Hal Lehrman Shihan
It was never my intention to start an Aikido school. But, as I look back at our history, I had only one path.
Aikido is a practice that has nourished me. It is a profound resource for self-exploration and growth. It has informed all of the other pursuits of my life. Aikido develops both the outward and the inner courage. It is daring, exuberant and caring.
Aikido is a very broad path. Each student brings his own spirit to the practice. One of my favorite quotes from O’Sensei, the founder of aikido, is, “The purpose of Aikido is to give one the courage to live the most creative life possible.” It is a martial art of creation, not of destruction or of victory over others. It is an art that helps us find and invigorate our, Ki, inner strength.
I began teaching at New York Aikikai in the '70s. I moved to Brooklyn in 1976; so when the request was made to Yamada Sensei, my teacher and the Founder of the NYA, to have an instructor teach a weekly Aikido class at a Tae Kwon Do School, Way of Action on 5th Avenue and 7th Street in Brooklyn, he asked me to teach the class.
That school, with Gordon Wormser, Harvey King and Beth Ullman, the first to join, was the seed that was planted and grew to become Aikido of Park Slope.
Several years later, while playing with my daughter, Olivia, outside my house in Windsor Terrace, a father and his daughter walked passed. The 2 girls became fast friends. The father with a look of realization said “I know you!” I suggested that he might have seen me in a film or on stage. Suddenly it came to him, “NY Aikikai”. He had seen me teach class.
He said, “I own a building and I have the commercial space available for rent. It could be a dojo. I want to practice Aikido.”
Why not just look? The space was pretty small, but we only had about ten students. Yet the rent he mentioned was surprisingly low. I promised to think about it.
Olivia and I walked back to our house and the moment we walked in the door, the phone rang. This was before cell phones. It was my friend Butch Chernovsky, Yamada Sensei’s right hand man at the time. “We just got a shipment of mats. Yamada Sensei doesn’t need them. Do you know of anyone who could use them?”
There is a concept of non-intention, in Chinese, “Wu Wei Wu” – literally Nothing Doing Nothing. It means that things happen naturally, as they should. Now over thirty years later Aikido of Park Slope is thriving. We have grown to become an exceptional gathering place for caring, creative, daring and skillful people. We have relocated 4 times, all through the efforts of our members. We are fortunate to be part of the ever-growing Aikido world with an unbroken and close connection to Yamada Sensei and the NY Aikikai.
The US Aikido Federation now has over 2000 schools in the US. Our school, APS, has grown into a community; a school where friends gather, where couples have met and created families, where children come to play and people grow. The path has led to a dojo that has become a place where many have found the excitement of this practice; where we can wake up, refresh and grow. For that I am very grateful.