I enjoyed reading your ideas regarding aikido seminars.
I was wondering what your thoughts might be on "gashuku" in comparison or in contrast to "seminar."
Without Peter's post I wouldn't have been able to reply as the use of these terms here in the states seems to be a bit more interchangeable.
Anyway, I host something we call an "Intensive" twice a year. It is limited to only 14 people and we train for four days seven hours a day. The focus is a mix of randori and weapons work. It is an "in house" event in that I conduct it and there is no guest instructor so I guess it would be a form of "gasshuku".
We train very intensely and because it is small the students get a lot of feedback. Generally, it is open to anyone 3rd kyu and up but I have done one for Dojo-cho only (they could each bring one senior student).
Originally, this was something for just my own students but over the years the event has caught the attention of folks who want something different and now we have people coming from all over the States and Canada. We fill up earlier and earlier now. I have folks who attend every year and a couple who have simply decided to attend all of them, even though they live on the other side of the country.
Anyway, I mention it because I have tried to make this everything that the normal seminars are not. It is intimate. There is space to train all out. It is not just a "feel good" event; I push the folks hard, although I work hard to structure the training so that there are no injuries. I have found that students of any level can make a quantum jump in their training during these four days. I have had folks getting ready for yudansha testing attend and I have had 5th Dans who run their own dojos come to play. Whereas the focus is the same each time in terms of subject matter, the training is highly interactive and every Intensive is different because each person brings a unique set of issues. I adjust constantly to what is coming up for each student. The folks that have attended a few times start to really internalize the principles and we can take the training to a different level, doing the same things but with a much more sophisticated focus.
So if this is what you mean by gasshuku, then I would say I think there should be far more of this type of training. I have tried to make this event be everything that the normal seminars and camps are not. I think that the folks who have attended over the years have felt that this type of training was important to them (at least I assume so since almost all of them have returned).
I know that there are other events around that don't follow the standard camp or seminar model. There are some "retreats" which often mix Aikido training with other things. Gleason Sensei does one which mixes Aikido and Zen training. I haven't done it but would like to at some point. Anyway, as far as I am concerned, the more intimate the better. People should push themselves mentally and physically but the training should be tailored to the attendees and not just a cookie cutter block of instruction...
At this point in my training I get something out of any kind of event I attend but I think the big camps and large seminars leave an awful lot of people out in the cold so to speak. People need a lot of feedback to change what they are in the habit of doing already. Half the time folks see what they already know, even when the teacher is doing something different. In an intimate event, you can show them what doesn't work, what does work, how what you are doing is different from what they have been doing, etc. You can adjust the training so that each person is forced up against his or her limitations and the you can help them break through to a new level. This just doesn't happen at big events.