Well kendoka, it’s been just on 12 months now that Tarl & I embarked on our world journey. We packed 93 kgs of bogu and snowboard gear into two bags each and jetted off to Japan. We arrived in Osaka to be greeted Choji and Reiko Fukuda’s warm hospitality and be taken to their Inagawa home.
After two action packed days of sight seeing and meeting kendoka from the Inagawa Kendo Club, the Fukuda’s held a traditional Japanese dinner for us introducing us to the Vice Mayor of Inagawa Nishimara-san who presented us with gifts of shinai bag. We were then invited by Tetsu to compete in the Inagawa takai later in the month.
After two weeks of sight seeing and snowboarding, we lugged our “Oki – bags” from Hakuba alps to the insane Tokyo subway system to meet Arpard for our next leg of the journey. Arpard took us across town to have dinner with Saturo and his young family (a previous yet notorious member of the Ballarat Kendo Club) who unfortunately does not have the time to train any more.
While in Tokyo Arpard was good enough to take us to the dojo he trains in, the awe striking kobukan dojo. The head sensei Ozawa sensei is a hachi – dan, his father before him a kyu – dan and his Grandfather a samurai. Training was action packed, kirikishi, followed by do kirikish, kakari – geiko then gigeiko. I was told by sensei to focus on big cuts. Once training had ended, we had tea with Ozawa sensei and he gave Tarl and I an introduction to a friend Steve Bishop sensei, who we were to follow up in Scotland.
Our time in Japan flew by at the blink of an eye lid and soon we found ourselves back in Inagawa for the takai. The takai had previously been won by Ryan Oliver of Ballarat, so there was much anticipation over the event. I was knocked out of the women’s pool in my first round and Tarl got through his pools and was beaten by a kendoka that came second to the champion of the event Tetsu “sheep killer”. All in all a good day was had by all.
Part 2 Germany/Scotland/Ireland 2009
The next leg of our Journey was to sunny Berlin, the land of cheap but good beer and the famous Berliner doner, which was our basic diet for two weeks. Tarl took the opportunity to look up German Kendo and trained with Sensei Jörg Potrafki, who took a very strong Kendo training and Sensei encouraged Tarl to cut more often.
Once we arrived in Edinburgh we were determined to find a dojo to warm up from the cool Scottish weather. Tarl got in contact with Satoshi Komatsuzaki, a recommendation from Ozawa Sensei and a Godan from Tokyo, who was studying and training in Edinburgh University. He and Tarl made fast friends and Tarl took the chance of going with Satoshi to train with the British squad, Scottish division in Glasgow which was headed by an old summer school friend of Gary’s, Gerry Kincaid.
We looked up Ozawa Sensei’s recommendation and trained with Sensei Steve Bishop who was good enough to take us under his wing and made us feel a part of the Edinburgh Kendo Club, (http://kenshi247.net/site/edinburghkendo/index.php?n=Main.HomePage) Sensei Steve is a previous member of the UK team in the World Championships in 1994 and European Championships in 1995.
I know that both Tarl & I have a greater understanding of ‘left hand pressure’ and also focusing on the importance of a strong kamai. It was great for after most training sessions we would sit with Sensei and the club at a local Edinburgh pub for a bit of banter and talk kendo for an hour or two.
A new training concept we learnt in Scotland was a series of kihon technique, which is used in gradings throughout the UK.
We had some fantastic opportunities to train in Scotland, one highlight being travelling to Glasgow with Sensei Steve Bishop and fellow kendoka Tina Latimer to train with Honda Sensei a Rokudan from Fukuoka, who has previously coached the British team.
The Glasgow training session was action packed of an hour and a half, non-stop gigeiko that night. The Glasgow kendoka from Taiseidokai were very friendly and we hope to train again with them some time over the next 12 months.
Whilst training in Edinburgh Tarl had the opportunity to compete in the Newcastle Cup takai, where he performed well, but did not place due to having travel commitments, thanks Satoshi for filling his place.
We also travelled across the Emerald Isle for some Guinness and for the Dublin International open. (http://www.dublinkendo.com/open.php) I was feeling snappy thanks to training 2 – 3 times a week with both Edinburgh and Edinburgh University Kendo Club. I didn’t pull through the women’s pools, thanks to some strong women kendoka from Ireland, France, Germany and Italy competing on the day.
Tarl made his ways through the pool’s until he was matched against the strong Martin Kiosew from Dublin and also member of the Irish National team.
One of my most treasured kendo memories of Ireland is the way the team event panned out. We were put together in a combined team of kendoka from Mumeishi Kendo Club (UK)and Daigaku Kendo Club (Ger)and of course Tarl & I representing the Ballarat Kendo Club. We all met about 20 minutes before the shiai, quickly exchanged names & ranks and appointed Tarl as captain. When the takai started we had a great team spirit and found ourselves knocking off the competition in each round. One such great round was when Tarl got to meet Martin again as Daihyoshu-sen , a very intense match. Which in Tarl won and took us to the final.
We met our match when faced with Dublin team 1 and we narrowly gained second place going point for point in each team member’s fight. What a jaw clencher! I was proud of my first podium place gained in a takai and Tarl was impressed with our result also.
The Sunday seminar was a wealth of information, it was the first I ever attended and was great to have so many Sensei being able to take small groups of people of similar ability levels through waza, correct kamai and kata pointers. The Sensei delegation were: Delepiere Sensei, O’Sullivan Sensei, Holt Sensei and Geoff Salmon Sensei.
