A great seminar, a reflection of my practice and development
By Fernando Román

The past September of 2006 I received an e-mail of Emily Sensei, the founder president and of AHAN, (Aikido humanitarian active network), inviting me to assist a seminar that would be held on Reno Nevada, with Juku Cho Shih sin Aiki Shuren Kai, Hitohiro Saito Sense, from 27th to 29th, October 2006, an event organized by Salvatore Sensei of Aikido of Reno. Homma Kancho of Nippon Kan send his desire that I assist to this seminar, as representative of AHAN Mexico, I would be traveling with Michael Barrera, one of his instructors that would go as representative of AHAN international, I had met him in another practices of seminars held at Nippon Kan years before.

After had realized the importance of this participation and the commitment that acquired with Homma Kancho 3 years before, I wrote to Emily Sensei, thanking her the invitation, saying that I accept with pleasure and that I would did the necessary to be at the seminar and to represent with dignity AHAN Mexico. Then I ensure that everything would be fine during my absence in Mexico Aikido, with the support of our assistants and instructors, mainly with the support of Rocío Agüero Sensei, and started the preparations to participate in the seminar, with my full attention.

I would like to say that during 2006 until now, even with a lot of activity in our dojo, we have been in difficult economical situation, so the participation in this or another seminar, inside or outside our country, were almost impossible. I had already seen at internet the promo of the seminar, and remembered April 2005 seminar in México, also with Hitohiro Saito Sense. Frankly speaking, on that occasion because our dojo was the host, we couldn’t enjoy a lot the seminar, our energy were focuses in the organization and were under pressure to get the things fine. So without knowing that I would be there, sawing the promo I thought that It would be great to assist the seminar and had again the opportunity to practice and received the instruction of Hitohiro Saito Sensei.

Homma Kancho invited me to assist, he informed me that all the expenses will be paid by AHAN, seminar rights, air and land transportation, food and accommodation, it was a great opportunity to practice, share, make new friends and met the old ones, in a scheme that it would be a great event, and without affect my economy or Mexico Aikido economy.

On Thursday 26th, at morning I went out my home, said good bye to my two little kids and my wife, I would travel first to Denver, spent one night in the dear Nippon Kan. Uchi deshi of that time, had already arranged my room, as always with all the necessary. There I would meet Michael to travel the following day to Reno, Nevada.

For travel with scales, and due to a delay of the first flight, I lost in Dallas the second flight to Denver, and had a delay of 4 hours, and then from Forthwood airport I sent an e-mail to Emily Sensei. She just said Michael and Rosa, who will met me that should wait. As good Aikidoist I find the good thing in all this, because there weren’t more available seats, I traveled for the first time in first class, at least for two hours I lived as an executive.

When I arrived to Denver, I had a nice surprise, because Michael speaks better Spanish, this would made easier the things for me. After the greetings, they took me immediately to Nippon Kan, however, that day I hadn’t the chance to see Emily Sensei, nor Homma Kancho, because Emily Sensei had a lot of work and Homma Sensei have traveled that afternoon to another adventure in the world, in that occasion to Turkey, bringing the drums
Kyougaku Taiko.

An extra happiness expected me in that journey, I saw my brother Hector, who was almost for 8 months in Denver Uchideshi, of course with come opportunities to return to México to visit his family. He was first in Nippon Kan as uchi deshi.

I am sure that my brother Hector has achieved more things there than his 10 years of Aikido practice. He obtained his Sho Dan, graduated as Uchi deshi and in that time, he was in a program of knowledge and education in the cultural center of Nippon Kan, learning many things, including Japanese folk food, one of the specialties of Domo , the restaurant of Homma Sensei with food very delicious. That night we had a dinner together at Domo, with Michael and Rosa, we had a nice chat.

En el Domo de Homma Kancho
In the Domo with my brother, Rosa and Michael.

The following day, at morning, we flight to Reno, I knew that as me, Michael was visiting for the first time this state, so we were in similar conditions, I mean none knew exactly what to expect. When we arrived, we rent a car, and with the written instructions of Emily Sensei, we arrived easily to the Hotel where we stayed.

Reno is a city that makes true his motto. “The biggest little city in the world”. When we arrived to the Hotel I noticed that it was a luxury Hotel, the Silver Legacy Resort Casino, at Reno downtown.

