While still in South Africa I took time to visit a second Dojo and participate in class. This was not the same Dojo I went to two weeks prior and I must say, I did notice a vast difference in teaching style between the two.
Sensei Jon Williams was very helpful with directions, as our first attempt to find the Dojo location was a bust and we ended up in Cape Town, circling the bus depot and taxi stand for half an hour before giving up and going back to Stellenbosch. The last thing I wanted to do was show up late for class, especially as a guest in this Dojo, so I resolved to try again the following week.
Upon arrival I immediately recognized two of the students from the previous Dojo I attended. Once they saw me, they greeted me and took the time to ask my thoughts on the other class. I was honest and told them I felt a bit out of place, and was trying to follow along as best I could in an unfamiliar environment. I then asked if I could expect the same structure in the upcoming class, or if this one is a bit more relaxed. Both students looked at each other and laughed, telling me this is far from a relaxed class, and they have seen students visit from local Dojo's and leave very shocked at how hard the class is compared to what they are used to.
I'd be lying if I said this didn't concern me just a bit. I thought the previous class was quite difficult ... not in an 'I can't handle this' sort of way, but just the approach of the instructor and the way the class was run. I did find it hard to keep up - there was a routine and it was clear I was not familiar with it. Now I was beginning to wonder if I hadn't made a mistake coming to this class, after all, I was on vacation, and I should have been taking it easy and instead I found myself at Dojo number two worried that the next hour and a half would be embarrassing and if I would be able to keep up.
Class started with a typical warm up and basics and then moved into offensive and defensive techniques which were fun. All students in the class gave 100% and the instructor was very attentive and gave many examples of how these techniques could be utilized. A bit of sparring ensued, but remained focused on one individual being on the offensive and the other on the defensive, and then we switched, giving everyone a chance to try each combination of techniques. Class ended with my favourite Kata - Empi, which we did in small groups while the other students and instructor watched.
Perhaps I used the wrong word when I had asked if this would be a more 'relaxed' class. When all was done, I felt like I had just taken a class at my home Dojo - not relaxed perse, but I guess the style of instruction made the difference. This class was not as rigid, and while the students were still very focused, they also seemed to enjoy themselves.
Overall I found the class to be well structured, and the instructor keen to share his knowledge and experience. Students asked questions and were really keen to understand and execute the various techniques correctly.
Now this is a Dojo I could fit into, if I ever move back to South Africa this is surely where I would end up. What a great experience.