Saturday was very busy! Class, packing, brunch, a hundred hugs, and more packing. My hall-mate, Deb, and I finally got out at 3:00… only two hours late. I’m taking the two-day option, driving home – in Paso Robles now. Will be posting a lot more about the retreat after I get home (where I don’t have to post from my phone). Already looking forward to the 2012 Retreat!

[Added later: The return trip, down highway 101, with a few stops along the way, was 562.9 miles.]

Thursday, during Nadeau sensei’s class.

Another great day of training, plus rehearsing for the Aiki Follies, dinner off campus with friends, and hanging out way past bedtime taking about Aikido people, history, and teaching/learning. Tonight’s guest instructors were Denise Barry Sensei and Michele Simone Sensei. I really enjoyed their class.

Wednesday at the Retreat – the Aiki Store

The Aiki store is an informal open-air market that springs up for a few days in front of the dining hall at lunch time. One can buy videos, t-shirts, books, and a few other Aikido-related goodies.

Way too tired to write much! Enjoyed a great day of training, a hot shower, more good food, plotting some Follies fun for Friday,, and Nadeau Sensei’s energy class in the evening. Ran into some familiar faces after class and spent a couple of very pleasant hours chatting about training, what Aikido means to us.

Off to bed while I can still get 6 hours of sleep!

Tuesday

Long, fun, amazing day. Here’s the quick version: Eat, train, train, eat, train, train, laundry, eat, train. Then stay up ‘til the wee hours talking with dorm-neighbor and evil twin, Deb, and plotting Aiki Follies skits with her and David.

Tonight’s guest instructors were Calvin Koshiyama Sensei and Jack Wada Sensei.

I’d write more, but it’s after 1:00, and 7:00 comes early! G’ night!

Aiki Retreat 2011, Monday

Today’s classes were Doran and Nadeau in the morning, Ikeda and Mary Heiny in the afternoon. I can’t begin to report what they taught, but in each case it was an in-depth exploration of something. It’s nice to be able to slow down and really pay attention to the details.

Doran Sensei showed a lot of techniques, and demonstrated for many of them how they are derived from sword techniques. Visualizing them in that way helps me understand more clearly the direction of the energy and movement, hand orientations, and the relationship between Uke and Nage.

An image came to me in Ikeda Sensei’s class, of Nage and Uke together in a very slow-moving current. As Nage, instead of trying to move Uke, just let the current move both of you. That seemed to fit with what Ikeda Sensei said later, too, something to the effect that if Uke can’t feel your technique, they can’t resist it.

Something Mary Heiny Sensei said struck me, too, and meshed well the Nadeau Sensei’s dimensionality work: “When you change who you are, your technique will change.” (Quoted to the best of my recollection, anyway.)

Michael Friedl Sensei and Alan Best Sensei taught the evening class, focusing on ukemi. The first half, on ways of taking back falls, was really useful for me, because I’ve found that I didn’t quite trust the mats here yet. There are two kinds, and they feel very different from what I’m used to. I showed up 30 minutes early and really spent some quality time warming up and stretching, and doing a lot of rolls. Between that and the first half of class I got a lot more comfortable with falling and rolling on them. The second half of the class covered more ukemi, and ended with some fun training where everyone did just Nage’s half of the technique, and then just Uke’s, solo. It was very challenging, and potentially useful for practicing alone. And it was really funny, especially nikkyo ura. I sure hope someone got video!

It’s been great seeing so many familiar faces from other seminars, and meeting in person so many people I’ve only either heard on, or have known just on Facebook. This is the first year I’ve come to this seminar, but still feels very familiar.

Back at it in the morning!

Food at the Aiki Retreat

There is good food here, but as I anticipated it’s mostly things I don’t eat. (Meat & wheat.) So I’m glad I brought a lot of raw nuts, bananas, and protein bars. There is always a salad bar, and there were scrambled eggs at breakfast. And there’s always coffee and milk. I have it on good authority that one can get tofu and vegetables! I’m going to ask about that tomorrow. The kitchen staff are very helpful! They are glad to check ingredients (sadly, tater tots have wheat in them!), and one of the chefs even filled my ice pack cooler with ice for me today.

Meals have been a great time to relax and connect with people. The atmosphere is universally friendly, including all the instructors. What a privilege and a pleasure to hang out with all these wonderful people!

Dorm Room at Aiki Retreat

Small but quite comfortable. Mine is downright austere compared to some. People have drapes, rugs, plants, art, etc.! I did not over-pack, either. If you don’t have a little lamp, you have to climb down from bed to hit the switch on the wall. The drying rack and fan are necessities. I am putting my yoga mat, foam roller, and exercise bands to good use. And I could not live without my cooler full of ice packs. (I can’t take anti-inflammatories, so it’s ice or nothing, and ice is probably a healthier choice for just about anyone, anyway.) It’s reasonably cool here, but still sweaty in the gym. I brought 3 gi, and about 8 sets of underwear, and I think I’ll need to do laundry at least twice just to make if through the week. I do wish I’d brought a bathrobe, but am getting by fine just trundling down the hall in a big towel. Next time, a bathrobe, and hangers.