In Memoriam – Michael Field
14 January 1947 – 30 October 2018
Integrity, Honesty & Generosity. Michael Field Sensei was the embodiment of these words.
To me and his many students, we referred to him as Sensei. Sensei started his training in Iwama, Japan in 1978. Entry into the Iwama dojo (or school) was by introduction only and through a chance meeting during his travels through Nepal, Sensei received an introduction from Stanley Pranin, who was a respected member of the Aikido community. In Iwama, Sensei met his mentor Morihiro Saito Sensei. He remained in the Iwama dojo as an uchi deshi for several years, where he lived and trained. He was one of few westerners to start at white belt and progress to black belt in the Iwama dojo, as most westerners who trained in Iwama usually had received some prior Aikido training. Sensei spoke of his time in Iwama fondly as he had found his calling and had made many friends.
When he returned to Australia, Sensei established his own dojo, Field Aikido, in 1983. Aikido was his passion and he taught and trained to the end, as his Sensei had done before him. In 1994, Sensei was given sole authority to grant Iwama Ryu Aikido black belt grades by Saito Sensei. Shortly after the passing of Saito Sensei in 2002, Sensei changed the name of his dojo to Iwama Ryu Aikido Australia. Since establishing his dojo, Sensei has trained over 250 black belts including 12 4th dan black belts who he considered technical masters with the ability to continue his Aikido legacy. Several of his students have set up their own dojos throughout Victoria and also interstate in Perth and Mackay as well as internationally in America.
To Sensei, Aikido was more than just a collection of techniques. He had learnt and found a different view of the world through his training. He often spoke of interdependence, and this was one of the lessons he tried to teach us. He often stressed the importance of working together to achieve better outcomes than you can achieve alone. It was important that we support each other and help each other to succeed.
Sensei was a visionary. He had grand plans and a grand vision for Iwama Ryu Aikido Australia and he had the strength and fortitude to follow his convictions. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s he had worked to expand and grow his dojos to include more than 200 students. He had plans to set up a dojo in a building over several levels with the ability to run multiple classes simultaneously, as well as live streaming classes to satellite dojos. However, Sensei also had the courage to abandon his plans when he identified more important needs. And in the mid 2000’s, his teaching focus changed abruptly. Instead of expanding his dojo to capture more students, he changed his focus to his senior students, most of whom had been training with him for over a decade. It was at this time that I recognised that his humour during class had become a little morbid as he often joked about dying on the mat at any moment. I believe it was around this time that he understood is own mortality and he began training his students to achieve technical mastery with the ability to recall the full Aikido technical syllabus from memory. He was preparing his succession plan to ensure that Iwama Ryu Aikido Australia would not stop when he passed. A few years ago he achieved this with several of his students meeting his high standards. And it was at this point that I noticed that he seemed more at peace.
Michael is our Sensei, Mentor and Friend. He understood each of his students and knew us better than ourselves. He knew when to push us out of our comfort zone and drive us to be our best. He knew when to admonish us when we step over the line, but he also knew when to comfort us in our time of need. Sensei touched many lives over his 35 year teaching career, with all his current students and many of his past students mourning his passing. We will carry on his life’s work and maintain his Aikido legacy. We miss you Sensei, but we carry you in our hearts and in our aikido.
Mike Shaw Sensei
4 November 2018