This post originally appeared on my AikiWeb blog…
Aiki Web readers will already be familiar with Andy Carter from the news item “Battered Briton survives aikido ordeal” that was posted in the forums in 2010.
That news story was, I suspect, prompted by a reporter seeing this photo, which comes up if you do a Google image search on “Andy Carter aikido”:
You can read about the story of this shiner in the article, but unfortunately the reporter failed to capture the experience of hearing Carter-sensei tell it live, complete with descriptions of trainees slipping and sliding in their own blood and knocking into each other.
As I didn’t read much of Aiki Web until a couple weeks ago, I had never heard of Carter-sensei before coming to Kyoto. However, his reputation still preceded him. The first couple times I made visits to classes here, Carter-sensei was absent, so I was just told about him by last year’s kenshusei class.
“You’ll meet Andy-sensei soon. He teaches our fitness classes, but he does all the work right along with us.”
“He did the course at hombu two years in a row.”
“He’s a little crazy.”
So that makes two Tokyo senshusei courses and one Kyoto kenshusei course, and if I understand correctly, he intends to do the kenshusei course right along with us again this year. I wouldn’t describe him as crazy, though.
To be honest, I don’t really know how the dojo hierarchy works in Japan. Back home in my old shotokan dojo, everyone knew their place in the line-up, which was set in stone. Here in Kyoto, as long as the black belts are generally at one end of the line and white belts at the other, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of concern over who sits where. I think it’s accurate to describe Carter-sensei as the #3 man at Mugenjuku, after Payet-sensei and Crampton-sensei, although there are also several other teachers and long-time members of the dojo.
Anyhow, Carter-sensei has been pretty ubiquitous since I arrived in Japan. He was once said to me, “My job is to help make sure you get through the course.” And I’d say he’s been working pretty hard at building relationships with the prospective students who already in Kyoto… inviting us out, asking for our assistance, inquiring about our health, and offering advice and, literally, food.
An extremely polite fellow, his pattern of speaking while teaching is as follows: “Umm, if you could please stand over here and make a straight line that would be great… oh, that’s great, thanks very much.” I’m waiting for the course to start so he can say “if you could just do this extremely painful exercise for one more repetition that would be great, thanks… okay, and once more… and once more again… and…”
A couple weeks ago, Carter-sensei took me to the Funaoka bath and over a beer afterwards, I was telling him about some advice that Nick had been given when he came to Japan: buy a bed; it’s important to sleep in a bed rather than on a futon in case you can’t move when you wake up in the morning; if it’s too painful to move, you can’t get from a futon, but you can always throw your legs over the side of a bed and force yourself up. Carter-sensei’s response to this was to tell me he had slept on futon during the senshusei course: “So I had this grating over my bed. So you’d wake in the morning and be in pain everywhere, right? So your typical morning is, you wake up, reach up and grab the grate, then pull yourself up off the floor [said while mimicking the slow movements and grimaces], check your phone to make sure you’re not late, grab a bite and run to class.”
If I should fail to complete the kenshusei course, I think it is fair to say I would feel a great deal of shame due to the experiences I’ve had thus far in Kyoto, almost universally good.