My little hatchback car seemed to explode once we arrived at the Yoshida Gardenview Estate for Gasshuku (Karate camp). Somehow I had jammed the little car full with three people (including myself), two tents, three sleeping bags, two bo (long staffs), assorted other camping and karate stuff, and cleaning supplies for the bathrooms. One of my senpai (higher ranked student) had hitched a ride with me and my younger daughter. As he claimed his favorite tent site, my daughter and I made a little boundary with our bo(s) (long staffs) to mark our home for the weekend. Our tents were set up in short order and we threw ourselves into a weekend filled with training, chores, and fellowship.
Our retreat was “home grown” this year, in that our own yudansha (black belts) led the training (as opposed to bringing in a guest instructor). For us students it was almost like visiting classes at sister dojo (schools) without having to travel to each individual school. As always, everyone got to be a student at least most of the time. Each sensei (instructor) has a different teaching style so it’s good for us students to make the little adjustments students need to make when someone other than one’s own teacher is teaching. Having a variety of sensei(s) teaching meant that we got a lot of different perspectives. We all were exposed to things we’d never done before, and all of us took things away that we can use for ourselves and for our kohai (students who are lower-ranked than oneself).
I had a lot of fun and gained some knowledge. Bo (staff) work is coming more naturally to me now, which is good because it’s not part of our curriculum back home. I learned a few footwork drills that I can use for myself and for when I lead warmups. And I fell in love. No, not with a person – with a kata (form). Tomari Bassai. I’m already quite familiar with Bassai Dai, so it was easy to follow along with Tomari Bassai. New for me this year is that I knew enough about kata to recognize that I personally would have an easier time learning Tomari Bassai rather than Sochin. In general, I noticed I’ve improved in working around my directional dyslexia. I wasn’t the only one who had things to work around.
Not only is my daughter a brand new beginner, she is also autistic. There were a few little incidents, she often needed prompting, but on the whole she did quite well. Even in regular classes my daughter has fun imitating what she sees around her, so she wasn’t at all fazed that the material at Gasshuku was well beyond what she’s done so far in the four or five weeks she’s been training. The karate community at Gasshuku supported her, and everyone was kind – but also firm whenever a boundary needed to be drawn. I really appreciated that – it’s one thing when Mom says something, quite another when a total stranger says the exact same thing! As the mother of an autistic adult, I am constantly balancing her increasing need for independence against her disability. I’m grateful that Gasshuku was a safe place for me to let go of her a little (but only a little because I’m still also her senpai). Having my younger daughter along was one of a few things that were different for me this year.
Looking back on my post about last year’s Gasshuku I can see some changes in myself. I am definitely established in my role as a brown belt. I earned 3rd brown last Gasshuku and, in fact, I had already earned 2nd brown before coming to this year’s Gasshuku (the ranks are numbered in reverse order, so 1 is high and 3 is low). I am much more accustomed to how children and adults relate to me as their senpai. I did better this year about remembering to work with kohai, as opposed to always seeking out someone of a higher rank for partner drills. During bo training I did better than in previous years because I concentrated on my body movement and trusted my weapon and gravity to do the rest. I’m thinking I’ve grown in my art since last year.
I wonder how much I’ll grow between now and next Gasshuku (2019)?