It was 30 years ago today!

Osaka Grading

Not only when Seargent Pepper taught the band to play, but when I lived in Kansai doing pretty much the same kendo stuff as George is doing today. One of the real differences between then and now is that through the wonders of internet, email and skype etc., it is easy to let friends around the world share your experiences, whereas then, you were pretty much on your own. So it is a new experience for me to be able to dip into George’s blog and compare notes. Having moved back to the UK at the end of the 70’s, a lot of things have changed, but having visited fairly regularly for Kyoto Taikai and grading examinations, there are no real surprises.

Continue reading It was 30 years ago today!

The Same Path 師弟同行

In this months kendo nippon I read a short article by a 8 dan I occasionally have the pleasure to fence. In the article he mentions a phrase “師弟同行” (shitei doko), and its this that I wish to examine briefly here.

There are two separate words here, so lets look at their definition:

師弟 (shitei) – teacher and student (the relationship between them).
同行 (doko/dokyo) – accompanying; travelling together; fellow pilgrim.

I think by looking at the above you’ve already got a good idea of the meaning. It basically means that both the teacher and the student are travelling the same path together. I say “teacher and student” but we can easily use it to describe other budo relationships such as “sempai and kohai” and “motodachi and kakarite.” The article talks about this relationship and how the more experienced person should act in a jigeiko situation.

He talks about how both people must do jigeiko with the idea of learning/studying kendo, not just the junior of the pair. As the senior grade, you can easily slip into just standing there and allowing yourself to receive blows, or to spent your time mostly teaching. In this way, you are not studying yourself, he says, and that it becomes hard to pull the most out from the junior of the pair.

Instead of this, raise your spirit to match – or even exceed – your opponent. Its your job to fight above their level. While you are fighting them look at their kendo and if you can find an area that is lacking, help to pull this up. Explain in words if necessary.

The junior of the pairs job is to attack with full spirit without worrying about getting hit. Look for chances and take them without hesitation, using any and all waza at your disposal.

If both the senior and junior person approach jigeiko in this manner, both sides will learn from the experience, and jigeiko should become more fulfilling and worthwhile.

If follows, of-course, that sometimes you are the senior, and sometimes you are the junior. This holds true for everyone, even 8 dans. We are, after all, on the same path.

En 縁

On May 1st, 2007, I walked into the No. 2 Arena of the Tempaku Sports Center, in Nagoya, Japan. An elder gentlemen in a kendo-gi and hakama noticed me, politely smiled, bowed, and indicated the spectator seating with his hand. I sat down and observed Mr. Yagyu Koichi and another gentleman practice Sangaku En-no-Tachi, the quintessential form of (Yagyu) Shinkage Ryu. It was my first time to see Shinkage Ryu kata, and it was absolutely unlike anything I was expecting. I was especially impressed when the elder gentleman who greeted me practiced with Yagyu Sensei. Their zanshin, their intensity was amazing. They seemed ready to strike at any time. I was hooked, and after talking Yagyu Sensei and a few other long time practitioners, I resolved to join the Yagyukai, intending to attend the next practice on the 6th.

That practice never happened. On May 4th, 2007, Yagyu Nobuharu, the 21st soke of Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, passed away. I have the dubious distinction of being the first deshi after his death.

It didn’t have to be that way.

Continue reading En 縁

Kyoto taikai (extended)

Ok, so everyone knows about thelegendary Kyoto (Embu) Taikai. Founded way-back-when, this year was the 104th time. The embukai takes place in the Butokuden, which was completed in 1899 in Kyoto (next to Heian Jingu) and it served as the hombu dojo for the now defunct Butokukai (a new organisation exists with the same name however).

Anyway, the embukai goes over 4 days: the first day is koryu embu from various schools, followed by loads of naginata, some jodo, and an unbelievable amount of iaido. The second->fifth days are for kendo only, with people demonstrating from lowest grade/youngest age to highest grade/oldest age. The minimum requirement is 6 dan renshi, which makes the youngest possible age of around 32. The most senior people are often in their 90s, and the odd 9dan makes an appearance.

The format is a 2 point match over 3 minutes. If undecided its hikiwake. There is no competition perse, just your 3 minutes.

I called this post Kyoto Taikai EXTENDED for a reason. While the Kyoto Taikai is on (2nd-5th of May every year) this are other budo-related events happening in Kyoto on-and-around the same time: All Japan Iaido federations own embukai, 2 different koryu embukais (one at Shimogamo-jinja), plus Yabusame demonstrations. There is also the kendo-iaido-jodo 8 dan gradings, plus a morning kendo practise each day as well.

i.e. for the discerning budo tourist there is an unbelievable amount you can see in a week. There is also a healthy amount of supply-getting-chances as well, but thats another post….