By Mark Bannon and Connie Borden
The European Shintaido College (ESC) held their fall gasshuku from Wednesday 31 October 2019 to Sunday 3 November 2019 in Reims, France. Reims is in the heart of the Champagne region. The beautiful Cathedral in the center of the city played host to the coronations of the kings of France. A wonderful destination to combine some tourism before the gasshuku.
The theme of this gasshuku was Shinten: Development. The theme comes from the five stages of Shintaido keiko: Shuchu-Concentration; Toitsu-Unification; Shinten-Development; Seiketsu-Pure Cleanliness; and Rakuten-Freedom. This gasshuku studied the flow from Concentration through Unification to Development while experiencing the familiar forms of Tenshingoso, Eiko and Meiso. The emphasis was on joyful and healthy life expression. We were encouraged to be curious, be open with a focus on finding the inner calm necessary to share harmonious, soft, and deep kumite so that we unite with our partners.
Ula Chambers (UK) was Director of Instruction. SOA Member Margaret Guay was the Invited Instructor. Ula has been practicing Shintaido since 1980 in the UK, becoming an instructor in 1987 and a General Instructor in 2016. Her work has been with people with learning disabilities and the elderly to explore the transformative aspects of Shintaido. Margaret Guay started Shintaido in 1985 and has been teaching for over 25 years. Margaret has jointly studied with the school for Body-Mind Centering® to better understand her own movement and gain insight into the states cultivated through practicing Shintaido. Body-Mind Centering® (BMCSM) is an integrated and embodied approach to movement, the body and consciousness developed by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen. Margaret has conducted developmental movement lessons with infants and young children and worked in several after-school enrichment programs for children with special needs.
Fifty-three people attended this gasshuku, coming from France, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, the UK and the USA. On Thursday & Friday the European Technical Committee held three meetings and two ETC keiko taught by Ito-sensei. These keiko continued with the study of Kenjutsu and the approach of Musoken. European Exams were held Friday afternoon. Two people advanced to Nidan Kenjutsu, one person advanced to Nidan Bojutsu and one person advanced to the rank of Shintaido Nidan Instructor.
Saturday and Sunday were the general gasshuku with three keiko with additional two morning sessions focused on Kenko-taiso. The event included a party on Saturday evening.
Margaret Guay taught the opening keiko combining her study of Body-Mind Centering with Shintaido. She allowed us to explore our body movements from early cellular development approaches so that we were rolling and twisting on the large tatami mats. As Ito-sensei commented, “At one point it looked like wriggling compost pile”. For some, it felt like a giant game of Twister® as we moved over and under each other. Margaret sat regally and patiently as we explored familiar movements with new insight of our early nervous system development. Margaret closed with Tenshingoso.
“The mind is like the wind and the body like the sand: if you want to see how the wind is blowing, you can look at the sand.”
— Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, Body Mind Centering Developer
On Saturday afternoon, General Instructors Ula and Mieko taught a process to introduce Eiko Dai focused on the theme of “Infinity”. Mieko led us in stepping with musoken and kaishoken hands for the traditional dai-jodan, jo-dan, chu-dan and go-dan cuts. Ula then led us to the skies to fly like birds – the image of the unified flock of starlings doing murmuration. We cut in the infinity pattern – the figure 8 laying on its side. We swirled and soared in groups of 5 or 6 to follow and move in unified leaderless patterns. Then we joined into one group doing Dai jodan while the other group did the infinity cutting. We closed with one-on-one partner Eiko Dai using our voice.
Sunday morning keiko closed the gasshuku with studying a new approach of using Tenshingoso arrangements in Shintaido Karate. General Instructor David Franklin (SOA/Czeck) led with warmups, continuing the study of close communication with one’s partner through massage and stretches.
General Instructor Gianni Rossi (IT) then lead a series of kata to teach the process of sumo that lead to renki. The exercises started with simply shifting weight from one leg to the other. Gianni-sensei then added sliding the feet together as weight was shifted. When we became comfortable, we added squatting into the classic sumo wrestler shiko stance and then added raising a leg high in the air to the side, then bringing it down with a stomp. To some, these exercises highlighted a centered koshi and stable contact with the earth while others recalled that shiko stomping was also performed to drive away bad spirits. Gianni-sensei then asked us to teamed up with a partner for the sumo embrace and invited us to help each other become centered with our partner providing supportive structure and balancing force as we moved as one co-dependent team.
Master Instructor Minagawa (UK) taught as a kata familiar free-hand Shintaido movements to receive a overhand jodan uchite attack while keeping the Shintaido essence. The karate exercises kept the sharp focus while using the transformative nature of Shintaido to have everyone feeling successful in their body movement working with their partners.
These keiko show the continued adaption and development of Shintaido for people’s body conditions – truly keeping the “NEW” in New Body Movement.