The past week or so I got the chance to go away to a summer camp with my Aikido club. We went to Yamanashi Prefecture, a beautiful rural contrast to the megacity that Tokyo is. The little town we were in was practically surrounded on all sides by mountains (yama is mountain in Japanese), greenery, and at times clouds to give the scenery a bit of a mysterious air. It’s actually nearby Mt. Fuji, so I was able to get some pictures of Mt. Fuji from afar.
One of the more interesting things I found during our retreat was a little piece of England. We were going on a morning jog one day, and amidst all the normal inns and Japanese houses and trees and sports fields, out of the scenery pops out this sort of mini replica of a castle with signs showing the British flag. I couldn’t take my eyes off it as I ran down the road past it. I kept thinking, this really is rural Japan right? : P But it was there all right, in all its British glory. I didn’t get the chance to go in, so I wasn’t sure just what kind of place it was, but it sure grabbed my attention.
Anyway, speaking of morning jogs, this was an Aikido club retreat, so I knew that there was going to be some practice and training involved. But I never would have guessed just how much. I never did much sports in America with the exception of some pee wee league stuff, so I don’t know how vigorous American sports camps are, but what I can say is that this Aikido summer camp has definitely got to be the hardest I’ve ever physically trained in my life.
Each day we trained for about 6-7 hours on average. Note that this didn’t include changing in and out of our dogi’s (martial arts uniforms), and since I was a white belt, walking early to the dojo (training facility) every other day when we had cleaning duty, and a few other obligations. In short, we lived and breathed Aikido during most of our time there.
Some of the days were different, but generally speaking, after breakfast (all the meals were eaten at the inn we stayed at) we’d start our days with a morning run, and after that practice Aikido for the remaining couple hours before lunch. After lunch, we’d do another 3 hour training session which started with muscle training, and then another couple hours of Aikido. Then we’d break for lunch and have one more hour and a half practice session at night. On the couple days when the Sensei came, we substituted our practice at night for an early practice before breakfast. On average, our days went from about 6:30 AM to about 10 PM at night. One had enough time to sleep, do laundry, and a couple other random things, but not much else.
And yet, it was such a special time bonding. The group spent so much time together. Everyone practiced together and ate together, and in smaller groups we shared rooms at the inn, carried out our duties together (even if it meant walking in the rain!), and showered together (genders separated, of course). There were a couple nomikai’s thrown into the mix too. At the end of our time, I would probably say it was one of the most exhausting times in my life, as I didn’t know it was possible to do so much exercise in such a short amount of time. Yet I would also say that we had such a great time together, and I found that I was quite sad to leave.