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April was a an exciting time for Sensei, as a promise once made was about to be fulfilled and he was looking forward to the events ahead..

The next day I woke up fully refreshed are ready to go.  We had a great morning on the Danube, but the day was about to get physical as we had another class before the grading.  Serbia was a lot warmer than back home, and I had to ensure I drank loads to keep hydrated and the outcome of this was I sweated profusely during the session.

The grading's started and as usual as it was shodan/nidan gradings,the lack of uke to put the five candidates through their paces meant that all Yudansha took part.  Shodan gradings were quite intense but the grading that stood out for me was the Nidan one.  

The reason was because the candidate was so composed, so relaxed it was really nice to see.  I even tried to get him rattled by attacking him hard and fast but nope…he just stayed on task and dealt with  everything that was thrown at him.  A lot of action tool place and finally we were all asked to line up after the candidates had performed sitting kokyu-ho.

Session over and it was time for more socialising over some good food.
Ljiljana and Vladimir had planned a meal of grilled meats for us to try out.

                                 The food and drink flowed and the guys even tried                                     to get me drunk on their traditional Serbian alcoholic                                  beverage….it was good but not quite good enough so                                 they brought our the hard stuff!

                                 The next day was full on as both hosts took classes                                     to show their aikido.  As I always say…its good to                                       get out and experience different things as you                                           never know when you are going to learn something new that puts a different perspective on your view of aikido that you may have.

I thoroughly enjoyed all classes that were given and yep…I learnt something too so it was win win all around.  The best part I found though was reconfirming the friendships I made last year and making new ones this time around.  

Nicolas (Ljiljana student who took nidan) brought me a bottle of home brewed Rakija.  This was a total surpsise as I was not expecting anything at all.  Also for those not fortunate to be able to afford the luxury of spending a months salary on our art, I had the honour of donating my Hakama to a student in such a position.

Life is aikido and aikido is life.  On one hand we take and so then we must give back…in the same way we help each other, we are rewarded for giving that help at some point in the future.

Till October my friends when we will train again!

Some of the pictures from the trip!

As the plane landed, the excitement  of seeing a group of people I’d only met once was nearing.  I walked out of the arrivals to be met by Vladimir Pelegrin who greeted me with a friendly hug.  We walked out to the car and proceeded to his home to meet up with the others.

We arrived at the house where we met up with the French contingency of Dave and Freddie along Nikolas (who had travelled from Greece) with UKA Principal Sensei Jones (who had arrived the day earlier) and of course Ljiljana Pelegrin our host!

Ljiljana and Vlad took us to a restaurant that is now customary to visit as your first port of call to experience Serbian cuisine (if you don’t know Serbs love their food!!).  The view from the Danube river was picturesque as ever as you can see!   

After the meal we took the scenic route (Sorry Dave!) Along the river and then headed back to my hotel to rest before the evenings class.  You are probably wondering why I have not mentioned anything about aikido yet…that is because part of aikido is not just about the training but the bonds we build with our friends!

The 8pm class started off…and as Sensei Jones took to the tatami you could feel a certain tension in the air, the type you get before a grading! Throughout the night  I trained with Lily’s and Vlad’s students, feeling out their level of ability, strengths and weaknesses.  It was most enjoyable training with them again and seeing how much they had moved on, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching Sean Pritchard and Adam Hurlin getting the “Jones” treatment as they done a great job taking ukemi for him.

Two hours in and it was time to call it a night, so we retired to the local bar to talk about the nights events and to play darts!  At this point I am going to say the drink I had was an Iced Coffee and NOT a “knicker-bokker-glory” as Mr Hurlin would have the world believe!

I must say too that Ljiljana's guys are really good at darts and very competitive, they beat us on every count but it was great fun bonding with them and seeing them being themselves.