This hotel, with others two, “El Dorado” and “The Circus” are joined inside, trough galleries and passages, that offers the visitors, a huge variety of entertainment, like games, restaurants, bars, and a lot of fun. Inside those passages they simulate the night, with a sky full of stars and amazing lights. It can be inside those places at 10 at morning, believing that it is 10 at night.


hotel2

Fer en Reno

hotel

The Silver Legacy Resort Casino hotel and the RENO entrance

We had that night to knew something about Reno, but what concern Michael and me, was not to arrive late to the first seminar day, so we spend the time searching the place were the seminar would be held. It was not to easy, but finally we found it, between jokes, I said Michael, that all the rounds by car to find the place was part of the journey so I thanked him the “Reno-tour”.

silla del Silver Hotel
This chair of the Hotel seems to be normal…

Michel en su pequeña silla
Michael of almost 1.90 meters height in the same chair.

Then eat something fast, take a shower and return to the seminar registration.

The seminar start as planned, on time and I calculate almost 300 practitioner of many parts of the USA and another countries, Salvatore Sensei who organized the event, was very busy, looking for people, setting things, bringing objects, and assisting to anyone who asked him anything. I just thing about the importance of this kind of people around the world, in the great effort that they made in those seminars so the Masters could focus in the instruction, and the relation time-seminar could be maximum
I don’t know if Salvatore Sensei will read or not this little report, anyway, I like to thank him for such a hard work, I really value his effort and time dedicated before, during and after the seminar. He, in fact, had time to assist me and gave me personal welcome; also his effort to met in private Hitohiro Saito Sensei, thank you very much.

Before our first practice, like everybody, Michael and me get ready, make some movements, massage some parts of our bodies and warm up in general. It was very funny that before the class Michael said to me in Spanish "vamos a extrañarnos", which means, “we will miss each other” I look at him trying to understand what he means, watching his movements I knew that he want to said “vamos a estirarnos”. Which means “let’s go to stretch” We laugh a lot for this misunderstanding, it allowed us to relax and start the seminar with joy energy.

After a traditional ceremony that I consider the Iwama Aikido style, we start with also traditional Tai no henko. From this point for three days a seminar were developed, with hand free techniques, bokken and jo, individual and between couples, with a wide variety of forms that helped us to improve the technique and made the seminar in general a great experience.

In the breaks, we hardly had time to eat, rest a little, take a shower and return. The seminar was very well organized and everybody from Aikido of Reno, made their best, so the participants could enjoy a lot.

renoseminar
Here Tony, Michael, Stephanie Yap Sensei and Pat Hendrich Sensei.

Con Mr. Stanley Pranin y su hijo
Mr. Stanley Pranin at this sides, his son Johnny and me.


To this aikido event as many others around the world, we had the invaluable presence of Mr Stanley Pranin, chief editor of Aikido Journal. For me, the most important online publish of O’Sensei, and related budos. I hadn’t seen Mr Pranin since 2003, where we honored us with his presence in a seminar that we organized in Mexico.

It was a new opportunity for me to shake his hand and talked a little bit with him in Spanish, because he speaks this language very well, besides others. I also met his son, as tall as him, Thank you very much Mr. Stanley Pranin.

 


In the seminar through the practices I had many opportunities where Hitohiro Saito Sensei took me as uke, and gave me important details of his technique. Also referring to Kumi Tachi, he corrected me in the postures of hanmi and hito emi. I made my best effort to learn and assimilate his teachings. At night before sleep, I reflect about my situation as Aikido practitioner and about my life in a general way. Without presumption, I think that during the time I have practiced the O’Sensei path, I have been lucky enough to take ukemi from several Masters fo different Aikido styles, with a wide variety of forms and different techniques and all these experiences have marked me deeply, I know that they have feed my own Aikido and at the same time, they have made me more flexible and comprehensive.

Hitohiro Sensei con su hijo y  Salvatore Sensei
Hitohiro Sensei at his sides, Salvatore sensei and his son.

Hitohiro Sensei and AHAN
With Hitohiro Sensei the representatives of AHAN

As it is usual in many Aikido seminars, at the end, dinners were offered to the assistants. Here I could verify again what I saw in Mexico about Salvatore Sensei,  the energy and the heart that he gives at any moment. I think, with all my respect that he could be a famous comedian or a host of TV shows, he is really a happy and active person.

Something that seems to me excellent, in the dinner, was that a little bit after it began, every representative of any dojo, group or country was introduced. This allowed us to know each other and start this party with more confidence. When my turn to speak came, Julio Escalante helped me as translator, and Aikido practitioner from NY that I met in this seminar, and now a good friend of me, I can talk to all the representatives.

