I stood at the edge of the dojo's mat waiting to be recognized with an "Aloha" welcome by the Sensei of the Aikido of Honolulu. It never happened.
I have visited many school of various martial arts in my over four decades of practice, yet I have never experienced such rudeness as I did on my last night in Hawaii.
Traditionally, when a guest walks into a dojo, either the head teacher or a senior student will go over to the guest and greet him or her. It is just common sense. As an instructor, you are responsible for your students; therefore, it is imperative that you find out if the stranger is friend or foe. In either case, my son, who had accompanied me, and I were ignored.
July 6th was my last night in Waikiki Beach. I looked up the nearest aikido dojo that had class that night, and Aikido of Honolulu popped up. Their website said that they had just moved into a Japanese temple-- sounded cool. Since they did not have a direct phone line yet, I decided to just show up. I took a cab with my son and after much Honolulu traffic, long traffic lights, and almost $30 later, we got there just as the warm-ups were beginning.
The dojo's website had the usual protocol listed: arrive 15 minutes before class, be in uniform, fill out waiver forms, and pay a $15 mat fee, but I thought I could apologize and explain that I was a visiting 5th Dan wanting to connect with an aikido family before returning to Florida. I never got the chance; they left me at the edge of the mat.
I slowly turned around, took a seat, and watched the warm-ups. When the sensei introduced the first technique and began to walk around, I again went up to the edge of the mat to introduce myself. He made an about-face and walked the other way. I couldn't believe it. My son wanted to impose his will, but I told him to forget it. We stayed and watched the rest of the class.
When the class ended, still not one person came to greet "the dojo's guests". The sensei took off his hakama, turn his back to us, and began to put up the temple wall panels. The senior students began to take off their hakamas, and the other students talked amongst themselves. No one acknowledged our presence.
Even if they would have told me that I could not participate in the class for whatever reason, I would have been fine with that because it's nice just to watch and learn how others train and teach. However, to not even say, “Hello,” is unconscionable and not in the aikido spirit.
Nevertheless, my son and I continued being polite. We quietly bowed out in respect of the dojo and without a word to each other, we put our shoes back on and left.
Our actions were the only "aikido" we saw there that night.