A New Path in the Wood

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  • You are not alone.
  • With hard work and study, you can practice Chiba Sensei’s Aikido at the highest level.
  • As part of a strong and supportive community, you can pass on the essence of Chiba Sensei’s Aikido to the next generation.

That was part of the powerful message of this past weekend’s Birankai Instructors’ Intensive in Wisconsin. It was an incredible experience, full of collaboration, intense study and real progress in our collective goal of keeping Birankai Aikido vital and true to the essence of Chiba Sensei’s project.IMG_5901

(More reports will be posted soon on the event in this blog and in the print issue of Biran, along with a quick-cut video I’m putting together set to “Eye of the Tiger”…)

Personally, I didn’t have a clear idea of what to expect going into the Instructor’s Intensive and I harbored plenty of skepticism, if not dread. Much more of my mindspace as the weekend approached was occupied by concerns about wolverines, a dry campus and three days of healthy food than martial spirit, curriculum or pedagogy.

Cheese foodLuckily, Wisconsin “cheese food” was soon on hand to supplement my diet and I turned my focus to the radical paradigm shift occurring in front of me on the mats and lawns at the House in the Wood.

With full acknowledgment of and respect for teachers who chose to focus on their own dojos and methods, the Intensive offered a new model in which a coalition of the willing apply their energy and humility to the needs of the larger body of Birankai instructors.

We took on the most basic of the basics – suburi, strikes, fundamental movements in weapons training – and worked together as senior and junior teachers to first clarify the martial objectives of each movement, then explore the many approaches used by Chiba Sensei over the years to embody these martial intentions. Finally, we put our heads together to form strategies to bring everyone’s level up and practiced, practiced, practiced.

Roo Heins, Rodger Park, Neilu Naini, Deena Drake, Alex Peterson and I acted as group IMG_5909facilitators more than ultimate authorities passing judgment from on high, keeping the focus on improving our training as an inclusive group and keeping the energy up. Shihans Lizzy Lynn and Maureen Brown kept us honest and on task.

Chiba Sensei was there in our hearts at every moment.

Seeing the passion, perseverance IMG_5891and grit of our fellow instructors – most of whom I hadn’t gotten to know much at all before this weekend – I fully expect the next exemplar of Chiba Sensei’s Aikido to come from Muskogee, Lansing or Providence.

As I yearned for cheese food overnight in the deserted Philly airport on the way home, thoughts of the Intensive kept running through my mind:

  • As part of a strong and supportive community, you can pass on Chiba Sensei’s Aikido to the next generation.
  • With hard work and study, you can practice Chiba Sensei’s Aikido at the highest level.
  • You are not alone.

L. Klein

Editor’s note: Thanks to R.C. Miles for the great panorama photo at the top of the page. If anyone has more good photos or video, let me know!

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