Rhéaume Laliberté's essay for the obtention of his third dan
When in 1967, at 17, I left home for college, I was so afraid to fail that I turned toward technical school: Electricity-electronics. I told myself: "What if I don't do well in college", since technical school is at a lower level I was convinced that I could not fail.
Being the fourth of a family of 11, I was neither confident about life nor of my abilities. One day, one of my friends, who jogged three times a week, told me he had to get in shape for his Judo classes. I signed up for Judo even if the simple fact of being bare feet and wearing a kimono almost discouraged me. Nevertheless, I attended classes for a total of three years. For the last two years, I practiced 4 or 5 times a week. I practiced Judo in a competitive way. My teacher, Gaby Pinto Sensei, was a very good teacher. He knew how to keep us eager to improve ourselves. At the end of the three years, I knew that if I had become a better Judoka than I was at the beginning, it was due to the number of hours of practice that I had put in.
Then, in June 1970, I had to leave Rouyn-Noranda for Hull in order to work as a technician for Bell Canada. I dedicated all my efforts to my very demanding work. I was neither able nor wanted to practice Judo since my work was burning all my energy. I could not improve my lot since I had started to think that I couldn't do anything else. I also thought, that at my age, it was too late and I no longer had the mental abilities to go back to school. I felt I was really lucky to be "condemned" to work as a technician even if this job no longer suited me. I was meant to follow and repeat the family "pattern" and I couldn't escape it.
I became quite frustrated by my working situation and decided to get involved in Union matters in order to try to help improve the workers' working conditions without losing my job security.
One day, I saw in a magazine that the College de l'Outaouais was offering Judo classes. It was the summer of 1978. I signed up, but because there were not enough registrations, classes were cancelled and they offered me Aikido classes instead. Not knowing what Aikido was, I was not too thrilled at the idea. Nevertheless, I decided to sign up.
This decision was going to change my whole life. Classes were held every Tuesday and Thursday. Without knowing exactly why, I attended quite regularly. I noticed that there were certain moves and techniques that were similar to those used in Judo. The non competitive aspect of Aikido gave me the opportunity to better rehearse the techniques before trying them out in randori. This gave me all the time required to polish them until they were literally part of me; 'till they became an instinctive reaction to a given situation. It was quite later that I realized that. Even after twenty-one years of practice, I still work at it.
Then, in May of 1979, I had my first week of intensive training: 5 hours a day for 7 days. I never had been through that before! I attended my first training camp and then I realized that our teacher, Patrick Augé Sensei, had a lot more to teach us than what I had learned during my first year of training. I also learned he went to Japan every summer, that he lived with a great Master for seven years and had learned Budo. I then understood that he was ready to teach us those principles if we were willing to learn.
That's how year after year I continued practicing Aikido. I knew that, thanks to that, my level of self-confidence increased, my "everyday life" was easier to manage and my work was less exhausting physically. I became more efficient, even a more go-ahead type as a Union representative. As a matter of fact, because of my increased self-confidence and the recognition from the workers I was designated their delegate, in charge of grievances, then treasurer and finally the president of my local section. It included three hundred and fifty technicians and about sixty telephone operators. During that period of time, I practiced Aikido and whenever possible and when Patrick Augé Sensei was available, I would ask him questions about the philosophy of Budo that he was teaching us and was practicing himself. I noticed that in my life I was putting some principles that he taught us into practice but there were some others, more difficult to apply because of the context I was evolving in.
How to conciliate "respect of the human being" with the lay-off of a father because he let his son get in the company truck in order to drive him to school?
How to conciliate "mutual welfare and prosperity" with the policies of "everyone for himself" and the "stab in the back" practiced in an excessive manner in the world of North-American employers and unions. How to, finally, live without having to conciliate all those contradictions and ambiguities that we must deal with on a daily basis. One day, I am going to be able to understand the meaning of "MIZU NO KOKORO" (The spirit of water) taught in Budo.
Although I have a lot to improve, I progressed as far as self-confidence and my abilities are concerned. When I was accepted in University in notarial law, in September of 1984. I was already first dan in Aikido and my mental and physical coordination had increased a lot. I was more confident, more disciplined and I knew that by putting the necessary effort, I would succeed. I was considering my failures as an opportunity to grow and kept this attitude until I succeeded and received my University degree in notarial law.
Today I own my own study and since 1989, with some success, I practice notarial law in Hull. Nevertheless, "Success" is always a goal to achieve.
Aikido and Budo have allowed me to be next to people such as teachers, lawyers, engineers, physicians, computer scientists, prison guards and technicians. People that I would not have had a chance to meet and get to know. People, who in their own way, have taught me a lot.
It's through an engineer whom I had met at the Dojo, that I learned I could attend Ottawa University in law and that at last, I could do something I really enjoyed: Practicing notarial law as Title Attorney. And it's by being in contact with an English teacher, with whom I practiced, that I became aware in a more realistic way that I could change my life. Thanks to Aikido if I was able to do so. Thanks to my Aikido teacher for whom there is no compromise as far as respecting people is concerned, that I found enough self-assurance in myself to go ahead.
Today, I still practice Aikido and Budo in order to keep my inner balance and help others. If there are ups and downs in life, the ups are not as "high" and the downs not as "down". The different phases in life: The thirties, the forties and the fifties didn't have a negative impact on my life. I can continue to practice a martial art that I enjoy a lot. One that helps me to better live in an environment that fosters self-esteem, recognize effort and respect.
To sum things up, the biggest change on my life brought by training in Aikido and Budo is the following: I realized that, slowly, they became an integral part of my life. It results, I can now better manage stressful situations spending less mental energy, and feeling less useless pain.
Notwithstanding the fact that having trained in aikido helped me alter my fate, Its biggest benefit has been, above all, the boost in my self-confidence.