My aikido teacher, Kevin Choate Sensei passed away unexpectedly on December 1st. I still feel sad. Yet, I notice a quickening in my aikido practice as I try to assimilate the essence of his teaching before it fades.
Kevin Choate Sensei, Karen Valencic
Colorado July 2012
I’ve studied on and off with Kevin for many years and noticed something significant shifted in him a couple years ago. His elevated ability to teach the subtly smooth blending of aikido was mesmerizing for me. While what I write here may seem obvious, the depth in which I experienced it was a very new level of deep for me.
As a tribute to Kevin, I’d like to share a few things I’ve thought more deeply about as it relates to his teaching and the work I do with leaders, teams and conflict.
- When you are stressed or confronted, notice where you hold your tension. Relax your tension, only then will you influence the cause or solve the problem. In my aikido practice when someone grabs hold of my wrist, I often notice tension in my ankle. As weird as this may seem, when I release the tension in my ankle my attacker falls down!
- When you are the one providing the energy (feedback, presentation, suggestions, or punch) remain flexible. Only in your flexibility can you read the other person or situation and adjust to maximize the outcome. In my aikido practice, being too rigid when attacking someone is when I get injured and frustrate my partner. No learning happens. Also, it is difficult to reverse a technique if you are rigid!
- Study deeply what you love. Kevin was never off the mat; he was in constant study of his art. Even when hanging out he was pondering and observing the mysteries of how people move, step, and engage.
- You are a like a chain – a vast series of links that are separate yet connected. There is great magic in this awareness. You’ll need to catch-up with me in person if you’d like to explore this relevance! This is one I will be still studying for a while.
Perhaps the greatest gift is something I can’t adequately express with words; it is the memory of that feeling you only get from being in person…I will forever remember Kevin’s generosity of spirit and his gentle supportive whisper to relax, even when I thought I was already relaxed! It feels like he is still watching…and that is good.