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Old 08-19-2009, 04:56 AM   #30
Walter Martindale
Location: Cambridge, ON
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 760
Re: Training at Aikikai Hombu Dojo - Experiences

Well, I first went to Hombu as part of a 2003 tour led by the shihan for Canada, Kawahara Yukio. He took about 15 of us over on a tour that started in Osaka, included participating in a big demo in Osaka, practicing at the Hiroshima police dojo (sensei there one of Kawahara's former students, I think), and a lot of tourism. (Kyoto, Beppu, Himeji, some samurai villages, a Sumo Basho at Kanazawa.. lots of food, sake, beer...). The trip ended with a few days in Tokyo, staying at a cheap hotel in Shinjuku and walking 20 min to Hombu. We practiced a couple of times at Hombu, in Doshu's class, and had dinner at a Chinese restaurant with Doshu.

Training at the morning practice with Dohsu teaching was quite like others have remarked. One partner for the whole session, lots of sweat (well, for me), lots of people, compact ukemi because of the crowds. Because we were a group, introduced by Kawahara, I think we were made welcome. (group photo with Doshu, but that was the session I missed because my ankle was not being happy at all.)

A year later I went on my own, for a few morning practices and then a couple of evening sessions on the same day (at my age, that was pretty hard - maybe when I was in my 20s, but at 50 that hurt) The Doshu sessions were exactly as before. One session I made the mistake of mopping my brow while Doshu was instructing, and (after the instruction was over) was very quickly told not to do that. However, practice was lively, it was lots of business people getting a session before they went to work, and you could tell they were regulars.
The evening sessions - I went for the purpose of attending Masuda's instruction because I'd had his instruction as part of seminars in New Zealand in the late 90s and again in 02 during a short visit to NZ. I was nikyu (but with 11 years of aikido and few opportunities to grade) at the time, and was practicing with a relative beginner, and Masuda separated us and told a couple of senior trainers to practice with each of us. He then asked where he'd seen me before. I again found Masuda's sessions to be entertaining, even in Japanese - his instruction was clear, but - since my Japanese is very rudimentary and not being translated, I was going by the "monkey see monkey do" method of learning.
The roughest treatment I got was by a Canadian guy I ended up practicing with on my third session of the day. I grew up in the city he was from, and let him know I was pretty tired, but I felt like I was getting thumped around pretty firmly - more so than the Japanese had been thumping me around. Odd.
But - When I went to the dojo, I went with the attitude that I would watch, how do they start, where should I line up, ask a gaijin, watch people, listen, and try to do it "like they do". It wasn't my dojo, so I wanted to do it however it was done there.
The showers, afterwards - I don't know what they have against hot water, but....
Wasn't made welcome, wasn't made unwelcome. More like "ok, here's another gaijin tourist. Yeah, here, pay this, go upstairs, change, train, see ya." I'd have to stay there for a while and train lots to be a familiar face, before the locals would open up. That, and spend quite a while studying Japanese.
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