December 18th we held a successful surprise party in honor of Yuki Hara’s birthday. Successful in that Yuki didn’t find out about it and successful in that everyone had a good time.
Wendy Whited Sensei from Inaka Dojo in Beecher lead a vigorous and informative class. She stressed responsive ukemi, following and listening with your body. People from all over the midwest showed up to train. Whited Sensei ended class by having us make one long line across the dojo in preparation to bowing out. While we were all lined up she thanked us for inviting her to lead class, she then started telling stories about Yuki. How Yuki was instrumental in getting the Illinois Aikido Club affiliated with Saotome Shihan and the Aikido Schools of Ueshiba. Another story Whited Sensei shared about how Yuki encouraged her to go out and experience Aikido all over the world.
The first seminar I flew to was with Yuki. She wanted to see Hikitsuchi Sensei again as he had just finished a seminar in Chicago. She made the arrangements and when we reached DC, she called Takeguchi Sensei to ask for housing. He arranged to have two students pick us up and house us. Yuki made such an impression on Hikitsuchi Sensei that he always inquired about her whenever he wrote me. This connection made my first trip to Japan much easier as I stayed in the dojo at Shingu and was a “mini-uchi deshi” for three weeks. I doubt that would have happened without the “Yuki Factor”.
Yuki received birthday wishes from all over. Aikido North in Anchorage Alaska, a dojo where Yuki leads an annual seminar, sent a video clip. Watch it here Birthday wishes from Aikido North to Yuki Hara
Jo Takehara Sensei recounted Yuki joining the kids classes with her children and wondered what it was about Aikido that kept her interested for all these years. He joked that he will stop when she does but he thinks she is waiting for him to stop first. Which is good for all of us who still have lessons to learn from both of them.
Keiki Hinami made the presentation of the club’s gift to Yuki. Fine silk fabric from Japan imported specially for Yuki. Will we be seeing extra fancy hakama in the future?
Even more guests showed up for the party in honor of Yuki, especially aikidoka who have been off the mat raising children. Said children took over the mat once the training was over and had a party all their own. Hopefully the adults went home and relaxed off the food and the children were worn out from all the fun on the mat.