I’m speaking with Jack Freund, 2nd Kyu
Weiner Sensei: Jack-san, What led you to Aikido?
Jack-san: I first learned about Aikido while I was a youth studying Hapkido and Tang Soo Do. Some of my friends there were also taking Aikido classes and would tell me about the intense, vigorous classes. Later in life, I found myself fascinated by Shioda Sensei’s Aikido demonstration in the 1978 film Budo: the Art of Killing (and later Take Sensei in The Path Beyond Thought). I never acted on this interest until many years later when I moved to Charlotte and wanted to take up martial arts again. A quick Google Search showed me that Aikido of Charlotte was close by, and I stopped in to observe a class.
Weiner Sensei: How would you describe class at our dojo?
Jack-san: Overall, its fun! Like my young friends told me, it’s intense but what I learned is that its also very measured. What I mean is that we don’t blast through everyone with great speed and intensity. Instead, everyone gets a class that is commensurate to their level and capabilities. It gives you the opportunity to learn (and advance) at your own pace. Eventually, you want to go faster but only after you learn to do so safely.
Weiner Sensei: What are your short term goals as a student?
Jack-san: Near-term, I’m looking to prepare myself for my next test and to help others do the same. I really want my next test (Ikkyu) to be given and executed at the Shodan level. This is a part of the culture at our dojo: we try harder and go further than what is necessary. I never want anyone to question that I deserve the rank that I am awarded.
Weiner Sensei: What are your long term goals as a student?
Jack-san: My view of long-term goals is different than most. I don’t like to signal to myself or others that there is an end, because I believe unconsciously that allows me to think about being done and not about the next step. I don’t ever want to be done with Aikido. So instead, I say that my long-term goals in Aikido are to go as far as I possibly can. That’s a very inclusive statement and I mean it that way. I want to live my Aikido goals in as open a way as possible. So whatever opportunities come my way, I want my goals (short and long-term) to be accommodating to the options that life places before me.
Weiner Sensei: What does it take to be a committed student?
Jack-san: I think to be committed you have to have the mentality of climbing a never-ending ladder. The state of being “committed” as a new student is different than it is in later ranks. When I started, I committed to myself that I would attend class twice a week, so I did. As my fitness levels increased and my understanding of Aikido developed, this required a different level of commitment to continue to grow, so I added a third day of attendance, and then a fourth. Now I’m at a level of commitment where everyone assumes I will be there for every class five or six times a week and I visit other dojos wherever I travel.
Commitment is also about what you do while in these classes and that has its own evolution and arc. If you are attending class but get winded half-way through, then you should commit to going as far as you can in each of the classes you attend and then work on growing that. If you find that you can’t remember movements, techniques, or proper etiquette from one class to the next, commit to trying to remember one or two and grow that from there. Eventually, your commitment will grow such that you don’t want to forget anything. It helps that we have a dojo that is very supportive and allows you to make these mistakes while patiently correcting you. Its the kind of environment that allows you to grow your commitment levels and goals as slow or as fast as you want while at the same time maintaining a very high bar for execution.
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