North County Aikikai celebrated its 20th Year Anniversary under the instruction of Coryl Crane Shihan. A seminar was held over the weekend of December 10-11, 2011 and included special guest instructors T.K. Chiba Shihan, Coryl Crane Shihan and Norm Wight Sensei.
As part of the celebration, an Allan Kaprow activity was performed with many seminar participants. Following the first day's seminar, a celebratory banquet was held in honor of Crane Sensei. From the exquisite meal prepared by the family of a dojo member, to the presentation of the dojo members' gift to Crane Sensei, the evening was a truly memorable celebration. After the dinner banquet, entertainment included live music as well as a Kyudo demonstration performed by Jannette Curran and Jeremy Cail. Kyudo is the traditional Japanese art of archery and made a wonderful addition to the evening's festivities.
During the dojo ‘deep clean’ in preparation for our 20th Anniversary seminar, Coryl Crane Shihan pulled out a wooden bound book that she had been given by her students on the occasion of her promotion to 6th Dan. It was filled with words of deep gratitude, hand drawn, colored pictures, poetry and evidence of an extraordinary aikido instructor. Reflecting on my four years studying with her, I saw that my practice had evolved because of her ability not only to discern what I needed but to direct and edge me to change.
As I read what others had written, I saw myself as one bead in a long string of students who had also greatly benefited by her presence in their lives. The upcoming 20th Anniversary of North County Aikikai was not simply about 20 years of excellent aikido training and community building, but was a tribute to someone who continually, over two decades, has selflessly given her time and energy for the betterment of others. When I returned to cleaning the dojo, I found myself paying more attention and performing my tasks with a deep sense of appreciation for Crane Sensei and my dojo.
But for Crane Sensei the anniversary was an opportunity to show her gratitude and appreciation for all that she had been given over the years. Someone who had been very involved in her journey was her late husband, artist, Allan Kaprow. Sensei paid tribute to him creating a work for the occasion, in the spirit of an earlier work of his called Zazen. We were invited to take part in this Activity during our long lunch break. It involved cleaning the dojo, a seemingly ordinary task that we do every day but one that’s easy to do mindlessly. Working in small groups, participants took turns to either clean a specific area of the dojo, or to observe those doing the cleaning. When finished we had a chance to share our experiences over lunch.
On Saturday evening we gathered for a festive banquet. Jenny Tien, the mother of a dojo member prepared and served an exceptional Vietnamese ‘fusion’ dinner for 35 people. It was a feast fit for shihan: cane sugar and shrimp wraps a refreshing cucumber salad, and Pho with tender beef. When the din of discussion and dining subsided, Sensei was asked to speak. She recounted how she first came to form North County Aikikai after many years of training in San Diego with Chiba Sensei. And, looking back over the 20 years since then, she spoke of the wonder that had brought us all together at this moment in time. We then presented her with our gift, a beautiful handmade bell for the dojo and a large bouquet of flowers.
Then began the entertainment! Jeremy Cail, a student of North County, together with his Kyudo teacher, Jannette Curran, gave a demonstration of Japanese archery which had been set up along the back alley of the dojo. We all gathered outside. It was quite dark by then, and very cold but the sky was clear and a large, full moon echoed the target at one end. They each shot two arrows, one representing the direction of our life’s path, the other its goal. We then returned to the dojo and the evening unwound listening to music played by a number of talented aikido students.
Classes throughout the weekend were, as always, focused and intense. Garrett Fuller (sandan NCA) and Norm Wight Sensei taught the first two classes on Saturday, with Crane Sensei and Chiba Sensei filling the afternoon. Sunday morning’s classes by Chiba Sensei and Wight Sensei, were introduced by the sound of our new bell. During his bokken class, Chiba Sensei spoke of the three geometric shapes, the triangle, square, and circle. He particularly emphasized the fundamental importance of the triangle and the square as being essential to our basic training. He urged us to keep these principles alive in Birankai and in each moment on the mat.
Thank you Coryl Crane Sensei for your 20 years of selfless instruction!