A great deal of significance is laid on the fact that O-Sensei was only 4'11", yet he could effortlessly throw attackers many times his size. The subtle art by which he was easily able to defeat larger, stronger opponents is the Holy Grail, the essence of what we seek in the study of Aikido.
Since O-Sensei was so small yet indomitable, it is no surprise that others of tiny stature could, through long years of excruciating practice, gain great skill in Aikido, and through this skill throw opponents many times their size and weight.
Perhaps the greatest living exemplar of this expertise, now that O-Sensei is gone, is Dragonfly Sensei. She is very small and perhaps weighs no more than an ounce or two, but she is able to capture both the mind and body of any large human. She deftly uses the energy and intentionality of the attack, often in the form of a whistling strike with a bit of rolled up newspaper, absorbing the force and turning it, with prodigious breath power, to her advantage. Here is a picture of Dragonfly Sensei.
Today, as I entered the dojo for a regular morning of practice I saw that class would not be routine at all; there was Dragonfly Sensei zooming around the rafters, diving and swooping down into the dojo space doing her various warm-up katas. All the other students were stretching and loosening up at the far corners of the mat, hoping that they would not get called to take ukemi from her, so formidable is her reputation.
Scott, one of the senior black belts ended up as her chosen uke for demonstrations. Scott is very agile and graceful, and he lands very lightly from breakfalls. This latter ability is a plus when taking ukemi from Dragonfly Sensei, since you may be thrown from any part of the dojo, even from up by the skylights, where she prefers the warmth and light.
The first technique she demonstrated was her famous "nose-pin" technique. This technique involves the simultaneous capture of the mind of uke, as she strikes directly to the center of his face, and a painful joint lock on the nose, which buckles the knees and takes uke to the mat. Here she is shown at the very instant of application of the joint lock. Scott's face still reflects the surprise at her entry, and hasn't had time to adopt the grimace of pain in response to the joint lock. When this technique is inexpertly performed it can cause lasting pain and a strange deformity, which is a source of frustration to ukes, thus the phrase: "got your nose out of joint." Fortunately, Dragonfly Sensei always performs the technique flawlessly, and Scott, once released from the pin, showed no lingering effects.
The next technique was a kokyu nage in which she flys offline avoiding a punch, and then she pivots in, draws uke under her wings, and propels him across the mat. Scott again was chosen to take this fall. Here he is in mid-air as Goto Sensei looks on in wonder. When we tried it uke was very heavy on top of our arms. This was embarrassing since our arms are much sturdier in every way than the fine filaments and membranes of her wings.
Yet, when she demonstrated the technique her wings fairly bristled with ki and snapped Scott so hard that he flew quite far horizontally across the mat.
After class we hoped to talk for a while with Dragonfly Sensei about her many trips across the sea to Japan, where she studies still with her own lofty teachers. But as soon as she clapped her wings to bow out she darted across the dojo, turning in flight at the door to bow once again, and then streaked out into the morning air.
As always there were jokes about the cruel fate of the poor unfortunate oaf who tries to swat Dragonfly Sensei, not knowing she is an 8th degree black belt and quite capable of flicking even the largest, strongest brutes to the very ends of the earth.