With the gentlest, most caring spirit, the elderly lady with the hakama corrected each nuance of both my technique as well as my ukemi after each throw and each pin. I humbly accepted her guidance and worked to incorporate her corrections with each new repetition.
The hakama were deceptive: In this dojo, each student wore the hakama upon passing his first test. Hidden somewhere beneath the himo was either a white, a brown, or a black belt. In my role of a beginner and kohai, I took instruction from each.
I was a visitor to this dojo about 20 miles from home. The regulars were clearly a family in Aikido, and they were very welcoming to me and to others who visited during the few months of my weekend practices with them. I donned my old white belt that came with my first gi purchase about 12 years earlier, and I noted with amusement the dirty band around the tip where there was once a yellow band of tape marking my passing my first test so many years ago.
It is a very humbling experience to become a beginner again, to open your eyes and mind to different points of view, to different interpretations, and to different methods. For people like myself, it is especially challenging to the ego---which makes this practice all the more valuable to me.
But while I was extremely grateful for this particular lesson that I found, this was not actually the lesson that I sought with these people in this place. ...