A Tribute to Skip Maxfield
By Sean Hummer
The AJJF has lost one of our Ohana, Sensei Skip Maxfield of the Nibukikan dojo in Chico, CA. He left us Saturday, May 1st at approximately 2pm. To those of you who never had the good fortune to meet him or know him well, I offer the following.
I met Skip for the first time in 2004. I was taking the beginning Jujitsu class at Chico State, which was at that time taught by Jeff Meyers. The policy was that if you missed a class you had to do a make-up class at the Nibukikan dojo. Even though I loved the class, I eventually missed a class and had to go to the dojo to do a makeup. Missing that class was, in hindsight, one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
Now, at the time, I did not realize that the policy for the makeup was to get people into the actual dojo to get to see what a DZR class looks like when the teacher to student ratio wasn’t 1:35. In fact this policy was like the stereotypical version of a drug dealer in one of those old cheesy anti-drug commercials. “Hey kid, wanna try this?…” Get them hooked so they keep coming back. For me, this worked! I remember going to the dojo for the first time. A small, non-descript industrial looking metal building. When I walked inside it was clear this was not a fancy place. No, this place was special.
I walked into the dojo and introduced myself to Skip Maxfield, then the teacher of Monday night jujitsu class at Nibukikan. I can’t remember exactly everything I did that night, which isn’t really surprising because I can barely remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday and more than half the time I call one of my children by the dogs name. Anyway, the one thing I do remember about that night was Skip’s demeanor and teaching method. His teaching style was one of brevity followed by a quick smack to the back of the head when you did something wrong. Skip was a Marine, and it showed. During pushups we always did sets of 11. One for the Corps, he would say. Also, the references to Spinal Tap to lighten things up.
That was the thing about Skip. He was tough and expected you to do your best, but there was a lightness to his way as well. The smack to the back of your head was done with love.
As I became obsessed with Jujitsu, I got to know Skip better over time. I showed up to classes religiously and really threw my energy into it. It helped to have a cadre of great instructors that made this an easy desire, though not an easy effort. To me what made Skip a great instructor was not just his ability, but his directness. He made things simple. I often heard him say “Just do this” followed by the technique. And sometimes that’s all that was needed. “You’re making it too complicated, just do this.” Immortal words to live by.
As I got to know him better, Skip’s favorite thing to say to me was: “Tall people suck.” To which I would laugh and say something like: “Skip, jealousy is unbecoming of you.” I would house sit for him when he and his wife Judy were out of town. That was when I learned that he was the nephew of Bud Estes, on his mother’s side. He never mentioned this to me before that. Skip’s personality was not one of a braggart. He got absolutely nothing out of the temptation to name drop, or brag, or anything remotely resembling it. No, Skip had more integrity than that. In fact, if there was only one word I was allowed to use to describe Skip it would be “Integrity.”
When I first learned Skip had an illness it was heartbreaking. He had to stop teaching and I took over for him teaching on Monday nights. I still teach those nights to this day. And when we do pushups, you better believe that we always do sets of 11.
I miss my friend, and I grieve for his wife Judy. When I heard of his passing my heart was broken yet again. But losing someone is the price we pay for loving them. We have a limited time here on this earth and I believe the overall goal of that time spent is to become a better person, to perfect one’s character. I could not have gotten to this point in my life without the indelible stamp of one Skip Maxfield.
You will be missed.
(PS: His real first name is “Harold”)
(PPS: and short people suck)
Skip Maxfield (The handsome gentlemen with the righteous handlebar mustache)