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This past Saturday (9/27/03), I attended the 2003 AAA Eastern States Camp. I'll soon be posting some thoughts on the seminar and a link to a report I wrote. Meanwhile, I thought it would be interesting to share some of my wife's observations of the seminar. Robin wanted to get away for the weekend, and even though she doesn't study aikido, she decided to go with me to the seminar. She even offered to drive! This wouldn't be the first time she saw aikido practice, but it would be the first time she's seen people outside my dojo practice.
Before falling asleep in the hotel room Friday night, Robin and I watched a martial arts competition on ESPN. We only caught the kata competitions and frankly, I was under whelmed. The contestants marched onto the mat and barked their names and the type of kata they would each do. Two women did bo kata that were pretty impressive, but reminded both Robin and me of band front twirling. One guy did a sword kata with a katana that included throwing the sword in the air and catching it again -- God help us all. One guy did what looked like a fairly traditional Kung-fu style chain whip kata that looked fantastic. It reminded me of what I saw in "Iron & Silk." One thing all contestants had in common was that their kiai were exceptionally loud and the made angry faces while shouting.
With this fresh in her mind, Robin showed up to watch the last part of the morning session, the dan tests, and a portion of the afternoon session of the aikido seminar. Robin's first observation was how relaxed and happy everyone was. This was in stark contrast to what she saw on T.V. the previous evening. She noticed that there was a lot of grinning and laughing; even during technique and randori, most of us seemed calm and relaxed.
Two of the people testing for nidan were rather petite women -- like my wife. Robin was very impressed to see them do the randori portions of their tests. Robin was very impressed with the calmness and creativity she saw. In the afternoon, Robin got to see me do two-man randori and she said that I looked very gentle! I certainly didn't feel that way, but I didn't feel overly aggressive either.
Robin really like Sato sensei's brief lectures on randori. She especially liked his point that randori is about letting go. That if we get caught up in a single attacker, or linger too long to watch our beautiful throws, we'll get blindsided by another attacker. He stated that this is analogous to life where things just aren't going our way. In response, we have to let go of what we think should happen, and adapt to what is happening.
Overall, Robin was very impressed with what she saw, and I was gratified to hear her impressions of the seminar.