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Humble Path to Excellence

It’s always interesting to watch people at festival, new and experienced, while watching a lesson on stage have that moment of what just happened up there. They see something done by An-shu Stephen or An-shu Rumiko and stare in amazement. You hear them ask how did they do that and say it looks like magic.

It is ispiring to all of us to be oohed and aahhed at what they can do but if you are not careful you can be lulled into the trap that somehow what is being done is special and you are not capable of reaching those levels of training magic. Well it’s not magic and the reality is actually even more impressive and hopeful for us all.

During a session this year at festival Mr. Hayes was teaching about getting back into a good kamae from an extremely compromised position. Mrs. Hayes was training with some people to the side of the stage. She was working on this technique with an extremely strong partner. She didn’t like the results she was getting. She could make it work but she wasn’t happy with it.

Before I continue the story I just want to make note that this is An-shu Rumiko Hayes, the most senior female practitioner of the ninja arts in the world, training. She wasn’t presenting on stage at this session. She could have taken a break, or just stood off to the side and watched. She didn’t, she was in there training. You can only get this opportunity at Festival.

A little later in the session I was standing by her watching the next part being presented at the session. When it was time to train I turned to her and she told me what had happened previously with the very strong training partner. Over the next few minutes we trained. Mrs. Hayes tried different ideas within the framework of the technique and I as the uke gave her feedback as to what I was experiencing each time. We continued this until we stumbled on an idea that might improve the results she was getting. She tried and the next moment I was completely off balance and on my way to the ground if she wanted to take me there.

Afterward I was thinking about what I had just experienced. An-shu Rumiko Hayes, this amazing, magical practitioner had humbly worked through a training problem with a partner. There was not a teacher-student or senior-junior relationship when we trained, only training. And what did we both get out of the training?

Mrs. Hayes got an answer to her training question, another step forward toward the magic and I received an incredible gift of being able to travel with her for a short time on her humble path to martial arts excellence.

Domo arigatou gozaimashita Rumiko-san!

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