I just returned from the Santa Cruz Aikido Summer Retreat--the first aikido retreat I ever attended--and had such a positive experience that I wanted to share it with this forum.
The five-day retreat was led by Mary Heiny (6th dan, Seattle, Washington), Linda Holiday (6th dan, chief instructor Aikido of Santa Cruz), Clint George (6th dan, chief instructor Last Chance Aikido in Helena, Montana), with one class led by Jack Wada (6th dan, chief instructor Aikido of San Jose). The retreat was held on the UC Santa Cruz campus for about 140 aikidoists from all over California and other parts of the country (I met people from Washington and Wisconsin) with skill levels ranging from novice through very highly experienced.
One of the themes of the retreat, and one of my favorite aspects of the practice, was celebrating the unifying concepts of aikido that surpass individual dojos and styles. During the first practice, Linda Holiday Sensei made a point of asking participants to overcome the competitive dojo mentality and focus on doing good aikido, not just the aikido that looked like the aikido at home. I practice an independent style of aikido in Berkeley (Shusekai) and learned a lot by practicing with both members of other styles and with aikidoka who had decades more training than I had. It was useful for me to learn different strategies for responding to attacks, especially since some of those strategies helped me resolve conflicts in my own practice.
There were enough people to practice with a huge variety of spirits and body types, and not so many that I felt anonymous or forgotten.
Also, the space itself was beautiful, welcoming, safe, and convenient. There's something magical and comforting about walking past grazing deer and bunnies after a long day of practice.
During the longest practice days, we trained from 6:30am until about 9pm. The schedule turned out to be less grueling than it sounded with the two-hour meal breaks in-between, but I still could have used a bit more sleep. By residing off-campus, I actually lost over an hour of sleep each day. Next year, I'll definitely register to stay in a dorm.
I definitely recommend this retreat to anyone who wants to explore aikido more deeply without committing to life as uchi deshi. I brought back enough new ideas to keep my training moving forward for many months, and I'm looking forward to experiencing the changes that evolve from them.
You can get information about the retreat at:
Aikido of Santa Cruz (formerly North Bay Aikido)