Writing a little bit late here, but October 5th was the Kansas City Japan Festival, and once again I went out in support of this event with the Kansas City Kendo Club. As always it was a good time. I saw not as many familiar faces this year, but that may be because I was very focused on the kendo portion, and was also feeling the onset of a cold. I dragged myself out of bed and down the highway, knowing that once I got there I’d feel better, but not very motivated at all when I woke up.
There was little build up to the demo. It was at 1300, I think, and when I got there almost nobody was in the Fountain Square. The club began trickling in, and then promptly at 1300 there was a sudden crowd. A lot of smaller school children, all wearing the same T-shirt, probably somebody’s entire class for some reason. At first I didn’t think we’d have enough people, then I didn’t think we’d have enough shinai, but it all worked out. Somewhere in the middle of the workshop the schoolkids disappeared and were replaced by random folks, and I didn’t see that happen but just noticed it.
For the workshop we did a basic introduction course. We don’t really do anything special or fancy, it’s sort of like we’re having a normal practice and a bunch of new people just happen to show up. Whenever that happens on regular nights it’s footwork – footwork – footwork – how not to kill yourself. The crowd always gets really hype when we let them line up and hit us. I tell you, there is always ONE person, normally a small child, who does their level best to hammer you into the ground. This year it was a grinning little girl of maybe six. I never forget my extra wrist pad for these things.
After I walked around and did a quick spin through the merchant area. It seems like every year there’s one more manga and anime knick-knack seller, and they’re all about the same level of cruddiness. There was a group selling handcrafted clay stuff, and they were pretty cool, though. Also there was the usual jumble of stuff sold by the Japanese ladies in the big room, like books and magazines and whatnot. I wanted to get in the line to look at the children’s books, but it was long. Then I thought about how I never really do anything with the ones I’ve already bought, so left off.I though about getting some Japanese snacks, but like the anime and manga stuff there really isn’t anything there you can’t get locally anyway. I take that back, I saw an Azumanga Daioh statuette of Tomo and Father than I had a spasm of desire to buy, and there were some Yotsuba statuettes too. But I really have no use for vinyl stuff like that, especially at those prices. But yeah, I skipped the snacks and wen to the cafeteria area for real food. I was surprised when I got to the register and some yakitori, rolls, and a can of Dr Pepper was $16, but I didn’t want to put it down after I had it on my plate. It’s good stuff, but it’s not $16 good. So, there was that.
After parting with my precious monies for fleeting satisfaction, I wandered backstage to wait for the demonstration. This year we were on at the very last, which suits me fine. The people before us were doing tameshigiri, which was kind of interesting. It’s something I’d like to try, but I won’t have the dosh for a shinken for probably… never, I’d wager. They tried to clean up, but they were mostly concerned about the water they got everywhere, and it must not have occurred to them that bamboo splinters all over the place isn’t great for people about to do some barefoot stuff. Still, nobody got speared through the foot so I guess it was clean enough.Normally I don’t like demos. You go up and sit in seiza on a rockhard stage under blinding and intensely hot lights, then wobble to your feet to do four men strikes or whatever, then go back to punishing your knees for the rest of the time. This time I got called up to demonstrate some sparring, which I was totally up for. I even managed to get a decent dou strike off, which is probably worthy of a blog post all by itself…
Like this year’s Ethnic Enrichment Festival, a couple of us took the time after the workshop to do a little unsupervised sparring. Mr. A and myself had a go at one another, and I enjoyed myself. The grass was uncut and wet, so we were limited to where we could spar without breaking our ankles, but we managed. I think I saw one of my old classmates from Japanese class and wanted to say hello, but he appeared to be doing something with bokuto and I was doing the sparring thing. I don’t see as many folk from school at these things as I used to, and this year I didn’t even see any of my old teachers, which is unusual. The Japan America Society folks greeted me with the usual warmth, though, and I look forward to that. They are nice folks, and I really need to make the time to go those meetings again.
Anyway, after the demonstration there was some talk about a group outing for food. I love this sort of thing, and we hadn’t done it in a long while. I think that every once in a while a club has to socialize outside of practice to build a little camaraderie, and food is good for this. We headed out to a pizza joint at College and Pflumm. We had some pie and beer and lots of good conversation, and the desired increase in camaraderie was achieved, I believe. Here is a fudged panoramic shot of the club at dinner:
There was some talk about the upcoming tournament and testing in Chicago. I think five or seven of us are going, one of which is myself, and I am very much looking forward to it. Still working on the travel arrangements and hotel room, but most everything else is in order. I need to get a draft of my essay question to sensei this week. I think I’m doing “explain ki-ken-tai-ichi”. My plan is to do the first draft tomorrow evening.
On a side note, I also went to Fall Recruits 2013 this year. I didn’t do a blog post about it when it happened, mostly because there really wasn’t anything to say. I understand they’re only doing the fall convention from here on out, and this year with the change in coordinators it seemed a little under-attended. I’m told there was more stuff I didn’t see downstairs, including a 40k grab box thing that Mr. B failed to tell me about when he reported back from his scouting (him not having an eye for 40k things…) but at any rate, it just seemed subdued. I did get to sort through a bits bin and got four lascannons and a servo-arm back pack for $2, so I felt pretty happy about that part, at least.
Returning to kendo, it’s starting to get dark and cool these days. I want to move to Saturdays, but this weekend didn’t have the gas to go. I’ve been talking with some of the others about getting the indoor practices up and running again at least once a month. I don’t really mind doing kendo outside, but when I can’t see and when it’s too cold to take shoes off, well, I just don’t go anymore. Depending on the weather I may go through December, and there’s early talk of actually pulling off a First Practice on New Year’s this season, but in general I don’t really get anything but cardio exercise out of practicing in the snow. Not that I don’t need it, but I’m always super paranoid about popping my knee out on the slick ground. That’s the sort of thing that could put me out of kendo for months, and I don’t want to risk that over “snow kendo” bragging rights.
I guess that’s it, because I’m rambling. So yeah, the annual culture fest was fun, and the club had a good showing!