Jerry: Let’s talk about your students. Since you became chief instructor, you’ve recommended several for black belt. Your thoughts?
Sensei: Actually, I’m really proud of that — that I’ve been able to contribute in some way to their progress.
Jerry: What about testing in general?
Sensei: What you have to remember is that with us, with any USAF dojo, our shihans test us for black belt. And our shihans were either students of the Founder, or have upwards of forty years experience. On top of that, our tests are only held a few times a year…in New York, Fort Lauderdale, Montreal. So they’re a big deal. You have hundreds of Aikidoka watching you at winter and summer camp.
Jerry: Tell me about the black belts the school has produced.
Sensei: Well, before me Chris tested for nidan through the school. And I was the first shodan who came up through the ranks. Earlier this year I was promoted to sandan.
After I started teaching, John tested for nidan. He was awarded his shodan by Clyde Takeguchi. Buck and you were the next two who came up through the ranks. And you’re the first who trained under me exclusively.
Oh, and Joel [Miller – Ed.] tested for shodan while he was with us. He’s at Austin Aikikai now. Also Tonya [Mochocki – Ed.] will test this year at the Christmas seminar in New York.
Jerry: What are your goals for the dojo?
Sensei: What I want, what I hope to do, is to spread Aikido in Jacksonville. I’d like our new dojo to be a center of Aikido here locally. I’m really proud of what all of us have built.
Also, I want to help bring along the next generation of Aikido students, again here in Jacksonville. Just like what happened to me, when I began teaching. We’re already seeing it in our school, the next wave, who are really dedicated. Some of them are even teaching. It’s exciting.
Jerry: Thank you, Sensei.