New arrivals at the dojo became somewhat par for the course in the weeks after Bruce left for the UK (with promises to return before my time in Australia was done!). I was soon joined by Mateusz, a quiet, solidly built and ever so slightly terrifying aikidoka from Poland. Apart from being incredibly skilled at making me drink, “just one more, I don’t want to drink alone!”, he was also putting himself through a massive test of his martial arts ability and was planning on taking the test for his 3rd dan in April. It was in his company that the dojo began gearing up for the Shudokan Annual demonstration.
Having done a couple of demos before, I thought I knew what I was in for, but got a rude awakening when Sensei Joe remarked “I hope you’re ready to do more breakfalls in March than you have ever done in your life!”. Training for the demonstration was as tough as promised, not only physically, but mentally. There was just so much to remember! With everything from the kids’ demonstrations, Tanto soho (a paired drill with knives), Kihon Dosa Renzoku (an applied form of the six basic movements of yoshinkan aikido), and kankyu waza (showcase of basic and advanced techniques) I was scared I would forget it all in the moment. Not that the Physical side of things wasn’t tough. Indeed, I had to spend many hours getting my falling anywhere near good enough for the day, and I owe a lot to the patience of the black belts who worked through it with me to get me up to scratch! With a last minute semi-voluntary haircut, I felt terrified and woefully underprepared, but trusted in the practice that had been put in over the preceding weeks and the teaching and guidance of the sensei to steer me right.
As Marty Sensei had promised, the lack of hair was directly proportional to performance and happily most of the demo went off without a hitch (I only forgot some of it!). It was awesome to be able to take uke for some of the instructors showcasing their art, Luke and Marty Sensei in particular, the displays that I was able to watch were also nothing short of spectacular. Mateusz had his own guest instructor demo and all of the other sensei got the opportunity to strut their stuff and show off a bit. Sensei Joe’s was particularly heart stopping, managing to break a solid oak jo in two half way through!
More than anything else, it was such an honour to be allowed to be a part, and such a large part of the whole event. Seeing the amount of work that went into making the day a success was a humbling testament to the excellence of Sensei Joe and his dojo. It was a truly unforgettable experience.