Aikido is a non-competitive martial art that can be practiced by almost anyone. Aikido techniques do not rely on physical strength but rather develops relaxed power through the focus of intention and Ki. The result is a creative method of non-destructive conflict resolution.
Aikido is practiced on many levels. The first level is includes the development of stamina, flexibility, and learning how to focus one's intention. The second level is built on the first and stresses self-defense techniques that teach the natural order of movement. In this process the students also become adept at ukemi, the art of rolling, falling and protecting oneself. Aikido provides the opportunity for the development of the entire person. It is a workout of the entire body and mind and results in increased strength, overall physically fitness, flexibility and centeredness.
At the third level students are gradually introduced to the secrets of receiving and harnessing the power of ki, they also develop spatial awareness and learn to judge proper timing and distance. During this training the goal is to establish and maintain an energetic connection to your partner and to lead them off balance. This eliminates the need for more destructive means of resolving situations.
The highest level of aikido is mind over matter. This involves the use of visualization techniques, the power of intention and ki, breath control and meditation. Aikido is truly a spiritual martial art that explores themind - body - spirit connection. This advanced level of training at Shobu Aikido reaches a level not easily found elsewhere. The student learns how to manifest power and effectiveness by the focusing of intention alone. This level depends on and can only be reached through the refinement of technique and the students own deepest feeling. For this reason it alternates between the physical and the spiritual.
In the process of practicing aikido, students inevitably find themselves less stressed and more energetic, better equipped to manage life's many conflicts with calm control. Aikido is great for adults and kids alike because practice encourages respect for self and others, self control, cooperation and responsibility.
Gasshuku or weekend long intensive seminars with William Gleason Sensei are available seasonally.
Children's aikido classes provide a friendly, non-competitive environment for students to become more physically fit, agile, flexible, aware, focused, and relaxed. They learn how to safely fall, roll and perform a variety of self-defense techniques in a supportive, comfortable setting, and parents like Aikido because kids learn how to be powerful without becoming destructive.
It’s been awhile since I’ve done my “Invasion” series (March 2007, December 2007), but I hope this one does not disappoint. This time I went to Washington, D.C. for the 2010 ASU Summer Camp, which was held in the DeFour Athletic Center at The Catholic University of America from July 1 to July 5. For me this trip was 1-2 years in the making because not only was this camp a requirement for nidan according to the ASU, but also I have heard good things from this camp from Danny and Doug’s experience. And I have always wanted to check this camp out and make it out to D.C. to visit my friends who I have not seen in a long time. During my experience, I kept a running journal of what went down during the days’ activities. Because of the length of this essay, this will be presented in five parts.
The theme of this year’s summer camp was “two swords with a focus on the aikido principles that underlie two-sword training.” In preparation for this summer camp, I studied “Two Swords of Aikido,” an instructional video featuring Mitsugi Saotome Shihan of the ASU. Unfortunately, this video is limited in its helpfulness because the majority of the video, and therefore content, consists of footage of a 1988 Two-Sword Seminar at the Chicago Budokan. The footage was shot as a home video where the resolution was grainy, it was difficult to make out the details of the techniques, the techniques were shown from only one angle, and I can barely hear Saotome Sensei. Nevertheless, the video interestingly demonstrated the principle of Kobo Ittai (Offense and Defense as One).
In addition, I read “The Book of Five Rings” by Miyamoto Musashi. Many martial arts enthusiasts have heard of this man. But for those who have not, Musashi was a masterless samurai, independent teacher, and Japanese swordsman famed for being undefeated in duels and for his distinctive style of swordsmanship. “The Book of Five Rings” is a text on military strategy, similar to “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu. There were several quotes that were inspirational and relevant to this summer camp, and some of those quotes will be presented in this article.
What made Musashi’s style unique was his use and mastery of two swords.
“When your life is on the line, you want to make use of all your tools. No warrior should be willing to die with his swords at his side, without having made use of his tools.” – from the “Earth Scroll”
Even though the techniques of Musashi’s school – Niten Ichi-ryu, or “The School of Two Swords” – are not necessarily in the aikido curriculum, the principles do apply to aikido and the two-sword techniques that Saotome Sensei developed. It should be noted that studying two swords is ordinarily reserved for the more experienced student, as the practitioner should already have some level of proficiency with using the single sword. This is how the curriculum of the Hyoho Niten Ichi-ryu is set up.
