A letter from Kevin Choate on the 2012 Summer Camp in the Rockies

12 Mar 2012
Posted by scblog

A letter from Kevin Choate on the 2012 Summer Camp in the Rockies
Kevin Choate, Chicago Aikikai


I would like to invite you to join me at the Boulder Aikikai Summer Camp in the Rockies to be held at Colorado Mountain College, Glenwood Springs, Colorado, July 22-29, 2012.

Now, what I need to explain is why you should attend, and why I have, for longer than I would like to admit. That’s not true. I am proud to have attended and grateful for the opportunities the camp has created for me over the years. I have met people and made friends and had insights I don’t believe would have happened anywhere else.

In 1980, when I started attending camp, I thought I was doing pretty well—I was Saotome Sensei’s student, up in front all of the time, taking lots of ukemi, enjoying all of the “show time.” It took years for me to figure out that the rest of the time, which was the majority of the time, was as important, if not more important than show time. Over time my brilliance faded and Saotome Sensei and the camp taught me the value of instruction and training and the difference between the two.

There was this guy there, losing hair, from California, teaching jo. “Hell, I know jo and that doesn’t look like jo,” I thought. Even now, I remember him walking up and saying a phrase that included the word “eyeballin.” I learned a small lesson from him then and so many more over the years to come. Frank Doran Sensei, for thirty years and more, year in and year out taught classes and spent time with us. Looking back, I remember the classes as confusing, contradictory and sometimes something just to be gotten through, but over time, I realized it was the time that mattered. Over time I came to appreciate more and more the patience and dedication of Doran Sensei; behind the beautiful and precise technique was a loyalty and integrity that can’t be learned in an hour. The camp gave me the time to learn that more valuable lesson.

Ikeda sensei told us that first year, during a rained out class, that from every camp you should take away one idea to work on. Brilliant. I went from class to class picking, parsing, evaluating, and more other “ings” than I have time to mention. I was collecting details, meanwhile Ikeda Sensei was building, slowly, quietly, not always perfectly, but building. He took his idea, developed his people and worked at creating a camp where students and Sensei could come and train. I don’t believe he was creating a venue. I sincerely believe he was creating an experience.

Years went by—there were talent shows and golf outings and parties, a guy who rolled the wrong way (that’s an inside joke) and lots of good times. People came and went and came back again. Various Sensei came and went and some came back again; some I liked, some I didn’t, some I didn’t appreciate 'til much later but the camp was there for us, and we were there for the camp.

After a number of years I had my first one point experience. I was off at the edge of the mat… maybe I was late, maybe I was bored, maybe whatever… anyway… I don’t remember who was teaching, and it doesn’t matter, a friend, well at least someone I knew was sitting on the side.

You gonna train, says I… Don’t think I can, says she, just don’t have the energy… Aw, come on we’ll go slow, and so we did, watching out for each other all the time. Next class… Herbert… those of you who know him, know what I mean. Herbert is a pleasure to train with but shall we say… vigorous. A few days later sitting in the Denver Airport, nursing a beer and a few bruises (Herbert) I thought to myself, Self, wouldn’t it be great if those two experiences felt the same… If I could be the same person in both situations… What would that take? How would that feel?

I’ve been working on that one a long time.

My teachers didn’t give that experience to me; the camp they created gave that opportunity to me.

No one person or any small group of people can create that kind of experience. Over time my teachers and more importantly my friends used this camp to create an opportunity for me to train and grow. I owe all of you a great deal. We are in a time of transition; the teachers I came to see before are gone and cannot be replaced, but along with uncertainty comes opportunity. There will be missteps and false starts and there will always be changes. Details will be considered and reconsidered and decisions will be made. In the end I am sure we will seize this opportunity to create a truly unique training experience. I am sure of this because I was fortunate enough to know the people who did the first year and the ones who did last year and all of those in between. The faces change; the commitment does not—a commitment not to teaching and being taught, but to training, sharing, and spending a week with old and new friends.

I look forward to seeing you in July… you can find me in my usual spot (or two) at the brew pub.

See you at Summer Camp.


See also: An open letter from Tres Hofmeister on the 2012 Summer Camp in the Rockies

To register or find assistance, please visit: http://boulderaikikai.org/sc or contact hotline@boulderaikikai.org