Aikido Seminar

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By Simona Zaunius

It’s finally Friday. On most days, I’d finish the miniscule amount of homework I received, eat dessert, watch The X Files, and go to bed. But this Friday, September 17th, was a special case. At 6:00, I had my mom drive me down Milpas Street to Aikido of Santa Barbara, where a seminar was going to take place.

The dictionary definition of a seminar is, “a conference or other meeting for discussion or training”. The dictionary definition of aikido is, “a Japanese form of self defense utilizing wrist, joint, and elbow grips to immobilize or throw one’s opponent” An aikido seminar is a training where high-ranking black belts from all over the world come and teach classes at one dojo.

As we drove into the small parking lot, one of my regular instructors came out to greet me. He thought I was one of the guests from far away. I sheepishly got out of the car and went inside. I had decided only to watch the seminar, not confident in my abilities to keep up with high-level aikido. I went upstairs to the indoor balcony looking over the mat and sat down.

At this particular seminar, there were five black belts who would be teaching. Their names were:

  1. Peter Bernath, Shihan, 7th Dan, part of the United States Aikido Federation
  2. Claude Berthiaume, Shihan, 7th Dan
  3. Elizabeth Lynn, Shihan, 6th Dan, part of Birankai North America
  4. Penny Bernath, Shihan, 6th Dan, also part of the United States Aikido Federation
  5. Deena Drake, Shidoin, 5th Dan, part of Birankai North America as well.

On Friday, September 17th, Lynn Shihan taught the first class and Berthiaume Shihan taught the second. Part of the reason watching seminars are so interesting is because everyone has a slightly different style. For example, some barely speak, while others are quite chatty.  Lynn Shihan was a very intense but good teacher. Berthiaume had the same intensity, but made more jokes.

On Saturday, September 18th, Deena Drake, Peter Bernath, Claude Berthiaume taught. On Sunday, September 19th, Penny Bernath Sensei, Deena Drake Sensei, and Peter Bernath Sensei  taught. I saw all of the teachers teach except Sensei Penny.

Seminars are similar to aikido classes, but in a seminar there is much less talking, and a lot more people. You can learn so much just by watching.

Going to an aikido seminar was a very interesting experience. I practice aikido myself, so it was very exciting to watch it at a high level.  Everyone had different styles, and I’m glad I gave up my Friday night to go see it.

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