A Thank You To My Students – Past And Present

July 15th., 2011 will mark the official 18th year anniversary of Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei (although the school is actually about two years older than that).

1993: The Start


Present (How that old garage has changed.)

A lot of things have changed since that first day. Looking back, the students who trained with me eighteen years ago would definitely see a different instructor today—not least because of my ever-increasing lack of hair, and bigger belly.



Besides the obvious physical changes, they would also notice a change in the focus of what I teach, how I’ve returned to my roots. I have become a lot softer and no longer emphasize just the striking aspect of my art.

More importantly, they would see a difference in the way I teach and interact with my students. And no, I don’t mean that I’m even more cranky now than before, although that may be true at times (I do, however, plan on being a cantankerous old man after I hit 65, so be warned).

William Arthur Ward (1921-1994), one of America’s most quoted writers of inspirational maxims stated, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

I would like to think that I have traveled through everyone of those stages, and hopefully even in some small way inspired somebody to accomplish something they didn’t believe was possible. All I can say is I’ve tried my best.

Of course, opening a martial arts school, and calling one’s self a teacher is meaningless without students. A school, no matter how fancy, how famous, is just an empty space if no one attends it.

In addition, no one is born with teaching skills. That is something that must learned, often by trial and error. I know I’ve had my share of both successes and failures.

As much as I have tried to be the best teacher I can be for my students, even in matters unrelated to the school, I have definitely received a lot more in return. In the end, it has been my students who have helped me grow as an instructor, and as a person.

Many students have been with me through the good times and bad, through financial hardships, and even the heartache of lost love. They have seen me at my best, and tolerated me at my worst. They have been there when I was physically fit, and when I was injured to the point where I could barely walk.

They have listened to my ramblings, debated my beliefs, and even proven me wrong. They’ve allowed me to lecture on my “soapbox,” vent my anger, and spill my guts. They have also left me alone when I wanted solitude, but never let me forget they were there if I needed them.

They have put up with my sarcasm, my puns, and even laughed at the lame jokes I’ve said a 100 times before.

They have put up with my moodiness when I have a killer migraine, my incessant badgering when they don’t do things right, and even my fits of frustration when no one seems to understand what I’m trying to say. They’ve even accepted my harshest criticisms, realizing that I only have their best interest at heart.

Many have been there to support me and lend a hand when I’ve been at my wit’s end, and at my lowest points. They have stood by me when others launched personal attacks on the Internet. They have reminded me to be true to myself, and not to care what others may think.

More importantly, many students have been my inspiration as I watched them face their own adversity. This has been especially so when they faced adversity with a smile, even when everyone else around them knew their days were numbered, and that they soon would no longer be with us.

Michael Schneps (1944 – 2005) R.I.P.

Lastly, my students have educated me by bringing their strengths and knowledge into the classroom, and freely exchanging that information with me. They have taught me a lot, made me reexamine things I thought I knew, and opened my eyes to new ways at looking at the world. Clearly, they have made me a better person.

Some, have even transcended the bounds of the student teacher relationship, and are now like part of the family. I guess I am a fortunate man.

It seems like Glen has been around forever. The school, as well as my abilities as a martial artist, would be nowhere near what they are without him. Glen, is not only a good friend, but an invaluable assistant instructor and good-natured guinea pig when I want to practice some new idea or concept that comes to mind. No matter how much I seem to abuse him, he always has a smile on his face.

Zachary’s Godfather, Spencer
If anyone could catalog the techniques of this school it would be Spencer. He has an uncanny ability to remember things, as well as analyzing them and figuring out the science that makes them work. I’m looking forward to the day he feels confident enough to take a more active role in teaching.
He has also encouraged me to explore my art more deeply, and to start this blog, which he edits to make me appear coherent. Lastly he has become the Internet spokesman for the school, and took the front line when my school and character was attacked. All without being asked to do so.

Grover Reece
Though relatively new to the school, Grover has done a lot to promote the school in the last year. He has been responsible for organizing several events/seminars. While I think he is discovering how hard that is to do, especially when it comes to organizing seminars, he brings a refreshing enthusiasm and tenacity, which the school had clearly been lacking for a while.
In addition he has also constantly reminded me to continue my scholarly pursuits, and to keep working on my blog and the book I’ve been writing. Who knows, maybe one day I will get that book done.

William Arthur Ward stated, “A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities.”

Opening my school 18 years ago I never would have expected to make so many true friends.