By Nuno Vieira de Almeida
After a quick Shinkansen trip (if you are travelling with a lot of luggage, make sure you get a reserved seat or that you get in the right part of the train-car where you can store it behind the seats) I finally got to Nagoya! Right in the train platform I spot a Sumotori, dressed in traditional garb. Huge man and with a dignified pose (he was probably well aware that most of the people noticed him)!
After getting my bearings right, I head out of the station and made my way to Simon’s and Ewa’s house. I would be staying in their place for most of my stay in Japan. Carrying two huge bags and a backpack (note to self: next time you should get really light omiyage) I arrived at their place completely drenched in sweat. Summer weather in Japan is unforgiving!
I had last seen Simon and Ewa in Berlin, in January. 6 months later we are reunited with the same purpose: Jukendo. They welcome me warmly and show me around the house. 5 minutes later we go out for shopping and Simon casually announces to me to “grab that bike”. Well, Simon-san…I haven’t ridden a bike in maybe 15 years, but what could go wrong? Add that to “oh jeez, is the traffic is coming from the wrong side of the road?“ and you get a very confused Portuguese. But ride I did and managed not to fall off or bump into the Koban. Success! My lucky star continued to shine at the convenience store where I managed to get 8 (alcoholic) drinks from 8 “lottery” tickets.
We headed back home, relaxed a little bit while watching Star Trek reruns and got to business: ARE THOSE TANKENDO BOKUTO? Yeap, they were. Instead of regular Kendo Kodachi, a Budo store is also selling specialized bokuto for Jukendo, with no curvature. And with this, we started talking shop. Simon explained me the small differences of using a bokuto with no curvature and the influence it could have on some kata (small details). Then I picked up a mokuju and got my kamae and overall posture picked apart. A really useful introduction into what the next days would be: learning Jukendo with my mind but mostly with the body, until everything started to come together. Kamae, footwork and stance, the role of the grip and how the arms and elbow (mostly the right elbow) should work.
Having worked mostly by myself since the last seminar (in January) and with very limited instruction in Jukendo, this short session of corrections and orientation was very useful. Nothing can replace good instruction and keen eyes of experienced people!
*This is part of an ongoing series of posts by guest author, Nuno, from Porto, Portugal.*