My First Summer Camp

By Leslie Cohen, San Diego Aikikai

The first time I went away to an Aikido summer camp was in 1994, to Portland State University. I had done a few classes at prior camps before, as a commuter in my hometown of San Diego, and my band at the time had even played the farewell party, but this going-away-and-full-camp-experience, was all new to me. I was young(ish), 27. I was in the thick of training hard with a group of similarly aged folks at San Diego Aikikai, under the strong guidance of Chiba Sensei. He expected as many of us that could, to attend camp. So off we went, in somebody’s car (mine, Liese’s?). Our first stop was a rendezvous with a group of Shibata Sensei’s Kenshusei in Berkeley. Many memories are hazy – there may have been a bit of drinking that stopover night.

The following morning we continued our journey North. In the morning, there was a mysterious note from Shibata Sensei that had been left from him for his students: “Meet me in Yolo”. So off we went to Yolo County, almost a hundred miles up towards Highway 5. I think we side-tripped to the actual namesake tiny town of, but never did see him…(yes, these were the days before cell phones). Next stop was somewhere in Oregon, a campground for the night. A tent and a tarp came out. We crowded five or six of us into a tent meant for maybe three, tops. Heavy overnight rains came, and then the wet sleeping bags from the tarp we had laid underneath the tent, were now a nice lake to lay in. I may have crawled out to sleep in the car, but barely remember.

The next day we arrived at camp, found our rooms and then it was game on. Training, training, training. Bad food eating. Weapons class was outside on a beautiful green grassy lawn. The unforgettable event of Jack Arnold Sensei’s heart attack during that class, him laid out on that same beautiful lawn as CPR was administered. My partner (Bob Burns Sensei) admonishing me to look away and keep training, and us doing just that, me with tears in my eyes. (And for those of you who did not know this, Jack Arnold Sensei was revived and went on to live for almost 20 more years!).

I made many new friends at that camp, including one (Ben Pincus) who eventually introduced me to my husband. There were many other memorable moments …(Sundance anyone)?

I can’t tie it up to a neat conclusion, that “blank” happened training-wise, and that changed everything for me. But that wasn’t why we went to camp. We went with our teachers and for our teachers. We went to train with our peers, and make new connections. The experience was transformative because it was different and challenging, and there we were, working our way through it, together.

2017 Camp will be held at University of Puget Sound, July 26-31 2017. I am coordinating it. Do you want to drive cross-country to join in the fun? Maybe camp along the way? Flying is ok too. Any-which way, I hope to see you there!

-Leslie Cohen

Special Announcement: T.K. Chiba Shihan Private Swords and Fittings Collection

Dear Students of Chiba Sensei,

Mrs. Chiba has agreed to sell the last of Sensei’s lifelong collection of weapons and accessories. Below is a link to a website containing the collection. The site will be available for you to browse beginning January 14th.


On January 28th at 2:00 PM PST, we will enable the “Buy Now” buttons. We will not be sending out additional notification of the opening of the sales. This email is being sent to Birankai NA and Birankai International instructors, as those are the email addresses that we have available.


Please feel free to pass this email on to other students of Sensei’s that you feel might have been inadvertently left out. It is Mrs. Chiba’s wish that Sensei’s students are given the first chance to buy these items before they are offered to the general public.

The site itself is divided into three areas:

• Tsuba
• Kozuka, Kōgai, Menuki and Fuchi/Kashira
• Swords



In each area there is a list of items. Clicking on a single item will show you details about that item as well as a Certificate of Authenticity, if one is available.

You can click on images in the detail pages to see larger versions.

The purchase process will take several steps:

1. Click the “Buy Now” button you see on the listing page next to the item you wish to purchase.
2. You will be directed to a page for you to fill in your shipping and personal information.
3. Click the Purchase button.
4. You will receive an email with further instructions, and the item will be placed on hold.
5. Payments are being processed through Paypal. We will not be accepting checks. Items will be held for 4 days pending receipt of payment from Paypal. If no payment is received after 4 days, we will release the item to be sold to someone else. Once payment has been received, your item will be processed and shipped to you, and the item marked as sold.

