I had heard of Bozeman’s Big Sky Aikido from seminar flyers and some previous research, but had yet to visit or train under Olson Sensei. With classes most days of the week and a scheduled that covers basic, general, advanced, and weapons, my pre-visit impression of the dojo was that it was a pretty well-rounded place.
Fully ready for the 6:30 class on Tuesday, I arrived 30 minutes early to sign waivers and get used to the space. Getting out of the car, I was greeted by sounds of “Hey-ho! Hey ho!” which is a warm-up whose sounds I know. Shit, class started at 6. After debating on whether or not to head home, I walked in the door with the idea that I would just watch. A senior student stepped off the mat to greet me and invited me to join, so I suited up.
Olson sensei’s general classes more focus more on performing Aikido and exploring concepts from movement than with technique per se. The structure of the lesson was evident as sensei worked slowly from how to position oneself to how to connect to eventually “doing” some technique. He spent very little time talking about technique, emphasizing instead how to present and hold oneself in preparation for interacting with one’s partner. And I will say this for sensei; his mai-ai was superb. Several times he would ask uke to back up so that he could demonstrate how you can set up the technique from half a room away. As such, when it came time to touch uke, he hardly had to move. I’ve been very interested this year in establishing the interaction so that everything is finished before it starts and this was basically a lesson all about that.
Sensei also spoke about “PPP”. I can’t remember the full acronym now, but the point was to practice deliberately and purposefully. He reminded us several times to slow down and make sure that our movements were precise and accurate. Basically, it was all about training one’s body reflexes. I ate it up.
While I only attended one class, I’d love to go back. Sensei’s style and emphasis align with my interests these days and the other students’ waza was a great joy to play with. I’m looking forward to going back some day.