Hisae & David Lynch - Pioneers of Aikido in New Zealand
Last week I met a remarkable man, a remarkable couple I should say, namely David and Hisae Lynch. I had heard and read about David and Hisae a few years ago already and had always wanted to meet them, but somehow the stars just never aligned. Well, now they did and I couldn’t be happier about it.
On Thursday last week I made the trip along the coast of the Coromandel side of the Firth of Thames and across the beautiful Coromandel Forest Park, which seemed to be just the perfect road trip prior to meeting David and Hisae.
About 18 years ago…they moved out to Coromandel and sometime after started building an adjacent dojo next to their home, surrounded by 67-acres of native bush…
I’m not entirely sure what to add to the information that is available about David and his various Dojo’s online, so I will provide some links to said material later on, and just add a very few, brief first impressions of my own and let the photos speak a little more.
The first and most outstanding of these first impressions is without a doubt the simple, unpretentious and pure friendliness that one meets upon arrival in both David and Hisae, something that the following photo and their smiles can maybe convey a lot better than I can in words.
At the risk of sounding completely off-key, if not downright rude, there is really ‘nothing special’ about David and Hisae. But when I say ‘nothing special’ I mean this as one of the highest compliments I can make and my primary point of reference is a calligraphy that used to hang at the wall of my old home Dojo in Germany with the Kanji for ‘Bu Ji’, which wrongly or not, was translated underneath the image as ‘Nothing special (Not trying/wanting to be anything special). From this background I consider it either just a given happenstance or a very special something that David and Hisae have achieved in there being ‘nothing special’ about them.
This is of particular importance in a case or in lives like theirs in which there has been and still is every reason to consider them quite special. Amongst the ‘special’ bits of note is of course the fact that they are truly pioneers of Aikido in New Zealand, having introduced the art here 50 years ago. If you are curious about historical detail, just recently, David published a booklet covering their part of the history of Aikido over the last 50 years that you can read and download here and that I highly recommend.
Next to that, David trained directly and for considerable periods of time under some of the best-known names in the history of the art, most notably Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Gozo Shioda and Koichi Tohei. Photos of the latter two still hang in David’s office, right above a window overlooking the incredible Dojo built into the middle of their own little forest. The next photo shows the view from that window into the Dojo, from which I can only imagine David shaking his head over the incompetence of us beginners as we train there. 😉
Inside the Dojo, amongst other things, one can also find David’s 6th Dan certificate, issued to him by none less than Gozo Shioda Sensei himself, giving evidence of and a direct connection to a very special time in the history of the art of which David and Hisae were and are very much a part of to this day.
The best way to have a look into and around the Dojo is obviously by visiting yourself, but if you are curious for something more immediate, there are two good videos on the Koru Dojo NZ youtube channel and more information on the website of Koru Dojo in Coromandel. There is also a separate website for the Koshinkai Dojo Auckland, the Auckland home of David’s group, which I also highly recommend. Both Dojos are without a doubt amongst the nicest Dojos I have seen in New Zealand thus far.
I hope to have more chances of this sort in the future, but I can finally say that I’ve had the honour to train with him at least for a short while. David took some time for some casual practice in the Dojo and introduced a visiting student and me to some of the fundamental concepts of Tohei Sensei’s practice.
As you can see in the photos, several attempts at trying to explain something to and have me understand and do it myself, posed a considerable test to David’s patience, finally leading him to turn away from me and to his guest, who proved to be a much more talented and amenable student.
The critical point here is the same I have made before, namely the fact that it is not only possible to joke and write like this with and about a true master of the art. David is exactly this light-hearted. There is zero air of superiority about him, despite every reason there could, in theory, be for it and I have to say I love that about him. Despite or maybe even because of his apparent passion for Aikido and his continuing practice for such a long time, David shows no signs of taking himself too seriously, but rather emanates the wisdom of someone who has seen and heard a lot over the years and has no need to force himself or his opinions on others. His great humor about all that he has seen shines a bright light into his poetry, including the following poem that he has published some time ago and reposted on Facebook not too long ago. I’ve loved it so much, I just couldn’t help myself from snatching it from there to share it with you all here:
New Age Ending:
I’ve been Pulsed, I’ve been Rolfed, I have Alexanderised
I’ve had Mudras, I’ve had Mantras, I have Moshe Feldenkraised
I’ve been pricked with Acupuncture, I have Yoga’s and I’ve Zenned
Yet I never cease to wonder:
Where will all this end?
Seriously and simply put, David is just the most approachable guy you can possibly imagine and I would say that that alone classifies him as a teacher anyone should strive to learn from. If you prowl the internet you will find a lot more both about and by him that is very worthwhile studying. I am also aware of at least one Interview with David Lynch in Stanley Pranin’s Aikido Journal and at least one article on Aikido contributed by David to the same Journal, both of which I cannot recommend enough for reading. Without a doubt, you can also connect with him on Facebook where you will find him under his name and a profile picture with Yoda of Star Wars. Being an avid fan of Star Wars myself, I have always openly admitted that Star Wars and specifically master Yoda was what got me into this whole Budo thing. Now I don’t take anything Star Wars lightly and I don’t consider it something to be joked about, so David is pretty much the only person whom I will grant the use of a Yoda picture as a profile pic.
Exit the Dojo and enter the forest around it, you would have to add surroundings to the list of very special ‘nothing special’ things, next to the people and Dojo. The little stream that runs through David and Hisae’s property, the three swimming (or Misogi) pools, the small and large Kauri trees all add to the magic of it all. But what I loved especially is to see first-hand how David and Hisae relate to their little forest, the little tracks they’ve created through it, how they the places they stop to give thanks, the way they look at certain trees, rock formations, and the waterfalls and how they truly live in and with the nature that surrounds them. All of this together is Aiki-Do at its best.
I am really glad to know that this was the first of hopefully many more visits to come. A next one I already look forward to is in October, when I will be part of with a small travelling party of the ‘Fudoshin Aikido Tour NZ 2015 with Orban Sensei’ that will be having a 4 day intensive here in between the big seminars.
Nothing special, just a very special space, special place, and special people. Should you ever need a retreat for your own group, please do contact David and Hisae and they will be sure to answer all your questions and help however they can. The final picture shows not David and Hisae, but David and myself (just before I attempt climbing up on the shoulders of this gentle giant of Coromandel Forest to get a bit of a view of what is possible on this path ;)).
Thanks and gratitude to my hosts for the day, you shine a light.