Thursday, December 08, 2005

Black belt weekend

Yes ladies and gentleman it is official, I have obtained my Black belt in the most ancient Japanese Martial Art of all, Kendo. For those of you who really have no idea what Kendo is, picture Tom Cruise in “The Last Samurai” pulling off cool sword moves, that is kendo.

The period of getting ready for the Black belt test took about 1 month. During this time period I had to learn a Kata- A series of movements displaying different positions, strikes and forms of the Martial Art, you could almost call it a dance. I also had to learn the names of positions, improve my game play (the fighting/ sword play) and write an Essay about why I started Kendo (I wrote it in English and then it was translated). The test itself consisted of my Essay being submitted and marked by the committee of Judges, performing my Kata for the Judges and playing 2 games of Kendo with other test applicants (the Judges marked us on our form). Before I talk about the weekend let me first explain this, like any other Martial Art, obtaining a Black belt in Kendo is considered quite difficult. The Judges mark on a complex criteria and everything from your Kata right down to how neat your uniform is, needs to be perfect.

The test took a full weekend to complete. Friday night and Saturday were spent perfecting the details of our Kata’s and game play with the teachers who would be our Judges on the exam day. While everybody was working very hard it was a fantastic time getting to know the other exam applicants, everybody else was a Junior High school student. Obviously I being the only foreigner provided a lot of entertainment for everybody, there were too many funny incidents to list. I had one girl say “Happy Birthday” to me in English, I replied with “Thanks a lot, but it isn’t my Birthday” in Japanese, we had a good laugh. I had another boy who, when he heard I was from Australia would greet me by saying “Aborigine” and I had another boy who just couldn’t believe I was a white guy and taking the exam, he made this clear by gaping at me every time he saw me.

Sunday morning started with an early rise at 6:30am. I had to check my equipment and make sure it was in working order, I also had to eat Breakfast. At 7:30 my Host Dad and I hopped in the car and headed to the venue for an 8am preparation period. It started raining heavily so I ran for the Venue from the car and my Host Dad headed home, that is when I realized no one else was there, it was 7:55am. I calmed myself down and called my friend (I really don’t know what I would do without a mobile phone)
“Hey man where are you?” I said
“Uhh I’m at the test site, where are you?” he replied.
“I’m at the venue where we were training”
“Haha you idiot, the test is at the city Martial Arts Dojo”
“Right, where is that?”
“Hold on a second..” I am totally freaking out by now, I don’t want to miss this exam, I paid $200 for it.
“Jesse are you there?” my friend asked.
“Yeah I’m here”
“The captain of our team and his Mum are coming to pick you up”
The captain and his mum arrived, I was thanking them profusely for picking me up. It turns out the Martial Arts Dojo was only 5 minutes away, so I got there with plenty of time to spare.

The rest of the day went well. I won both games I played, the Judges loved my Essay and my Kata was almost perfect. The Judges congratulated me on a job well done, they were very surprised to find out I have only been playing Kendo for 7 months and said my skill level is fantastic for such a short period of time. Most of all I was ecstatic about obtaining the belt, it was my goal from the beginning, now I need a new goal. My Host Dad got the whole test on video, my Host Parents, family, friends and most of all my teacher were unbelievably happy. I would like to officially thank all these people for continually motivating me to be the best I can be, but most of all I thank God (no I’m not being a cliché Music Artist, I am serious) because without him on my side I may never have accomplished this.

More Japan stories to come,