. That was it, official sanction for something that I’d been wanting to do for quite awhile.
The following Monday was a national holiday and on most national holidays Honbu Dojo is closed. However this was “Sports Day” and the Dojo stayed open for some classes. With school closed Ray didn’t have an excuse to NOT go to morning class. On his own he is an early riser so I didn’t feel too guilty booting him out of bed and tossing him his dogi. After much complaining he gave in to the inevitable and we biked over.
As we entered the dojo, Ray handed over his member card and formally announced to the people at the desk that he would be attending today’s class. I was surprised, the uchi-deshi behind the desk amused and Doshu seemed totally confused until he saw me smiling and pointing. Doshu smiled and nodded and so we went in — first hurdle cleared with extra-style points awarded for Ray’s little announcement.
In the third floor changing room I put on my hakama and Ray worriedly looked around at the crowd. The place can get pretty packed and there were several tour groups in that day from Russia, France (of course) and Scotland. It was crowded.
I mentioned to Ray that the warm-up was different than he was used to so he could just follow along. He did and had no problems. I picked a spot near the “Silver corner” where the crazy old men work out. Ray said that wanted to meet Yoda and then asked about another of my favorite old-guys. Sadly, Yoda was out that day but he did say hello to quite a few of the codgers.
This was our first time to take a class together and train as partners. Ray went out of his way to throw me as hard as he could and for a pre-2nd kyu, his kotegaeshi and shihonage are pretty hard-core. This was his first ever adult class and as icing on the cake, Doshu came around twice to throw him. Afterward, Ray said it was physically really hard but he wanted to come and do it again. Appropriate superlatives to describe how that made me feel just sound silly — I was, and am, ridiculously proud of my son.
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