FROM EDITION 7 OF THE TRADITIONAL AIKIDO EUROPE JOURNAL – AUTUMN 2021
For some, vacation means sunbathing on the beach, others go hiking in the mountains or sailing on the sea. For me, vacation means first and foremost to enjoy a nice time with friends and family away from everyday life. For once, not thinking about work, clearing my head and recharging my batteries. A colleague once said to me that the vacation was good if you don't remember your password for the computer on the first day of work.
So this year's TAE Summer Camp led by Lewis Bernaldo de Quiros, started for me with a visit to Andrea Pfisterer and her family in Zurich. That’s where I spent the weekend together with Brendon Buchanan. Strolling through the city, cooking and eating together and talking about Aikido, what more could one want? Brendon then provided the right mood for the coming week by leading a training session in the Kokoro Dojo.
Already the drive on Monday to Rossfall in Urnäsch inspires me for this great landscape in the Swiss canton Appenzell. The vacation house Rossfall is located very idyllic and secluded in the middle of meadows and forests. It is managed by Daniela and Sandro, who again indulged us the whole week with local and freshly prepared delicacies. From a reliable source I know that this year the hosts have stocked up on a little more food because last year they didn't expect our big appetites and had to break into the last supplies....
The dojo is an attached barn with open rafters. There is space for archery and a large meadow that we used for bukiwaza (when the robotic mower wasn't busy). Like last year, the schedule was packed. Meditation in the morning followed by an hour of Bukiwaza outside, then breakfast. For me, meditation was a challenge again this year, although it was easier for me in the morning because my head was still empty and the mind sleepy (more about that later). After breakfast it was time for a little nap in the morning before continuing with the first Taijutsu lesson. Lunch was then followed by another nap (at least for me) before heading back to the dojo for some stretching and free practice before the next class, which was mostly half bukiwaza outdoors and half taijutsu in the dojo. The last class of the day was then concluded with a second meditation. This one was much harder for me because the impressions and thoughts of the day were constantly buzzing through my head. Turning off my head here and "just" sitting was the hardest exercise of the day.
For most of us, the Summer Camp was the first opportunity to train together (with a partner) in a long time. While many of us regularly participated in TAE online training to keep from getting out of practice, Lewis still very gently guided us back to partner training. Always going back to the basics. Slow, precise kihon helped me settle back in during the first few days. In the free training, which was scheduled after dinner, we could then give free rein to our Aikido. This is always a special time for me because I could just let it go without thinking much about techniques. This was especially fun for me this year with my roommate Johnny Jacobson. Some of us used this time to recap what we had just learned during the day, or to prepare for an exam under the watchful eye of Lewis. Not only the hints and comments from Lewis were appreciated, but especially the joint practice of beginners and advanced in a positive and appreciative atmosphere made this time so valuable.
In skiing, it is said that you should take a break on the third day in order not to injure yourself after days of exercise. We took this wisdom to heart and started on Thursday with a hike to the mountain pasture of Vroni (Daniela's mother), whose cheese we also got for breakfast in the morning. Equipped with a lunch pack, sun hat and hiking boots, we went after breakfast to a, according to the organizers, "easy hike" to the Kleinbetten. From the starting point Schwägalp the 7 year old Lorenz (the son of Daniela and Sandro) led us with great confidence up to the pasture. And when I say "up", I really mean UP. I guess the Swiss have a different understanding of incline and altitude meters than the rest of the world, because after an "easy hike" I'm usually not sweaty and exhausted halfway up....
Accompanied by her goats, Vroni then awaited us on the mountain pasture with homemade cheese and milkshakes. She also explained to us how she prepares the cheese in the copper kettle and showed us her treasures in the cellar, which she had made during the season. An impressive woman who, in addition to all the work with the cattle, the cheese and the day guests, also supervises three! small grandchildren who roam barefoot and free in the meadows around the mountain pasture.
The rest of the week, Lewis led us through the TAE agenda, sometimes following a spontaneous inspiration, sometimes along his plan. With his crystal clear technique as well as his excellent didactics he always responded to the needs of the group, let us practice some things longer, or gave us new hints after only 1 minute. Often we forgot the time and overdid the classes by 10 or 15 minutes. Lewis: "one more thing..."
The week came to an end as always with a Swiss barbecue where we were surprised by a group of folklore yodelers. Traditionally dressed in embroidered shirts and felt trousers, as well as barefoot or with traditional shoes. After the group sang a few songs, we didn't miss the chance to share our passion with them as well. We spontaneously organized a group of 10 people who together demonstrated the 31 Kumi Jo in unison, followed by a mega-randori in which we all worked on each other. What a fun! Traditionally, this last evening was then concluded with karaoke and a few bottles of beer and wine, which was certainly not very beneficial to the last morning meditation....
Already the day of departure had come, which is always very emotional for me. Saying goodbye to my Aikido friends after this intense time together was difficult this time as well. On my way back in the car and also many days later I still think back to this beautiful time with many old and new friends. For me the summer camp is always something very special, which cannot be compared with the everyday training in the dojo.
Unfortunately I had to go back to work on the following Monday. What was my password again?