Last weekend was the 2013 Kansas City Ethnic Enrichment Festival, an event I’ve been going to since 2009. Since I’ve been going to it and reporting on it since 2009, there really isn’t a lot novel to say about it. I don’t think I even posted about it last year, though in retrospect I’m not even sure I was there because our kendo group gave up the Japanese presentation slot to the local taiko drumming group (of whom I have also reported on here before.)
What was different this year was mostly the time that our club was scheduled to perform. Instead of having to wake up early on Sunday morning and drag myself to the far side of Kansas City, I took my kendo gear with me to work and left from there on a Friday afternoon. I was curious about the attendance relatively early on a Friday. We went up onstage at the pavilion at 1830, and the pavilion was just as full as it ever is. Maybe more, actually. We went up after the hula group and did a standard demo, only we started with myself and Mrs. B sparring, which was new. I think having it there as an attention grabber is good. I suggested afterward to sensei that a demo include a refereed point match, because without the context of scoring they may just see people in weird clothes flailing at one another with sticks.
The bad thing about demos is that you get all keyed up to do some kendo, then you generally get to do four shomen strikes (or whathaveyou), sit in seiza on an incredibly hard surface under harsh, hot lights for what seems like an eternity, then the whole affair is over. Mrs. B commented on that, something I’ve felt for a long time, and four of us went to go hide from the public eye and do some unsupervised jigeiko. Being initially hidden from sensei as well as the public, I decided to try jodan because I had recently watched a youtube video demonstrating basics. Of course, mucking about above my experience is like blowing a bugle that summons sensei, and before long I switched back to chudan because I saw him coming. I needed the lecture on my footwork being terrible anyway, because it is.
This past Wednesday, while I am on the subject of kendo, our club was visited by a nana-dan who was in town on a business trip. He was connected to us through the JAS, who I should mention were once again very good to the kendo club at the Ethnic Festival the week before. We did a lot of basics, then the ikkyu and up got to do jigeiko with our visitor in turn. It is always different sparring with visitors to the club. We do jigeiko with sustained striking instead of “resetting” after each successful pass. It definitely builds up your will to endure, but it has a very different rhythm to the more usual shiai oriented practice. I suppose between the uncertainty of doing kendo with someone so highly ranked and my desire of adapting myself to the different style of jigeiko, I was put out of sorts a bit. But it was an interesting experience to play with someone of his rank, though I’m sure I bored him to tears with my clumsy kendo.
I really need to do kendo more. It is my intention to go to the testing and tournament in Chicago this fall, and I want to be physically and mentally prepared for it. I have been practicing with my suburito more often, because I want to be faster and not get tired so quickly. I have also been practicing the kata on my own quite a bit. Both of those are things that are all too easy to ignore, especially when my regular club attendance has been so irregular.
Whether I can make shodan this fall, or get past the first round of the mudansha tournament (or even score a single pont for that matter), or even make it to Chicago in the first place (no cool trips out of town are ever a sure thing since graduation), and even though I’ve been terrible about getting to practice regularly, I still love kendo.