Here is Part II of my interview with Sensei Lee Lavi of North Valley Aikikai:
Q: “Is your dojo community involved in any local civic projects or events? If so, what are these?”
A: “We are active in our community in different ways. Each Winter we collect warm clothes, blankets and new socks for local homeless people. During the holidays we collect toys and books for a child care organization that distributes then to children from a low income families.
“We currently have a fundraiser for annual Aikido scholarships that will be granted to Child and Family Guidance organization, an organization that provides counseling for children and families in crisis.
“We demonstrate at the Cherry Blossom festival in Little Tokyo and in schools and non-profit organizations around Los Angeles.
“Two years ago I taught a group of blind adults collaborating with the Junior Blind organization. It was an eye opening experience.”
Q: “What do you focus on with your kid’s classes?”
A: “We have a similar framework for every class:
“One of the higher ranked children leads the warm-ups and initial bowing in. This teaches them leadership and being an example to others.
“Once a month we give out ‘Kanji of the Month’ – teaching the kids about values like Compassion, Friendship, Courage, Giving.
“Every few weeks we show a Japanese culture item, teaching the children about the Japanese culture. Some of the items: A Katana sword, A Shodo (calligraphy) set of ink and brushes and such.
“The kids have ‘high attention’ times and ‘low attention’ times during class, and they learn the skill of coming in and out of attention. The kids play games and learn a couple of techniques as well as some sparring with padded swords. So, fun and seriousness are weaved together during the class.
“We finish every class with a short Zen meditation. This teaches self control and self quietening.”
A: “And if you could have tea with O Sensei and he said you could ask him any questions you wished, what would you ask him?”
“You said you feel Aikido will be a healing to the world ailments, how do you envision the future of Aikido?
“What would you like me, as an Aikido teacher, to transmit to my students?
“How do you describe the process of a Budo, which stemmed from fighting, transforming into a loving-kindness way of being?
“Did you foresee Aikido having so many styles, like we have these days?
“What gives you the most joy when you are on the mat?”
You can 100% sure I’ll be revisiting Lee and the great work she is doing with her dojo and in her community. I truly think she is truly fulfilling O Sensei’s vision of bringing Aikido to as many people as possible.
Thank you Sensei Lee…you are a martial artist making a difference.