With that in mind, let’s talk about the camp…
Day 1 – July 1
So I enter the DeFour Athletic Center, and whom do I see at the registration desk…Amy! It was really cool to see her again. (And by the way, she sends her best to everyone at Shobu Aikido of Ohio!) Saotome Sensei led the first class at 10:00 AM, and we worked with just the bokken. The first lesson was how to wield a sword. According to Sensei, the sword should be pointed to the opponent’s face, the knees should be bent, and the shoulders should be relaxed. The grip should be akin to wringing a mop. At one point Sensei referred the sword as the “killing sword.”
“The long sword should be taken up with the thought that is something for killing opponents. Let there be no change in your grip even when slashing opponents; make your grip such that your hand does not flinch.” – from the “Water Scroll”
Next, we did paired kata with the bokken. Amy and I were partners for the first half of class. There were no mats available yet, so practice felt like kendo training. The movements were similar to Aiki-ken #6-12.
In the kata, Sensei was showing something resembling “sticky blade,” where when uchitachi (in this case, Chuck Weber Sensei), struck Saotome Sensei’s sword, he did not allow his own sword to be deflected but rather received uchitachi’s energy and stuck to his sword.
There is this one slick move where Sensei makes an irimi-tenkan and grabs uke’s sword while at the same time stabbing uke with Sensei’s sword wrapped behind his back.
“The sticky body means getting inside and sticking fast to an opponent. When you get inside the opponent’s defenses, you stick tight your head, body, and legs…Sticking to an opponent means that you stick so close that there is no gap between your bodies.” – from the “Water Scroll”
During the break at the halfway point of the first class, Amy introduced me to the D.C. aikidoka.
The second half of class consisted of more paired kata with bokken. During this time, I paired up with Mark Kaye Sensei, Chief Instructor of the Aikido Wellness Center in Miami, Florida. Very kind gentleman. In one kata, there was some confusion regarding who initiates the first movement: shitachi, uchitachi, or both.
“There are three kinds of preemption. One is when you preempt by attacking an opponent on your own initiative; this is called preemption from a state of suspension. Another is when you preempt an opponent making an attack on you; this is called preemption from a state of waiting. Yet another is when you and an opponent attach each other simultaneously; this is called preemption in the state of mutual confrontation.” –from the “Fire Scroll”
Next, we went over two aikidoka with swords against one aikidoka with sword.
“The way to win a battle according to military science is to know the rhythms of the specific opponents, and use rhythms that your opponents do not expect, producing formless rhythms from rhythms of wisdom.”
-from the “Earth Scroll”
“Even when still, your mind is not still; even when hurried, your mind is not hurried. The mind is not dragged by the body, the body is not dragged by the mind. Pay attention to the mind, not the body. Let there be neither insufficiency nor excess in your mind. Even if superficially weakhearted, be inwardly stronghearted, and do not let others see into your mind.” –from the “Water Scroll”
Finally, Sensei showed us some sword-drawing techniques.
During my first three days at D.C., I stayed with a friend from college. For lunch, he suggested Yes! Organic Market, located at the corner of 12th Street NE and Quincy Street NE. It’s about a 3-minute drive from camp and does having a small adjacent parking lot. This place is an organic food grocery store that also sells prepared sandwiches. Everyday, I got lunch from this place and brought it back to the gymnasium. Organic food is the blandest food I ever tasted, but it did the job and got me through the day. At least it wasn’t oily and greasy that would slow me down during keiko. A typical lunch of an organic sandwich, organic potato chips, and bottled organic lemonade cost me less than $10.
The afternoon classes were led by senior ASU instructors, all rokudans. The first class was conducted by Tres Hofmeister Sensei of Boulder Aikikai. At this time there were no mats yet, but he wanted us to take forward and backward rolls on the hardwood floor! The rest of the class was very basic practice with Katate Tori Tenkan Ho and Katate Tori Irimi movement and study of connection with uke pushing off from nage.
