There aren't many words that can fully describe what transpired this past weekend at the Obukan Taikai, and the trip as a whole, but "awesome" and "amazing" come pretty close.
We had a 3-day trip to Portland, OR for the Rose City Taikai (hosted by Obukan Kendo Club). We left Friday morning, and after a fun trip down there (I'm being totally serious, the trip down was a blast!), we arrived at the dojo around 6:30pm, just in time to get ready for Friday night practice with Obukan.
Being in a dojo that's not your own, you have to realize a few things, one of which is that they do things a bit differently. I did my best to follow along, and everything went fairly smoothly except for a couple of drills. there were about 25 people there that night, most of the group actually being made up of those of us that came from Spokane. We started off with some warmup exercises and then jumped into Kirikaeshi. The only difference I noticed here was that most people didn't receive the Taiatari at all. They would step back after the first Men hit. Hmmm.... Not a big deal, just not something I was used to.
We moved on to some Men and Do drills. I was thrown off quite a bit by the Do drills, because my receivers would all move in towards me before I started to hit, so it forced me to hit as they came at me. Some people were a bit faster at this, so I really had to be on my feet (after the first couple of times where they moved at me and I didn't do anything because I wasn't used to it). I'm still sloppy on my Do, and I think with them moving at me it brought it out even more. Must work on this!!!
We jumped straight into jigeiko at this point, and pretty much continued jigeiko for the rest of the night. I was able to practice with a lot of the Obukan club that was there, including a couple of their sensei. Boy did they make me feel like a beginner! With both sensei that I fought I was unable to do much at all, as they danced around me and my kamae and shinai and hit me at will. One of the sensei (Grobart Sensei) had me do an interesting drill with him. He would move his shinai out of center, and I was supposed to kiai before he pulled it back to center. I failed, a lot! But I finally started to get it. He came up to me and said "Ok, good, now when you kiai, hit me!" Again, a lot of failed hits followed these instructions, but after a while I got a couple of good hits with him. He was very nice, although somewhat unorthodox with his teaching methods, and he had a lot of good advice for me. He also had me stand in kamae while he pushed on my back, and then he had me slightly lift my right foot so that all the pressure he was putting on me sent me forward. He said that is the feeling I should have all the time, a pressure to go forward so that when I lift my foot I should immediately shoot forward at my opponent.
The next sensei I had the pleasure of fighting with was an older sensei by the name of Strauch Sensei. He told me that we would practice until I got one good ippon (point). What I don't think he realized was that I am fairly new to Kendo, so it took me FOREVER to get that one point. After he beat on me pretty good I finally got a Men strike when he went in to hit Do. He said it was very good, and then had me get two more points before he bowed out. I finally took those two points, but I have no idea how long it took me to do so. It was very much a test of patience as well as anything else, trying to stay in there while getting beat on to try and get those valid points. I appreciated Strauch Sensei's efforts very much! He also said that I should be like a coiled spring, ready to rush forward at a moment's notice.
We ended with a last round of Kirikaeshi before bowing out and heading to our hotel. Pizza and fellowship was the last thing on the agenda for Friday before we all went to our rooms and prepared for the next day...