contributed by Al Kreever, Arizona Aikikai
Musings on the Aikido Bridge Un Pont Seminar 2007
When I was in school what I most looked forward to were the labs. I mean, I learned a lot in class, particularly when I had interesting lecturers. But to really assimilate the information I wanted to go hands on. In a lab not only did I have a chance to reinforce my understanding of the lecture content but also the opportunity to see whether I actually got the information. When you get to the lab, if your experiment doesn't work, either you didn't get all of it or you're doing something wrong. You keep at it and work it out. Plus you're surrounded by students who also are trying to solve the same problem.
When I got to the working world I found myself a software engineer. When I attended conferences I gravitated towards system design, lecturing and course development sessions. What good are new ideas if you can't explain the concepts to your colleagues?
This is probably why I'm so attracted to Aikido seminars. You get the best of both worlds. On one hand you get great technical training from the most advanced instructors and on the other you get a large group of attendees to work the problems out with.
I've attended quite a few Aikido seminars in the last year - I think 15 at this point. The most unique experience has been the recent "Aikido Bridge un Pont 2007" weeklong colloquium at Jiai Aikido in San Diego, featuring four shihan and five highly placed sensei. Where the single instructor intensive seminar is like a great graduate seminar, I find that the multi-instructor format is like an academic conference.
At a great conference you get to hear the points of view of many advanced researchers. You get to see their different approaches to presenting the information. You have access to these presenters to refine your understanding. You have numerous colleagues to bounce your particular take on issues off. And finally you pretty much know that everyone is there with an interest in the material.
At the Bridge, I found none of the typical dojo-centric mindset I find when I cross-train at other schools. The instructors worked synergistically to present ideas. Ikeda sensei or one of the other shihans would present an approach to waza and it was apparent that the other shihan and senior instructors were providing their personal take on the fundamental principals involved while referencing each other's methodology.
The attendees from a number of prominent associations ASU, Birankai, CAA, USAF and independents were uniformly cooperative and upbeat. Everyone was equally intent on figuring out was going on inside one technique or another. None of them were "grooved" into the techniques in the same way I was. There were great opportunities to add insights into a number of movements and principals. I found myself wishing I could take a few weeks to study at the home dojos of a few of the great instructors.
As an aside, it is unique to martial arts students that they think that paying to get slammed around for a week or two by total strangers is a good vacation choice.
Having many active shihans presenting was also a chance to pick up new ways of teaching these ideas at my home dojo. In the past I've found myself shamelessly borrowing (or copying outright) a complete class from Saotome sensei, Doran sensei or Ikeda sensei to teach at our dojo or at a seminar. Now I have Tissier, Murashige, Takahashi, Suzuki, Phong, McGouirk, Matsuoka, Choate, McGee, and Vriesman, senseis to steal from. "Shoulders of Giants", etc.
As in the other educational worlds: university, professional; the martial arts benefits from multiple, diverse and controversial points of view. It's this gathering together to stir the pot of knowledge that makes for opportunities to progress in individual understanding and which furthers the understanding of all. I know … kind of pretentious … but I mean it.
I'll be adding the Bridge Un Pont to my list of required seminars along with the great ASU specific intensives. Looking forward to next year.