I would like to tell you about a friend of mine.
My friend’s name is Malik, and he is an aikidoka. Like myself, he studies Kokikai Aikido. I call him my friend, though I have only met him two or three times at national seminars. I call him my friend, because his open demeanor and warmth would not let us be anything else.
Once you met Malik, you would easily recognize him again. A devout Muslim, he wears traditional African robes and always keeps his hair in a wool hat. I always meant to ask why that type of headdress in particular; regardless, I never see him without it. It was not the robes, however, that makes him stand out. It is the fact that he is always blinking. He seems to have a knack for various different electronic gear. The juxtaposition of his traditional garb and his high tech gadgetry always sticks with me, and probably always will.
Once you met Malik, you would be glad to see him again. He is a kind person, both on the mat and off. He is easy to talk to and easy to listen to. When I first met him, I was surprised at how easy it was to become his friend, to chat with him. Although I do not see him outside of camps, when I do see him it is as if I was seeing an old friend. We share a common bond of dedication to Kokikai training, of bettering ourselves on and off the mat.
I do not know Malik’s family, but I once got a picture of his love for them. At Winter Camp, his son was playing ball alongside the mats. As his son enjoyed himself, I could see Malik’s smile as he watched. It’s the same smile I get when my little girl is playing games. It is easy to see his boundless love for his family.
Sadly, Malik was killed in a shooting incident not far from his home. Although he is no longer with us, I could not bring myself to write this post and describe him in the past tense. Malik and I never knew each other personally all that well–but we were friends nonetheless. I regret that our friendship will not have the opportunity to grow as the years pass. But I am very glad that, however briefly, I had the chance to know him.
I wanted to write this simply to remember him, and to remind myself that it is the bonds we make between our teachers and training partners that make the pursuit of aikido, of any martial art, worthwhile.
You will not be forgotten, Malik.