Sunday, August 3, 2008

You're Damn Right I Will, Takahashi-sensei

Francis Takahashi-sensei is the chief instructor at my aikido dojo. A physically imposing yet charmingly grandfatherly figure, he's one of the kindest and most patient men I've ever met. He has infinite patience for newcomers -- if he didn't, I'd never have lasted there -- and he sets an inspiring example. Despite advancing age and a couple of nearly crippling injuries, he's never given up. He's found ways -- made ways -- to continue to lead and teach, and to practice and develop his own art. Thanks to his example, I've always come back to aikido despite my own injuries. If Francis can do it, I can do it.

Today, after practice, I left the dojo and started to drive home -- and thought a little, and turned around and went back. When I got there, Francis was just leaving the building. He held the door for me.

"Did you forget something?" he asked.

"Not exactly," I said. I took off my sunglasses. Almost without choking up, I said, "I've had a couple of reminders lately that you should tell the people in your life who are important to you how much they mean to you before you lose the opportunity."

He picked up on my demeanor before my words, and before I could finish the sentence, he'd already dropped his bag and was giving me a big hug.

"So," I continued, "just in case I get hit by a bus tomorrow, I wanted to say thank you."

"You're always welcome," he said. "You're always welcome."

That was about it. I started to walk back to my car; he picked up his bag and shuffled on toward his. Then he stopped and called to me.

"If that bus hits you," he said, "hit 'em back."