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Over 25 Years Herzogenhorn (The second week)

by Peter Nawrot

The Tendoryu Aikido seminars with Shimizu sensei for a quarter of a century in cloistral seclusion on the Herzogenhorn in Germany … almost a myth.

Twice seven days each with about sixty participants since decades, is there still anything left to report? Groundhog Day … but marmots get older, too.

Sunday – Day of Arrival

Arrival in sweltering heat, room keys are handed out, the tatami already laid out from the previous week has to be cleaned as usual, last but not least `cause of all the dead flies lying about– cleaning of the mats is a ritual, comparable to the daily routine of a zen monastery, at least temporarily.

The participants, most of them have higher grades, come from all over Germany and from neighboring countries, whereas the farthest distance was from Slovenia ( Maribor ).

First practice in the usual garment, but under aggravating circumstances, high temperatures and fatigue and mountain air.

Monday – Zen in Movement

The beautiful weather lasts. Clear sky, view to the snow covered Alps , white blots on green meadows, which in the morning gradually turn out to be an eagerly chomping romantic community of more or less voluntary wool-suppliers. Early morning in the dojo you can find a few drowsy figures – participants, who once again, welcome each day with a mind and body refreshing yoga morning class. Also the somewhat difficult headstands and handstands look more and more professional every year.

Oh yes, times are changing after all. Now we have a buffet-style breakfast and lunch. The endless waiting queue in front of the tiny scuttle for handing out food reminding the old days in East Germany belongs to the past. No lining up, no pushing, no reserving of seats, no spending the night in front of the scuttle to be the first one in the morning, no trays, no segregation into classes of Bambi eaters and Non-Bambi eaters any more. In return the often semi-somnolent communication while queuing is missing. So, the next 25 years with buffet …

The high temperatures, which are rare at this mountain height, and the resulting exertion during practice is easily balanced by the high motivation of this spiritual and bodily aikido highlight of the year and by the relatively high proficiency level of most of the higher graduated Tendoryu students. And should there still be signs of exhaustion, a glance to the over 70 years old aikidoka, who participate for many years untiringly, should suffice.

Tuesday – Sauna Day

What could be noticed already during the last seminars as a trend in some way or other happened regularly this time (in the second week): after every (!) official training there was a 30-40 minutes of special practice for the higher dan degree holders. In groups or pairs, in rows or in randori style, Shimizu sensei made a point of correcting and consequently improving weak points. In front of a daily increasing group of fascinated spectators Shimizu sensei demonstrated that especially in case of highly graduated students since their function as role models lasting improvements are possible and necessary as well. This impressive scene was topped off by Shimizu sensei’s convincing demonstration of ukemi and by his active participation as uke.

Tuesday morning was – not completely unexpected – devoted to the bokken (sword against sword), whereas Shimizu sensei repeatedly emphasized the role of the bokken as a means for practice and not as a way itself within aikido.

In the evening in spite of the lingering heat the sauna was jam-packed, and temporarily people wanting to work up a sweat could only enter when simultaneously somebody left the room.

After that jumping into the pool and a cool drink provided for inner and outer supplies of liquid.

Wednesday – Halftime and Day off

The traditional afternoon off resulted as usual and in particular due to the beautiful summer weather in a run to the surrounding resort areas. Who hasn’t climbed the ‘Horn’ so far, made up for it and only had to be careful not to be recruited by force to the flock of sheep by the sheep dogs. Other participants descended like a cluster of grasshoppers on ice coffee shops in Freiburg , Titisee, Schluchsee et cetera. The more courageous ones ventured out by boat to one of the lakes, sunbathed or jumped into the cool water.

Then until late at night tired excursionists arrived, just in time to comfort the Dutch (and the as well suffering Belgians) with plenty of strong drinks, as they felt downhearted and mourned because of the gods of football have been so unjust. For many German football enthusiasts therewith shared suffering felt like half the suffering for being dropped out from the competition.

Thursday – With Full Speed Ahead

The sore muscles of the first day gone, the acclimatization on high (mountain) level had taken place, the new daily rhythm internalized, sleeping and communication deficits compensated – the spiritual-sportive climax continued last but not least thanks to Shimizu sensei’s motivating and inspiring presence.

A bird in the dojo brought into mind the proximity of nature, which was quite unfamiliar for many. And as the dickey left the dojo effortlessly soon after the end of the training via the door, the primary worries have been unnecessary (the cleaning team was cursing..). Well lots of dead flies were shoveled away daily by the cleaning team. These flies didn’t make it to freedom, apparently due to their somewhat smaller brains.

Nothing is eternal apart from change. So is the weather. Cool, cloudy, rainy. The Herzogenhorn is famous for this, too, and the well-earned daily naps got longer. The weather would not change till our departure (the first week Herzogenhorn was unfriendly altogether).

The students from Slovenia , who are celebrating the 25th anniversary of Tendoryu Aikido in Slovenia this year (an anniversary seminar with Shimizu sensei is expected to take place next year), cemented the friendship of nations in the evening mercilessly with hard stuff. Actually it is unnecessary to mention, that the students being in charge of Tendoryu Slovenia were also formed and encouraged in the daily special practice.

Could it have been already homesickness? Anyway, increasingly favorable locations for handy reception were passed on discreetly, and many a person suspiciously dowsing around in the nearby under woods was not looking for oil, gold or truffles but searching for still undiscovered places of reception.

Friday – Last Day of Training

The same procedure as every year … the farewell wine cooler. The latter training classes passed quickly and climaxed in the usual grading ceremony by the attending members of the Tendo Advisory Board (which seems to be the new name for the former Technical Advisory Board).

Similar to last year’s final party there was a rich, international cultural program. A Dutch-French-Bavarian team of actors enthused with role- and costume-plays themed: When you say `a` you have to say `b` and `c` and `d` and …

Even the longest party comes to an end eventually and almost seamlessly meets the

Saturday – Departure Day

How to ensure not to forget anybody? How to bid farewell hugging the nicest ladies (the choice was quite difficult again) preferably several times and preferably without attracting attention? Many thanks to Shimizu sensei, whom we might see again only next year (apart from the participants of the following seminar in Munich, which has been organized on short terms, and from the Novi Sad enthusiasts), a short glance round to the rainy top of the mountain, collecting of all paraphernalia and passengers, and then that finally was it: the marmot did its taisabaki successfully once again …