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AJ Beaupre
02-27-2002, 05:47 PM
Howdy Everybody!
I've been studying the art of aikido for 6 months now, and I've never been to a seminar. Well, this weekend I am attending my first seminar, With Yamada Sensei! Greg O'Conner with be there as well. My question to all you out there in the world of Aiki, do you have any tips about seminars, or maybe some past experiences you would like to share? Any input is greatly appreciated. :p

02-27-2002, 06:07 PM
Don't know if it's the best advice, but this works for me:
1. Have fun
2. Sit where you can see (for me, up front with the rest of the short people). Watch closely, what is done may not be the way you are used to doing it.
3. Sit near blackbelts, especially visiting ones.
4. Grab those in #3 for partners. Don't worry that they don't want a beginner partner, they know how to get away from whitebelts if they want to. If you can catch them, they let you.
5. Smile and introduce yourself.
6. Don't be shy about joining groups if you're by yourself, for meals, at parties, etc.
7. If you are with others, invite those who are alone to join you.
8. Best time to grab blackbelts: Sun session, they are tired and beat-up, often hung-over, and are dying to take it easy with a beginner.
9. Have fun.

let us know how it went!

02-27-2002, 09:57 PM
Congratulations, Adam! I'm sure you'll have a great time.

Here's something I wrote a while back in 1999 called "Seminar Tips" on this very subject:


Let us know how the seminar went!

-- Jun

02-27-2002, 10:50 PM
I've only been to one seminar as of yet. It was at the Boulder Aikikai last October. This is what I've decided, in general, about them since then.

1. Train with different people. One can train with one's dojo-mates at one's own dojo. Meet up with your dojo mates during breaks if you can and go over what you practiced during the seminar. This gives you a chance to flesh out new things.

2. Be especially cautious (aware) when training with other people. Especially when doing techniques that involve certain ukemi. You aren't necessarily aware of your partner's skill level and thus a poorly executed throw could get you hurt. This goes both ways. (This happened to me on the first day of the above-mentioned seminar. The fault was mutual but a little more awareness on both our parts would probably have spared me a slightly impacted shoulder.)

3. If the instructor's English isn't perfect, don't get caught up on trying to understand every word they're saying, especially if you aren't on the front row. Try and get the gist of it and extrapolate from there.

4. Be aware of the instructor even when he's not demonstrating a technique. This can be somewhat difficult when the instructor is short and the dojo is crowded, but often an instructor will perform another demonstration in the middle of the group's keiko, at which point it is (a) polite and (b) instructional to drop down to seiza and watch.

5. Show up a little early. It'll give you a little more time to familiarize yourself with the new surroundings and as an added bonus, being early means you're not late. Chances are you won't get yelled at if you're a little late, but its always better not to be.

6. Don't be daunted by any insecurities about your skill and don't let anyone daunt you in your attempts to learn.

Six tips is about good enough for now. Gotta leave others some room to relate their advise/anecdotes/experience.

02-27-2002, 11:31 PM
Hi, there.
I attended a HUGE seminar about 6 months into training. Basically smiled widely at each new partner and said HI! I'm Janet and I'm a beginner, ok?
And everybody was really friendly, protective and made it a very positive experience for me.
I recommend that people attend seminars as early in their training as they can, even if limited stamina means not participating in every class.
And Yamada Sensei seminars are great fun!--enjoy!

02-28-2002, 02:13 AM
One word of advise: Do NOT tell anybody that they are doing things the wrong way. A typical mistake for a new aikidoka is to get hung up in what one 'knows', but it might not be a 'universal' truth. Remember that other dojo's might do the same technique in a quite different way and leave it to the instructor to do the teaching. Just be polite and keep an open mind.

Oh year... remember to join the social activities but try to get some sleep as well. You will need a lot of mental energy to absorb a lot of training, and you will do a lot better if you don't push yourself. The risk of being injured or hurting other people will increase when you're tired so get some rest, get enough to eat (good quality food) and drink plenty of water. Also remember that when you are a couple of days in the seminar everybody are tired and running low on ressources, so be aware.

Finally: Have lots and lots of fun.

02-28-2002, 02:38 AM
Hi all,

To attend seminars is very usefull for our practice. You can practice with people with a different style.

I have no more advice to give you, Adam.
All was already done.

Don't be afraid to ask more graduated people to train with you.

When, Sensei shows a technic, don't try to catch all the technic, try to see a special point in the technic (for example the hand's position at the beginning of the technic). You will certainly have others opportunities for seeing the rest of the technics.

Be aware around you, often in seminar there is few space on the mat. Be careful in Ukemi.

If you feel that your partner is hard, don't
hesitate to tell him that you are beginner. He must adapt with you.

The more important is to have fun. :D

Good seminar...


