This year, the Aikido Kokikai Seattle dojo and Aikido Kokikai South Everett hosted our first Spring Seminar. The guest instructor was Sensei David Nachman, 6th dan and co-chief instructor at Aikido Kokikai Southwest.
While I have attended many seminars in the past, this was the first one at which I was primarily responsible for the planning and hosting. We (Sensei Zeger and I) decided to host the event at the AKSE dojo, partially because we have a little more mat space and partially because there’s more parking in our neck of the woods. When we started planning the event some months ago, we had a simple hope: to get between 15 and 20 students on the mat. We figured that, if we could just get that many people to participate, we’d have a good seminar that just might break even. It seemed like a reasonable goal. Instead, the event was attended by over 35 kokikai aikido students. We very nearly ran out of mat space, we had so many people practicing. What made the event even better was that there were many folks that I hadn’t seen on the mat in quite some time. The result was an event that left everyone fired up on their training.
Seminars and camps are always interesting events to me, in that it is sometimes hard for me to articulate what it is that makes them so invigorating. In part, of course, it is the insight into techniques and martial strategy. I think what makes them so interesting is that they are unusual. Therefore, we tend to focus more on our training and on what is being taught. Also, in this case, we had an extremely knowledgeable aikido practitioner and teacher. Over the past week or so, I’ve been approached by many students who attended the seminar. Every time, they mentioned how Sensei Nachman said or demonstrated something that gave them some really valuable insight into their own aikido training. Another reason why these seminars are so enjoyable might be because we have a huge group of people with whom we normally don’t practice. I was both surprised and pleased to see so many people on the mat–far more than I had anticipated–and getting the opportunity to practice with people I don’t see on a regular basis was a real treat.
Off the mat, the seminar offered much to me in terms of learning how to be a good host. I was and am fortunate that Sensei Nachman was a kind and gracious guest. He gave me many insights on how to best take care of guests, both on and off the mat. What really touched me was how he befriended my daughter. The two of them really formed a special friendship. In fact, one evening I watched her climb into his arms, where she remained, content, for the duration of the evening. I was worried at first–I didn’t want her to bother him–but eventually I relaxed and realized that he was able to tell her himself when he needed to put her down or talk with someone other than her for a while. Watching that interaction was truly touching.
I hope that this past seminar is the first of many we get to have with Sensei Nachman, and I hope we have the opportunity to invite others to visit us as well. In fact, shortly we have the opportunity to put our hosting skills to the work once again, as Sensei Maruyama will be staying with us for a couple for a couple of nights on his way back to Japan! More on that some other time…