Going to the Aiki Summer Retreat 2013!

[If this looks familiar, it’s because this is a revised version of my post from 2011, when I went the first time. This has updated information for the 2013 Retreat.]

This summer, June 23-29, 2013, I’m going for the second time to the Aiki Summer Retreat, now at Feather River College, in Quincy, California (just east of Chico). It’s the kind of thing where you stay in the dorms, eat in the dining hall, sit by the river, and eat, breathe, and sleep Aikido for a whole week. Woohoo! 

On Friday (May 24th), I got to chat with Frank Bloksberg Sensei, who is doing most of the organizing for the event. We talked about why I enjoy going to seminars and retreats, what people can expect, what to pack, etc. I promised to post my packing list, so here it is – along with whatever else might be helpful. You can hear our conversation (just as soon as it’s available) here: http://www.joinaikido.com/aiki-summer-retreat-2013/summer-retreat-videos-and-webinars/#

I know a bunch of folks who have gone to this event in past yeast, both fellow students from Aikido of San Diego, and people I’ve met at seminars (and am looking forward to seeing again!). My teacher, Dave Goldberg Sensei, has gone many times, and says he’s never had a bad day there (besides, it’s a cheap vacation). If you are on the fence about going, hop down before you get splinters, and sign up!

OK? Let’s get started. If you aren’t interested in any of the preparation stuff, don’t worry, there’s more. Keep scrolling to the part about what to do at camp.

Getting Ready – What to Pack

Being the planning, list-making sort, I’ve been planning and making lists. If you’re going to a retreat too, you might find them helpful. Last time I did a big solo road trip, which was great fun. This time I’m thinking of flying up, but I’ve left the road trip info for those who might need it. Here’s what I’ve got – you can use these as starting places for your own lists:


Car (if you’re driving there)

  • Get tires checked and rotated
  • Be sure your alignment is OK
  • Oil change & check fluids
  • Wash / vacuum car
  • Check battery and wiper blades, too

Other Chores

  • Shop for food & supplies
  • Do laundry. Write name in all my gi / belt.
  • Arrange donkey and kitty care [Done. Thanks, Michael!]. Others may be able to skip this step. ;-)
  • Arrange to visit with friends and family on the way up and back. 
  • Print a list of critical phone numbers and information, in case of phone failure.
  • Set up iPad and iPhone with tunes, playlists, photos, and videos.


Everyday Stuff

  • Wallet
  • Checkbook
  • Purse
  • Notebook or journal
  • Pens

Road Trip Stuff

  • Maps
  • Roadside emergency kit (triangles, tools…)
  • Basic tool kit
  • Duct tape (just in case)
  • Multi-purpose tool (just because)


Note that I don’t eat meat (except for fish), or gluten (wheat, barley, rye). I don’t like onions or garlic, and am mildly allergic to cinnamon and walnuts. So I’m hard to get along with. When I go to events where food is included, I bring my own, too. If there’s something there I can eat (salad, fruit, cheese), great. If not, I won’t starve. I have been told there is a microwave in the dining hall, and a Trader Joe’s across the street from the college, so picking simple things up and cooking them there should be easy, too. 

  • Raw nuts (almonds & Brazil nuts)
  • Bananas (buy ahead so they’ll be ripe!)
  • Promax gluten-free protein bars
  • Pre-cooked Pad Thai (w/rice noodles – gluten free)
  • Shelf-stable tofu (it comes in little paper boxes)
  • Instant coffee (little individual paper tubes are handy). Yes, there will be coffee at breakfast, but before you can get there you have to get up, get showered and dressed, and stumble over to the dining hall. The instant coffee can get you going until you get there, and can come in handy on the road, if you’re driving.
  • Powdered Gatoraide (to put in water bottle). You can get this in packets that make 1 quart each. It’s much easier to pack than a case of bottles! Note that the packets are – at least at my local Walmart – not sold near the groceries! Instead they are with the camping and fitness gear. 
  • Your favorite big water bottle
  • Big insulated mug (for instant soups or coffee)
  • Spoon, fork, and knife (big enough for cutting up fruit). Remember, don’t try to carry a knife onto a plane. Trust me. Check it.


