The week before I left, I arranged some overseas shipping company to ship a few boxes of my belongings home. My plan was to ship my bogu by sea - because it is too heavy to be carried onto the plane. However, the first email I got after coming back from Ireland was:-
"Jenny, I know you said you don't want to have a farewell party. But last weekend we've got 20 people interested in having a dinner with you after practice..."
So my initial plan was ruined, and I spent the entire day before I left the UK in the dojo, instead of picking and cleaning up. (Oh well, those things are better to be left until the last minute anyway!!)
(hmm its already Feb and still haven't finished writing this entry??!!)
The night before was my final practice at my home dojo Nenriki. The day was spent doing various suburi as warm-up and then all are spilt into groups of 4-5 for simple uchikomi keiko. Everybody takes turn to be the motodachi. There were still a number of "beginners group leftovers" from last year, surprisingly, so in order to accomodate all levels, the sequence was:-
Men, kote, dou, kote-men, kote-dou, men
My entire time there was just to focus on actually taking cuts from kakari-te properly, making sure that they know what they are going to cut, engaging them into the next cut, etc.
Then there was about 3-4 rounds for "seniors" - i.e. shodan+ to do kakari keiko against one another. Beginners have taken up more then 1/2 of the population of the dojo. When I started 3.5 years ago it was only me and 1-5 others. No more than that. Now - everyone is in bogu...
After that came rounds of mawari-keiko. I was made to stand right to the end and not rotate - so that everyone had a chance to practice with me for a few minutes. Keeping the fact that next time when I come back I need to make them say, "hey Jenny you've improved," I skipped the usual sneak-out-breather and focus every fight of mine at 150%. I must give them my best.
Hit rate of killer-kote waza was lower comparing to lsat week at Ireland, but at least my posture was better.
The final few minutes were devoted to what is known as "Nenriki Kiss" - rows of full kirikaeshi against everyone... Oh this time only against "seniors", so it was about 10 people? Oliver, Dan, David, Neil, Adrian, Tristan, Will, Charles, Mike, Hiro, Vic. The last 3 reeeeeally kills, and I significantly slowed down after the 4th (suddenly thought of that "50% speed, 50% posture" phrase from Honda-sensei). Whoo-ha. Such feeling of success!!
At the usual thankyou time, I remember telling Charles, who was a veteran of the club and taught me a lot when I was a beginner..:-
"When you receive my kirikaeshi but cutting back, it reminds me the first time I did kirikaeshi. Thank you."
(Off work on Sat - continue to that Sat Jan 22)
This day my bogu bag has been the heaviest for the last 3.5 years of kendo. Apart from the regular bogu +iaito for practice, I also brought in my naginata to leave it to Hahn-Morris who is trying to set up a club in London for that, finally. Also for Iaido I returned my Nationals trophy to Helena Khan. I kept wondering if I can still manage ANY iaido in Hong Kong - because I haven't heard of it when I practice there.
With that heavy luggage, I was obviously 5 mins late for iaido at 1pm....argh..
It was a normal session for free practice of Seitei BUT Sahla grabbed me at the corner and started a *special* 30mins 1-on-1 class (!!). Mainly he was flooding me with koryu... Uhmm I mean Muso Shinden Ryu's first 4 Chuden in Tatehiza. Ukigumo was his favourite out of all the koryu, Sahla said. It was 2 weeks ago and I still remember (I have to - sensei will be disappointed if I wasted his time!!), if not the exact detail, at least the steps.
Hardest challenge is the Zanshin at the end of the kata.. Slowly squatting down into a semi-sonkyo / tatehiza position, and HOLDING there. It really hurts my thighs.. Awww.
After going through the four new kata, Sahla and I did all four in one go together.. He is as always, just too confident, fast and smooth. Whenever there is mass do-it-together opportunity, I always ended up thinking, boy, I wish I was half as good as my sensei.
At the final line-up Sahla particularly mentioned about my leave. I really wanted to forget the embarassing speech but it was along the lines of "role model" and "everyone should learn from her dedication", etc. I just kept bowing and smiling...
The day continues onto Kendo - see next entry :)