This is a love letter to New York Aikikai.
My fondest Aikido memories—the lessons I remember best, the stories I think most about—all begin in New York. I don’t think it an exaggeration to say that my first visit to the dojo eight years ago transformed me. It was, in a very direct and practical sense, my first real exposure to this wonderful martial art.
Recently Dee and I returned from their Christmas seminar, after a short week training. Of course for Dee, New York Aikikai is a family reunion. For me, however, it’s something else: a glimpse perhaps, at the possibility of Aikido, when practiced at an exceptional level. I’ve experienced this before, at other seminars, and I’m always left astounded.
And of course we saw Tonya test for shodan. For her, I’d imagine the seminar to be an ending of sorts, as well as a new beginning. I remember well when she first stepped onto the mat, and then later, her adventures as an uchi deshi. To her, Sensei and I wish a warm congratulations.
But it’s more than that. New York Aikikai is more than that.
In my mind’s eye, when I picture my Aikido self, my idealized sense of me as a martial artist, I see myself with Dee, leading me up that narrow staircase, the sound of bodies crashing in the distance.
That’s what New York Aikikai means to me.