Back in 1975, an attractive young blond woman joined my aikido class in Monterey, California. From the very start, she attended class religiously and displayed an uncommon enthusiasm toward training. I immediately noticed she was very athletic and quick to pick up techniques and falling skills. She insisted on being treated on a par with male students, was afraid of nothing, and approached practice with a laser determination. I wondered how far she would go along the aikido path. I had seen enthusiastic students before, some who continued training for years, only to slowly drift away from the art. I needn’t have worried, for this was Pat Hendricks.
Pat dedicated herself over the next couple of years to improving her martial skills and participated in classes and workshops all over northern California. Women in aikido were just coming into their own at this stage, and Pat forged many friendships with some of the top female instructors in the area that continue to this day.
First trip to IwamaBy the summer of 1977, I had relocated to Japan and immersed myself in training at the Iwama Dojo under the tutelage of Morihiro Saito Sensei. For her part, Pat was pursuing her practice at the Oakland Institute, also learning the Iwama style of aikido. One day, later in that same year and to my great surprise, Pat strolled down the path leading to the Iwama Dojo. She had taken a tremendous leap of faith deciding to leave her life in the States and journey to the source of aikido, O-Sensei’s country dojo in Iwama.
Possessing virtually no Japanese language skills, but full of determination, Pat immersed herself into Japanese life as an uchideshi of Saito Sensei. Typical of her character, she threw herself headlong into her training, and quickly earned a reputation as a promising up-and-comer and a favorite uke of Saito Sensei. Almost daily, Pat could be seen inside the Iwama Dojo taking impressive high falls, her blond hair tied up in a pony tail whipping from side to side. The dojo was full of strong young foreign students and practice was vigorous.