“This intensity, this trust in each other, engage with each other just for one week: wonderful feelings outside in the nature with bokken, full concentration, amazons, women warriors, ambassadors of peace.” (Regina Widmer)
Aikido is still a quite unknown japanese martial art. This is not surprising. Aikido was developed in the 20th - Century by the Japanese grand master O sensei Ueshiba, which spread out in Germany after the arrival of the Japanese Asai posted in Germany in 1965. And this was mainly among men.
The feminists of the seventies/eighties in Germany mainly practiced Karate, Jiu Jiutsu, Wendo and self-defense. Women in aikido were scarce and even more so were the women who were advanced and could instruct.
It was extraordinary to find a class with a female instructor in a women's group. But they existed. Although there were no courses for women.
In 1983, a first women's martial arts camp was held in Osterwijk in Holland (FIST) and a wendo-meeting in Mas le Gal in France. Both events were attended by women, who also practiced Aikido. During the FIST even a documentary of the camp was recorded, the film “beat it” by the Dutch filmmaker Paula van der Steen-Straeten which included scenes of an aikido workshop.
During these meetings, the idea of holding an international women's Aikido camp was suggested. In winter 1983/84, a first meeting was held in France as a wendo-ski-aikido-camp. The first Aikido Summer Camp 1985 took place in Bourgueil in France with Barbara Yates, an American woman living in Japan:
„I remember the French camp....the cooperative cooking; (I believe I made spaghetti); the endless debate about whether 2 women from Paris who showed up with two dogs could stay; the women practicing in various stages of dress outdoors at the farm where we all stayed; the earnest enthusiasm of everyone.” (Barbara Yates)
The high demand for the camps meant that the very next year two seminars were held in summer and one in winter.
“If camplife gets you, you get addicted to it. But it is the best addiction I can think of.” (Rija Rotering)
In 1986 Rija wrote a very personal report about her camp experiences. It reflects impressivly the various facets of a camp and she kindly is giving it to us.
click here for the whole report.
In the beginning one of the most difficult tasks we faced was to find instructors. There were few advanced female aikido teachers who were also interested in leading a women's course.
“Twice I ran the course in L'Enfumée, 1986 and 1988. From today's perspective, I think it was very bold leading a one-week course, with just 10 years of Aikido practice and accordingly little ahead of the participants!” (Ulli Serak)
This has changed over the years. There were instructors, invited from all over the world: from America and Finland, from Italy and Taiwan and other countries. And later aikido women from the first years, who are already teaching and guiding their own groups or dojos.
“In 2006 I stood in front of 18 other Aikido enthusiastic women as an instructor in Grube Louise, which was a very important moment for me. 17 years before I experienced on the women's camp with Regula Pfeiffer in France as a beginner the first big Aikido moments of happiness, flying through space and time. And now I was standing here at this beautiful place and was allowed to share the aikido, which had touched me deeply in recent years.” (Monika Evers)
The earlier camps were quite international although there were discussions on how to reach women from other countries. Today, the tradition is mainly continued by German women.
The idea of the camps has changed, but is still alive. Practicing aikido intensivly and living together with women during one week, is to be very valuable by the participating women.
„Je me souviens de ces stages comme des moments très intenses, de bon niveau technique et avec une réelle recherche d’harmonie ; nous étions à la fois concentrées et fluides.
Nous partagions cette recherche et aussi la vie quotidienne : des liens puissants se tissaient entre nous, nous étions dans un autre monde, comme hors du temps.“ (Dominique Poggi)
We continue to organize the camps as an open, autonomous and mainly lesbian connection. Always new and young women are joining the camp and they experience there a special kind of practicing together and they are inspired by the enthusiasm of the other Aikido women.
Thanks to the women's camps a widely diversified network of Aikido women and -girlfriends has emerged.
.Click here for the list of all camps.