Wadokai Summercamp Revolution

Italiano English

We were having lunch watching an immense glass window embracing the whole horizon. Whether you wanted it or not, continously you glanced down, nosediving towards the downstream just to rise up like an eagle climbing the steep slope of the mountains standing out in the sky. Mr. Danubio sensei was sitting in front of me, talking about Budo.

Veduta dalla mensa
View from the dining all at the Kerenzerberg Sportzentrum

“My master Shingo Ohgami sensei is a humble and modest man. He’s 75 years old. Being one of the most famous Karate masters around the world, he could quietly sleep every night on a pallet in the corner of the house and live with few or no stuff at all. The first time I joined his Summercamp in Sweden he quickly showed us some basic rules. One was about eating. If you put it in the the dish, you eat it. For all the participants were serving themselves on their own, and for everybody know what they need, it was a matter of measure and responsibility. You could load your dish as many times as you liked, if that was what you needed. But, guys, no waste allowed. A woman and her son, despite some repeated but gentle recalls, persisted in leaving leftovers destined to the trash basket. The master ended up showing them the door. It’s a matter of respect for people who, all around the world, has nothing to put on the dish – clarified the master. This is Budo too”. I stayed silently for a while, thinking of it. Thinking about how many times every day I show no respect and I miss my responsibility. That was the way my Swiss JKF of Wadokai Summercamp started. And I suddenly understood that after that week nothing, to me, would have ever been the same.

Roberto Danubio sensei, 7th dan JKF of Wadokai, ain’t that different from his master. He, like Ohgami sensei, is a funny mixture of availability, humility and almost brutal severity. I had met him three times before, in three different seminars. Just fifteen months ago, the very first time I encountered him, the impact with his Karate and Wado-ryu’s approach excited me and, at the same time, unnerved me, making me feel quite anxious.

Kihon Kumite
Danubio sensei showing us Kihon Kumite Hachihonme with the help of Benitez sensei

Excitement was immediate and blazing like falling in love. His Karate is something true, solid, alive while deeply ideal, abstract and almost spiritual. No space to randomness nor arbitrariness. No trace of compromises or carelessness in his lessons. No negligence, no concession to conformism, blind obeisance or simple laziness in his explanations. The chance that Mr. Danubio could be a talented man gifted of powers of observation, speculative thinking and uncommon imagination is a mere fact of self-evidence. This makes him, to my eyes, that kind of master for whom the term itself could never be inappropriate.

Anxiety, however, came gradually, along with the growing awareness of the effort and work I was called to do on myself if I wanted to aspire to learn the quality of the Wado-ryu that Danubio sensei was showing to me. But that anxiety was nothing compared to the shock that awaited me like a ravenous wolf in a cold July (7° celsius) at the Kerenzerber Sportzentrum in Filzbach, Switzerland.

The Danubio’s Summercamp training hall

That’s the way the Danubio’s Summercamp works: three training sessions, from 9:30 am up to 17:30 pm, where you practise a Wado-ryu style at the highest technical and martial level at a pace that can show you several times a day a tunnel of light surrounded by fluttering seraph and cherub calling your name at the sound of a celestial lyre and – if you don’t give in to the call of Heaven – you start again the next day in the same way, and go on like this, for six days long. On the evening of the first day you think you won’t come alive at the end of the week. On the evening of the sixth, you’re sure you can’t live anymore without training that way. Crazy cool.

Yet suddenly and quite unexpectedly came the shock for me. Hour after hour, day after day, I increasingly realized that it was a crumbly soil on which, over the last thirty years, I’ve been building my house of Wado. Orphan of Yutaka Toyama, as (almost) all Italian wadoka since 1987 onwards, I had ended up to derail from the original track, allowing myself (although with constant stomach ache) to practice a distorted Wado-ryu, stripped of every principle and reduced to mere form without content.

Il M° Danubio spiega un kumitegata insieme al M° Mark Dahl
Danubio sensei explaining Kumitegata with Mark Dahl sensei

No longer Ido Kihon but walks on the tatami mat; no longer Katas but inconsistent choreographies; no longer Kihon Kumite but weird jumps in place while wearing red and blue gloves. At the end of the third day a deep, piercing pain caught me at nightime forcing me to get up and judge myself. I was invariably guilty. Guilty of laziness (especially of the mental kind), compliance (to the status quo) and negligence (to myself). Immediately after hearing the judgment that I myself had spoken, in a bad, very bad quarter of an hour, I decided, uttered and listened to my punishment. It was a death sentence.

That laziness, that compliance, that negligence had to die executed. No mercy, no grace would have been possible. So that my Wado could go back to living, those three wicked had to go and meet their fate. The fate that thanks to this wonderful experience, without regrets, in a night of abdominal pain, without sleeping but also without tiredness, eventually I had chosen for them. Moreover, as every possible “them” – and as taught by Zen philosophy – they were nothing else but parts of me. So the next morning, along with what to me was still intact (or nearly so), still sore, I joined the training session again. And every shock, every anxiety had disappeared. Physically I was still sick, that’s true. But I was calm, enthusiastic and excited as the first day of school. Basically, isn’t it even that Budo? To learn more and, after learning, start learning again? ♦ Leggilo in italiano


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