A Report From Abroad

From Andrea, posting about her visit to another dojo:

Last night, Magnus and I visited this group that practices in Stockholm. Due to a number of circumstances, it was the first time we've made it to practice while we've been on our trip (Swedes take summer vacation *very* seriously here, and several of the dojos are actually closed completely until school starts back later this month).

It's a HUGE dojo - both in physical size and number of participants. It was in a basement of a building with the floor completely covered in mats. We estimated about 50 people there (AND this is summer break with only one class per day.. we'd guess more regularly). It had a good mix of males/females and ages -- no children (the childrens' classes are off during the summer we were told later).

For whatever reason, the class was led by a different shihan. Stretches were similar to ours, but were paired rather than singles so rather than do eight nikyos at a time, you do two types of nikyo twice, and do eight reps. They flowed right into each other and the stretch was the same. We did not do any rolls at all, which surprised me.

The first thing we did was a "trust fall" type of exercise in which showed harmony with the universe. 5 people - 2 behind, 2 in front with 1 in the middle. The middle person falls back, and the 2 people catch, then gently push forward to the 2 people in front who catch and push back to the people in back, and so forth, then rotate. It was strange because I didn't know these people at all.. (well, Magnus..) and I have no trust with them. I was thinking at the time that if it were at home, I'd not have a second thought doing it, but it was harder being away. I'm not exactly the most trusting of person anyway, but I did it.

The rest of class was focusing mostly on the dynamics of using Kokyu Ho from the very beginning to several endings, including a variation of ude osae that I will hope I can remember in a week and a half when we come back (but don't count on it!). There was also some time spent on pinning using ichiyo and bringing someone up from the ground using sankyo, which was something different but not terribly difficult to understand compared to other things we've learned.

A few things we noticed as being different - this group started from a T-stance versus a neutral posture; some of my training partners were very strict about correcting me if I didn't automatically pop into the right footwork, others said the footwork would fix itself as it needed to. There were no color belts - at all. People were either in hakamas or wearing white belts. And I know some women were wearing white belts and hakamas. So I have no idea what distinguished the ranks. But there were no colors at all. Lining up did not seem to matter as to rank (and maybe the lack of rank had to do with that, I don't know). At the end, there was no "group hug" of course - but we were to find each person we trained with and thank them individually.

If I had to classify this type with some of the others I've seen, I'd say it would be somewhat of a mix of Wadokai and Aikikai - semiformal with a focus on "barfight ready." But we missed home.

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