Remembering Sensei: A Special Edition of the Seidokan Communicator
When Kobayashi Sensei died in 1995, a number of senior students were asked to submit remembrances for a memorial edition of the Seidokan newletter.
There are many anecdotes that come to mind when I consider my association with Kobayashi Sensei. I can remember the first time he scowled at one of my bad jokes. I remember the feeling I had when, years later, I told an equally bad joke and how he laughed out loud, generously and with great vigor.
I started my aikido training in Dallas under Sosa Sensei in February of 1979. The very next month I travelled to Austin to my first Kobayashi seminar. I was so new to aikido, and Kobayashi's presence was fairly intimidating. It took me quite a number of years to even begin to feel at ease in his company, whether on the mat or off. Whenever I was around him, I felt as if every deficiency of my technique or character stood out like warts on the nose of a princess.
Over time, I found more of a comfort zone around Sensei. Partly this was a reflection of my own growth and confidence in the art. But more importantly, I began to see Mr. Kobayashi himself undergoing personal growth and pursuing further refinements of character. It became increasingly clear to me that he was more interested in unearthing his own deficiencies than mine, and that he was turning them into possibilities for new directions in training and in teaching. The humility with which he was able to abandon daily his past accomplishments in order to remake himself and his art struck me as a true living instance of the warrior who has already embraced death and has found how to use it to enhance life.
In the sixteen years that I knew him, the thing that stands out most clearly to me is this legacy of growth and renewal. He was already remarkably accomplished when I first met him, and so to be able to watch him undergo changes and to relentlesly pursue improvements that would benefit our own development was and is tremendously inspiring. It is this impression that I would like to convey instead of the simple details of conversations or experiences I had with him (although these also have a special place in my treasure chest).
I remember him saying toward the end of his life that enlightenment is right where you are standing. But I also think that his example in life shows that it can take a lifetime of journeying just to be able to see the ground at you feet while aiming for somewhere over the horizon.