I had fun this weekend in Switzerland - travelling out there for an aikido course with Patrick Cassidy and Miles Kessler, being held by the Aikido Montreux dojo.

We got off to a bad start. Despite getting up at 5:30am I arrived at Brighton station after our planned train left. Tom and Carl were there waiting for me and we hopped onto the next train... which got us into Gatwick around 20 minutes before the flight left. So there was much running across the airport and out to the gate - we *just* made it in time.

Arriving in Geneva, we wandered around the town a little, soaking in the sights, grabbing coffee, a beer and some food in the Old Town and then heading to a local park to grab half an hours kip. A 50 minute train journey later and we were in Cully, the small town by the side of Lake Geneva, for the first evenings training. Miles having been delayed due to travel problems, Patrick took the first class - but they shared the training throughout the rest of the weekend.

I only have scratchy notes - and an even scratchier memory - of what we learned in class:

  • Patrick's talk on the subject of "imagine a life without an enemy" really resonated. Interesting to see how a change in attitude towards a grab can affect uke (in the controlled environment of the dojo at least - it wasn't suggested as a realistic response to an attack In Real Life).
  • An hour or so's class on striking, emphasising punching in a relaxed and responsive manner.
  • Solo practice (something I'd not seen much of until recently when we were practicing the kata for kaitenage solo, back in Airenjuku), blending into partner practice in a crowded dojo whenever a bell was rung. Really good fun and a great way to get to slip into training with partners without thinking about it.
  • Sword work, especially exploring the connection with the tip of the sword, and leading/following practice - "sticking swords" as it was christened.
  • Practicing rolling around one another (on a horizontal plane as opposed to over the floor). Tom (Helsby) has talked about this before, but we actually tried it, and it's interesting - there's a tendency to lose contact or slip.
  • Peter Ralston style "4 corner" exercises - taking pressure on the shoulder (kata dori) into a throw, or into a coming-from-underneath ikkyo using a shoulder roll, which I really liked (even if I couldn't really do it).
  • Visualisations involving orbiting planets - a bit 'out there' for me but none the less valid I suspect ;)

...and much more, plus fondue-waza at a lovely restaurant overlooking the lake, kipping on the mats at Aikido Montreux (a charming and hospitable dojo if ever there was one), some excellent gradings, and of course, the view from Gabo (one of the largest, sternest, and nicest Germans I've ever met) that "the best aphrodisiac is your best friends girlfriend".

Switzerland was absolutely beautiful - idyllic is the word for it. I can't imagine a nicer place to train than by the lakeside in the controlled climate of Montreux. Mountains constantly lurking in the background, clean air, open space, and a pile of horribly friendly people. I Shall Return...

...though not by travelling via Heathrow next time. We got back in around 10, but it took us 3.5 hours to get back to Brighton via a combination of buses, overland trains, and delayed services. Grr.