For the past few years I have been travelling back to the wonderful city of Edinburgh, Scotland, to teach a seminar at my home dojo, Edinburgh Kendo Club. This year was the seventh seminar I have run over the past 11 years, and the 3rd in as many years.
All these seminars except for last year’s one (the club’s 30th anniversary) I have taught myself. This year, however, I was helped by a graduate from the high school I teach at, Nagaura Ryuichi, who joined us from Canada where he now lives and works.
About 50 people joined the seminar – mainly from Scotland, but also including kenshi from all over the U.K., including London, as well as more further afield (Canada, Berlin, and Venice).
Amongst the participants were past and present national team representatives from the Chile, Spain, Poland, the Philippines, and the U.K.
It was an awesome few days, and I wish to extend my thanks to Edinburgh Kendo Club, especially Dez and Xabi for organising things, and Ryuichi for helping out. Andy from KendoStar also gets a mention for helping me teach as well as suppling good stuff (more on that in a future post).
For today’s post I just want to share some pictures I took (I didn’t really have time to take good ones) and give a brief rundown about the content.
Edinburgh kendo club (Fri.)
Although the seminar was officially on Saturday and Sunday, Ryuichi and I attended the local club practises on Friday and Monday as well (Ryuichi actually attended a further session). This meant we had lots of time to do keiko with Edinburgh Kendo Club members, which is one of the major objectives of the weekend. These extra days around the main seminar is an important aspect of the visit.
Anyway, for the keiko on the day prior to the official seminar starting, I taught basic ashisabaki drills, did a few wrist drills, and then went in to a simple kihon session. As I have to spend most of my time teaching the seminar today I put my bogu on and practised for as long as I could.
Ashisabaki drills included:
- Ayumi-ashi transitioning to okuri-ashi
- Slow and big okuri-ashi
- Super small and fast okuri-ashi
- Forward 5 steps back 3 okuri-ashi across the hall
- Ken-ken ashi (jumping on one foot)
- Emphasis on the understanding and connection between the feet in a strike: seme-ashi > fumikiri > fumikomi > hikitsuke
- En (“circle”) footwork
After this we did a basic kihon session: kirikaeshi, men, kote, kote-men, and tsuki, before moving on to jigeiko and, later, some beer.
Seminar day 1
Both official seminar days started at 9am and finished at 5pm, but in reality we split the session into something like 9:30-12:00 and then 13:00-16:30, with breaks in-between. I had already measured the experience level of most of the local kendo club members the day before, so I had a general feel of what they could/couldn’t do and how much they could be pushed. In the first morning session I did really basic stuff while watching people from other dojo, which helped me decide the exact content for the rest of the seminar (of course, it was all pre-planned, but I tailor it a bit).
Every year I pick a general “theme” or “approach” to tackle the seminar with, and this year was no different. First of all, since I have being coming to Edinburgh for a while, I didn’t want to simply repeat what I did before, so I attempted to build on what I had done before in new ways – just change a drill or do something in a way that maybe people hadn’t thought of or practise before.
If you think about it kendo is really simple – men, kote, dou, tsuki – so introducing variation in drills to make keiko more interesting whilst maintaining the goal of acquiring correct kendo is important, I believe. Note, that over the few days I also played about with how partners were made (pairs, in threes, groups of 6), and how to rotate around.
