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Bill Witt

What is your full name age and rank in Martial Arts?
William Witt, 67, Shihan, Aikido 7th Dan.

Where were you born?
San Francisco, California

Where do you live today?
Palo Alto, California

What is your current occupation?
Mechanical Engineer

What is your education?
Bachelor of Science, Mechanical Engineering

When did you first start out with aikido and where was that?
I began in July of 1967, Aikido Hombu Dojo, Tokyo, Japan

Who was your first aikido teacher?

Who would you say is your main inspiriation in aikido? What do you feel this person/persons especially passed on to you?
The Founder was the first aikido person I saw.  I was inspired to join the dojo without even seeing what aikido was.  One doesn't often get a chance to apprentice with the founder of something.

Whats is the name of your current dojo?
Aikido of Palo Alto which is currently in a cooperative association with Aikido of Silicon Valley.

Do you give seminars, where?
I do give seminars and will travel when asked.  The Takemusu Aikido Association seminar at the end of May at Lake Tahoe, California is the biggest.  I also go regularly to Richmond, Virginia in October.  Occasionally I go elsewhere.  I am somewhat limited with time, since I still work for a living outside of aikido.

Have you had any other expericience in the Martial Arts? If yes, tell us your main impressions.
I have no other martial arts experience.  I only developed an interest in aikido.

What would you say, if you can single out one specific area, is the most important in Martial Art?
Aikido must be approached seriously.  In order to transcend basic training, one must be willing to carry the qualities learned in the dojo into daily life - that does not mean fighting, of course.  I think the biggest quality of our aikido training is developing the ability to face adversity.  In the dojo we start with facing our attacker and developing our responses to it.  Gradually we become not afraid of the attacker and begin to think more clearly about what we see and what we can do.  That is a positive trait for our lives, which have all kinds of adversities--not necessarily of the physical kind.  I think aikido helps us develop strategies (techiques, if you will) to get through life and still keep our balance.

When teaching aikido, what do you find to be more important to focus on. Is there something special you think you have an obligation to pass on to your students?
I always teach as if Saito Sensei was watching me.  He was so enthusiastic about aikido and so generous with his time and knowledge.  I felt as if he actually wanted you to succeed, to transcend technique, to grasp Takemusu Aiki.

When looking at a student, what qualities do like to see? What is important to be a good student?
The most important is consistent training.  Secondly, the good student is looking for extra ways to be involved and helpful around the dojo.  A friend once told me, "If you make it to nidan, you probably will be in aikido for a long time."  It is an unfortunate fact of aikido that only about 50% of shodans continue to nidan.  The same dropout ratio applies to the higher ranks as well.  However, aikido is not necessarily about rank, and students who leave after shorter periods of training generally take away some positive aspects of the art which will be useful in their lives.  How is that not good?

What is your goal with aikido? Why do you practice and where do you want to go?
I really don't have a goal in my aikido.  That would imply I know where  I am going.  I didn't plan to become a teacher, and I didn't plan to help found an association.  I feel my continued practice in aikido is distilling my life's lesson down to three things:  kindness, compassion, and generosity.  These have been difficult lessons in my life.  I am still learning.

How would you define the overal goal of aikido, What is your suggested road map getting there?
Aikido is such a personal art.  I always call it a self-ish art.  We start it because of our interest and not necessarily because of some lofiter goal, like world peace.  We keep at it because we know we are improving ourselves.  By then we still haven't saved the whales.  Since we are so diverse in our outlooks on life, each one of us interprets aikido in a different manner.  My path is not necessarily your path.  Actually, I enjoy the different interpretations as I encounter different people.  It takes aikido out of the realm of smelly dojos and lockstep along the path to higher rank and adds good seasoning to the human soup.

What qualities do find important in an aikido teacher?
Outside of techniques that work, kindness, generosity, and a willingness to teach what students need to know not to show what the teacher can do

Can you pin point a few important moments in your history in aikido, perhaps moments you feel contributed you taking a new turn in aikido or of some other importance.
Of course, being able to take classes from O-Sensei, even though he was pretty much retired at the time, was pivotal for my beginning.  Shortly after I began, at the suggestion of a friend, I began to go to Saito Sensei's class at Hombu.  That changed my training style.  Of course, during the week I trained with the other excellent Hombu instructors as well.  The big step for me was in 1969, when I formally asked Saito Sensei to become his student and began to train exculsively in Iwama.  I was his student for 33 years and have never regretted it.

How would you like to see aikido develope in the future? What steps do you feel is important to take to get there?
Although we need organizations, national and international, to cooperate with and support each other, the real spread of aikido is done in the individual dojo from the sensei to each student.  It is important to foster the attitude that we are all doing the same thing regardless of style.  The Founder's words of "everyone in the world becoming one family" at one level means we can be different culturally but still enjoy each other's common interest of aikido.  I have found that to be true everywhere I have gone.

Last famous words, anything you wish to add...
I feel we must give each new student the attention they deserve.  Who can tell, when a new person walks through the door, if they will stay for the duration.  We are enthusiastic about what we do.  We have to pass on that enthusiasm--then aikido will continue and prosper.

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