Yamada Sensei

Yamada Sensei – to the members with gratitude


 
Yoshimitsu Yamada
US Aikido Federation

I am writing this at a small park in front of my apartment. It’s 7 am. Beside me, some ten doves are pecking at bread crumbs. Every now and then, a brave sparrow couple dares to intrude. What a heart-warming sight! Were I given a cup of Italian espresso and a Cuban cigar, it would be beyond my bliss! But, under the current circumstances … When the birds retreat to their nap, the park may find a lonesome man dancing in a frenzy to his smart-phone music while, away on a bench young lovers, sitting 6 feet apart, may still affirm their love.

To our generation who never knew the Spanish flu of 100 years ago, the “Corona attack” was a horror no one had experienced to date. Saying this in the past tense sounds as if the issue has come to an end, but unfortunately, we must still fear and be ready for a second and third wave. Bearing this firmly in mind, let me tell you how we have faced and coped with this catastrophe.

Please allow me to begin with a personal experience. In February every year, I go to Japan to take care of both personal and official business. It was the same this February. At that time, I had heard about the corona virus, but I was not aware that we were in any immediate danger. However, when I checked in at my usual hotel, I noticed something was amiss. February is China’s New Year, but the Chinese tourist groups that normally fill the hotels were strangely absent. Then, having learned the news of infections on a cruise ship, I immediately decided to return to the US. Alas, the corona virus traveled faster than me, and upon return I found New York under an emergency order. In March, we were told to stay home and close our Dojo. Frankly, at this point, I felt that this would be like a vacation, but for more than two months now I have been inundated with phone calls and letters that required my attention (never mind vacation). Then my thoughts were full of “negatives” – declining Aikido membership, financial problems with the dojo, disappointing cancelation of domestic and international summer camps as well as more than a dozen training sessions, etc. that I look forward to and enjoy. Most painfully, I learned about the passing of our members and their loved ones due to Covid-19.

When I felt the most despair, it was the very people whose future I worried about that helped lift my spirit. Nearly every day I received phone calls of encouragement from members around the US and the world. Hearing their words, I was happy they felt a part of the Dojo, that Dojo is theirs; further, I was touched by the passion they have for Aikido and the affection they feel for Dojo and Sensei, i.e., me. As time went on, they came together which led to their developing an on-line class program. This act by Aikido members reaffirmed for me how important Aikido, Dojo and students are to me. All this made me very proud of them. They are my treasures. The corona episode, which initially made me feel so negative, has in the end made me appreciate the positives. Thank you all! Let us persevere together! You and I have Aikido!!