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Seminars in Europe

Off Time No. 1

by Kenta Shimizu

During the first foreign seminars in Europe (March 11th – 28th) in 2005 at every location more than 100 Aikidoka got together, and this time all went well, too. Every time I have this impression, the training attitude of the Europeans is very serious, the basis is strong, and training hours passed in no time.

The locations of the seminars were as follows:

March 11th – 15th: Genk (Belgium)
March 17th – 22nd: Berlin (Germany)
March 24th – 28th: Hamburg (Germany

According to the people it was very cold in Belgium about one week before we arrived, and there was heavy snowfall. But during this year’s three weeks stay in Europe we felt the coldness only at a few days, and the warmth of the spring visited Europe earlier than in other years. On March 10th we arrived at Brussels airport coming from Narita via Frankfurt in Germany, and from there we roughly went 30 minutes by car. Even within Belgium Genk is a comparatively new town, there are big department stores and shopping centers, but the town is altogether quite quiet, and we had the impression that people spend a pleasant living there.

In Europe it was the time of the Easter holidays, and the city was decorated with eggs and Easter bunnies here and there. The Easter holidays show an intimacy, which rarely could be seen in Japan, and these holidays remind of the resurgence of Christ. Schools and companies have holidays. By the way, if you asked how the Easter holidays are related to eggs and bunnies, people will refer to an origin in old fairy tales. In houses with children people hang colored eggs at the trees in the garden analog to the Christmas trees.

At this seminar the training times at weekdays were 90 minutes each, and at the weekend 2½ hours were standard; on weekdays we practiced in the evening, on the weekend during the day. In the seminar advanced students as well as beginners participated, and the participants practiced under the direction of Shimizu Sensei very earnestly. Many Aikidoka from the Netherlands, France, Germany and other countries attended the seminar, and thus the seminar showed a very international character. After the training everywhere words of different languages could be heart. At the 5th and last day a training for advanced students took place, and in this training the best Aikidoka participated. The spirit was different to normal practice, and some kind of acute stress could be felt. Shouldn’t that become a very good motivation for every single participant?

On March 16th it took about one hour from airport Brussels to Berlin by airplane. As both countries are members of the EU we were able to handle the formalities at the airport very fast. As expected in Berlin as well Tendoryu Aikido is firmly rooted. On an average the daily training took more than two hours, and I think, the number of participants reached a maximum (at crowded days there came about 170 participants per day). During weekdays the gym of a school became the Dojo, and during the weekend, when the number of participants increased, the training location was a sports hall in a professional sports center. Every day the Tatami had to be set up and removed again for the training, and for this reason the organization staff had hired a big truck. The eagerly helping Aikido students of Berlin were very impressive.

As mentioned earlier the range of age is very large, as Germany has already a long Tendoryu history. In fact the training is not different to the Tendokan in Japan, and I was able to practice quite naturally. During practice the students were not only busy with the technique, and therefore we could practice and understand Aikido in a way, which enabled us always to search intensively for the spiritual content.

Furthermore the organization team of the Berlin seminar did an excellent job, everybody from the people in charge to the normal students cooperated very well, and I was able to feel the enthusiasm, by which they intended to organize an excellent seminar. After the training we went for dinner to a restaurant with many of the students, who participated in the seminar, and among the companionate Aikidoka increasingly the feeling of togetherness developed naturally.

Later during the seminar two times television teams came for shooting, and immediately after one channel broadcasted live to the whole country. At this day the preparations for the transmission started about one hour before the practice. When the training started lights were installed at every location, and during normal training recording could take place. Within scarcely 10 minutes of broadcasting they reported detailed about Shimizu Sensei, about Tendoryu Aikido in Berlin and about the history of Aikido. The topic obviously was quite popular, and already at the next day after the recording many people, who had seen the television program, visited and watched the training.

On March 23rd it take us four hours by car from Berlin to Hamburg. Although Hamburg is located in the middle of Germany, we were prepared for cold weather, because we moved towards north, but in the end there was only one day, when we needed thick clothing. Within Germany Hamburg is one of the major cities with a long history, too, and in the city there are many shopping centers and department stores line up. In Hamburg also a special Budo sports center became the training location. Within the facilities there were many single Dojos, and in these small Dojos the Aikidoka, who came from far away to Hamburg to participate in the seminar, stayed overnight in a sleeping sack. When walking along the gangways more often than once I could watch with my own eyes middle-aged gentlemen, who were milling around in underpants carrying a Dogi over the shoulder.

Training was two times a day, in the morning and in the afternoon, and in every training about 100 Aikidoka participated. In Hamburg, too, many foreigners attended at this seminar, who came not only from Europe but in a great number from East-Asia and the Far East.  Although the nationalities were different the mood after the training was characterized by a harmonic feeling of togetherness, and I could feel deep in my mind the significance of such meetings at seminars in foreign countrie.

Moreover countless trainers from all locations, at which partly Tendoryu Aikido is practiced for more than 20 years, participated in the seminar in Hamburg. Very often I was able to learn something from beginners as well from advanced students, and without their activities and without their contributions Tendoryu Aikido in Germany might not exist.

This time also really a lot of students participated in the seminars, and I wish especially that Aikido will prevail in future, too, and that the circle of exchange will increase continuously.

© translated by Peter Nawrot 09/2006