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Accepting Other People with an Open Mind

Kawaraban No. 88


by Waka Sensei Kenta Shimizu

After finishing the two-weeks seminar at the Herzogenhorn in Germany, where we come together every year, I had the opportunity to teach at three other locations solely. During this week Axel Bergemann, who teaches Aikido in Starnberg, accompanied me. By car the drive from the first to the next seminar location took about six hours. It was the first time that I taught Aikido solely in Germany, and I am really indebted to Axel, who spontaneously supported me.

Usually up to now I participated in the seminars mainly as Shimizu Sensei’s Uke, but this time I was teaching from the opposite standpoint, and therefore the scenery was quite different as before. In the Tendokan I do not worry when I give a special demonstration during practice, because the students, who normally attend the classes, are well known to me. But abroad I only can ask standard students for Uke, whom I meet some times a year. Although we practice the same Tendoryu Aikido we mutually seemed to be considerably nervous, and in the beginning our movements were not synchronized.

The more we think, “Let’s give a cool demonstration!” the more everybody is only facing himself, and therefore is not moving synchronously anymore with the partner.

During this week mainly Axel was Uke. He had to drive the car, and additionally he was Uke. I think that was quite a strenuous week for him. Although we know each other well, because we practice together already for a long time, sometimes the synchronization was not as good as expected.

In November last year I was teaching solely for ten days in Mexico for the very first time. The Japanese-Mexican Institute, where the seminar took place and where primary and middle school pupils from both countries are learning together, is a unique school.

The board chairman, Katou Naoyuki Sensei, immigrated with his parents to Mexico, lived there continuously except during his youth during the war, which he spent in Japan. About 40 years ago he founded the Japanese-Mexican Institute. Far away and separated from Japan he spends his life in Mexico, and when I tried to get to know, whether certainly there had been many troubles from the opening until the establishment of the institute, I received a surprising answer.

“Indeed there had not been any major troubles. The Mexicans are people, who accept anybody else tolerantly. And also my wife, whom I met in Japan, told me that she gets along in Mexico quite well. That is nearly a wonder, but Mexico is such a country.”

Thinking back now I became aware that “accepting other people with an open mind” is completely the same in Aikido practice.

Differently from the Olympic events, where there are contests in particular classes, in Aikido training body size, gender, or age are of no concern, and all people are able to clasp hands during practice.

We are human beings, of course, and we will not like all people surrounding us in the same way. “Accepting other people with an open heart” does not mean, that we imprison ourselves against our will to things, which we dislike. But if we finally fear and keep at a distance from ‘foreign substances’, which differ from known things, we will not be able to grow. If once we have managed to get rid of the wall between our partner and us, a new ‘chemical reaction’ will happen within ourselves.

For me as well it was the first time teaching alone, and I was tortured by the insecurity how people would see me. But thinking back now, this fear developed out of the intellectual one-way road that I was only thinking of the one-sided ‘output’ of my behavior. It is true that teachers give lessons, but teachers have to continue learning for a lifetime as well. I want to keep my heart always open to be able to grow further.

After one week together with Axel was our common feeling – very simply said with one word – that we could trust each other.

Not being afraid to make mistakes, mutual natural faith, forming an integrated whole. It is a phrase, which we hear over and over again during normal practice. Avoiding unnecessary things seems to be easy, but is very difficult. On the other hand, after succeeding finally we are able to decide easily, what is important in life.

I do not want to avoid tests, which block my way, but I will consider them as an activity to improve myself and by this I will develop further.

© translated by Ichiro Murata and Peter Nawrot 03/2013