I have been asked to write this part of my blog in English, so that my Greek friends also can read my musings on this trip. I will try to keep writing in English for the rest of my stay here in Greece. A big hello goes out to my new friends and audience.
After a couple of hours flight from Munich, we arrive in Athens. We recover our belongings and head straight for the exit where we are met by Sensei Georgious Koliopoulos. We’ve rented a van, and Sensei is going to drive ahead of us to show the way to our hotel and later to take us to practice. Jan is designated as driver. Before we get into the van he notices that the red warning triangle is conspicously placed on the floor as if recently used. Jan is not happy about this, and his gut feeling is going to prove most accurate.
As soon as we get on the freeway I realize why Jan is behind the wheel. First off, Greek freeways are obviously some kind of competition that is all about changing lanes to get ahead of each other and cutting people off without warning. Second, Georgious is the prototypical Greek driver. The brakes on our van starting to chafe and tug at the wheels of their own does not make the situation better, and it does not take long before it smells like something is burning.
We stop on the hard shoulder while traffic is roaring past at 100 km per hour. Smoke is emerging from one of the wheels for a little while after stopping, but luckily this stops after a short while. Dimitris calls Avis, and after just a couple of minutes a service-car with big, flashing warning signs stops behind us to fend off the oncoming traffic. Not long thereafter a rescue truck pulls up in front of us. There’s a lot of talking in greek, and after some discussion both we and the van is taken off the freeway and put on a sidewalk where we wait for a new car.
At last we get on the road again, and Jan’s abilities as a driver is increasingly put to the test as Georgious’ driving gets even more erratic. It is apparent that he doesn’t quite know the way, and he dodges his Toyota in and out of the chaotic traffic of Pireus while changing lanes – or just staying between lanes – and taking exits seemingly on sudden whimsical impulses. Luckily Jan has some seemingly godgiven supernatural powers when it comes to navigating traffic, and, after a couple of stops where Georgious leaves his car in the middle of the road to ask pedestrians for directions we finally end up outside our hotel. Just in time to throw our bags and suitcases into our rooms and head straight for practice. -It is starting to be a while since my small breakfast at Gardermoen…
If you haven’t guessed already, is is why I am in Greece: Aikido. Every year, Dimitris travels to Greece to participate in Georgious’ spring seminar, taking some of his friends and students with him. For the last three years he has also been joined by Shihan Bjørn Eirik Olsen. I have been invited to join on several occations before, but never had the time or money to come. This year i’ve decided that i am not going to pass up the chance to join. Come hell or high water. Georgious’ no-bullshit style with his attention on keeping the footwork and positioning on the line makes attending his practices exactly what i need to vastly improve my own technique.
Ten minutes before practice, Georgious asks Dimitris to do the first of todays two classes, making his long time student tense up with anxiety. Georgious looks quite travel-weary, but Dimitris is convinced he is being tested, for, as he has relayed to me on several occations «nothing Georgious does is arbitrary or haphazardous; even when it is». Dimitris asks me to be his uke when he instructs, and starts preparing me for the techniques he wants me to receive during class.
Both Dimitris’ and Georgious’ classes are fantastic, and even though i am seeing everything through a haze of hunger, I discover a lot of little details which i have yet to implement naturally into my technique. Also, the spirit of the Pireus dojo is both warm and welcoming with a lot of smiles and friendliness both off and on the mat.
Next episode: Pireus by night.
If i get around to write it…