Training camps are really important events in each martial art. It is there that people usually get their kyu exams, but more important than that is that you finally stay focused. In your everyday life, it is hard to stay focused on one single thing. Everyone is multi-tasking and impatient. I myself have been so since my childhood. But with the occasion of a training camp you cannot help but focus on just that one thing.
As the spring training camp is approaching, I remembered the first I went to in the summer of 2010. It was quite an experience I must say. We would train around five hours a day and have free time just for eating and sleeping. This is of course really tiring, but also a great opportunity to develop. It was there that I finally learned the forward roll (at least on the right side) and started to get familiar with the free fall also. At the beginning it seemed just a funny game, but it got more and more serious every day, as my muscles were beginning to feel stiff and my whole body was aching. It was a period of great uncertainty for me, where I was asking myself questions like: are you able to push through? How many times do they need to explain you that until you understand? The others are doing much better, can you also make it?
I remember a certain point where I felt it was enough, where I almost gave up. This point probably arrives for every aikidoka. You are trying so hard, but you are still not able to do the basic things. At this point you either give up or you go on and you passed over your first dead point. Just like the marathon runners, just as Murakami describes it in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I came to a serious standstill towards the end of the training camp. My left (obviously my left) shoulder was totally busted from falling incorrectly and it ached each time I had to roll. It was not as much the physical pain as the anger with myself that made me stop the training and go home to think about the whole thing. There I was, on a training camp a whole week, and no sign of getting better. As I would later realize, I did develop slightly and gained much better physical condition. However, at that point, I only saw my incapacity of performing basic moves and was really down. The last days passed as if through a dream because I was so tired and exhausted. But my body somehow adapted to workout and the normal trainings in the first week after the training camp seemed so short that I would go home on foot, even though I live far away from the dojo. The training camp definitely thought me things about pushing my boundaries. I learned that I just had to be patient and that it was just a question of time and perseverance. And isn’t that just the case in all we do in life?