We had a sho-dan promotion at our dojo recently, a 73 year-old gentleman named Lloyd McClellan.
In honor of Lloyd’s accomplishment I am adding a new tag to my blog: roll_models (Aikido role models).
Lloyd’s story is his to tell, but I’ll share my own experience of Lloyd.
When I started training, at 46, I read a few things by George Leonard Sensei. Leonard Sensei had also started Aikido at 46, I believe, and had written an essay titled “On Getting a Black Belt at Age Fifty-Two.” He went on to become a 5th dan. I found these bits of information very heartening. 46 was not “too late."
From my newbie perspective Lloyd has been training "forever.” He is older, he is senior to me, and he is competent, kind, generous, a good teacher, and he’s strong as an ox. Those things are great, and worthy of admiration, but it didn’t surprise me that someone who’d been training forever would have those qualities.
Lloyd is also a just plain cool guy. He wears a cowboy hat and a cowboy mustache, and he drives a pickup. It would surprise me if there weren’t some cattle at some point that back up that hat.
He knows his limits on the mat – he doesn’t roll a lot, doesn’t sit in seiza – but he doesn’t let them stop him. I’ve seen him frustrated, tired, and in pain, but I’ve never seen him discouraged.
But the most impressive thing about Lloyd didn’t really strike me until his sho-dan demo came up. Lloyd started training when he was 65. I don’t know if it ever crossed his mind to ask himself “what am I thinking, starting a martial art at my age?” If it did, he didn’t let it stop him.
I want to be like Lloyd when I grow up.