Great Trip, Happy to be Home

Long time, no blog post! After the recent seminar, circumstances promptly dumped me back into my normal life. Work was busy. The weather was insane, with the most dramatic storms we’ve seen in years. The power was unreliable for days. Rainy the horse, and the donkeys, have needed extra tending with all the rain and muck. And after one 6-hour power failure our refrigerator broke for good, which meant an evening throwing out everything, and filling an ice chest with enough to get by on. It’s been like camping in our own house. On top of that, I’ve been training all I can, because my 5th kyu test is coming up a week from Saturday.

Now work is settled back into a good steady pace. The rain is coming down more gently. The new fridge arrives tomorrow, and we’re making a restocking run in the evening. Training for my test is proceeding apace. Almost back to a normal routine.

For the past week I’ve been wanting to post something to sum up my experience of the Aikido Bridge Friendship Seminar. It was such a long, intense, diverse, and new experience it’s hard to know where to begin, so I’ll start at the end.

I’ve lived in San Diego County all my life. It’s a lovely place. People from all over come here for vacations. Whenever I’ve flown back into San Diego on a commercial flight there have been people visibly and vocally excited about coming here, many for the first time. “Yay! We’re in San Diego!!!” It doesn’t matter where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, what I’ve been doing, when I come back here I have that same feeling. It’s not only that it’s familiar and comfortable, it’s really a beautiful, rich, amazing part of the world. I’m very lucky to live here, and happy to be home.

Coming back to my own dojo after the seminar, which actually was my vacation, was a similar experience. I feel so fortunate to have a great “home” to return to. Tonight’s classes just reinforced that feeling once again. I’m very lucky to live here, and happy to be home.

The seminar was the first Aikido training I’d done outside of events with my own dojo. The facility was lovely, and the event (in its 4th year, I believe?) was well-run. Thank you again, to Jeff Sodeman Sensei and everyone at Jiai Aikido who made the seminar possible. Everyone I met was friendly, helpful, and serious about training.

The teachers were amazing, of course, kind, often funny, and very generous about connecting with students at all levels. I had the privilege of working with each of them several times, and tried my best to stay present and really get what I was feeling. Ikeda Sensei was like grabbing a cloud – just nothing to hold onto. It seems that the wonder of this stuff working never grows old for him. Several times he allowed that “It’s weird!” Many of Doran Sensei’s techniques included what I think of as the kind of misdirection used by magicians. He often taught with a very charming sense of mischief. On the last day I and another white belt (just there for that day, I think) were trying to work out the details of some seemingly impossible technique, when Tissier Sensei stopped to offer us a few words of encouragement. Such a gracious man.

I’ve never done anything so physically and mentally intense, for so long, before. I was very glad for all the Aikido classes I’d been doing, the walking at lunch, the time on the elliptical trainer, and heavy yard work. I came home utterly exhausted (but exhilarated) each night. I had told my husband, Michael, to basically consider me to be “out of town” for the duration; to make his own plans for the evenings. That was a good call. I had just enough energy left to throw my dogi in the wash, feed the critters, shower, eat something, set the alarm clock, and collapse into bed.

I cannot come close to remembering everything we covered in those 5 days. I certainly can’t describe it with any accuracy. Here are some of the impressions that particularly struck me:

Tissier Sensei – Emphasized economy of motion. His speed was incredible. There were techniques he demonstrated “slowly” and some parts where just blurs, they happened so fast. He also worked with us on looking where we were going (for instance, to a point on the floor, and not at Uke’s hand). This point really stuck with me for two reasons. First, it made an immediate, clear improvement in the feel of the technique when I did it. Second, it’s very familiar from horseback riding – jumping in particular. You don’t stare down at a jump as you’re going over it, you’re already looking to the next one. Your attention (or intention, really) on the next jump naturally helps guide you and your horse to it – it’s palpable. And the effect is the same in Aikido.

Ikeda Sensei – Taking Uke’s balance at the first touch. Subtle, internal waves. Giving the impression of something to grab, but nothing being there. I was able to see little glimmers of this working, like seeing the shadow of a fish in dark water. I caught a glimpse. I know it’s there, somewhere.

Doran Sensei – Lots of very sensible techniques, presented in clearly-explained chunks I could mostly manage to understand. I got it about the train coming, and getting off the track. I got it about catching the shomen strike like catching a fish on a hook. I got it about using atemi to get Uke to take their own balance, so you don’t have to.

These things were just moments. An image here or phrase there that was able to snatch up and tuck into my memory as they flew past in a hurricane of information for 5 days. There were also the guest instructors, and dozens of training partners, and new friends, who I learned so much from. It was a pretty mind-blowing experience. I’m already looking forward to going again next year.

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