Sunday, June 17, 2007

Aiki Summer Camp

So, back in the day, summer camp was really fun, right? Hanging out with people your own age for a couple of days, making mischief, learning new stuff. Lots of fun, but like many fun things, must pass away with childhood.

Psych! Not with Aikido! It's even better because this time around, alcohol is allowed!

A week in California doing Aikido, meeting new people, and having a generally great time is basically the best vacation I could think of. I left Utah with two other guys, Nick and Nate, from the dojo here in Utah. We didn't know each other that well before, in fact, I thought that Nick didn't like me much, but we loaded up his hatchback with Aikido crap and headed for Reno last saturday. There, we camped out at a Motel 6, and met two other people from Utah Aikikai who were also driving. We at at one of those ridiculously large casino-buffet restaurants which serve every kind of food, every nationality, and like sixteen different desserts. Then we went gambling. I lost about ten bucks. Five on a single hand of blackjack, and the other five split between DDR and the slot machines.

We went back to the hotel after that and bought a six-pack, and a bottle of Baileys to play cards with. There were five of us, so our original plan to play spades didn't work, since noone except me remembered how to play spades anyway. So instead, I taught everyone the game shithead. Apparently, everyone really liked the game, because we played at least four games every single night during the week.

The next day, Sunday, we got to California and checked into our dorm rooms about mid-day. I was supposed to have a roommate, but he (Ernie) didn't show up until about Tuesday, and turned out to be splitting his time with some other guy. So, that was a little akward dealing with them. Otherwise, our accommodations were pretty decent. It was hosted at a college, which was nice because everyone lived together, and everything was really close.

There were four main teachers at this seminar. I had seen Ikeda Sensei and Heiny Sensei before at Oberlin and elsewhere, but I had never seen Nadeau Sensei or Doran Sensei before, who are more in the west coast Aikido circles.

I think my most memorable training experiences from this camp were in Heiny Sensei's classes. Partly because I knew her best, but partly because, despite being an older woman, generally had the most vigorous classes. I took some ukemi for her (read: was called up to attack her, and be on the receiving end of the technique) on the first day, and it was really awesome. She really sent me flying, and so I think it made people impressed with her ability, but I also got a lot of compliments for my own skill at ukemi. I work on that a lot in Aikido, so it was nice that people took notice, and consequentially I got to work with a bunch of higher ranking people who may not have trained with me otherwise.

I got to work with a lot of really remarkable women at the seminar. I spent one morning class with Doran sensei working with Yukiko Hara, who is a really funny Japanese woman. Also a sixth degree black belt, so she kicked my butt pretty good. Another time during class I worked with this woman named Jane, and we just did a bunch of stuff from the same attack for like twenty minutes and it was awesome. We were able to really get to know each other's Aikido, and on top of that, I think that Ikeda sensei was watching us go at it from the sidelines, which was kind of cool. Later in the week, I worked with one woman who, after we were done, said "that was yummy." Kinda weird. Kinda funny. Kinda kinky. Of all the people I trained with, the women at the camp really stick out.

Other memorable experiences on the mat include my first taste of responsibility for being a black belt. I was working with a beginner, and was reprimanded by one of the senior instructors, Nadeau Sensei for giving the beginner a weak attack which didn't have anything real to work with. He said that as "a belt" I was responsible for helping students that I am working with find good technique. He then proceeded to throw me on the floor, really hard, and I still have a bruise from it.

I had heard mixed reviews of Nadeau Sensei. My friend James and his dad, the head of the dojo in Salt Lake had given me the impression that he was a little wordy and really into the spiritual/philosophical/non-physical side of aikido, which usually raises an eyebrow for me too. The first class, I strongly disagreed with half of what he said about, and the other half I had no idea what the hell he was talking about. So that kinda pissed me off but in the second class I realized that if i didn't really pay too close attention to what he was saying, he was actually doing good aikido. I got to come up in front of the class and work with him a couple of times. He gave me good advice, but I still get the impression that he doesn't like me. I mean, that happens with high status aikido people sometimes when you first meet them. They're like "who is this fucker who thinks he's hot shit," which is meant to knock you (i mean, me, of course) down a couple pegs, and then after like fifteen years they may deem you worthy to touch them.

I guess the only other instructor I haven't really talked about is Ikeda sensei. He does this amazing stuff where he will tell a 250 lb. guy to "be strong, don't move, don't take ukemi (trans: don't fall for me), stay there." Then, he'll drop him on the mat without doing anything visible. It's pretty crazy. In fact he'll usually say "isn't that weird?" in a Japanese accent after he does some completely crazy shit that shouldn't work by most accounts, but does for some reason. And then he asks us all to do the same thing, and like, nobody can do it consistently, which is really frustrating, but is at least really challenging. I've seen him do this stuff for four years now, and I still cant do it to save my life. But, I was able to do it at least better, if not perfectly, this time around than I had a month ago.

Finally, I'd like to report on my findings on the 31st annual symposium of aikido and alcohol consumption. As is usual with aikido, there is just as much learning that goes on off the mat as does on the mat. I met about 100 new people last week, and of course, I remember the names of maybe 20 of them. There was sort of a clique of young people that formed, which I hung out with most nights, but actually talking with some of the people who'd been around for like 20 years was really rewarding. You really get to know the history of the organization, of Aikido. And the people who've been around the block a few times tend to have bigger perspective to draw from when they talk about Aikido.

I was talking with this one guy about the pseudo-parental relationship that you form with your teacher, and how that helped him resolve issues he had with his parents. I actually had a similar experience one time when I was getting ready to attack the guy who teaches at Oberlin. I was staring at him intending to do him harm, when I realized that he looks a lot like my dad. I think that realization helped me with my issues with my dad a little, just like the guy at camp.

But, most of my time outside of class was spent hanging out with people from the Utah dojo, and a couple other younger people who were there. We had good times getting crunk, shooting each other with airsoft guns, playing shithead, and staying up late. I goatsed one guy which earned me the nickname "gaping tom." aww, who would I be without all my nicknames? Anway, it was a great week, and one of the best experiences in Aikido I've ever had. I hope to return... someday.


Jim Klar said...

i think you should try attacking your dad and see how that affects you emotionally and psychically

Brendan said...

rofl Heiny Sensei