Note that we will be staying in on-campus apartments, with kitchens, so the cooler may not be needed, and gel packs that need to go in the freezer should work. Generally when I travel, though, I bring two of the old-school cloth bag kind that you fill with ice cubes and water. These are great to keep in your dojo bag, because any convenience store or food service place can be a source of ice when you need it.

  • Little, rolling cooler said to hold ice for 2 days at 90 degrees (not a wimpy picnic / 6-pack cooler) 
  • Ice packs (for icing joints, etc.).


  • Toiletries kit – remember that this is a dorm, with bathrooms down the hall.
  • Shampoo & conditioner
  • Blow dryer & straightening iron
  • Brush & comb
  • Fingernail / Toenail clippers
  • Callous remover
  • Soap (little bottles of shower gel – no wet bars to deal with)
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss
  • Lotion, sunscreen, hand repair cream (Burt’s Bees – highly recommended)
  • Sunscreen
  • Road trip emergency medicines: Tylenol, Tums, Immodium
  • Vision stuff: Contacts, glasses (regular and reading) eye drops, soaking solution, contact case, spare set of lenses, sunglasses
  • Breathing stuff: Saline nose spray, Sudafed
  • Ladies, if you need lady stuff, add that to your list, too!

Training Things

If you are a dan-ranked sort of person, remember your yudansha book and hakama, too. I don’t have to worry about those yet!

  • Gi (the more you can bring, the less you’ll need to do laundry)
  • Underpants (several sets per day)
  • Sports bras
  • Sweat-wiping cloths
  • Flip-flops
  • Water bottle
  • Hair bands (and headbands?)

Weapons Bag (if needed)

I don’t know if we will be doing weapons work at the Retreat. But here’s the info, just in case… If you are flying, you can make a tube out of plastic drain pipe or PVC, with two end caps, and check that. Tape the end-caps on with duct tape – the TSA will definitely want to open the tube and see what’s in there. Bring extra tape for the return trip.

  • Weapons bag
  • Jo
  • Bokken
  • Tanto
  • Weapons Repair Kit (oil, sandpaper, rag)

Play Clothes

The historical weather stats for Quincy look awesome – average highs in the low 80s, average lows in the mid 40s. But… The records have been in the 100s and down in the 20s, so plan accordingly. 

  • Yoga pants
  • Jeans
  • Shorts
  • Skirts
  • Belts
  • T-shirts
  • Tank tops / undershirts
  • Light jacket
  • Heavy jacket for evenings out
  • Swimsuit (for the river, it it’s warm enough)
  • Underpants
  • Bras
  • Socks
  • Hat
  • Shoes
  • Flip-flops

Dress Clothes

Guys, you might want to skip the dress. Heck, I might even skip the dress. I just want to plan one outfit that would be appropriate if there’s a trip to an off-site sit-down restaurant or something. Some people like to dress up on Friday night. I’m probably going to be going casual.

  • Dress
  • Shoes that go with dress
  • Necklace
  • Purse

Things for Aiki Follies?

If you have something in mind to do, bring whatever you need. I didn’t bring or need anything in particular. I was able to cobble a “costume” of sorts together from my regular clothes, and slick my hair back with conditioner, and presto. Anything from a guitar to clown shoes might be handy. Use your imagination. 

  • _______________________
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Dorm Living

I am told the dorms are austere, with concrete floors. (One online review says “small, dirty, cramped,… poorly maintained”). I think basic bed linens are provided, but I may bring my own anyway. Some people bring area rugs. (Some even bring flowers in vases!) I’m figuring a run and/or mat for stretching. A small fan can be really nice. Been there, done that: U of W dorms for the Oshkosh EAA Airshow. Damn… We thought we were going to melt. People who’d been there before packed big box fans on the plane! Others tried to buy locally, but all the stores ran out.

