Monday, December 21, 2009

Peter Ting

I knew the most I’ve ever known about aikido when I was about 4th kyu (in 1995 or so).

One day a 70-year-old man showed up in our dojo (City Aikido in San Francisco) wearing a brand new gi and white belt. We trained together on ikkyo irimi, and I showed him several important details. He smiled and graciously said “Thank you!” over and over.

The next night he returned to our dojo wearing a hakama(!), and our sensei introduced him as Peter Ting rokudan. He had trained with O Sensei a couple times, and had practiced martial arts since he was four years old. He had even been a bodyguard for Gen. Patton in Europe in WWII. Within a month he was in the regular teaching rotation at our dojo where he taught until he passed away a few years later.

The twinkle in his eye when I was “instructing” him taught me what aikido is all about.

Peter Ting was such an amazing person. I drove up from OC to City Aikido to train with him a few times towards the end of his life. So many fond memories of aikido training, chatting, qigong, and some damn good Chinese food. He seems to have left an impression on everyone he crossed paths with.

Jake McKee
I trained with Peter for 2+ years in Berkeley at the YMCA. AFAIK Peter never trained with O'sensei. That was before his time in Aikido. He did, however tell me that he trained in 3 or 4 other disciplines (kung fu, karate, jujitsu, etc) and had attained greater proficiency in them than in Aikido.

Peter was a complicated person, with a violent past and a broken family. He briefly told me of his childhood fighting matches to win rice to feed his family. His journey to an acceptance of the philosophy of Aikido was a major transformation, but not a complete one.

I learned quite a bit from Peter, including the lesson that it is not wise to idolize any guru. Take the good, learn from the not so good, and keep your perspective. I doubt Peter would disagree.

The most powerful lesson I learned from him was while helping him with the children's Saturday class. He took complicated techniques, broke them down into simple parts and tackled them one by one. It was such an effective method of instructing and learning that I continue to use this approach for all my studies, from UCB undergrad, through law school and onto becoming a competent programmer.

For that, I am most grateful to Peter, and am happy to keep his memory alive.

-Aaron Flin

I knew sensei ting back in the 1980's when he ran a dojo at the Berkeley YMCA. I started with him when I was 7 years old, and was there until about I was 18. He was a great man, but also, very complicated. One thing I have come to learn is that he told a lot of tall tales, so as much as I respect and fondly remember him, I would take some his tales with a grain of salt. No way he trained with O'sensei. Peter actually came to Aikido quite late in life. He told me he served in Patton's army, but not as his bodyguard. He told me he was part of the fabled 442 (the nissei soldiers), but I checked and found no record of him being part of the 442. In fact, the 442 was I think all american japanese, not chinese. He said he was an arm-breaker for the mob on the waterfront...that I can sort of believe. He taught the peaceful side of Aikido, but taught me how to gauge out eyes and crush windpipes. Again, a complex man. I miss him. I hope he is in a peaceful and better place.
He was very nice. I attended an Osu festival in the LA areA about 1972 as a newbie with about a month or 2 of practice. He took me under his wing while teaching and worked with me for quite a bit. I still teach one of the techniques he helped grasp.
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