27 Jul 2009

Mitsubishi Dojo

Hello Tokyo!
Apart from the magnificent city, I also had the honour to practise at one of the biggest company dojo in Japan: the Mitsubishi Dojo. All thanks to Shohei's uncle. I'm telling you, a little contact goes a long way!

Anyhoo, there was nothing outstanding to point out about the practise. It was two hours full of ji-keiko, no kihon whatsoever. I spent most of the time in awe at the cheekiness and technique of the kendokas present. Though older, they all had something special up their sleeves. Most of the attendees were 7dan, a few 6dan, 8dan, and even one 9dan.
After some educational fights, I queued up for the hachi-dan. The name escapes me, trying to remember 20-30 foreign (to me) names in two hours whilst being constantly hit on the head wasn't exactly an easy task. In any case, after 2-3 men cuts, he just did a sankyo, signalling that he'd probably had enough of me. It was time for me to walk away with my head hanging in shame.
Fine! Next. How many people on Earth can say they've had a keiko with a 9dan? Yeah, that's right. Suck it up bitches. It wasn't really a ji-keiko though, more like uchikomi, but no matter, I still learned a bit about timing, keeping centre, and a word I don't think I'll ever cease to hear 'masugui!' The funny thing though, was that ... nobody was queuing up for him ... which I found rather puzzling. Afterwards, during dinner/beer Nakamura-san cured my curiosity by telling me that, everyone was afraid they'd be the one to kill the old man, and nobody wanted to do that! So there you have it. The reason nobody queued up for a 9dan.

18 Jul 2009

Fukyōdai - Gasshuku

There's probably soo much I can write about this! I don't even know where to start. All the drunken debauchery and banter provided by us in the Mokkeiso at Fukyodai will not be easily forgotten. Spearheaded by Joe, my sempai, the representation of UCL was in good hands ... however, what happens there (onsen, sumo wrestling, infestation of alien-sized insects, etc.) stays there! All you'll get is a bit of kendo.

Living in the Mokkeiso, more or less a halls of residence for the kendokas of the university, was truly an amazing experience. The yakinikku + sushi welcome party, inclusive of free-flowing amber liquid, was enough to win me over. As with most cases, alcohol became the international language, and it didn't take long for everyone to warm up to us despite the initial language barrier. To be fair, their English was way better than my Japanese. So there we go.
The duration of my stay proved to be one of the most demanding kendo training I've ever experienced, minus a couple of camps in Thailand. The Kyushu summer sun worked wonderfully well in helping the dojo feel like an oven. It was hot and humid. At least the dojo floor was magnificent.

The first thing anyone will ever tell you about the dojo at Fukuoka Univerisity of Education was the warm-up ... God, that was the shocking to say the least. Most of them won't tell you much about it though, as the effect might be dampened. You'll just have to experience it, but I assure you there's nothing like it. After that, it is loads of kirikaeshi, uchikomi, some free waza (for kihon), then finally ji-keiko.
The time of practise varies depending on the day of the week, the most dreaded one was probably the Asa-keiko, having to get up as early as 5am. The rice and miso in the morning sure is a life saver though.
Unfortunately I didn't have a chance to get much advice from M. Sumi sensei (8dan), except for his take on kakarikeiko. He'd rather us think of it as active kakarikeiko.
No matter, I still got loads of advice from good ol' Honda sensei. Tips on improving my Men cut, small and big, various ways to seme and keeping centre ... and as always he liked my kamae! So that's the positives, kendo wise, to takeaway from this Gasshuku. Of course, the memories and friends I've left there will've ensured that I'll head back there as soon as the next opportunity arises!

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