Monday, March 08, 2004

Kanto All-Star

The 1st week of each month is the British kendo squad training. What differ this one from the others is that, 20 from the Kanto Student Kendo Association came for a visit. That's why I went up to London again for a practice (after 3 weeks of nothing).

Kanto is the Eastern area around Tokyo, including the prefectures of Chiba, Saitama, Kanagawa, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma. Very strong kendo presence.

Good thing about the squad training is that, girls practices with girls, meaning 6 Japanese students versus 11 local females (that includes me, plus some Japanese girls happen to be in the country, either studying or work). Kendo, like any other martial arts, is dominated by male. So the other 2/3 of the gym was filled with the rest of the 15 or so boys against 30+ local guys.

Glanced on the boys for a bit. But no one looks particularly interesting. Ummmm.

After the 2 1/2 hr train ride, what I earned was 2 hours of basics, had a lunch break, and then 1 hour of matches and another hour of free practice.

I am the youngest girl at the BKA side - the next one up is probably 27. I was told that the British female squad has the oldest average among the world. (over 30). Simply because no young girls in the entire country is interested in Kendo...

On the other hand, the Kanto students - especially the 6 of them facing opposite us while we kneelled and bowed to each other on the wooden floor - where all 3rd years, i.e. ALL MY AGE.

To skip to the more interesting part, the first person I fought is Kikuchi-san. From what I observed she has the best built out of the other 5 girls, hence I spent most of the time "standing properly and pretend I am not crap". A day later I found out that she is one of those from Tsukuba University's sports department (as of many professional sportsmen/women in Japan). In additional to that, she was join-3rd at last year's All-Japan Uni Student Championship. [edit: later this year she WON the AJ Uni Student Championship, women's individuals, holy crap!!]

My teammates of the day, apart from a grey-hair British woman (beginner), were Yaguchi and Haraguchi. I took 90% of the chatting time to ask them to arrange fighting orders -- along the lines of:

Jenny: Who are we fighting now?
Yaguchi: Aaah....
Jenny: Urh, you can try saying in Japanese first.
Yaguchi: (holding out fingers) ________Team 1 to Team 2, ______Team 3 to Team 4________
Jenny: eeeeh.... so are we next?
Yaguchi: hmmm tsgi ______ eto_____
Jenny: Haaai (right, next one)

The hour went on with me getting one point at a 1:2 against a British squad (whom I should have destroyed if this wasn't the third time I trained since I came back from HK!!). The other matches against the Kanto students finishes with me bowing twice to them in the middle of the court. Their cuts are just so damn impressive. I knew I've lost those stupid points before they even start hitting. I had been slow enough to recognize that I was opened at a certain second, and then they just got me.

At the free practice session, I actually got the time to have a go with every Kanto girl... at one point I was resting at the side and one of them approached me:

Aoyama: Nihongo________
Jenny: Iya... Nihongo wa wakarimaseeeen (Do'h! Just because I was struggling with the other girl, Yaguchi earlier on, doesn't mean I can speak Japanese!!)
Aoyama: ...
Jenny: Ah, I am from Hong Kong.
Aoyama: ... I am from Soka University... Some students are from Hong Kong. They are quite good.
Jenny: ... but they don't do Kendo! haha.... (attempting to chat her up longer - but damn I can't smile with my mask on!!)
Jenny: ... so what kind of university is that? Is it a sports uni?
Aoyama: Erhm.....
Jenny: So what do you study?
Aoyama: Foreign Literiture
Jenny: Ooh. I study Design. I am a Daigakusei. (Uni student)
Aoyama: Ah Design...
Jenny: So what is your favourite book? (strange that I came up with this question!!)
Aoyama: Ah. I don't go to classes. I just do kendo every day.

* * * * * Riiiiiiight!! This line went like thunder into my eardrums. Then someone came at me to ask for a practice.

Jenny: eehhh I am tired.
Aoyama: Ya. You should fight more. You are still young.
Jenny: umm How old are you?
Aoyama: I am twenty-one.
Jenny: AArh. I am twenty-one.
Aoyama: Oh me too.
Jenny: Same, same! (the conversation gets so stupid that I have to pad her at the back when I say it)
Jenny: So, you know, I am not that young actually!

* * * * * Greeeeeeat... I must look like 16 or something!!!

They left fast to catch a coach. 2 days after they will go to France.

Jenny: So you will stay in France... In Paris?
Yaguchi: Um? Paris?
Jenny:... Pa-ri, Pa-ri
Yaguchi: Yes. Yes. Pari!
Jenny: For how long?
Yaguchi: Eeeto...
Jenny: How many days?
Yaguchi: (counting with fingers) .....eight days!
Jenny: Are you going to tour around Pari?
Yaguchi: ?
Jenny: Tour... tourist...sightseeing...
Yaguchi: (tilting her head at one side)?
Jenny: Kendo?
Yaguchi: Yes. More kendo.

Ouch.This is the second day since that day. Muscles on my left leg hurts like hell. I have difficulties walking -- even to the toilet 5 steps away from where I am sitting now!