By Nuno Vieira de Almeida
July 23rd 2018
A quick 20 minute train trip got us to Kasugai and off the comfort of the air conditioned train to the sweltering heat of Japan. After some idle minutes, Terada Sensei showed up to give us a ride. So good to see him and what a great opportunity to train under the guidance of a Hanshi Hachidan Sensei, who also gives us rides to the dojo!
We arrived to our training hall and there were roughly 10 Jieitai jukendoka waiting for us. That sounded promising…The dojo’s thermometer numbers tried to tell us that we should be doing something else, like playing solitaire or swimming. 36 degrees Celsius and 40 something percent of humidity. Fun!
As I was the new guy and the Jieitai sensei couldn’t make it in time for our practice, Terada Sensei asked me to show our “Portuguese” warm-up. I started out doing the warm-up routine that we usually do for Kendo practices and I notice that I am getting strange looks and people are guffawing and kind of not knowing what to do. Ahhhh, ok, Jukendo doesn’t do this kind of warm-up! Sorry, guys, but bear with me. Speaking of bear, I moved on to the stretching part of the warm-up and showed them some kinds of different stretches and mobility-based drills and that contributed to a very relaxed mood. After that, it was time to get to the real deal.
We started out slow, after putting our bogu (just kata-ate, no men). We started with kamae and naorei, process that would be repeated in almost every training with Terada Sensei. Taking correct Kamae is so important in Jukendo because the first strike is almost instantaneous, so you have to be ready – physically and mentally – from the very first moment. Taking a correct Kamae has many details to be taken into account: does your leg distance allow fast ashisabaki? Is your position stable and are your knees relaxed? Are you protected by your hanmi or is your heart exposed as a blinking beacon? Is your front grip relaxed and your right elbow ready to slide to the front of your chest and lock the strike with strong shime? So many things to look for when taking Kamae. And not forgetting the mental attitude that comes with it. We spent some time working on kamae and naorei and when Terada Sensei was satisfied (almost OK) we moved on to chokutotsu sanbon. We worked on both motions (thrusting, tsuite; and nuite, drawing out the mokuju to the hips, exercising zanshin) and then continued to work on chokutotsu and ashisabaki and then onto paired work.
We proceeded to do a lot of chokutotsu! After that, we moved to datotsu and katotsu, covering the “basic” range of Jukendo’s striking arsenal. Then things got more complicated. We moved on to other waza: nidan-waza (two consecutive strikes) and renzoku waza (how do I move my feet and arms and strike at the same time?). We did an awful lot of renzoku waza. For me, it was very complex work but it was very instructional, as it allowed me to understand more of Jukendo’s training process and how can one build exercises to work on different things. It also showed me that being motodachi and honing motadachi skills is essential to our own progress in Jukendo – and it is something that I would struggle with during my whole stay in Japan and that I have to continue to work on.
More than two hours of keiko had already disappeared into thin air and the clock was still ticking. Time to put on men and go for another round. Now, in full bogu, we went for the really hard exercises: shou-ippon, dai ichi geiko (motadachi helps the attacker fulfill his role, “opening” for attacks), daini geiko, going for all out attacks with motodachi not helping that much. With our time already gone (note to self: time flies when you are being stabbed) there was still an extra 20 minutes for shiaigeiko and more shou-ippon, just to send us off to home with wobbly legs.
After practice, I learned that some of the Jietai younger members had practiced Kendo until high school and we tried to talk a bit, in Budo universal sign language.
First practice done, managed not to collapse or stop because of the heat: small step for a man…
*This is part of an ongoing series of posts by guest author, Nuno, from Porto, Portugal.*