Monday, February 11, 2008

The Great Kendo Weekend

Before I begin, I think things would make more sense if I provide an update to my Kendo life.

I recently started a new job here in Cincinnati, OH doing heat transfer analysis on gas turbine engines. Over time, I have adjusted to the new area which includes joining in on the Kendo activity in the area. There are practices at the University of Cincinnati and in Covington, KY which is just across the river. Once a week, there are practices in Dayton, OH at Miami Valley Kendo Dojo with Ariga Sensei.

Things are going very well over there as I was immediately accepted into the Ohio Kendo family. No sooner after I start before I am invited to pretty much every planned outing that has happened recently. I felt very welcome and I know I will be happy being here.

Now, let's fast forward to this weekend. There were two Kendo events that happened over the weekend. One was the normal practice in Dayton on Saturday and then there was the joint practice with the East-Central United States Kendo Federation (ECUSKF).

Saturday's practice was more intense than the previous week's practice. It started up with stretching and warm ups which included a mix of suburi and footwork. That was followed by the practice of various useful waza. By the end of that, I was already feeling weak. It's drill after drill that can really take the wind out of anyone, whether or not they are prepared for it. After that was a small break in which I took the opportunity to wet my throat and take a swig of my asthma medication before the fun really starts.

It's a good thing I took the time to do that because practice finished up with mawari-geiko. There were 8 people in total so we had to fight 7 times in a row for a few minutes each. Throughout this time, I tried to remember what I was told last week about me being afraid to get hit and just concentrate my energy on pushing through. There really isn't much of an explanation for this other than it's a bad habit of mine to not really push through like I should when I'm sparring with someone. The hardest moment came when I had to go against Ariga sensei and Koizumi sensei in succession. It turned into essentially a 10 minute constant bout trying to muster up any sort of energy I had to make hits as effective as I did when I started practice. Naturally, I kept getting my but kicked, but that's pretty much expected when you go against people who have been doing Kendo like 10 times longer than you have.

After that, practice ended and we went across the street to drink some beer and eat some grapefruit slices and peas. There's just something about Kendo and beer that goes together, but I can't put my finger on it. I did discover that Killians is a very good beer by the way.

The next day was the joint practice. The ECUSKF holds this monthly in Columbus to allow everyone to get together, meet up and exchange knowledge and form friendships. It was a 1.5 hour drive to get there, but it was well worth it as I got to meet a lot of people and learn how this regional federation operates. I had some trouble finding the exact location because it's a little weirdly situated, but after a call and some asking around, I was able to find the place.

The practice started off like any other practice with the stretching ane warmups, then began with some tryouts for the US Kendo tournament in Las Vegas in July. The matches were pretty interesting because I saw some really good Kendo. One thing that was really interesting was that there wasn't one person that even remotely dominated the brackets. One person might lose a match against one person but would win the next.

After the matches, everybody who had bogu put theirs on and began the free practice. I honestly was expecting some sort of a structured practice, but it was just a free practice with anyone you could round up, with the sensei fighitng anyone who was in line. I fought with about 5 people or so including Ariga sensei and Nomiyama sensei. I tried to have an additional match with Kojima sensei, but I ran out of time. I guess I know who to go to next month, lol.

All in all, I had a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to next month's meeting. I ended up spending any energy that I recoverd, and then some, from yesterday during that practice. I also met quite a few people who were all pretty nice. One interesting note is that I saw two other black people there! I don't want to make it racist or anything, but it's nice that there's some increase and potential in increase of diversity that Kendo really needs (this was discussed somewhat in the previous entry). Either way, I was glad to meet everyone there.

On the upside, I found out that there are some openings for the mudansha division in the US Kendo tournament. I've heard about people going for it, but because I was going back and forth between Indiana and Georgia for college, I didn't make much of an effort to try since I wasn't sure about where I would fall. Now that I should be living here for at least a few years, I thought I would give this a shot. This would be the first time I get to go to Las Vegas, but this is also an opportunity to not miss to be able to participate in a highly regarded tournament within the Kendo community. I sent in my application and everything so we'll see what happens from here on out. Other than that, I will be trying very hard to prepare myself for that moment.

Next week is the Detroit tournament. Regrettably, I won't be participating in it due to the whole moving thing and whatnot. I was on the fence about going because I'd only be watching and possibly participating in a godo-geiko and after party that usually occurs after these things. I found out that the All Japan Kendo Champion will be giving a seminar that weekend. Now I REALLY have to go and take advantage of this. I could really use any help I can get if I plan on improving over the next few months. There is the Cleveland tournament that I will be participating in. I was told that they are expecting this to be pretty big due to the Japanese team captain in the World Kendo Championships will be visiting and this will be the 20th anniversary of the Cleveland tournament, so this year should be exciting. My goal here is to do better than the last tournament and get to the 4th match without almost passing out.

On a side note, I started Iaido recently. This past Sunday was my second class (I left right after to go to Columbus). This practice was better than the last one since there was only three people there. Due to this, more time was able to be spent on learning more about the basics. This gives me something more to think about with the training. All I have right now are the knee pads which are pretty much necessary if you plan on walking when you're 30. My paycheck is coming in this week so I know I can buy an Obi. I think I might just go on ahead and purchase a plastic saya for now while I do some financial planing to see if I can get an iaito. Of course, I will ask the instructor there before I buy one to make sure I don't make any mistakes or buy one earlier than they allow. I can only go so far with holding it in my hand, you know.

Due to the tournament and visiting a friend of mine, I won't be able to attend for the next two weeks, which is pretty unfortunate. I told them that I would be there next week, but I didn't realize the Detroit tournament was next week and that there would be an important seminar going on there. As for next week, I think I might stick around for the weekend and practice with the old Purdue club while I'm there and get my Menjo. They practice on Sunday afternoon so that would cause me to miss the iaido. I wish I could get in contact with someone who plans on going since I would like to let them know I didn't just drop off the face of the earth. I tried sending emails earlier but they seemed to never get through. We'll see what happens. I know I will return, but it would be nice of me to tell them if I'm not coming since the club is small and close-knit enough.

Okay, I think that this entry is long enough. I hope you were able to read all of that!


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