I have been travelling across to seminars in the Netherlands for so many years now, initially to accompany Sugasawa Sensei, but eventually on my own, all down to the enterprising initiatives of the growing nucleus of Shikukai members in Holland.
The course organisation has been under the consistent captaincy of Martijn Schelen, who has always taken his personal inspiration from the teachings of Sugasawa Sensei as Shikukai chief instructor.
But this particular course had a special significance attached to it, as it is the first Shikukai course outside of the UK since the beginning of the pandemic (my last course in Holland was two years ago when we were on the brink of closing everything down and my Sunday night return to Stansted airport was marked by the image of an airport turned into a ghost town).
This time, despite the threat of Byzantine bureaucracy necessary to cross international borders, I was relieved and excited to be back on the seminar circuit. Fortunately, everything went smoothly.
The Dutch students I met told me how they had really been feeling the lack of seminars and events over the last few years, and here we were, back in the Dojo once again.
The training had been organised to spread over three days and was based in Martijn Shelen’s beautifully designed Dojo. I had always appreciated how Martijn had incorporated clever and subtle design features into the available space and had managed to strike the right balance between personalising the interior with idiosyncratic details, while creating the formality of a modern, uncluttered Japanese Dojo all without the need to add any unnecessary ‘Japanesque’ frills (something all too often seen in modern western attempts at Japanese interiors).
I was pleasantly surprised by the attendance; a good mixture of Martijn’s regular Dojo members and people who had travelled from much further afield, and in one case a senior instructor from Shotokan; but also, a healthy showing from kyu grades who were eager for the experience and to explore what the seniors were tapping into. I felt the need to be particularly watchful and to give them as much guidance as I could, because it is the kyu grades who are the long-term future of Wado karate.
Over the three days training I had programmed in a couple of underpinning themes; one was to understand how the whole body contributes to the execution of techniques and to get to actually feel how that mechanism works. The other was to develop/encourage a mindset that focussed on why we do things in certain ways; what do we gain from it? This was delivered through exploration of specific individual techniques and their methods of delivery, as well as kata and carefully selected Wado pairs work.
(I have published a separate blog post on the Shouwa Jyuku website as a series of supporting notes for the students who attended the course. Link).
We totalled eight hours of training over the weekend, but after training the conversations continued (as they always do).
Superb organisation by Martijn and Astrid, my thanks to both of them and to all the Dutch (and Belgian) trainees, a great opportunity to renew friendships and work shoulder to shoulder.
Watch this space for another Holland course later in the year.