The three of us, or the ‘English boys’ as we would become to be known, arrived in Melbourne at the end of January 2008, fresh faced and admittedly completely unaware of what was in store for us. We are now in a position to look back on our time at the Aikido Shudokan and contemplate what it means to be a dojosei. Although we had studied aikido in the UK we were new to Yoshinkan aikido and to the high standards of the Shudokan.
Being a dojosei meant training every session, and continuing to train after the sessions finished. We had committed to spend five months in Melbourne in full time training, with our initiation beginning with several sessions focusing on basics. These were led by the uchideshi, and growingly frustrated Sensei Joe, as Tim gradually learned left from right.
Additionally, we slept in the dojo and became an integral part of the upkeep of the dojo – a task we threw ourselves into with all the vigour that you would expect from three reluctant teenagers. However we soon became fiercely proud of the decking put down at the back of the dojo under the guidance of Lenny, local carpenter and lifestyle guru.
Sensei Andy Hobday was very helpful in these early days, providing pearls of wisdom to ensure our survival off the mat ‘if pork smells like seafood, don’t eat it.’ He also advised us that painkillers would have no effect at reducing the pain of prolonged seiza. Naturally this advice was ignored completely. As Adam and Ali prepared themselves for a grading (having taken the recommended two tablets), Tim skipped over and sat down. When asked how many he had taken he grinned – ‘six’.
After we had been at the Dojo for two months, Sensei Michal and Danny from Poland arrived. Fond memories are made more memorable through the chronic injuries we obtained over the weeks they were at the dojo. As Tim once put it to Sensei Michal – ‘with great power comes great responsibility’.
One of the best moments of our stay was the Inoue Sensei Seminar, where we were lucky enough to perform Kihon Dosa Rensoku at the public demonstration and also take uke for some of the instructors. It was also a fantastic opportunity to meet so many people drawn together by the Shudokan – and to see some familiar faces.
We had some great weekends in and around Melbourne and we owe many thanks to people who made us feel at home. At one of the particularly funny evening, we wore second hand suits bought from a closing down salvos, hitting Crown casino, to gamble away the next week’s food budget. A less successful evening started with too much of Mark Peck’s bootleg whiskey – and finished with us stirring (and continuing to disturb) Sensei Joe. We only discovered the extent of our misdemeanour after the Monday afternoon session. We would later congratulate Sensei Zac, on our hardest hajime class.
Training intensively instils a grasp of the basics hard to achieve through regular training. In the five months we spent in the dojo we managed to grade to 2nd Kyu, having started as complete beginners in Yoshinkan Aikido. This goes to show how if you put the time and effort into your training you can progress through the grades fairly quickly. We owe a lot to the uchideshis in Melbourne for their thorough (and often patient) supervision, as well as the dojo regulars for providing such great training. We really do miss the fantastic people we met at the dojo. Ultimately though, we reserve our enormous gratitude for Sensei Joe, a man who literally welcomed us into his home and dojo. We owe our memorable experiences to his fantastic teaching on and off the mat.
- Tim Bobak, Adam Taylor & Alistair Travis