Every time I take a class, I position myself, not where the sensei would sit, but along the line with my fellow Aikidoka practitioners. As I have principled, I am the most ranking student in class, and therefore I am not the sensei, but a facilitator, or ‘class monitor’.
Officially, I have told James, my senpai, and maintained that I would prefer to have Harry sensei give me a blessing, best in writing, that I am given the responsibility of instructorship. Well, this is a ‘me‘ thing as I do not want to assume things and make myself ‘sensei’ while Harry sensei is still in effect, The Sensei of Shoshin Aikikai Singapore. There is no ifs and buts about it.
These will change now that he has passed away, and without his verbal, explicit expression as to how the dojo should continue, we are left to our own devices to decide.
His son, Lionel did express that it was perhaps his father’s wish to make sure his Aikido legacy should continue, which means Shoshin, the dojo he founded should carry on, and I will need to take the initiative to continue.
It is never easy with changes, and we have a few ‘closed door’ discussions with the dan grade members of Shoshin and many favoured closing the dojo, which we did, for the later part of 2021, and then James told me that it will be reopened, and he would want me to take a class, on Monday. I obliged. While I never officially heard it from Harry sensei that he consented, I’d trust James that he is carrying out sensei’s interpretations the best he could.
Harry sensei did turned up a few times and witness me taking class; he didn’t objected in anyway of sorts, so I’ll take it that my instructorship is okay. It’s surely a hot seat with him sitting there looking at me taking class, I don’t want to fumble and look bad, making him look bad or regret his decision in anyway!
Also there was a new infusion of interest from David, an Aikido instructor who is keen to take Shoshin forward. So together, we will run the class and continue practicing Aikido at the present dojo.
Initially for me, I wasn’t sure about this path. I told myself that I’ll decide again after Sensei’s passing, honestly, I’m not that keen to continue Aikido in any form or function if Harry sensei is no longer around. I am also really not keen to be a sensei of any form or function.
The feedback is that my involvement is wanted, and Shoshin Aikidokas past and present prefers to have someone who have trained under Harry sensei to continue. Many would argue that what is Shoshin unless it is passed down to someone who has trained with Harry sensei and knows his style.
While there are many students who have trained with Harry sensei, none has stepped up to take custodian of the dojo.
Shoshin is 初心
初心 in Japanese Kanji means the ‘Beginners’ Mind’, Harry sensei choose the logo to be that of 2 open hands. He has said many times that we need a beginners mind to see things properly, and not let the ego get the better of us. Practice with a Beginner’s Mind.
While it appeals to me that Harry sensei’s style should continue in Shoshin, we must also regenerate the dojo with a beginner’s mind and see Aikido new again. Not disrespecting Harry sensei’s legacy, but to really honour him by starting things fresh, taking it to greater heights.
No one can match Harry sensei’s greatness and commitment to Aikido in Singapore, and it would be ridiculous for me to even try. His style is unflinching precision, come what may, he dispatches his uke large and small with ease. All I can do is perhaps interpret his style with my own limited understanding and render it in spirit and principles.
Life is a Curve Ball
As always, you will never know how things will turn out. All I wanted to do was to follow Harry sensei and until his death, I’ll be free to decide my path. I would never expect myself to be thrusted and entrusted into this very privileged role of taking Shoshin to the next level.
I’m not sure what I will do, but with what my sensei has taught and guided me in the past, I’m sure things will turn out fine.
2 thoughts on “The Way Forward: Shoshin Aikikai Singapore”
Hello Aiki Dad – i apologise for eschewing the usage of the term “Sensei” because this is clearly still a matter very much in flux. My name is Kelvin and I’m from Aikido Shudokan Singapore, I lead (on behalf of my own Sensei) a small yoshinkan dojo and these challenges and thoughts you’ve put to figurative paper struck quite a chord. No matter the dojo or affiliation, what matters is the shugyo… This is your own journey and it sounds like you are right in the thick of it.
Perhaps it isn’t my place to say or offer anything, but if you ever want to chat – one aikidoka to another – please feel free to reach out anytime.