Thank you to Derek Shaw for building this website; Didier Boyet for cataloging, researching, and appraising all of the items; Gary Payne for photographing them; and Dick Miller for storing and shipping the items.


Warm regards,

Lynne Ballew

New Found Community and Warrior Spirit Discovered Through Aikido Training

By Brooke Cannon Grass Valley Aikikai

I moved to the west coast over a year ago to work with goats. I was way up in the mountains in a secluded area hoping that I might have found my home there. But as life would have it, I was led to the little town of Grass Valley where I’ve been living now since last April.

I still feel quite new to the community here in Grass Valley. I dove right in though, with joining an Aikido class in September. I thought it would just be learning a martial art! What a surprise it was to me, that it’s a little community all on it’s own. An awesome mixture of some women close to my age, kids ranging from 7 to 12, older adults with hearts as big as Texas, and the kick ass 20 somethings that make everything look easy.

Practicing good form while learning Shihonage.
Practicing good form, ukemi, and mai-ai, while learning Shihonage.

Our dojo just had some young ones test for their orange belt two days ago – two young men and two young ladies. After our Sensei told us to be serious and not to laugh or smile, I watched as their little faces put on a “warrior face”. “Pretend as if you’re going into battle,” she said. I have to say it was hard for me not to smile while watching those young people try so hard to show their parents, who were sitting in the corner watching them, what they know. I was even feeling proud!

It was pretty humbling for me as well. I’m still in the toddler stage when it comes to Aikido. So, when I was asked to be an uke (the “bad guy”, the attacker), I jumped up and prayed that I wouldn’t be too ignorant or clumsy. I only messed up once (that I know of), at which time Sensei was very gracious and quick thinking to switch me out.

The young warriors awaiting their tests.
The young warriors awaiting their tests.

At one point during a technique, I was facing one of the little warriors, he had to look me in the eye. I don’t know if he was reflecting back to me what he saw, but I was truly impressed with his “warrior face”. All at once I could see the warrior spirit in him, that I’m sure everyone has. Honestly, it almost brought me to tears. I can’t really say why. I guess I’d just seen him as a goofy, sweet, young man.  I don’t mean that as an insult – (to those of you who might read this that may know who I’m speaking about).

Afterward, when the parents and kids were excitedly chatting, I walked up to the oldest young man who just finished testing. It was he who I had messed with during his test, but he looked at me and thanked me for being such a good uke, and he genuinely meant it. I told him I was sorry for messing up, but I could tell that he wasn’t phased at all by it. He was gracious without even thinking about it. That’s the kind of people I get to see three days a week. They keep helping me with the little things, like patience. They graciously correct and guide me through the simplest movements. Especially Sensei, who has probably repeated the meaning of “aihanmi” to me, a thousand times by now (yes, that’s tricky to spell, so I did have to look it up).

Practicing Aikido is fulfilling my own warrior spirit in a way. I feel like I have one that needs to be expressed. Maybe most people do. I’m learning new things about myself through this experience, even deeper than I’d imagined. I have to admit, I’m grateful.

A day in honor of North County Aikikai’s 25 years

By Julian Frost, North County Aikikai

What a great day of training to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the North County Aikikai! Saturday’s classes began with Coryl Crane Shihan teaching body arts for the first hour – a fun class which was attended by many of NCA’s juniors and teens, as well as adult members. Next up, was Norman Wight Sensei, who taught a great Tanto Dori class. After lunch, Archie Champion Shihan taught the third class of the day, emphasising timing, direction and relaxation. Crane Shihan rounded off the day’s training with an hour of Jyo.

After training came the party! Thanks to everyone who made the party such a success, especially Party Planner Extraordinaire, Joanne Fogel, and host, Noam Ziv.

Many thanks to all who attended one or both of the activities, and to all those who sent gifts, flowers, and congratulatory messages.

Celebrating 25 years at North County Aikikai

By Coryl Crane North County Aikikai
November 19, 2016

To all of you who have been a part of my life and that of North County Aikikai throughout the years, a personal message.

