Join Date: Jun 2000
Rather than try too hard to write a "comprehensive" account of last week's Summer Camp in the Rockies (and get bogged down, never to finish the darned review), I thought I'd just give some quick snippets of my time there.
(Looking back to this thing, it turned out to be not-so-quick and not-so-snippety. Oh well.)
I tried to take it easy this camp physically as I had a tweaked elbow, a recovering tweaked neck, and a tweaked heel. Rather than trying to train through every single class, I gave myself permission to "wimp out" and not try to do everything. Despite that, I felt pretty darned exhausted all through Camp, probably owing to my not being on the mat for two weeks prior due to the aforementioned tweaked neck. So it goes.
The highlight of the Summer Camp in the Rockies for me is watching Saotome sensei. I didn't get to grab him and feel his aikido at all this time around like I have in the past, but so it goes; I was sitting mainly in the back, acting very much wallfloweish throughout the entire week. It's just amazing, to me at least, to watch Saotome sensei's movements. As I wrote before, I can hardly discern when he's walking across the mat or throwing; there's no "shift" in how natural his movements seem. I also attended a few of his weapons classes including one in which we did paired bokken exercises where uketachi holds the bokken with just his/her right hand. Interesting as usual and great fun.
Imaizumi sensei's classes were much more vigorous and dynamic than I expected. Yes, he did use a whiteboard to keep track of what techniques he did, and he started at least one class with some quick hitoriwaza for warm-ups. It was interesting to see a sort of blend of Aikikai and Ki Society techniques; there were definite influences from Tohei sensei (the "hop," the "not-stepping-through-for-irimi/kokyu- nage") as well as underlying flavors of Aikikai. His movements were dynamic and ranged from the large to the small. His quick demonstrations coupled with his quick explanations kept the pace of the class lively and exciting. I also attended a weapons class of his in which he went through several of his solo jo exercises (which seemed to be a lot of Saito sensei's suburi strung together in creative ways) and some paired jo exercises. I was able to conduct an interview with Imaizumi sensei in Japanese which I hope I will be able to translate, transcribe, and put onto AikiWeb soon.
Doran sensei's classes are always a joy, despite their being more "technical" (ie hand-here, foot-here) than I'm used to these days. Of course, every single technical point that he presents is very logical and applicable to my own training; I just wish my memory (both mental and physical) was better suited to absorbing them! I do remember one variation to hijinage (tenbinnage) that he did on me that sent me flying through the air; I guess I must have flown well enough that he used me as demonstration uke for that particular technique... I also got to work with George Ledyard during one of his classes which was great; I'll be mulling over the advice that I received from him for a while, I'm sure. I also attended one of his weapons classes which emphasized the relationship between weapons movements and empty-handed movements -- good stuff.
The schedule worked out that I was only able to take two of Ikeda sensei's classes, both on Friday. By then, people were "warmed up," per se, so he was already up and running in doing his dynamic techniques. As he knew I was healing up from injuries and such, I was spared ukemi duties. I was able to work with some great people during these classes including Kevin Choate and Kimberly Richardson.
I attended George Ledyard's "Police Tactics" focus class which seemed like lots of fun. I was sitting out due to exhaustion and my neck feeling out of whack, but I managed to take some pictures and sit next to Dennis Hooker who was also watching the class. I very much liked the way George took aikido principles and shaped them in a way for practical application. The efficiency and no-nonsense approach was very refreshing to me.
For reasons unknown to me, I was asked to do a focus class on ukemi. There were about forty people in the class which was much more than I expected; I figured when people saw my name on the board, they'd make the easy choice and head on over to Saotome sensei's class which was going on at the same time in the big dojo. As we only had 75 minutes, I decided to just go through some exercises that I do in the ukemi class that I usually lead on Saturdays at my regular dojo. I tried to emphasize the necessity for uke to be relaxed, as relaxation leads to sensitivity and mobility. I also worked on getting your body as uke "into" the technique (rather than "out of" the technique) as a good nage will inevitably put you into the "heart" of the technique and, as uke, you might as well be used to it. I also presented a few ukemi "techniques" for iriminage and ikkyo ura and went through some simple exercises for breakfalls (including Andy Wilby's simple exercise for getting people's heads to "curl in" for koshinage breakfalls). All in all, I had a great time doing the class; I actually received many compliments for a good class which made me happy.
Off the mat, Summer Camp is, of course, still a great time. There were "parties" going on every night in one room or the other or in one of the lobbies in the dormitory. One night, I hung out in Robbie and Ian's room, listening to Troy, Darren, and Tres talk about "the old days" at our dojo. Another night, I sat in a group of people singing while Steven played the guitar. Another night, I sat with Wendy, Yuki, Mark, and others talk about "the old days" when my teacher first came to America and when they trained at Shingu. And so on.
The hot springs is a wonderful place to relax. Really. It's a huge pool -- probably the size of two Olympic pools or so. Despite the icky sulphuric smell that inevitably gets into every pore in your body and every fiber in your swimming suit, floating in 104 degree water that soothes those sore muscles is definitely worth it. There's even a diving board at the end of the pool where people from our dojo managed to do back flips and near-belly flops.
I attended the Friday night dinner and party briefly. The food was good, the "entertainment" ("Mojo in the Dojo 2002" done by The Bad Ukes) was great, and the dancing seemingly enjoyable. I only stayed a while as I was (yet again) quite exhausted, but it was a nice get together as I gathered from reports from folks who stayed until 12:30am...
Special events at the Summer Camp included a discussion between Mitsugi Saotome sensei and Shizuo Imaizumi sensei with Stanley Pranin presiding. It was great to hear both of these teachers who studied with the founder talk about their reminiscences about the founder, the training, the Aikikai/Ki Society "split", and about each other. Imaizumi sensei's "humourous episode" about Saotome sensei was wonderful as was Saotome sensei's telling us how he envied Imaizumi sensei in one way or another. It was also refreshing to hear both of them talk about the pain that they both felt during the "split," as I believe it's so much more healthy to get things like that into the open.
Another event was Wendy Palmer's presentation on her work in Conscious Embodiment. Although I have trained under her for years in the past and knew of her work as well as some details about what she does, having such a presentation done was great for me as it presented her work in one nice package. I think she said that this was her first presentation on her work in front of an "aikido" audience as she usually does her workshops with non-aikido people. From the questions that she received and the number of books she sold at the Aiki Store after her talk, I believe what she said resonated with people there and it went over quite well.
Speaking of the Aiki Store, I went and sold about a dozen AikiWeb T-shirts there as well as a bunch of "Aikido" (kanji) temporary tattoos. I'm hoping to have these available online soon, so please keep an eye out or e-mail me for details...
It was great being and training with people I've known for years. I was also able to train and chat with people from Aikido-L, AikiWeb, and other online communities which was great as well.
All in all, I thought that the entire week at the Summer Camp in the Rockies was well spent. I had a great time, both on and off the mat, as always. I hope to see more people there next year when we'll have a special international guest instructor which should be pretty exciting. Stay tuned...