Pain that’s four days old creeps across my shoulders and I’m still kicking the dust from my joints as I sweep the mats and tidy up the dojo after the Summer Camp this weekend (yes, I still do it myself… no “kyu grades do all the crappy jobs” culture here…), I had time to reflect upon the weekends events and to start to digest exactly what had taken place.

This is now our 4th annual Camp and this Summer Camp in particular took a lot of organizing.  We had 6 travelling over from Melbourne and six up from Hamilton as well as a number of other Aikidoka from dojo’s all over Auckland.  13 people stayed overnight for the 4 days, spread between the house and the tatami, and playing host and making sure everyone had all they needed also took its toll on my famously disorganized personality.   Being completely honest, I am pretty useless when it comes to coordinating stuff like this and tend to just say “help yourself” and hope for the best..

When I woke up this morning I felt like I had been rolled down and “up” escalator…  it would be very easy at this stage to think “Well, that’s another 20 hours/4 days/1200 minutes of Aikido performed under stinking hot and humid conditions out of the way”, and leave it at that, but this Camp was much more than that.

The teaching rota was pretty impressive and included Diane Haynes 5th dan (the only female in the NZ martial arts hall of fame I believe), Marcus Encel 4th dan, a vastly experienced Aikido sensei from Melbourne Australia (check out his site), Tony Shaufelberger who I knock a lot of ideas about with nowadays (and is almost a family member now) Jules Robson a very senior Jitsu instructor, originally from the UK but residing in NZ, Bryan Ward a 2nd dan Aikido instructor that now runs a Isreali Krav Maga School in Auckland (and who showed some wonderful no-frill self defense routines), Clyde Sutton yet another 30 year plus Aikido instructor from Hamilton, Rupert Atkinson , (you guessed it) yet another vastly experienced Aikido instructor and author who also has wide experience with other martial arts including jujitsu and archery and Kung Fu, and Greg Mayo 4th dan, once more a very experience Aikido instructor who also has his own large dojo with lots of mat space here in Auckland. The nature of a blog post limits what I can say here, but overall the level of tuition over the four days was phenomenal – some of the best I’ve ever seen. I don’t think I have been so profoundly affected by a training camp since maybe the first Summer School I attended in the UK back in the early 90’s.

It wasn’t purely the depth of knowledge on show or the actual techniques, concepts and ideas being shared, more the honesty and openness with which it was shared.

This to me is what martial arts training, and specifically Aikido should be about.  Mutual support, trust and an ego-free environment in which we can all use our wonderful art as a framework with which to try to find the best possible “Us” there is.   The bonds made over the weekend I suspect will be permanent and I look forwards to meeting up with the new members of our extended family in Hamilton and Melbourne very soon.

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog, and I hope it makes you want to find out more about Aikido