There is an exquisite line from Dante’s Inferno that I was reminded of recently: “Oh beautiful moment, please linger…” Coming together with all of you at this time is a moment to savor! This is the heart of Aikido – opening up and expanding the moment, seeing so much more while time seemingly stands still. You want it to last but there’s nothing to hold on to, for as soon as you try, it’s gone! There’s the paradox!

Invitation to our celebration
Invitation to our celebration

We are celebrating the culmination of 25 years of my life and that of the Dojo. A quarter of a century no less. I have resisted looking back since so much of my practice is about staying in that moment! But how fast now it seems to have flown, and how much more important become those moments ahead. It has been a rich and varied life, so much of it shared with so many of you, and so much of your lives shared with me. Teaching is truly a privilege, a gift and of course, a lifelong responsibility.

Looking back to the beginning of the Dojo, I want to honor three people who have supported and influenced me: my teacher, T.K. Chiba Shihan, my husband, Allan Kaprow, and my son, Bram Kaprow. It had never been my ambition to become a teacher but because of my circumstances – a husband and a young child at home, my teacher in San Diego and a practice that I was passionate about, I had to find a way to keep training and ease the pressure. I asked Chiba Sensei if I could start teaching close to home. Here was his reply dated March 7th, 1991:
‘… I wish you every success on your Dojo. You are truly ready to make your own path separate from me. That is your practice and (the) more you practice your way, (the more) you will feel a stronger connection with your mother dojo.’ He went on to say that he would name my dojo KAKU SHO KAN, Dojo of the Happy Crane. So I had my teacher’s blessing, I had his support, and I feel closer to him now since he passed than ever before. Because of his teaching, I have never seen my teaching as anything other than a journey of personal practice.

Enjoying each other's company at the party.
Here we sit enjoying each other’s company at the after party.

Some of you had the good fortune to know my husband, Allan Kaprow. He was always there behind the scenes, helping me lick my many Aikido wounds, taking care of our son, Bram, so that I could freely go to the Dojo. I don’t think I realized at the time what a huge commitment it was to be. No students, one student or 10 makes no difference – you have to be there to open the doors every day there is a class. Allan was an experimental artist and really appreciated and understood Aikido. He wrote an essay in 1991 for the Women’s Issue of Sansho, a subject dear to my heart, in which at some point he addressed the readership to say: ‘… you may wonder who I am. I’m not an Aikidoist but an artist whose art is very close in its essentials to Aikido. I live with a woman who is a full-time Aikidoist and so have come to learn a little about it, and to admire it.’

I have thought a lot about what he might have meant by ‘essentials’. A little while ago, I woke up one morning recalling a talk that he had given about his own work, to an auditorium full of people. At some point, having talked enough about what he did, he asked everyone to stand up, which they did. He then asked them to take some money out of their pockets or wallets, and they did. He then asked them to turn to the person next to them and give the money to them. They did. That was all. He then went on with his talk.

Allan’s work as an artist wasn’t in the realm of convention but in the breaking through of self limiting boundaries. This is the real work that goes on in Aikido. The inner work that is the constant within the martial context. This is the process of creativity. We are always pushing those boundaries and in so doing experiencing more of ourselves than we ever thought possible. This is what my teacher made evident to me and what I endeavor to pass on to you.

For my son, Bram, I have love and respect. He has been part of my journey whether he liked it or not! He came into the world doing Aikido. I trained well into my pregnancy. Because of him, I started a children’s program that continues to this day. I often felt torn through and questioned whether I was being a good mother, leaving him at times to go to the dojo when I felt I should have been at home. Forgive me Bram for all those times, for in spite of them you have become a wonderful man and generous human being.

So to all my students, this is the journey that we are on together. We share it every time we step on to the mat. You have all been a part of my life in ways you may not have ever realized. You have been a source of strength to me when I have most needed it, and are now here with me celebrating this occasion! I am blessed.

Now, more than ever, the Dojo and by extension the world outside, need us to turn to our neighbors and give something of ourselves.

With love and appreciation as always,

Coryl Crane Sensei
North County Aikikai
Solana Beach, California