Friday, October 29th through Sunday, October 31st, 1999
By Rick Renner, Boulder Aikikai
Mitsugi Saotome Shihan again honored Boulder Aikikai by giving his time, energy and experience at the annual Halloween Seminar in Boulder. The seminar had record attendance, with 133 students - including 76 from Boulder Aikikai and 57 visitors from around the country (also a record). Saotome Sensei led the seminar through four keiko, beginning Friday night the 29th and ending Sunday, Halloween morning. The group was blessed by beautiful weather this year, compared to the near blizzard of 1998. This allowed many of the visitors to at least get some sunshine, if not go for a hike in the mountains.
The first keiko on Friday evening was a more contemplative session, where Saotome Sensei discussed and demonstrated the concept of feeling, as opposed to mechanics. Small movements and awareness were emphasized, and the class became a lesson in connection. As usual, the subtlety of Sensei's movements were combined with thoughtful words regarding the meaning of aikido.
Sensei also discussed the concept of society and its problems, and how these problems are often too abstract if we don't understand that individuals comprise society. Working with people's problems are the fundamental requirements of building a stronger society. For this writer at least, Sensei's words provided a clearer understanding of why we actually come to the dojo, why we train, and the meaning that it holds for us outside the dojo.
Sensei had noted there were many tired travelers on Friday evening and kept the class low key, but promised the rest of the weekend would be more vigorous. Saturday morning involved more movement and emphasis on connection, though the focus was on relaxing the body - moving out of one's head and letting the relaxed body develop a powerful connection with one's partner. In the afternoon, the training moved into weapons, using the shinai (on a very crowded mat).
On Sunday morning, which followed a Saturday night party hosted by Boulder Aikikai, Sensei continued shinai work, moving into the practice of take-aways. Demonstrations by Sensei with two ukes - Kevin Choate Sensei and Tres Hofmeister Sensei - showed the importance of precise footwork and clear intention. The rest of the students gave it a good try. The balance of the class was taken up by jiyu waza techniques, and despite the crowded mat, practice was vigorous.
The seminar was a great success, and a meaningful practice for all the students. We would like to thank Saotome Sensei for teaching and Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei for hosting the seminar. Also, many thanks to all the travelers and to senior students at Boulder Aikikai for their efforts in organizing the seminar.