Keith R Lee
02-28-2002, 10:22 AM
Don't stay out at a bar till 3 AM with your Aikido friends from a different dojo that you haven't seen in 6 months when the seminar starts at 9 AM....:rolleyes:

02-28-2002, 01:20 PM
Seminars are a great experience! So, relax and have fun (I'm sure you will). And don't worry about picking up everything your sensei shows you. After my first seminar, my head was buzzing with techniques and stuff, but what really had improved were my general movements, understanding where to place feet, hands, and the 'flow'of my aikido.


Bruce Baker
03-01-2002, 07:00 AM
The hardest thing about a first seminar ... is you usually are so excited that it is over before you know it? I have been to many of Sensei O'Connor's classes or seminars, and Yamada Sensei's Seminars ... and having fun and laughing are a high priority to the mood and spirit of the seminar.

If someone is videotaping the seminar, that is the best way to get your notes, which you can study later, and pick apart the mistakes you made. Don't force yourself on the blackbelts, who are usually glad to train with anyone, but then don't be afraid to go with anyone, including higher ranking Sensei's as they enjoy teaching as much as practice, and we all wish to see lessons be enjoyable, not a struggle.

If you get someone who can clear up minor points during practice, listen and think about it in relation to what works for others practicing around you. No one expects to perfection, that is why we train and look at the variations of different techniques by different Sensei's? So, just like practice, doing, listening, and trying will make it a most enjoyable, first, second, etc... etc seminar ... until your tenth seminar will as much fun as your first.

Enjoy! Both O'Connor Sensei and Yamada Sensei continue to grow with each seminar. I expect to see them both in two weeks at LBI, NJ when Yamada Sensei give a seminar for our Aikikai.

AJ Beaupre
03-03-2002, 10:06 PM
Hey Everyone!
The seminar was great! I had a blast. There was a great turnout, although mat space was limited there was some definite "thumpin" going on. Yamada and O'Conner Sensei are both great teachers. I learned so much from them, I even took a nikyo from Yamada Sensei! Let me tell ya, there has never been a time when I thought I was going to lose my hand. I still feel it now! Thanks a bunch for all your advice to the seminar. It definitly aided in the utter enjoyment of my seminar! Arigato Gozaimasu!

Choku Tsuki
03-05-2002, 12:59 PM
•Train with new people
•keep your mouth shut
•update your waza journal after each class.

Of course you know to watch the techniques and do it as the teacher does it, not as your partner does it. Even if they correct you, that's not their job and your partner should know that. No egos, right? Then don't worry about their feelings (unless you're the jerk and I don't think you are). Also, it can happen your partner is quite unhappy about being stuck with a beginner. I have heard of stories (even dojos) where the beginner is intentionally injured. This is so you reconsider your partner(s). If this happens at a seminar, say "Thank you" to your partner and sit down at the side of the mat.

Append this to all the other advice you've gotten.


03-05-2002, 04:53 PM
:eek: Purposely injured a beginner?:eek:

I was dismayed enough when visiting an Aikido dojo when a blackbelt refused to train with me when I bowed to him durng class (don't know if it was because I am a kyu student, or because I am female). I gave it one more try a different day, and when it happend a second time I let it reflect on the quality of that dojo (and perhaps sensei) and crossed them off the list of places I wanted to train.

I really have a difficult time imagining a sensei who would train someone to the point that they reach senior kyu or yudansha (not because it is necessarily a high level, but because that represents a few YEARS-usually--of time and effort) and then that person would turn out to be someone who intentionally hurts a beginner for daring to want to train with them. Surely you are just repeating a tall tale?

Choku Tsuki
03-05-2002, 05:33 PM
Originally posted by ca
I really have a difficult time imagining a sensei who would train someone to the point that they reach senior kyu or yudansha (not because it is necessarily a high level, but because that represents a few YEARS-usually--of time and effort) and then that person would turn out to be someone who intentionally hurts a beginner for daring to want to train with them. Surely you are just repeating a tall tale? [/B]

Oh. No. Not a tall tale by any stretch. This stuff happens, and it would naive to think otherwise. I say "naive" because you use the words "daring" and "surely" although perhaps I should read your note with an implied sarcastic tone instead.

Places, especially crowded places, popularly thought of as the epitome or mecca, can be not as utopian as hoped. It's true!

This is the exception, not the rule, thankfully. But I just wanted the newbie going to the seminar to be prepared for the worst case. Think positive, have fun, but be prepared for the worst case. Not expect the worst to happen, but instead engage and make the seminar what it will be, a great experience with valuable lessons, but be prepared for the worst case.


03-05-2002, 07:28 PM
I know you're back from the seminar and all that, but I just thought this would be useful advise for your future seminars anyway... or anyone elses for that matter.

