Callligraphy of Kanji meaning "Aikido"Last weekend I went to Nara, an old, pre-Kyoto capital of Japan, not far from Kyoto. No, I did not go there for sightseeing, but to train Aikido. Endo shihan, an 8th dan, one of the top Aikido teachers held a seminar in Nara, and one of my friends invited me to go there, so…

This is not my first of Endo’s seminars, but he always knows to give a new spin to his training. This time he started out asking “Why are you here? What do you expect?” just to scold us not to come with fixed ideas, but to empty our minds and to come to the training with an open heart to see what new things we could learn. There were plenty of familiar faces – Aikido is a long-term commitment, so you’ll see the same people over and over again after a while – and some new ones as well.

I did not train at all last year, for various reasons – for one, I had an exceptional teacher in Germany and did not want to spoil my experience there – but it was nice to come back so to speak. I have met somebody who is teaching not too far from Kyoto, so I’ll check out his dojo soon. Today I’m a bit tired and my wrists are still sore (lots of grabbing techniques), but I have no bruises or muscle aches, which is quite surprising after spending the winter rather sedentary on my futon wrapped in blankets…

I survived the two hours training on Saturday quite well, and in the evening there was the traditional party. I have been to several seminars he holds in his own dojo in Saku, and the parties there are always fun – first the food, then entertainment where everybody has to sing or to tell a story. In Nara it was a bit different, it still started out with the food, but then, for the last hour or so, it felt like half of the participants were invited to give talks… No more eating – at least no more getting up for more – limited drinking, limited talking, only listening to rather random people… I could understand a word here and there, but mostly it was quite boring as nobody in my immediate vicinity bothered to translate at least the jokes. At least many of the Japanese looked rather bored as well, so I probably did not miss anything important.

Anyway, the party, held in a hotel, was timebombed and over after three hours (quite long, actually), and I did not go to what is called nijikai – second round, which is usually followed by a third round and tends to end in a karaoke bar… All in all, however, I had a pleasant weekend, the training was great, it was nice to see some friends again, but next time I’ll try to get out of the party when the speeches start.

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