For 3 months I have now been travelling through China and Indonesia. It has been an incredible journey so far, but unfortunately aikido hasn’t been part of it. Until yesterday..
My aikido-less journey started when I had to write day and night for my bachelor thesis. I graduated from university in May and left for China with my wife. Ofcourse I knew what I was getting myself into, so I decided to research how well-practiced aikido was in China and Indonesia so I could possibly train here as well! Surprisingly Edo Sensei received an invitation from Bali Aikikai for a seminar with Shoji Seki Shihan in July. And the greatest of all: I actually am in Bali writing this blog after training a half day at that seminar!
To me being an apprentice in Aikido (aren’t we all?) makes any different style hard to get into. I got the same feeling as with my first seminar in Spa with Miyamoto Sensei: it was different to what I had practiced so far. The first step was to unlearn everything I had known, look closely to what was shown by the sensei, and then bluff my way through practice with any uke I managed to ‘confidently’ partner up with. The same process appeared to happen in Bali: unlearn, study, copy. Together with the fact I hadn’t trained in 4 months I obviously felt rigid and square. Two hours of training in the morning had passed and due to fatigue I had decided to skip the 2 hours of afternoon training. It was that moment when I realised what made my practice unforgettable: the people.
Practicing at a seminar can sometimes feel ‘odd’ : being alone and not being familiarized with the style of aikido makes it more difficult for me to connect with people. Following a sensei normally helps you see the same faces, make many friends and practice together over time.
Yet this seminar was different. As I sat down at the edge of the tatami, looking at everyone getting ready for the afternoon session, many asked me why I wasn’t wearing my borrowed Gi. ‘Aren’t you joining?’ ‘You should come and train!’
No matter what style I followed, no matter what grade I had, no matter what reason I had to skip training; I was welcome. The local people made me feel welcome. To me this also is aikido. We all have the same goal; to improve our aikido and practice it daily in and outside the dojo. Practicing abroad made me face some personal challenges but they were never addressed by the other practicioners. After all, we all faced the same direction: the kamisa. And when there was no training, there were smiles. Many friendly smiles of strangers that also believe in the connecting power of aikido.
Today I was invited by Terakoya dojo in Canggu to train with them. It was great to be able to prolong my practice in a class with Arie Sensei and his students. After the practice Arie Sensei said: “We all follow different Shihan, but we all practice the same aikido as our Shihan all have the same goal.” An incredibly powerful connecting statement that will keep my experience abroad memorable.