Between October 6th and 8th, the vibrant city of Berlin hosted the eagerly awaited annual European Gasshuku, an event that draws martial arts enthusiasts primarily from Europe, though it’s not uncommon to find participants from the United States and other countries beyond the EU. This event typically kicks off on a Friday evening and unfolds over two action-packed days, featuring instruction from some of the world’s most accomplished teachers. Each instructor imparts his expertise on a particular aspect of the martial art, catering to practitioners of all levels, from white to black belts. This year’s event was impeccably organized by Julian Stüven, the dojo-cho (chief instructor) of “Randori e.V. – International Schule Berlin,” which provided a warm and welcoming setting for the numerous and enthusiastic participants. Aikido Origin, of course, couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be part of it.
Julian Stüven Sensei set the tone with the first lesson on Friday evening. He shared his insights on Henka Waza, which literally translates to “technical variation.” During the lesson, he examined various scenarios in which techniques could be adapted based on unexpected conditions. This sparked contemplation on the breadth of Aikido’s technical repertoire and how, through mastery of its foundational principles, the essence of Takemusu Aiki becomes evident. Takemusu Aiki can be likened to an inexhaustible source from which Aiki techniques flow.
Andrea Lembo Sensei, an esteemed friend and Sensei of “Aikido Ibaragi Dojo” in Rome and spokesperson for the Italian delegation, added the finishing touch to Friday evening. His lesson focused on Jo Dori (disarming with the Jo) and Jo Nage (throws using the Jo). It encompassed several techniques that were seamlessly connected to fundamental Taijutsu movements (free-body techniques).
The evening training passed swiftly, setting the stage for the days ahead.
Saturday morning commenced with Hoa Newens Shihan, Sensei at “Aikido Institute Davis” in California and Chief Instructor of the “Takemusu Aikido Association”. Hoa Sensei‘s lesson left a profound impact, emphasizing the importance of Kokyu (breath) training while working on the technical principle of Nikyo at different levels of harmonization: Ki-hon, Yawarakai, and Ki No Nagare.
The subsequent lesson was led by Aviv Goldsmith Sensei, who heads “Aikido Fredericksburg” in Virginia and serves as the president of the “Takemusu Aikido Association”. His goal was to fine-tune specific aspects of techniques and then develop the complete technique while keeping these details in mind. It was a thought-provoking exercise that challenged participants’ focus and their ability to seamlessly integrate these principles into a cohesive movement by approaching the technique through Ki No Nagare.
Sharing camaraderie is an integral part of the Aikido journey, and we found ourselves discussing Aikido and the lessons we had just experienced during the lunch catered on-site. It provided an excellent opportunity to come together, strengthen existing friendships, and make new acquaintances.
In the afternoon, Axel Rabenhorst Sensei, a Berlin-based instructor, delved into the study of Aiki ken (sword) through the Kumi Tachi, codified forms of sword fighting. The lesson covered various intricate details relevant to practitioners at all levels, ensuring everyone benefited from the instruction.
Following this, Rosmarie Herzig Sensei, a Swiss instructor from “Aikido Ennetbaden,” conducted an in-depth exploration of Irimi Nage, highlighting the principles and harmonization levels involved in this technique. Her lesson injected dynamism and offered valuable insights into a fundamental and signature Aikido technique.
At the conclusion of Saturday, Carsten Mielke Sensei, a Berlin-based instructor, drew attention to key elements in the proposed technique, Ryote Dori Kokyu Nage, then guided us through Ki-Hon, Yawarakai, and Ki No Nagare.
No Gasshuku is complete without a lively Saturday evening celebration, and this edition certainly lived up to our expectations. We gathered at the dojo, shared a meal, engaged in conversation and raised many Kanpai (toasts).
Sunday arrived, marking the final day of the seminar. Wolfgang Baumgartner Shihan, an instructor from Berlin at “Aikido Berlin Karow” and our reference teacher for Aikido Origin, led the morning training. His lesson was dedicated to the study of the 13 kata applications, a codified sequence executed with the Aiki Jo, the Aikido staff. Through his guidance, participants, from beginners to advanced practitioners, developed a deeper understanding of the kata, despite the limited time available.
Gabi and Jörg Ollmann, Aikido instructors in Frankfurt, presented the subsequent lesson, which focused on Aiki Jo and explored the connections between various Kumi Jo forms. Specifically, the study delved into the link between movements from the 6th to the 10th Kumi Jo. The lesson was intellectually stimulating, offering insights on a rarely discussed subject.
Closing the event, the dynamic Fabian Horn Sensei, an Aikido teacher in Augsburg, guided a study of harmonization in Ushiro Ryote Dori, emphasizing Kokyu Ho techniques. The lesson was well-structured and progressive, enabling practitioners of all levels to grasp the concepts presented.
As the seminar concluded, and after the final farewells, participants formed a large circle as is tradition. Each person was asked to express their immediate feelings about the experience in just three words. The experience of these days was indeed special, inspiring practitioners and fostering a sense of unity and enthusiasm. When you see people smiling around you, it’s a clear sign that the event has achieved its goal.
I extend my heartfelt thanks to all the Sensei who shared their knowledge during these extraordinary days, the organizers who made it all possible, and, most importantly, to my students and all the friends who shared this experience with me. I am confident that I will have the pleasure of seeing many of you again in Italy at the next European Gasshuku, scheduled from October 11th to 13th 2024, and organized by Michele Alessi’s “Aiki Shuren Dojo” in Viterbo!