Continuing on from my previous post…
Saturday is always an interesting day for me at Summer Camp. The last lingering effects of jet lag have finally starting to disappear, and I’ve been on the mat enough that I’ve hit a sort of of runner’s high–I feel like I can train forever. I’ve also, by this point, acclimated to the heat. Well, perhaps “acclimated” is too strong of a term. A better way to put it is: “I’ve resigned myself to the fact that it just isn’t going to get any cooler, so I might as well get used to it.”
But Saturday has a bittersweet component to it. Usually, after the end of the first class of the day, I realize that the next day is Sunday and, after that, camp is over. The feeling is similar to that of when you’re a kid, and you realize that it’s the last week of August. September, and the upcoming school year, is just around the corner.
Yet, before I can begin to feel a little sadness over the upcoming end to this year’s camp, there is still the Saturday night party to enjoy! Camp parties are always a good time. Sensei pretty much insists that there’s good music, lots of dancing, and lots of people enjoying themselves. This is one request that is easy to accommodate! This year I had a wonderful chance to chat with some very good friends–Abhijit, Robert, and Cathy. These are people with whom I’ve trained with and learned from for many years, yet this year was the first in which we all got to get together for a few minutes and talk. The four of us share a common history in our training, and it was good to talk and share about our experiences in teaching and training. Our little group is but one of many within Kokikai, and these groups in turn interconnect with other groups. The result? You really get a sense of how strong the Kokikai community actually is.
The party usually goes on into all hours of the night. This time, I managed to crash at about 4:00 am. To have time for breakfast the next morning, I got up at 6:00am. Fun!
Sunday is always a quiet day. I’m always a bit caught off guard–it seems the sole class of the day goes by too quickly. There is no time for lingering after that class, either. Almost as soon as Sensei steps off the mat, the canvas is folded up, and the mats are rolled into long cylinders that are loaded onto a truck. There’s a reason for this expediency–several, in fact. One, the sooner the mats are put away, the greater the likelihood that there are more people who are able to help. Two, half of the mats are the everyday mats for one of the dojos–if they don’t get them rolled up and transported back to the dojo, there’s no place to train on Monday! Still, I think the fact that the goodbyes are often quite quick says something about how we should look at our camp experience. It is not for ust to linger on the past, attempting to prolong an experience that has ended. Instead, we must move on, take what we have learned and use it to enhance our own training and that of our students.
The past two camps, I’ve been fortunate enough to have dinner with Sensei on Sunday evenings. Both have been wonderful experiences. Every time I share a meal with Sensei, I always do my best to listen to him, because he shares a lot about his thoughts on training and on aikido. Then, after a while, he looks at me and gestures to the platter of sushi before us. “Dave-san! Eat!” he says. My words aren’t doing this experience justice–let’s just say that sharing a meal with Sensei is truly a privilege.
By Monday, camp is fully over, and I’m heading home. But I always spend Sunday night with my good friend, Abhijit, and his family. They always treat me so well! Abhijit has a wonderful family, and I end up spending the bulk of Monday morning (usually my flight doesn’t leave until the afternoon) having great conversations and absolutely fantastic food. This year was even better–I got to play games and read stories with his 3-year-old daughter. What a great way to end the camp experience!
But the best part of leaving camp is coming home to seeing my family again. As much as I love training, and as much as I love camp, my family truly is the most important thing to me. Seeing the look on my daughter’s face as I step off the plane, having her run to me despite the fact that it’s 1:00am and she’s absolutely exhausted, feeling her place her head on my shoulder and tell me how happy she is that I’m home–that’s one of the best experiences of all.
Yes, I realize I’ve written a bit about camp, and I have said nothing about technique, martial strategy, or even anything similar. This time, I wanted to write about the other experiences of camp. The interactions with others off the mat, that make these experiences so incredibly worthwhile.