(As carry on after Jan 22's Iaido class...)
The 2-meter long naginata I brought in is still in Wakaba's store room. I left it to Hahn-morris who is trying to set up a club in London. After Iaido class I pick it up one last time and had a few farewell swings... It had accompanied me through the summer before I was in Brighton and also when I was in Brighton. A couple hundreds of suburi variations... Now, I really miss it :(
When I pack my stuff and move over to the kendo court - guess who I first saw - SOTARO HONDA SENSEI ---!!!
Apparently, that Sunday was one of the monthly squad training that I happened to miss as predicted last month. So it was very surprising to see the squad coach being here. He was there to join today's Wakaba practice.
Other special guests include Steve Bishop from Edinburgh and his wife Lyndsey (who is my long-term rival by now :D) . Paul Budden showed up for a couple of time, so let's say he is visiting regularly, and happened to be there too.
Back to the dojo again, as usual Wakaba's practice kicks off at 2pm with everyone holding a bokuto. For some reason Masagaki picked on ME to teach 3 beginners, who happened to be all girls (must be intentional). We sticked with the bokuto kihon keiko first. Honda Sensei was observing right next to me, in which I jokingly responded with, "Nothing special to watch over here... Can you look elsewhere?!?!"
... A few minutes later Honda-sensei joined into my little study group and took over the teaching (thank god!! I can't stand the embrassment!!) In the end it evolved into a mass education, i.e. Honda-sensei telling everyone in the dojo about points to be aware of. And then we all did kihon #1-3 again and again.
I donated my crappy bokuto to Wakaba dojo, simply because I got some in Hong Kong and that would spare me some luggage weigth limit...
The usual 1-hour juniors + beginners session before the adult mawari-keiko was merged into one. Honda-sensei as a visiting teacher spent some time showing the correct way of footwork, distance and how to effectively do suburi. His "This is fishing.. This is baseball.. The swinging action is the same in kendo suburi..." shinai whooshing is still quite refreshing to me, as he has previously displayed the same thing in last year's Ladies Seminar.
Sometimes it's good to attend seminars, where you get the opportunity to calm down and listen, and then practice repeatedly on the same thing, while everyone else is also doing it. This is away from the normal jikeiko where you have to set certain goals to what you want to do there, or else you ended up just fighting whoever that comes in front of you. Well, nothing wrong with that, but I won't say that is education. You learn by doing to club practices, visiting other clubs, doing to taikai, seminars, etc. But the focus or goal of learning varies from one another, and therefore to maximize what you want to learn, it is important to get to different places and events.
The session with bogu on in which I joined in, emphasized on how to perform a valid cut. The concept of "Kime" was introduced... Basically, "Hit + Kime = Cut" ...or how to transform the hit of a bamboo stick into a sword cut, by using the kendo elements, such as te-no-uchi, kiai, zanshin, etc. etc.
[It has been a long time since that happened... I regret I have forgotten so much because I didn't have the time to write everything down...]
Then the class progressed into us queuing up for motodachi - doing kirikaeshi and some uchikomi keiko [sequence forgot...urgh].
I happened NOT facing Gibson for quite a while (just a matter of luck - I also haven't practiced with Miyamura and Masagaki for months). But this last "practice" I had with him, just me doing kirikaeshi, I was completely surprised that on the first straight Men-cut, I was able to "pop" his men loud..!! My wrists are probably much stronger now, and that my reach and sense of distance has improved since last time I faced him. So I was very pleased.
Due to Honda's special lesson, the jikeiko time was shorten to 40 mins or so. As this was *really* the last time I would fight anyone I face, everyone had my maximum level of concentration. So I did try extremely hard to kill anyone in sight.
Practiced with (and additional notes):-
Younger one of the Fujisawa Brothers - I won a lot of kote and twice kote-men...
Matsuoka - Really intense fight.. Almost like kakari-keiko. I found out that if I keep attacking, he can't pick on my openings, and that if I keep attacking, I can see more of his openings..!! Lost a few men but my kote works quite well.
Steve Bishop - There was this kote-men that I really scored with a smile from both sides. And right after that, Bishop got a clean kote, but immediately he stopped and said, "there was no Kime on this one"... I can't stop laughing at that!!
