Città di Castello, a picturesque historic town in the far North of the Perugia province, was the stage of an international Aikido event that took place in the last week of July: the 2017 edition of the Aikido Summer Camp, organised this year with the support of the Municipality of Città di Castello and jointly with Novamusica, Music, Dance and Aikido school.
This momentous occasion gathered in the large indoor sports arena “Andrea Ioan”, the main sports centre in town, numerous aikidokas, coming from the whole country (there were representatives from the main Italian dojos of Traditional Iwama Aikido – Iwama Shin Shin Aiki Shurenkai [ISSASK] Italia, from Sicily to Friuli Venezia Giulia, from Rome to Piemonte) and from abroad (the study week attracted practitioners from Morocco, Macedonia, Lithuania, Germany, Russia and Turkey). They all joined together to attend lessons held by the leading representatives of Traditional Iwama Aikido – Dento Iwama Ryu Aikido in Europe: Alessandro Tittarelli Shihan, from Italy, and Tristao Da Cuhna Shihan, from Portugal, both VIII dan ISSASK, the only two non-Japanese aikidokas to hold such high rank.
As per tradition, the Summer Camp was spread over one week: the keikos (training sessions) were held in the early mornings and in the evenings, a schedule that evolved to adopt the timetable and structure of a koshukai (intensive training) over Saturday and Sunday. It was a golden opportunity for the audience to benefit from the proverbial expertise and extensive technical knowledge of the two Masters, who, each in accordance with their own personality, experience and didactic method, imparted valuable and essential lessons. Alessandro Tittarelli adopted his usual systematic analysis of bare-handed and armed techniques to work on the rigorous details that allow for the development from a basic or static (kihon) technique to the same technique in dynamic form (ki no nagare), building on one of the key concepts of Iwama Aikido – kihon-ki no nagare no kubetsu. Tristao Da Cunha, on the other hand, focused especially on an extended range of technical details, far too often overlooked in everyday training at the dojo (i.e. the underestimated part atemi play in techniques, or the paramount role of attitude, concentration, kimochi and zanshin, both in bare-handed and armed techniques). During the Summer Camp, the Portuguese Master also held a special study session focusing on Japanese etiquette and its complex nuances in Budo – and therefore in Aikido, as one of Budo’s highest manifestations – which should be abided by both on the tatami and in everyday life; he went as far as clarifying – for example – duties and responsibilities of the otomo, Sensei’s attendant.
Not all of the practitioners who trod on the large and bright tatami in Città di Castello were able to attend the whole week of training – the very author of this article, for instance, could be present only for the keikos during the weekend – but everybody equally appreciated and treasured the top-notch technical level of the lessons and the amazing human skills of the two Masters, a real treasure for western aikidokas, who inevitably have fewer opportunities to travel to Japan and study as uchideshi in Iwama, cradle and heart of Traditional Aikido, at Saito Hitohira Soke’s dojo.
Tristao Da Cunha also had the opportunity to regale the audience with anecdotes, stories and first-hand experiences he learnt and lived during the many years he spent in Japan as stay-in student, at first at Morihiro Saito Sensei’s dojo and later at the dojo of the current head of the School, Hitohira Saito Sensei.
Saturday saw the arrival of other distinguished guests, Sonoko Tanaka and Guerrino Spada, who joined the others also at the enjoyable party that took place that evening at Agriturismo San Giovanni, an enchanting location surrounded by the greenery of the gentle hills of Umbria. Sonoko Tanaka had been in countless occasions the unforgettable interpreter of Morihiro Saito Sensei during the international seminars he held in Italy.
Among the high-ranking practitioners who attended this year Summer Camp, it is worth to mention the presence of Alberto Boglio Shihan (VI dan ISSASK) and Danilo Di Teodoro Jun-Shihan (V dan ISSASK).
The Summer Camp was also the opportunity for dan exams to take place, brilliantly passed by the candidates, and to formally award the previously-achieved yondan rank (IV dan) to Daniele Russo, dojo-cho in Città di Castello and co-organisator of the event.
The representatives for Friuli Venezia Giulia in Città di Castello were Mauro Tomè, dojo-cho at Dojo Sacile (Pordenone), and Enrico Neami, dojo-cho at Aiki Shuren Dojo Trieste, as well as Roberto Santanafessa, Francesco Di Cosmo and Silvia D’Arrigo.
The strong bond between Alessandro Tittarelli and Tristao Da Cuhna infected with its energy all participants, who, apart from the mere technical satisfaction for the lessons learnt, were infused with a positive drive, rejuvenating both mind and spirit, also thanks to the various opportunities for sharing and interaction that arose during the week.
The 2017 Summer Camp was a great success, deeply satisfying for students and masters alike. As the curtain fell on the intensive week, the special koshukai that will be held by Saito Hitohira Jukucho at Aiki En in Estremoz (Portugal) in July 2018 was announced.
@EnricoNeami – English translation by Silvia D’Arrigo