Sometimes it’s the place, sometimes it’s the people, sometimes it’s to mark an event, this instance of the Oxford seminar felt like it was all three. This was our first time together for the Oxford seminar since covid with sensei Dimitrijevic and we were pleased to host a truly international group of students.
There have been many courses and seminars before and many will be held in the future. It started from the line up on the first night and by the end on Sunday we knew that something special had occurred in the dojo.
What made it different? Sensei Dimitrijevics’ VEBODO system. He’s refined the knowledge and teachings of Kase sensei and is able to clearly explain it all and everything has a point. Some aspects of the system are not from Kase sensei and are included because they’re important to help us understand why something may need modification. For example, Kase sensei’s feet in hanmi dachi are much closer together as he had comparatively shorter legs than most people. People with longer legs need a longer stance to help bring the centre down to an equal level. Sensei Dimitrijevic has taken time to discover how physics and forces work on the skeleton. No two people are alike so no two sets of forces are alike and adaptations are required to support these differences. When these differences are accounted for then rooting is improved which in turn means the inner power can flow.
To work out how we can get from the legacy of Kase sensei, to where we are now and provide a framework for the future takes a very patient analytical approach that few people are doing. That’s what the VEBODO system is.
There is clear affection for Kase sensei as a sensei and a friend and everyone tried their best to respect him and sensei Dimitrijevic’s system.
The seminar discussion on Saturday focussed on two pillars of the system, Breathing and Rooting. Points of interest and extra explanations were given that linked the activities of Friday and Saturday to the video and were called out during the video with demonstrations from sensei. There were clips of Kase sensei going back to 1992 where he was explaining the exact same topics that we’d been learning. Breathing. Rooting. You’d be mistaken for thinking that nothing has changed in 40 years.
It is easy to underestimate just how much time and effort sensei Dimitrijevic has put into his own learning as he makes everything look fluid, stable, strong and easy – it isn’t. It takes a genius, or alien, to make something complicated look easy. Sensei Dimitrijevic says that he thought Kase sensei was an alien. I assume it’s due to Kase sensei demonstrating a concept that was so removed from what everyone else was doing that it looked superhuman. That is how many people perceive sensei Dimitrijevic now.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Ten-chi-jin. In his book, Tanden, sensei Dimitrijevic uses the metaphor of a car to represent the body. The chassis is the skeleton. It’s incredibly important but no-one pays attention to it once the body work or gi is on. During the weekend we worked on understanding how this message inspired Kase sensei’s methods with breathing. Ten and Jin represent the Universe and the Earth, Chi is the centre, the centre of a person, where energy from the universe and ground are merged through breath power. Breath combined with good rooting allows the development of strong powerful techniques.
Heian Shodan, Sandan and Godan, Bassai Dai and Jion were used throughout the seminar to illustrate the points of VEBODO system. A simple kata such as Heian Shodan stops being quite so “simple” when you break it down. But that’s the system. Does a technique work? No, slow it down, look at what that technique is and does, what supports, what can be made better? Has slowing it down made it better? No? Slow down again. And again. And again, until it does feel better. Then, more speed, more power without losing anything that was discovered. This is one aspect, there are many and I want to be better, know more, do more, do better and there’s a path to do that.
With a large group it easy to blend in, be part of the crowd and “coast”… usually. Not here, everyone was doing their best, either because the teaching was well delivered, easy to understand (do not mistake that for easy to do!), because it’s good to be back together or because the atmosphere lifted everyone, it’s hard to say. It may be due to sensei Dimitrijevic actively demonstrating what he’s saying and cares that people are trying their best.
Sensei’s approach to teaching is tailored to the group; for this seminar there were a lot of people who have trained with him before. It still takes a lot of focus on what’s being said and then on how techniques should be done. Equally, it’s about Karate and sometimes you just want to do bunkai or kumite. We switched between various aspects of training so that we never got to fatigued.
All good things must come to an end and by 1pm on Sunday it was that time. The seminar drew to a close and we were able to reflect on what we’d been part of. It was a special weekend of people, atmosphere and instruction. Anyone and everyone who attended has taken something away and is looking forward to the next!
Onward and upward to the next level.
Many thanks to the students of sensei Dimitrijevic who attended representing England, Serbia, Scotland, Wales, Portugal, Sweden, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria.
Sensei Dimitrijevic, thank you.
We’ve had some amazing feedback from some attendees of the course and from sensei Dimitrijevic himself
Hello Norman & Dave,
Saying just thank you for another well organised and well attended course sounds too ordinary to me.
As I said the meaning of “Ichi-go ichi-e” describes a cultural concept of treasuring the unrepeatable nature of a moment and though I do many courses, somehow each of them has very special meaning.
Same stands for this one.
Whatever we have done in dojo was important, that’s the “main” reason people came for, however it became more and more obvious that people appreciate atmosphere, frankness and dedication and that part matters even more than what we do on the floor because it is something that affects people to reconsider their ideas and goals in their own practice, to make them doubt what they do. If only a few people were genuinely inspired with my teaching and my ideas, I would be pleased.
Again, thank you very much!
Thanks for organising and thank to Vebo for his invaluable teachings. Oss!
I absolutely loved it and its given me clarity on my journey, and that I look even more forward to next year’s courses.
I love talking to him on the floor. There are no airs or graces. He tells you as it is and wants you to do the same.
Vebo Sensei is committed and strong in his direction. I didn’t get to say thank you and goodbye to Vebo Sensei at the weekend but I wish I had. See you in April. I’ve already booked the hotel.
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