Many Aikido dojos will occasionally invite other instructors or masters to come and teach at your school. If there are other schools in your area, those schools might invite someone to come an teach. These seminars or demonstrations are opportunities for you to advance your understanding of aikido.
There are different kinds of seminars. The most common one is a visiting teacher who comes to teach for a day or two. There are one or two classes in the morning and one or two in the afternoon. Sometimes, there is an evening class, but more often the night is reserved for socializing. Some seminars are focused on intensive training. You might see the terms "misogi" or "gasshuku" associated with these types. Here, the intent to focus on training to the maximum extent. It might be guided by a visiting instructor, or it might be one of your regular instructors. Sometimes, a seminar will be focused on a particular aspect of Aikido like weapons training, self defense for women, or teaching. Finally, there are "camps" that usually involve travel to a location where everyone is staying over. Camps might be for a weekend, a few days, or a week (even two!). Aikido camps will often involve multiple guest instructors often in a stimulating environment (a college campus, a beach, etc.). Summer camps are a great way to experience lots of different teachers and meet lots of new students.
- Visiting Teacher (one or two days)
- Intensive Training (one or two days)
- Special Training (a few days)
- Camps (a week or two)
The number of styles of aikido are as great as the number of people teaching and practicing it. Attending seminars is a wonderful opportunity to learn from someone who has a different point of view, a different teaching style, or just a different set of experiences. Just as it's important to practice with many different kinds of people, learning from more than one teacher will give you respect for other styles and approaches to aikido and perhaps give you insight that your regular teacher can't provide.
A note of caution must be explained here, too. Not all teachers appreciate their students listening to other teachers. They might feel it's somehow disloyal or contradictory to what they are teaching. Good teachers who are confident and secure in their own knowledge and understanding are unlikely to feel this way, but some do. Be aware that this can happen. If it comes up, you need to balance how your regular teacher feels vs. the potential to learn from others..
Working with Other Students
Attending a seminar, especially at another school or camp will give you a chance to work with other students outside of your regular circle of partners. There are many different kinds of people in the world. Body types vary considerably, as do temperaments, level of skill and knowledge. By working with as many different kinds of people as you can, you broaden your experience base. It is well worth practicing with someone who weights considerably more than you do. Some techniques that work just fine against regular-sized people will fail utterly on a large person. Weight and strength work against you and it's very useful to experience that and learn how to apply the principles of aikido in extreme situations.
In addition to getting more experience with different body types, it gives you the chance to make new friends. As the years go by, you may get frustrated with lack of progress, with changes in your body, or just get bored with the same old stuff. Having friends is a great motivator to continuing your practice. Help is there to get you through the difficult times.
Participating in the Greater Aikido Community
It has been estimated that there are more than one million people practicing or teaching aikido worldwide. Together, they made up a global aikido community who, ultimately, are all studying and practicing the same thing you are. Though approach, curriculum, and even technique may vary, they share your goals. Attending seminars is one way to participate in this greater aikido community. It's a way to reach out of your local environment and engage something bigger.
At some point in your life, you might find yourself visiting other countries. Regardless of the reason for being there, consider bringing your uniform and looking up the local school. You will be very pleasantly surprised to see how welcoming aikido schools are of visitors, especially from other countries. While language might be something of a barrier, the language of aikido is universal: we share common terms and a body of technique. Aikido is truly a global martial art so take the time to experience it.