Last weekend I was in Trondheim (ohh.. I miss that place so much sometimes!) for the first preparation seminar of Kashima Shin Ryu kenjutsu before the summer visit by Inaba sensei, first time in Norway!
About this first attempt of teaching Kashima to people with no or little kenjutsu background, I can say that the organization needs a bit more re-thinking. Bjørn Erik Olsen, technical chief of Norwegian Aikido Federation, Reimekan dojo in Tromsø and main reference for Inaba’s sensei here in Norway, came to the seminar assisted by two of his closer student from Tenshinkan Oslo. And in Trondheim there was only one other practitioner close enough to Bjørn Erik style.
As a consequence of the wish of Bjørn Erik to teach the closest form to Inaba’s sensei one, the practice became quite.. slow! After many cut exercises and proper way of walking exercises (useful, but maybe more for the instructors?), the paired practice was not really paired! One of the pair had always to be one of the advanced student or Bjørn Erik himself.. ie. 4 people exchanging partner among the partecipants of the seminar.
I wonder now if it would have not been better to have 1 session open only to club instructors where the basic exercises where shown in more details and next a more dynamic practice for the other days, leaving the heavy details to club instruction.
In the way the seminar has been performed, I spent most of the time watching or walking around cutting.. or being allowed to perform only one part of 1 kata. Of course everything is vital for a deep understanding of sword work. And we all know that in Japan before you were allowed to perform the whole kata you had to practice many years, both for Kashima Shin Ryu school, and Aiki-ken and even Aikido, but as also Bjørn Erik said, we are not in Japan, not at that time, none of our instructor is at that level and our Western mind would never accept this kind of practice.. So maybe, for the intention of the seminar, there were a bit too many details and too little practice in itself. None of the people there thought t obecome a Kashima expert in one seminar, but a few (me included) had practiced a similar form for some time: not correct in Inaba’s way, true, but I admit I was hoping to see a bit more forms. A pity only I could not practice the last 1.5 hour, but a pity also it had come to the last minute to do some of the second series (uradachi) after many many hours of kihondachi.
All in all, it was ok practice for the time I dedicated to it. I am not too sorry I miss out some of the sessions.
As Bjørn Erik said, one must find his/her own way, for sword practice but, I say, also for Aikido and not mix too much. I am not an Inaba sensei student, I will never be: I like kenjutsu as a side practice for Aikido and I love Iaido for what it is. I value the details and notes I got from this seminar, and I know that the seminar in Oslo (where there are all Bjørn Erik students) will probably be more dynamic. So I recommend people ionterested in this kind of school to go to the Oslo date: 5-6 April @ Tenshinkan dojo.
I will not be there, because, as said, I want to focus on things closer to my own Aikido and budo feelings. But I will not, of course, forget the practice and what learnt (or tried to learn.. I have a very sloppy position.. too high.. like, uhm, all the people there? I check all the people cuts: if my knee was too back respect to the front foot I must say that most of the people, advanced students included had the same problem.. a pity for me that most of the remarks I got where only about my knee position.. very few about cut and hip movement, that I know are not so good either.. details.. details..).
As last information, here it is the formal invitation to the Kashima summer seminar, with dates and costs:
Dear Kashima Shinryu practitioner
As previously announced, Minoru Inaba sensei, 8th dan Aikido and head master of the Meiji Jingu Shiseikan in Tokyo, will give two budo seminars in Europe next summer, one in Norway and one in Greece.
We hereby invite you to the seminar in Norway!
Below follows some key information about the seminar. Additional information will be available at www.kashima.no.
The seminar will be held at Brandbu (near Oslo) in Norway, from 2nd to 8th of August, 2008.
The detailed seminar schedule is not finalized, but we know that:
- The first class begins at 15:00 on August 2nd.
- The last class ends at 12:00 on August 8th.
- Tuesday will not have classes, so people will have time to relax or experience the surroundings of Brandbu.
Instructions will be translated to English.
The seminar is held at Vestoppland Folkehøyskole, which is a college with their own dormitories. This is where the Norwegian Aikido Federation holds it’s annual summer seminars. The seminar fee includes all meals and accommodation and the rates for practitioners and non-practitioners varies depending on the type of accommodation:
Type of accommodation Practitioners Friend/family
Double room 500 € 250€
Class room 425 € 215€
Children under 3 years are free of charge. Vegetarian meals are available.
Information about how to get to Norway and Brandbu is given here: How to get to Brandbu
Due to the limited number of places, participation at this seminar will be by application. Please apply as soon as possible by filling out the on-line registration form, which is now open. The minimum Aikido grade requirement is 4th kyu.
All available information regarding the seminar will appear at www.kashima.no. Questions of common interest will be answered there.
The next steps concerning your participation will follow the following time plan:
||As soon as possible, and before April 1st
||As soon as possible, and before April 10th
||Before May 15th