Becoming an Aikido Sensei
When I was 19 or 20, a minor miracle occured. There were only a handful of Aikido dojos in Canada, and the biggest one opened up 10 minutes from my house. On the day they opened, there were probably 30 people on the mat. Half were black belts, half were brown belts, and there was one white belt, me.
The head instructors were Fred Haynes, Alistar Thompson, and Jim Stewart. They had trained full-time for years in Japan, directly with the founder of Yoshinkan Aikido. Before starting the dojo, they had been directed to organize an international Yoshinkan Aikido federation and to give official gradings and instructor privilages to practitioners around the world.
This dojo quickly became the mecca for Yoshinkan Aikido, with people travelling around the world for our monthly clinics, and I had the privilage of being their first student. I was trained to be a Sensei from day one and I didn't miss a class or training opportunity for the first six years, training 12 hours a week, plus the monthly clinics. I was blessed to have dozens upon dozens of high ranking teachers on a regular basis, plus visiting Aikido masters from Japan and elsewhere. I mentored under Fred as he taught the kids class, assisted and then took it over when I became a brown belt at which point it had grown to 50 students. I finally started my own dojo about seven years after I started training.
Today, I teach at Grand River Aikido, run by a third-degree black belt who started in my dojo about 15 years ago.
There were seven other martial arts schools in the town I grew up in - six Karate dojos and one Tai-Kwon-Do dojo - but I had no interest in joining. The idea of punching and kicking people, or being punched and kicked, did not appeal to me at all. But, I had read about Aikido, and the non-violent philosophy was a different story. It's all taught cooperatively and friendly, and when done right, it's remarkably powerful, without anyone getting hurt.