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Well, my final blog of my West Coast sojourn has arrived.
I was looking forward to the Saotome Sensei Seminar at the Redlands Aikikai dojo. I am glad that I attended, however, it was the most frustrating of all my aikido experiences so far. The reasons for this were as follows:
The Redlands dojo is a beautiful facility, with all mod cons including air conditioning! A luxury for most aikidoka practicing in the heat of southern California. Great for everyday practice, but for the purposes of this particular seminar, in my view, a luxury that I would have preferred to go without. The problem was the volume of the noise it made. Anyone who has attended a Saotome seminar will know that he is not the loudest of speakers, coupled with the fact that his english is a little stilted as may be expected, meant that unless I was very close, I got to hear little of what he was saying. Which was a great shame. My lip reading abilities are not that good, so much of the time I was straining to understand what he was trying to get across.
Speaking of speaking, on the 2 hour saturday afternoon session, over an hour and a half was spent listening to a lecture, mostly based around society, government, responsibility and such. Which for me was a frustrating and pretty irrelevant use of time. Maybe it was just me, most other people there seemed to be hanging on his every word, maybe they had much better hearing than me (very possible, I have tinnitus), also they were probabl
I write this entry whilst sitting in the Joshua Tree National Park. After a beautiful desert sunset, the moon is up and the stars are starting to appear. The day began with breakfast in amongst the Mojave yuccas, Joshua trees and countless other desert plants that are covered in sharp points. Before I'd even got to finish my cooking, I had been joined by an Antelope ground squirrel, who once he'd got over his initial shyness, spent the best part of an hour, trying to find a way into my van. He was very persistent, trying each wheel arch in turn, then finally settling on jumping up onto the front fender, scrabbling up the spare wheel and doing his best to get through the windscreen. Whilst all this attempted burglary was going on, I saw some Gambel's quail, a Black tailed jack rabbit, a humming bird, some cactus wren and a road runner. A nice start to a very quiet and peaceful day.
I had fully expected to be gasping from oven like temperatures, but to my very pleasant surprise, it rained! The first rain that I had felt since just before Independence day. It was great to feel the liquid drops on my body. Only a few light showers though and the clouds kept the temperatures down to a pleasant heat for most of the day.
All this is a nice contrast to the last week or so in LA.
When I set out on this trip, I was determined to have an open mind to every type of practice I came across. Figuring that there is wisdom in the old martial arts adage of trying to culti
After finally getting my head clear, by being thrown around by Pacific Ocean waves, rather than Aikidoka, I begin Blog #6. This is my most interesting one to date (for me, anyway).
After a relatively short drive along the coast from Santa Barbara, I finally made Interstate 10 in Santa Monica, which took me to the mid Wilshire district of the city of LA. I was there to meet Corky Quakenbush, who I had wanted to meet, since Graham Christian had sent me a Youtube link of him, over 18 months ago. I had found the videos very interesting, and wrote to Corky to tell him so. We exchanged a couple of emails, and I said I would see him, when I made it down this way.
I remember speaking to Allister Gillies (a UK aikidoka and occasional contributor to aikiweb) at one of Dan's Seminars in London. He had trained with Corky in Japan when Sunadomari Sensei was still alive. Allister was a student of my teacher (Ken Williams) for a number of years, until around Nidan/Yondan I think. He said that Sunadomari was one teacher that he felt, who was even softer with more power than Sensei Williams. Personally, I would have loved to have felt that for myself.
Anyway, back in LA, I found Corky's place, and within a short time of my arrival, was on the mat training with him and Joyce, one of his students.
Now, it is going to be quite difficult for me to give a proper account, of what occurred in the following hour or so, that we practised. One of the qualities I feel I have, i
So I made it down to Santa Cruz via Hwy 35 and a nostalgic visit to Alice's Restaurant (where you can get anything you want!). 20 years ago I had pulled up there on a motorcycle, along with many many others, showing off their mean machines, still ticking with heat from the thrashing along the skyline drive. This time I burbled up in my air-cooled VW and sunk a creamy topped hot chocolate (how times have changed).
Friday evening class at the Santa Cruz dojo was lead by it's chief instructor Sensei Linda Holiday. This was a well attended class of about 25, with a mix of grades. As usual I am writing this days after the event, so I don't remember the names of all the techniques practised Suffice to say, I enjoyed the practice as usual and Sensei Holiday's calm, knowledgeable and focussed teaching style. When doing her rounds of the mat, I practised with her a few times, nice aikido, soft and direct. After the class I spent some time talking to her, as she expressed a fair interest in my lineage and aikido in the UK. I decided to stay for the following morning's class which would also be taken by her. Besides, Santa Cruz is a nice place to hang out for a while, I might even make a weekend of it.