I just thanked them, and told them about how I got there. I told them that years before I though that some day I would knew Morihiro Saito Sensei, that it was a dream for me, that many of my Aikido at the beginning were inspired besides O’Sensei, many others Masters, and that he, was indeed one of the Masters that have influenced on me to advocate fully on Aikido. I told them that in 2002 I had made the arrangements to travel and assist to a seminar with this great Master, and how few days before the seminar he passed away so it was cancelled. I told them that I felt sorrow for his death, maybe not to deeply as others practitioners that had the opportunity to receive his teaching, but despite I never met him, I really felt his deceased.

Fernando y Julio
With my new friend Julio Escalante

I also told them that at the beginning of 2003 i decided to assist a seminar in the USA in honor of the memory of Morihiro Saito Sensei, instructed by his own son, Hitohiro Saito Sensei. For me, more than a seminar, was a opportunity to participate in a tribute of that great master and connected with him in some way. It was how I met Homma Kancho from Nippon kan, who organized that event in Denver, Colorado, I start a good friendship and then, thanks to him I was there, in a seminar connected with this Master. To finish I directly thanked Hitohiro Saito for that new opportunity.

After I spoke with Hitohiro Saito Sensei,he made something that touched me and I felt that connect everybody with his father. He looked above and thanked Homma Kancho, wherever he was for made that I could assist, he stood up, served a glass of liquor, indicated that the doors of the room were opened, and making a bow with his hand together, invited with a clear voice, to the spirit of his father to enter and share with us. Feeling the importance of this, everybody keep quiet for a moment. Then Hitohiro Sensei thanked that signal of respect and said that now, everything was fine and in its place, asked to close the door and said that we could continue with party.

Hitohiro Sensei con Fernando Sensei

Hitohiro Sensei and me during the party

Reno fiesta de aikido
A big dance competition

The party were very happy, there were several dishes that seems to be brought by the own students. The members from Aikido of Reno and Salvatore Sensei had prepared several games with prizes, and Mr Stanley Pranin help with questions about Aikido history, also it was very fun a dance competition between the students of different dojos.


un brindis por la amistad
A toast for the seminar and the friendship, from right to left:
Michael, me, Tony and Julio.

Jugando en Reno
Testing luck with a dollar

En la noche-día
Outside is morning, but inside, the night begin.

Tony y Julio

there is space, we can take you to the airport!

Anyway, after this great seminar, on October 30th we flight to Denver, I stayed again at Nippon Kan and in the following day I travel to Mexico. That last night in Denver, Emily Sensei invited my brother Hector, Michael and me to a good dinner in a Korean restaurant. There we had the chance to talk about our experiences and impressions about the seminar, Emily Sensei seem satisfied, at the end, we said good bye with a hug, hoping to see each other again.
I am more than grateful, for have lived again the experience of another great seminar with an excellent Master and without taking away importance of this event, I would like that I have again the opportunity of reflect about this Aikido seminars.

I thought about those Aikido practitioners, which mainly due to economical reasons have not got that kind of opportunities. This seminar was really good, however in some moments I felt uncomfortable with so much luxury. I think that know I feel this way because I have had the opportunities to travel to another countries, and be witness of the efforts of the people, of the, for me called incorrectly, third world.

As I said from the beginning, I couldn’t traveled by my own means and assist to this event, I think that a way to thank a refund this opportunity to others, furthermore the learning is the commitment with the legacy of the founder of Aikido and to help in the development and spread of his path, how? Making possible that his thoughts reach more people, if the Masters for one or another reason cannot instruct seminar in places where there aren’t enough economical resources, then I could participate and transmit the much or the little that I have learned. I thought in the following seminar that I would instruct in Costa Rica and felt that the founder’s family is too big. The path is long, to give and to receive keep us alive, I know that my life will be conducted by my own conviction of this way.


Emily Sensei
Emily Sensei during our dinner, she wears the
new earrings that Rocío Sensei sends to her.

Homma Sensei y Fernando Sensei
With Homma Kancho in a break during a seminar in Nicaragua

Thanks again to Homma Kancho for giving me the opportunity of this experience, to Emily Sensei of her support and all the arrangements, to Michael for his attentions and big help, to Rosa for his joy, to Jhon of Canada, the uchi deshi at Nippon kan for his great job, to DOMO for feed me in this travel, to Nippon Kan for his great work and offered me shelter and to AHAN staff for the great job that they usually do, and of course to my wife and life mate Rocío for stayed again at home, looking after our children and as head of Mexico Aikido.

When I returned from this seminar, I have a meal with my family, instruct a class of Aikido and thanked again to my students, then I felt again that I was in home and realized that I owe a lot to life... Thank you God.