The Following is an article written by one of our students Meghan Reddy. She does a really nice job reviewing the experiences of some of our dojo members during our first Summer In Residence Program. We all had a great time visiting and training with Rob and Meghan expresses this well.
For three weeks this past July, we here at Aikido of Maine had our first summer teacher in residence – and the program did a lot of the things a seminar or an intensive or a vacation does without us having to go anywhere: It shook up our usual routines. It gave us a new perspective. It both refreshed our appreciation for training at our home dojo, and reminded us of the wide world of aikido outside its walls. And it got us outside for an afternoon of weapons training in the summer sunshine!
Robert Deppe Sensei came up to Maine from Aikido Shobukan in Washington, DC, and slotted in to our usual schedule. He taught four classes a week, two of them weapons classes, and he trained with us in classes taught by Gary Sensei or Ania Sensei.
One long-time student I talked with said it felt a lot like a seminar – only it was better because Rob Sensei was here for three weeks, rather than three days. There was time for him for to get to know us a little, and for us to know him, and as a result our experience of his teaching went deeper, she felt, than is possible in the intense seminar setting.
At the same time, having a teacher in residence pulled us all together the way seminars do: People attended class at times outside their own usual schedule – and in the weeks since the visit has ended, there is something of an afterglow. Some of us have shifted our schedules altogether.
And for newer students, having a teacher in residence was a chance to see what it’s like to learn from a visiting teacher without the anxiety that come with attending a seminar: “Being relatively new to Aikido I’m always nervous attending the seminars. I was greatly surprised however with how comfortable I was during his classes.”
Another student highlighted the value of having an extra perspective: “There is something that resonated with me in part because of how [Rob Sensei] taught, and in part because of the accumulation of layers that a third perspective can give. When Gary Sensei teaches me something new, I begin to practice. When Ania Sensei reinforces it while teaching a class, I take pieces of what both have taught according to what begins to make sense to me. But in our visiting instructor there was both a third perspective, and a perspective that came from outside our dojo.”
This was perhaps most obvious during Rob Sensei’s weapons classes – weapons being his area of particular interest and expertise. His close concern with the logic of each kata opened up new ways of approaching weapons practice for students at all levels. A student new to the practise said, “It was more about being aware of the possibilities of movement. Especially during jo class, there was no definitive “right” or “wrong” way of using the staff (meaning hand/feet positions, in my case). My main take away from his time with us was body awareness, being in the present and ‘alive’ for my partner.” And at the same time our own teachers have shifted their teaching of certain specific moments in the kata, in the light of Rob Sensei’s approach.
Having the chance to get to know someone from a dojo in another city brought something to us, but also really made it feel possible for us to go to other dojos and visit. A few of our members already have plans afoot either to travel to seminars or intensives, or to incorporate a class visit into travel for work.
As well as learning from Rob Sensei as he taught, we had the chance to train with him, and with Gary Sensei and Ania Sensei, as fellow students. Seeing how our teachers learn and how they train not just for a day or two but for almost a month was yet another way in which this summer’s teacher in residence program afforded us a new experience of what’s already here.
And that – enabling what is already here to be seen afresh – is perhaps the most valuable outcome of a visit by someone so accomplished, gracious, generous, precise. Having Rob join us for a while emphasized for many of us not only the vibrancy and breadth of the world of aikido, but also the extraordinary community we have here at Aikido of Maine, and the expansive, joyous outlook of Gary and Ania, whose idea it was to invite Rob up here in the first place.