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.