Today was an exhausting day. The Greater Kansas City Japan Festival was held again by the Heart of America Japan-America Society of Kansas City. I was involved in workshops and demonstrations all day. It started out for me with the iaido workshop, which was attended fairly well. We lent bokuto to about a dozen people and performed two or three kihon waza. Here I got to feel confident and cool, but that changed after the workshop when we went up on stage to do the demonstration.
I went up onstage with my iaido school, Ginga Dojo, which is a part of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, and is run by Jon Andresen sensei. His sensei (and by extension my sensei) is named Emily Egan sensei, and she flew up from Texas to participate this weekend. I felt awkward and stupid the whole time I was up there, because my left knee is still jacked up from playing ball, and I can’t sit seiza right now. So I had to stand up during the intial reishiki, but I don’t know the standing reishiki, so I just sort of fumbled along and looked stupid. I performed the first two waza, then stepped back for the more advanced ones and watched. Then Brian stepped out with me, and then Stephanie stepped back and in the end Jon sensei and Emily sensei were up there looking flawlessly cool just the two of them.
After that my kendo club (KC Kendo Club) did their demonstration, but I didn’t want to rush to change and have to leave my iaido uniform crumpled backstage until it was over, so I just watched from the wings. There were three other schools doing martial arts after iaido and kendo, but I didn’t have a good viewing angle to really see anything except for the aikido folk. From what little I did see, and from what I heard, these schools have their demos down pat. There were some apparently well rehearsed jokes and a little hamming it up, and they had very dramatic routines they went through. I don’t really know what I’m looking at when it comes to their arts, so I won’t comment on it outside of that.
The demonstrations ran about twice as long as they were scheduled, so I grabbed the bundle of shinai and trotted on over to where the kendo workshop was to take place. It was outside in Fountain Square, and there was already a group of people eagerly waiting for it to start. I think we had something like twenty-five spare shinai to let people handle, but there were about fifty or sixty people there in all. They were mostly younger children and otaku teenagers, though there were a few older people as well. We started out with an abbreviated version of a beginner’s class. Drakey sensei being Drakey sensei we ended up doing a little over two hundred shomen suburi. Welcome to KC Kendo, folks, this is you getting off easy. As sempai we were lined up on one side facing the crowd, those who had shinai lined up facing us. I guess there were about eight or nine of us, including a Japanese nana-dan who was there on vacation and ended up being conscripted by Drakey sensei, who put him in his spare set of bogu. After the warm-up, and they were shown shomen and kote, we lined up and let them form two columns to run through us hitting us with shinai. One little girl thought it was great to hit as hard as she could, but she was the only “power hitter”, everyone else being rather polite about it. Which is good, because I had some apprehension about random festival goers lining up to whack me in what they believed to be the kote.
We even let them do their best to try and hit us in some limited sparring. This kid was pretty cool. He had been across from me during the kihon suburi instruction, and was giving me these serious “I’m going to kill you” faces. When we grouped up for the limited sparring I ended up complaining to Anton, “nobody wants to fight me!”, and this kid runs over, “I’LL fight YOU!”. After that Drakey sensei had the crowd line up to watch us jigeiko. I wasn’t really in the right frame of mind and didn’t do very well. I sparred with James, and he chased me down a couple times and hit me during my turn after I had hit and run through. We didn’t go for very long, so it was over before I even got my mind settled into it. I think the goal is to eventually be able to transition into the “budo state of mind” at will, or rather ALWAYS be there, but I’m not there yet.
I regret that I don’t have both a group photo from afterward, and some general “walking around” pictures. I forgot the batteries to my own camera, and Ma didn’t really take too many pictures, and those only of the things I was doing. There are always a lot of excitable otaku doing cosplay, and there are always a lot of people doing interesting workshops and wearing authentic traditional clothing. There are more Japanese folk living in Kansas City than you’d expect (more than I expected, anyway), and many of them come out for the festival. The GKC J-Fest is very good, and there are great workshops and performances.
I ran into a couple people I know, but not as many as I expected. I thought I would see my former math teacher for sure, Mrs. C, because her and her daughter are cosplayers and big into anime. I saw one of my Heathen acquaintances and chatted with him for a while (it’s funny how many Heathens are interested in Japanese culture that I’ve run into). I saw Jake, a former classmate of mine from Japanese class at JCCC and said hello to him. I also stopped and said hello to Virginia, another former classmate from Japanese class, who was working as a volunteer as she often does. I ran into a punk friend of mine with his family and said hello. I was also glad I got to speak for a while with Rumbach sensei, who asked me how KU was going and we exchanged other such pleasantries. I didn’t have much to say, but I was happy to say it, and it feels weird NOT being in her class this semester. It took me what? Three or four years to get four semesters of Japanese credit. I felt like I was ALWAYS going to be Rumbach sensei’s “problem child”. I saw another friend of mine from Japanese class, Kyle, but I couldn’t get his attention through the window, and there was no door to use to go say hello, unfortunately. He was part of a little study group we did every morning in the library, which is another thing I miss about JCCC.
I bought myself three new tenugui, not because I needed them, but because they were only two dollars a piece, and I want to have tenugui that didn’t come free from e-bogu (like almost everyone wears). They had kaku obi in the merchant area for only twenty-five dollars, but they only had mustard yellow left by the time I got around to looking at them. I was doing demos and workshops all day, so I didn’t get to the bizarre until well after just about everything cool had already been snagged. I ate a red bean pancake, and that made me feel better. It was a great time, and it pretty much always is, isn’t it? I spent most of the day dehydrated and irritated because I hadn’t had enough to eat, but I fixed that soon enough after it was all done. Another year also went by that I waited too long to try and get a T-shirt. They always have a bunch of tiny shirts left, and you’d think they’d learn to order more XL and above. It was interesting all around, and it’s kind of funny how the first year I went to one of these I wandered around taking classes, and then slowly transitioned into spending the entire day being a part of putting classes on.