Saturday class was started with some misogi exercises that had learnt during her time in Japan. The class then followed a similar format to the previous evening, although this time, there were more kokyu projections, an exercise I always enjoy to both give and receive, t
So, after taking a wrong exit off of the very confusing freeway intersection. I took a long detour over the Oakland Bay Bridge and a double back on the Merlin(?) Island. I managed to avoid the toll, by being completely flumoxed by the signage and drove down a lane reserved for those that have paid. I have no idea if I was caught on camera, only time will tell.
I finally arrived at Aikido of Berkeley, was invited in and another practice began. Sensei Feder lead the class. I liked what she was doing. She has a great energy and enthusiasm in her style of teaching. Sensei Feder seems to have a fairly eclectic style having trained widely. Anyway, she was very clear and concise in her descriptions and demonstrations.
As usual, I got to train with just about everyone on the mat. In all of the dojo's I've visited so far, they have followed the same pattern. A technique is demonstrated, students pair up and the exercise practised for a short space of time. The teacher then demos again, usually another technique, a new partner is found, and the cycle repeated.
This is different to the way I have been accustomed to. I have been used to less frequent changes of partner and more study of the technique being demonstrated. When I return to teaching, I will definitely take some aspect of this way home, but not all. I think the changing of partners more frequently, has the obvious benefit of everyone getting to practice with multiple partners. However, I think I will sti
Up early and over the hills to Ukiah, a beautiful but very winding drive from the misty cold of the coast, to the dry heat of the valley. At the first sight of sun, I found myself outside of my van, basking like a lizard, warming up my blood before dropping down to the valley floor and the welcoming faces of Janet (Rosen) and her partner Stu. A welcome shower, some cool drinks and much pleasant conversation covered most of Friday.
On Saturday I travelled with Janet, down to The Wellspring Dojo in Santa Rosa, for a day seminar with Wendy Palmer. I was pleased to be able to do this, as I had read one of her books back along. The morning session was not aikido as such, rather a taster of the somatic work that Ms Palmer is engaged in with her wider client group. It was interesting, but not really new to me, as I had been doing similar work to this, with corporate clients back in the 1990's. The afternoon session was aikido, which was a pleasant session. Sensei Palmer is a very erudite, calm and graceful teacher. I managed to practice with just about everyone there (it wasn't a huge group). I had fun and enjoyed the day, it felt very 'Californian' though, which is not a bad thing, just very flavoured in the 'West |Coast' style. There were a few students there who practice with Richard Heckler, so they suggested I stop by their class on Tuesday, as Sensei Heckler would be teaching. This I decided to do.
On Sunday Janet and I cruised down to her home dojo, spend
Monday night practice at Aikido Ashland. Sensei Michael Friedl took the class. Michael epitomises the instant generosity of American folk, that had so surprised me when I first visited the US back in the 1970's. Within moments of meeting, he had offered me his dojo as a place to sleep and clean up, we hadn't even got to the changing rooms!
The practice was good, the temperature was still pretty hot (it had been in the 90's all day). So the doors were wide open and we all practised without hakama, wearing white belts. I liked this approach, but felt slightly at sea with each change of partner, as I didn't have the 'known' grade of the new partner to gauge things by. Not a problem though, each new person I feel is just another new colour in the kinaesthetic pallet.
I learnt a number of variations of techniques I recognise. I am finding that my footwork is are where there is most divergence from my own habit. The hands are relatively easy to change, but my feet instinctively want to react in the way I know. Much of the footwork I have encountered over here, is of a more linear nature than I am used to. So I am aware that in learning, my mind is focussed in a different way than when I just 'do'.
I have decided by this point to just practice and not try to remember everything, which is virtually impossible, given that everywhere I go, I encounter things that are being done differently (if even only slightly). I will trust that thi
Well, finally, I can put some time in at the keyboard. I had intended to keep a diary of each days events, as they unfolded. But, I have come to realise that, quite often, my intentions do not always manifest themselves in reality.
So a little like the pattern of the journey itself, I will write when I feel the urge, not when I think I should .
I have been in the US for two weeks now. Much of the first 10 days were taken up with essential work on the old VW Bus that I had won on ebay, before I arrived.
I could probably create a blog just on the trials an tribulations of the "Twinkie" (as my old friends kids quite aptly named the white bus). However I am here supposedly to tell y'all about my adventures in aikido, rather than give you a running maintenance log on the V Dub.
Having said that, if there is anyone out there reading this, who has decent knowledge of the Type 2, 2 litre fuel injected van, then please make yourself known to me via PM, I may need to pick your brain at some point.
Anyway, back to aikido...
After a slow start, I managed to make it down to the very lovely dojo of the Two Cranes Aikido group, in NE Seattle. I managed to train there for three separate sessions, with three different teachers. More of this in a moment.
I know that some of you reading this, will be disappointed in my reporting style. I am not great on detail, and particularly not great on remembering the names of the techniques that were practised. There are a coupl