Once back in Scotland, I realized the clock was ticking to soak up as much information and technical pointers from Sensei Steve Bishop, so both Tarl & I attended as many trainings as possible with Edinburgh, Tarl taking time out with Sensei and Kristian Delacour for kata training whenever possible to work on his Yondan grading, coming up in November. Quote of Sensei Steve Bishop “Kendo like tiger, Kata like do-do”.
Our final training session was held at Yugenkai dojo, (http://www.yugenkai.org.uk/) a special Sunday session put together by sempai Kristian Delacour head of Yugenkai dojo for 3 of us were leaving that week, ourselves and also Bartek from Poland. We had a fantastic sunny day and the atmosphere was fantastic in the rustic looking dojo. We celebrated our friendships with solid keiko for over an hour and caught it all on video for the memories.
Many thanks to Edinburgh Kendoka a special thanks to Sensei Steve Bishop, Kristian Delacour Sempai and Tina Latimer who have now become treasured friends, ( we hope to host them in Australia upon our return).
Part 3 Switzerland/Belgium/London Cup 2009/10
We set off in search of a snowboarding & kendo winter, not knowing where the path would lead us. Until Verbier, Switzerland tickled our fancy. We settled in and began scouring the lands for the closest dojo. As it pans out the closest dojo was 2 hours away, so we decided to try make our own training hall in a squash court on the mountain, to no avail the sports centres and clubs would not allow us to practice in their areas!
The end of November came around quickly, Tarl soon found himself eligible for a grading at the Brussells Kendo seminar and takai. He packed his bogu and set off for the 17 hour train trip to Belgium for the winter seminar and Nakakura Cup.
The delegation for the event was over twenty sensei from Japan and Europe. Tarl found the seminar excellent and was particularly enthused by Tahara sensei, who focused on different ways to strike, many techniques that Tarl had never seen, the particular focus on one handed strikes while putting a lot of energy into zanshin and fumikumi whilst executing.
Tarl again caught up with Martin Kiosew, who had come from Ireland for the cup. Martin was good enough to show Tarl the European Kendo ropes and was a great support to him while grading. Tarl was also invited to Athens, Greece by Spiro Drossoulakis from the Furyu Dojo, Athens who he shared a dorm room with over the weekend.
Tarl participated in the grading with 8 other kendoka and after they all had their approx 2 min matches, four were selected to proceed with the kata examination. Following this all four members passed however everyone’s heart sank as no yon dan passes had been posted on the grading board until the close of the day, even though all other ranks before had been announced.
After the grading Tarl was told to fine tune his kata by sensei on his panel.
On Tarl’s return to Switzerland, we found ourselves thirsty for some club Kendo and we contacted Sensei Olivier Perrenoud for some training at the Lausanne Kendo Club. (http://www.lausannekendo.ch/) Our 1999 Volvo just made us to the car park of the dojo before the engine blew and we scurried inside to meet the Sensei and fellow kendoka. Once inside we met a mix of kendoists from all over the world. Fortunately Sensei speaks fluent English (along with most of the club) and we felt welcomed immediately. We found Olivier Sensei to have a fantastic understanding of the mechanics of kendo, so he is able to teach and pass on kendo techniques with ease.
One thing I noticed about the Lausanne Club was the high number of women kendoka frequently training at the dojo, Sensei regularly taught kendo to dancers and so he had a great understanding of women’s kendo and how to apply training techniques for things that women commonly struggle with.
We had great plans to attend training at least once a week at Lausanne but without the car, we had to reduce it to once a fortnight and accept Sensei and the lovely Madame Perrenoud’s hospitality and stay in their family home so that we could make it to regular training, where over dinner we also got great philosophical kendo knowledge from sensei.
Tarl also found his kendo broken into pieces with the promise from Sensei that these techniques will make him faster. Bring on the London Cup!
A typical night at the Lausanne Kendo Club consists of the club sensei taking warm up followed by Olivier sensei concentrating on one technique, then incorporating that technique into the entire class. Then putting on bogu and then go through the same techniques whilst in armour. Followed by gi geiko sometimes kakari geiko.
After myself being grounded in Switzerland with the whole volcanic ash incident, we finished up our days in the Swiss Alps and drove across to London in time for the anticipated Tora Dojo’s London Cup.(www.londoncup.co.uk). The Friday before the Cup started we caught up with some old friends from Edinburgh and Yugenkai Dojo for a dinner and a few warm up drinks.
The first day consisted of the team event, Tarl & I were in a team with some Glaswegian kendoka, our team was John Kennedy, Anthony Leong (another fellow Aussie) and Quinnan Lee . We did well on our first round, fighting a Spanish team, but were taken out in the next pool. The final was between USML and team Viking, Sweden, who took the title.
The Sunday was the individual event, starting with the ladies. I found myself in the first pool of the morning, glad of that because that’s when I have found my competition kendo fires best.
Tarl went very well in the men’s individual event. He made it to the preliminary round and was paired against a jodan kendoka from team Viking, Sweden. To say the least it was an epic match that had to be seen, it began with Tarl mentally throwing his opponent by going into jodan kamae against him, then a 17 minute ensho, where unfortunately two of Tarl’s kote strikes did not score and his opponent had to push him out of the shiaijo twice to claim victory.
The ladies and men’s finals were held at the close of the day where we saw some amazing, high energy style fighting, when points were scored there were mutters of “Did you see that?” coming from the boggled spectators.
The ladies finals saw N. Grossin (Budo XI – France) vs. S. Chung (Dutch Kendo Renmei) with France claiming victory.
The men’s saw Nakabayashi (Pessac – France) also of the French National team vs. G Monlezun (Pessac France). Check out the finals, for the men’s final.
for the team event. Stay posted for video’s of the women’s final.