  • Area rug (I used a yoga mat) – just something to stand on or stretch on in your room
  • Little brush and dust pan, for the dorm room floor
  • Yoga mat
  • Fan
  • A folding clothes/gi/towel drying rack (or plastic hangers, or travel clothesline) – thanks to seminar expert Geoff Yudien for that tip!
  • Reading lamp
  • Pillows (two buckwheat hull-filled ones I can’t live without!)
  • Zafu
  • Towel / Washcloths / Rags
  • Beach towel (for the river, sitting on the lawn, whatever)
  • Sheets & blanket – NOT necessary this time! Bloksberg Sensei has arranged for linens to be provided, so you don’t have to bring them.
  • Sleeping bag (for sleeping on friends’ floors, maybe)
  • Folding mattress (ditto, and in case bed is too mushy or hard, and for visiting friends on the way)
  • Magnifying mirror for putting in contacts
  • Bug repellent (skeeters?)
  • Plenty of change for doing laundry
  • Laundry detergent (unscented)

Photography (or maybe just use iPhone?)

  • Camera
  • 3 Batteries
  • 2 Chargers
  • Several SD Cards
  • Case


I think the campus may have some WiFi. I’ve heard it’s slow, but it should do the trick. I’m on AT&T… No idea what coverage is like there.

  • iPhone
  • iPad
  • Old iPhone as backup, and for recording ideas, blog posts, and other random ideas on the trip up and back.
  • Phone earbuds (with mic)
  • 2 chargers
  • Charging/speaker dock

Physical Therapy / First Aid

  • Yoga mat
  • Foam roller
  • Stick (or Tiger Tail)
  • BioFreeze
  • Arnica
  • White sports tape
  • Vet Rap
  • Band-Aids
  • Lamb’s wool
  • Moleskin
  • ACE bandages
  • Ice / hot water bag
  • Back brace (for holding ice/heat packs on lower back)
  • Knee brace (for holding ice/heat pack on knee or elbow)

That’s is so far. I’ll probably post some amendment, too. If you have any suggestions, especially if you’ve gone before, I’d love to hear them. See you there? I hope!

What to Do at Camp

You will probably find yourself caught up in the flow of things, and ultimately will find your own way just fine. But if you’re like me, and feel more comfortable knowing what to expect, here are some tips:

Introduce yourself. Get involved. Don’t hang back. In 2011, as the only person attending from my dojo, and my first time there, I didn’t know how things would go. I assumed each dojo would do something they had prepared ahead of time for the Aiki Follies on Friday, and that I wouldn’t be participating. But the end of the first day’s training someone asked for anyone who would like to be part of an ensemble singing group. My hand shot up – and so should yours. I had a blast rehearsing throughout the week, and it was a great way to get to know people!

Be respectful of the instructors’ time and privacy, of course, but don’t be afraid to approach them. Say hello. Invite them to sit at your table at a meal, or ask if you may join them. Join in the conversations that spontaneously pop up here and there. They have come to teach and share Aikido! Show your appreciation and interest. One high-ranking person I spoke with was disappointed that people were not asking more questions or engaging him in discussions – he’d come all that way to be available, and students were not taking advantage of the opportunity! I got to sit and chat with him for a good part of the evening. Lucky me!  

Read this. This is great advice from one of my favorite Aikido people, George Ledyard Sensei – his blog post from just a few weeks ago: How to Get the Most Out of Attending Aikido Camp.

A few practical things…

People dress in their rooms and walk to the dojo in their gi. So you don’t need a dojo bag – you won’t be changing in a locker room. That was a surprise to me the first time.

It’s OK to not train in every class. I’m one of those stubborn people who tries to do it all, but you don’t have to! It’s totally OK to take a nap under a tree, sit off the mat and watch, or even go into town if you just need a break.