As I was slightly too busy and tired after moving country and applying for a job that I didn't get in the end... I took a 2-week break from all practices.
This Sat I went to my base dojo in Hong Kong - last time I was there was 13 months ago...
In the changing room I spotted 2 girls wearing their bogu. They were not in bogu last time I saw them, so it is nice too see them again, and I was looking forward to practising with my kohai (at last!!).
The only person I contacted before hand was Eda Chan-sensei, the female team captain for the last WKC, 5th Dan, and also secretary for the HK assocation.
When I went to greet her and pick up some registration forms, she adviced me to get to the weekly team training on Sun morning (yikes..! =_=" ) - mainly because there is not a lot of girls practising kendo..! Well, sounds familiar...
She went on to explain a little bit about the training. 9am-10.30am: jikeiko. 10.30am- 12pm: training. "... Sometimes it's quite tiring. We had done 100 times only kirikaeshi before. But it'll be good for your kendo..." Guess... It is inevitable to get to there eventually (1.5 hr away from home.. Sunday morning...zzzz), and especially when I want to get into the 13th WKC team..
The warm-up we had was much more interesting then the last time I done it in Hong Kong. I reckon that is because this year they've somehow changed the national team coach (or at least, the training method and routine). Nothing too hardcore, but everyone had to do a few sit-up, push-up, pull-up, etc. - with kiai. We were asked to re-do some just because kiai wasn't strong enough!
There were children's class before this adult session, but the level of my group of 12 has a range of kyu grades to 3rd Dan. The dojo was filled with half Japanese and half locals, with Eda-sensei overseeing, and also a visiting Tanaka-sensei. Funny enough, Eda-sensei teaches in Japanese + English + Cantonese.. Not confusing but just funny :D
We did some fumikomi exercises. The most difficult one being a one-step-one-cut shomen-suburi WITH FUMIKOMI, and you have to stop on the downward strike. It is very easy to be dragged forward or off-balance if you are not using enough of your hara. Also without hara the fumikomi gets weak.
Then goes fully armoured kihon. Men-uchi, kote-uchi, kote-men at various speed and distance. My kote-uchi pops so much and I am really happy about it (and kiai in ecstasy was heard)...
At the 2nd half of the practice was jikeiko. As Eda-sensei was leading the children's group doing other kihon, the most challenging person was Tanaka-sensei. His face, age and posture reminds me of Salmon-sensei from Mumeishi London ... Anyway, I was having this attitude of "showing my best" again, and it helps my concentration and spirit. Fighting him really makes me feel that I am not working hard enough. Everything he said, to me or the others, was too familar. Say, I have to go more forward, use more hara, and lift shinai forward first before raising it above head for seme. Or for everyone, too much right hand (esp on the upward swing, shinai went like hitari-jodan, which is a no-no). I completely lost all my ai-men... Well, not completely - I was only 0.01sec slower, and it's not like my cut doesn't even pop.
Once, only that once, I made that stupid fumikomi - he shaked, opening himself and taking my very-straight Men.
After taking off bogu the rest of them got to do kata but I escaped (erhmm just this once, as I was rushing to some end-of-year family gathering dinner). When we took off our bogu, the Japanese speaking Tanaka-sensei asked where I trained. I said London for 3.5 years. And he told me my timing is quite good.
Cool. For a moment I feel rather proud of my training.