Skip to main content

ZNKR Junior Nationals Visit

This past week we were very honored to host some very special guests.  The junior national team from Japan came to visit and practice with us for three days.  In addition to the team, we also hosted the individual boys and girls champion, as well as the kendo speech contest winner.  They were chaperoned by Ota Sensei, hanshi hachidan and co-creator of the boku ni yoru kendo kihon waza keiko ho, Toyomura Sensei, kyoshi hachidan, and Enomoto Sensei, kyoshi nanadan and head coach of the team.  This was a wonderful experience for our dojo and each of us that were able to participate.

Over the three days of training we were able to witness a demonstration of the kihon kata by Ota Sensei and Toyomura Sensei (Thursday night) and also a demonstration of the tradition nihon kata (on Saturday).  Both times I was amazed at how effortlessly they moved and also how they came back to the correct distance each time without any thought.  We also had a chance to perform all nine kihon kata, with instruction from Ota Sensei throughout.  I provided a video of their first demonstration below for anyone that is interested.

Throughout the various practices I was able to do jigeiko with not only all three of the Japanese sensei but also with sensei from Idaho and Seattle that I haven't been able to practice with before.  I definitely learned a lot and had a great time with each of them.  At one point, while practicing with Ota Sensei he stopped me and told me that I had hit a good Kote.  I thanked him and he emphasized "No, nice Kote!!"  This one moment might be my favorite one of the entire weekend.  I was also able to practice with each of the Japanese students and experience their speed and power for myself.  The experience was definitely equal parts humbling and inspiring.

Saturday, when we had all of our guests together for training, we were able to go through various drills that the students showed us, and then received additional advice and points to remember from Ota Sensei as he went through each one with us.  One standing theme that he had for us was "Hidari ashi, hidari koshi, hidari te."  He said to focus on the left leg, left hip, and left hand, and generate the power from there.  This will help with ki-ken-tai-ichi and help us strike with our whole body, not just our hand and arms.  He pointed out that the Japanese students were all doing this in their strikes, and we should work to integrate that into our training and movement.

Each of the practices also included shiai matches between our high school and junior high members and their team.  They definitely showed us why they were the champions, putting on a great show in speed and ferocity.  There were a few surprises here and there but I think things turned out exactly how we thought they would, for the most part.  From my viewpoint, however, those matches weren't about winning and losing.  They were more about the experience, learning from the Japanese students, and forming a bond with them.  A bond that hopefully won't soon be forgotten.

I definitely learned a lot in our short time together.  I learned that I have a long ways to go to practice at their level comfortably.  At the same time I'm inspired to improve.  They all pushed me way past what I thought I was capable of before, and I was able to step everything up a few notches to try and keep up with them.  Instead of backing away from the challenge I was able to embrace it and come through somewhat successfully.  I plan to take this experience into my training from here on out and hopefully it will help evolve my kendo into something greater than it is now.  And I look forward to seeing the students and their sensei again in the future!


Popular posts from this blog

Kent Taikai 2018: How to Deal with Disappointment

A sobering entry today, but hopefully a valuable lesson for me and anyone reading.

Last weekend my dojo mates and I participated in the Kent Taikai in Kent, WA.  I look forward to this tournament as it's a little smaller and more intimate than the PNKF Taikai we attended last month, and it's a chance to catch up with my kendo friends in the area as well as participate in some good matches.  This year delivered in that regard.

We had six competitors this year, ranging from 1-3 kyu up to the 3-4 dan divisions.  One of our new-to-us members participated, as well, so that was fun to welcome him to our crazy taikai weekend trips.  The trip itself went well, and the pass was clear for us so we had a smooth ride to the Seattle area and to training at the Bellevue Kendo Club on Friday night.  It was a good night, and I was able to have a lot of quality keiko with the kodansha over there, as well as received some helpful feedback and advice that I'll be putting into practice soon.

PNKF Taikai 2018

Last weekend a few of my dojo mates and I loaded up and headed to Seattle for the 44th Annual PNKF Taikai.  This is the biggest tournament in our region and sees many, many people from not only around our federation but also from Canada, Hawaii and beyond.  This year I heard we had around 300 participants and welcomed a couple of new participating dojos, including a new dojo from Canada and from as far away as New Jersey.

Our trip to the tournament began the day before.  Friday three of us headed over for training at Bellevue Kendo Club.  J Marsten Sensei welcomed us with greetings and a good, hard practice.  I picked up some new things to try for my own improvement, and after warm-ups and some basic drills we broke into open floor.  I was able to practice with some of my long time friends before I was grabbed by one of the members and pulled over to own line.  I relished the chance to practice with her, since I haven't had a chance throughout all of these years, and she did not …

Active Teaching, Active Learning

Most of my kendo life I've been happy and content being a student.  Don't get me wrong, I'm still very much a student and I don't think that will ever change.  That's part of the beauty of kendo; there's always more to learn and more to improve.  Three yeas ago, though, I started teaching the beginning class as their main instructor.  That mantle has only recently been (mostly) passed onto another member.  Here and there I would lead the other classes, as well, including our main class, where the bulk of our members come to train.  I never thought much of it, though, and would either follow a set plan or I would run basic drills and our basic format.  Most of the time I tried to follow a coherent plan of drills that would build on top of each other, i.e. kote, kote-men, then using kote-men as a counter to kote.  I also liked to build drills around a theme, such as kote drills, or counters effective for men, or other things of that nature.

Lately I've been …