The End of an Era
In January 2017, I was contacted late at night by one of Stanley Pranin’s close friends. Stan had fallen ill with serious pain and was taken for medical treatment. He told his friend that if anything happened to him, he should contact me about Aikido Journal. Stan was soon after diagnosed with late stage stomach cancer. I was devastated, but Stan remained strong and in good spirits.
As soon as I could organize a trip, I drove from Southern California to visit Stan at his home in Las Vegas. He looked thin and weak, but still had a piercing gaze and sharp intellect. On this visit he handed me a drive with his digital archives and told me to use it however I saw fit to benefit the aikido world. It was vast and meticulously organized. Stan spent two days with me, taking me through the archives, updating me on his current research and projects, and bringing light to many hidden areas of the aikido landscape. Over the course of two separate trips to visit with Stan, he shared everything he could with me. During these visits, the importance of Stan’s legacy and the heavy responsibility of its care hit me like a ton of bricks.
Stan remained positive and hopeful about his condition and was excited to pursue alternative medicine treatments. When we organized a community effort that raised over $60,000 for a medical fund, Stan was even more encouraged to see so many people rally to support him. He was optimistic about his recovery and none of us expected the sudden and rapid decline in health that brought him to his final rest on March 7th, 2017.
Mourning, Reflection, and a Challenge Overcome
After a period of mourning and reflection, the Pranin family and I began to work together to prepare for the future of Stan’s legacy. We’ve faced enormous challenges over these last few months. While Stan gave me a meticulously organized digital archive, he didn’t have time to leave a master list with account names and passwords for all of the Aikido Journal systems.
For the last six months I’ve been doing everything within my power to keep Aikido Journal alive, but I had no access or even visibility into what was happening with the Members site, product sales and fulfillment, customer support, and other key systems. With no outside resources and only the support of a few volunteers, I’ve spent every evening and weekend creating and contributing articles and content to Aikido Journal in order to preserve and extend Stan’s legacy and to keep together the community that he spent forty years building. Behind the scenes, the Pranin family and one of Stan’s close friends and technical advisors had been working to solve problems that were outside of my reach and that I was powerless to solve.
I’m pleased to announce that we’ve now successfully overcome the key technical, business, and legal challenges that have limited Aikido Journal since Stan passed. We are now ready to take action and begin the process of rebuilding.
It’s an exciting, but high-risk time for Aikido Journal. We have a massive content library. The scope and scale of the archive is staggering. Our community is large, supportive, and awesome. However, our website and the entire digital presence needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. The products need a complete overhaul and the all the back-end business and operational systems need to be rebuilt from scratch. We will be working with a small team with few resources.
Our immediate focus will be on these two efforts:
I’ve spent the last six months going through the archives and spending time with the community, listening, learning, and observing. I’ll be taking those insights and using them to create a strategic plan for Aikido Journal. We’ll need to think carefully about how we can best serve the community and what path we should take to best achieve that goal. The Aikido Journal name is trusted and respected. That’s been earned over the last forty years by serving the aikido community. We need to continue to build on that promise.
2. Emergency Triage
We need to stabilize the patient. We have to get critical systems back online, such as email, customer support, content access, and product fulfillment. We’ll have to go through months of backlogged emails or declare email bankruptcy for the period of the last six months and humbly ask that anyone with an unanswered email send us a new message.
Then We Build
Once we have a strategy and have stabilized critical systems, we’ll begin the process of rebuilding the journal. It will be a gradual process, but you should see it begin soon.
A Surprised Successor
After Stan’s passing, I often wondered why he chose me as his successor when there are so many others in his circle with more aikido experience, more historical knowledge, or more lasting relationships. I asked Patricia Hendricks for her perspective. She knew Stan for forty years and helped him assemble the very first issues of Aikido Journal / Aiki News back in the 1970s. I now believe I better understand the reasons Stan chose me for the task.
