Sensei’s Life Lessons

In my time in the Cambridge/Somerville area, I’ve had two primary sensei, Dick Stroud and Sioux Hall. And while I do owe Hall-sensei an article (for which I need to find my notes somewhere in a box from our last move), today, I’m writing about Stroud-sensei.

Stroud-sensei agreed to take me in in the early-2000’s, and I’m part of his dojo even through this Maya hiatus. But in the years before I met Maya’s Mom, I spent a lot of time with him. Not just in practice, but on a few road trips to aikido seminars, parties, and hanging out in his studio which was down the street from where I used to live. To say that he was an important part of my single life would be an understatement. While I haven’t seen him in quite a while, I think about him often because the bear painting he gave me when I made nidan hangs in Maya’s room and watches over her every night. It’s her first image of a bear.

The relationship with a sensei can be a complex one. You’re following this person down a road you’ve never gone down before, and one that honestly does have a lot of danger on it. Your life and your sensei’s life might be very different outside of the dojo; you don’t need to model yourself entirely on them. This isn’t a movie. A sensei guides you through good times and bad ones. In Stroud-sensei’s case, he really got me to believe that there was a season for everything, which is something hard to believe for a young person who’s had stretch of a few bad years.

Stroud-sensei is a couple of years older than my Dad, and often while hanging out in his studio, he would tell me things that I could easily hear my Dad tell me. Sometimes in a different way and sometimes in the same way. In any case, I’ve been away from Hawaii for the better part of 18 years. Stroud-sensei served as role model for when I first really settled in State-side. As a poet, I learned where to prioritize both my writing and my aikido watching Sensei (who is a painter). He taught me what the true benefit of spending a lifetime being curious about the world around you are. He taught me to sweat the details I let slip. He taught me that repetition isn’t boring or meaningless, but is the road to a focused life and enlightenment. There are other things he taught me that I will keep to myself, but the most important thing he taught me was that a man should be both private and generous, and that is a lesson I’m still working on.

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