passed my Ikkyu grading.
The training with the Imperial College guys was very interesting. I was quite overwhelmed by how much etiquette is practised there, though I already expected much stricter code of conduct than we have in Dresden. I made two grave mistakes, one of which resulted in me lying on the floor. First was when I did jigeiko with Miyoshi-san, a senior in the dojo, I used tsuki. This switched his ballistic mode on, and he just showered me with strikes, at which point I actually though, ``Cool! Now comes the real goodies.'' But right after the match he talked towards me and told me, ``You're good. But you're a visitor, and I don't know you. You should not do tsuki against the senior in this dojo.'' I apologised afterwards a thousand times to him about it, and expect my gratitude for practising with me.
The second mistake was when doing jigeiko with Yung-sensei (6th Dan), 48 years old originally from Hong Kong, who still represent it in the World Kendo Championship. When I struck I very often ran into him. Like I'm used to, my zanshin in this situation was raising my arms high and springing backwards with a kiai strong enough to make an earthquake (well, ok.. it's an exaggeration). But it turned out that it can be disrespectful for the Sensei. Again, I switched on his ballistic mode, though this time not so fun any more. I tried to wade off his attack and counter-attack, but he's so fast that I could not do anything. At one point he feinted a men-strike, and I tried to block it while having my kote covered. He then struck three consecutive times harai-kote that put me in complete awe. At one point he pushed me very hard while I ran into him again with my arms over my head, and that just sent me to the ground. I felt I almost penetrated the ground to the floor beneath, and I really had to struggle to get up. What made it worse, he walked backwards shaking his head, which he did a few times. I was thinking at that point, oh dear, what have I done. But he explained to me later that I should go straight through and was very kind.
The exam on Sunday was rather easy for me as the Ikkyu grade in the UK is aimed for people having done kendo for between 6 months and a year. Having said that, I was shaky on the Kihon Kata because in Germany we've never done that, and the sequence of the steps are entirely intuitive. I even forgot to take the Dou off, and no one realised until the end of Ipponme. It was a hectic moment when everyone waited for me.
Not being so eager to know the results of the exam (because there's something that interests me more, and that's to meet the UK kendo community and see what the level and the atmosphere is like), I joined the free-jigiko session of the Mumeishi dojo, where Yung sensei lead the training again. I had very enjoyable matches with three senior kendoka (Ayers, Biscomb, and Foster), and one of them asked me, ``You do kendo like this and you are testing for Ikkyu today?'' I explained that I did almost two years of kendo, and just didn't have the time to come back and grade, he said, ``Nidan, nidan.''
My last jigeiko was with Yung sensei, before I got totally exhausted. We had a decent amount of time. I tried this time always to go through head-straight, and for the couple of times when I could not, I quickly put my arms down and did hiki-men. One time I got a kote with sufficient seme, which I am rather happy with. Some times I knew that sensei will do a men-keishi-do to counter my men, but I went for it anyways. Maybe just to play down myself to respect him? I don't know. Anyhow my centre was strong enough to prevent the strike from reaching my do in time. We ended the match with kote-men uchigomi-geiko. I just kept the thought in my mind, ``Just one more, just one more.'' And kept going until the end. Yung-sensei was very please with my performance.
The practice with Mr. Ayers was memorable too. He had just a strong debana-men technique that really REALLY frustrated me. For three consecutive times, when I went for men I was overpowered by him. How frustrating! It gives me something to think about.
This weekend I slept extremely well, and felt relaxed. In the two training sessions I felt fit again, ready to push myself like before, which is an encouragement for the forthcoming intensive 3.5 weeks of training.
I'm truly grateful for the guys at Imperial, Daniel and Tim, who really took care of me and made me feel home. I hope this is a starting point for new friendships.
Some thoughts from the weekend:
- Review my kendo etiquette.
- Larger stride when doing men.
- Increase my wrist power.
- Try to go through head-straight more in jigeiko.