Friday, June 18, 2010

AUSKF Iaido National Seminar 2010


I got to spend five days last week in San Antonio for the AUSKF Iaido Seminar.  While I have been to two Iaido seminars in Cleveland, this is the first time I've attended the national seminar.  To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect to experience and learn.  In the end, I was very pleased with the organization of the event, the people I met and the things I learned (minus some political issues, but that's for a different discussion).

The seminar had the welcoming party on the first day, the seminar on the second and third day, tournament on the fourth day and the promotional exam on the fifth day.  It was the perfect recipe to finish each day with sore legs from all the seiza and tatehiza, and a sore brain from taking in all that new information.

The seminar days went over some new exercises, such as a modified ipponme where we do the nukitsuke to the front, left, right and back and adding some kiai to the nukitsuke with the modified ipponme.  We also basically spend some time with each of the 12 seitei kata, learning various things like what's required for the movements and what's required for effective zanshin after we swing.  I would say that these were the most intense days as it was filled with tons of new information.  At the end of each day, I was mentally exhausted due to taking in so much.

The fourth day was just the tournament which was a whole new experience for me.  I'm more used to the Kendo tournaments where there's a lot of screaming and whacking going on and people running all over trying to get to where they need to be.  Because there was complete silence, the pressure was more intensified than the Kendo tournaments since there aren't any other sounds to drown yourself into.  In the end, lost at the second match against a really good opponent.  It was one of those moments where you could tell someone's skill just by looking at them.

To be honest, I wasn't all that wild about participating in Iaido tournaments in general.  It was something to do just for the experience, but I wasn't sure about really traveling as much as I would for a Kendo tournament to participate in one (if there are even such events existing in the US).  My initial impressions was that there wasn't all that much to gain from participating in these things because I saw it more as just doing the same thing in class, but having a different set of people looking at you.  After actually participating in one and feeling the different sorts of pressure, I do feel that there is just as much to gain from these tournaments compared to the Kendo tournaments

The final day was the promotional exam, which I also participated in.  There was a little less pressure on me that day because:
  • I was just going for whatever kyu rank they felt I deserved.  So this exam wasn't a matter of "pass-or-fail".
  • The tournament prepared me for the procedures and atmosphere so the experience was less jarring.
I was able to make it to 4th kyu, which I'm happy with.  It serves as a jumping point to know what the Federation expects of me to improve, which is pretty much all I feel gradings are for anyways.

Overall, I was really pleased with the seminar.  Not only did I learn a lot, but I met a lot of great people from all over the country.  I look forward to seeing them again in Cleveland next year (which is great since the driving distance is small :)).  In the meantime, I'll take what I learned and work with that until I find out more that needs to be fixed.

I had a chance to use my camera skills while I was there.  I think I'm starting to get the hang of using the camera so I feel that these came out better than some of the other ones.  A friend of mine told me that the ISO might be set too high so I guess that's another thing I should spend a little time with.  Without further ado, you can view the pictures on the flickr slideshow.

Until next time!!!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Public Speaking, One Of The World's Worst Fears.

Every year, the Krohn Conservatory in Cincinnati, Ohio has a butterfly show where they release many kinds of butterflies in a building for the visitors to look and interact with.  If you're lucky enough, you might even get one to rest on your head, like the one in the hokey picture on the left.  In addition to that, the Japanese and American Student Society has their own set of demos outside of the main building showcasing several aspects of Japanese culture.  The UC Kendo Club was asked to do several demonstrations, which we were happy to oblige our time to show off the martial art we love so much.

In most demos, someone else in the club does all the talking and I just do my job to help make things go smoothly.  But, this time, I was the one doing the talking.  Overall, everything went well.  With the help of those in the club that were able to attend and a receptive crowd, I was able to hold onto my confidence level that tends to go south when having to present stuff in front of large groups of unknown people.

When it comes to presenting Kendo, my goal is to make explanations short and simple and visual examples action packed to make sure that people aren't falling asleep.  Of course, there are many things that I need to improve on which are mainly transitions and maybe a description of the overall history and descriptions that sound less like rambling and more like an authority figure sharing information.  I hope to really work on this as time goes on because I know that this won't be the last demo I will be giving in my Kendo career.

The demo itself consisted of introductions, brief history, description of equipment, basic attacks, kirikaeshi, ai-kakarigeiko and some jigeiko/mock shiai to explain the point system and what makes a hit.  To be honest, I feel that this format is more than sufficient to get the point across but some edits will most likely be made to fit the situation at hand, type of people in the crowd, time allotted and space available.  After that is kept in mind, then the rest should be pretty simple.  The rest is really up to the ability of the speaker to convey the information in a good way.

I've never really thought of myself as the model public speaker.  I tend to stutter and blank out as my confidence level drops.  One thing that seemed to help with that is being put in leadership positions in the clubs I attend, so I had to get used to talking in front of people whether I wanted to or not.  But hey, everything turned out better in the end since I seem to slowly but surely be getting out of that whole stage fright thing with small crowds.  Things might be different for larger crowds, but that is a bridge I will cross when I get to it.

In any case, as my experience level rises, more and more responsibilities will be laid upon me.  Thus, I need to take any opportunity to do what I can to prepare myself for any future situations that come my way.  Some of my goals is to not just be an instructor, but an effective instructor.  To be honest, I didn't think I would have to present myself so early in the game, but it was bound to happen and I come out of it better each time.
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