Seattle Aikido Bridge Friendship Seminar 2009
Sponsored by Aikido Northshore and Two Cranes Aikido
Contributed by Jennifer Stoakes
Photographs by Paul Verba and Hiroshi Ikeda
In October 2004, Hiroshi Ikeda Shihan and Mary Heiny Sensei led their first Unity Seminar classes in the tranquil town of Friday Harbor on beautiful San Juan Island in Washington State. Lee Crawford Sensei of Aikido Northshore and Kimberly Richardson Sensei of Two Cranes Aikido, along with all of their students, collaborated to create that magical training event. 150 students came from as far as Boston, Chicago and San Diego to study together for 4 days. In his opening class, Ikeda Sensei said, "The last time Mary Sensei and I shared the mat together was 37 years earlier, as students at Hombu Dojo in Tokyo, Japan. Many years later we get together again. I am delighted." So were all of us who had the opportunity to experience their distinct, but connected, teachings.
A wonderful DVD documenting this event was created by Dan McAbee from Two Cranes Aikido. The Unity DVD can be purchased at the Bu Jin® or Two Cranes Aikido websites.
From the beginning of the 2004 reunion to this latest 2009 Aikido Bridge Friendship Seminar in Seattle, the focus of Ikeda sensei and Heiny sensei has remained the same: developing heart, spirit and connection through the practice of Aikido.
The time between the first 2004 San Juan Unity Seminar and the most recent 2009 Bridge Friendship Seminar held in Seattle on October 1 - 4, has been filled with significant changes for both dojo communities. Lee Crawford Sensei's training community has expanded considerably; and in 2007 Two Cranes Aikido renovated and moved to a new space. The result was a beautiful dojo large enough to comfortably accommodate the 130 students who attended this year's Bridge Seminar.
Over these past five years, Ikeda Sensei and Heiny Sensei have co-taught several major seminars, and each continues to emphasize their shared vision of bringing together people from a variety of paths to study in a spirit of collaboration.
For this 2009 Seattle Bridge Seminar, Ikeda Sensei and Heiny Sensei were joined by the following instructors, each of whom presented an outstanding class during the training-packed four-day seminar.
Students came from all parts of the US and absorbed the variety of teachings offered throughout the four days. People came to the mat with curiosity and a sense of conviction, trying on new material and exploring different timings and spatial relationships, while keeping an open heart.
We were particularly moved on Saturday afternoon when, during George Ledyard Sensei's class, an unfortunate event took place outside of our dojo: a drunk driver hit a man as he walked down the street and the driver then fled the scene.
Two students who are also medical doctors, Ikeda Sensei and a few others with basic First Aid training immediately stepped in to help. They nursed and comforted the victim until the medics arrived, and we all hoped for his recovery. (We learned later that though he had sustained serious injuries, they were ultimately not life-threatening.)
On Sunday morning as the seminar came to a close, Mary Heiny Sensei referred to this incident and the effect it had had on her. She spoke eloquently of our human interconnection, which requires us to understand how our actions have an impact on us all. Some of us struggle with this before we learn it. The accident brought it home to all that Aikido practice extends off the mat and requires a sense of present moment awareness to respond effectively to the circumstances that arise.
Later in the week the father of the victim visited the dojo and thanked us as a community for responding to his son's condition. Last week the hit-and-run driver turned himself in to the police.
As a student at Two Cranes Aikido I have been fascinated with the infusion of ki that radiates through our dojo since the Bridge Seminar. We were very fortunate to be the host for this event and have benefited greatly. The teachings offered over the course of training have shown up in our classes: emphasizing connection; emphasizing the mandate to wake up and take responsibility for our actions; acknowledging the need for self correction first; focusing on a deeper exploration of extension.. It has been wonderful to not only absorb what I personally experienced, but then also to receive another layer from what all of my teachers and fellow students took in.