I was lucky to spend my university years in the U.K.’s most beautiful city, Edinburgh. A city with a long and interesting history, unique architecture (‘Athens of the north’), and host to Europe’s largest cultural festivals, its a great place to be when you are young. And smacked right in the center of this wonderful town is the imposing Edinburgh castle. For 4 years I wondered about the city looking at the castle everyday. For my first few weeks in the city I used it as an orientation tool… was I facing north or south? Which way should I walk towards my flat? The castle was so ubiquitous that – unbelievably – in the years that I studied in the city I didn’t once set foot inside. ‘Its for the tourists’ I thought.
After graduation I moved to America for a few years. I used to pop back to Edinburgh pretty often, but it wasn’t until I took my then-girlfriend back to the motherland for a visit that, because we were doing touristy things, I actually decided to go into the castle. I was amazed. The place was great, full of history, and had an amazing 360 degree view over the wonderful city. ‘Why on earth hadn’t I bother to come before?’ I wondered.
In Osaka I have access to top level sensei, am able to watch top level competitions/competitors at close range, and can keiko 2 or 3 times a day – everyday all year round – if I wish. It would also be pretty easy for me to go and watch the national level 6th, 7th, or 8dan tests if I wanted to, but – until yesterday – I never bothered going to see any of them. ‘I can go anytime’ I thought. I am not saying all this to show off btw, its just a fact of my kendo situation.
Yesterday – just like my realisation when I first visited Edinburgh castle – I ‘rediscovered’ my forgotten (or misplaced) luckiness. I went to support a good friend at his first attempt for 7th dan. Because he is in his 30s, he’s put in the first court with the youngest group (under 40). Right from kick-off my jaw dropped: the level of kendo on display was phenomenal. Of course, people attempting 7dan in their early to mid 30s are those that started very young and that didn’t stop after entering the work force. i.e. policemen, SDF members, teachers, and company players… in other words, most of them are, for want of a better term, elite kenshi. The most uplifting thing about this was that the kendo on display was not ‘competition’ orientated kendo… there was no blocking, head bobbing, pushing and shoving, time wasting, fear of being hit, flashy moves, and so on… just pure, orthodox kendo. Inspired I thought: ‘This is the way kendo should be done… all the time.’
I guess my point with this post is that I learned something this weekend: to remember and be (constantly) grateful about the situation I am in. I suppose that this point can be extended to mention having good health, a decent job, nice friends, and money enough to buy kendo equipment as well. I’m sure that this applies to kenshi247 readers as well, though maybe with slightly different context. Consider this post a reminder!!
In fact, I’ve had a ‘rediscovery’ kendo moment before.. back in 2008: I went to see the Tozai-Taiko, the large East-West shiai. The level of the competitors and the quality of the shiai is awe-inspiring… much more so than the more renowned All-Japan Championships. If you are in Japan – and you have the chance – go and see it.