This past weekend I had gone to an aikido retreat deep within the wine country in California. Located near a tiny town called Sebastopol 30 minutes west of Santa Rosa, some 90 martial artists convened in a tiny camp to train and to discuss the future of Aikido.
To be more precise we were exploring O’sensei’s Aikido.
The whole retreat was dedicated to how O’sensei (the founder of the art) viewed his art and practiced in his art. This was without any regard to what his first-generation students have done. This retreat with dedicated solely to what he perceived as his message to the world.
I make this distinction because according to my sensei there’s a lot of confusion within the first-generation students; most of the Aikido masters now are more concerned about building empires and learning the art and technique rather than the human growth process that is O’Sensei’s Aikido.
It would take too long to describe what I had learned; what I can tell you is this:
– O’Sensei’s aikido is based off of what most people would call an alchemical process; a process of human emotional, spiritual, and full body awareness development that is done through allowing the different parts of human existence to harmonize with each other. Hence the name “the way of the harmonious spirit”.
– O’Sensei’s Aikido, as told by my two main teachers, disregards the memorization and root learning of technique altogether. Rather the harmony between the human mind, ego, physical body, and energetic body.
– Throughout the retreat we explored some of the ways that O’Sensei practiced. Apparently most sensate created a lot of the movements on a whim. Many of the same movements and techniques were categorized and made into a system by his students.
– One of my sensei has experience with using aikido as a vehicle for self-development. Much of the seminar was dedicated to human being classes that were filled with strategies that O’Sensei used to get to higher levels of being an presence, that which translated to his amazing skill at the martial art that he taught.
– One of my sensei was one of the few Caucasian direct students of the founder of aikido. His extremely close relationship with the founder allowed him unparalleled access to how and why O’Sensei did the things that he did, how he bit them, and what.
– Apparently this relationship was so close that O’Sensei allowed my sensei to look at his private notebook, the one that he wrote all of his personal notes regarding his own study; his own process in the creation of the art. To give you a metaphor, it would be like Picasso giving one of the students has personal notebook where he would write down all of his thoughts and personal annotations regarding each of the paintings that he created.
Thus a lot of our work during this seminar came from these notes that my sensei had acquired.
Other than that, the trip had a lot of things go on.
1.) Four of us from my dojo rented a house about 20 minutes away from the camp. It was a very interesting experience; I learned a lot about myself actually. For one thing, there are just some personalities I don’t get along with! Nothing bad, just some interactions that I now wish could have gone better.
2.) Living with three other dojo members brought back memories of living in the dorms. The difference? These dojo members are a lot more mature than college freshmen.
3.) For the first time, I felt that I had made a genuine connection with some my dojo members. It’s a lot like school; true friendships are not forged in school or during study time, they are forged outside the confines of the structure of learning.
I’m still processing the whole experience – lots of things have changed, but I’m exciting actually. Nothing can compare to what I saw and experienced while I was there. I feel just being there was worth 6 months of training.
Till next time.