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The Men's Retreat with Sensei was a wonderful experience and I am very glad to have been able to participate in it. A lot of things happened at the event, two of them related to Aikido directly, the rest indirectly.
Sensei, Rembrandt, and I worked with a group of the men on Jo work while we were there, it was wonderful. At first I was a bit leery that they would get much out of it in the little time that we had to show them and work with them. Sensei did a wonderful job teaching, and the deep teaching that he does really sunk into the men there.
After we had worked with the group as a whole one of the men wanted to work with Rembrandt and I separately, wanted to really ramp it up, make it fast and "real". I thought that I would bow out and leave the two of them together. Rembrandt was the one that bowed out!!!! Leaving me as the Sempai with a brand new person that wanted to go fast with sticks, this made me more than a little nervous, especially when Rembrandt walked behind the new person and mouthed to me "Remember you are the sempai." Oh Boy a bit more stress and in weapons work none the less, something that I had an opinion that I wasn't really that good at. So we started off slow, a pattern that is easy, and Sensei had created especially for these type of events, we would ramp it up a bit work on it, then ramp it up a bit more, this went on for several minutes and we were going quite fast. It became interesting to me that my awareness expanded the faster we went. More of my partner came into focus, more of his movements, then more of the clearing, (there were people watching this too once the sound of sticks got pretty loud). We reached a spot where I wanted to stop going faster, which it seemed was shy of my partner's goal in the event. So once more I sped it up a bit more, the inevitable happened immediately after that speed up, my partner forgot his block, and boy where we cruising along. ( I have never gone that fast before!). I saw the missed block, and my jo stopped about 2 inches from his left ear. It went from making that really wonderful sounding swishy noise to silence in an instant. My partners eyes were huge, I was calm, and I knew smiling; "wow what a pleasant surprise, I didn't send you to the hospital" were my thoughts. I said; "Ok lets take it down a notch or two and build back up to here". So we did and he did a lot better, I could see that there was some fear some need to know something that we were working on here, a deep seated emotional situation. He never wanted to be the attacker, only defender. We trained for several more minutes and we bowed, returned our jo to the large redwood stump acting as a sort of shoman, and went about the rest of the day. I thin both of us learned something, both of us walked away having tested what it was that we feared. He his ability to defend himself, me my ability to protect my partner even at warp speed.
The second incident dealt with the fact that Rembrandt at the last minute was able to make the mens conference. Rembrandt is an amazing Aikidoka. Whenever I start to feel the slightest bit cocky I pair up with him and get an idea of how much farther this path extends into the future. Originally Sensei and I had been training to do the demos for the sticks project together, once Rembrandt was able to come, it was apparent that Sensei would be doing the sticks demos with him. My feelings on this were strange, I felt a bit let down, not by either sensei or Rembrandt, but by circumstances. Given the choice to do a demo with either myself or Rembrandt as your uke, I would pick Rembrandt every time. Just the way it is, 10+ years of training, versus my 2.6 years of training.
With the group that we were working with on learning the jo, Sensei and Rembrandt did the demos and people thought it looked cool. I worked with a wonderful man that had broken his pelvis four weeks earlier and was having lower body movement issues because of it. It was great being sempai to him. Sensei complemented me on working with him, everything was good.
At the end of the second days practice it became apparent that we were all, (The group, Sensei, and Rembrandt were going to have to demonstrate our skills in front of the entire 103+ group of men. I was feeling pretty nervous just working out the parts that I was going to have to do with the men to be honest.
Sensei then said; "Lets all three do the 31 count kata 13-31 in front of the whole group".
We started working on it, I made a couple of mistakes, because I was starting to feel really nervous about this…..
Sensei then asked me; "Do you want to do a demonstration in front of the group with Rembrandt"?…….
There was a short silence where I tried to unite the voices in my head. Some said ok, others were afraid, weapons isn't something I have considered my forte…..
Rembrandt's voice cut through the silence like a katana strike; "Yes sensei he would"!
I could only think wow. Sensei smiled and walked away. Rembrandt grabbed my arm and we headed off to practice our part of the demonstration.
We practiced a fair amount, Rembrandt helped me relax, settle into it, feel more of the discoveries of myself from earlier in the day…… It was great….
The demo, went off in front of everyone, without a hitch, I even remembered to target Rembrandt's knee in step 19! Something that had been hit and miss for the practice all day…..
What made the day, and the demo though was Rembrandt's response to Sensei, when I faltered in my confidence, Rembrandt didn't falter in his confidence of me. What a gift…..