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From Thursday, May 27 though Sunday, May 30, I attended the AAA East Cost Instructors Seminar in lovely Charleston, West Virginia.
And I do mean lovely. West Virginia is a beautiful state and Charleston was a very pretty city. The seminar was held at the Charleston Family YMCA, on top of a hill overlooking the city. The facilities were fine and the instruction was top notch. I'll be typing up a more detailed report soon, but my first impressions are below.
Sato sensei did most of the teaching, but other members of the AAA teaching committee led sessions as well. The primary focus was on weapons. Apparently, instructors seminars have a different focus each year. Last year the focus was on ki tests and running a rank test. The year before, the focus was on teaching ukemi.
One highlight of the seminar, for me, was working on the first five kumijo with Matsuda sensei (the head of the Eastern Region). He pointed out a number of areas where I needed work and really helped me correct the mistakes I was making. My biggest mistake was in letting the ma ai collapse. I was consistently getting too close during the katas. I started to get a little frustrated and asked Matsuda sensei how I can avoid this problem; he pointed out that he is much shorter than I, so I should take smaller steps. It dawned on me that I usually train with people taller than me, so maybe I was too used to a certain range of movement. But, I really should know how to adjust my sense of distance to fit different weapons and different sized partners. By the end of that exercise, I was feeling better about maintaining proper ma ai, and Matsuda sensei was expressing approval.
We worked on kumi jo, kumi ken, bokken tori, jo nage, jo tori, a number of weapons exercises, and empty hand technique that complemented the weapons work. There were over 100 attendees and at least five members of the teaching committee present. That's a good ratio of instructor to student, and I found that nearly every time I was strugling with something, there was Sato sensei, Matsuda sensei, Bunn sensei, Noble sensei, or Tajiri sensei to help me out.
I was particularly impressed with Tajiri sensei's sword work. He brought an intensity and purpose to it that eletrified our practice.
Because this was an instructors seminar, all participants were required to be 3rd kyu rank or above. This lead to a different feel at this seminar compared to a regular seminar. Less time was spent on demonstrating techniques and more time was spend on doing them. However, we generally worked in groups, so everyone got a small break in between throws.
However, the emphasis at this kind of seminar is in helping us to become better teachers. Several times throughout the six, three-hour training sessions, we broke into groups of five where we would then each take turns instructing the other four in one of the kumi-jo or kumi-ken.
As I said, I'll have a more detailed report typed up soon, but I wanted to get my impressions down now. Overall I felt I did pretty well and learned a lot. I missed the fifth session because my shoulder injury flared up, but I made it almost the whole way through the sixth session before having to sit out. All told, I attended almost 15 hours of training and felt really good.
I will definitely try to make as many instructor seminars as I can.