An Unexpected Meeting

An Unexpected Meeting

Do you know O-sensei? I should say, have you ever heard of O-sensei? Morihei Ueshiba – December 14, 1883 – April 26, 1969) was a Japanese martial artist and founder of the martial art of aikido. He is often referred to as “the founder” Kaiso  or Ōsensei “Great Teacher”, a very famous aikido master who passed away at the age of 86.  His legacy is one of giant proportions. His aikido, The Way of Harmony, was all about peace, compassion and love. Through this martial art that he refined and possibly created, he  spread his message and popularized aikido throughout the world.

What are the chances of meeting someone who trained with O-sensei as his direct disciple? In Japanese this term is Uchi-Deshi, a live in student.

I was visiting Florida in 2016 and I had rented a cottage, the cottage was close to a dojo. The dojo was once operated by Saotome Mitsugi  sensei, (born March 7, 1937). Saotome sensei is one of the last of the direct students of O-sensei. He retired from teaching regularly at the dojo, he still makes special visits on occasion. He lived in the area, in the downtown section of  Sarasota, Florida.  I stayed in Sarasota for the month of January.

There were two reasons for wanting to stay in Florida, one was to get away from Canada’s cold winter. The other was to train with my friend and karate teacher, Rick Hotton.

Around the end of my visit to Florida, Rick, my wife Nina and I went to visit the local farmers market held in the downtown core. As we explored the market, picking up fresh produce and investigating other interesting things such as you find at farmers markets everywhere, who should we see but Saotome sensei.

Sarasota Farmers Market

Saotome was with one of his senior students and was also exploring the farmers market. Saotome sensei as one of O-sensei’ direct students,  helped to spread aikido in the USA. Rick Hotton also studies aikido and is one of Saotome sensei’ students. When he saw sensei he offered his greeting and he introduced Nina and I to Saotome sensei. He introduced me as a karate man and Saotome sensei pretended to jump back in fear. I laughed and I told him he had nothing to fear from me and that it was a great honour to meet him.

We stayed and chatted with him for a little while, it was a  great experience. I felt that I was in the presence of someone with a very strong spirit, an energy that belied his age. This was a meeting that I will remember and cherish.  It was also quite amusing. I just wish I had brought his book with me for him to sign, I had left it back in Canada, Aikido and the  Harmony of Nature.