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Shimamoto Shihan Seminar 2009

We hosted a visit by Shimamoto Katsuyuki Sensei, 7 Dan Aiki Kai, from the Toyonaka Shosenji Dojo in Osaka from 3 to 8 July 2009.

Ever since Bayside Budokai kicked off, we have been fortunate to have Shimamoto Sensei’s support and interest in what we are doing. Earlier this year he kindly agreed to come and conduct a weekend aikido seminar at our dojo. To give the seminar a more official status, Sensei asked that I contact the International Affairs Department at Hombu Dojo to inform them of the event and seek approval.

This process took a while, but in the end we received some really positive support from Hombu Dojo through Tani Sensei. It was pleasing that it is clear that Hombu Dojo has a commitment to the interests of all Aiki Kai members and is trying to encourage a cooperative approach by dojos and various associations.

In the lead up to the event, there were other positive signs that things were going to go okay. Both Darius Wingate Pierce from the Newcastle Aiki Kai and Chicko from Noosa indicated that groups of people from their dojo would be attending. On top of that our friends from Yuishinkai let us borrow their stash of jig saw mats that would enable us to pretty much fill the hall with mat space.

Sensei and Mama san came in on the overnight flight from Kansai to the Gold Coast on the morning of Friday 3 July. They initially took it easy at our place and in the afternoon did some shopping while we got the dojo set up. We got all the mats down and set up a shomen. By the time Monty from Canberra came to the party and arranged some flowers, the joint was looking surprisingly good.

Patrick Lloyd is one of sensei’s students, having trained at Shosenji Dojo for several years before moving back home to Noosa. He’s in the tourist business and kindly agreed to pick up the Newcastle crew from the airport and interpret for Sensei during the seminar. The Newcastle guys were running a tight schedule but everything ran like clockwork and they all made it to the Friday evening class with time to spare.

Sensei kicked off the training and invited us to join in his search for simple aikido. This started with sitting in seiza and standing. I don’t know about the others, but I found the graceful and effortless way Sensei was able to demonstrate this most basic aspect of budo to be just about impossible to emulate.

The following day (Saturday), we were joined the group from Noosa and we ended up having well over 40 people on the mat for the two sessions that day.

Bruce Scott, member of the AKI Fudoshin Dojo at Noosa, and resident student at Takeda Shihan’s dojo in Kamakura wrote the following piece at the request of Takeda Sensei for inclusion in his association’s newsletter.

I thought it would be appropriate to reproduce his kind words here.

On my trip home to Australia earlier this month, I was very lucky to be in Queensland at the same time as Shimamoto Shihan from Osaka. Shinamoto Shihan was in Australia to teach a three day seminar organized by David Kolb sensei of Bayside Budokai dojo.

David Kolb sensei is always very open to inviting all interested aikido people to any events that he organizes and the members of Chicko sensei’s Noosa Fudoshin dojo always make an effort to attend.

Shimamoto Shihan is a wonderful man whose kindness shows through in all his actions. In his daily life Shimamoto Shihan is a Buddhist priest. His very deep and clear expression of aikido is a beautiful integration of aikido and Zen principles.

On the day of the seminar I woke early and watched the sunrise over the sea at Noosa beach. It was the beginning of a perfect cool clear Australian winter day. Dolphins swam in the ocean and the morning air was filled with the sounds of bird song, life awakening. I met up with the other members of the Noosa Fudoshin dojo and we drove the one and a half hours down to Brisbane together.

When we got to the dojo we were greeted by many friendly faces and warmly welcomed. The seminar was held in an old church hall, a beautiful space with high ceilings and lovely stained glass windows that let all the winter sunlight stream through. The hall was full of a lightness, both from the space and the winter sun but also a lightness of spirit. When stepped on to the tatami and moved to sit in seiza I felt a strong change in the room, a deepening. Even this simple act of walking across the room and sitting down had a great depth to it.

Shimamoto sensei spoke to us a lot through out the day about Zen and aikido. For every waza that we practiced sensei would share some visualization about the movement. When we sat in seiza we weren’t just to sit we were to imagine our selves as a castle, like Himeji, with a base of strong stone walls deep into the earth and immovable. Around the stone walls there is a moat of clear water. When the surface of the water is calm then you can see clearly the reflection of the sky, the clouds floating and the sun by day and the moon and a million stars by night. But if your mind is to busy you make waves on the water and then you can’t tell if it’s the moon or the sun that you are looking at.

When your mind is calm then the surface of the water is calm and you can relax and enjoy the view, in this state if anyone tries to attack your castle, first they will have to cross this clam water and you will be able to see the ripples long before the attack arrives.

When we did ryote dori nage was to imagine that he was holding a new born baby and to gently put the baby on the tatami. ‘Hard aikido is easy, beautiful aikido is more difficult. Let’s try to do beautiful aikido’.

Shimamoto Shihan’s seminar was a lovely day of aikido and sharing. It was fantastic to train with so many people from different dojos around Australia. And it was great to see friends from A.K.I dojos in Canberra, Sydney and Noosa who all made the trip to Brisbane for this special day.

On Saturday evening after training we cranked up Tim Hanlon’s heirloom barbeque out the back of the dojo. In spite of the gas bottle running empty and having no outside lights, things went okay and everyone was able to relax together.

During the evening Sensei inquired about Peter Townsend. Big Peter is an old mate of ours from the Gold Coast, I had to confess that I had lost touch with him and didn’t know what he was up to.

We had just started training again on Sunday morning when Peter arrived as if on cue. Sensei and Mama san were rapt to see him again and his presence contributed even more to the good vibe.

Like on the previous days, Sensei was constantly moving around the mat helping individual pairs. It is safe to say there would be no one over the weekend who did not receive Sensei’s personal attention. As usual, he also took time to deeply explain his philosophy of aikido practice, translating this into English is no easy task. Patrick and Shannon from Noosa did a great job of interpreting and really enhanced the training experience for everyone.

All too soon, it was time to wrap things up and we were left with the image of Sensei’s closing solo demonstration of aikido in Noh style.

That afternoon Sensei and Mama san headed up to Noosa with Patrick and family. The following morning they went on a marathon camel trek and I went to pick them up. Mama san launched an assault on the shops in Hastings Street before we headed back to Brisbane.

The Tuesday was cold and wet but that didn’t stop us from heading to the Gold Coast for a spot of more shopping.

On the Tuesday evening, Sensei took the juniors class at the dojo. Sue and Yirinka came down and joined in the fun. The kids were all on their best behaviour and the amazing thing was that Sensei actually got them to sit straight. The feedback I got later was that they all had a great time.

After class, Naoko joined us and we went out for a farewell dinner.

Next morning it was up early to head down the Coast to battle the crowd at the check in counter at Coolangatta Airport and wave goodbye.

Thanks again for everyone that participated and assisted with the weekend. Also our special thanks to Shimamoto Sensei and Mama san for generously fitting in our humble affair into their busy schedule.

As always, Sue Reilly was a big help in organizing things. She was also busy snapping photos. She has posted them on the net and you can view the slide show here.