This is the first European gasshuku that has taken place since we held the London one. That seems so long ago and with the lack of international travel experience I have had over the last few years…well suffice to say that I did have some anxiety with all the travel issues. But, yesterday the time came to ensure the bag was packed with the right “stuff”, which, after more than two years of almost no travel was never assured. Then there was the anxiety around the airport situation. For the last few months, report after reports of mile long queues and millions of cancelled flights. So, with all this in mind, I set of early but was pleasantly surprised to find that the uber-train-flight combo this morning actually worked extremely well. Even the airport security experience merited a 😀 on the wee machine at the exit. I could go on about the number of kids screaming 😱 and running about the airport unshackled…but I will just swiftly move on…🤣
So, gasshuku…I am ridiculously excited about the next week and very much looking forward to seeing everyone again after so long. Over the last few days my Facebook feed has been full of Goju-Ryu people posting their travel exploits from all over Europe.I hear that even Sensei Mistry has made it to Porto, as I say, it will be lovely to see everyone after such a long time.
The advance party has already made it to the apartment we booked for the week. Such a lovely element of the whole experience is the level of accomodation. Now I’ve stayed in some terrible places for sure over the years.
Top of the list for worst gasshuku goes to the first time I went to the Kobudo Course that was held in Osterley, London. As the years went on we learned the better places to stay, but this was a result of staying in one of the worst B&Bs ever. On the surface it all seemed OK, the facade was perfectly acceptable albeit one of the glass panels on the door was missing and had been replaced with cardboard.
I was sharing a room with a friend from UCD but on arrival we started to get a feel that all was not as it should have been. We had to phone a few times for the “receptionist” to… and I use commas again when I say “greet” us. I could go on. We were definately not welcome. But a room we had booked and we had a key thrown across at us and some gesticulatingthat we should take the stairs down a floor. Our room….was below ground, had no windows and like any decent horror film, had a single 💡 dangling from a dusty bakelite fixture.Yup we were luxury. The two single beds were less that a foot apart and in hovesty felt a bit…clamy. Deep Joy. There was unfortunately worse to come. Within the tiny room beside a wonky table was the entry to a toilet and shower area. It probably had a door @ one point but all evidence of aforementioned door was gone. So, picture this…a s all room, two beds you couldn’t walk around without needing to contort your body, to be fair, there was a Tv on the wall but no remote control and barely a reception.
On further inspection the shower also suffered the issue of being doorless and also had no back panel…The area of exposed wall…heavily covered in mould. Now any other time I would have demanded a refund and gone in search of the next half decent hotel. But, it was late I didn’t know the area having flown over from Dublin, we were starting training early the followis morning and I didn’t fancy a conversation with the welcoming receptionist.
By contrast, I once went to Finland to a gasshuku with the wonderful Sensei Dirk Heene, back in my Shotokan days. The gasshulen price also included accomodation, all of which was extremely cheap. so again my thoughts were 😦 what the hell will this be like. I was met at the airport for the drive and everyone then started talking about the forest. We arrived to the most wonderful setting…a huge array of triangular cabins scattered around a series or larger halls. It was in here that we were to train. The whole site was like something from a postcard. Each cabin was beautifully laid out all constructed from wood, training in a really dense forest brought a whole other level of energy to the gasshuku. Then the special “after training time”, this was all new to me. I grew up in rural Ireland where yes, there are some amazing mountains to explore, but nothing as organised as this. After my post training shower I started to see loads of people heading to a wee series of huts 🛖 beside the lake. some carried buckets 🪣 and those buckets seemed to make a clinking sound. This was the sauna time. Beer 🍺 was the passenger within the buckets. Not only was their one sauna but two. The end of each was a short run to the lake and a jump into the water. The entire weekend was out of the world. From the food to the accomodation to the, as always amazing training.
I’ve listened to the podcast by Sensei Bakkies a few times now. It’s a great listen that I would highly recommend. In one of the episodes he talks about the hardships “back in the day” when international travel was not so easy but those that had the curiosity and desire to seek access to the likes of Higonna Sensei etc would put themselves very much out of their comfort zone in order to gain as much knowledge as possible.
Now please don’t take me the wrong way. I am not, for one second making any sort of comparison with this journey 🙄 but it does feel good to be back on the road again so to speak. To have the feeling that I am going to see all these amazing people and instructors and more importantly…that I will learn so many things…
Stay tuned for more updates as the week unfolds…