Joel Riggs teaches Aikido, plays piano, enjoyed California for 22 years ('86 - '08), now enjoys Georgia, and reads voraciously.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sensei Nick

This evening I drove to Frank Pryor's studio in San Francisco for a soirée celebrating Nick Scoggin on his way out of town. He is off to Los Angeles to throw himself into the mix of Hollywood, hoping to grow his career in television and film. Nick has been my sensei in aikido at City Aikido since September 1993.

The first night I met Nick sensei, I walked into the dojo in the big ballroom on Oak Street, and dressed out. I walked onto the mat standing 6 foot 6 and wearing a ponytail. He took one look at me and declared "You are the same size as my previous sensei, Steven Seagal, and so there is no reason you cannot learn this art."

The next year, after Nick pulled my ponytail to demonstrate what you can do if your attacker has a ponytail, I cut my hair short. It was on my 30th birthday. (On my driver's license for the next nine years I had long hair, even though I wore it almost shaved for all that time.)

When I took my blue belt test (fourth kyu), I felt I had muffed quite a few of the techniques. (I had passed, however.) After we bowed out, I found Nick and asked him point blank, "What do you think I did wrong on that test? I did not feel very good about it." He smiled at me and said very gently, "That was a perfectly fine blue belt test. Not good enough for third kyu, but fine for fourth kyu." I learned from that wise instruction that each step has its own level of accomplishment, and it does not benefit me to be too hard on myself. Keep learning and keep trying to improve, but I should not hold myself to some standard I am not yet close to.


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