Yesterday the Japanese Senseis from the Czech seminar came to Dresden for a one-day visit. Stephan and I took them first to the Swiss Saxony and then the historical part of Dresden for sight-seeing. It turned out better than I expected, and I think all of them enjoyed the tour.
In the evening we had 1.5 hours of practice. Ninomiya Sensei lead the training, in the Kobukan way. Jindra and I demonstrated the practice. It was a good turn-out from the Dresden club, joined by friends from Leipzig.
While practising kihon, Yamanaka Sensei pointed out that many people, when striking sayu-men and dou, are not gripping the shinai with the left hand correctly. They should not be let loose but kept tight, so that the strikes are solid.
I asked Ozawa Sensei earlier during the day how he thought about my men-uchi. He said I should tuck my chin in, and we would practise again in the evening. So after the kihon and waza-geiko, I queued up for him. I made a couple of solid men-strikes, and he smiled and said, "men-uchi, ok, ok". When we finished, he told me I have improved. He has a distinctive way of expressing it. He says, "up, up."
He said a few times that I should go again to Kobukan, so that my kendo can improve consistently. I hope this year I manage to do it again with the working schedule.
Just before we started jigeiko. We sat in seiza and watched Yamanaka-Sensei practising with Hara-Sensei. They started already while we were doing waza-geiko, so in total they probably continuously fought for 15 minutes. In the end Hara-Sensei was completely exhausted while Yamanaka-Sensei was still making continuous strikes, but he still kept going.
My second jigeiko was with Yamanaka Sensei. The time was just up and everyone else started kakari-keiko. However, he directed me to the side, and had about 3 minutes jigeiko with me. Of course, I was not able to do anything against him, but I just tried to do good strikes.
In closing, Yamanaka Sensei made a speech to us. He said that Kihon is the most important element of kendo, having a good posture and be able to do big cuts are fundamental for good kendo. "One - kote, two - men. If they are ok, then do kote-men and kote-dou. Progress step by step." "During one's kendo development, if one meets a wall that he can not pass, he must go back to the basics and start again." I was truly grateful for his words which contained a lot of wisdom. This is how I feel in learning many things, not just kendo. He then said that he saw everyone's hard effort and hoped that one day we can practise again.
We farewelled with the Senseis with lots of hand shakes and picture-taking. After this meeting, and the Czech seminar, I felt I have a even tighter bond with Sensei, and kendo. I feel I get a lot of pleasure meeting new people that are from completely different backgrounds and cultures. More and more I realised that people are as important as the sword in kendo. Without partners to train, we would not improve. People who are generous and understanding are better training partners than those who just care about defeating the opponent. This is how kendo cultivates one's personality, and educates how one can overcome competition and pressure with a big heart and a gracious attitude.