Gasshuku report

Last Monday, Nanseikan held its second gasshuku for 2009. The day was a great success with 18 participants, the majority of whom stayed for the full eight hours. The little dojo at St Pius X was pretty much at capacity with these numbers, so there was a great deal of energy and spirit in the training. The day was quite warm, about 28 degrees: pleasant for a picnic in the shade, but very sweaty and tiring when wearing dogu. Our previous gasshuku had members from two VKR clubs. This time, five VKR clubs were represented: Nanseikan, Fudoshin, UMKC, MBK and Mumeishi. Participants’ ages ranged from 6 to well over 40-something.

The day focused on basics and commenced with everyone performing 1000 suburi. To allow participants’ arms to recover this was followed by a short lecture on Toho (刀法) or practical principles relating to the use of a sword. There then followed an extended session of shinaigeiko looking at basic movements required for cutting, especially focusing on kikentaiitchi. Then morning tea of pikelets and jam courtesy my very kind partner Caz, followed by an in-depth look at do uchi with bogu. This covered kihon do uchi, hiki do, as well as nuki do, kaeshi do and finally gyaku do. Next, all participants were videoed performing kihon men and kote on a motodachi. Lunch was BYO, but during lunch everyone was subjected to watching themselves performing kihon. I think everyone saw at least one thing that they will now be able to work on improving. As compensation for having to watch their faults displayed in public (sometimes in slow motion...) I showed everyone my unsuccessful grading performance in Tokyo from last month. The main response was: “is that all?” :D

After lunch we went through the 9 bokuto ni yoru kihon waza keiko ho no kata, in particular how they connect with the idea of toho or rational use of the sword/shinai. We then had a conventional session of kihon and uchikomi, followed by jigeiko. Those that survived this were promised even harder things to come in the final session but in fact were treated to a short introduction to nito. After being shown the basic stance for sei nito (conventional nito) and the basic idea of suppression with the shoto and striking with the daito, the last 10 participants were allowed to do two jigeiko using nito against itto. The results were quite surprising, with most people showing some skill and achieving yuko datotsu once or twice. Everyone agreed that the hardest thing about nito was holding the daito above one’s head for an extended period. I think some people who maybe had a romantic view of nito and it’s ‘coolness’ had an insight into just how hard it is and how much more work it would be to become competent in.

So overall we looked at basics but we also did some techniques that people rarely get a chance to see let alone try for themselves. This is the beauty of having a whole day for kendo. You can look at lots of different things, and explore some areas in depth. Still, it was not long enough. I think most would have come back for a second day. We didn’t get a chance to do shiai or practice shinpaning, and we didn’t do any kendo no kata. Looks like we’ll have to have another gasshuku one day soon! b

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