1. Bring spare gi.
2. Shower

Nothing irks me more than having to huff and puff with stinky ppl. ;)

"and if you don't eat the beans... you wouldn't fart would you?"

AJ Beaupre
03-05-2002, 08:26 PM
Yeah, I found that a lot of people there didn't realize the importance of a shower and dry gi at the lunch break. There's nothing like doing iriminage with someone who smells bad, and on top of that their gi is sopping wet from sweat.

03-05-2002, 08:34 PM
I'm not being sarcastic (I can get quite vicious, but I'm not sarcastic), I really could not imagine that kind of behavior being tolerated anywhere, especially a 'mecca'. But I guess I am spoiled, not naive. The second seminar I went to was a Saito Sensei seminar, which I think most would call pretty crowded. I had well under a year of Aikido I think at the time, but at my first dojo we'd been taught it was a beginner's place to ask a senior to train, and the height of rudeness to not ask a nearby senior to train if practice had started and no one else had asked yet. So on the second technique the first night, I turned around to get a partner and noticed an older Japanese blackbelt just standing near the edge of the mat where I was standing. I bowed and asked him to train, he bowed and carefully put aside his glasses. And he very graciously did ikkyo with me. It was later I realized he was probably just standing around watching people train, as he was the disinguished guest Saito Sensei had brought with him from Japan, I believe an 8th dan (or was it 9th?).

I have never been to a seminar where the senseis who were there as students, often very senior ranks themselves, minded training with any partners, even the beginners, or at least they didn't show it, and they certainly didn't hurt anyone. Even as a beginner, I know how to move around a mat during class or seminars to sit next to people I want to train with, and to avoid those I'd rather not. And I was taught that seniors were even better at that than beginners, so if a senior gets 'caught' by a beginner, and didn't want to be, he's lazy. But I was also taught that there is a lot to be learned from working with beginners, so maybe I just have a totally weird view of Aikido.:confused:

03-05-2002, 08:42 PM
But then, I've only been to 18 seminars in my three years, so you probably have seen a lot more and had a lot more opportunity to see things like you describe.:eek:

Choku Tsuki
03-05-2002, 09:13 PM

I didn't think you're naive. Eighteen plus (by now, wink wink) seminars in 3 years is a lot. Not being in the group aligned to Iwama means unfortunately I have been witness to misbehavior. It's a shame but my advice (above) was passed onto me; I didn't make it up. My teacher learned some, thankfully the hardest, lessons for me. Lest this turn into a didactical diatribe, suffice to say, I did not have to go through the "young buck of Hell Dojo, giving out better than he got" faze (my Sensei did that for me). My Sensei did show me how to kick ass (by example). By doing so, he set a high standard of instruction, and of integrity, for me (e.g., a vicious, capricious sankyo is really just cowardice and a sign to find a new partner).

Sincerely I say it is unfortunate I had a little exposure to Iwama. You are very lucky. The last seminar for me was less than a month ago (Pat Hendricks in Ohio) and it will stand out in my mind for years.

And you are spoiled. Nevertheless the advice is still valid.


03-05-2002, 09:24 PM
18 just means I don't have much of a real life, and am lucky in that I consider two dojos home, each of which usually has 2-3 seminars a year, and while I don't train in an Iwama dojo, I do like Saito Sensei's seminars and so add one of those a year, maybe someone else...it all adds up. I'm lucky, I'm in an area that hosts a lot of great instructors, but about a third of the seminars I've attended were by Imaizumi Sensei, so I'm actually pretty envious of your location.

And I am very, very spoiled. I've been lucky to have been taught by some of the best/kindest/most amazing Aikidokas out there, and I am and will be always very grateful for that fact.

Choku Tsuki
03-05-2002, 10:03 PM
Originally posted by AJ Beaupre
[snip]... I even took a nikyo from Yamada Sensei! Let me tell ya, there has never been a time when I thought I was going to lose my hand. I still feel it now! ...

Um, that's Yamada Shihan grunt.

03-05-2002, 10:15 PM
Uh oh, AJ, run!:eek: :eek:
Chuck comes from a tradition that includes beating up misbehaving beginnersevileyes (I'M KIDDING :D )

AJ Beaupre
03-06-2002, 06:37 AM
Sorry bout that...he's right. I should pay that man his respect he's only been doing aikido for 45 years. And on top of that, recognizing that he is one of the few Shihan in the USA.

03-06-2002, 07:48 AM
Originally posted by nyaikido

Um, that's Yamada Shihan grunt.

Hey Chuck, long time no type!

I dunno ... I've seen pics of Yamada standing around in his underwear. And heard some tales of his, um, exploits. I know he's a shihan, but I fear he's also human. Don't worry, I won't tell the beginners.


To quote Jim Baker: "Yamada done told me ..."