Physical Training June 2009
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A Kohai’s journal – my first trip to Guelph

copyright © 2008 Christina Pringi, all rights reserved

Friday 12:00 a.m.

So here I am. I have been training in Iaido for one year. I’ve just come back to my residence room after the first evening, where I met some top Iaido and Jodo senseis from across Canada, as well as fellow students. There are folks here from all over, dojos stretching from Vancouver to Halifax and down to New York State and Idaho. I hope to meet more of them later on. We’re all pretty excited to be here and looking forward to tomorrow.

I (wish I was, but) am not testing this time around – in a way, it’s good - I can focus on being a sponge. I’m thrilled but at the same time intimidated at the prospect of training with these venerable teachers who have come all the way to Guelph, Ontario from Japan. My thoughts have been taken up with attending this seminar for awhile, even though I know that a two hour Iai class exhausts me, and this is going to be three full days. Then I think about the time and effort involved putting the yearly “Guelph experience” together – it’s staggering. So it was probably the same trepidation that the Canadian Senseis experienced when they undertook to bring this event together, eighteen years ago.

I need to remind myself that the best thing about trying something for the first time is…you don’t know that you can’t do it!

Saturday Noon
The first half of the day we went through sei tei 1- 6. Hatakenaka sensei was at the front and we all did the kata one by one. After the break we had individual practice, and I received some good advice for uke nagashi in particular. I tend to like the kata that are exceedingly difficult to do well, like ushiro. Yes, I suck at it, but maybe someday…

Hatakenaka sensei, photo by Nancy James
Hatakenaka sensei demonstrating a point. Photo by Nancy James.

1:00 p.m.
ow. lactic acid…!

3:00 p.m.
Sei tei 7-12. [We had the opportunity to learn some jodo as well this afternoon, but I thought I’d better stay with Iai this time around, there’s plenty of time to learn Jo at my home dojo, A.Y.C. (Toronto)]. I heard that someone was filming some of the Jodo practice, which will really be useful for the “folks back home” who couldn’t make it this year.

4:00 p.m.
okay, maybe I’m a bit tired.

6:00 p.m.
We did a demonstration of kata 1 – 12 at the end of the day. I remember most of it, I think. I am looking forward to that hot bath. As I type I’ve got the ice pack on (multi-tasking). I wouldn’t want to miss the nachos next door…see ya!

Sunday 7:19 a.m.
Slept through my alarm – again!

7:30 a.m.
Looking at some of my club members’ faces this morning makes me glad I hit the sack early - around midnight…I managed to catch up with some jodo friends at the dinner, and the auction was a hoot (I had no idea the Cruise Sensei had such a thing for that little jodo figure. He should try t-shirts next year). So many creative people in the martial arts! And it’s amazing what people will pay for a used water bottle

10:00 a.m.
It’s all about Sayabiki.

11:30 a.m.
Tsubaki Sensei had us do our kata with kiai. Let’s just say, you sure can tell which people take Kendo!! I think I managed to squeak out something that might terrify my 90 year old cat (maybe).

There have been so many corrections. I brought my notebook so I could take notes half way through - I missed a bunch of them yesterday. I’m a hapless zero-kyu and the senseis are taking the time to correct me for the umpteenth time, for which I’m grateful. Regardless of any language barrier I am still getting the sense that they take a deep interest in the kyu students’ progress even though we’re not the star students. Their kindness is evident in the way they tirelessly repeat the same points we should have remembered from yesterday (!) as if they are saying it for the first time.

8:00 p.m.

What a spread - you’d think we’d all be hungry enough to eat all this food…maybe we’re to full of “spirit”? (Maybe I am full of something else – wink!)

…did somebody say “fireworks”?

10:30 p.m. CRASH.

We (the kyus) were allowed to join the koryu group! Very exciting…I was pretty lost. The forms are captivating. I was amazed at Hatakenaka Sensei’s seme, and especially in uke nagashi, her metuske showed exactly that the opponent was nearly on top of her (and that they were going to be really, really dead soon).

1:00 p.m.
Our Ikkyu and Shodan testers came back positive!

4:00 p.m.
TUNK. That’s the sound the bokken made as it hit my head. I’ve been dying to try this! It doesn’t look as good as when Senseis Furukawa and Kurogo do it. Okay, I really have to work on that kiai. Luckily my partner’s in the same boat as me in that department…

It’s Enbu Taikai time…!

(I had the pleasure of demonstrating with the up-to-Nidan group, no pressure…)

The Sensei did a demonstration for us, after three days of teaching, jet lag, etc. they are still amazing.

The jodo demonstration by Senseis Kurogo and Furukawa was very impressive. Jodo is next on my list. I’ll be participating in it next year for sure.

6:00 p.m.
With a full brain and a full heart I’m heading back home, trying to digest all of the things I have learned (on and off the “dojo floor”). I think it will take a while for everything to filter down into my actual practice, although I noticed that even when I was dog-tired, at the end of each day when we did a wrap-up of the kata I still managed to improve my form. And to think all of our local Senseis work hard to bring this to us, on top of slogging away at the dojo every week. And the senseis we saw for only a few days, who came all this way to watch our (gulp) Iai…it’s easy to feel affection as well as the usual deep respect for them, for the time they chose to spend with us. It was touching to hear Kikkawa sensei say that if we continue on with the passion for Iaido that we have shown we’ll have a country of great Iaidoka. Domo Arigato Gozaimashita, Sensei!

…and we get to do this every year?


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