Monday, October 30, 2006

Careful What You Wish For...

So, hopefully, I will be able to grade in Jodo next month ... hopefully. One little problem, though: I don't know if I can afford it. It's going to cost around $350 ... and at last count, I had about $450 in my account. So, that measly $100 has to last me 3 weeks... not good. Almost impossible, I daresay.

The other problem is that I haven't yet contacted the Canadian Kendo Federation ... must do that ASAP. I'm a born procrastinator, so let's say I'll do that tomorrow.

Tonight, I went into Oita city (train, 20 minutes, 3 bucks) and then took a cab (15 minutes, 12 bucks) to the Civic Gymnasium for practice. Only ... no practice. It didn't ring any bells; there was no sudden "Oh, Damnit!" moment when I remembered them telling me practice was cancelled tonight; I really don't think anybody told me! Argh. It's not necessarily their fault - they might've told me and I either misunderstood or was just so tired that it didn't register. So anyway, I had been told that there was a bus somewhere around there, so I started walking. One thing you need to understand about Japan at night is that it's dark. Even in the city, it's damn dark. Like, pitch black. I found a bus stop sign (after 20 minutes) and I had to read it by the headlights of passing cars. It said that the last bus stopped running at 6 o'clock. Now THERE'S a useful bus, I thought to myself. Anyway, more walking, followed by more walking, and a little bit more walking. I was thinking that maybe I was going in the wrong direction ... finally, a cab came by and I flagged it down. Sure enough, 2 seconds into the cab ride, I spot the ENORMOUS NEON RAINBOW of the big pachinko parlour by the station. So basically, I got into the cab about 2 minutes from the station ... (2 minutes, minimum charge of 6 bucks). Great. At least I was right in time for the train back to Oita. I tried SO hard not to be bitter, too.

What else has been happening to me lately? I found out that Fuzzy-Pine sensei won the All-Japan 7-Dan division a few years back, which is cool. And I'm not sure, but I *think* he's somewhere in that "Iaido" photo book by Kawamura. Anybody care to check? White hair, bushy eyebrows, Yasumatsu Sensei, Oita?

Oh yeah, one other odd thing. A while back, my iai teacher asked me to meet his girlfriend, who is an English teacher. She wanted to have a chat with me in English so (eager to brown my nose) I said sure. Well, that first meeting was pleasant enough, so I agreed to do it again sometime. Sensei phones me Sunday morning:

"Jeff, what are you doing this afternoon?"
"Um...[wondering if this is somehow a trick question]... going to practice? Iaido? With you?"
"Oh ... yes, well you see, I was wondering if you'd like to meet Ms. O- for some conversation. She'd really like to talk to you again..."
"S-sure, umm.....what time?"
"Well, how about a couple hours, starting around 5?"
"Doesn't iaido start at 5?"
"Yes, heh heh. You could take today off, if you like."
"Um... right. I see ... um, well, errrrr.... Are there any other times we could meet?"
"Hm, I don't think so. You see, she's quite busy before and after that time."
"Okay, tell you what. How about I meet her at 6 o'clock for one hour? That way, I can do an hour of iaido, and then meet with her for an hour. How does that sound?"
"Oh, I suppose that might be okay ..."
"That's what we call 'Killing 2 Birds With One Stone' ... or something like that ... "
"A ha ha. I see. A ha ha."

Man, how are you supposed to take it when your teacher is actually trying to talk you OUT of coming to practice?? Ouch. Well, at least he brought me bon-bons from Hokkaido.

Anyway, the results are in for the All-Japan Iaido champs. The Chiba team cleaned up again this year, winning first place in the team division, and individually taking, I think, 7th dan and 5th dan. (Don't quote me on that.) In keeping with my "theory", Hokkaido did very well (they hosted the tournament) and won 2nd place in the team division. I think Kanagawa was 3rd. Oita did alright; 10th place (out of what? 50 prefectures?) in the team division. But, as I expected, Mr. Kosaka did quite well and came away with 3rd place in the 7th dan division. My teacher speculated that, at 7th dan, people are starting to get older, the judges start considering finesse a lot more, and Mr. Kosaka is still too powerful (like, in a bad way). I think our 6th dan delegate made it into the best 16. I guess they will have a more complete description in Kendo Nippon next month.

Well, folks ... hope you're all doing well. Take care and take notes.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


My quest to do a grading continues. I was on the phone to Namitome Sensei last night and he told me that there would be a jodo grading in Oita in November. That was followed by a flurry of calls and ended up with me calling the 7th-dan Jodo teacher in Oita to arrange a meeting to look at my certificates and other stuff. So ... who knows ... I don't want to jinx myself by saying anything but ... I might actually get to grade this fall.

In the meantime, the APU Jodo Club is expanding! Somehow, we have attracted a lot of members. They don't always come at the same time, but ... on paper, we have almost 20 people, from a load of different countries. It's great! We're practicing twice a week, but this semester both practices are outdoors. It's not a problem now, but I can see it being less than ideal when it starts snowing...

Iaido has been really good lately. The All-Japan championships are happening next weekend in Hokkaido, and so our 3 representatives for Oita have been practicing like crazy for the past few weeks. And they are pretty darn good! Particularly the 7th dan representative, Mr. Kosaka. Wow, he is incredibly strong and sharp! I have been learning a lot just by watching him from the corner of my eye ... you know, exactly what you're not supposed to do: Sensei is talking to your group, but actually you're not listening and instead you're watching what the big guys are doing on the other side of the gym. It's bad, but ... I have been stealing some pointers from him. Like in Mae, when he does furikaburi, the sword seems to fly up, not slide back; I don't know how he does it, exactly, but I really like the feeling he generates. I'd like to film him at some point and see it in slow mo ... my powers of observation just aren't there yet.

Anyway, if what I have heard recently (and observed last time in Chiba) is correct, then Hokkaido will do well at the next tournament. Nevertheless, I think Mr. Kosaka (and Mr. Nishino, the 6th dan rep) stand a really good chance of winning something. I hope they can bring some prizes back to Oita next weekend.

Azuma Sensei has been trying to get me to do a couple things lately. One is to lower my center of gravity and keep my weight back and down so that my body doesn't "wobble" when I cut and when I turn. The other is to put my left hand on the tsuka earlier, and to cut more directly. I guess my cuts are too round and too soft at the bottom. Actually, I know they are.

So I have my work cut out for me. I have to focus on Jo over the next few weeks, so that I can pass my examination. And after that, I can go back to neglecting Jodo again, haha!

Oh, one more random thought: my friend called me up a few weeks ago and was kind of upset because he failed his 3rd dan iaido test. The thing he did was he screwed up the chiburui on number 9, so he decided to do the technique again. Probably, the judges wouldn't even have noticed except suddenly, here's this guy who's still doing kata after everyone has finished and, wait a minute, didn't he do that one already?? His justification was that "this is Budo" and you have to do it seriously and you can't just be satisfied if you make a mistake, you have to go back and do it properly. But I think he's got it backwards: you've only got one chance, every time you do a kata. It is precisely the feeling that you CANNOT go back and do it over again that makes it Budo, I would think. I didn't really tell him that, because he was disappointed with the outcome. But I understand why he failed. Oh well ... as a wise man once said, "Pity the person who never fails, because they never get to feel what it's like to struggle for something." Having said that, I hope I pass my Jodo grading...