Kevin Choate Sensei of Chicago Aikikai taught the next rokudan class. The practice was very sugaso in nature. To be honest, it was very difficult to comprehend what he was saying. In fact, the entire class was confused. I know that he has been training in Systema lately, so perhaps he was conveying the incorporation of Systema principles to his Aikido. I’m not really sure.
Finally, we have mats! Hiroshi Ikeda Shihan taught the evening class. We worked on paired jo kata, which resembled the movements in Aiki-Jo #4-6. Next we worked on Jo Dori that focused on unbalancing uke who is grabbing the jo. This transitioned to empty-hand practice involving unbalancing uke from katate tori. Ikeda Sensei has always been difficult to figure out, which I will later elaborate in detail. At one time he called me up to be his uke for a demonstration, which is always a thrill. He told me to grab his wrist and fight him as much as possible. So as I was grabbing him, he told that class that he was “not entering” and then “entering.” Neither of those two things he was doing on me felt any different. Then as he was “entering,” he said that he has my balance. Again, I did not feel any different and or unbalanced at all. The next thing I know, I was on my back. How the hell did he do that??? He did not just do that on me!!! All this time, I was summoning the resistance of Danny and the skepticism of Dale (all of you Chikyokan Dojo guys know what I’m talking about) and Ikeda Sensei was still able to break my balance. Anyway, at the end of class, he made his announcement regarding Bu Jin Design. He was selling merchandise during the camp, including new videos. In the meantime, he is talking with a German company, and hopefully Bu Jin will be up and running in a few months for selling hakamas, etc.
After class, I checked out the Toledo Lounge. Mary and Stephanie Abbajay, two sisters from Toledo who worked for the government in D.C, established the Toledo Lounge. After losing their government jobs, they decided to open a bar, which paid tribute to their hometown and the Midwest. It was a very small bar. There were memorabilia from Toledo hanging on the wall, but other than that, it was nothing special. At least I made my pilgrimage to this establishment and got a burger and a Guinness while I was there. Here are some pictures.
That's right - St. Francis, my former high school! Go Knights!
Now on to Day 2…
Day 2 – July 2
During the 8:30 AM class, the class was broken into four groups. One group worked on Aiki-ken #1-5, another group worked on Aiki-ken #6-12, another group worked on Aiki-jo #1-6, and another group worked on the basics of two-sword technique. I went to the two-sword basics class, taught by Eugene Sensei of the D.C. dojo and George Ledyard Sensei of Aikido Eastside of Bellevue, Washington. First, Eugene Sensei taught us how to wear, draw, and hold the bokken and shoto. Next, we worked on basic kamae followed by an irimi-tenkan exercise with both swords. Lastly, we practiced on basic kata practice involving shomen followed by a side body blow, shomen followed by an upward wrist cut, and shomen followed by tsuki.
“When you attack an opponent, in order to parry the blow of the opponent’s sword, making as if to stab him in the eyes, you dash his sword to your right with your sword, thus parrying it.
“There is also what is called the stabbing parry. Making as if to stab the opponent in the right eye, with the idea of clipping off his neck, you parry the opponent’s striking sword with a stabbing thrust.
“Also, when an opponent strikes and you close in with a shorter sword, without paying so much attention to the parrying sword, you close in as if to hit your opponent in the face with your left hand.
“These are the three parries. Making your left hand into a fist, you should think of it as if you were punching your opponent in the face. This is something that requires through training and practice.” – from the “Water Scroll”
Ikeda Sensei taught the 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM class. First, we worked on the jo, and Sensei showed us the proper way of attacking shomen and yokomen. Yokomen attacks are not like swinging a sword. The body is faced straight ahead, and the angle of the attack comes from body positioning where the leg and the shoulder are forward. Next, we worked on paired jo kata. During this time, I worked with Jim Sorrentino Sensei of Aikido of Northern Virginia. Ikeda Sensei was demonstrating how the jo was used as both offense and defense. Next, we practiced on jo vs. bokken. Some of things to keep in mind during this practice is the maai and the fact that the sword can be used to chop up the jo. After the break, we worked on breaking uke’s balance with katate tori and morote tori. Here, Sensei was showing how he was internally shifting his hara from his front to his back. Huh? And when uke is fighting, Sensei would instruct to move uke’s shoulder first and then uke’s elbow. He also was talking about making movements smaller.
