Eli Lerman

Founder and Chairman of the Aikido Center of Israel

Eli Lerman

Eli Lerman

“I arrived in Japan in 1989 as part of the traditional “after the army” trip, and as part of a soul search. My declared target was “to study Aikido”, even though I have never practiced before, and as a matter of fact, knew very little about Aikido. The original reason for my arrival in Japan was a combination of exposure to Steven Seagal films, in which he demonstrates the effective side of the art, and of the fact that studying a martial art has been a childhood dream for me. Looking back, it is clear to me I was a 23 years old kid, who came with an intention to master the art within three months, and then to return to Israel. I never said it aloud, but I have to admit those were my thoughts.

During my search I arrived at Fukuoka, a city with a million and a half residents. I came to Suganuma Sensei’s Doo to watch a class. More than anything else, the class looked like a dancing lesson, and seemed to have no connection to the Steven Seagal films. After the class I sat with sensei in his small office. It happened more than 20 years ago, but both of us, sensei and me remember our first meeting. I remember the twinkle in his wise eyes, and thinking to myself “This is the man from whom I wish to learn”. Sensei remembers the torn jeans trousers I wore! As time passed I learnt that in Japan, the dress code mainly shows the respect one has to the person with whom he meets. Coming to a meeting wearing torn jeans does not show much respect.

I asked Suganuma’s permission to become his pupil, and he gave it. In the first few months I practiced daily. My day consisted of a lesson (sometimes two lessons a day), doing my laundry, eating and sleeping. After a few months it became evident that my plan to become a master within three months will not be realized. I began studying Japanese in a proper school while continuing the aikido lessons, and working.

Eventually, I ended up living and studying in Japan for six and a half years. As well as studying Aikido I got a first degree at law from the Kyushu University (I attended with the Japanese students, and studied in Japanese). While I was in Japan I studied Aikido in the dojo, as well as in the University Aikido club. When asked what my area of expertise in law school was, I reply: the law faculty, the department of Aikido studies.

Today, 23 years after my arrival in Japan, it is clear to me that my travelling to Japan and meeting with Sensei were not a matter of chance. That encounter changed my life and had such a profound influence on me to the extent that I cannot imagine how my life would have looked like without it. During this period of 23 years my understanding of Aikido has changed. Part of the change occurred thanks to the texts Sensei used to read during the classes.  These are mostly short texts, but being short in a distinct Japanese way, they slowly found a path into my soul, and changed me, as well as the way I experience the world. Like drops of water carving rock, these words shaped me. Of course the words alone would not suffice, and the combination of the physical training in the classes had its effect.

Aikido – the way to harmony with energy – is very elusive. What is the way? Where does one search for it? These are the questions that occupied and still occupy my mind, throughout all these years of practicing Aikido. I would not dare to presume the ability to apply the high ideals of which Aikido speaks: Harmony, being "here and now" and so on. These are supreme ideals, and I try to best of my humble ability to come closer to fulfilling them. I am painfully aware of how far away I am from putting them into practice.

I believe Aikido is a great tool. A tool with which I have made, and continue to make large and important changes in my life: healthy and recreational physical activity, a better understanding of the way in which I communicate with my surrounding, changes in my attitude, assertiveness and so on. For me, Aikido is a compass, a school and a laboratory in which life itself is researched.

I have not reached enlightenment, therefore I can promise no miracles. But since I have had the privilege to be exposed to such a positive and meaningful tool, a positive tool that has improved my life very much, I consider sharing it with those interested a privilege as well as a duty.

Wishing you a new day!

Eli Lerman

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