During my last trip to Japan, we had the honor of having a dinner party with Isoyama Shihan in O’Sensei’s kitchen at the Iwama Dojo. We were having a great time when Inagaki Sensei asked that I introduce myself and that I should sing a welcome song, since another guest from another dojo had just finished his welcome song. I was in shock and yet since Isoyama Shihan had made sure we had drunk our fill of Japan’s best beer, I acquiesced. I introduced myself and then mistakenly said that I have trained in Aikido about 35 years. In the next moment, Inagaki Sensei, who is also one of the teaching staff at the Iwama Dojo along with Isoyama Shihan, commented, “Oh my gosh, so old…you are like my uncle!” Everyone began laughing, including me and then Isoyama Shihan said, “Oh no, he’s as old as my grandfather!” At that point, everyone was howling in laughter and of course through out the balance of our visit with Isoyama Shihan, that comment kept coming up which kept us laughing until the minute we left, at which point our laughter was replaced with a lump in our throats and a tearful goodbye. So the point of my story is that even though some people think that I am old and 35 years in Aikido is a long time, you get with some of these great teachers that have trained in Aikido most all their lives and in excess of 50-60 years, you realize you are not that old. However, I got a kick out of one of my former students that is pretty much into the looking good style of Aikido tell me, “Hey Sensei, we have to buy you a new belt because yours is so ragged and old!” I told him, “You know, anyone can buy a belt that looks like yours, but nobody can buy a belt that looks like mine…I think I will keep mine.” That student just didn’t get it.
So what is going on is that I have also realized that what is coming out of my mouth is a product of having been blessed with great teachers; Nobuo Iseri for three years, Francis Takahashi for seven years, Seagal Sensei for eighteen years, and now having mentors and dear friends like the Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba and Isoyama Shihan. I am so present to the fact that what I share is what I feel and I don’t speak in third person much anymore. I have come to a point in my life that I am enjoying being on the mat and whether in South Africa, Germany, Belgium, Brazil or right here in my dojo, I am able to just be me and feel good about it. This is a time that I wish for all my students that are instructors…that they can speak for themselves and not have to quote me or tell people that this is what Reynosa thinks. I want them to share what they think and I will always support them being better than me. I wish you all good fortune and good health and thank you for reading this small article.
At this time in my life, as I listen to Toby Keith sing, “I’m not as good as I used to be, but I am good once as I ever was!” I revel in the joy of Aikido without worrying that I have to be better than somebody or anybody else. I don’t have to be as good as anybody or compete for anything…rank is not an issue any longer, since having been ranked as a Rokudan (6th Degree Black Belt) by the Doshu himself. And the greatest feeling is that I don’t have to act like a Rokudan. I have acquired the freedom to simply be me and quit thinking that everything will be okay, even if I don’t say anything…I need to say what I feel, because I don’t think everything is okay! All you have to do is contemplate what is happening to our society, our culture, to know that everything is not okay and if I don’t say what I believe is right, nothing changes! Things need to change and more people need to hear conversations about kindness, compassion, honesty and above all, integrity. What do you think has caused the fall of my former teacher, Wall Street, of President Bush and every other CEO of most every major corporation in America? It’s nothing but egoism and selfishness and this just doesn’t work for very long.
Now I am not saying I am a saint or ever have been, but what I am saying is that I have come to an understanding that if you keep the on the path of Aikido and truly embrace the teachings of kindness, compassion, honesty and integrity and choose to “be” the teachings, that life just works. My marriage is filled with love and respect, my dojo has nothing but great students, my job is something I love to go to and the world is my stage having dojos in many countries I never imagined I would be visiting, let alone having hundreds of students in…my life is amazing and I am so grateful for having Aikido in my life and having had all the support of my family and friends.
So if you want my advice my friends and students, if you are feeling a little bit old, just stop and contemplate how lucky we are to have found Aikido and the teachings of O’Sensei. That Aikido is a process of succeeding and failing and learning that failing is just failing and is nothing to fear. Stay open to the teachings keep them in your daily conversations and live into greater possibilities. That is the name of the game…good luck and good training, I hope to see you on the mat some time!