Matsuda - This was probably the first time I feel I am doing something right, about showing my best kendo in order not to let anyone down. Matsuda-san is a well-respected female sempai for everyone and especially for me, so this is one of the more serious yet enjoyable fights of the entire month ..Now I see why I lose my ai-men because my right hand punches too much on the downward swing, and also that I am not using enough left hand. When going for ai-men against a senior, I tried mirroring what my sempai does, which shows my mistakes without them telling me what not to do. Yet, I won a kote and a hiki-men which is quite cool.
Some beginners... - I only cut men, but well-timed clean ippon only. Because it is proper..!
There must be a few more before I got to the last person, but I can't really remember clearly what happened... too long time ago...grr
But it's also because the last fight was just too long that I can only remember this one: Alex Sahla..!
Sahla, as a sensei, intentionally queued for me...
At the beginning 30 sec of the fight right after sonkyo, it was quite normal. But then whenever I want to move (and cut), he saw me coming and just block all of it. Sahla has the most annoying type of blockings for beginners - his te-no-uchi is so strong that when he hits on my shinai, I could feel my waist turning...
"TAME" - no good, he said. I should use more of my "hara" and use my whole body. Once he even screamed "NO" before I nudged forward. Yikes..
That was when everyone else changed their partner when Sahla and I went for what he described as "Shinken shobu" - cut anywhere.
It happens to me before... Like, the first ever time I fight him in Wakaba or something. That was when my killer kote uchi was really good. That was he just stand there opening his mouth when I finished my cut and go for zanshin. That was last summer.
Obviously, being so frustrated doing just ONE cut in the previous 4 mins or so, my killer kote wasn't there.
And then Sahla pulled out some of his weird kamae - jodan, gedan, hasso, migi-hasso, wakigamae.... This is the once and only keiko that he is using that on me. I wonder if it is because I am leaving, or because I am improving to a level where he thinks is situable for me to fight in "his way".
I really tried to do Tsuki-men. I guess twice I managed to touch his mune, and ended up being pushed around at tsuba-zeriai.
We ignored the rotation signal and continued with where we were, which is at the back + side of the dojo. I purposely kiai before everyone changed to their correct partners, just to show Sahla I was still alive.
And once, just that ONCE, when he tried to throw me off balance by pushing my hands to my men, I made a sudden move and cut a clean HIKI-GYAKU-DO...!!
That was sooooo brillant. Sahla even dramatically sank to the ground!! :D
The first time he said "Ippon?" to me (after me smashing his kote that that first practice) - I also won that Ippon by Gyaku-do. In emergency, this is my favourite waza.
The others went for another rotation when Sahla was satisfied with that Ippon. Then he said, "now, kakari-keiko"... Aaawww..! I guess I tensed up too much in the last 10mins+. After a few cuts I pulled my left calf muscles... And have to rest at the side. (don't know why it has created another dramatic scene at the bench...) Also I think somehow it was because of the Iaido practice with too much sitting in Tatehiza.
Therefore I have to sit on the bench when they finished with mokuso. Honda-sensei was thanked by the club for the teaching today.
Sahla had his second embarrasing farewell speech for me. Saying something like "... have a strong spirit to fight against guys twice her size..." uhmm I appreciated that!!
I limped through the changing room and get to the pub on someone else's car. The alcohol intake had the pain under much control... In the pub I returned that log of wood.. I mean that National Iaido Taikai (mudan) trophy to Helena Khan at Iaido. I have to thank her for organizing the farewell dinner tonight.
Actually I brought LOADS of cash to buy everyone a drink. But Sahla came over and paid for that..!! Argh, last thankyou plan ruined.
Then there was another long farewell speech by Sahla again. He presented me with a signed (with everyone's note) card and a wakaba tenugui. Also, the best kendo gift I had ever had - a kendo keikogi with "Musokan Jenny" sewed on it. Size 1. Musokan is the name of Sahla's Iaidojo.
Honda-sensei incidentally joined in my farewell dinner too. When he left I told him, just as I told a lot of the national team members, "See you in Taiwan. Even if I am not fighting, I'll still go and watch."