2nd Philippine Gasshuku 2015
February 10 to 15, 2015
With a couple of bows and four crisp claps, the 2nd Philippine Gasshuku has officially begun. As always, Saito Sensei led with prayers and meditation. This time around, we had taijutsu class in the mornings and bukiwaza in the afternoon. Looking around at the people on the mats, I am happy to see old familiar faces along with a bunch of new ones. Local aikidokas enthusiastically practiced with the foreign guests who joined us from Australia, China, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and the United States.
The first four days of the Gasshuku were held at the Alfonso dojo in Cavite. Sweaty gis and thunderous kiai were common sights and sounds! Of course, everyone tried to do the techniques as best as they can but mistakes and corrections were inevitable. Fortunately, no one got any major scolding of the sort. Saito Sensei showed us how to do the techniques and also explained to us why movements were supposed to be done in a particular manner to be more effective and efficient. Tatoian Sensei was also present to give pointers. The techniques practiced were a mixture of the basics along with the more advanced ones. For instance, variations of sankyo and kokyunage were practiced which I myself have never tried before.
Saito Sensei already knows a lot of simple Tagalog words and he speaks them when he is making corrections during keiko for guidance. It never fails to amuse us that he can say Tagalog words. I believe Saito Sensei intentionally does this to lighten the mood and decrease the tension in the dojo, most especially, at times when we are getting frustrated and making many mistakes. He would say “Dito! Dito!” when he means ‘go this way’ or ask “Okay na?” when he wants to ask ‘if we get it or if we understand’.
With a cool breeze and the warm afternoon sun, bukiwaza was practiced mostly in the outdoors where there is a wide, open space. It was better to practice under the shades of trees though. We practiced all of the ken and jo suburis along with some ken kumitachi. Shiho giri and happo giri were done while doing the 6th and 7th ken suburi. Both the 31 and 13 jo kata were also reviewed. Indoors, we were divided into groups and practiced several tachidori techniques.
Lunch and dinner times were also quite a busy period. There were vegetables to be chopped and shredded, meat to be sliced and diced, firewood to be gathered, and pots, pans and dishes to be washed and cleaned. Mostly Filipino dishes were prepared and Saito Sensei dove right in along with us and cooked some of the food we ate. Those who are not toban practiced shuriken waza during this time. One time, when we were actually waiting for the water to boil to cook some noodles, Saito Sensei asked three of us to pin him as hard as we can with his back to the wall. Well, we didn’t really know what happened but, in a flash, Saito Sensei had turned the tables and was pinning the three of us instead. We couldn’t move until he let go of the pressure. We were all bewildered while Saito Sensei had a big grin on his face!
We were quite fortunate enough to have celebrated the 58th birthday of Saito Sensei here. It was a simple celebration with a little bit of drinking, cake, and simple home cooked meals served. Saito Sensei told us many different stories that are not only about aikido but also included Japanese legends.
The Manila leg of the seminar was held at the gymnasium of Camp Crame, which is the National headquarters of the Philippine police. More people joined including several kids. Since it’s the first time for most of the kids to join an aikido seminar, it’s certainly quite intimidating for them. But seeing the kids listening attentively and trying their best to do the techniques surely put a smile on Saito Sensei’s face.
On the morning class of the last day of the seminar, there was a power interruption at the gymnasium complex due to some repairs being done. We wondered how keiko was going to go on but Saito Sensei wasn’t fazed. He simply told us to get our bokken, stepped out of the room and practiced ken suburi out on the basketball court. Awase! Luckily, power was restored by the afternoon and befittingly for our last keiko, we did the ju san awase!
Till the next time, hope to see you all again soon! Hope to make new friends as well!
– Dennis Chua