Three Rivers Aikido grand dojo opening – England, November 2015

There was a sensation of great expectation in the air and the atmosphere was that of a big family gathering. Laughter and happy familiar faces greeted us when we entered the doors of the new and permanent dojo of Three Rivers Aikido, where we had come this rainy Sunday to take part in the grand dojo opening ceremony.

The dojo is located in the Herts Sports centre in Watford. Both me and Malou had been here once before, when it was still an old worn down dance studio. That was in April this year and since then the space has transformed into a beautiful and spacious dojo, much through the help and hard work of the dedicated students of the club.

This day some twenty five people had been invited to the opening of the dojo. The day started with Sensei Ray Gardiner, dojo cho of Three Rivers Aikido, welcoming everyone and thanking them for coming. The people who were there, he said, all had supported the club and its events in the past and had a special connection to both the club, its students and himself. He also said that this day was a day of gathering, as much about getting together to share the special moment as about training.

We all seemed to think that a good amount of sweat would be the best way to share the moment and there was a lot of energy in the air when the training started. Ray Sensei taught two classes, the first being tai jutsu and the second a mix of tachi dori and jo dori, connecting to the techniques taught in the first class. After an hours lunch break there was a traditional embu kai where all the participants did a short demonstration. The range of the participants covered everything from people who had been in training just a few months to people with decades of training experience and the embu showed a broad variety of technique, covering everything from a multitude of empty handed techniques to different aspects of partner practices with the ken and jo. It was a very good display of the evolution of Aikido.

When the embu was over it was time for celebration. A big bottle of sake was donated by me and Malou as representatives of Takemusu Aikido Göteborg and the first thing to be done was for Ray Sensei to break the seal, Kagami Biraki, so that everyone could take part in an initial toast, a Kampai. After that, a traditional style mat party began, with Japanese bento boxes, sake, beer and also some typical Japanese snacks. Last but not least a marvellous cake was presented, made by the wife of one of the club members. People were eating, talking, drinking and just relaxing. It was the perfect ending of the perfect day.

Having a permanent dojo is what many teachers and students dream about. But apart from the obvious benefits that comes with a permanent dojo, it also means a lot of hard work. It has to be kept clean and tidy, it has to be paid for and it has to be kept a living and welcoming place where people feel the good energy and an instinctive feeling that they have come to the right place in their search for training and commitment. A dojo is much more than just a place, it is the people that fill it and the spirit they bring into it – the dojo spirit. I sincerely wish Ray Gardiner Sensei and his students the best of luck with their building of their dojo and their dojo spirit.

In Aiki – M

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