If I remember correctly, 1998 was the year I attend my first Ko Ryu seminar in Atlanta, Georgia. At the time, our dojo was under Sensei Sukh Sandhu was the first Jinenkan Dojo in the Jinenkan Organization. Subsequently, 1998 was the year that I first begin training in Jissen Kobudo, our martial art.
This seminar occurred 6 months after I first began training. I was approached by Sukh Sensei regarding my desire to attend the seminar with the rest of the dojo. At first I had my reservations about attending the seminar. At this point, I did not know my left hand from my right foot. Every movement we did was foreign to my mind and body. Also, the unknown of what the seminar entails was a point of fear. I did not know what to expect and what would be expected of me and my skill level. However, Sensei Sandhu reassured me that the experience of the seminar will be enriching and things that I will learn will stay with me for many years. He expressed the importance of supporting his teacher Manaka Sensei and the Honbu, after all without those two things, we would not have anything to train on. This was an opportunity to train with many different folks with “like” minds. This was an opportunity to strengthen my “connection” with the art. That is an indescribable attribute that I have come to appreciate after all the years.
During the 3 days of the seminar, I attempted to perform the techniques that I was shown to the best of my abilities. I also worked to understand the composition, structure, theme of the seminar and lineages we studied. After the 3 days of training, I started to reflect on my experience.
First thing I noticed was how fast the seminar started and ended. How quick time went by…when you are having fun. I realized this time evaporation was because during the time of the seminar, we were immersed in the activity of training, deliberately shutting ourselves off to the rest of the world. I found this to be very therapeutic. I found myself tired physically, but my mind was rested and my sprit was uplifted. I had forgotten about what was happening in my day to day life and focused on something that I had come to love. Something that only continues to strengthen who I am.
The next items that I reflected on were the actual physical movements of what I learned. Subtleties in movement, techniques and thoughts/ideas that I might have missed had I not I attended the seminar in full.
During the seminar, I learned two invaluable ideas regarding training that to this day I keep in my mind. The first idea was something that I learned from another Sensei (Shawn Havens) in the Jinenkan. I was doing a technique that felt very awkward. Sensei Havens stopped and explained to me that whenever I am performing a technique on my uke I should always be in a position of strength and my uke should be the only one that feels awkward. This idea seems simple, but it is valuable advice. The second concept I learned was directly from Manaka Sensei. He stated that when training, one must be serious, dedicated, focused, willing to lose to win, and humble. These ideas are a road map to living. I have applied them directly to my personal rank testing and training. When training for a rank, in order to learn and grow, one must be serious about accepting the challenge of training for the test. After you accept, then you must dedicate your focus to achieving your goal. When you test you should be willing to fail, because through failure you will grow. Also, if you are willing to fail to achieve, then you will be able to conquer your ego, which translates to humbleness. This concept goes both in success and failure. If one fails he/she should humble themselves to continue to learn in order to achieve next time. If one succeeds, then one should humble him/herself to continue forward without ego and a feeling of superiority.
Accordingly, I also came to understand that the seminar and rank testing go hand in hand. The seminar is the venue in which one tests for rank, but it is part of the journey to the test. You may miss something by not attending a seminar that you could have learned there that may ultimately help you in future tests.
I reflect on OUR latest Gi Yu Honbu Annual Seminar that was held in June of 2014 and the same emotions wash over me as above. No matter how long you have trained, you will always be amazed at what you see, hear, learn and do. For example, we were studying a Shin Ken Gata Jutaijutsu technique from the SanDan Tora no Maki- Okuden no Maki Scroll called Ka Soku...which translates to “deer feet”..and as Sensei Sandhu was teaching the movement he looked out the back window, to the Dojo’s back garden and there stood a baby fawn! Something cosmic…I think. Sensei Sandhu said maybe the deer came to teach us how to move like he does! Really coincidental. I think of the amazing things I have learned from my teacher, Sensei Sandhu, and how these seminars continue to connect me to the art I love.
Subsequent years have left me with a desire to repeat that seminar experience over and over. The reality is that each seminar has been more and more memorable for me and my training. In turn, I have worked to make it memorable for others, so that they too may take ideas with them from a seminar that they will hold close to them throughout their training.