Thank you, Andrew!
I’m writing this to offer a very personal word of thanks to someone who has given outstanding service to our organisation over many years. But more than that, I’m also writing on behalf of Aiki Kai Australia, because this person has contributed at all levels: locally, at state level, nationally and internationally.
I’m talking about Andrew Dziedzic Shihan, who has recently retired from the job of National Area Representative (NAR), the position that carries most responsibility on a day-to-day basis within Aiki Kai Australia. Andrew is an exemplar of the sort of person we have depended on for years. They are at every level, and so the idea of volunteering selflessly is often taken for granted within our organisation. But in Andrew’s case the level of responsibility 24/7 is massive. I know, because I had the same job from the time Sugano Sensei left Australia -1978 – right up until he died and Andrew took over the role. But it has to be said that the level of work Andrew has done since then exceeds anything I did.
The NAR job has required him to be the go between for the TTC, the Board, the Foundation, to work with the Trustees, to plan the TTC meetings, take the minutes, follow up on matters requiring action, to deal directly with all the state area representatives and handle all crises as they occur, while also triaging them to the various parts of our organisation responsible for handling such matters. On top of that, Andrew has handled our legal matters for decades, is the go-to person on insurance and all through the last two years has personally charted our Covid response (he remains the person who manages our insurance). Most people know none of this, and few realise just how greatly we have depended on Andrew. But there’s more. Andrew has been our international Representative to the IAF, and our primary delegate at successive meetings for decades. There, his energy, intelligence and (yes) wisdom have been noticed, and he has found himself invited into various sub committees, where his professional expertise as a lawyer has once again proven invaluable; most recently within a small and trusted committee of senior trainees from around the world now directly advising Hombu on their reworking of the International Regulations.
All of this would be exceptional, but none of it possible without the support he receives from Lynden, his wife, who has helped Andrew to play this critical role. (Her contribution to Aikido as a non-trainee, is probably best understood by all of the other partners and family members of other workers within our organisation, who in their own ways make it possible for our Aikido to happen and who, like Lynden, we will never thank enough).
So, in acknowledging Dziedzic Shihan – who will not have been expecting a public thank you – I also want to note that the Trustees, Senior Council, Board and TTC are very aware that we don’t have opportunity to thank everyone from the top but it would be great if you, as a member might find opportunity to thank your own local office bearers, dojo organisers, treasurers and state workers for all their volunteer efforts. These have carried us along for nearly 60 years now. Please also pass on my thanks, on behalf of the organisation, to those in your family who support you and through you Aiki Kai Australia.
Finally, if you have a chance to thank Andrew for his efforts at some time in the future please do so. He won’t expect it, but is incredible and I’m very happy that he remains a critical part of our organisation in a number of roles as well as being a member of the Senior Council, TTC and our IAF delegate.
PS. Not everyone will be aware that Marie Petery Shihan has generously agreed to accept the role of NAR on Andrew’s retirement. Knowing how big a job it is may give us cause to thank her for agreeing to shoulder the job. It remains a massive challenge that certainly Marie is up to, and well equipped to handle. While she will always have the complete support of all of the parts of the organisation with whom she now works, I also hope that everyone who trains will show her the full appreciation of how much we benefit from the efforts of our unpaid volunteers. It's a very special part of the makeup of our organisation, has drawn into service some remarkable people and helps us to keep alive the spirit of Aikido that Sensei encouraged when he constructed Aiki Kai Australia around the ideas encompassed in his Aikido Moral Code.
Andrew Dziedzic Shihan, 6th Dan