It's Monday, and I'm reflecting on this weekend's events. What a great weekend! It was full of training and good friends and bonding with the team and lots and lots of Kendo! Not much happened during our training in Bellevue on Friday since it was open floor training. A group of us were selected to be receivers for the beginning class, which was fun. They have a lot of kids that practice with them, so it was interesting to see some young people up and coming in their training. During open floor I was able to get in a few jigeiko matches with some of the Bellevue locals, but I think the highlight was when Takado Sensei showed up and I was able to jigeiko with her. She hit me, a lot, but I still enjoyed myself and enjoyed the time to practice with her. Afterward we went back to the hotel to have dinner, clean up, and rest up for Saturday's taikai.
Saturday came pretty quickly, and I felt like I had no sleep at all. But sleep or no sleep I was determined to do my best that day. We headed out and arrived at the taikai around 8a.m. to help with court setup. After getting everything in order we all got dressed and did a bit of suburi, kihon drills, and jigeiko for warmup, then headed back for opening ceremonies around 9:30. I wish I had a picture of the opening ceremonies, as we had a lot of kenshi participating that day, including people from as far as Alaska. Four courts had been set up for the day, and they were all used thoroughly. My matches weren't for a while; they began after the 13-15 year boys and the 3-1 Kyu categories. Out of those categories we did have some winners. Dan took first place in the 13-15 category, with his brother Andy taking 3rd (both of them are Sinclair Sensei's boys). Marek also took 3rd in the 3-1 Kyu category.
After getting my Men and Kote on I waited patiently for my match. I wasn't overly nervous, but I had a healthy bit of the shakes going on. A few matches into the 0-4 Kyu category and I was finally up.
We went back to our starting positions for the second point, and after fighting him off for ALMOST the rest of the match I got careless and my opponent ended up getting a Men to tie things up a few seconds before the match ended, thus forcing the first overtime (encho).
The first encho came and went without either of us scoring a single point, although my opponent got close as he hit Men just a hair after the flags went up to end the round. This forced us into a second encho. The rules for this taikai stated that if we were still at a tie after two encho rounds that it would be judge's decision for the winner, and I didn't want to go to that. About ten seconds into our final round I stepped forward with a Kote-Men to taiatari. I stepped to the side and then knocked my opponent's shinai away and I hit Hiki Sayu Men on his other side to score the winning point. After the match Sensei came up and congratulated me on my win and my good Kendo, but he also gave me advice about keeping my point. He said that when I have a point I should work to keep it and not be overly aggressive, like I was out there. I should have patience and play with my distance and move in and out of tsubazeriai, or even stay there if my opponents wants to. I shouldn't be greedy for that last point because that's what almost cost me the match. I'll be sure to take this advice to heart next time.
Final Score: 1-1 (Ruiz in double encho)
After resetting we traded blows a little more. I ended up in tsubazeriai with him at one point, and noticed that his hands were just a bit high. I stepped back for fumikomi and his hands went up to block Men, but I had other plans. I threw a Hiki Do at him, and when it connected (CRACK), all three flags went up. I felt really good about this one, because I had been working on it, so it was great to see that I was able to pull it off in a match against someone else.
We reset one more time. The score was tied, and this was the final point. I stepped in and circled a bit, and had plans to try and set up my opponent for another strike. I knocked his shinai out of the way to see what he would do, and backed up for a second. When I stepped in again he flew at me with a Men strike, which caught me completely wide-open. When the flags went up I knew I had lost the match. But losing was alright with me, as he was definitely a very experienced kenshi. I didn't step out of bounds or drop my sword, or incur any other penalty against me, so he beat me on pure skill.
Final Score: 2-1 (Leung)
With my matches I gained valuable insight on my own Kendo. I can see some strengths shining through, and see that some of the issues I've been working on have started to disappear. I've also seen what I need to work on to continue growing and maturing in my Kendo. The rest of the day passed, and I was able to witness, photograph, and record some truly great Kendo and matches (Seth vs. Tanimura Sensei, Sean vs. Jeffy, and too many others to list here). I am thankful for this experience, the whole trip was a great time for me, and I hope that my teammates feel the same way. I'm looking forward to the Kent Taikai in a couple more weeks, and to coming back next year to see how well I do again.