From September, 2021
A few words from Sarah
Covid-19 made its effects felt around the world in 2020 with most gatherings being cancelled, including Shintaido events. As vaccines became available and more adults were able to get vaccinated, small slits began to open in the curtain of isolation. Small groups again talked of gathering and as such the fall SOA gasshuku typically held in Quebec Canada made plans to come together.
Beginning as humble hopes and dreams to the reality of border restrictions into Canada actually easing, the extraordinary plans of gathering with distant friends again began in earnest. SOA members from CA, FL and Canada arranged to meet Ito Sensei and Nicole in Quebec City, QU, CAN as has happened so easily in the past. But this gathering had the added complication of proof of Covid-19 vaccinations and 72 hour pre-travel testing, hoping for negative results.
But then it all came together and we all were heading to Canada once again. With the first hurdle, travel, met and cleared, new challenges presented themselves. Where could our small group gather to practice? Though Canada’s borders were opening to international travellers, venues, indoors and out, within Quebec were re-imposing strict guidelines on group size and acceptable activities. Questions arose about where we would be able to practice. Then the answer came. Carole and Denis invited the small group to their dojo on the eastern edge of the Gaspésie Peninsula.
With more planning for transportation and lodging, the small group including Ito Sensei, Nicole, Herve, Connie, Rob G, and Sarah gathered in Quebec City and drove to Carole and Denis’. Everyone had their jobs. Connie and Rob took turns piloting the minivan. Sarah provided navigation. Herve filled our time with lively conversation and endless discussion topics. Nicole and Ito lent us strength and stability amid the chaos.
From the moment of arriving at Carole and Denis’, home we entered a dream world. Covid-19 was momentarily put aside. Masks were something to be remembered when leaving the compound much like wallets, jackets, and water bottles might be.
We gathered for communal meals, flowing and washing over each other in a blend of languages from French and English to the occasional Japanese. Subgroups got rowdy with laughter and serious discussions. Everyone felt relaxed and generally happy. But we didn’t forget why this small group came together in the first place, and we had 6 inspiring Shintaido keiko in our host’s amazing dojo.
Melonie who lives just down the street, joined us for 3 of these classes.
Gasshuku are generally special and unique. This gasshuku, dispite the challenges and restrictions was also special and unique.
Rob Gaston impressions from Canada
A unification of the dojo space, nature, Carole and Denis’ personality and character and the local community in a way that seems to flow so you can feel all parts when focused on any one part. The feeling of living in harmony so that the spirits of the first people, the nature spirits are present and surrounding and liking the keiko we did.
The warmth of welcome of the Quebec Shintaido group from the moment of arrival at Herve’s to the endless abundance of cookies that came from Carole and Denis’ freezer in the basement. The feeling was my image of what I want to express in ten position meditation pose number 2, and then going beyond in their warm welcome.
There was a joy I think everyone felt in being able to do keiko in person again.
Connie’s impressions from Canada
Eight people joined in a group to practice Kyukajo, Shintaido and Jissen. We were fortunate to have Carole and Denis offer their private dojo (see picture). The three days moved through uniting our bodies and minds to harmony with others, ultimately expanding to include the community and big nature.
Friday morning, Carole led warmups followed by Connie Borden and Robert teaching Kyukajo. Ito sensei reminded the group of the difference between working with the blade tip/first one-third of the sword in Kyukajo and working with the middle section of the blade as in Jissen.
Saturday morning, Connie taught Taimyo part II and part III. During the deep bow Ito Sensei suggested we fully bow by releasing the hips backwards and having the top of the head/chakra point downward (within each person’s ability). During big dipper, Ito sensei reinforced that a relaxed position without strain would allow each of us to reach further up and down while spiraling our body. Saturday afternoon, Rob taught attack and receiving for Jodan Uchite.
Sunday morning, Connie taught Shoden no kata kumitachi. Everyone practiced Mitori keiko and shared feedback on seeing how a person moved with the bokken. Sunday morning ended with exams for advanced students. Sarah Baker and Denis Bujold became Advanced Students.
Rob Gaston concluded the weekend of study with the sixth keiko. The study was Jissen Kumitachi Dotoh. Ito sensei encouraged students to watch Rob and Connie to notice the management of timing and space.
Ito Sensei provided a memorial evening of Taimyo under the night sky. Big nature provided a sky full of stars and the Milky Way, while the bay waters lapped gently near our feet.
Food and conversation completed the full gasshuku experience. Thank you, Sarah, for navigating our travels. Thank you, Nicole, and Melanie, for your presence. Thank you, Carole, Denis and Herve for organizing. Thank you, Rob, for co-teaching and collaborative travel. Thank you, Ito sensei.
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Oh my YES ! Thank you Rob for reminding me of Carole and Denis’ magic basement that produced endless cookies on demand. What an awesome addition to an already wonderful event.