Saturday was a very special day at the dojo in celebration of Yamada-sensei's 70th birthday. I was amazed at the number of people who came! It looked like the Christmas seminar.
I drove in to Manhattan, which I try not to do too much these days. It's hard to justify all the tolls and gas when my unlimited metrocard can get me there without additional cost. I was running late, however and decided to try to make it. I don't know if it's because of the building boom in Chelsea, but it's becoming harder and harder to find parking near the dojo. It used to be very easy to find a spot on a weekend morning.
So I was late and didn't make the first class, which Yamada-sensei taught. Bummer. I was really surprised when I walked in. Man, the mat was packed.
The second class, usually taught by Mike Abrams, was taken over by a woman who has her own dojo in Europe. (As I said, people came from all over.) I didn't know anything about her, but I think she has never been a practicing member in New York. Yamada-sensei travels all over in his zone of control, which covers large parts of the globe.
In any case, she certainly had Sensei's style to some degree, but her class was filled with what was to me very unusual techniques. I suppose one could simply call them "advanced." Anyway, I had a nice time partnering with Seung Jung and together we cobbled something together. She was a great partner, actually. She takes her aikido seriously and was a pleasure to practice with.
The party started at about 2:30 and everyone was there. I mean everyone. Other aikidoka, especially instructors and shihan came from all over the world, including Claude Berthiaume, a shihan from Canada who I have only heard about, and many others.
Of course, all of our own regional shihan and other high ranked instructors all showed up as well. It was a great opportunity to talk to all of them outside the confines of a class.
The whole day was really a testament to the kind of man sensei is. When he gave his speech, one could really feel the emotion in the room. I had the sense of witnessing a very special moment. Sensei spent his life dedicated to aikido, and it is remarkable to see how successful he has been. So many all over the world owe so much to him.
Aikido has given me much in so short a time, but when I started, I really didn't know how rich the experience would become.