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About teaching and learning ~Miranda Saarentaus~

Since my first aikido teacher moved back to Japan in 1987 and stopped practising aikido, I searched for a teacher for several years. I met many great teachers, but none of them really deeply touched me. The reason why Endo Shihan made such a strong impression on me in 1992 in Kerava, Finland, was the way he used contact with his partner, the way he guided energy with such ease – his partner hardly noticed what was happening. It felt like my aikido-life was just about to begin…

We all have our own stories about how we met our aikido-teacher. Did we choose our teacher or did our teacher choose us? Can a teacher choose his/her students? I do not think so. The teacher guides, supports and helps, and the student learns, if he or she chooses so. The teacher is also in the process of learning, so what is actually the difference between a teacher and a student? Maybe we can agree that a teacher has more experience than his students, gives advice, guides and helps to achieve goals. To learn is always a decision that each of us make.

When I went to Saku in August this year (2015), Endo Shihan hinted that he had never seen me teach, and expressed an interest in seeing me give a class. This was a great honour, and another example how he is constantly moving, changing and adapting to new things. Just as he describes running water as something that always finding its way, Endo Shihan also seems to follow the way of running water, not only during the practise, but also in guiding his students.

In my class, I try to provide space for everyone to develop and strengthen their own selves. Flow is an important element, and therefore my classes usually include exercises in free technique. I emphasize the flow of movement: not going against the force, but rather always finding a way to guide one’s partner without coercion, and drawing strength from contact and communication.

Thank you Endo Shihan for all your support and guidance. Thank you also to all of you with whom I have practised and learnt from. I’m looking forward with thankfulness also to those whom I still will meet!


Akari dojo

Vantaa, Finland