It began one Sunday morning at Aikido Schools of New Jersey much like any other morning. I woke up around 6am to the quiet of the dojo and my buzzing alarm clock.
Time for chores.
Once the dojo was clean and ready for morning meditation class with Dean Sluyter, the inevitable, once-a-month call came from Stickles Sensei along with the special ring-tone letting me know it was time to gather his weapons and "go bag" for his monthly class at New York Aikikai. It's worth noting this peculiar tradition in the uchi deshi experience, or more specifically, the otomo experience - essentially being your teacher's valet. It was an honor of course, you see, it both gave me some uninterrupted time in the car with my teacher whom I had dedicated two years of my life to, along with time at the headquarters dojo for the entire US Aikido Federation. This trip was a special one.
Thanks to some extra meetings Stickles Sensei had with Yamada Sensei, there was some extra time before heading back and I was allowed to take an extra class, as well as meander a bit (being left to your own devices is a rare thing when there is literally any one else around as any uchi deshi will tell you).
This was the day I had the pleasure of meeting Sensei Sharon Dominguez. At the time, she was an alternating instructor at the New York Aikikai and I could tell immediately what set her apart.
As someone who studied clinical psychology, it's in my nature to observe and spend quite a bit of time and effort, reflexively making connections about the way individuals interact and react to each other. Sharon gives her time freely, with love and joy, on and off the mat, listening and sharing, while doing her utmost to help find common ground to achieve a shared goal. The incredible focus on each student's face during her classes I've taken and the resulting joy in progress made is palpable. The level of organization in her speech, along with her genuine love of Aikido and genuine desire to see all minorities represented (of which I am one), is beyond reproach.
I am proud to know and consider Sensei Sharon someone I look up to in the Aikido community. I am humbled by her decision to step into a role many might avoid.
Pinellas County Aikikai stands firmly behind and in support of Sharon Dominguez Sensei and the United States Aikido Federation.
We do so not because we are perfect, not because we always make perfect choices, and not because we always articulate our love perfectly. But because it's clear to me that each of us is committed to the path and journey of becoming better at these things together.