Francisca van Leeuwen Sensei:
Sensei is the Japanese word for teacher. The Japanese also use the word Sensei to express their respect for another person’s knowledge and experience, even if that person is not a professional teacher.
We aikidoka call the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, O Sensei, the big master. I once read on his grandson’s website that the purpose of Aikido is to part with your ego. Morihei Ueshiba wished for Aikido to contribute to world peace and indeed acting egoisticly has to stop.Doing that is important to me, but I also find it important for our student’s development. Besides, big ego's (look-at-me-type) spoil the esthetics of the movement. To my opinion our collective level will rise when we work together, when we are there for each other and when we share our knowledge. That is why competition (I am better/worse than you) is not wished in Aikido.
Our training is a serious business. Nonetheless, because by practicing Aikido we learn how to deal with negative energy or even danger, when there is no other way out. Therefore my training is quite strict, but a little bit of humour once in a while helps us to put things in perspective.
I think that the biggest victory in Aikido is overcoming yourself. Everyone can try that, whether they are advanced Aikidoka or have just begun training. The most important thing is the process of learning and what that process teaches you about yourself. By honouring this range of thought I feel connected with the Ueshiba family. The same range of thought is the basic principle of our dojo because of that there is a good athmosphere.
As a woman of age it took me quite a lot of courage and perseverance to come to where I am today. Meeting the following people helped me a lot: my first teacher Dick de Wit, who gave me my first dan, my second teacher (and son) Robert and our ex-shihan Kenji Shimizu, who gave me the third dan, my current teacher Wilko Vriesman, who gave me my fifth dan, the grandmasters Nobuyoshi Tamura, Koichi Tohei and his student Kenjiro Yoshigasaki, Hironobu Yamada, Seishiro Endo, Ikeda Hiroshi, Patrick Cassidy and especially my hero Christian Tissier, who handed me the fifth dan document over and furthermore I often trained during the day with my friend and Katori teacher the late Willem Bekink, with whom I went to Japan in order to become a proud member of the famous sword school of Katori Shinto-Ryu, and also I owe to all those fellow students who were so kind to give me advice (too many to mention), and last but not least our dojo students give me a warmhearted feeling by sharing and helping me with Aikido. You are welcome to join us, because Aikido could be your joy for life. Don't miss it!