Sunday, November 19, 2006

Demonstration at Oita Kendo Festival

Sunday was the Oita Prefectural Kendo Festival. Fortunately, it was held in Beppu at the gym where I do iai, so it was just a 5-minute walk. My jodo teacher asked me to participate in the Jodo demonstration part, so of course I said yes; demonstrations are a great way to practice for gradings, if nothing else.

I borrowed a video camera and set it up on the floor. I was intending on taking some pictures too, but I discovered that it's really hard to be a photographer and participant at the same time. Unfortunately, I missed the first demonstration which was (appropriately enough) Zen Nihon Kendo Kata. The demo was really, really good. Sometimes, the Kendo Kata are done (even by high-ranking sensei) with no feeling or enthusiasm, but these were quite impressive.

After that, it was Niten Ichi Ryu, as demonstrated by the group up in Usa (I think) who follow Aoki Sensei's teachings. In other words, they split off a couple of headmasters ago, so it was interesting to see what they were doing. It looks a lot like what we learned originally.

Following the Niten was the iaido section. I was really hoping to get some good footage, but I was in a terrible location, and then I got moved to an even worse location. Sigh. I guess shooting iaido from the back lets you see what they're doing with their feet, at least. How many times have you seen an iaido video and thought to yourself, "Gee, I really wish I could see what he's doing with his feet on that one..."

There are a lot of Sekiguchi Ryu people in Oita, so I enjoyed seeing that demonstrated again. I wish there were a couple more days in the week so I could practice that, too.

Anyway, then it was time to go out and do Jodo, so I just left the camera running, put it on the widest angle, and grabbed my jo. I was pretty nervous, but I didn't drop the jo or miss the sword or anything, so that was good. Afterwards, I checked the video and thought, "Yeah, I do have a weird kiai..." (Sensei has been telling me to change my kiai for weeks now, and I just can't seem to do it properly, but now I can hear it myself.)

My plan was to transfer the video from the camera to my computer, (and later edit it and put it on DVD) but that has (for some damn reason) proven impossible so far, both on my Mac and on the PC here in my office. I don't know where the problem is. The camera, the software, or the computer(s)? Why do things never seem to work the way they are designed to? I had to give the camera back today, so now I have a little tiny useless DV tape to use as a paperweight or something. Great.

If I can ever manage to extract the video, I'll try and put some of it online. Then the whole world will be able to hear my funny kiai...

Now the negative side (you knew it was coming)...

I was kind of irritated that my iaido teacher(s) didn't even mention to me that this event was happening. I guess I was supposed to know about it through The Force or something. Hmmph. And then, to rub it in, everybody from the dojo (they all knew about it!) was asking me, "Jeff! Why aren't you demonstrating iai today?" and "Oh, you don't like demonstrating, huh?" and I had to just smile and say, "Yes, I guess not" instead of "Where were you 10 minutes ago, numbskull?" There is one lady in particular who always rubs me the wrong way! She only comes to practice once every couple months or so, and then when she does come, she always looks really surprised and says, "Oh, what a rare event seeing you here! So you are practicing sometimes, are you?" I want to say, "I haven't missed more than 2 classes in the last 3 months, but this is the first time I've seen you" but she's a 7th dan and that would be rude... and budo is all about conquering your ego, right? Bad ego! Bad ego! (^-^)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Budo Heaven or Budo Hell?

Hey! Sorry I haven't posted in a while, but I've been ridiculously busy, and a large part of that has been with martial arts (for a bit of a change). Considering my (ostensible) purpose in coming to Japan was to do budo, I've done a pretty good job of only getting half-way into it, and now I remember why: because I'm LAZY!

Well, these past few weeks I've been gearing up for my Jodo test in 2 weeks. I think I mentioned that I finally got permission to take a test in Japan, but I didn't consider the financial strain. And so I'm taking this test that I really can't afford to do... but oh well. What's a little more debt, right?

In preparation for the test, I've been going to Jodo in Oita city pretty religiously, to practice with Abe Sensei. That makes 4 practices a week, plus one iaido practice a week, plus another iaido practice that I just found out about and started going to ... so I'm doing something every day of the week except Friday night. I know this isn't really that unusual ... but it's kind of a shock to my system, especially since going to Oita takes 90 minutes each way. Argh.

I've also had some kind of weird? funny? experiences in the last couple weeks. The first was that I wanted to work on some iaido pointers that Sensei had given me, so I decided (after thinking quite a bit about it) to go and do iaido in the park. I was in a semi-enclosed walkway; I don't really know how to describe it except that it has stone tiles on the floor, and a latticed roof with vines over top, and pillars down one side. The other side is open to the courtyard where the kids skateboard. So here I show up, one Sunday night, with my sword wearing my samurai duds, and the kids all stop what they're doing and stare... there are a few comments, like "What the hell is THIS?" I tried to ignore them but they just stood around watching me for about 5 minutes while I went through seitei... it was very weird. I really didn't want to come to such a public place, but I guess they must have thought that I just wanted to be seen. My real concern, though, was that the police might come along and arrest me. I don't know how they would like the idea of people swinging swords in parks even though (to my mind) I'm probably safer than somebody playing baseball...

And then the other day, I had a fantastic experience. I showed up for iaido practice, as usual, and for some reason, the only other people who showed up were all the teachers! So there was lowly old me, and one eighth-dan who had won the All Japan 8 Dan Championship; one eighth-dan who had won the All Japan 7 Dan Championship, and a ninth-dan who I think taught God how to do iaido! Talk about overkill. In fact, it wasn't really a good session for me because they were all giving me lots of advice ... too much advice actually. "He should swing like this." "Yes, and he has to watch out for his back leg." "True, but his real problem is that his shoulders are too tense." "I told him that last week, so I think he should work on his metsuke and his seme!" (YES, it's all stuff you've told me before, Kim!) Anyway, it was just comical when I took a step back and looked at it ... here's this giant Canadian goofball, surrounded by three tiny little Japanese men, fussing and fawning over him, poking him and adjusting and prodding and chattering away in Japanese... I couldn't help but thinking of some scene in Star Wars where the Jawas come along and start tearing apart the droids...

So anyway, lots of practice lately, and my knees and ankles are really feeling it. I think I need to slow down, but I probably shouldn't, at least not until the grading.

Oh, and by the way, next week there will be the Oita Prefectural Kendo Festival, which is supposed to have some demonstrations, including yours truly doing jodo, and somebody (?) doing Niten Ichi Ryu. I'm guessing it will be the group from Usa (associated with Sekiguchi Ryu) so I'm anxious to videotape it with a camera I'll borrow from school, if possible...