I spent last week in Colorado at Boulder Aikikai’s Aikido Summer Camp in the Rockies. It was a solid week of Aikido training, several hours a day, with some of the world’s highest-ranked Aikido instructors, in some of the most beautiful territory I’ve ever been. Needless to say, I had a great time.On the first night, Hiroshi Ikeda shihan, the host and chief instructor of Boulder Aikikai, opened by introducing the other instructors who would be teaching. He introduced the other three shihan, and then handed off toMitsugi Saotome shihan, who led the first class, reflecting on his training with O Sensei at Hombu Dojo. He spoke mainly of how O Sensei rarely described technique, instead he demonstrated.
Following on what Saotome shihan said, when Frank Doran shihan took over to lead the next class, other than “onegai shimasu” he didn’t speak a word during his first class other than “or,” in between sankyo omote and ura.
Finally, Morihiko Murashige shihan led the last Monday night class. His instruction style differed from the others primarily in that after demonstrating a technique, he left students to practice for a long time, sometimes up to 15 minutes per technique, as opposed to the rapid-fire demonstrate, practice, demonstrate, practice pattern that the other shihan followed through most of the week.
The rest of the week continued in a similar fashion. Each of the shihan led one or two classes per day, indoors and out, and covered various techniques and principles. Sometimes they focused on advanced factors, such as environmental conditions in outdoor encounters. Other times, we focused on very simple things like irimi timing and ikkyo footwork. It definitely felt that there was a strong continuity from instructor to instructor, which helped preserve the flow throughout the week.
While there, I met many new people and made new friends, and had the opportunity to train with several rokudan instructors on the mat.
What impressed me the most was how smoothly everything went. Boulder Aikikai has definitely “nailed it” when it comes to putting on this training event. I have been to several other week-long conferences and training events, often put on by organizations who do things like this several times a month, and none of them have ever been as well-organized or smoothly orchestrated. Kudos to Boulder Aikikai for their efforts. I look forward to seeing them again at next year’s 30th anniversary summer camp.