Kangeiko at Tendokan 2013
Kangeiko at Tendokan 2013
Feb. 13, 2013

Kangeiko - A Week of 7 days early training, saying hello to the New Year - by Claudia Schaefer

Saturday 12 January, I get on the plane to Japan, Tokyo. I am prepared for one week early training.

Kangeiko - one week of early morning training, I have no idea what I was getting myself into, Birgit has just written, it will be a special training. Ok, so let’s have a look what "special training" means to the Japanese. For me anyway it is a special training because I will train in the Tendokan.

I arrive on Sunday afternoon shortly before training starts in the Tendokan and take the chance to watch the Sunday-Training. Due to the of the fatigue of the flight I do not want to participate. My concentration is not very good and I'm tired from the flight. I watch the training and am again fascinated how light and easy Aikido looks and functions. Everyone is training diligently and with full concentration, I already regret that I have not participated. But safety comes first and my concentration lasts only for a few minutes, than my thoughts start wandering. The Kangeiko-week starts the next morning, so I do not have to wait long for my first training session.

Early morning training - what does that really mean? That is, training starts at 6.30, unlike here in Germany, this means you are already warmed up at 6.30 and prepared for the training session or in other words, 6.30 Training, 6.00 arrival at the dojo. Getting up early this week will be the first exercise for all participants. Which also means the first "victory" is already won when you are in the dojo. For me, battered by jet lag, it's so and so the wrong time. But I suspect even earlier in the week that the last two training sessions on Saturday and Sunday will be another challenge for me.

Monday morning's first practice: I am warmly received at the dojo. I am amazed at how many are already there, it's not yet 6.00 o'clock and the dojo is filled, and in the locker room it's tight. The first Kangeiko training, some are a little nervous and full of anticipation this morning. This Monday, the start of the Kangeiko, we are 85 Aikidokas during training. Shimizu Sensei seems to be a bit proud to see so many at this early hour. I am glad to see some familiar faces again and (am even more glad) when I notice that some seem even to remember me. My last trip to Japan was 2010, two years ago. I stretch and try to prepare my muscles and joints for exercise. We call it "warming up" even if it does not hit the core, but "warm" is a good word here. I'm cold and I feel like freezing my feet firmly on the mat, one look at the thermometer 6°C room temperature, Kangeiko - early training in the cold season. The others seem to have no problems with the temperature or just ignore it. I try also to ignore, in the hope that it helps.

It is 6.30 when we start. Sensei begins training and in a few minutes I am fully focused and try to empty my mind, so I'm open to any techniques. Concentration is also very necessary. At home I am a trainer and have in the techniques always lots of space around me. I also make sure that we have built enough mat space, so that we can focus on the techniques and not too much on the space needed fot our techniques. Here with 85 Aikidoka on approx. 140m² area, I notice my lacking experience to work in a small space. I'm here to learn, this will be the first recovered skill this week.

After the first few techniques Shimizu Sensei explains something about the Japanese characters (shomen). In this special week of training he has also suspended other Japanese character scrolls. I cannot say exactly, but they are somehow different looking. The Ten-Do characters in the center in a slightly different interpretation. To the right and left are other characters which express the word "empty". This marks the beginning of the year and Sensei emphasizes the start of the training year with this week of training. Also, these characters have been written by a famous monk / priest. After these words, the training goes on, we train this day Shiho-nage and Sankyo from various attacks. The training is much focused and at the end of the training I remember why I took the long flight upon myself. The early training has a specific effect on the body and mind. Outside it was still dark; the day has not started with its hustle. The training takes place in a respectful and focused atmosphere; the mind is open for new experiences. The day begins with a common positive start. After 45 minutes the workout is over, the room is filled with aikidokas happy and full of energy. At the end of each training session is the common cleaning of the mat and then the common "cool down". Since its Monday, I expect that many have rather quickly to leave the dojo and go to work. My guess is not confirmed, this week, the participants take more time to exercise one or another technique again and tackle the "cool down" in peace. I will leave this morning at 8:30 clock the dojo and I'm still not the last one.

The first training I have survivied well, it was a nice atmosphere before, during and after the first training and I got an idea of ​​what is "special" in this training. I look forward to the next morning, and I am curious how many will welcome the second day.

Tuesday morning, shortly before six o’clock, the training is getting exciting even more due to the longlasting snowfall the day before. There has been chaos on Tokyo's streets yesterday, the night and this morning. Yesterday it snowed all day and the streets and sidewalks are still covered with snow. Many cars are driving with snow chains. Snow removal seems not to be common in Tokyo. The wide streets are reasonably free. The first task of Wakasensei Kenta, Nagai-san and some others are freeing the parking space for Shimizu Sensei of ice and snow so that he can park. Unfortunately I did not have my camera, I think this picture is also not usual for Japanese. Several young strong men in dogi, with bare feet in sandals, armed with shovels try to shove a way to the parking lot. Sensei is driving the car back and forth again and again, to cut through the snow, and in front and behind of him they shovel until he stands in the parking place.

Up in the dojo the first Aikidokas are already warming up. There are a few less this morning but I'm early again and take time to warming me up and say hello to some. I am amazed at this day that despite of the snow over 70 people find their way to the Tendokan Kangeiko. Also today, the early training is another special training; the atmosphere is open and focused. Today, techniques from the attack Ushiro are practiced; there are Shiho-nage; Nikkyo; Kotegaeshi and others. The 45 minutes are just flying, and also today after the training one or the other technique are tried out and worked on .

The other early training run similar, the number of participants varies between 70 - 80 people. There is every day a focus on an attack such as Ryote-tori, Mune-tori, Katate-tori. Sensei shows the techniques and explains exactly what is required. I try to memorize his movements. Since I do not speak Japanese, I do not understand the Japanese explanations. Some try to explain me afterwards in English what he said. Otherwise concentrated training is announced, you can see or feel how the other performs the technique. To the word "feel" a little excursion. The temperatures have dropped during the week and have reached the bottom at 3°C, being the coldest morning in the dojo. The Saturday and Sunday are a challenge as expected when getting up, but I persevere. At the weekend I recognize some "new" faces at Kangeiko.

Kenta-san has posted two lists in the dojo. A list of names of who participated when. The second list shows the number of people participating at one training these days, and how many have participated in a training session this week, additionally the outside temperature and the temperature inside the dojo before training.

Sunday morning is the last training session, it is incredible at the end of the 7 days a total of 114 Aikidoka have attended and 48 of them have gone through all 7 early trainings. After the last Kangeiko - training we drink a kind of young sake and celebrate the concluding of the Kangeiko week. We are happy that we trained together this week. All 48 participants which have taken part in all seven training sessions got a certificate with her/his picture from this week. A beautiful memory of this week and we proudly show each other who's been photographed with whom at which technique.

Now I know the Kangeiko week is a week of special training. What's so special? It is the special atmosphere, the attitude of all participants towards this Kangeiko week, the early morning hours and the spirit of community in Tendokan of learning new things and the will to receive the begin of the New Year with a special training.

What did I learn this week? Of course I have again learned a lot about the techniques and their execution, but special was the collective welcoming of the New Year. Acknowledging the path of Tendoryu Aikido and the collective effort to crown this path with success.

I thank Shimizu Sensei, Wakasensei and Birgit-san that they have given me this opportunity. I want to thank all the Aikidoka who have taken me for granted in their midst.

Claudia Schaefer