Isao Takahashi remembered,
recalling things he used to say:
It is not the rank that makes the man,
but the man makes the rank.
It is more difficult to be an Aikidoka
of good character --- honorable (he points to his one-point or center), than to just do
The waza is easy ... it is outside. It
is easy to make this look good (he makes motions around his body, pointing to the outside
appearance of the body). This is hard to make better (He points to his head and one-point
Aikido means to do both. You cannot say
you do Aikido if you only do the waza. Aiki means mixing (blending) both together ... so
to do Aikido you must make both waza and the inside --- perfect. You must do this every
day, even outside of dojo.
These statements have been evolving for me ever
since the first time I remember hearing him say them. I suppose that in time, they will
keep evolving and have deeper meaning for me as I get older. As I have learned, wisdom
takes time and patience and will not be rushed. So, while we can barter and bargain for a
particular pecking order of dan ranking, it is a much more difficult task to attain true
Aiki. So, while we quantify each other by the rank we have ... or feel we are entitled to,
perhaps we need to practice true Budo. The challenge is the perfection of self, body, and
the world in which we must co-exist and practice true Aiki with.
What I admire the most of my late instructor, is
that he never thought of himself as being the perfect Aikidoist. He thought of himself as
a human being with all the human weaknesses, frailties, and imperfections as any other
person. He never told painted stories of Ueshiba Sensei doing some super human feats,
walking on water, etc. He always wanted his students to " ... think positive
...", and " ... think forward ...", and be well-balanced individuals of
good character - worthy to be called martial artists or what he termed as Samurai. He told
us to never give up trying to attain perfect aiki, Bushido, and honor. This was all in the
diligent quest to be honorable and focus to be a better Aikidoist. I find that Takahashi
Sensei accepted his humanity and tried continuously to be that honorable warrior of
Bushido tradition, and to blend it with good character, in Aikido.
Cheryl Matrasko is a Network Analyst for the
department of Networking and Communications at a prominent Chicago hospital. Formerly the
LAN Administrator for
Northwestern University Medical School - Department of OB/GYN, and assistant LAN
Administrator to the previous MIS of the School of Law. Cheryl started Aikido in 1965,
studying under Isao Takahashi as her first instructor. She enjoyed working out under many
well known Aikido instructors during her tenure with Takahashi Sensei and thereafter
following his death in 1971. Cheryl has dedicated time with instructors in Northern
Long-Fist, Seven Stars Praying Mantis, and Daito-Ryu Aikijujitsu. Currently, she is
instructing Aikido at Northwestern University's Chicago Campus and founded Aikido World
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