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Saito Hitohira Sensei in Augsburg, December 2015

A good part of the Iwama Shin Shin Aiki Shuren Kai family gathered on the weekend of December 4th-6th to attend a long awaited seminar with Saito Hitohira Sensei. The seminar took place in the Bavarian city of Augsburg, Germany and drew a crowd of some 150 people from nearly 15 different countries.

We arrived Thursday night and so we had most of Friday to check out the city. Augsburg was almost spring like, with sunshine and some lovely 10 degrees. We took the opportunity to see the Christmas market and the magnificent cathedral amongst other things and also enjoyed some local food. Augsburg proved to be a very nice city with lovely atmosphere.

The training hall was crowded and energy level was high as the seminar started Friday afternoon. During the course of the weekend Sensei would take us through 9 classes, covering a broad spectrum of what the Iwama Aikido syllabus has to offer. As is tradition, first class was basic ken work. We worked our way through the suburi and various ken awase exercises and finished off with 1 no kumi tachi. As always, Sensei took his time with the important details of the basic ken work, emphasizing the relations between sword and body, the difference in positions etcetera.

The weekend as a whole included a lot of buki waza. For example Friday night gave us a full class of various tachi dori techniques and Saturday included a very interesting class where we went into groups and practiced jo nage. One class covered basic jo work, with all the suburi and many awase exercises and two classes covered all of the kumi jo including many different variations. In the tai jutsu section Sensei taught 3 classes that of course covered some basic practice both in suwari waza and tachi waza, but also covered a broad range of very dynamic kokyu nage and juji nage both from regular frontal attacks and with attacks from behind (ushiro).

Sensei was in great spirits, demonstrating the full width of his preciseness and technical expertise. Fast, dynamic and precise, every movement filled with energy both in weapons and tai jutsu. A seminar like this is always an opportunity to get an up-close look at the best Aikido there is, a chance to get close to the origins of Aikido and a moment to get inspired and motivated to pursue you own training even harder.

During the course of the weekend Sensei also gave a lot of time to the group of children who attended the seminar – the next generation of Shin Shin Aikido students, our future. Big and small, all getting the chance to face the challenging task of being called up for ukemi and being the center of attention. Sensei took his time, correcting feet and hands, slowly and precise showing the techniques. This was also a good reminder that anyone can practice with anyone and it is good focus practice for adults to mix with kids in keiko. Not always focusing on strength, speed and power.

The party Saturday night was given in traditional Bavarian style, with local food and beer and the Augsburg team dressed up in magnificent traditional clothing. As always, the festivity part of the seminar was a chance to relax and to have a good time and catch up with old friends as well as meeting some new ones. At this particular time, it also gave us the chance to see the new Augsburg dojo. It was a great party.

Our flight home wasn’t until Monday afternoon, which meant we got the opportunity to finish off Sunday night with a more informal dinner with Sensei and some of the sempai and the Augsburg seminar team. This gave us the chance once more to enjoy the local food and beer and was a nice relaxing way to end a great weekend. Great company, everyone a bit tired but happy after a long weekend, meant a lot of laughter and happy faces and just the sensation of being with good people, in a good place at a good time.

Flying home from Munich Sunday afternoon the mind was filled with inspiration and the impressions of the weekend. Once again I am struck with the vastness and the infinite variation and creativity of Aikido. Once again I am filled with the deepest respect of the sharpness and dedication of our Kai Cho Saito Hitohira Sensei who relentlessly keeps up the work with developing and transmitting the Iwama Aikido.

Many great thanks to the Augsburg team for a fantastic seminar. Thanks to all who came, securing this and future seminars. Thanks to all old and new friends for a very good time. And, of course, thanks Sensei for sharing Aikido with us.

Now it is time to brush the dust of the travelling hakama, bow in and get back into that every day dojo work to try and get one step further on the long road in pursuit of Takemus Aiki.

In Aiki – M

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