My Son’s Sensei: A Tanka about my son’s Aikido teacher

My Son’s Sensei
A tanka about my son’s Aikido teacher

Rooted to the ground
She repels her attackers
Flowing, not moving.

In storms, trees bear great burdens
Bending, not breaking.

—Ken Chawkin

It took me about two weeks to write this short poem a few summers ago after having visited my son Nathanael when he was living in California at the time as uchideshi, a live-in student under his teacher, Pat Hendricks Sensei at Aikido of San Leandro. He grew a lot from that experience, not only as a martial artist, but also as a young man and a teacher. His Sensei allowed me to stay with him in the dojo and I got to see her teach this Japanese martial art. It was impressive. She was impressive. I tried to capture what I had witnessed in a tanka, a Japanese form of poetry. I sent it to Nathanael to read to her on her birthday. It had a powerful effect on her at the time, for personal reasons. It surprised me. But I was also pleased that it had touched her. It was my gift to her in words, thanking her for her hospitality, and the transformation she was bringing to her students, especially my son.

ADDENDUM: On September 30, 2010, 43 years to the day I started TM in Montreal, Nathanael was back visiting the San Leandro Dojo for his friend and former student’s blackbelt test. Nathanael had traded private lessons for website design. When he went to use the office computer, there on the screensaver, was my poem! He sent it to me. How beautifully put together! Turns out it was done by one of the uchideshi around the time I had resent the poem and this post to Pat Sensei. She finally saw it and acknowledged her appreciation for the poem and our friendship, which moved me. So wonderful to see this! Click on the image to enlarge it.

My Son's Sensei

See INSPIRATION, a poem by Nathanael Chawkin and Willow Tree – a tanka – from a tree’s perspective.

5 Responses to “My Son’s Sensei: A Tanka about my son’s Aikido teacher”

  1. INSPIRATION, a poem by Nathanael Chawkin « The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] see A Tanka about my son’s Aikido teacher. Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailMoreStumbleUponDiggRedditPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]


  2. Abraham Says:

    Well to me Martial Arts means respect and discipline.
    I have trained in different Martial arts now for well above 15 years.
    I have seen various people stick around but one thing that I have noticed is clearly the respect and discipline having changed those peoples perception of
    Children that have started that are now on the wrong side
    of the tracks, always in trouble and no idea how to respect
    other kids. Place them in a controlled environment with discipline and fighting
    and they soon start to understand.
    Martial arts is one way for kids and adults to get
    rid of their aggression without hurting or bullying anyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Haiku of Santa Barbara Riviera in the morning | The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] I had visited him there and witnessed his Sensei demonstrating Aikido, which inspired this tanka, My Son’s Sensei. Someone posted it with a tree that reflected the image in the poem. Nathanael happened to be […]


  4. Cultivating a Flexible Mind – Midwest Alliance for Mindfulness Says:

    […] —Ken Chawkin, My Son’s Sensei: A tanka about my son’s Aikido teacher […]


  5. Japanese culture: poetic aesthetics, artistry, and martial arts, inspired me to write haiku and tanka | The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] My Son’s Sensei […]


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