One of my favorite things to say around the dojo is: "I just work here". To some extent, it's one of many things we say and do to keep the joy in our serious practice of traditional martial arts; but there is more to it.
Each time I say it, it is a subtle reminder to me that nothing of what our dojo has been, is, or will be, could be, without each and every member who has, does, and will step on the tatami (mats).
Our dojo, like so many others in our US Aikido Federation, act is an extended family of sorts, with many different personalities and beliefs that might otherwise conflict, come together joyously.
Last night I had the privilege of welcoming two transfer students officially by handing them their embroidered belts (belts with their names sewn in) - something that our dojo does with all new students as we welcome them into our dojo and the US Aikido Federation families. Many people often place the wrong emphasis during such an event, thinking that it is about the belt; it is in fact, about the commitment. This exchange, represents my commitment to each of my students for as long as they remain committed to their study of Aikido, that I will do two main things: 1) Always work to ensure that they grow and enjoy their practice, and 2) That I will always work to ensure that my own instruction is at a level that is deserving of their attention and respect by maintaining myself physically off and on the mat.
Too many times instructors decide that they have "learned enough", "don't have time", "prioritize their students", "Aikido is fitness", or some other nonsensical excuse for not examining and re-examining their own Aikido locally and abroad. My hope is that this trend begins to change and that we see instructors working hard to ensure that they remain healthy and continue training while building their dojos so that students always have the best possible role models.
Recently I was asked in a semi-public forum what the secret is to dealing with children/teens who complain about not wanting to train, losing interest in their practice, and instead wanting to leverage more and more of their time on single endeavors like video games. This is yet another moment for me to express gratitude/thanks. As a child, I grew up around the early generation of video games, computers, and the early internet age. This transition could have easily swept me into a zombie-like state where I preferred the screen. I can remember at least 2 or 3 extended periods in my life at both an adolescent and teen age where I would cry as my father "forced" me to go train.
Each time I step on the mat today, each time I bow in to train with a partner, or show mutual respect, love, and admiration for those around me, is a moment I am grateful for my parents' devotion to my upbringing, not my whims. I never miss an opportunity to show my father and mother how much I benefited from them putting up with my whining and crying about having rather spent my time in front of a screen created. Our dojo family wouldn't exist today were it not for their steadfastness in the face of adolescent and teen hormones, and I would be a lesser man for it.
Therefore I am thankful for my parents, my brothers, my wife, my son, my entire family, including each and every one of you who study at our dojo and share together in joy, the physical, financial, and emotional, and spiritual.
Each of you is a constant inspiration to me and I look forward to being thankful for each of you for years to come.
See you on the mat,