We went to Nara and we weren’t the only ones that had the idea to go there that day. Japanese Crown Prince (plus his fan club and lots of police) were also there, which influenced our sightseeing plans a lot.
Nevertheless, I managed to get voluntarily molested by the famous deer, seen the sixteen-metre Buddha, walked the gardens, ate the sweets, and enjoyed the stick-free day to the fullest.
New week – new dojo! Not as new as the previous ones though, as it is the complex where we did the ‘meeting room’ kata. We’ve been training on an enormous basketball hall today that echoed whenever someone (not me) did a proper kiai. Lots of space meant footwork practice aaaand I finally fixed my kamae so it’s a bit more natural – or maybe I should say that it was Ewa who spotted the mistake. During the last few days I’ve been fixating on tucking my left elbow inside to the point where it was all tensed and totally uncomfortable – and influencing my thrust negatively. I was on the edge of despair, but thanks to Ewa I let it relax more. It does not mean that it is sticking out, though.
After a short break we did full sets of tankendo and jukendo kata. As a shikata, the student, I can do them all without second guessing. Doing this side, I’ve managed to sail through tankendo and jukendo forms with a dose of certainty, knowing what will be next and, more or less, how the timing should be. As an uchikata, though, I need much more practice, as some of my instincts tend to kick in and I do funny stuff. All of that means more rooftop training! Yay!
One month to go. In a month we will be saying goodbye to Japan. Time passes so quickly here, with a steady rhythm of training, shower, food, and bed. I’m looking forward to each day, as I’m learning something new during every hour spent in the dojo, but at the same time it makes me sad and scared. Having no one to supervise our practice daily will be difficult, and I will miss everyone really badly, I know that. Today was a special day, as we’ve met with the mayor of Kasugai in his office. Firstly, though, we’ve begun with a quick session of recording jukendo ipponme, the first kata. I’m really proud to be a part in Jukendo World, as I know how essential is not only to perform, but also to analyze, think about, and see others doing the techniques or forms. I’ve become almost addicted to a series of recordings of kendo kata before my kyu grading – and now, all the people who are interested in jukendo will have the ability to get the knowledge from an awesome sensei, done by amazing people, and in several languages. How cool is that?
The Mayor proved to be a great person – moreover, he’s nanadan (7th dan) in kendo, and in his office he has a small replica of himself clad in bogu and holding a shinai. Although we didn’t understand almost anything he talked about, smiles, bows, and nods did the trick. And, according to him, should really practice a lot of kata. So practice we did! After we returned to the dojo, we did lots of jukendo and tankendo kata, mostly in full sets, and switching the uchikata and shikata sides. Here you are supposed to do both during the exam, so you can’t just slack off and hope for the other person to do all the hard work. I get less and less ‘ok, but…’ or ‘almost ok-s’, so I guess I’m moving in the right direction. Hundred or more repetitions and I’ll get it to the standard.
Another training at the basketball arena, which meant much more movement. We did tons of basics, focusing on the posture and getting the maximum reach, moving smoothly without jumping, and, in my case, on the strength of the strike – which does not mean the power with which I smack people, but the speed and stability of the weapon while it travels the shortest way possible from my hip to my chest. As I started to tuck in my left elbow more and more, my kamae became a bit too frontal, therefore my strike lost its sharpness – I’ve fixed the elbow, now I have to go back to being more sideways. Will do.
We also did several exercises with men on, mostly coming into distance and striking without losing proper kamae. The idea is that the kamae should be rock solid (but not overly stiff), so the kata (place to aim for) is almost entirely covered. Trying to do it with proper footwork, speed, voice, distance, and zanshin is totally not doable for me at this very moment. Ah, well. We’ve finished with jukendo kata and I chose to polish the uchikata side, which I tend to do much less than the shikata one. I have no problems remembering what to do, so I’ve just got the details to master. And yet, the details is where the difficulty lies. Long way ahead of me!
*This is part of an ongoing series of posts by Jukendo World translator and guest author, Klara, who has only recently started jukendo and is undertaking a 3 month visit to Japan to further her training with her partner, Lukasz.*