The Saturday 12:15 classes are usually taught by the legendary Mike Abrams, 7th dan. Mike began his training in early 1960s at the New York Aikikai, making him one of the oldest, if not the oldest, active American aikido practitioner. Certainly, no one in the local aikido community predates him.
Mike is a very friendly, warm and unassuming guy. Our lockers are next to each other in the dressing room. For the first few months of my aikido practice, I chatted with him, having absolutely no idea who he was or his history in the organization. When I found out, I was stunned. I mean, he didn't act like a big guy. He is so easy to talk to.
I learned a lot about aikido from Mike's humble, down to earth approach. He is dedicated to aikido and has been for well over 40 years. He practices daily, regardless of who is teaching, and he will work with just about anyone. I don't know if he seeks out less experienced people, but certainly, he's just as likely to partner with a 5th kyū as a 5th dan.
I get the feeling that he does a lot for aikido and the Aikikai behind the scenes. Certainly, as president of the U.S. Aikido Federation, he has administrative responsibilities, but I bet that is just the tip of the iceberg. He's the kind of guy who is always pitching in.
Aikido-wise, there is only one way to describe Mike Abrams-sensei: Powerful. He has an unbelievable projection of power. It seems he's centered in the universe, and when he moves, the whole universe moves along with him. Try to stand against that!
His attacks are very focused and he gives nothing away. Anyone trying to muscle his way through a technique with Mike Abrams, will suddenly find he has a better chance of moving the Empire State Building!
In every way, my aikido training and, indeed, my everyday life, has benefited greatly from Mike's influence.