Having the responsibility of running a dojo shortly after becoming a nidan was a daunting task. I was left with a strong foundation, provided to me by my departing sensei, Steve Atkinson, but I needed to find a way to continue growing, even in our isolated dojo in Alaska. And to improve so I could help my students to continue their growth, I looked to my sensei's sensei, Frank Doran. Over the years I took from him valuable lessons in Aikido and eventually much more valuable lessons of life.
From his teachings I learned the importance of combining timing, precise alignment and posture. I learned to focus on the basics; aiki (blending-leading), balance taking [kusushi] and posture-base [shisei]. I still remember very clearly Sensei Doran praising my deep, solid karate based stance, then suggesting I learn how to maintain that same base, but from a natural stance.
Over the years, I closely watched Sensei Doran. Watched how he dealt with others. I saw his concern for people's wellbeing and happiness. I learned of his need to chose the 'right action' in decisions that affected the wellbeing of his students. As a sensei I came to understand the importance and responsibility of following 'right action' in concerns involving the student of my dojo, even when another course of action was easier and would have resulted in an 'adequate' conclusion. In Sensei Doran, I found my inspiration to help me learn the tools to become a much better Aikidoka, teach and most importantly a person I could like and respect. I continue to learn from Sensei, through his lessons at seminars, through observation of his interaction with others, and through the personal time I am most fortunate in being able to spend with him.
Sensei Yuki Hara came into my life by adopting my students at a seminar many years ago. Eventually she adopted our dojo and has been an important part of our Aikido life ever since. Although Hara Sensei does not run a dojo or teach regular classes, she has been a teacher to us and many others over her long Aikido career. By example she has taught me that I can be an important example to others through the way I conduct myself in life. She has shown me the importance of being open and supportive of young students, to help them learn to find the joy in training, in themselves and their fellow Aikidoka. Her lesson of always looking for the good in people is one that I am still trying to emulate.
These are two of a hand-full of people from whom I have learned the most and whom I respect the most in my life, who have provided me with the most important gifts to help me be a better person. And as they have done before me, I will do my best to 'pay it forward' by helping those who follow.
Calvin Koshiyama, January 4th, 2020, Aikido North