Stan watched me develop and evolve a successful and progressive dojo. He believed I created an example of a dojo that points to the future while preserving the traditions of the art. He knew my mentor of 26 years, Haruo Matsuoka, has the integrity and wisdom to guide my judgment and to provide the necessary understanding of Japanese language and culture to best utilize the archives. He also knew I operated independently of any large organization, remaining politically neutral and open to learning from, appreciating, and supporting all styles and organizations. Patricia Hendricks told me that Stan saw me as someone who can bring community together.
Stan saw me lead projects. Some were successful and some failed, but in every case, they were thought through strategically and designed and operated with competence and speed. He believed I had the necessary background in aikido, technology, business, and media to position the journal to serve the aikido community into the future.
I can never replace Stan – his experiences, his path as a historian, or his deep understanding of Japanese language and culture. I can only make my best version of Aikido Journal, guided and shaped by the community. I’m excited, honored, and a little nervous to walk this path with you as we reshape Aikido Journal for the future.
Through these first six months of my work supporting Aikido Journal, I’ve met many new friends and mentors and had the opportunity to work on projects with inspiring and capable members of the aikido community. As we begin this new chapter in the story of Aikido Journal, I’d like to thank each and every one of you for your enthusiasm and support during this critical time since Stan’s passing. I’d also like to individually thank:
Haruo Matsuoka: Thank you Sensei, for being a world class mentor. Your compassion, integrity, and technical mastery inspire me always.
Anne Lee: For your support, wisdom, and love. None of the work done to support and honor Stan would have been possible without you. He had great respect for you and your skills and was grateful to have you as a friend.
Instructors and students of Ikazuchi Dojo: For continuing to inspire me, pushing me to improve, and using the art of aikido to so powerfully improve your own lives and those around you.
Patricia Hendricks: A true master and great leader. Thank you Sensei, for your guidance and encouragement. As one of Stan’s closest friends, your perspective and backing have been invaluable.
Christian Tisser: One of the great leaders of the aikido world. Thank you for your trust, insight, and support.
The Inosanto Academy: To Guro Dan Inosanto, Jeff Imada, Tsuyoshi Abe, and Mark Cheng, for opening my eyes to the wider martial arts world and teaching me the value of understanding and appreciating all martial styles. Your collective humility, beginner’s mind, and seeking spirit have been a powerful example and a driving force behind my recent development.
Peter Goldsbury: For your behind-the-scenes guidance, insights, and knowledge. As the former chairman of the International Aikido Federation for twenty years, a formidable aikido historian and technician, and long time friend of Stan, your time and mentorship has been invaluable and treasured.
Joshua Hansen: A long time friend and advisor of Stanley Pranin. Without Joshua’s leadership and technical skills, Aikido Journal would likely have ceased to exist. He should be known as a true hero in the world of aikido. Thank you Josh, for saving the day.
Roy Dean: For contributing your media skills to showcase and promote the art of aikido. The video production and musical composition you’ve freely contributed to Aikido Journal would have made Stan proud. I look forward to working with you on new projects in the future.
Arnold Mina and Brent Williams: For your valued and respected business counsel.
Gustavo Rearte: For your friendship, your fantastic photography, and your help cultivating new friendships and opportunities to serve the aikido community.
Karen Kim: For generously donating your time to edit each and every article we’ve contributed to Aikido Journal over the last 6 months. You are way overqualified for this role, Professor Kim. Thank you.
Setsuko Okumura: For your invaluable translation and writing efforts for Aikido Journal projects.
Rose Jones and Ben Cave: For helping to curate old Aikido Journal articles and share them with the community via social media.
Ellis Amdur, Toby Threadgill, and Thomas Collings: Long time friends and peers of Stanley Pranin. I thank you for your friendship, encouragement, and guidance.
Gil and Mark: For inspiring Stanley, staying by his side, and supporting him as faithful students and friends.
The Pranin Family: For your support of Stanley Pranin and his efforts. You are some of the behind-the-scenes heroes of the aikido world.
Now We Begin Again.
If you’d like to stay in touch, follow our progress, and be part of Aikido Journal’s transformation, please stay connected with us.
- Follow my new personal page on Facebook
- Join the Aikido Journal newsletter if you’re not already a subscriber.
We look forward to updating the community on our efforts and forging a powerful resource for the aikido world.