Homma Sensei and AHAN in Ostrava, Czech Republic
By Emily Busch
Nippon Kan Vice President
November 1st, 2002
Gaku Homma Sensei was invited by Daniel Sousedik of Aikido SKP Ostrava (Police Aikikai) to visit the Czech Republic this fall from the 13th through the 23rd of October. Ostrava sits close to the Czech Republic/Poland border, about an hour and a half west of Prague by plane. Homma Sensei was accompanied officially on this trip by Mary Powell, Nippon Kan Instructor, and Emily Busch, Nippon Kan Vice President.
The Aikido SKP Ostrava dojo has about 350 members (including 60 children) and is organized by Capt. Ing. Kaoril Kozak. During the days, Capt. Kozak is a full time martial art instructor for the Ostrava Police Department who donates his spare time to run this busy organization. Captain Kozak is not alone however, and is assisted by many senior students including Daniel Sousedik and Jakub Hlosta who also volunteer their time to help the dojo run smoothly.
One thing that is unique about this dojo is the abundance of students in their late teens and twenties. The dojo has become a gathering place for the young, and is an important part in their social curriculum. In a post-communist setting, this dojo is a special and valuable addition to the community as a healthy center of activity for young people.
Classes are offered five days a week, and monthly dues for adults equals about $8.00 US. Monthly dues for children run $1.00 US. Dues are used to pay for basic expenses such as rent, etc. All instructors and staff are volunteers however, and do not receive any monetary compensation.
With a limited practice area, the seminar attendance was limited to 70 students. Over 125 students came however to attend this seminar, and almost everyone attended all of the classes scheduled over the three day period. Due to “popular demand”, Homma Sensei taught an extra “encore” class on Sunday afternoon. This seemed to delight all of the attending students who became increasingly enamored with Homma Sensei’s dynamic teaching style.
Homma Sensei opened the seminar by thanking the pioneer instructors in the Czech Republic for making it possible for all of us to be able to practice that day. “I appreciate their efforts, and I ask you to appreciate the efforts of your Sense’s for making the seminar possible” said Homma Sensei. “I am impressed with the effort of this dojo to make an impact in the lives of the young people of Ostrava. The purpose of any dojo is not to make money, the relationship the dojo plays in the community is what is vital”. “This is also the philosophy of AHAN (the Aikido Humanitarian Active Network) and Nippon Kan”.
Homma Sensei began practice with a game. Actually, it is a game often used in Nippon Kan’s Children’s class. It is a “balance taking game” where two players stand facing each other with feet parallel. Using feints and pushes, the object is to make one’s partner step off the mark. Homma Sensei then incorporated this concept of balance taking into Aikido movement and technique.
Homma Sensei made himself very accessible, using white belt students as his demonstration partners, and even did some ukemi himself. To entertain the young people, Homma Sensei added a little spice by teaching street-style techniques. He also focused on beginning Bokken and Jo movement relationships to open hand techniques; part of the foundation of Nippon Kan’s teaching method.
In his closing speech, Homma Sensei announced that Nippon Kan would officially sponsor three Czech college students from Ostrava Aikikai to come to Nippon Kan for a three month period to study. This opportunity will be awarded to students selected by instructors for showing initiative and hard work. Homma Sensei was very impressed with everyone we met at Aikido SKP Ostrava, and as a show of support, declined any compensation for his teaching, as well as donating all of his travel expense fees. At a closing Czech staff dinner Homma Sensei said “It is not good if an instructor comes to your dojo, and leaves with your wallets empty, especially when your dojo does so much to serve its community. One definition for AHAN activities is community service, and I hope to be able to continue to support your efforts. I hope I will be able to see you again.”
Besides the seminar in Ostrava, Homma Sensei, accompanied by Mary Powell, Emily Busch, Daniel Sousedik and his fiancé Hanna, had a little time to tour the country. On a two day excursion before the seminar, the group visited Poland. Among the sights were the capital city of Krakov, Wieliczka Salt Mines, the Pope’s hometown, and a very memorable stop in Oswiecim, home of the Auschwitz Memorial.
Words cannot describe the sadness and horror and human tragedy that is memorialized there. It was good that we went, we all reflected as we left after sunset in the darkness. This is a part of our human history that we cannot ignore or ever forget.
Before our departure back to the United States, our gracious hosts Daniel and Hanna accompanied us to Prague where we spent a day absorbed in a thousand years of history of this remarkable country.
Many, many sincere thanks to Daniel, Hanna and all of those in Ostrava who made this an experience that will not soon be forgotten.
Nippon Kan Vice President