Thursday, March 06, 2008

My first summer retreat

Recently something happened to cause me to reflect on my first Summer Retreat or Aikido Summer Camp. It was in June of 1976 and was held on the campus of Dominican College in San Rafael. At the time I was back from Japan and was teaching the aikido classes on the UC Santa Cruz campus. I was invited to teach a regular day class at the retreat by Robert Nadeau sensei and Frank Doran sensei. We had a good turnout from among the students at the UC Santa Cruz Aikido Club.

The retreat, as I remember, had such an energy level that I don’t think I slept for 2 or possibly 3 days. There were some outer factors contributing to this. I was young and just back from Japan, so my sense was that you trained every class. Doran sensei had an early morning 6:30am class where he taught sword taking. There were later morning classes and also afternoon and evening classes. Nadeau sensei took the evening class, after which there was an energy awareness/ meditation class, after which there was hang out time to discuss Osensei and the spiritual side of the art. I didn’t realize that most people who did the early class didn’t do the late evening stuff, and most late evening people didn’t do the early morning. Doing both left very little sleep time. And for the first couple of nights I just lay in bed wired by the tremendous amount of energy and didn’t sleep.

My roommate for the retreat was a man named David Josephson. I was contacted recently by him, which set off the chain of events that led to this blog entry. Mainly I saw him asleep in his dorm bed when I would come in late. Believe it or not I was a very early riser, so I would miss him on my way to the early morning class. The retreat started on a Sunday, and I believe it was Wednesday before we met and talked. I came in after the cafeteria lunch to find David in our room. I remember, being a comic book fan, that we talked for about 20 minutes about Captain America. Little did I know at the time that he was a Phd and a Professor at Stanford University. He combined an interest in social activism with an interest in Ghandi and Eastern thought. He is currently living in Bali with his wife and young son and is teaching tai chi. He will be out in early summer and we plan to re-connect and catch up.

As we speak the registration for this year’s Summer Retreat, now held at Menlo College locally just off the El Camino Real, has begun. It will be June 8th thru June 14th. It is open to all levels, meaning you don’t have to be a black belt to go. Last year I attended and in addition to being a quality event aikido-wise, for me is was simply FUN! For me it is a bit like attending a trade show. You get to see what people like Nadeau sensei, Doran sensei, and Ikeda sensei are in to. You also see some very senior people like Francis Takahashi sensei from Southern California. Mainly you get to hang out with people and just focus on aikido, its technical, social, and spiritual aspects for one glorious week. There is a commuter’s package which makes sense for most local people, but I enjoyed paying for the whole thing and having lodging and meals provided. For me it was a combination trade show/vacation. You can get more information and even register by going to or can get more information at I will be the featured guest instructor at this year’s retreat.


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