The first week into the New Year and my mind has been reflective. I took time to wander the Earth and reconnect with all of the men I consider my teachers and friends on the path of budo.
In Lewisville I saw Waddell Sensei, my teacher over the past 17 years. He had a few guys over at his club and they were hard at work practicing kata and randori. Russell continues to be guiding light in my practice. The lesson I learned by watching Waddell Sensei is a reminder of the power of old friendships.
Then off to Oklahoma I went for the winter training session. Lowry Sensei was a gracious and kind host. A group was in from all over the south to exchange ideas and lay hands on each other. Nick continues to branch out in creative new directions. He also has been carefully analyzing the masters of old and noticing some really interesting aspects and influences of their art. I felt the gem I was looking for in one of his balance breaks that has set me off in a new direction for a while. The lesson I learned by watching Lowry Sensei is that he smiles and laughs constantly. Laughter seems to be the source of his power.
The cadre of teachers such as Greg, Brian, Kyle, John all were a joy to work with and there was a great sense of connection and free sharing of information. The lesson I learned by watching these Sensei is a reminder of the power of new friendships.
Bode Sensei joined us and was a blast. His work continues to be inspiration. He is warm and lights up the dojo with his presence and insights. He took time out of his schedule to connect with me and everyone who wanted learn with him. The lesson I learned from watching Bode Sensei - He cares deeply for the people around him. He tells everyone that is close to them that he loves them - and tells them often. One of my friends commented, "I have never been hugged by a sensei before." Apparently he had never met JW before. In my estimation the source of his power seems to be a deep love for the people in his life.
Back in Austin my group met for our New Year's workout. These are the people I train with and share space with the most. Looking around the room, I saw we have a collection of outstanding artists. Judo, karate, three styles of aikido, taijitsu and aikijujitsu are represented in the players that gather for our group. Although I often lead the exercises, there is no real leader. We are not the old model of martial arts were there is one artist and everyone copies. Everyone is an artist, and my feeble skills are humbled by the insights the artists have that make up our group. The lesson I learned from watching the group at Austin Budokan Aikibudo is that community and sharing defines our path.
Matl Sensei and I spent about 3 hours together a few nights ago. The complexity and simplicity of his art form keeps unfolding every time I spend time with the man. He is a rare genius. Together one year ago we started a new dojo under his guidance. He has shown me that together we can accomplish something I could have never done on my own. Budo is a collaborative process and we stand on each others shoulders to reach higher goals.
Last night I went to train with Hussey Sensei. Artists from clubs all over Austin come to learn and share in this group. Connection. That is what I feel there. Connection with other artists, and connection in the techniques. Hussey was teaching to accept others into your center so a deeper connection can take place. While this teaching was for a martial technique, all this aiki stuff is just analogy for strategies for living. The lesson I learned from watching Hussey Sensei is that connecting with people defines this art form.
This morning I found some biting and hateful comments on my blog from someone who apparently hates me, my art and my way. Apparently the gentlemen believes I am terrible person. The lesson I have learned from this is that this is why I surround myself with people who have trained hatred and venom out of their souls. I simply don't care about rank or ryu. I don't care about history or politics. Ego and power has no place in my way. I don't care about how much a black heart or a broken soul hates me. Indeed my place and path gets strengthened with every attack.
The path that I have learned from my teachers is about friendships, laughter, love, community, sharing, collaboration and connection.