Last Sat I went to the keiko before the "Regional Kendo Tournament" - which is an invitational thing for dojos in Mainland China. Apart from the neighbouring team Macau, there were teams from Guangdong, Shanghai and Beijing. One thing different from the last Asian Tournament is that, this taikai is aim for Chinese and not Japanese. So it's good to see Chinese at my generation intereseted in Japanese traditional culture finally, besides the hatred and whatever indifference they had before.
As I just got off work, I only managed the last 30 mins or so. Yip told me to practice with Sueno Eiji-Sensei (8Dan Kyoshi from Kagoshima, winner of '79 AJKC, winner of All-Japan 8thDan taikai '02), but then that was a massive queue of 10+ people. I might end up not having ANY keiko, so I just said onegaishimas to some visitors - at least, I got some exercise to make my 2-hour return journey worthwhile.
I found some guys from Guangzhou (captial city of Canton Provience, nearest to HK) and Shanghai. All of the visitors had their full names on their zekken which gave me a headache remembering who they were (imagine you can read everything - and it's just information overload)... Kendo-wise I had a good sweat. They have good kendo, and probably just did shinsa an hour before... their level is below me. But then I m not in shape, forgot when's the last serious practice I had, and extremely tired after 5.5-day of work... Recalling what Honda-sensei said about "fighting someone junior half a grade above them" - I tried but in the end, I could only make it to the same level of kendo. For some of the cuts I could have countered or aggressively attacked, I simply stood there and did nothing. The rate of errors made in debana and hiki waza is extremely high too.
Towards the final 2 mins when "last keiko" was shouted, and when Kishikawa-sensei was "resting" on the opposite side, I walked into his line and bow - and I had no idea why I was up for a keiko with him. Probably on one side I was trying to be sorry for not going to the squad, and on the other telling him I was still practising, for, welll, a little... What I got from that keiko was how "easy" for him to escape from my hiki-men: he just did the very proper type of nuki waza by stepping to one side. Simple. Other people didn't do that because, A) they were too concern to block, and B) they were of a lower level.
Everybody seemed to be rusihing off for food for some reason, and none of them said a word.
The following morning I had a hard time getting up at 8am again after missing a lot of sleep during the week... When I arrived "Lei Yu Mun Sports Centre" (Only managed to find out how to get there on the internet before I picked up my bogu from home) - they were doing the opening ceremony/ line-up thing.
Usually at this kind of situation (not fighting) I would volunteer as a helper, scoreboarding, ribbon-typing, whatever. But strangely there were more than enough for the day, and all I could do was to watch, support Team HK, and take photos. I also got the odd job of holding the camera(s) before lunch at their "photo call". Though I must mention that digital SLR of Takeyasu-sensei (President of AJKF) will be something worth saving up for, if my salary could ever afford that!
The two major cities in China, mainly Beijing and Shanghai, at least in my opinion has a relatively higher standard of kendo from the local Chinese. Not sure if that has anything to do with the presence of Japanese students (which HK has none) or businessmen (which HK have a lot). But out of the 10 teams from 5 cities (inc. Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Macau, besides HK) - HK Team A definitely had their advantage as it was made up of 2 yondan, 2 sandan with lower grades as subsitutes. Other teams had people from kyu to, at most, 3 dan, which made some of the fights not as exciting to watch because of the big gap in level.
... Or maybe I was just really tired. Also that the lighting was horrible for photo-taking. At one point (after lunch) I was napping right next to one corner of the court, despite the fact that there were loud kiai and strong fumikomi on the floor.
Actually one of the more exciting things I'd seen that day was some Iaido embu. Cheung was on one of those 8.30am sunday session when I happened to have the mood to pop-up months ago. But seeing his Iaido in an Embu context was a different feeling. He was in all white doing shoden to okuden Muso Shinden Ryu kata. I had that *flash* of Alex Sahla's face. Whoops.
I did chat Cheung up and found that he had participated in some All-Japan taikai under Niigata-ken's team. With the iaido conversation running again, I really think that I should fix my career crisis a.s.a.p. My interests are all suffering all because of it. Damn.
For most of the time I was sitting with HK Team B (Ng, Leo, Amy, Fanny, Agnes) when they weren't fighting. It's probably the team I would have made into *if* I attend the squad in the past 3 months. Overall they got from being nervous to overcoming the fear, and then too eager all of a sudden, which in the end made them to the semi-finals. Everyone gained a few points and then lost a few for the team. Too much getting drawn into the level of the opponent. You cut, I cut. You push, I push... that sort of thing. But if I was the one fighting, wouldn't I be making the same mistakes?
At Godou keiko I practiced with a girl from Guangzhou, a Portuguese woman from Macau, a guy from Guangzhou and another one from Shanghai, all supposedly my juniors, followed by Wan-sensei (Fanny's sensei). Now I felt kinda sorry for those coming a few hours by flight to fight with someone so tired and dead. I came to keiko as a matter of respect and appreciation of their willingness to travel, which is something I haven't done for quite a long time (almost a year.)