Friday, May 27, 2011 - Session Thirty

Just finished up with visiting the Chicago Kendo Dojo and I am so fired up! It was a very, very, very different experience than the training style to which I am accustomed. But first! I showed up with my two friends - Katrina and Jason - in tow because I did not bring my own vehicle with me and we bumped into another woman who was there to observe the class. It turns out that she was an Aikidoka who wanted to give Kendo a try and so we all hunted down the entrance together and found it after some brief confusion. It turns out that we had arrived pretty early so we stood around and I began introducing myself to the people who were there. It turns out that there was another visitor as well! From a dojo in London! He was there with his wife on their honeymoon and he was so tall! Eventually, other people began to arrive and a very friendly student named Magic asked me to run through the first four kata with him. I had some trouble remembering the kata, in part because I have been without my attention deficit medication (weeeaaak excuuuuse!!) and in larger part because I need to practice them more often. An older gentleman (and I wish I could remember his name) then ran through the first two kata with me and I made some progress that I will be able to keep with me. After that we put on our do and tare and then circled up for opening warmsups, which were startling for me but I caught up after a few fumbles.

Practice was so intense afterward. There were rotating kihon practices and that was a definite departure from what I have previously experienced. It was good and I feel like I got into the swing of things (classic pun!) quickly enough. A whole lot of men, kote, and kote-men and do. At one point I got to practice my do against the gentleman from London and it was so easy to hit do because he was so tall. I mean he was really, really, really tall. What was really striking me at this point - other than the Chicago kendoka - was how very not tired I was feeling. I suppose that practicing at altitude has its benefits because I only felt hot rather than exhausted and my exercise induced asthma was not kicking in at all. Normally I do not get to enjoy a refractory period but I was fortunate enough to not have to deal with the EIA until after my last jigeiko with Andy, and so I was really able to focus on the input that I was being given from the senpai. One in particular (again I wish I could remember a name) explained to me that a swinging a shinai is a lot like swinging a whip and just that little bit was enough to help me better visualize a concept I have been working to grasp for a long while. Andy kept me going full steam even when I was about to crash and told me that we would not be done until I could come at him with a full long kiai that did not end till I turned around. Normally we do not draw out our kiai at Yamakage and this was something I had been thinking about, and it felt good to draw out the kiai like that. I will definitely be bringing that back home with me! There were some rough moments too though. At one point I felt as though my center of gravity had somehow become heavier while running through and I felt as though I was about to sink into the ground as I slid across the floors. That was weird. And not being able to remember the kata as well as I should have was also a little embarassing, but it mostly provided me with more motivation to really crack down and learn them at last. So even the clumsy moments were positive motivational experiences.

All in all my experience at the Chicago Kendo Dojo was as wonderful as I had hoped. I met some new Kendo people and - although I could not attend second practice at the bar for conversations afterward - I was happy to be able to learn about them all by experiencing their Kendo in practice, and I can say that the students and the teachers at the dojo are all fantastic people. I hope to see them all again. Oh! As I was changing I spoke with a student briefly and she was full up with enthusiasm. It made me feel so good to hear it! She also has family in Denver so I encouraged her to visit either Yamakage Dojo or Ito Dojo the next time she is in town. But I have usurped this laptop from my friend for long enough. Time to have some water and get to bed.

May 28, 2011: Some other thoughts now that the excitement from last night has died down a bit. I took a brief break during jigeiko in order to get my bearings a bit. I was a little confused with how the jigeiko was working but once I got my bearings again I went and got in line to practice with Miyamoto, and I was struck (pun) with how friendly she was during the time that she gave me. She really helped me with drawing out my kiai (as did everyone else) and also striking a men that was more clean. Just another example of how helpful and rad everyone was when I visited. I am also pretty pleased with the shinai welt I got from a very quick kote strike that stung me under the kendogi sleeve. It looks good.


  1. That's so cool that you had a chance to visit another dojo and learn from them! We are heading to Portland this weekend for a taikai and will be training with the dojo down there (Obukan). Our dojo has a tradition of training while out of town, typically when we go for taikai or shinsa, and it's always great to get together with our friends and raise the spirit and energy in the room through the roof!

  2. The old gentleman is either Kumaki senpai or Kanno senpai. From what you wrote he thought you most likely Kanno senpai. It was nice to have you visit us. Hopefully you will keep what was learned with us.