Recommended reading: “Interview with Bruce Bookman” by Meik Skoss

The article below has been selected from the extensive archives of the Online Aikido Journal. We believe that an informed readership with knowledge of the history, techniques and philosophy of aikido is essential to the growth of the art and its adherence to the principles espoused by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba.

It’s hard to describe all the ways that Yamada Sensei has helped me. He had something that I wanted—mastery of this art. Yet, he was one of the kindest people I have ever met. I recall the times I was called up to his office for these little talks. I can almost remember them word for word—the attitude adjustments, talking about training and how it related to my life, how a dojo operates, how to interact with other people, and the whole idea behind aikido. One thing that I genuinely appreciate about Yamada Sensei is that he has very few pretenses. At the time, I was reading everything I could about aikido. I had spiritual ideas about the art and Yamada Sensei would go through and destroy every single one of them. Any preconception that I had of what an aikido teacher should be, Yamada Sensei helped me to dissolve. And this helped me to be able to absorb more. It was quite spiritual, in a way. Yamada Sensei probably wouldn’t describe himself as a spiritual person, but I think that at some very important level he is.

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  1. bruce baker says:

    Maybe because I run across people when they are on vacation or not teaching aikido I see a different picture.

    I think we make too much for some of these stories of “THE OLD DAYS”.

    Not that they don’t have relevance, but ya know what stories I find funny, entertaining, enlightening about aikido? The stories we can’t talk about until someone is dead.

    Like the time Yamada Sensei was away on a seminar and the guys at NYC were training for days on end, fooling around playing jokes on one another, and Butch Chernofsky gets called to the phone to go pick up a Doshu who is flying in from Japan. So he tells the person on the phone he isn’t falling for the joke, go “F” yourself. Oops … no joke, really was Doshu. Now that .. is a story. Took a while for that to blow over.

    I guess I have to wait for some more people to die before I can tell some more of those stories, but that is the comrade-spirit of friends, of training that is NOT the prim-proper-holier-than-thou that often is the online comments.

    There is a human element beyond some of the old stories that can’t be told until .. .people have passed on.

    I hope everyone saves their funny stories about Y. Yamada sensei because that book … will make you laugh until you are crying … there are some great stories that we just can’t tell, not yet. And that is what makes a great person, the stories people tell about you after you are gone and they make everyone smile with deep affection.

    I will bet we could write an encylopedia of funny sensei stories, stories that endear our teachers to us as great human beings.

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