In the Presence of a Master

Not only is he an excellent martial artist, he's got a great smile too!
Not only is he an excellent martial artist, he’s got a great smile too!

I went to an Aikido seminar a last weekend and was completely blown away by the teacher. Saotome Shihan (shihan is an honorific title for a master teacher) has been training in Aikido since…1955!

He directly trained under Morihei Ueshiba (or O’Sensei as we in Aikido call him), the Founder of Aikido. Saotome Shihan is the closest to a master in any art that I’ve seen in person. It was truly an honor and a pleasure to watch him.

He showed incredible presence and focus. His body was grounded and centered. He was so completely calm and relaxed, that it looked like no attack could possibly get close to him.

Check out this brief video of him teaching a seminar a few years ago, and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

One of the things Saotome Shihan focused on this year was that Aikido is not just about training, but about “how to be”. It is clear that he does not just do Aikido on the mat a few hours a month–he does Aikido all the time. The principles of Aikido permeate his life. The principles of Aikido permeate his entire being.

It’s a good lesson, and one in which I need to absorb. On most days I find myself scattered and unfocused throughout the day. I’m not calm. I’m not present in the moment. I need to work on this. I need to practice the principles of Aiki all the time, not just when I’m on the Aikido mat. Only then will I advance and truly understand Aikido.

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