I received an invitation to attend a two-day Seminar instructed by Roy Goldberg Sensei in April 2019. From having watched his videos over the years, the open explanations and pragmatic attitude he had to teaching Aiki resonated with me, I felt we had a great deal in common, so turning down this opportunity was not an option.
On the first day of the seminar his tiny frame and large character walked into the dojo wearing a black jacket, Stetson hat and a huge fanny pack around his waist. He immediately put everyone at ease with his friendly demeanor.
Once changed, everyone assembled on the mat. After a brief introduction, Goldberg Sensei said, “nothing gives me more pleasure first thing in the morning, than to throw the biggest guy in the room”. He instructed me to grab hold of his wrist, as he executed the technique, I felt a man far more powerful than his physical appearance, this impressed me so much I decided to take that moment to say “hello" with Aiki, he immediately noticed
Once everyone paired off to begin training, Goldberg Sensei came over to me, fascinated by what he had felt. After some exchanges, we discovered we were very similar, my theories were quickly confirmed that he did have Aiki, though different to mine, which greatly intrigued me. Also, his character was impeccable, practicing what he preached, especially in Shugyo holding a genuine student mind-set. I knew I had met someone truly special. It became immediate to both of us that we had a connection, the day went on enjoying being a student again for the first time in years.
After the evening meal, Goldberg Sensei invited me to his Hotel to discuss Aiki. We had a wonderful evening together learning a great deal from each other. Time did not exist until 6 hours later when Hung interrupted us explaining it was 3am!
The second day of the seminar began, and I had another enjoyable day of learning many interesting details of Daito Ryu. Throughout the weekend, I was always impressed with the immense knowledge, skill and character Goldberg Sensei openly demonstrated.
After the seminar had ended, due to our enthusiasm and growing friendship, I returned to the Hotel to chat and exchange again, but before we knew, the evening had passed, and Hung was informing us it was 3am again! I stayed at the hotel and said goodbye to Roy in the morning. We remained in regular contact over the following month, then one day he called inviting me to his home in America. I was ecstatic!
After a pleasant flight to America, l was greeted at the terminal by John who kindly drove me to the house which was empty on our arrival. Roy soon returned after rock climbing with his daughter. He warmly greeted us and showed me around his beautiful home. It was not long before we began training in the Dojo. Roy’s wife Gail arrived home, she was a wonderful warm-hearted lady who made me feel so welcome. She cooked us all a delicious meal and we talked until late.
The next morning, we fueled up for a long day in the dojo with coffee and pancakes at the local IHOP. John trained with us until the very last minute before needing to return home. As we both have an incredible thirst for learning we spent the next two days constantly training together or laid out in the TV room on a night watching old training videos. I did apologise to Gail for keeping her husband from her.
On a blisteringly hot 4th July we had an easy day around the pool, later while chatting at the dining table, Roy announced that he wanted to give me an honorary Oku-Sandan in recognition of my skill. My jaw hit the floor! I could not thank him enough He explained to me that this rank normally takes 10 to 15 years to receive and was outside his organisation and not the same as his Oku-Sandans. Roy called his student Ted who makes his certificates, asking for an express job so I could return home with the certificate in my hand.
The next day we went sightseeing in New York City, it felt more like being on a film set than in a city, as so many of the places I had previously seen on TV. We took a trip on the circle line boat taking in the incredible sights, paid our respects at ground Zero and had cheesecake at Junior’s on Broadway. Even during all the sightseeing, we still were training, it was always Shugyo.
The next couple of days passed in a wonderful blur of training, eating and sleeping, I was in heaven. There was a knock at the door, it was Ted he had made my beautiful Oku Sandan certificate and driven all morning to deliver in time. We had a brief ceremony then Ted climbed back into his car and drove home.
The time came for me to leave all too soon, I was greatly saddened to say goodbye. My time with Roy and Gail was an incredible one. I was humbled by their kindness and generosity, we made memories and friendships that I shall treasure for the rest of my life. I cannot thank them enough and look forward to seeing them again.