Shinto Muso Ryu Haarlem Jodo Seminar, Haarlem, Netherlands

September, 9th and 10th 2017

Participants came from Germany, Israel, Austria, Hungary and the Netherlands. The official start of the seminar was on Saturday, but for those who had arrived earlier additional Keiko was offered. Friday morning and afternoon gave the possibility for very individualized, personal training, for example doing Uchi Komi and Kihon with Kees Sensei and his most advanced students as Uchi dachi, as well as working on selected Kata.
In the evening, most of the participants had already arrived and joined the Aikido group who offered their training session for common Ken practice: Suburi, exercises taken from the Shinto Ryu Kata and then some of these Kata.

For Saturday we moved to a bigger hall. The morning was dedicated to Jo Suburi and Uchi Komi (the basics of the basics) with a very detailed look at the influence a correct Te-no-Uchi, Hasuji and hip movement have on the effect and efficiency of the basic strikes. Explanation and demonstration further gave us a deeper understanding of timing, angle, the importance of the right Te-Haba and usage of the correct hand. I find it especially important to not only see the teacher do it, but also to hold the Bokken and feel the difference of various ways a strike can be done. This way we can experience directly how powerfull a strike can be that looks very smooth and effortless. Most of us still do too much.
Kees Sensei went from couple to couple and everyone had the chance to feel his strikes, as well as receive personal corrections to their work as Shidachi and Uchidachi. Concerning the latter, overall there is still a lack of understanding of what is necessary in order to provide a good learning experience to Shidachi. Most of us still anticipate a certain movement instead of letting Shidachi do their work and follow along with the way the Ken is moved. Kees Sensei pointed out the importance of natural movement instead of taking studied positions. We are working in a static situation, but have to keep the dynamic attitude in order to avoid receiving the strikes in a dead, stiff, inactive or over-active way.
To enable us to further dive into this problem, we did a variation of the Uchi Komi with Uchidachi using a Jo. I found this very helpful to discover details of how I am reacting to a strike and subsequently to avoid anticipatory or habitual movement.

Saturday afternoon was dedicated to Chudan, starting with a variation of the famous drill and going through the whole series with individual corrections. Wil was taking care of the less advanced students, who had the chance to go through the Tandoku Kihon they knew, as well as learn new techniques.

Sunday morning we were back in the dojo and started with some of the Kihon Sotai, with emphasis put on bringing the points we worked on the previous day into the Kihon.

The rest of the day was dedicated to Omote and Kage. As on previous occasions, the students not only saw the Kata but had the chance to get very personal corrections. Sometimes a pair was asked to demonstrate in front of the group and received helpful comments according to what they showed. More often the teachers took one side and gave direct feedback to the students they practiced or demonstrated with. Enough room was given to questions and most of the time a break was postponed by one student asking Kees Sensei about a specific point.

One of the problems in Kata training is overthinking and analyzing. Kees Sensei pointed out the distinction of technical study in the basic exercises as opposed to work on other aspects - like observation, rhythm, ri-ai - in the Kata. This then can be brought back into the Uchi Komi, enriching and intensifying that practice as well.
After years of studying the details of the form, for many of us it is now time to go beyond and come to a practice that is truly reacting to the situation on hand. We are still imprisoned by memorised sequences which hinders us to answer appropriately to what is in front of us.
When we succeed in not falling into these habits and are able to step out of the form, we experience a deeper connection to the training partner. Sometimes we can discover new possibilities and gain new understanding. I enjoy this way of training very much.

We also had a great time outside of the dojo. I want to thank Wil and Jac for taking care of the food and everyone else who helped out with transportion or a place to sleep. But most of all thanks to Kees Sensei for his relentless and patient corrections and demonstrations. It was a pleasure to participate and I'm looking forward to the next seminar.