When asked to write an article describing Wendy Whited Sensei’s contributions to ASU it was difficult to even know how to start. For many of us we can see her connection to all aspects of our organization. Many elements are visible but others
were done behind the scenes without fanfare and without a need for recognition but were invaluable for those who were on the receiving end of her endless generosity.
It is well known that Wendy Sensei was one of Saotome Sensei’s long time students starting in 1976. Since that time she was one of the prominent women in ASU. She was a good role model for the intensity of her training and her commitment to Saotome Sensei. However what many of us see as one of her prominent contributions to ASU was that she always took time to show kindness and encouragement to her kohai. This quality alone helped grow the ASU membership to facilitate Saotome Sensei’s vision of a strong ASU to unfold.
At camps and seminars she would train with anyone regardless of their rank. Wendy Sensei was very supportive of younger instructors at the major camps who were new to teaching in that large environment. She participated in their classes and gave positive feedback. For many of us she showed by example how to be a positive contributor to ASU and how to support Saotome Sensei’s vision of developing a quality organization.
When Patty Saotome Sensei’s health deteriorated, Wendy moved to Sarasota to live with Saotome Sensei and Patty. She gave up over two years of her life to care for both of them so Saotome Sensei could continue to teach his seminars and know that Patty was in good hands.
When it was decided that Saotome Sensei and Patty would sell the Shrine property to the ASU membership, Wendy was one of the Patrons that donated significant funds to make this happen. In 2015 when Saotome Sensei asked Wendy to be the Secretary of the new ASU 501c3 entity she put her heart and soul into this project. This commitment deepened when she became President for the last two years. One of her missions that she worked tirelessly toward was how could the ASU benefit all members.
One of the first projects in this regard was the creation of the ASU newsletter. She used the newsletter to keep dojo informed of Board doings, sending something every month for a couple of years with no donation requests or any such commercial aspects. It was this vehicle that allowed her to distribute COVID recommendations and the advice of the medical professionals she assembled. Now it has been formalized a couple of years ago to its current form.
Another of her primary goals was to use her professional experience as an educator to develop the highest quality instructors possible for the betterment of the students of the organization. Many ASU senior instructors participated in her “Methods of Teaching” sessions that she developed over the last several years. This is an invaluable contribution that will continue to grow and develop into the future.
Even though Wendy was going through her own intense cancer treatment as we were dealing with the pandemic she was on the forefront of virtual instruction via Zoom. Wendy was the biggest advocate for dojo to keep classes or seminars going on Zoom. Many of us learned how to teach effectively on Zoom by following her professional example. By allowing many ASU members to participate in her classes she helped keep the momentum and the aiki spirit alive in the organization for many who were struggling. She personally reached out to members she knew needed support and got them back on their feet.
An additional part of her desire to continually bring quality training to ASU during COVID was manifested as she developed a Iaido system, O’Kaze Ryu – to combine her traditional Iaido training with Saotome Sensei’s kumitachi. A novel solo practice that helped students train from home. Many ASU members commented that this alone reinvigorated their commitment to training and uplifted their hearts when they could not be in the dojo.
Wendy Sensei was also the ASU’s liaison with Hombu Dojo for the Kagami Biraki promotions. This contribution was invaluable for keeping the integrity of the organization. Wendy Sensei made sure that Hombu Dojo’s promotional requirements were met for all promotion requests. Her attention to detail helped ensure all of the requests were granted. Besides Wendy’s Board responsibilities she continued to make sure that ASU dojo and ASU individuals that were in financial need were given support. This support was often by her personal contributions. Several dojos were able to purchase new mats with Wendy’s financial support. Also from her personal accounts she extended her generosity to individuals who were not able to afford a seminar or camp. This was the instigation of the ASU Grant program that was initially funded by Wendy Sensei’s personal donations. This fall the Board has officially changed the name to “The Wendy Whited Memorial Grant Program.”
These contributions are only a fraction of Wendy Sensei’s positive influences for the ASU organization. Many of us can share many more examples of how she reached out to individual dojos or members to ensure the health of one person or dojo would benefit the entire organization. Hopefully we can all learn from her leadership and all strive to be positive contributors to honor her legacy and create a successful future for ASU.