Whew, what a month.
March has always been a busy month for me, both work-wise and kendo-wise, but this year has been… too much. Kendo-wise my club took part in four shiai (three university invitationals and a local competition) plus we hosted a five-school renshujiai. Work-wise, things started with the usual high-school entrance exam craziness, then things got more hectic as this year my school hosted an International Science Conference (it sounds more grandiose that is was!), which robbed another whole week away from me. In amongst all this my 1.5 year old daughter got sick and – after she got well – I ended up with a chest infection of some sort. I am writing this article on what feels like the brink of death! I do have a beer in hand though…
Despite my soon likely demise, I’ve decided to share some media from my March-Kendo-Madness month. In todays article I am sharing a handful of pics from the events, plus a small video mashup of everything. Enjoy!
University invitational #1
Usually, high schools are invited to take part in competitions hosted at a university if a graduate student is currently a member of the university club. This is the case in all three that we attended this month. This particular university (#1) has three of my ex-kendo students practising there… oh, and the shihan is actually my sensei!
University invitational #2
One of the top public universities in Japan, university #2 is a common destination of students from my school, kendo or otherwise. At the moment I have two ex-kendo students there, and also many other friends are graduates and/or are active in the kendo alumni association. Due to the status of the university, this shiai attracts teams from outside of the Kansai region as well, which is a great opportunity for us to face teams we would never usually have a chance to.
I entitled this “local” shiai, but it is in fact a school “block” competition. Actually, these blocks were discontinued about five or six years back, but there is one teacher who continues to run this particular block’s competition every year. Much smaller than the other competitions this month, it is unique in that it does not only host the usual boys and girls team events, but a beginners individual event too. “Beginner” is defined as “someone who started kendo last April” (i.e., who have less than a years worth of experience). These type of beginners shiai are a must I believe, and it’s shocking that the prefectural kendo high school association doesn’t run one itself.
We have so many schools contacting us and asking to do renshujiai and godogeiko that we often have to refuse. Turning people down too much is a bit rude, so we try and accommodate as best we can. One solution to this is to group the schools together and host a larger session. This is what we did today: including our school we had five schools in total take part.
The session consisted of 30 mins warmup, 2.5 hours of shiai, and a 30 min godogeiko session. I always enjoy the godogeiko session, but even more-so today as one of the kendo teachers from the other school actually placed 3rd in the WKC as a Japanese team member… needless to say, we had a good scrap!
University invitational #3
Ranked number 2 university in Japan, this is a place than many of my students aspire to enter. As such, I am always happy to attend this competition even though it is a little bit far away. Currently I have one ex-student active in the kendo club, but I have sent a number of students (kendo and non-kendo) there over the years. I was a bit poorly on this day, but I am glad I attended.
The following is a mini-vid mashup of all of the shiai mentioned above. Hand-held, fast-paced, and not particularly artistic, but I hope you enjoy it anyway!
Kendo fatigue – learning to step back
People often think that teaching kendo in high school is awesome – and it often is! – but it can be physically and mentally exhausting to do so while attempting to live a normal life. An at-times super-stressful job combined with a young kid makes this exponentially difficult. Add in to this a bunch of shiai taking away your weekends and national holidays, and you’ll soon find yourself run-ragged. This is the state I am in now! The last shiai mentioned above was on the 31st of March (today), the new academic school year starts for me on the 1st of April (tomorrow).
For this coming year I’ve decided it’s time for me to step-back. I have two younger kendo teachers in my school now that can easily take care of the club even while I remain the chief instructor. In fact, I have already delegated a few tasks to them over the past couple of years (teaching the gasshuku, deciding shiai members, dealing with renshujiai, etc), but I think it’s about time that I give over more of the day-to-day tasks as well, and I certainly don’t need to go to every shiai like I did this month. However, since my identity is strongly intertwined with that of a “high school kendo teacher” it might be hard for me to release my grip. But for my mental and physical health, release it I must learn to! I am, after all, not getting any younger…