Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Russia seminar - Part#2 - Novgorod

After 2 days and 10 classes in Moscow, we next made the 7 hour drive to Veliky Novgorod, a very old and important historic city in Russia. We met with the host, Alexandr Zhilyaev Sensei from Airyukan Dojo (a branch dojo from the Kiryukan organization) and had yes, another Uzbekistan meal. After a brief stop to drop of my bags at the hotel, we were then off to the first of 16 classes.

The first class was a kids class, white and blue belts - 80 of them! For most of them, maybe all of them, it was their first big seminar. They were a bit nervous, but soon got over it and were full of energy, a bit too much energy... put it this way, I slept well that night.

The next class again were kids, but this time yellow belts to black, and only about 50. Since the age group was also a bit higher we got to go over some more advanced things and had some fun with jiyu-waza.

As for adults, we had 2 classes Friday evening. There were about 50 adults ranging from white belt to instructors. We started off slow in preparation for the full weekend ahead - just did some ukemi, basic movements and simple techniques.

Saturday and Sunday had 6 classes each, 4 adults and 2 kids. With the huge number of children, we didn't get in to go too much in to detail, instead just had some fun with some things they don't usually practice. Overall their ukemi is great, so we had them moving with a lot of throwing techniques.

With the adults, we did everything from kamae to kaeshi-waza. Again there were visitors from all around Russia, most of them who only get together during these kind of events, so everyone was pumped up and ready to train hard. A total of 10 adult classes started taking a toll, by Sunday evening everyone was starting to feel it. Nevertheless, almost all students trained with everything they had right up till the last seiza.

Yes, there was a lot of training, but I can't forget to mention some of the stuff between - Although at the time all I could really think about was going back to my hotel for a few minutes rest before the upcoming classes, I'm  now grateful I roughed it and got to see and enjoy this beautiful city.

During the Saturday lunch break, Alexandr Sensei organized an awesome tour of Novgorod. Guided and translated by a pro. We first went to the St. George's monastery, the oldest in Russia. In the Church of St. George you can still see some remnants of the medieval frescoes.

Next was the Open-air Museum of Wooden Architecture. This village is a collection of traditional wooden houses, churches, and chapels all imported from the region. Similar to some of the older log houses I've seen in Canada, however the amount of detail in the woodwork and thought put into each type of wood for each area depending on weather, fire ventilation etc. was amazing.

We finished the tour off with a visit to the Novgorod Kremlin. Inside the huge bordering walls, the Millennium of Russia (a huge bronze monument). There are 129 statues representing famous people throughout 1000 years of Russian history.

The Cathedral of St. Sophia, built in 1045 is the oldest church in all of Russia. The gates at the West entrance, as well as the cross that was once on top of the dome, both have quite the story behind them.

After a full day of sightseeing and of course training, we had a few drinks and relaxed at a Russian Sauna. Have you ever tried Russian pyramid(billiards)? The table and balls are huge, but the pockets tiny. Almost no rules other than you have to hit another ball... seems simple, but a lot harder than I expected.

Thanks to the Russian Yoshinkan Aikido Ryu Federation, Nikolai Sensei and Kiryukan, Alexandr Sensei and Airyukan, big and small Alexey, Andrey, Sasha, the group from Belarus and St.Petersburg, and all the other people who helped throughout the weekend. I look forward to seeing everyone again.

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