Keiko menu included:
- Suburi: “bouncing” jogeburi, 1-1-2 shomen-suburi, sayu-hayasuburi
- Ashisabaki: slow-big, small-fast, ken-ken, seme-ashi > fumikiri > fumikomi > hikitsuke, En
- Wrist drills: left-hand only jump, right-hand only spin and cut, both hands jumping, both hands tapping, dou-tapping
- Kamae check
- [ break ]
- Kirikaeshi drills: suriashi (shomen, spin-shomen, sayumen, normal kirkaeshi (no taiatari)
- Shomen: big from a far distance (PL style stop-cut), seme-in small men
- Kote: squeezing fingers, no taiatari
- Kote-men: big and small (big from a far distance, kote-stop-men; small seme in and cut consecutively)
- Tsuki: 1-2-3 tsuki or 1-2 tsuki, thrust from top to bottom (not up)
- [ lunch break ]
- Warmup, kirikaeshi, and review of morning
- Uchikomi patterns: big men from a far distance x 5, small men from a close distance x 5, men-taiatari x4 men, kote-men-taiatari x4 kote-men
- [ break ]
- Hikiwaza line drills: hikimen, hikigote, hikidou, three versions each
- [ break ]
The finishing “Zanshin” pattern was something I planned to do at the end of each session:
- Motodachi stand in the middle of the hall and kakarite suriashi’s up from the end of the hall, strikes a large men, and continues to the other end. Repeat 3 times.
- Same thing again except this time the final men goes into kirikaeshi (no tai-atari)
- A final single men cut to finish the session
After keiko was done and showers had, we met for beers before having a nice meal at a local Indian restaurant. Yummy!
Seminar day 2
I told everyone that the second day would be a bit easier, but I was only half telling the truth! Before we got on to a more relaxed kata session we did a review of the prior days content:
- Suburi / ashisabaki / wrist drills review
- [ mini break ]
- Kirikaeshi and basic strike review
The review sections allowed participants to choose what it was they wanted to work on based on the prior days content. I wandered around, gave direct advice, and gave people things to work on.
After a further short break we went on to a longer (1.5 hours), more relaxed kata session. For this I wandered freely about, taught bits and pieces, and fielded questions. I also regularly had people change partners (preferably with someone from another dojo).
About a third of the way in I picked two people who didn’t know each other and who had never done kata before to demonstrate in front of everyone: Andy from KendoStar and Rolo, originally from Chile but who is currently based in Berlin. After their great demonstration I pointed out common kata mistakes and then had everyone go back and practise more before taking a break for lunch.
When everyone came back from lunch they looked relaxed because they didn’t really realise what was coming up. First of all, I did a short basics review plus added in some easy waza. I decided not to teach many different waza this year, and instead focus on important fundamental ones:
- Light warmup (no suburi – do it at home)
- Kirikaeshi review
- Waza: men-men, tsuki-men, oikomi-men, debana-men, degote
- [ break ]
After the break I introduced probably the most physically challenging aspect of the seminar – oikomi drills. The hall was long, and knowing that some people were very tired and had sore feet and legs, I split the participants into two large groups that swapped in and out, within each group everyone got into groups of three people.
The oikomi patterns were as follows (no tai-atari):
- Renzoku men (big)
- Renzoku men (small)
- Renzoku kote-men (big or small)
- Renzoku kote-men-dou-men-men
- Renzoku tsuki
For people that weren’t confident in doing continuous striking (i.e. men-men-men-men-men…) I gave them the option of doing one at a time (i.e. men… suriashi suriashi surashi… men… suriashi suriashi surashi… men….) to ensure that their ki-ken-tai was accurate. Surprisingly, most people didn’t do the easier version but went full-pelt on the cuts. It was great to see such enthusiastic people in the dojo, even though it looked like many of them were struggling physically!
After a break we finished with a long jigeiko session and the Zanshin pattern described above.
All in all, I think the weekend went quite well! I had fun, and received so much positive feedback.
Of course, there were a few beers and lots of discussion after today’s session finished again.
Edinburgh kendo club (Mon.)
Although the seminar was officially finished, Ryuichi and I still took part in another local session. As I mentioned above, this is an important part of the visit for me. I kept the chat in this session as brief as I could, and simply did a short footwork review, got our men’s on, did some kihon practise, and went into jigeiko. We of course finished with the Zanshin pattern.
These four days of kendo went fast (Ryuichi did a 5th with the club), and I was sad to say goodbye. Here’s hoping that I will be over again next year (guests in toe) for another seminar. Cheers everyone!