Charlie Page Sensei of Baltimore Aikido taught the first Rokudan 2:30 PM – 5:00 PM class of the day. We worked on techniques including Katate Tori Ikkyo, Ryo Kata Tori Kokyu Nage, and Katate Tori Kaiten Nage. On this last technique that I mentioned, Page Sensei went around as we practiced and corrected me by telling me to enter deeply and leaving NO GAP between uke and me. (Note: It seems that I have been encountering this no-gap concept a lot since I received my aiki name.) At one point, while I was taking ukemi from Page Sensei, my toenail of my left big toe got caught in the crack between the mats causing my toenail to be lifted from its nail bed. This left a large hematoma underneath my toenail. During this keiko, I worked with Eric from Pennsylvania who gave me a hint on doing and effective ikkyo from kata tori. He told me to apply pressure to the elbow joint with the palm of my hand and then rolling the shoulder toward the point of imbalance.
After a brief break, Wendy Whited Sensei of the Inaka Dojo in Beecher, Illinois led the second Rokudan class. We worked on two-person randori with bokken. (Nage is also using a bokken.) I got to give a shout out to Steve Singer of Baltimore Aikido, who was one of my training partners. Cool guy. Sensei used all the women aikidoka as uke for her demonstration. Nothing wrong with that. Fun class.
For the first half of the 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM class, Saotome Sensei compared wielding a sword with one hand in two-sword technique to horseback riding. In horseback riding, the samurai is limited in certain sword movements because of the horse’s head in front of him. So we worked on paired single-sword exercises with this concept. The second half of class can be described with one word: FUN. We finally worked on two-sword technique consisting of attacks from shomen, yokomen, shomen followed by right yokomen, shomen followed by left yokomen, and shomen followed by tsuki. At the end, he briefly showed how two-sword technique related to empty-hand technique with atemi.
Now on to Day 3…
For the 8:30 AM class, I decided to try out the Aiki-ken #6-12 class taught by Robert Sensei of the D.C. dojo because I felt I could use some practice with this set. This time, we worked on Aiki-ken #8-9. To my disappointment, I was confused because the way Sensei showed us how to do these kata is different from what we were taught at our dojo and different from how they are shown in Saotome Sensei’s video and Ledyard Sensei’s video. After class, I went to one of the students who attended the two-sword class asked him to show me some of the techniques that were shown. Luckily, I didn’t miss too much.
Saotome Sensei taught the 10:00 AM class but we did not practice with any weapons, saying “the mind is the weapon.”
“First of all, keep martial arts on your mind, and work diligently in a straightforward manner; then you can win with your hands, and you can also defeat people by seeing with your eyes. Furthermore, when you refine your practice to the point where you attain freedom of the whole body, then you can overcome people by means of your body. And since your mind is trained in this science, you can also overcome people by means of mind. When you reach this point, how could you be defeated by others?” –from the “Earth Scroll”
Later on, Sensei became upset because of the lax attitude and sloppy technique displayed by several aikidoka in class, saying that we did not have the right spirit. After this scolding, it was humorous to listen how many of the aikidoka tried to show Sensei that they indeed had the right spirit in their practice by adding kiai to their technique. C’mon folks, seriously?
After Sensei cooled down, we worked on Atemi Waza and kicking defenses.
When I went to the same organic market during lunch, I noticed that they had organic sweet potato pie! It was very good. OK, moving on…
John Messores Sensei of the Jionjuku Aikido Academy of Warrior Spirit in Largo, Florida taught the first Rokudan class of the day. He discussed about taking the center. When uke attacks, instead of trying to figure out what technique to do, Sensei said that the first priority is controlling the center line. Once that is accomplished, then nage can determine what technique to use depending on how uke’s body is positioned.
Unfortunately, I had to step out of the mat for the majority of the class because I had a clumsy partner who kept stepping on my bad toe, which resulted in re-aggravating the injury. So I had to clean up the blood and re-bandage my toe. In fact, later on I had different partners that stepped on my bad toe. Why always my bad toe? Why can’t they step on my good toe?
Random thought: Is it me or does Messores Sensei bare some resemblance to Anderson Cooper?
