So besides my own personal increase in training the entire attitude around the dojo has intensified. The four shihans affiliated with New York AIkikai have been teaching on a more regular basis. Both Yamada Sensei and Sugano Sensei have quite busy schedules when it comes to traveling to seminars all over the world. This is probably the busiest times of the year for the shihans but leading up to this summer they were both in NYC for about two months. Every day for the last two months we've had the rare pleasure of at least two classes a day with one of the shihans.
Sunday: If Sugano Sensei is feeling up to teaching on the weekends then he will usually teach the two classes in the morning as well as a half hour weapons class. If Sugano Sensei isn't teaching on Sunday then Donovan Waite Sensei will take the classes and he will teach an hour long weapons class. For those of you who are not familiar with Donovan Sensei, his classes are especially martial and usually end up being more technically advanced than most. As a side note he had been using me almost exlusively for ukemi during his class demonstration, while this is quite an honor and great practice for ukemi it is also one HELL of a workout and it also means that I don't get a chance to rest during class. Sugano Sensei on the other hand is much less concerned wtih the technical specifics he wants to see you MOVE. Just keep moving no matter what! This in turn makes his classes EXTREMELY aerobic. You may not be utterly whaling on your partner but you certainly spend the entire hour running, falling, getting up and running again... needless to say it wears you out! As far as the weapons go Donovan again focuses on alot of the jo kata (9 step, 13 step, and 31) and bokken kata while Sugano likes to look more at paired weapons practice focusing on ma ai (spacing) and reacting to your partner rather than running through a set of prearranged movements.
Monday: The majority of the day goes by like all of the rest with the usual line-up of amazing teachers but then at the end of the day either Donovan or Sugano take the last two classes, one hell of a way to end the day.
Tuesday: The Big Day! Tuesday is the day with six classes. If we're lucky Jane Ozeki will come in to teach the morning class but it is rare. Jane is a sixth degree black belt and has one of the most viscious sankyos I've ever felt and she seems to have taken a liking to using me for that technique... yippy. Noon is when it starts to get really fun... Sugano Sensei usually teaches the noon class and then he'll teach a second noon class at 1:15 sometimes incorporating weapons. If Sugano Sensei isn't in town then Mike McNally will teach the noon class and Harvey Konigsburg Sensei will come down from his dojo in Woodstock for the hour long randori class. Again VERY aerobic, no sitting down and no stopping for the entire hour. There is a short break between the end of the 2nd noon class at 2:15 and the begining of the evening three classes at 4:15. Yamada Sensei teaches the 4:15. His usual class schedule is to pick just a few techniques and stick to them... for a while. Usually only four maybe five techniques per class. a good 15 minutes for each which can wear you out! Harvey Konigsburg again teaches the 5:30. Harvey's classes are like mental tongue twisters and usually have at least half the class wondering how to recreate that incredible force while looking as relaxed as Obi-Wan Kenobi sipping tea. The day is rounded off by Luke, one of the head deshi that has impeccable technique that resembles Donovan Sensei. Again Luke uses only other deshi for demo which means that I don't get a rest. Once that day is out of the way it's all coasting for the rest of the week... kinda.
Wednesday: Sugano Sensei starts us off at 6:45am at one heck of a fast pase and this usually sets the mood for the day, at least for me it does. Yamada Sensei teaches the noon class and carries that fast pased mood. Ruth takes the 4:15 followed by Yamada Sensei again at 5:30 and Toshi at 6:45.
Thursday: This morning is Yamada Sensei at 6:45. Noon is ususally either Luke or Luis. Thursday afternoon is kinda free form depending on how much Sugano Sensei decides to teach but sometimes he'll take both 4:15 and 5:30, and the day is usually ended with Luis taking the 6:45
Friday: Nothing out of the ordinary here, everything is taught by our normal grouping of great teachers but if Yamada Sensei is in town he will teach some of the final classes of the day. Again these are totally at the whim of Sensei. If he's not down for teaching that afternoon then Doug Firestone comes down from Whiteplains NY to teach the final two classes of the day. Doug is a sixth dan and was Head Deshi at the dojo quite a while ago but runs his own dojo up in Whiteplains.
Saturday: Saturday is usually Ruth for the first class and the Mike Abrams, seventh dan and President of the United States Aikido Federation. Again Yamada Sensei will usually take the first (or second depending on what he wants to do) class and leave the rest for us to figure out.
Having this much exposure to some of the greates names and techniques in aikido has been an amazing learning experience to put it lightly. I feel privileged and incredibly lucky to have been given this opportunity and I can only hope that some day I'll be able to put this knowledge to good use.