Sunday 29 July 2018

Steve Nedelkos at the Lithuania Seminar

I had the good fortune to  attend this year's Taira Sensei's seminar in Lithuania…while getting there from Melbourne, Australia was a bit of an adventure, the break in the trip with a couple nights stop over in Amsterdam was good.

Lithuania is not only a modern, beautiful place surrounded by forests everywhere but the Lithuanian people themselves are a great looking people!

Exploring was easy...from the many cobblestone streets and waterways of 'old Klaipeda', to taking a short ferry ride and having a barefoot paddle in the Baltic sea, always stopping along the walks for a chat with the locals. The fact that we didn't speak Lithuanian didn't matter as just about everyone spoke English.

Lithuania was my 5th seminar with sensei so far in 2018 (hopefully 2 more before the end of the year!)…anyone would think there was an obsession ;-)

Firstly, congratulations to Aivaras Sensei for such a wonderfully organized event.
I know all to well the work and effort that goes into hosting such function. Second congratulations again goes to Aivaras Sensei in celebrating his 25th anniversary of Gojuryu in Lithuania…a wonderful achievement to say the least!

While every Taira Sensei  seminar is special when you spend time on the floor with sensei, Lithuania was that bit more special with so many visiting instructors and students from all over.  If you include Lithuania and of course Okinawa, there were representatives for from  13 countries including France, Italy, USA, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Russia, Germany, Poland and Australia.

One of the great things I enjoy about travelling to different places for seminars with Sensei  is the opportunity to catch up with past friendships and to new friends.
The European Kenkyukai shibu and members have a good 'model' and 'example' in the support they give each other with their attendances across Europe. I'm really glad they do this as it means I get to spend with so many them...

Gradings up to 5th Dan were held on the Friday ahead of the seminar.
Congratulations to those that Graded over the weekend and I am thankful to have been part of the Grading panel for this. It provides an opportunity to measure your own student's development and to pick up a pointer or two to take home in order to improve what you are doing and how to improve your own students.

The ‘welcome' and sayonara parties were just great…first class! With the Hotel venue for accommodation, meals and socializing, just made everything work so easy and well...great food, a great warm atmosphere.

But what about the training?
Well…if I said it was great would you believe me? Of course!
Because it was!

Lithuania seminar was my 45th seminar with sensei  so far…and my ‘obsession' is trying to get as much time on the training floor with Sensei.

It makes a huge difference when there are a good number of ‘experienced’ practitioners in the same room. You can get practice more techniques, you can ‘adjust' and improve your own technique under Sensei's watchful eye and it is always good to have a different partner.

This seminar, the main focus was on Seiyunchin...and a bit of Gekisai.
Sensei presented, what I would  roughly call, a more ‘vicious’ and ‘to the point’ version of the renzouko for Seiyuchin and for that matter, Gekisai as well. It was almost as if sensei was saying ‘now you have done the previous versions…you are ready for this version!’

 I was glad that we recently touched on these versions a month earlier at the Gold Coast seminar in Australia, as revising what we did a month ago really helped bed down a lot of the movements…now for the on-going practice!

As we know, sensei does tend to ‘mix and match’ techniques and bunkai from one kata to other katas…may be because there have similar connections? May be?  

The weekend was no exception…a bit of Seipai, a bit Kururunfa, a bit of Shisochin and always a bit of Sanchin and Tensho…because they ‘exist’ in everything? May be?

Keeping relaxed where necessary, ‘kime’ where necessary, body work where  necessary, position where necessary…these things are found through practice (and a good partner)...’slow is smooth…smooth is fast'... ‘you can't do it fast if you can't to do slow’.

The Gekisai bunkai that Sensei showed primarily focused on simultaneously defending and attacking...making no space between the techniques. This alongside the correct body positioning made it virtually impossible for your 'opponent'...

An interesting and important point Sensei made on the weekend was about how 'we', the seminar participants,  are also an important part in his research and on-going development of the applications of kata.
That is, it is through us, that he sees opportunities to improve the technique…the way we move or not move, the way we react or don't react when techniques are applied.

For Sensei in his travels around the world teaching us, in a lot of ways means we are an important part of the research, improvement and understanding.

I think the broad diversity of the kenkyukai world wide is a good thing, as this diversity helps in finding ways of bunkai application that make it possible against whoever and whatever background.

A lot of material was covered over the 2 days. It was said that because there were so many experienced kenkyukai people there, the skill level and ability to keep up with the techniques was possible.
I think the message there is, you must practice and do the things sensei tells us we should do. It doesn't happen magically, it happens through training and practice…a simple formula. The more time we spend together the more opportunities we have to support each other in improving ourselves, our understanding and our relationships. This can only be a good thing for everyone…as 'WE' improve 'we' improve. I think this is what Sensei would want…

Hope to see you all again soon!

Steve Nedelkos
(Melbourne kenkyukai Shibu)

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