To Be Teacher and To Be Student

Ulf Evenås Shihan from Sweden is 67 years old, which makes him the oldest participant at the aikido demonstrations of the World Combat Games. The youngest participant is Igor Komarov from Russia. We let them meet to discuss their experiences with aikido.

Ulf Evenås Shihan and Igor Komarov, the oldest and the youngest aikido participants at the World Combat Games, and reporter Stefan Stenudd to the far left. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Ulf Evenås Shihan and Igor Komarov, the oldest and the youngest aikido participants at the World Combat Games, and reporter Stefan Stenudd to the far left. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.

Ulf Evenås, 7th dan, is one of the three shihan teachers, holding classes and demonstrations at the Combat Games in St. Petersburg. He was 21 when he started to practice aikido in Gothenburg, where he still lives.

At that time, in the 1960's, people in his hometown – or anywhere else – didn't know about aikido. But he did, because he was practicing karatedo.

“I heard about the philosophy of aikido, and my intuition sensed that there was a deeper meaning to it,” he explains. “Also, I could feel the good relations the practice created.”

Igor Komarov started aikido in 2006, at age 15. Now he is 2nd dan and practices in a Samara dojo. When he started he asked if he could join the older group immediately, which consisted of adults between 30 and 40 years old.

“They had the bigger experience,” he says. “I wanted to practice in hard conditions.”

He wants to get all he can from the teachers, in order to develop his techniques. He knows it's a gradual process, step by step.

“Each step is very interesting, so I like to go through them all.”

He watched closely when Ulf Evenås and the other shihans were teaching the classes at the Combat Games, eager to get every detail from such experienced aikidoka. Ulf Evenås agrees about the meticulous process of learning aikido.

“It's hard work indeed,” he confirms. “Sometimes it's not fun, but you have to overcome it and go to the dojo anyway.”

Asked to summarize his experience of more than four decades of aikido training, Ulf Evenås gives this advice:

“You always have to be totally focused and go to your teacher for any advice. Others just don't know. But also, help your juniors. That will help you. Together you will all develop.”

Igor Komarov teaches children's classes at his home dojo in Samara. That's a very common first experience of being an instructor, which he shares with a lot of aikido students. It's a special challenge.

“I have to pay attention to each child,” Igor says, “and it's a lot of play as well, or the children get bored.”

“There comes a time when it's natural for an aikido student to start teaching,” Ulf Evenås says. “It's a way to develop yourself. Then it's important to go deeper into aikido to be able to explain to your students.”

In all budo, the relation between teacher and student is of utmost importance. The experience of the former is the nourishment for the latter. But can there be a moment when the student gains by changing teacher?

“If your personalities don't match or your heart tells you,” Ulf Evenås advices. “But always respect the old teacher, who brought you to where you are now.”

At this point in the conversation, the countdown for the evening block of the aikido demonstrations at the Peterburgsky arena begins, and we have to stop. Enough talk, because now it's time for practice.

Text by Stefan Stenudd
Photo by Viktor Kazarin