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Report on Special Training 2018

Andrew Benioff (Ee Dan, Ji Do Kwan; Ni Dan, Aikido) traveled from Philadelphia to serve as Guest Instructor during a weekend of Special Training August 17-19, 2018. In what I hope will become an annual event during the waning weeks of summer, Benioff led misogi training at daybreak. This year we convened at the Mill River near Smith College and the former State Hospital grounds. The river was surging with water from heavy rainfall the previous day, and participants performed ritual chanting while executing one thousand sword cuts. We were joined by a few new faces this year, and the session was one of the highlights of the weekend, as it was during our 2017 Special Training.

Because this year’s participants were at a uniformly high level of training, Benioff offered an intensive weapons training workshop for the rest of the weekend, geared toward black belts who have begun training with the bo. Each participant learned twenty suburi adapted from Aikido jo training, then learned four partner drills (kumibo) that used the suburi in realistic applications. The kumibo resembled three-step sparring combinations, with both attack and defense from both partners before culminating in a decisive technique.

The bo training introduced by Benioff over the course of the weekend is not meant to be part of our Ji Do Kwan curriculum, but rather an exercise that extends the way we think about our bo practice and opens our minds to new kinds of motion and applications. Most of us who learned this body of knowledge have added the suburi and kumibo to our regular practice, but it’s entirely optional—similar to the way Forms Club participants practice the Chang Han and Tae Geuk forms, which also aren’t core curriculum in our school. Both activities give us breadth of experience, and through a new perspective, offer insights into the core techniques that we practice daily. Because the techniques we studied that August weekend originate in twentieth century Japan, their unfamiliar origins open a new window into our techniques, giving us a sense of distance and making the familiar feel new again.

As mementos of the camaraderie and knowledge the participants shared over the weekend, Benioff gave each participant books on martial training themes, as well as a commemorative T-shirt. Participants also received a celadon tea cup, stamped with the hangeul characters for Ji Do Kwan 지도관 to remind us of the cold barley tea we drank to refresh ourselves during the long hours of training over course of the weekend. Students of East Asian art know that Korean celadon ceramics have been prized for centuries, so this object evokes and connects us to Korean history while reminding us of a satisfying and intensive training experience.

Our school is always grateful when Andrew Benioff visits and shares his knowledge, and we thank him for his generosity. We were fortunate to have a visit from another respected black belt from Benioff’s generation of Ji Do Kwan instructors the previous week: Joe Rush (Ee Dan, Ji Do Kwan) from Tuscon, Arizona. We are lucky that these senior practitioners appreciate our school’s activities enough to travel great distances to train with us. We appreciate them equally in return.

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