Re: Thoughts on Aiki Expo '05 by SeiserL
I've read Seiser Sensei's report on AikiExpo '05 several times and agree wholeheartedly with his report and enthusiasm. It was a magnificent event from my perspective and worth every penny and drop of sweat. I agree with most of his constructive criticism as well, with the exception of having graded or tracted classes.
As a beginning student (4th kyu with less than two years of training) the idea of attending the Expo was somewhat intimidating to me. Thankfully one of my sempai strongly suggested that another mudansha and I attend with him as he had attended the previous events and thought it would improve our aikido and give us a chance to see a full weekend of outstanding aikido from all over the world. He was right - at least the part about seeing outstanding aikido. I had the privilege of attending classes taught by luminaries of aikido and got to receive techniques from Ikeda, Homma, Matsuoka, Kondo, and Nakiyama Sensei. It was one thing to watch them, but so much more to actual grasp their wrist and feel the technique as they were teaching it!
In addition, I had the privilege to actually train with some of the sensei there as fellow students on the mat. In particular, Ledyard Sensei helped me through a very rough spot until I could "get it". There were only a few mudansha on the mats, but I suspect they had the same experience my partner and I did. Everyone we trained with was welcoming, considerate and helpful. I can't speak from their perspective and I sincerely hope that I didn't slow my sempai down when they trained with me, but it just seemed like business as usual - we just trained together.
Perhaps if Pranin Sensei let it be known that all ranks are welcome and encouraged, it might boost the attendance of junior aikidoka. I know that I felt welcome throughout the event and gained a tremendous amount from the experience. I don't know that would have been the case with another format. Maybe my view is terribly selfish, but the Expo was so very worthwhile to me and I wouldn't change that facet of it unless the yudansha there felt lower ranking students detracted from their study and experience.
I do regret not having the chance to get thrown by Seiser Sensei - there was just so much going on throughout the weekend. Maybe one of these days soon.