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Richard Heckler*: "Remember why you are training. Keep this thought in your mind, as you train, today."
In respect to keiko: the Training Across Borders Seminar was no different than any other Aikido seminar: classes usually went from 9-5:45PM, with breaks for lunch and workshops dealing with healing from trauma, leadership, meditation, and other topics. Keiko was our center. Without it, we would all have gotten along well enough, but the keiko cemented our connections, provided a framework for interaction.
Jamie Zimron* (at the public Aikido demo): "O Sensei became the greatest warrior in Japan: he could beat everyone. But what good is that? Here (gesturing to her uke's): you're dead (throwing uke down). No, stay down.; you're dead! Now, YOU'RE dead* (next uke)! And you, and you, and you (all uke's on the floor, with Jamie the only one standing). Now, with all of this power to destroy: I'm the only one alive. What good is that, if everyone else is dead?"
We went to Cyprus with the purpose to train. We also went to demonstrate Aikido and to support training efforts and promote harmony throughout countries in the Middle East. The constant commitment to keiko held us to our original intent.
Aikido expresses the order of the universe through the body. If the order of the universe is correctly applied to the body, the techniques and health flourish naturally. If the order of the universe is correctly applid to everyday life, then education, work, and personality flourish naturally. If the order of the universe is correctly applied to society, social harmony and the relation of the self to others flourish naturally. Humanity, like one family, will then work towards reestablishment of the world whose harmony is perturbed in our times.
from "Aikido Etiquette and transmission Manual for Teachers" by Tamura Nobuyoshi
My roommate, Jim, pointed this passage from an Aikido teaching manual out to me on Saturday night. "This could well be the theme of the whole TAB Seminar," he said.
Context is everything. We were training on Ground Zero of a politically-contested area: many of us arriving from home-nations in the grip of conflict. The context of TAB made the training more poignant, and even gave it an underlying sense of urgency, to get to the dojo to train. We were all serious students of Aikido, but the context added a practical dimension to our keiko.
There was also a joyous, uplifting element to it. Here was the culmination of all of our work, and it was amply apparent that it was going better than expected. There were no arguments, no dissentions, from what I could see (even, when some doka were accidentally locked in the dojo during lunch on Saturday, for several hours: no one raised a fuss). Brotherly/sisterly love was everywhere, and we couldn't wait to get training. A week after the event, my heart is still so full, reflecting back on the keiko.
The excitement was like a wave, building and pushing outward. We all wanted our spirit of cooperation and harmony to build within us, and we also desired to push this wave of feeling outward, to literally take this cooperative spirit off the mat, like an outward-reaching wave.
The excitement was manifest even at the beginning of the event. Some of the Israeli* students couldn't even wait to get their uniforms* on, before we were tossing* each other about!
My biggest regret was on Friday night, after a full day of keiko, teaching in the hot sun for two hours, dinner and dancing: many of the Aikidoists still needed more, and they went down to train at the dojo around 9:30PM. I wanted to go as well, and I thought I would just lie down for a minute, catch my breath...and wake up, about 6hours later.
The next day, Jim said what a great jiyukeiko that was, last night! By all accounts, it was WILD! Oh, great: just… "great."
Hans Goto: (practicing, Pt 1* & Pt 2*): See this jo (holding jo vertically, with on end resting on the mat)? This jo is much like you want your spine to be, in respect to its being straight and vertical. If your head wobbles (moving top of jo): then your whole spine is crooked. You want to keep your spine straight."
Altogether, the Sensei's seemed intent upon teaching keiko each from a different perspective of Aikido. While all of them stressed underlying themes of harmony and principles "off the mat," Sensei's Goto and Wagner seemed to spend a bit more of their keiko-time exploring certain technical aspects of Aikido (note that this is not a criticism, as I think everyone seemed wildly enthusiastic about the keiko offered. If it were up to me, I wouldn't change a thing). I remember Wagner Sensei demonstrating kotegaeshi beginning with his arms upraised; and Goto Sensei talked (in one keiko) about the diverse elements of practicing iriminage.
Trauma and Ethnic Conflict: Paul Linden. Meditation: Miles Kessler Youth Outreach--ACAO Harmonia Brazil Program (reaching out to kids in the Brazilian favela's): Jose Bueno Embodied Leadership: Richard Heckler Wake Up Aikido!Don Levine* Aikido in Everyday Life: Kurt Bartholet Bronx Peace Village: (program reaching out to at-risk innercity Bronx youth) Scott Evans
Too many workshops, with too little time for me to attend. I was in charge of first aid supplies, water-cooler replenishment (a big, and important job, as we were going through a full container of water every 2 hours), registration, PR, basics classes on Friday afternoon, and assisting the Sensei's with whatever they needed. I had to do a lot of legwork, and I was not the busiest person present. Philip Emminger didn't even put on his uniform until Saturday afternoon; he was just too busy. His pedometer had him clocked at walking an average of 10 miles a day. Before enlightenment: carry water, chop wood. After enlightenment: carry water, chop wood.
I did manage to sit in on Sensei Heckler's workshop on leadership. In I, he discussed methods of communication and clarifying your modes of speech. Leadership, he said: begins with making your requests, assessments and statements clearly, and expecting a clear response. He said that many business meetings almost exclusively discuss the content of previous meetings and when they are going to meet, for the next meeting. Communication is about manifesting the future, and as such deals with time—an aspect of behavior that we, as humans, are unique, in respect to animals.
Fulfillment of a Dream: One Voice of Many
I am one voice of many in this event. I should not be taken as the final authority on how it went, and what happened. A documentary is coming out at some point, and aiki-extensions is composing a website dedicated to TAB. Hopefully, all of these sources will provide a sense of what it was like*, training at this amazing event*.
I did fulfill a dream, though: I had the honor of teaching beginner's classes for two hours, in the park, nearby. "Embrace the world," I said, demonstrating tenkan. "Make your technique bigger than you and your partner." I focused upon classic attacks, stance, and posture. Some of my students did not understand English, but the feedback I did get was positive. The next day, the beginner's looked to me for more beginning classes, but unfortunately it was not to be. The beginner's rejoined the general keiko.
And then there was the crowding-factor*, on the mat. Mat-space was at a premium, and when we were all present, ukemi became a challenge. Still, no matter how crowded it got, we were filled with the spirit of camaraderie, and fellowship.* Goto Sensei admonished us to remember the rule of one tatami per group of two. When the mats were fully attended, the rule became more of a mandate.
Next entry, I will relate the spirit of TAB: the dances, and the parties. If keiko was the spine of the Seminar, then the dances were TAB's heart and soul. Stay tuned.
P.S. The quotes above are paraphrases. Apologies to Wagner Sensei for not including a quote from you: I missed many of your classes. I remember your heartfelt words in the small groups after Sunday keiko, and it reflected my sentiments, as well.