I've known Karen, AKA the Aikiaddict, online since I started aikido and joined the Aikido-L mailing list. Her enthusiasm and dedication always add to whatever crazy discussion we may be having.
Though we both practice within the fold of the aikikai and have both even attended the same seminars (at least once that I know of), we never managed to meet in person until this weekend when I took the drive up to Woodstock. Karen, who lives nearby in Poughkeepsie, helped me to plan out my weekend in the area.
Karen practices at Kingston Aikido which is run by Robert Wilcox-sensei, a student of Harvey Konigsberg-sensei. Karen graciously invited us to train at her dojo while in the area, an invitation I was happy to accept.
My main motivation in planning the trip was to train at Woodstock, so Kingston was a kind of bonus. However, it turned out to be a very great part of the trip!
The group had just opened a new dojo last week, so I was lucky to attend one of the first classes in the new space. It is certainly the nicest newly built dojo I have ever seen. One of the students mentioned that Robert "built it himself." Obviously he put his heart and soul into the design and flow of the space. It was, in fact, a stunning accomplishment that really has to be seen in person to be fully appreciated.
I got to train with Karen first thing. We did kokyunage both with and without an opening tenkan. Well, at first I just had noticed the tenkan and expected my good sempai to do so. Wouldn't you know I anticipated it and smashed my head right into poor Karen's temple. Hello Karen and thank you for the invite! Ha. That's what happens when one anticipates.
Fortunately, I managed to get through the rest of the class without causing much more damage. A few times we did techniques in slightly different ways then I'm used to, which is all to the good. Sometimes one does feel out of place in a new environment, but Karen her fellow students and sensei Bob did there best to make me feel welcome.
The experience at Kingston turned out to be much more than a "extra." They are great bunch of folks and Karen was a great sempai. It was very enjoyable and I hope to visit there again. Karen get your head protector ready!