An open letter on the 2012 Summer Camp in the Rockies

05 Mar 2012
Posted by scblog

An open letter on the 2012 Summer Camp in the Rockies
Tres Hofmeister, Boulder Aikikai

By now everyone has heard about our plans for the 2012 Boulder Aikikai Summer Camp in the Rockies. We are in the process of building a new future for this, our annual training event, and are really looking forward to this year. We will continue to look at all aspects of future camps and you can expect changes as we go along. But today I'd like to offer a few words on our decisions for this year and the thinking behind them.

First, let me be clear about a change with obvious impact on our event. Ikeda sensei made the 30th anniversary of the camp in 2010 his final one as a regular instructor; a change he planned expressly to allow for a new future for the event. Doran sensei had also made clear his plans to retire at that time, and 2011 was his final year at our camp. Finally, Saotome sensei has also withdrawn from the event in 2012.

Please take a moment and consider a central question we had before us: how do you replace your teachers of thirty years? On deliberation the answer became clear: you do not. The constant presence of these teachers over decades, and the relationships and depth this implies are, quite simply, irreplaceable. We have also considered a message Saotome sensei and Ikeda sensei have always made clear: the importance of self-reliance and of finding one's own way. Both of these matters have deeply affected our decisions for this year.

At this juncture we believe that our future together is best served by a bold step forward. It's time to take responsibility for our own future: to practice what we've learned and to find inspiration in one another. How will we do so? Experienced teachers are invaluable, of course. But so is our broad and deep community of fellow practitioners, our friends and peers, our seniors and our juniors.

In the process of coming to this understanding we reflected at length on other factors that will allow us to take advantage of the great value the group brings as a whole. We've decided on an intensive format with focused and consistent instruction to facilitate a deepening of the learning experience for everyone training. This decision informed our choice to limit the number of instructors—in 2012, we will have three instructors responsible for the core classes, as in the early days of our camp.

I'd like to briefly mention a very personal feeling. To see my teachers' inevitable aging has been at turns moving and difficult. At the same time, I've begun to find both hope and inspiration in the efforts of junior teachers and practitioners. While they can in no way replace the experience and understanding of senior teachers, they have an important role to play as we look toward the future. Looking ahead, a capacity to learn from our juniors as well as our seniors will be of increasing importance.

The value of seasoned perspective and long experience is of course unquestionable and is behind our decision to have two senior instructors for the event. This year, these are Kevin Choate and myself. It is my experience with Kevin in recent years as well as our long association that informs this choice. His current approach focuses deeply on individual experience and this is consonant with our vision for this year's camp. I am excited about and looking forward to Kevin's role this year.

During our deliberations about camp this year, we came to the conviction that our mutual capacity to support and encourage the development of junior instructors is one key to the long term success of this camp. To support this conviction, we decided this year to include a junior guest instructor position. Many of us have known Karl Grignon over the years and are aware of his love of training and his strong connection with Doran sensei. Beyond these, he and I have been in regular contact in recent years and I feel that, while he will have a different role than Kevin and myself, he will make a great addition to the team for this year's camp.

The Summer Camp in the Rockies offers an ideal setting for looking to ourselves. Living and training together as a group for a week, in a beautiful and private place, offers unique strengths for intensive training. We are really looking forward to this opportunity to deepen our relationships and to emphasize the value of our group to our ongoing practice. Another aspect of this emphasis will be our schedule. As last year, the schedule is structured to allow everyone to train together throughout the week.

I hope this has helped everyone better understand our vision for this year's Boulder Aikikai Summer Camp in the Rockies. We have planned for a camp that will be a positive, challenging, and rewarding experience for everyone attending, as it has been since Ikeda sensei first began it years ago. We invite you to come and share this experience with us!

I would also invite you to contact me directly if you would like to talk about any of this further. I thank you for reading, and would like nothing better than to see you this summer in Glenwood Springs.

P.S. You can find ongoing updates on camp at the Boulder Aikikai Summer camp blog:

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Tres Hofmeister

See also: A letter from Kevin Choate on the 2012 Summer Camp in the Rockies