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Valencians Attending Endo Sensei's Seminar in Granada Describe It as Extraordinary
December 4-9, our group of more than 15 Valencians went to Granada to attend the international seminar of Endo Shihan, 8th Dan of the Aikikai of Tokyo. Like the previous year, the experience was extraordinary, both technically and socially.
Most people lodged in the Sports Centre of Armilla, in the dormitory and bungalows, and enjoyed again this year an atmosphere of exceptional coexistence. We travelled there one day before the beginning of the seminar, and gradually fellow participants arrived with whom we would practise throughout the 5 days of the seminar. Groups came from Madrid, Cordoba, Jaen, Sevilla, Tenerife, from further such as France, Germany and Belgium, and, of course, our group from Valencia, who numbered more than ever. It would be very difficult to estimate the total number in attendance without the actual data of the seminar organizers, but we will venture that there were more than a hundred students.
Endo Sensei is faithful to the form of aikido in order to feel it, to practice an aikido of sensations, an aikido in which skill completely replaces physical effort, an aikido based on feeling and connection in the relaxation and the freedom that one contributes, with an impressive aesthetic quality. Sensei dropped concepts and reflections about these during the practice, none of which lacked significance.
Sensei commented to us that during his time in aikido, as he was relaxing himself more when practising, his aikido became more enriching and more things were coming in to him as a student; sometimes the less you understand things the more you learn. Sensei remarked, referring to relaxation and also to freedom of movement, that for him during the execution of the technique we must be like the water in a stream, which goes down where it can but never where it is not possible. As water flows around obstacles if it is difficult, we too must be as free, flowing according to the way that we are able. Sensei mentioned the mindset that the aikidoka has to have facing conflict: we must naturally rid ourselves the fear in our minds, as the strongest mind is the one that has freed itself of fear, and a person can then do anything. It is a clear reminder of the parallel with bushido.
The five days were fruitful in trying to develop and understand the technical work put forth by Endo Sensei. As we said last year about Endo Shihan's technique, anyone who is not familiar with his way of doing things cannot understand any of it easily. His way of moving and placing his body in a natural and harmonious form always where he has control of the partner's feeling, with minimal sufficient contact - it is perfect. Anyone who does not know this work well may think that it is magic. Endo Sensei is in another dimension. It is "another thing," which certainly escapes almost all of us. In these five days, I repeat, we "tried to understand" his aikido.
Sensei started the seminar proposing to practise from kata dori - very normal for him. He emphasized the relaxed mind, and the freedom of movement derived from this. He also emphasized that uke as well as tori try to feel, in order that the technique was not at all something just physical. The way of ikkyo ura worked on here was a masterpiece, moving oneself with extreme naturalness and doing ikkyo from the most comfortable position, completely behind him, where there are no problems to control and direct his arm. "We must move the way we can move," insisted the Shihan.
In another session Sensei surprised us with some exercises to work on contact, feeling, and the relation of uke-tori, concepts that later would be converted into the base and premise of the whole seminar. By means of having the "simple" support and intention of uke - contact at the shoulder, hip, head, etc. - tori works on directing the partner according to how he feels him. Those exercises they were very insightful, although not uncomplicated and very hard physically for uke.
The work from katadori men-uchi also was more than interesting, emphasizing "atari" and always without losing "the thread" of the partner's feeling, lowering our centre not only for our stability but also to make extension, and from there, nikyo, jiyuwaza, etc. Each one of the works was introduced first by a series of exercises that tried to show/remind us their sense. Thus it went also with shomen-uchi and also the ushiro waza practiced at the seminar. We practiced educative movements of absorption before the techniques, which later helped us to not spoil the essence of the movements, which depended mainly on releasing all rigidity of the shoulder, bringing our feeling as low as possible, and from there being able to control our partner without problems and to do what we want of him, using again the extension, without tension, from our centre - how exquisite!
It would be endless to make here a list of all the worthwhile things we saw at this seminar. And as the organizer of the seminar said, "aiki only can be embraced by the practice." No matter how much we can comment, it is a practical experience that is necessary to feel.
Like every year, we would like to make special mention of the atmosphere that can be found at this seminar. It is not only a pleasure to practice with all the aikidoka who attend it, because all have a sincere desire for practice and learning, more receptive than ever, but also the fact that we share everything together makes this gathering something extraordinary. To wake up together, to have breakfast together, to eat, to sleep, to go out on the town in groups that are not necessary comprised of people from the same place. Again this year Endo Sensei wished to join the party with all the aikidoka in the already traditional "Spanish party," where we drank to everybody's health, sang, and danced - together with Sensei - and humanized even more our relations.
For all of the students from Valencia (AikidoValencia.com) who attended the seminar, I would like to express thanks to everybody for their attitude during this time, as well as to the organizers of the seminar for the effort needed to achieve such a gathering; and of course to Endo Sensei for his dedication and patience.
See you next year!
Víctor Gutiérrez Navarro