Saturday, June 23, 2007

Menlo College Aikido Retreat

One of the most satisfying aikido experiences that I've ever had was the recent Aikido Retreat(June 10-June 16) annually hosted by Frank Doran, Robert Nadeau, and Hiroshi Ikeda senseis. This year the guest instructor was an old friend, Mary Heiny sensei. So these are all people I have known for over 30 years. Frank Doran sensei gave me my first post-Japan teaching opportunity, Thursday nights at Woodside High School. Robert Nadeau sensei was the first person to talk to me about becoming a full-time instructor and sold me Aikido of San Jose in 1980. Of course Mary sensei helped set me up in Japan at the Shingu dojo and has been a dear friend for ages. I still remember Ikeda sensei's kind help with some of Saotome sensei's sword moves during a workshop in the very early '70's.

What can I say. Last summer I went on Nadeau sensei's trip to Japan, which happened because the venue for the retreat was lost at the last minute, and I had a great time. So this year I decided to do the retreat. I was a regular at the event in the late 70's and in the '80's, but probably had not done one for 18 years. It was a pleasure to see the affection and mutual respect among the instructors and the many students that attended.

The effect for me was not unlike going to a trade show. To see first hand what these very top-level senseis were doing, to watch their methods of instruction, see how their art had evolved over the years, is very important to me as a professional instructor as well. But aside from all that, it was just FUN.........

To hear Nadeau sensei repeatedly entreat us to be"Easy with the 'I'", watch Doran sensei clear and impeccable demonstration of technique, Ikeda sensei's incredible grace and sublety, and Mary sensei's passion and energy were all just great gifts.

Even though the commuters'plan is cheaper, the
full plan allows you to really hang out and be with other peoplein their magic week of aikido. All things considered, with food, training, entertainment provided and not spending money filling up your gas tank. All things considered, it is a very cheap and good one week vacation.

The format for the retreat is that there are 3 permanent instructors and each year one guest instructor. Nadeau sensei informed me that next year I will be the guest instructor. That is a great honor and I will be looking forward to it.

Speaking of retreatsi, it is not too late to be at the Santa Cruz Retreat(July 11 to July 15). Anno sensei will be making what could be his last trip to America, so that is not to be missed. Linda Holiday sensei, Mary Heiny sensei, and I will also be instructing. More information and registration are available at Individual day plans and even class plans are available.

Anno sensei agreed to allow me to put the video of my taking ukemi for him online. So here it is. It was shot by Linda Holiday sensei at the seminar in Biel, Switzerland:

Friday, June 08, 2007

Anno sensei and Switzerland

So I’m back and getting settled into a more normal routine. This is the first of several blogs about the trip to Europe. It is not going to be linear. Just for general information, Paris was fun, and then, with the travel, the aikido seminar, and the shamanic experience, the latter parts of the trip were more intense. So I’m starting with the aikido seminar in Biel, Switzerland.

The seminar was hosted by Juerg Steiner, who trained in Shingu for, I believe, 12 years. My deepest appreciation and thanks to both him and his wife, Noriko, who allowed both Linda and myself to stay over in the dojo 2 nights. They also hosted Anno sensei, his wife, and Kuribayashi san(one of my old training partners from the old days and now a 6th dan instructor as well) as well as having Linda and myself over to dinner several nights during the seminar. There were on the mat over 90 participants from France, Switzerland, Germany, and America(us). Saturday and Sunday had 2 hours of training in the morning and 2 and a half in the afternoon. Monday was just one morning class.

I’m on the mat a lot, but these days I don’t take ukemi in a training mode. I will receive students’ techniques to give them feedback, but that is a totally different matter. So the legs got a bit sore and tired( Barry Bonds effect?). After the Sunday morning training I took some ukemi from Anno sensei, which Linda sensei got on my camcorder. She’s going to watch it and then ask him if we have his permission to use it, perhaps online. So more on that later as it develops. I asked him to do this because this was probably one of his last seminars abroad, just as his appearance in July at the Santa Cruz retreat might be his last trip to America. So this was maybe my last( or one of my last) chances to be thrown by him.

As one grows older, the ukemi becomes exponentially more difficult. Maintaining a center and a connection while in movement is always challenging. As one grows older, the athleticism of youth wanes and one finds it more difficult to get upwhen thrown. A very fascinating part of the morning shoot was that during the sword taking sequence Anno sensei receives some techniques from me. Here is an 8th dan chief instructor of a major school in Japan taking ukemi in his mid to late seventies. It is very moving to watch how open and “sunao” he is while taking these falls for one of his students(me) from over 30 years ago.There is a poignancy to the precious and fragile nature of how one and those close to you make that uncertain journey through time together. The fleeting nature of all things makes that which can endure, in his words love, peace, and harmony all that more vital and important.