George Ledyard Sensei of Aikido Eastside of Bellevue, Washington taught the second Rokudan class. I was looking forward to this class because I have been a fan of his work. His videos on “Entry” and the Aiki-ken #6-12 are very informative. In fact, I purchased his “Principles in Randori” video manual during camp. His style of teaching is that of an undergraduate college professor where he is able to discuss advanced concepts in terms that a beginner can understand. He discusses Aikido in practical and tactical terms. In other words, he discusses Aikido as a martial art.
In his class, Ledyard Sensei followed up on what Messores Sensei talked about in taking the center. Afterwards, Ledyard Sensei discussed about the association of two-sword technique with empty-hand technique. This makes Shomen Uchi Shiho Nage more sense.
During Ikeda Sensei’s 6:00 PM class, one of the concepts that he showed was moving uke with katate tori. Here, Sensei would establish a line of connection from his center to uke’s shoulder. From there Sensei would move uke’s shoulder. Another concept was transitioning big movement to small movement and movement from outside to inside. This means that as one advances in expertise, the aikidoka would create the same movement from inside one’s body. This leads to a segment I like to call “The Mystery of Ikeda Shihan.”
The Mystery of Ikeda Shihan
During my time in D.C., I have been trying to figure out why Ikeda Sensei is so hard to comprehend. First of all in terms of teaching, Sensei would tell us and show us what he is doing to uke, but he would not show us how exactly he is doing it. Or perhaps it’s not so obvious. Furthermore, he would tell us to go from Point A to Point B but he would not necessarily tell us how to do it. Second of all in terms of watching his performance, his movements are so small it looks like he is not doing anything to unbalance uke. Finally, when I take ukemi from him, all I feel is emptiness. When I take ukemi from Gleason Sensei, at least from the last time he came to our dojo for a Gasshuku, I could feel that he is applying light pressure in throwing me and I could sense that he is controlling the space such that if I move one way, I would end up in a painful joint lock, and if I move another way, I would be vulnerable for an atemi. With Ikeda Sensei however, I could not feel his center, I could not feel his power, and I was not sure if I could feel a connection. But for some reason, he makes an infinitesimally small movement that generates a certain feeling resonating throughout my body that causes me to go wherever Sensei wants me to go. It borders between whether his technique actually works or am I just simply taking ukemi for him.
On to Day 4…
For the first three days of camp, we were blessed with moderate weather. However, on July 4 and 5, temperatures were reaching the high 90’s to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
For the 8:30 AM class, I decided to go back to the two-sword class where Ledyard Sensei discussed the application of two-sword technique to empty-hand technique. I was working with Wendy Whited Sensei where the practice turned into a boxing-like sparring gone chaotic.
For the first half of the 10:00 AM class, we went over Tanto Dori with Saotome Sensei. The lesson here is that the focus is not on the knife but on the whole person.
“The eyes are to be focused in such a way as to maximize the range and breadth of vision. Observation and perception are two separate things; the observing eye is stronger, the perceiving eye is weaker. A specialty of martial arts is to see that which is far away closely and to see that which is nearby from a distance.
“In martial arts it is important to be aware of opponents’ swords and yet not look at the opponents’ swords at all. This takes work.
“This matter of focusing the eyes is the same in both small- and large-scale military science.
“It is essential to see to both sides without moving the eyeballs.” –from the “Water Scroll”
The second half of class consisted of Shinai Dori from Shomen, Tsuki, and Yokomen attacks. During this phase of training, Sensei again became upset about students having the wrong spirit. "Shiniai training but no shinai spirit," he said. He stated that shinai training is as close to working with a live blade.
The afternoon class went from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM with Ikeda Sensei. Throughout his class, I worked with Doug Clubine Sensei of St. John’s College Aikido in Annapolis, Maryland. He attended a few of Bill Gleason Sensei’s seminars in the past, and we became pretty good friends during this week. And so we did some deep research together while Ikeda Sensei was teaching. Sensei discussed more about breaking uke’s balance, and as usual the mystery of Ikeda Sensei lives on as he unbalanced four people who were all grabbing and placing weight on his shoulders.
