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I have been around music and horses for many years. In both of cases there are festivals, seminars, workshops, and clinics. I've been to many local one-day workshops with touring guitarists and fiddlers, weekend-long annual festivals with hundreds of music workshops going on all day, 4-day riding clinics with world-famous horse trainers, and even one week-long live-in camp in West Virginia to work on fingerstyle blues guitar. These are always intense, worthwhile experiences. Even in cases where the workshop is above my skill level it's fun and useful to see what could be possible at some point in the future. Workshops are a great way to learn new skills, discover new ways of looking at things, meet new friends, and reconnect with old ones.
My way of thinking about these things is if the opportunity presents itself, take it. I'm not much of a flat-picker, but when Dan Crary offered a local workshop, darned right I went. When the Mark Rashid comes to town for a horsemanship clinic, if I can manage it, I sign up. I always benefit from going, and it's always money well spent.
So going to an Aikido seminar at some point this year seemed like the natural and obvious thing to do. But with large animals to care for (or to haul off to board), and inner ears that don't like air travel (not to mention the expense of flying and hotels), getting to one of the big summer camps didn't seem feasible.
I was whining about just that online back in October when someone pointed out that the Aikido Bridge Seminar, 5 days with Shihans Tissier, Doran, and Ikeda, was coming up in January, right in my own backyard. OK, not exactly in my backyard. It's actually in a building were I used to have a business. Three world-class teachers, no travel required. How could I say no?
For the benefit of other newbies I thought I'd share my experience of how to go to your first big Aikido seminar:
Learn that there is a killer seminar happening right near you, months away. Get all excited about it, but wonder if you'd be nuts, as a middle-aged 6th kyu student, to go to it.
See that your sensei is on Facebook chat that moment, and ask him if you'd be nuts to go. He says you'd be OK.
Sign up right then.
Jump around the room all excited about getting to go to your first big seminar outside of your own dojo.
Knowing that having some background and context helps you understand teachers better, order the videos of the 2007 seminar, so you can see what this is all about.
Sit by the door and wait for UPS.
When UPS shows up run and pop one of the videos in the DVD player. See that 90% of the participants are in hakama. Hear that the floor sounds awfully hard.
Notice that several of your friends from the dojo are in the video, and one is Uke for a couple of the teachers a lot of the time.
Start breathing again.
Pester everyone who's been to past Aikido Bridge Seminars for information on what it's really like.
Recruit your fellow students to join you, and experience great relief knowing that there will be several friendly faces at the seminar.
Start training harder. Change your work hours and sleeping habits to get to more classes.
When your husband goes out of town for 2 weeks go to every available class. Notice that this doesn't kill you, but learn a few hard lessons about eating, sleeping, and setting aside everything else in life for the duration.
Request more vacation time, rather than trying to squeeze the seminar in before or after work.
Keep training. Keep doing the exercises your PT recommended. Keep saying that you really ought to start doing more cardio work on the elliptical.
Order another gi for the seminar, so you can change into a dry one at the lunch break each day.
Watch the DVDs again. Start to see the techniques, and hear what the teachers are saying.
Fall off your horse on Christmas. Get a little dinged up and worry that you might not be able to do the seminar.
Come down with a cold that same night. Remember the month-long Cold From Hell last year, and and worry that you might not be able to do the seminar.
Hit both problems with everything you've got. Vitamin C, zinc, rest, fluids, echinicia for the cold. Ice, stretching, and arnica for the bumps and bruises.
Recover from the cold in only 3 days.
Go to the dojo and discover that you can roll without the bruises hurting too much. Get all excited and jump around the room.
Notice that the calendar says January, and that the seminar is JUST TWO WEEKS AWAY.
Remember what you've been saying about how you ought to be doing more cardio training.
Actually get on the elliptical trainer and get to work. Two weeks is better than nothing.
Start a list of things to take to the seminar: Water, coffee, protein bars, bandages, tape, notebook, pens, paperwork, gi, an ice chest with ice packs in it...
Order feed, catch up on chores, stock up on groceries, do laundry. Arrange life so there's nothing else that needs to be handled during the seminar.