My first Keiko

The night was sultry....... sorry i had to start it that way because it was and i have always wanted to write that, any way...... I was standing in my new armor, facing a newly minted yondon. Thats  the equivalent to a  fourth degree black belt in the art of Kendo. I knew my chances were slim but the art demands i push forward. 

Allow me a moment to explain what I am wearing, I am dressed in a Hakama, thats kind of like a kimono but made of heavier cotton instead of silk, and full bogu. Bogu includes heavy gauntlet style fingerless gloves to protect the hands, these are called "Kote"
Also the "Tare", a five paneled semi skirt that protects the groin. The "Dou" which i can only describe as a huge salad bowl strapped to your chest. And the "Men" which is very hard to describe.  Its a helmet that covers the head on the top and sides with an open back. The face is protected by an titanium grill not unlike those seen on a classic chevy sedan from the fifties. now where was I, ah yes push forward. 

The gentlemen standing in front of me has ben doing this nearly twenty years, so I know there is no chance in hell i am  going to hit him. I also face a few obstacles, I am heavier than i should be, my nose is itching like mad and I cant reach it to save my life, i am already out of breath from attempting the kihon or basic techniques we were shown, and sweat has started to drip into my eyes. And now I am supposed to attack this guy and make it worth something. Now history tells of classic battles and brave efforts and I really really wish i could say this was one, but it isnt. He strikes my Men, the most basic of our targets, and tells me to atack back. As I try he hits men again, and again as i retreat and tehn he strikes Kote as I stand there wondering what happened.

This may seem a bit one sided, as it did to me whilst being pummeled. But then the hard drive in my head starts to whir. I start to realize all the lessons, well most of them, I have been taught in anticipation of this moment. Lessons about posture, movement, control, breathing, and determination. All these words are rushing back into my head, which is still a wide open target. I am struck probably fifteen to twenty more times in the two minute bout. This is my first time to face an opponent in Keiko, our version of open sparring. The funny thing is after all this, as we take sonkyo, which is a standing bow of sorts, i proudly and silently declare my self the winner. He has taught me enough in one two minute round that i will lay awake for the next two nights replaying this in my mind. He has imparted knowledge that i cannot yet understand into my pea sized view of this art called Kendo. But I soon will start to.

I have been sore for three days now and am starting to walk normally. My head hurts a little on top where i have been struck and my wrist is turning back to a normal color. The subtle smile on my face will be here for a life time, For I have started the most exciting journey of my life.

Oh did I mention there were at least seven other players waiting to cave in my skull after that. Man was I tired.

Thanks to all my Sensei and Sempai for this opportunity. It will not be forgotten, or taken lightly.


Damn, I have writers block. I have a ton of ideas rattling around in my head and cant get one onto papaer, so to speak, My blog has hit a rock in the river, see post below.


Jo-ha-kyû And A River Of Crocodiles

I have been introduced to a new phrase and reminded of an old one. My new phrase is Japanese, it is
Jo-ha-kyû. Loosely translated it means slow, fast, faster: Or also beginning, middle, end. And yet another translation is slow, fast, rest. However it is translated the definition tends top be the same, a sense of accelerating action. One of my sensei said that it is to be thought of as a river. As the water runs down that river it moves slowly, then accelerates as it crashes around rocks and debris, moving faster, as it finds its way, then returning to a calm state of relaxed movement as it begins to flow calmly again. This movement
is alive in every aspect of everything around us. In kendo we use it to describe the flow of Kata, or our regimented practice drills. In all kata there is a sense of relaxation at the start, then danger is sensed. Quick rapid movement is used to quell this danger and after the threat is gone things return to a relaxed but aware flow. Relaxed but still moving.

My old phrase is one I learned years ago as a beginner in Tae Kwon Do. Our head instructor always said, Just because the water is calm, doesn’t mean the crocodiles are gone. This is a bit more straight forward. Approaching a calm still body of water, the surface is smooth, but danger lies underneath. Lying in wait i9s a large crocodile. You cant see him, but he is there, much as the normal dangers in life. I am not aware of a large crocodile problem in the streets of Garland Texas, but around every corner is the possibility of trouble.

In my personal life, most recently I have come across many rocks and crocodiles. I have family members and close friends that are in personal crisis of one kind or another. Some medical, some emotional, and some physical, and for some a combination of these. For me, their crocodiles are my rocks. As I go down my river and come across these rocks, I must remind my self of the movements I must make to continue my journey down stream.

A great martial artist by the name of Bruce Lee once did an interview where he described water as it entered a space.”

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way round or through it.”

“If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.”
Bruce Lee

The human body is roughly 75% to 80% water. I think it is funny that as bodies of water we tend to do everything we can not to follow these simple principles, both physically and in the flow of our daily lives. Go to a creek or river and take a look at the lesson that nature is teaching us. Water as it moves down stream has no choice but to continue its journey, gravity pulls it along much as time pulls us through our journey. It must flow around, under and through its obstacles. So Must we.

Life is truly a river, it flows fast sometimes. Sometimes, too fast for us to keep our heads above water. We feel like we are going to drown. If we can remember to hold our breath long enough to get around our rock and past our crocodiles, just long enough to resurface, we will find out that any obstacle can be overcome.

I often fall back on my martial arts training, the only real training I have ever taken seriously, when faced with problems. Sometimes it works and I stay afloat, sometimes I go under. I always resurface to get the next breath of fresh air. I will continue my journey. Hopefully you can think about these phrases and they can give you some perspective next time you come to a rock or crocodile in your river.


Meaning Of No Meaning

Sunday's practice was the last For one of our sensei in my dojo. Sensei Ken Onishi is returning to Japan to live in Kobe. Onishisan has been one of my instructors from the begining and even though i have not made it to Bogu yet, Bogu is what we call our armor for practicing Kendo, Onishisan has taught me volumes. Some of the exercises he taught us in Knendo, have made their way to my students in my TKD class. As many of his pointers as I have been able to remember have also made that journey. One of my favorite is the phrase "No Meaning". If you do not do the technique coreectly it has no meaning. In an art where how you do something is as important if not more important than what you are doing this phrase takes on a whole new light. If you dont do what you are doing, be it Kendo or a test at school or even working at a relationship, if you dont do it with all your heart and all your spirit, then it will have "No Meaning" i hope to be able to expound on this in later posts, but for now I will just contemplate the words of Onishissan and try to work them into my life and my spirit.

As for Ken Onishi...... Have a good journey Sensei. You have inspired me more than you shall ever know with your spirit, your style of teaching and your Kendo.  Arigato Gozaimashita.


KI Feeling the power

Last night was our second and final night with Sato Sensei. Here in Texas we are prone to some pretty bad thunderstorms. As we practiced last night, a pretty severe storm rolled through. No one noticed. About thirty people of all different levels of Kendo were engaged in "Keiko" or practice. Standing in a cricle swinging our shinai and letting the Ki flow. This energy filled the room as the feeling of one voice counting as we did drills...
Ichi...Ni...San...Shi.... as we did our last warm up excercize, a drill called Hia Suburi, the enrgy levle in the room felt like the walls were about to explode. I can honestly say it was a spiritual experience. Many thanks to Sato Sensei and his wife for coming to the US to share this gift with us. I am not yet in full armor, but as a begining student was still able to gleem some knowledge off this man.
Domo Arigato Gozaimashita...Sato Sensei.


Sato Sensei

Tonight Sato Hiromitsu Sensei visited our class.  This man is an amazing talent in the world of Kendo, He was the world Kendo mens champion in 2003. He was extremely nice and full of great tips and even a few cool tricks. My thanks to Sato Sensei for his gracious visit.



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