This is the first part of an Aikido Journal interview series with Patricia Hendricks Shihan. As one of the world’s few female 7th dan shihans and perhaps the only one to run her own organization, she brings a unique and valuable perspective on leadership to the community.
In the first part of the interview series, Hendricks Sensei provides guidance to a new generation of emerging leaders in the aikido world.
When in San Francisco to interview Christian Tissier Sensei in June, I had the opportunity to speak with Hendricks Sensei at some length. When talking about the late Stanley Pranin, her friend of 40 years, she mentioned that she was deeply saddened by his passing, but excited to see practitioners from a younger generation taking on new leadership roles in the aikido world. When Aikido Journal hosted her for an interview and video shoot, we took the opportunity to ask if she has any advice for those individuals growing into more senior leadership roles in the aikido community. What should our priorities be? How in the future can we grow into worthy custodians of the art? Hendricks Sensei touched on three key points:
I. Build Community and Strengthen the Art
The number one recommendation Hendricks Sensei gives to emerging leaders in the aikido world is to understand everyone’s talents and abilities and respect and learn from others’ styles. She believes it’s imperative that one find their style and stick with it over the long term if they want to achieve mastery. However, she believes that the days of insularity and dismissiveness towards other styles are coming to an end. It’s essential we are able to look outside one’s own style and appreciate another path.
Hendricks Sensei believes as well that leaders should respect and seek to learn from others’ styles. Find something you like and bring it into your style and your practice. Use this strategy as a way to improve and evolve the art and, at the same time, build and strengthen the community.
II. Be Compassionate
Hendricks Sensei reminds us that each individual following a path of budo has their own challenges. Some have physical limitations, some sustain injuries, others need emotional support. Hendricks Sensei makes a point to teach effectively and compassionately to practitioners of all ages and ability levels. Finding the optimal way to push an individual for growth and development is something that all leaders should strive to do. Making that happen in practice is difficult as each individual is unique, but using compassion as a guide will help leaders to make the right decisions.
III. Use Aikido as a Tool for Peace
Hendricks Sensei strongly encourages instructors and leaders in the aikido world to use the art to promote peace. Having the opportunity to teach and provide leadership guidance to aikidoka from nations facing great violence and conflict (primarily in the Middle East and South America), she believes the art of aikido can and should be used to promote peace and mutual respect. We can seek ways to resolve conflicts harmoniously through the principles of aikido and we can build community and friendships through training. Hendricks Sensei urges leaders in the aikido world to make this a priority.
Hendricks Sensei mentioned that she’s encouraged by what she sees some emerging leaders doing along this path. What’s your experience? Do you see an increasing acceptance of other styles in the aikido community and examples of learning exchanges? Do you see leaders spearheading initiatives that effectively build community and promote respect and peaceful, mutually beneficial friendships? If you have a case study or story to tell, we’d love to hear it and learn more about what the community is doing in pursuit of these goals.