Last weekend, we had the opportunity of enjoying Allen Beebe' presence for the first time in Spain. It was a superb course celebrated in San Sebastian. For me it has been the third course of this kind that I attend. The first two were courses with Dan Harden, and this one was the first with Allen. I had a lot of interest in meeting him, because even though he follows the same path as Dan, Allen is an Aikidoka and he approaches this work from a context more akin to Aikido. Allen was student of Rinjiro Shirata, the Kobukan's prodigy, pre-war student of O Sensei, from the time before Aikido lost that little… something. When I refer to aikido, I mean the "Official" aikido, "mainstream" aikido if you allow me to use such a loaded word. The course was precisely about that "Something". That "Something" is what I am trying to work and develop since last September when I met Dan Harden. As we have commented sometimes, Dan Harden is a force from nature, the most powerful martial artist that I have ever met… What I have seen him to do and what that 60 years old man has done to me is not easy to believe. However, his teachings are lacking some structure, and sometimes, because of his very high level those teachings are difficult for new people in this area like me. The possibility arose, from that first course with Dan, of bringing Allen to Donosti, and even though I knew little about him, with the few things they told me, I had no doubts. We started to work and finally we brought him. This format of intensive courses with many hours and reduced groups, designed to teach and really learn (in contrast with the social events that we are used to in aikido) are new in our place and it was difficult to attract people.
After this years' experience, I do not foresee many problems for next time. To have Allen next to home and not go to the course… is bordering stupidity. I know that it sounds strong, and it really is, but I prefer to use those words not to offend but to make people reflect on it. I am convinced that anyone that has not attended this year (having had the opportunity) and will attend next year, will subscribe these words to the letter. Besides being aikidoka, Allen speaks and writes Japanese perfectly, has been married with a Japanese woman, has been a Buddhist monk and has lived in Japan for the most part of his life; has been all the Japanese that you can be being blond. Thanks to his knowledge, he has been able to read O Sensei's texts first hand, without depending on translations or interpretations from third parties, that gives added value to his knowledge. He explained concepts to us that not only belong to aikido (that "Something" is common to other martial arts) but he was able to do it from O Sensei's words. Thanks to simple exercises and a structured progression, some people could start to understand and take their first steps in the development of that "Something". And for those of us that had already started on this path, we could secure and clarify concepts besides acquiring new tools to keep going on. We could see and feel firsthand how powerful that "Something" makes them (Robert, one of his best students, also came with Allen) and how devastating aikido is when it is not empty of that "Something". After the course, you have the knowledge of what that "Something" is (now you know what it is and that it exists) and you have several exercises that help you to develop it. The work to develop that "Something" is arduous and lonely. You need to invest many hours and it is hard. The progression is slow… but everything that is valuable is difficult; in a word, Shugyo. That "Something" is not something metaphysical or philosophical; it is not a mystic energy. That "Something" is something real; it is something physical and physiological. It is a body technology that can be learnt, in the same way that you can learn juggling. If I have clarified something in these last years it is that 90% of aikido is not real… it is an empty shell that looks like it, that has the same shape. Than "Something" is the reason, the origin and the goal of aikido. Aikido is the tool to develop that "Something". If we think that aikido is something else, that it is a collection of techniques to do things and to defend ourselves against someone, we are deeply mistaken. It is not a petty opinion, I do not say that lightly… if now I know what aikido is, it is because during many years I have been on the wrong path, doing what it is not, giving shape to a shell, more or less pretty… but that was lacking "Something". I had the intuition that it existed, and because of that I did not stop searching for it… now I have found it. My shell is still empty, but now I have found the filler and now I have to start filling it little by little… adjusting it and polishing it in order to fit that "Something" better. By the way, that something is called "Aiki". A lot of people believe that they know what it is, but they don't. It's that simple. I hope to see you next year in the next course with Allen. Well, not to all since the attendance is limited…
Rikardo Ripalda, 3º dan de Aikido, Koi Aikidojo.
When I asked to my spanish fellows if they where interested on to bringing Allen to Spain I did it moved for two reasons: To give them access to the same sources I do (so they can explain me the stuff I can´t understand) and to help to fullfill Allen´s wish of transmitting the teachings he recieved to keep them alive
The seminar took place in the beautiful city of San Sabastián, with a group smaller than expected, but with very motivated individuals, wich has been proved by their fast understanding of the exercises. In two days they had been done an advance two years' worth. Of course, now they must keep doing the hard work until they assimilate it.
The presence of Robert was invaluable. He was one of Allen's training partners, thanks to whom he was able to understand the teachings of Rinjiro Shirata and Dan Harden
Apart from the many revelations Allen made on the seminar, many of them shocking for the foundations the modern aikido is built upon, I would like to highlight his two final lessons:
3. Think for yoursef
This is in fact the very essence of Allen´s teachings. Create and destroy your own models, improving them every time. Ask yourself questions, don´t be afraid to be wrong. Nobody is going to do the work for you, is the only way to advance.
4. Avoid Hierarchy
The organization mystifies the man and hides his true achievements, putting them out of reach of the normal men. If we really want to understand we have to question the false tradition and walk our own way.
I´m very happy with the seminar. The succcess of it lies in the atmosphere of hard work and companionship on the search for the essence of the martial arts. I don´t experience such an atmosfere often on a seminar, and I think is something we have to nourish.
I hope that Allen comes again to Spain again in the following years and that the atmosphere goes on.
I would like to thank Riki, Àlvaro, Juanxo and Walter. Without them the seminar wouldn't have been possible. And to Robert for his generosity, and to Allen for getting involved in this venture.
Juan Luis Durán, Aikido 2° Dan
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