By Ze'ev Erlich © 2007
I have a good friend, his name is Hirose San. He came to our Aikido dojo in Kyoto in the late 90's and I was fortunate to be his training partner quite often because he was a beginner in Aikido and I just got my shodan and our sensei wanted me to have some teaching experience and to help the dojo.
Hirose San is visually impaired. He can't see. I asked my sensei (Koyama Teruo Sensei) for instructions, I asked him how to teach Hirose San but he told me just to do as I feel and to teach him the way I like. Sensei showed his trust and it gave me confidence.
At that time, I knew very little about Hirose San. We just practiced Aikido together and I was constantly amazed by his ability to learn so quickly without being able to see. The amount of trust he had in himself and in others is amazing. Trust is crucial in Aikido. I need to trust my teacher, trust Aikido itself, trust my partner who uses my body to learn a technique, and of course trust myself. When we practice with someone, we trust him but we also find ways to be careful by looking around and by observing what our partner is doing. Someone who can't see must put all his trust in his partner.
Now I know that when Hirose San joined our dojo, he was also an excellent PhD. student at a prestigious university. Now he is an assistant professor at The National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka. He is shodan in Aikido (black belt) and these days he practices at Shosenji Dojo (Shimamoto Katsuyuki Sensei). We keep in touch and we practice Aikido together almost every year when I visit in Japan. I feel honored to have had the chance to know him and to train with him. It only looks as if I taught him. Actually, The things that I learned from him are much more valuable than the movements I taught him.
The approach in teaching a person with a disability is not only to teach him but to teach the whole group how to practice with him. The idea is not to isolate him. The idea is to create an environment in which he will be able to enjoy his training with anyone in the group.
In Japanese, the word trust is translated as Shinyō. It is written with two kanji (Chinese/Japanese characters):
The kanji "shin" () is considered to be one of the seven virtues of budō. Do people trust you? Do you keep your promises? Are you there when your friends need you? I believe that Aikido develops our trust in ourselves and in our partners. We learn that to rely on someone is not always a weakness. We learn that relying on each other can help us create a wonderful group of friend and a good community.
I will always cherish this lesson of trust that I learned from Hirose San.
Left to right: Ze'ev, Hirose San's mother, Hirose San and his father. In front of their house in Tokyo - August 2007
Thank you for reading.