Sunday – another day without training, though not without sticks, apparently. Ewa and Simon went down to Shubukan dojo in Itami to practice Tendō-ryū, an ancient budo that is really fascinating, but unbelievably complex, as it includes an array of weapons and techniques. I was truly hypnotized by those several ladies (plus two white boys, whom we accidentally seem to know:)), some of them possibly loving grandmas, who wield naginata, jo, bokken, etc. with ease and grace. Wow.
After several hours, we travelled to Kyoto, through Osaka, to see some more of this famous city – namely the Arashiyama region with its mountains, rivers, monkeys, and lots of bamboo. Definitely fun! I don’t know why, though, our days off training seem to include walking up mountains to the point when I can’t walk anymore, as my feet are dying. Duh.
Today we have practiced on sensei’s driveway. It is always good to train without proper clothing – that might seem surprising, unless you remember how well gi and hakama can hide one’s mistakes! The sleeves are loose enough to cover my overextending elbow, and you can do weird stuff with your hips and knees under the hakama – not easy to spot, especially during movement. Therefore, our basics have been reviewed again and corrected – I’ll never have enough of that!
When the rain started to fall down on us, sensei decided to put up a sheet to cover his driveway for us to keep stabbing. Akira is a bit too tall for Japanese standards, luckily, jukendo necessitates moving with your knees bent and feet quite far apart, so that took several precious centimetres off his height. We did lots of jukendo kata and finished with juken tai tanken, which is always a good reason to laugh, as we did it only once and still don’t have any clue how it should be properly done. Although remembering the videos with Baptiste sensei helps a lot!:)
We have focused on jukendo today too, with lots of basics, judging the distance, and techniques of taking control of the center. This is of special interest to me, as I have little experience in budo (or fighting in general), so I don’t do it instinctively. Apart from the things we normally do and are corrected on, I have my special little issues to work on – my right elbow (still tries to go back to be tucked behind my body), my left elbow (still too stiff), my right hand (the grip should be more closed), my body position (getting the maximum reach through hanmi, hands, and leaning forward – but in the proper way, not bending in the waist). I’m feeling some progress, although it is extremely slow. Then we put on men and did similar exercises.
My problem with training with the men on (I have no problems training with men in general, they’re nice and handsome:)) is that it is too big and still really new, so the flaps get stuck on my kata and I can’t move my head – or rather my head moves inside the men. Sometimes it hinders my sight so badly that I don’t really see the opponent – which makes me an easy target. And makes me look like an idiot when I have to adjust my head to be able to stand in sideways kamae after bowing. Then we did lots of quick fights, from 30 to even 5 second ones. My major weak point is my mental strength, I have to gain experience to get stronger, as physically I could be much better – and yet I have a long way ahead of me. We have finished with jukendo and tankendo kata – no more problems with remembering the order, now we *just* have to refine it.
The basketball court dojo, as I call it, usually means moving a lot – as there is lots of space to do that. There were six of us again, as Claudia got back from Kyoto to spend some more hours learning how to stab us in the most efficient way. The basic exercises are always a good opportunity to work on the things that I am aware I have problems with. This time I tried to make my strike stronger and more precise by making sure that my legs are not moving before my hands do. And I felt the difference! We did lots of distance training, making small steps to reach the target, and we repeated most of these exercises with full bogu (with men) too. We finished with ippon shobu, several short matches changing opponents after each fight. This is a chance to try to employ the techniques we practice in controlled environment and see what works and what won’t, whether kamae is right, or if we’re running in totally open and vulnerable, what is the good striking distance and how to achieve it.
Sensei, Ewa and Simon know us well enough to be aware of our individual problems (I have a ton, I know it) and try to make us aware of them. It helps a lot, and I’m thankful, as it seems to be working just right. I sometimes get a spark of enlightenment, a light at the end of the tunnel, when I get a correct strike by reacting appropriately to what my opponent is doing. It happens, now I need to make it more regular, and, hopefully, more instinctive. I also managed to feel more natural in my kamae again – which probably means I have to be adjusted again. It is a vicious circle – as soon as I get comfy, someone corrects me to the point where I cannot even do the most basic things and have to build them up from scratch, then I find my balance and technique again, and then it gets fixed…
*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.*