My First International Kokondo Seminar

by Rachel Matheney, Ikkyu (FJJA) – Summer of 2004

My first seminar was very special to me. For all of us at the Florida Jukido Jujitsu Academy (FJJA) it was quite a treat. Not only was it, for most of us, our first time at the IKA International Seminar, but it was also the first time we were able to meet Shihan Arel and many of the other masters and for that fact, anyone else in the system besides our dojo. We did have the honor to meet Master Howard. Due to our distance we’ve been somewhat unexposed to the rest of the Kokondo family. So we were, to say the least, all very much looking forward to the whole experience. It was strange, I never felt so excited to meet a whole bunch of strangers in my whole life. Sensei Rego tried to explain just how much of an awesome experience it was and how much Kokondo is just one big family. He went on about it for months and months, which just built our anticipation higher and higher. With all that he said though, he never really could convey the experience we had. It was just too great of an experience. I, even now, try to explain to those members of my dojo who didn’t come, why they should go next year and I just can’t describe it all or put it in to words the time that we had.

Personally, my time at the seminar was an eye opening experience. I think the one of the best things I learned wasn’t necessarily a new throw or kata or even a new self-defense application. It was for me, the realization of just what I was a part of, the Kokondo family and how much that family cares for each other. I never really understood completely what I was connected to, but a few encounters helped me realize that.

Before going to the seminar I had sustaining hip injuries, tendonitis in both hips and I was afraid of having to sit out. Sensei Rego assured me that if I needed to sit out it would be completely fine, that those in charge would understand. And sure enough in the middle of Henka 1 my hips started to get irritated. I tried to push on but I couldn’t take it anymore so the end of that particular kata I had to excuse my self from the exercise. An instructor was standing near by so I asked if I could sit out for a while and he was so polite and understanding. Another senior instructor also came over and made joke to make me laugh. It really helped my spirits at that moment and I was really amazed that they cared to show such courtesies to someone they just met.

I also was amazed at the way everyone interacted with each other. There were no egos or haughty attitudes. There was just an attitude of caring and gratitude. Sensei Rego already explained this to me, but some things, in order to fully understand, have to be witnessed for yourself. Just the nature of what do can have the effect of egos but I was glad to see Kokondo wasn’t spoiled with this type of mentality. Like I said it is a family, not a competition.

Lastly, but definitely not least, I had an experience of breaking boards that I won’t ever forget. Before the seminar I had attempted to break four boards at a workout Sensei Rego put together. I tried and tried to break those boards. It was mostly in my head as to why I couldn’t break them. So at the end of the seminar when were given the opportunity to break, I jumped all over the chance to try and break those four boards again. A senior Sensei was in charge of the line I was in. When it was my turn I told this instructor what I wanted to break and he set it up for me and gave me some pointers. I tried and tried again to break them, but they just wouldn’t go. The sensei then told me to take 5 minutes and we’d go back to it. Everyone got done and then he gave me another chance. We set up again and he gave me some more pointers. I made a decision at that point that I WAS going to break those boards. So the first hit, “Bam!” It didn’t’ break. I hit again, “Bam!” It cracked. Then I hit again and again and again until it broke. At that moment when my adrenaline was pumping I stopped to notice everyone was clapping and so excited for me. I then jumped up along with the instructor and he gave me the biggest hug. I was so astonished at the fact that everyone was so excited for me and that this master cared so much that I broke those boards and accomplished my goal. It was if they were going through it with me. It was a very special experience for me. Kokondo is a family. I realized we’re all just trying for the same goal, progression in something we absolutely love, and we’re helping each other along the way like a family does.

That was my experience. I had wonderful time and learned a great deal. I just hope that all those who haven’t been before will get the chance to go next year. It is definitely worth every penny. In fact we don’t pay enough for what we receive. My dojo alone has grown so much closer. We have jokes we’ll carry on for years and moments we’ve had together that we’ll never replace. I thank my Sensei greatly for encouraging us so strongly to go. I will definitely be there next year!