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This past weekend I attended the Spring Seminar at the University of Iowa Aikikai, in Iowa City with Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei. Well, my first seminar is done and overwith, and I've been chewing on some of the things I've learned for the past couple days. Since I'm still going through a lot of the concepts, let me keep this general for now. First things first, man that was a lot of fun! I've never even seen anyone in person higher than a sandan before, let alone having all those blackbelts in one room. Nearly every person I worked with in those 8 hours of trainind was a blackbelt. In normal training, we tend to stick to the basics a lot, so each time I work on a technique I can expect to make a little progress. When I was working with people so experienced and helpful, the progress was fast and furious. The difference between when I started each technique and when I finished was pretty drastic. I can't express enough gratitude to all the people I worked with over the whole weekend, and unfortunately I'm horrible with names so I don't think that I could even if I tried. I was very impressed with Yamada Sensei, and all the other people as well. It was certainly inspirational to see such great examples of technique, some very powerful and effective, some very smooth, flowing and effective. It was also the first time I had really seen a very different style of Aikido than we do. The Iowa City folks come down once in a while to teach a class, but by and large it's pretty similar. Some of the things I was seeing were very different, and very cool in their own ways. I think that a lot of the things I saw were beyond my ability to fully integrate, as I'm still so new, but hopefully those lessons will come back to me as I grow into this art. I've been trying to focus on keeping a few of the more unique techniques with me, and the other basics that I was already familiar with have been expanded and deepened. It was also nice to just see so many people who have dedicated their time and bodies to this art, and it was fun to see the range of personalities exhibited, as well. I also got to meet Rachel Massey, who I obviously knew from her posts here (although I dind't get to train with her...) Anyway, many of my misconceptions and fears were dispelled, as I was able to attend every class without dislocating anything, hyperventilating, getting heat stroke, or suffering through any of the horror stories that you hear about. I will try to attend any seminar that my work and school schedule allows, now that I know a little bit what to expect.