I have already been asked by some regarding another visit to Japan next year. I will of course be making my regular visit, anyone else wishing to come around the same time is very welcome. I don’t plan to be the same level of tour guide as this year as it is also my annual vacation, but we can work a good plan out, there will be plenty of training, sightseeing and good food. The plan is to be in Kobe during the Easter holiday, two club members have already booked their tickets to be there for a few days at that time. If you want to come along and join us, let us know and we will put something together, you won’t be disappointed.
In addition to our visit to Japan, we had two visits to the UK from the Seibukan, Nakao Sensei and Akiko san came as planned, and we had an additional visit from Fujii sensei later in the year as well. These visits in both directions all serve to strengthen the bond between our two dojo’s. During Nakao sensei’s visit we did our annual grading, I think we had a record number of members testing this year, resulting in 8 Kyu grade promotions, two new Shodan’s promotions, two Nidan promotions, and one Sandan promotion. Everyone performed well and to the high level that we have come to expect. Being so far away from Kobe, we do set a high bar for ourselves, this is important for the club, it means that when our members travel to seminars around the country, we can show a good example of Aikido to our peers. You should all be pleased with your achievements, but keep in mind that the next steps will require more hard work. The founder wrote many doka (poems) about Aikido, many along the lines of – “Aikido being a jewel to be polished”, this is very true, and the longer I practice, the more I come to understand this, I know that I need to practice much more, especially if I want my aikido to shine. Those of you hoping to grade next year will also need to work hard in preparation.
Aside from individual training, we were able to replace one of our old canvas mats this year, with a new set of vinyl jigsaw mats. I think the new mats have been a good benefit, whilst being slightly “firmer” than the old ones, they are helping to sharpen up everyone’s ukemi, and have given us a slightly larger floor cover to practice on.
The club has gone through a number of ups and downs with membership this year, this is a fairly normal pattern, those of you that have been with the club a while have all seen the number of people that come and go. I think that there are many reasons for this attrition - time, commitment, work, injury, “Aikido not for me” etc. I try not to worry about it too much because it has always been this way and is unlikely to change any time soon. What I can say is that we are currently in an “up” phase with a reasonable membership and good regular attendance in classes, which is all good for the club. We did however have to make a small change to our training hours this year in order to ensure that all classes remain viable and open, and I hope that this is the only change that we have to make. Please remember that the classes can only stay open if there are people in them to practice.
So as the year draws to a close I’d like to thank everyone for supporting the club this year. I appreciate your patience, I’ve very much enjoyed your, camaraderie and I look forward to our continued practice in 2015. I know many of you have family abroad, and some are travelling away for Christmas, I hope that you travel safe, return healthy and that you and your families have a warm and joyous Christmas, and a peaceful new year.