Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Ah Winter Camp.

Winter Camp is an annual seminar that meets in Ft. Lauderdale Florida and organized by Peter Bernath Shihan. Once again I had help from friends in Atlanta to help me get down there on a budget and shared a room with some friends from NY. As it turned out I ended up on the same flights as Yamada Sensei so I was deemed his bag carrier and hakama attendant for the weekend.

Altogether is was a great seminar. The seminar this year was being hosted in a hotel ballroom. It was quite convenient to get into your gi, onto the elevator, and into the ballroom/pool/hot-tub/tiki-bar...quite convenient indeed.

The first day, Friday, was very crowded and extremely muggy. We crammed about 300 people onto the mat for several hours before we all hit the pool.

It rained Saturday afternoon which helped cool everything off but more people showed up for the classes. We were taught by world class aikidoists many of whom got on the mat to practice which was a great experience. Yamada Shihan, Shibata Shihan, Takaguchi Shihan, Donovan Waite Shihan, and Peter Bernath Shihan.

It was nice to see some people from Atlanta as well! George Kennedy Sensei, my first teacher, was there with a few students from the Atlanta Aikido Center. My sempai (senior) Vanessa from Atlanta tested for her shodan (black belt) during the seminar and got an ovation after her test! Very nicely done Vanessa. And of course the ever vigilant Richard and Shomu were there to uphold their perfect seminar record.

After classes ended around 3-4 in the afternoon the crowd of aikidoists that were now running the hotel migrated out onto the patio for drinks and swimming (note* under "responsible circumstances" these two thinks should probably not be mixed)
at the tiki-bar. This trailed off into the night until people began to realize the had to do more classes the next morning.

The next morning was a sparsely populated class but Shibata Shihan kept the pace up for those of us who showed up. The second class filled in a good bit when Yamada Sensei taught, his class is exactly what I needed. He did mainly group work that consisted of hard breakfalls and throws...wooooo! Again to the pool/hot-tub/beach!!

Sunday night the roommates that I had from NY had to fly home, I wasn't scheduled to return until Monday afternoon with Yamada Sensei so I was offered a room to share with my friends Alberto and Bibiana. Bibiana had to wake up around 3am to get to the airport for her flight back to Mexico City. In her tired state early that morning she "accidentally" grabbed my wallet on her way out the door. I don't know how you accidentally grab someone elses wallet but Bibiana managed to do so. The phone rang at 5am that morning, it was Bibiana taxiing out to the runway for take off telling me what she had done. Panic. Back to sleep. Awake three hours later...panic. My wallet was on it's way to Mexico.

I went down stairs to meet Sensei and figure out what to do. I didn't have an ID to get onto a plane, I didn't have a credit or debit card to pay for anything. I spent the next several hours on the phone with everyone from TSA airport security to the Department of Motorvehicles in Georgia. No luck with any of it. It came time for Sensei to head to the airport, I had to hand over his hakama and gi. Sensei pulled out a wad of cash just before he got intot the cab, counted out $100 handed it to me and said "aaa good luck eh" and drove off. The hotel agreed to give me another room on my previous credit and I went to a few classes at Peter Bernath's dojo there in Fort Lauderdale. After I realized that I was in Florida with a beach, hot-tub, and that damn tiki-bar the panic evaporated.

Bibiana mailed me the contents of my wallet, not the wallet itself mind you, just the contents in an envelope. I ended up back in NYC on Thursday night in time to catch the last class and show off my new tan.

Quite the trip that I will definitely have to catch next year!

Ah the glory of my Bride-o-Frankenstein pompadour