Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Fukuoka Budo Festival

On Saturday morning, I hopped on a bus for Fukuoka. The weather was cold, rainy, and foggy, so I fell asleep pretty quickly, and felt like I opened my eyes and the trip was over. I had arranged to get picked up by Namitome Sensei at Hakata station, and I resolved not to screw this up because I was still smarting from the last time when he got really angry at me for messing up our meeting time and then not calling him, thus delaying his family's dinner and causing everybody to worry that the hapless gaijin had gotten himself lost. Therefore I was a bit dismayed when I found out that I wasn't in Hakata station at all, but Tenjin station. I jumped in a taxi and sped off to Hakata, and met Namitome Sensei just in time.

He seems to be quite healthy apart from his leg, which has been getting worse and worse every time I see him. It is now very strongly bowed outwards and is quite obvious even when you see him from a distance.

We drove in the rain to Kamado temple, the "Jodo Shrine" where Muso Gonnosuke received his inspirational vision lo 400 years or so ago. Normally, they have a practice outside on the grounds of the temple. I was told that we would practice indoors because of the rain. There were only about 11 people there, and so we assembled inside the shrine. The priest appeared and beat the drum, then proceeded to pray and bless us. We all lined up and received a cup of sake from the priest. I also learned the correct way to worship at a shrine (something none of my students knows). It is, bow twice, clap twice, bow once. (Remember that!)
We then practiced inside the shrine. I felt an intense pressure to remain sitting in seiza, despite the pain in my left knee. Everyone was practicing koryu while Namitome Sensei watched. I felt distinctly out of place among 3 8th dans, 5 7th dans, and a couple 6th dans. Eventually, my turn came around. I politely requested to do Seitei, and nobody seemed to mind. I did the first couple waza before feeling slowly started to return to my feet and my legs started shaking, either from adrenaline and nerves, or from the returning circulation, I don't know. I do know that I did 12 terrible katas. Afterwords, I sat back down again in the doorway of the shrine with the others. Through some bizarre combination of climatic conditions, steam was pouring off of me as if I were a horse that had just run 10 kilometres in the snow. It was further embarrassment that I got so steamed up doing such lousy techniques.

Anyway, nobody seemed to mind. We practiced a few more rounds, taking turns being shi-jo to the sensei's uchi-dachi. Finally, we finished and went for some drinks in the basement of the shrine side-building. I took a few pictures of the shrine and the jodo memorial stone.

That night, i slept in the dojo. Namitome sensei came around and picked me up at 8:30 in the morning, and we went off to the Fukuoka budo festival. It was an event organized by the Fukuoka Kendo Renmei. It was pretty interesting, and had demonstrations of Jodo, Shinto Ryu kenjutsu, tanjojutsu, tankenjutsu, kusarigama-jutsu, and even some war-fan, I presume. Here's a picture of Shinohara Sensei and Otofuji Sensei (the granddaughter, I believe, of THE Otofuji Sensei) doing war-fan against sword.

After jodo and its various incarnations, there was naginata, iaido, and lots of kendo. There was even some taryu-jiai (kendo against naginata) that amused everyone with the speed and ease with which the naginata player won. I have always thought that the way to win against naginata was to grab the naginata behind the blade section, and then hit men one-handed. Perhaps this is regarded as a dirty trick.

I took a ton of pictures, most of which didn't turn out very well. I think it is time I learned how to use my camera properly or something...

Anyway, it was a fun weekend. I will definitely try to get my sorry butt to Fukuoka one or two Saturdays a month!


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