Kotohajime, the New Year
I ran across this nugget of information while reading Dave Lowry's In the Dojo:
"Making ready for the new year is called kotohajime in Japan. In the dojo, kotohajime custimarily begins on December 13th. On or near this day, in addition to the daily cleaning chores in the training hall, every crack is swept, every cranny carefully dusted or cleaned. Floors and other wooden surfaces are given a polishing. Windows are thrown up to air out the place.
"December 13th, however, is also the day when pupils of all the traditional arts dress in formal kimono and pay a visit to their masters or teachers to thank them for all their efforts. Martial artists, as well as students of pottery, tea ceremony, calligraphy, and other disciplines, present their teachers with small gifts and talk about the previous year's training."
While I don't own a kimono, I still thought it was kind of a nice little tradition, one that the author mentions is becoming more and more rare. I'm grateful, of course, for all my teachers (I'm also equally grateful for all of the students, from whom I gain quit a bit as well), but I have to admit that I'm especially grateful for all that Nick Lowry Sensei does for us, being not just our chief instructor but the dojo's owner and operator as well. I'm sure that involves a lot of less-than-glamorous drudgery, such as paying the bills and making sure everyone's ranks are up to date, and so on, things that many of us probably don't think much about.
So take a moment, either in December or any time of year, and thank your sensei. And if you are the sensei at your particular dojo, thank you. I may not train there, but your efforts bless the world of aikido and budo as a whole, and that still deserves a moment of gratitude!