Evening – The Fireworks
I spent two nights at the Holiday Inn Express, which was about a 10-minute drive from camp. Luckily, there was a free shuttle that took us directly from the hotel to Union Station, which was a few blocks from the National Mall. The shuttle ride was about 15 minutes, and so I did not have to worry about figuring out the Metro or any other form of public transportation. I took the 7:30 PM shuttle, and so by the time I arrived there the temperature cooled to about in the 80’s. Here are some pictures.
Remember "A Capitol Fourth," the July 4th concert shown on PBS? This was taken behind the stage. You could hear the music, but it sounded like a marching band rehearsal.
Here are a couple of U.S. Army cannons. At the time, I didn't know what they were used for or when they were going to be fired. They actually fired during the fireworks. When I returned to the hotel and saw the rebroadcast on television, I realized that they were used during the 1812 Overture. (Of course!)
I tried to make my way around to see the concert from the front, but first I had to go through security and metal detectors. On my way toward The Capitol, I could hear Gladys Knight singing "Midnight Train to Georgia" (Whoo whoo!) and "I Heard It Through the Grapevine." There was a lot of people filling the steps of The Capitol to see the concert. Unfortunately, the center section in front of The Capitol steps were closed off by security, so I could not see the stage very well. I did see Jimmy Smits and Darius Rucker on the Jumbotron. I decided to head back down and walk toward The Mall.
There was a lot of activity on The Mall. One was the Hare Krishna Festival with Indian music and dancing. I wanted to continue on walking and get a spot by the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. But I didn't realize how far a walk it was, and I don't think I was halfway near the Washington Monument. Considering that I wanted to go back to the hotel as quickly as possible after the conclusion of the fireworks, I decided to walk back.
The fireworks were awesome! After they were over, I dashed back to Union Station and was able to make the first shuttle back to the hotel. It was around 9:45 PM.
I had a great time. Seeing fireworks on the 4th of July at the nation's capital - It can't get any better than that!
On to Day 5 and the Conclusion...
The last day was a half-day with the 8:30 AM class followed by a one-hour class with Ikeda Sensei and then a one-hour class with Saotome Sensei, ending at around noon.
For the two-sword 8:30 AM class, we reviewed the various kamae and the irimi-tenkan exercise. Next, Ledyard Sensei showed us more forms involving an Aiki-ken block from a shomen attack. This time, I partnered with Wendy Whited Sensei again. I enjoyed working with her.
“When your opponent and you both strike forth, and your opponent catches your blow, the idea is to close in with your sword glued to the opponent’s sword. Gluing means that the sword is hard to get away from; you should close in without too much force. Sticking to the opponent’s sword as if glued, when you move in close it does not matter how quietly you move in.” –from the “Water Scroll”
Next, we did a free waza-type exercise where we defended from different uke coming from different directions.
First we worked on bokken practice and showed us to do a yokomen attack, which is similar to a yokomen attack with the jo where the arms do not swing but rather the angle is created with body positioning involving moving the right or left shoulder forward. Next, he talked about dropping his weight in unbalancing uke. He told us to drop the tailbone without using the knees. Rather, the knees are used to stop the descent. He demonstrated this with the bokken where he emphasized putting the weight on the tip of the sword. He then applied this concept to hand-to-hand training. Think of this exercise as riding the Demon Drop in Cedar Point.
Saotome Sensei spent a good 30-40 minutes talking about various topics including using the mind as a weapon and the meaning of Shodan. He then talked about how there is no competition in Aikido. No championship. Previously, he stated that Aikido is about survival training. And today he stated that we are training to be champions of ourselves, of our lives.
“Warriors learn military science accurately and go on to practice the techniques of martial arts diligently. The way that is practiced by warriors is not obscure in the least. Without any confusion in mind, without slacking off at any time, polishing the mind and attention, sharpening the eye that observes the eye that sees, one should know real emptiness as the state where there is no obscurity and the clouds of confusion have cleared away.” –from the “Scroll of Emptiness”
After the conclusion of camp, I made my way down to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which is about a 5-minute drive from the camp down Michigan Avenue NE, still located in the Catholic University campus. It is a magnificent church of art and architecture. The basilica consists of two churches, one in the lower level and the other in the upper level. It also contains several oratories and chapels, each showing various representations of the Blessed Mother of different cultures and nations, symbolizing the melting pot of America. The mosaics are spectacular; one would not think that this was built in the 20th Century.
