Contributed by Jane Nason
Thanks to a number of people for the photos
Last week I attended the 30th annual Aikido Summer Retreat in Atherton, California, hosted by Frank Doran Sensei and Robert Nadeau Sensei, with guest instructors Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei and Clyde Takeguchi Sensei. 30 years! That's one of the longest running traditions in the Bay Area. Where were you in 1975?
I moved to the Bay Area from the Midwest in 1996 and have been training at Aikido West since then, but this was the first time I attended the entire camp. Folks from Aikido West (one of the hosting dojos) who have attended this summer camp for many years running always talk about what a supportive, friendly, social scene camp is. I can honestly say they are right. Off the mat, there was much partying (sshhhh!) and a great live dance band. But on the mat, everyone I trained with was very serious about Aikido and their practice. As with many camps, people gave up their vacations and traveled many miles (from as far away as Alaska, New York, Florida, France, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Finland). They spent the week training hard, sleeping in short, skinny beds, eating cafeteria food and enjoying each other's company. (I thought the food was pretty good, but somehow I missed the day they served hotdog pies. I must have slipped away for the good Japanese food just down the street.)
While each of the teachers brought with them their own personal character, experience and vision, they all addressed some of the same aspects of Aikido and gave us some clear, consistent messages. One message that interested me was the idea of opposites: where there is a front there needs to be an equal back, letting your partner come 'into' the center while, along that same line, there is movement out, expanding out in all directions while condensing in all directions.
Another common message was that training involves the study of one's own body, for example: attitude, posture, articulated movement (that wiggly stuff), relaxed movement and being in the center of movement. I really liked this focus on development of oneself as opposed to just what nage can do to uke. Seeing and feeling how even very minor changes you make in yourself affect the interaction between uke and nage is very interesting to me.
Ikeda Sensei talked about taking the slack out and putting 'weight on'. I've always found this idea challenging because I haven't much weight to put on. We have all heard that in Aikido, nage uses uke's power and size to throw uke. So let's see... this means I can put 'weight on' my partner... with my partner's own weight! I hope you will all help me out with this one.
I always enjoy Aikido camps for the feeling of expansion they generate in me, and this camp was no different. There is something that builds through training, through sweat, through exhaustion. My usual defenses and barriers seem to fall away. I think it comes from working on a particular kind of relaxation that seems crucial to Aikido not a sleepy relaxation, but a very vibrant one. I also think this feeling would not be possible but for the generosity of spirit that first comes from the teachers, who appear tireless and eternally patient. The feeling comes next from the cooperation and exhilaration that is the natural outcome of doing Aikido with a lot of people who are basically on the same path. Thanks for a great camp everyone and thanks for that 'camp high'.
Hope to see many of you at Boulder Camp!