Although aikido was founded by Morihei Ueshiba before World War II, it has been refined and developed by a number of his students into various styles. The style I practice is called Tomiki Aikido after one of Ueshiba’s pre-war students, Kenji Tomiki. Tomiki Sensei studied judo under its founder Jigoro Kano before studying with Ueshiba, and after the war became a professor at Waseda University. There, he developed a curriculum that further refined Ueshiba’s aikido into something that could be taught as part of an athletic club (undo bu) at the university, believing that repetition and competition would keep the techniques and principles alive.
Tomiki Sensei passed away in 1979, so a number of his students are still alive and practicing his form of aikido. Recently, I had the opportunity to meet Seiji Tanaka, who was the captain of the first aikido team at Waseda in 1958. The chief instructors of the Shodokan Aikido Federation (Tetsuro Nariyama) and the Japan Aikido Association (Fumiaki Shishida) were also students, as was Robert Dziubla who is now the head of Tomiki Aikido of the Americas.
Dziubla Sensei once recounted what Tomiki Sensei would say at the end of his training sessions: Jaa, sorede, kenkyuu shite kudasai. In English, this means “So then, please go and research that.”
Likewise, Tanaka Sensei provided me with a translation of one of Tomiki Sensei’s recitations in which Tomiki Sensei said, “The way is initiated by the Master’s achievement and subsequently will be completed by the followers’ achievements.”
Statements like this mark Tomiki Sensei as a teacher of the highest level. He was self-aware enough to understand that his understanding of aikido was not the boundary of aikido’s potential. His students would continue to research and work on what he presented; and they would exceed his own capacity, regardless how boundless it was.
This is how I think of a pastor’s job as a teacher. People sometimes ask why my title is “teaching pastor” instead of just “pastor” or “senior pastor.” The truth is that I believe in offering something people can take and “go and research that.” My role as pastor is not to limit people’s faith journey by my own understanding. Instead, I want to do my best to understand and study the Scriptures, knowing that I am not going to understand everything. Then, I release the results of that study to those who are willing to hear – with the express purpose of allowing them the space and time to “go and research that.”
No pastor should ever be laying down exacting demands on the people of his congregation, demanding that they conform. Yes, there are fundamental truths to the Christian faith which are immutable: the inspiration of Scripture, the divinity and humanity of Christ, Christ’s atonement and its sole sufficiency for salvation. There are fundamental truths to aikido as well. The teacher’s place in both fields is to instruct the fundamentals and then equip his learners to “go and research that” beyond.