I was delighted to read this article about one of my former aikido instructors, Sensei Danielle Smith. She was recently promoted to the rank of 7th Dan by the International Hombu Dojo. This rank reflects her long dedication to learning and teaching aikido. If you ever have the pleasure of training with her you find yourself encountering a small, very calm women. At first glance you might think the people she is training with are being polite and falling over for her. But if you are on the receiving end of her techniques that I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth!
Sensei Smith has also passed on this calmness, this willingness to teach and the passion she has for akido to those in her dojo. While I was at Aikido of Monterey it was wonderful to see children and young adults embracing and developing the principals of aikido. The older children would help the younger ones, and they were always polite and kind to each other on the mat. Such behaviour only comes about because an example in kind is being set by the adults. The adults I trained with also were glad to pass on their love of this martial art and were inspiring and kind in their own ways.
Aikido is often seen as a non-effective martial art to those outside it. And yes, in the early years what you learn can seem very stylised. Aikido isn’t just about what the body does, its about developing the mind to be in that place to react in appropriate and calm manner when danger occurs. It takes far longer to train the mind how to respond then the body.
Aikido differs to martial arts such as jjitsu or judo, which teach direct and sometimes aggressive responses. I’m not saying this is wrong, it’s just another approach.
“Aikido is non-aggressive, so I believe we’ll always have a significant role to play. People want to be aggressive usually out of fear; you can’t even have a conversation these days about politics or the economy without evoking a tremendous amount of fear. Aikido definitely tries to break that cycle of violence – the feeling of needing to be physically damaging to someone else. In aikido, we don’t buy into the belief in the division that is in today’s society. We study forms, but the forms are to get in touch with our own connection and to be creative.”
I have trained with senior people whose aikido is very direct, but they still retain that mental discipline that more confrontational martial arts lack. It’s interesting to read that Sensei Smith urges us to take that mind set outside of the dojo and apply it to our everyday lives. And where better to start with that approach than teaching the next generation of aikidoka?
Well done Danielle Smith on your promotion to 7th Dan. Thank you for inspiring me and others in our aikido.