Larry Bieri Sensei – A Hidden Gem

In addition to the celebrity mind-body teachers, there’s a second tier of hidden gems with far less hype but no less talent. I recently discovered one of these in the bearded guise of Larry Bieri Sensei.

Now based in New York State, Larry Bieri Sensei studied Aikido and a wide variety of traditional Japanese martial arts in their homeland for 17 years. I’d heard from several well traveled aikidoka that he was, “The best Aikido teacher” they’d experienced. While comparisons are as odious as aikidoka’s feet, I certainly wasn’t disappointed by his recent seminar, hosted in the gorgeous, friendly and aircraft-hanger sized Cincinnati Aikikai.

Coming from a family of teachers and having taught at least twenty physical activities in my life I found Lari Bieri to indeed be a very good teacher, which many great aikidoist frankly are not. He definitely walked his talk and was in great shape. Despite a pretty rigorous training schedule I couldn’t keep up with this guy at least twice my age, and taking falls from him I was exhausted to the point of blurry vision in 15 seconds.

What is most incredible about Larry Bieri is how he can transform into the various Shihan he’s trained with. He not only “did” greats like Tohei, Yamaguchi, Wanatabe, Osawa and Tada, but seemed to instantaneously morph and become them, each with a unique and instantly recognisable feel. Taking ukemi from an ever changing series of Shihans was a uniquely challenging experience to say the least! When Paul Linden Sensei and I asked him about this Lari said, “I took several classes a day at Hombu and the teachers only liked you to do their own style…so I learnt.” Having had the subjective ukemi experience and having known others who have trained for long periods at Aikido’s home dojo but not picked up this skill, his explanation seemed only partial. I suspect he’s acquired a learning mechanism that he is quite different from other forms of learning that we normally employ, and I want it…

I found Larry to be personable, down to earth and with time for everyone. Larry is in a small group of senior Sensei unburdened by proposterone (tm Funebakado) and whale burger ego. Long live the humans. I saw a very human side of Lari at lunch when I found him napping in a quiet changing room corner, on the small pile of my clothes that Air Canada hasn’t lost. I’d quit like to see him practice on the Heathrow luggage manglers but that’s another story…

In terms of breadth of knowledge I will risk odiation by stating that Larry Bieri Sensei can embody the various dialects of O’Sensei’s Aikido like noone else I’ve had the pleasure to be beaten up by. Gambate Larry!