The trip to Japan was very special for me, i was able to fulfill two ambitions. One was to actually train at Hombu Dojo, the second to fly for the first time.
After forty one years of Aikido, watching DVD's, meeting the different Shihan i found myself living the dream. After touching down at Narita airport we set off for Shinjuku Eddie Mccalla and i shared a taxi. We hadn't quite mastered the currency yet so when the driver asked for 100 Yen each, we both promptly gave him 20,000 Yen between us. He was well impressed. We both now have equal shares in a taxi.
After booking into our rooms Seki San met us and took us all to the Budokan to see a demostration by Doshu, and some of the university students studying Aikido in Japan, after the demostration we went on to a Japanese bar, we had alot to eat and a little to drink, or was it the other way round? I was too tired to know. I was unable to sleep much that first night, i was worried that i would miss the first class with Doshu. I was up and showered by 4.30am that morning. At 5.30am we where off, wondering the almost deserted street's of Shinjuku, putting all our faith in Gordon, hoping that he knew where he was going.
The strangest feeling came over me as we entered Hombu Dojo. I considered all the great Shihan that had passed through these very same doors. Doshu was standing in the reception area, he was quite shocked to see all these people from the UK standing with their mouths open.
On entering the changing room we all stood together a little apprehensive, not wanting to do or say the wrong thing, so no one said anything. I slipped through the curtain on to the most famous Tatami in the world, after bowing I followed the others and hung the locker key on its peg, someone spoke to me in Jpanese, I think he said move out the way. I wondered if we had a class that started at 6.30am how many people would be on it. Doshu had 40+ students. On the evening that we attended Miyamoto Sensei's class, he invited us all to a meal. It was a traditional Japanese rewsturant, we removed our shoes at the entrance and sat on the floor around the table, it was about 10 min's before i realised that you could dangle your feet under the table, and this was much more comfortable. One of our party ( I won't mention his name to save embarrassment ) quite enjoyed feasting on the sperm balls of a whale, he couldn't get enough of them.
Later in the week, off we went to Doshu's 6.30am class, i was unaware that this class was going to become one of my personal highlight's of our trip. We all began with Doshu's 'warm ups' and like every day previously one of the Japanese students would invite you to train. A lady by the name of Miyuki Kumazawa asked me to practice, from that moment i was given a master class in Aikido, she blended so well with my clumsy movements, she made all my techniques look text book. Every turn, projection, strike just flowed. There was no force but i found myself on the Tatami. I don't know if you can have the perfect partner in Aikido, but i felt that i had found one. The only criticism that i have is that the one hour passed too quickly. After this experience, even if i had got food poisoning like some of my new mates, it would been all well worth it, this experince will stay with me for many years to come. I would imagine to Miyuki it was just another practice.
There is so much that the group experienced that it would take you weeks to read, so i would like to leave space for one of the other guy's to tell their tales. One thing i would like to share is an observation, while practicing, i noticed a lot of very senior students practicing on Doshu's class, and they turned up every morning and just trained. The thing i noticed was that they all practiced their own Aikido, some of these guy's had practiced under the first Doshu and probably O'Sensei himself. I was told that these guys had all done their best for Aikido and now they enjoyed the fruits of their labour. They had moved aside to allow progression, but it was very plain to see they still held the respect of not only the regular students at Hombu, but all the visitors to the Dojo. I hope that one day, i will be able to stand back and feel the same pride as these ladies and gentleman do.
I would like to end by thanking Mr. Jones Shihan for organizing the trip, Seki San for keeping an eye on us, and all the guys that made my first trip to Japan a great one, I couldn't have wished for a better group of friends.
PS Eddie shall we buy a Bus next time?....