Tips for Attending an ASU Summer Camp
1. Keep yourself well hydrated.
2. Bring an extra gi.
3. Bring a combination lock to keep your gear secured in the locker room.
4. Bring band-aids and Neosporin.
5. Bring athletic tape and a pair of scissors.
6. Trim your toenails!
7. Small towels to put inside your gi are useful during keiko.
8. If possible, try to find a nearby Laundromat to dry your gi during lunchtime. (I didn’t need to because I used the air conditioner in my car while I was getting lunch.)
9. Use a GPS system whether you’re using a rental car or your own car.
10. Don’t forget your yudansha passport (if applicable).
Critique of the 2010 ASU Summer Camp
The basketball court provided adequate space. The locker room was adequate with plenty of available lockers, showers, and bathrooms. There were vending machines for snacks and refreshments. There were chairs and couches in the second floor in the lobby for eating lunch, reclining, and napping. Finally, the water from the drinking fountain was very cold!
Registration Process: Excellent
Amy did an awesome job. Registration was located right at the main entrance, and the process was simple. I got a free t-shirt, and I was able to retrieve my signed yudansha passport without any trouble.
5 days of training was adequate. I liked how the first day was not a full schedule to allow time for registration. I also appreciated how July 4 was not a full day to allow time for the fireworks and the July 4 festivities. It was also good that the final day was a half-day to allow for travel exiting the city.
1. I felt that the day ending 8:00 PM was unnecessary. Unfortunately, I had a late dinner and I did not have enough time to spend with my friends and go out eating and sightseeing.
2. I also felt that the 8:30 AM weapons class was unnecessary. The Aiki-Ken and Aiki-Jo kata can be taught and reviewed at one’s home dojo. Also, there seems to be different variations and interpretations of these kata from one instructor to another. The only useful class was the two-sword basics class.
In an actual camp – like the ones I attended in grade school, high school, and the Zen Mountain Monastery – the day typically ends at 5:00 PM, dinner is at 6:00 PM, and the evening is reserved for playing, socializing, or meditation. And depending on the camp, I was able to sleep around 10:30 PM after having plenty of social activity and receiving plenty of sleep.
This is how I would have scheduled the camp:
8:00 – 10:00 AM: Rokudan Class
10:00 AM – 12:00 PM: Saotome Sensei or Ikeda Sensei
12:00 – 2:30 PM: Lunch
2:30 – 4:00 PM: Two-Sword Basics Class
4:00 – 6:00 PM: Saotome Sensei or Ikeda Sensei
Nearby Food/Restaurants: N/A
I didn’t do enough exploring to see what nearby restaurants are available for lunch. There is a 7-11 and a Domino’s Pizza within walking distance. For me, I relied on the organic market, which is a 2-3 minute drive.
You can’t go wrong with Saotome Sensei and Ikeda Sensei. Furthermore, it was good to have the different rokudans being given an opportunity to teach and for us to receive different perspectives of aikido. Also, the use of the microphone was a plus.
In keeping with the 2-Sword Theme: Below Average
With exception of the basics class at the 8:30 AM class, of all the time spent in the camp, there was only one hour that Saotome Sensei dedicated to actual 2-sword training. I’m sure that 2-sword principles are inherent in Saotome Sensei’s teachings, but they were not explicitly discussed, practiced, and explored. If it were not for George Ledyard Sensei, who was the only one other than Saotome Sensei to talk about the use of two swords, I would have given this a “Poor” rating.
Overall Grade: B
It was the experience that balanced out the negatives that were discussed above. Great training. Great teaching. Great training partners. You rarely get the opportunity to train one-on-one with high-level senseis as training partners. They are very helpful, and they drop a few hints here and there. They also appreciate it if you give very honest and challenging ukemi, and they don’t mind if you are able to land a good atemi. During this experience, I met some very nice people and made some good friends. I want to thank everyone who trained with me, and I want to thank those people for their indulgence and tolerance. I also want to acknowledge the Aikido Shobukan Dojo for a well-organized and well-managed camp. I hope to come again and see and train with all of you in the future.
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