Sunday, October 31, 2004

Fighting for your Life

I had another good practice with Furukawa Sensei the other night. After going through Seitei Jo a number of times, he asked me and some other people to line up. We were just going to do number 11 (Midari Dome) and 12 (Ran Ai) a few times. He had a glint in his eye that suggested I would be well-advised to focus. I was on jo to start, and he was tachi. He came at me a grunt that told me he meant business. He went through the kata in a way that wasn't actually vicious, but I knew that if I screwed up I would get hurt. On Ran Ai, especially, he took a few swipes at me that narrowly missed my ribs but would have definitely sliced my clothes if his sword had been real.

Now, I'm making it seem like I was in real danger, but of course I wasn't. On the next-to-last motion of Ran Ai, where the Jo side knocks the swordsman cut aside, my form was pretty bad and I could tell that he was pulling his attack a lot, generously choosing not to knock me on the head and kill me. He's just that kind of guy... :) But he yelled at me to be careful and told me to do it again. This time, he swung like he was going to break my skull and fortunately, I did the technique properly this time.

Then we switched weapons. With a jo, he is even scarier than with a sword. When the jo threatens the swordsman's eyes, he had that stick inches from my face. His control is good enough that I didn't feel like I was in any real danger while at the same time being scared witless, if such a thing is possible. Kind of like riding a roller coaster: you know that you're safe, but your body is telling you to be terrified.

Fortunately, we only had this intense practice for the last 5 minutes of class. I don't think I could have lasted for much longer. Afterwards, while waiting for the next train in the station, Mr. Shimizu bought me a bottle of water and we talked about jodo. It was kind of funny because, rather than get into some sort of deep conversation, he admitted that, "Sometimes, it's just fun to yell and swing a stick, and feel the impact when your stick hits the sword, and to get covered in sweat. That's a good practice." I couldn't agree more.

Saturday, October 23, 2004


After too many weeks of inactivity, I have managed to get in touch with Furukawa Sensei. I had previously visited the Nippon Budokan a couple of times on Saturday, but both times I had bad luck. The first time, it was a rest day (no practice) and the next week, all the sensei were at the jodo grading at the Tokyo Budokan. I finally phoned Furukawa Sensei directly, and he told me to come to another dojo in Tokyo. It's kind of a lengthy commute, but I found the place eventually, and everyone was extremely welcoming.

I practiced with Furukawa Sensei and then with some of the junior students. He had a number of corrections for me, but I imagine that everyone who attended the seminar in Toronto knows them already. He also had some specific corrections for me, so I'm working on the way I do hikiotoshi and gyakute uchi, for example. (Don't drop that #%& front hand, Jeff!)

After practice, we went to a bar and had a bunch of drinks. Everyone seemed to enjoy practicing their mangled English on me, perhaps as a break from having to listen to my mangled Japanese. I learned that some of the senior students live rather close to me, so it may be possible to get together for practices locally when there is nothing happening in Tokyo.

And now, a sick confession: the second time I visited the Budokan, the Sensei were all at the jodo grading, but some students were there practicing on their own. One of them was an American guy who did his best to ignore my presence. I eventually cornered him and started asking him some questions. He's the typical gaijin-hating-gaijin that is all too common over here, and he was more than a little bit unfriendly. He very snobbily informed me that I'd have to buy a jo and a bokuto, and that I'd have to pay the $350 fee to join the Budokan classes, etc. Therefore, I can't wait until he finds out that Sensei lent me his own jo and bokuto to use, and that he's going to pull strings so that I can be registered as a guest and don't have to pay the entrance fee. Oh, and also that I outrank him. Hee hee hee! Very petty, I know... I know...

Next week, there is a big kobudo demonstration in Meiji Park that I'm looking forward to. Strangely (stupidly?) it's the same day and same time as the All-Japan Kendo Championships. I think it's pretty dumb to schedule the kobudo demo at the same time; surely there are a lot of people who are interested in both events. Anyhow, it should be an interesting day. After the kobudo demo, if there's time, I'm going to hurry over to the budokan and try to catch the last few matches of the championships. If I can figure out how to post photos, I will.

Stay in touch!