4th KanKeiko Gasshuku, Haarlem, Netherlands

February, 14th to 16th 2014

Isshin Furan ni, "to do something wholeheartedly"

This year Haarlem saw three days of intensive training for about 25 participants from seven countries (Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, US, Belgium and Austria).

While the official beginning of the stage was on Saturday morning, Friday offered about seven hours of training for those who had already arrived. Most of this extra training was dedicated to Uchi Komi and Chudan exercises. For the Friday evening class of Kenjutsu a few local Aikido practitioners joined. Saturday morning continued with more Uchi Komi. Up until (and including) that time the lessons where led by Kees Bruggink Sensei.
He stressed the importance of Te-no-Uchi and a good understanding of Hasuji, but the "fil rouge" was the correct movement (in space and time) of the hips, which is all too often not grasped well enough. Most of us still use it too little or too late.
Another important point was the understanding of Kiri-Otoshi and its connection to the practise of strikes on a not-moving sword. While I think the picture is now more clearly in our minds, real comprehension still eludes most of us. It's my feeling, that this is a simple thing which is not easy to do and has to be practised constantly over a long period to be truly understood.

After lunch training was relocated to a bigger dojo and Fred Quant Sensei was able to join us for Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. Together with Kees, he led us in his well-established manner through the first three series.
Each series started with an Embu of all Kata, then explanation of important points in groups of three. After pairing off and training these we had the chance to asks questions. Only a few misconceptions had to be cleared up. It seems that the knowledge has already been well transmitted. Realising it in practise is none-the-less still difficult.
The last 20 minutes were spent with exercises for the first three Kata of Kage.

Sunday afternoon the group was separated according to level. Wil took care of the less advanced students while the others were able to go through selected exercises and Kata of Kage and finally Okuden respectively.

The theme of the stage - to do something wholeheartedly - was mentioned throughout the week-end. Kees Sensei demonstrated different aspects and applications. We could see this f.e. at the first engagement of partners in a Kata. Do we just "cross the weapons" in an empty gesture or are we aware of the real movement and threat behind it? This awareness will transform the way the engagement is performed.
Also in connection with the motto, Kees stressed how it is important to carefully watch what Uchidachi is doing. Many of us are still mechanically acting out the sequence of movements. We have to have a closer connection between Uchidachi and Shidachi. For this the understanding of Uchidachi as the "teacher's role" is essential. Uchidachi has to give himself wholeheartedly to help the Shidachi to grow. Honest, accurate attacks are necessary while still being gentle and adapting to the level of the partner.
This dual task that seems somehow contradictory is something I still have to work on more deeply. Understanding can only come gradually and I'm glad that we have wonderful examples in our teachers.
Not "keeping the beginners spirit" is an obstacle on the way and Kees addressed this by challenging us to reflect on our reactions to corrections: How openly do we accept them? Are we able to put ourself and our achievements into question? Do we mind when our weaknesses are pointed out in front of the group?

The organization was again done by the Haarlem group in a team effort: home-stay for guests, lunch buffets, transportation. Distraction from training and costs where kept to a minimum. I like to thank everyone involved for making us feel at home. As always a special thanks goes to the Sensei: Fred, Kees and Wil for their patience, kindness and effort.