There are so many obstacles one must navigate in order to train. I think about the distance to the dojo, the traffic, the outside obligations that must be fulfilled, the body’s readiness, and mental attitude. Making training a priority is at times a challenge. Izawa Sensei reminds us of a hierarchy from time to time when we miss class: Health is number one, followed by family, then career/job, then training. Training of course can have a very positive effect on our overall health, so number one and training are connected. For Furuya Sensei, his dojo was his family after the passing of his parents, and he was a full-time Aikido and Iaido teacher, and, sadly, all of those things combined, eventually, cost him his health. The dojo became his everything. He put his students and their growth before everything. This dedication to his students is very admirable and was palpable.
I remember on several occasions turning around and going home an hour in traffic after sitting an hour in traffic to get to the dojo if I knew I was going to be late to class. I didn’t want to disrespect Sensei and the other students by arriving late. Sensei was serious, and I wanted to make sure he knew I was serious as well. What I didn’t know is that he would have rather had me come and train even if I was a little late than to have me miss. It was my shame of being late that prevented me from training, but slowly I got over that shame and realized that any amount of time spent training, was time spent that would move me closer to the ultimate me. If my heart was in the right place and an unavoidable obstacle was in the way, Sensei would understand. I remember a student once cut into the trim on the bottom of the second floor with his sword and Sensei said nothing because the student’s heart was apologetic.
What he did not understand was people who habitually arrived late, or arrived with a laissez-faire attitude, or arrived late to an early morning weekend intensive practice. He knew there wasn’t any traffic between 5-6am on a Saturday morning. He knew that the student had been out late, or over slept, or had been drinking the night before and was too hung over for practice. These things were inexcusable to Sensei, because the heart was not in the right place, and the scoldings Sensei unleashed for that were epic and unforgettable.
Every teacher is lucky who has one student who is eager and ready to learn. O’negai shimasu.