Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I'm Back

After a short period of 2 weeks I am back well rested, energetic and ready to convey all my interesting experiences to you!! This first piece of the 2 week puzzle is the key to the whole thing, the first day of my holidays; also my first Kendo tournament.

The morning of Friday, 23rd of December started out like all Kendo tournament day mornings start out….. EARLY! As “the unwritten Kendo code of honour” clearly dictates, “thou shalt arrive at Kendo Dojo under cover of darkness while great Kendo spirits are still sleeping” this being rule number 1 of “the unwritten Kendo code of honour; Tournament day chapter” rules 2 through 5 are always soon to follow:
Excerpt from “the unwritten Kendo code of honour”
Rule 2: thou shalt always have kiai – fighting spirit
Rule 3: thou shalt scream “Yes”, “Please teach me” and “Thank you” with all thy might at the pre-tournament gathering
Rule 4: Thou shalt feel no pain in battle, thou shalt fight so hard and with so much tenacity thy hand shalt cleave to thy sword
Rule 5: Thou shalt scream so hard in battle that for the next 2 days thou shalt have no voice

I know I followed those rules to the letter. We loaded our bus and made the trip to our destination, my host sister’s high school- home to one of the strongest Kendo teams in Nagasaki. Arrival was 7am, battle did not start until 10am, what do you do to fill in 3 hours? Freeze to death and train with your team. 9:30am saw the arrival of my host parents and my English teacher friend Jeff along with his wife who happens to be my AFS supervisor. This being my first Kendo tournament it was really nice to have the support of family and friends (let us keep in mind that in a gym full of 400-500 Kendo players I had the least experience of them all). Once again I was informed that I had come to the wrong conclusion about this Kendo tournament; I thought it was a team’s event…. It was a singles knock out competition- FREAK OUT! My game was not until 2:30pm so I had a good amount of time to motivate myself, study the competition and realize how truly in over my head I was. All the participants in my division had 11 years experience and 1 or 2 black belts on me (they were all veteran 2nd or 3rd dan black belts and I was the new 1st dan black belt) and Nagasaki is home to some of the strongest Kendo high schools in Japan…. FREAK OUT!!!

The time came for my battle, I was geared up and had “the unwritten Kendo code of honour” firmly ingrained in my memory. Just before I entered the battleground I was informed that my opponent came from the 2nd strongest boys team in Nagasaki and was a 2nd dan black belt, how is that for peace of mind! I walked onto the battlefield and drew my sword (bamboo), looked my opponent in the eyes and gave him the most blood chilling look you may have ever seen. BEGIN! The Referee screamed and with that one word came a blood curdling cry, the battle was on. It raged all over, with each hit gasps and screams came from the crowd as time stood still for these two warriors. A hit to the head! Judges flags moved up and down as one referee calls a point soon to be overruled by another referee. In the crowd people’s fingers were crossed, finger nails were bitten as looks of desperation and hope flashed across their faces as both combatants gave everything. The battle raged on like this into the final moments until one warrior had finally scored 2 points to win, unfortunately that player was not me.

I left the battlefield feeling quite defeated (pun intended). Not only because I had lost but because I had come so close to winning. Everyone was shocked at my level of Kendo for such a short period of time and I got a special mention by a nation wide renowned teacher in the closing ceremony.

There is more work to be done,