“The end of a decade … further down the road,” by Bruce Baker

Ah, it is the end of the decade .. 2010 in another day or so, and I realize … we have traveled another decade further from O’Sensei, and we have lost even more of those people who had first-hand experiences with him.

As I try to think of all the faces I have known, I am saddened by the loss of teachers and friends I have met through Aikido. Some did die, and some just disappeared as life took them in another direction, but just the same … I HAVE VIDEOS and PICTURES! Thank God I gathered pictures and videos.

No offense to the people who support Aikido Journal, but every time I buy some video from Aikido Journal, of recent seminar out west, I already have some version of that training by someone out here in the east, no kidding. But, God BLESS all the people at Aikido Journal for their efforts to enlighten us all with the effort of Aikido Journal.

I wonder .. are the fourth, fifth, sixth dans who teach here in middle-eastern USA as good as the people with the same degree black belts in the Western and Southern USA? Yep, they are friends with many of the people all around the USA and some teachers around the world. Everyone that I have ever talked to, off the mat, speaks well of all the teachers they know, or they just don’t want to talk about bad experiences unless it helps with a lesson in aikido. Some lessons are not all sweetness and light .. ya know what I mean?

They all are tested and approved by the same Aikido teachers in Japan, and they all have, at one time or another, trained in Japan or with a high ranking teacher who trained and was certified in Japan, so I guess they are all doing Aikido within the parameters of what is allowed to be called Aikido?

Sometimes I wonder if the students that write their comments online, in forums, or simply read these online words .. forget that the even the highest ranking teachers consider themselves students, even though they play the role of teacher when they must? Just a thought .. no more .. no less.

No disrespect .. but some teachers are a bit full of themselves .. aren’t they. I know that they don’t mean to be, but is probably the way they were trained and due to the attitude of the students they met along the way the made them that way. Just the same, sometimes I have to ask myself,” .. what the hell is this guy trying to teach me besides bowing and cow-towing?” Oh come on .. I know you have thought that at one time or another.

I don’t know how to write any other way. Sorry if some people think I am pompous, but I can’t seem to get the pictures in my head to write words that don’t annoy some people who get different pictures in their head when they read these words of mine .. sorry about that .. I was never good at writing.

I do hope, we can keep extending our hands in friendship to each other, get over our particular little egos for our little groups, and help each other to become the best possible person we can be as we share our Aikido practice with each other.

As I think back to the one, and only, International Aikido summer seminar I did in New York State with the entire mat area filling an indoor track, and bodies everywhere, what sticks out in my mind is the obvious egos of individual groups as they did not practice with everyone and anyone other than their normal group of practice partners. There was one group, in particular that sticks out in my memory, taking their Sensei away when he sat with me as they grabbed a table for ten to twelve of them. It was like.. don’t sit with just anyone sensei, come sit with our group from OUR country! Something that sticks in your mind as you see people talking one line but acting a completely different way. I prefer people who do what they say, and say what they do.

Just the same, the high ranking sensei, who I found out who he was from my buddy Butch Chernofsky 6th dan later, was an absolute gentleman as he excused himself in broken english and spanish. (I just can’t remember his name at the moment .. not important for the story anyway.)

Then there were other groups within the practice getting private lessons from their teacher at this seminar, while my teacher .. was going with all kinds of people until … he needed a break and went with one of our group to catch his breath, but then a minute later there he was going with more strangers. Ya gotta admire that in a man in his late sixties, right? Most of my favorite teachers are like that, going with total strangers and having a great time.

Yeah, I have met a lot of high ranking teachers in the last ten years, and most of them were really nice down to earth human beings, while some of them were stuck-up teachers, with stuck-up students, but to each his own. We are all just human beings with human faults and human flaws, such is life.

It is time for me to go back over the pictures and videos I have collected for my LBI Seminar, and maybe .. for my Long Beach Island Aikido club … edit some of the best seminar clips for my buddies and give to each of them a decade long compilation. I can not stress enough .. get as many pictures, videos, and notes as you can .. you would be surprised how much you forget in just a couple of years away from practice.

I wonder .. have we learned anything beyond what our great teacher was trying to give to us? Or .. are we still trying to figure out what O’Sensei was trying to teach us as he tried to lead us away from the horrors of violence and war that changed his practice into .. Aikido?

Except for an occasional blog .. I don’t participate in forums anymore. I don’t even know who the high mucky-mucks are who are posting of commenting, but I do know .. Aikido and Aikido practice goes on. No matter what you think about words, no matter what you learn from comments and talking .. it always comes down to … show me what you got … on the mat.

And you know what .. the great teachers will practice with anyone and everyone at a seminar .. and the anyone .. just might be you.

Remember the GREAT teachers you meet, and takes lots of pictures and collect all the video notes you possibly can.

Just a thought .. at the end of the decade … as we continue to go further down the road.


  1. …and a moment to thank our kind editor, Stan Pranin Sensei, for collecting history, pictorial and oral, and making it available to all of us.

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