Falling in Love…

…with kendo all over again, that is.

I must say, my long hiatus from kendo felt like a long and sad break-up, minus the drama of course, and the separation  took away my best self. You see, kendo makes me a better person.

Bamboo and I during jigeiko

Bamboo and I during jigeiko

With that said, I don’t mean to frighten my mum or my dad by implying I’ve gone completely pagan (or Buddhist, or Confucian?) but I will admit that many of kendo’s philosophical roots (which are Buddhist and Confucian) do make sense to me and I am studying them the best that I can because kendo is so tightly-linked to them; and I practically filled my Kindle with books about the subject (kendo); scouring the web for articles on particular issues to satisfy my my curiosity or my need for clarifications, and right now, I am just hungry for more kendo-related tidbits and wisdom.

And it all started with (or was rekindled by) a visit from a kendoka from Vietnam last month.

If there’s one thing that’s lacking in my kendo club, I think it’s mentorship. This is not to bash my kendo club, which I love with my whole heart and whose members are a great bunch, but there’s not really that much ‘bonding’ among members because of our immensely varied lives (hang on, did I just contradict myself there?), and with that it often feels like we’re telling each other, “Thanks for keiko. Yup, we’re still strangers. Good-bye!” before going back to our own private lives.

For one, many of us are expats and/or are professionals at the mercy of our schedules (and private lives) and so we rarely see each other. Sometimes I’d see some of the members once a month; others, after several months. One person in particular, I won’t be seeing in a year. Some had already quit or left the country, while the rest are beginners or new members who would quit after donning the bogu for a short time. With exception to the senseis/yudansha senpais who have been very generous in their feedback and encouragements, who also don’t go easy on me; making me work my hardest. To them I owe much of my gratitude but of course, one of them will go missing for months at a time too.

Second, I was the only regular lady member en bogu (and tragically, the shortest one at that) so whatever level of encouragement I needed to understand my weaknesses, to find solutions to those problematic aspects of my kendo with my gender and stature in mind, to seek ways of sharpening my strengths, and basically to receive some moral booster for my regularly-waning confidence was rarely met. There was no one I could look up to or learn from. No one to seek guidance from.

I felt alone.

All the time.

And because of that, I somewhat showed up for practice less and less. And it didn’t help that my personal troubles got in the way of it all too, that I completely decided not to show up anymore — for a good 5 months of last year.

Returning to the Vietnamese kendoka I mentioned earlier, who is very passionate about kendo (and food), his enthusiasm for the art somehow rubbed off on me. In a weirdly vicarious way, I relived those days when I was just all out in my pursuit of kendo through his expressed love for it and they way he spoke of it. He just went on and on about kendo and interestingly enough, I did not for one moment find myself tire of listening to him. In fact, I wanted to hear more.

It’s like hearing about your old love again and realizing what a mistake it has been to leave him (that sort of thing).

So this kendoka… let’s just call him ‘Bamboo’ — the thing about Bamboo is that he reviewed 2 videos of my keiko and remarked on my mistakes. He pointed out what I was doing wrong or what went wrong with my performance, offering practical solutions to those errors, which are not only sensible but quite spot-on. He told me to keep moving forward; encouraged me to keep practicing, which is the only way to get better and I felt his sincerity. He is the mentor I never had (and right now he is my favorite kendoka, whose kendo I admire)!

I was fired up!

The next weekend, I attended both Saturday and Sunday classes. It was very painful!

The next weekend after that, I attended both days’ practice, and again it was painful but not as much as before.

The next weekend after, I yet again attended both classes, and everyone witnessed the gradual increase in my stamina and strength, and a much improved suburi. I was no longer panting as much after an hour of kihon, nor was I begging for water during jigeiko.

The next weekend after, I can go on for 2 hours without water, without panting, without feeling the weight of my bogu weighing me down, and with more strength and stamina for jigeiko unlike before.

Not only that, but I am receiving more positive encouragements from my senseis/yudansha senpais and I think it’s just me all along not understanding what they were saying before. But now that I attend practice more regularly and studying kendo’s philosophies and theories with dedication, etc. I really now understand what they’ve been trying to teach me all this time and I aim to be better every week. My body still needs to adjust to the changes of breaking old habits, but I’m getting there. I just need plenty of keiko-time with them.

To top that off, I am in a much better mood now during the school week, that is, I have much more patience than normal, and am able to handle stress a lot better; while everyone’s getting sick around me, my health’s resistance is very strong (so far); I finally got rid of some very bad habits, which I am so thankful for because those are seriously self-destructive habits I’ve been battling with all my life, and finally, I am no longer as clumsy as before… I have better footwork.

Share your thoughts?

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