Art, Kendo, and Beauty

I have returned from my sojourn to the beautiful and the breathtaking …France!

Finally face to face with my favorite painter, Van Gogh at the Musee d'Orsay.

Finally face to face with my favorite painter — Van Gogh — at the Musee d’Orsay.

This long-time dream of mine to step into the birthplace of Modern Art was a long one coming. It took some painful planning all year ’round, and it did take its toll on my overall mental, emotional and physical well-being, so much so that I fell ill by the 4th and 5th day of my travel (the result of a combination of stress, jet-lag, and the dropping temperatures in Paris I am not accustomed to), but generally, being finally there and living my lifelong dream was complete and utter bliss!

It was worth all the pain and suffering and headaches and stress that planning this trip had cost me. Well worth it indeed!

So, while I may have amassed titanic amounts of exceptional memories and experiences to last me a lifetime, I will only dwell upon a few highlights of my trip. If the title is not clear enough to give you an idea, allow me to elaborate.

France is probably the most beautiful ‘place’ I’ve ever been in in my life. I call it a ‘place’ instead of ‘country’ because I  haven’t seen the whole world… just yet. So beautiful is this place that I am reminded why I am not at all ‘inspired’ to pursue my artistry in Cambodia. This is because Cambodia lacks the following:

1) France has plenty of trees, flowers, and rich plant life. And I don’t just mean that it is abundantly nature-loving, rather there are literally an exceptional amount of plant genus in France. It was very “spiritually healing” to see so much of these after coming from a country which almost have none of it! Which leads me to…

2) They have garden parks everywhere! It is filled with all sorts of flora and are well-maintained and beautiful! And this is where you’ll find the French people having their lunch everyday. Some of them would even take a nap there. Others will bring in their friends or family for a game, or a walk, or just to catch some sun. These garden parks also have playgrounds for children installed upon a very soft padding that has the look and texture of cement but not its hardness — making it safe but at the same time not looking funky. It is in these parks that I really enjoyed hanging out!

3) Every building may be old, but it’s only on the outside! In the inside, it is as modern as it can get! And these buildings are so well-maintained that it is staggering to even digest that these date back from either the Renaissance or the Baroque period, and they are so beautiful and tasteful and just overall quintessential!

These are my top three reasons for why I love France so much and why I was inspired to paint plein-air!

Painting the Eglise Saint-Paul Vincent from a garden park near the Blois Chataeau.

Painting the Eglise Saint Vincent de Paul from a garden park next to the Blois Chataeau.

Passing the time away at Chambord Chateau some 26 minutes away from Blois by bus.

Passing the time away at the Chambord Chateau some 26 minutes away from Blois by bus.

My soul needed a fair amount of beauty to bask into in order to heal from the stresses of life  … and the dryness of Cambodia.

But it was not all aesthetic pleasure I derived from being in France. No, I also took the opportunity to visit a kendo dojo since I was doing absolutely no keiko in the 3 weeks I was abroad. So I did miss kendo very much, although I was also having far too much fun to even worry about missing out.

Prior to coming to France, I contacted a dojo in Paris as soon as my flight was booked (which was in December of 2014) and asked them permission for me to mitorigeiko  (practice by watching and observing). I was given the OK and by June of this year, I finally showed up at the appointed date.

Mitorigeiko at Budo XI in Paris, France.

Mitorigeiko at Budo XI in Paris, France.

I was both glad and regretful that I left my bogu at home. I rued not being able to join the practice, yet at the same time I was glad I didn’t bring my equipment because the subway has so many stairs!! And I moved accommodations thrice!!! That means, had I brought my bogu with me, I would have been lugging:

A) a heavy bogu bag, B) shinai bag with shinai , C) 1o kg luggage, and D) a computer backpack with me…

…up and down the subway stairs, dragging them into the train, being a nuisance to other passengers for taking too much space, walking from the Metro to my accommodations for who-knows-how-far, and carrying them up and down one, four, and six flights of stairs.

It would have been a nightmare!

In fact, lugging my 10kg luggage (which became heavier at the end of my French trip) was already a real pain in the ass! …Especially on my way to the airport, after traveling by train from Blois and transferring stations from the Gare d’Austerli to Gare de Lyon and then to Les Halles to Charles de Gaulle Airport. Oh my goodness… I am so glad there were no bogu bags to deal with at all!!


Anyway, I was a bit worried about coming back to kendo training after a 3-week hiatus. I felt out of shape (but at the same time ‘fit’ for doing massive amounts of walking in France), I was afraid that I had already forgotten most of what I’ve learned previously, that my very bad habits will return, and that my kendo will just become so bad that I’ll have to start all over again.

You see, a friend told me that sometimes taking a break can either be good or bad for your kendo. Unfortunately, you’ll only find out how it goes once you return to keiko.

Well, guess what!

Taking this holiday was good for me!! Hurrah!!

I attribute it to my right arm and left ankle recuperating completely in those 3 weeks of no kendo. Yes, I have somehow managed to injure them since March and they were still hurting before I left for France.

But now that I’ve made complete recovery, my sensei noted that my movements are a lot ‘sharper’ now! — Wait, what? — *squeals* He commended my kirikaeshi because I was hitting precisely with the hasuji and my form looked solid and good. Also, for the very first time, he asked me to do a fast kirikaeshi!!! …to my utter shock, I can do it! …until I have to cut backwards. I then had to move slowly. I still struggle with backward movements.

This brings to mind something that happened during last Sunday’s keiko . We we’re practicing hiki-men and when it was my turn to do it and had flung myself forward to hit men, the motodachi suddenly stopped me and said:

“Wait! Wait! Give me a second! Haha! You’re too fast! I’m afraid of you!!”

I was speechless!!

…and a bit confused. I thought, why? I only got back to practicing again (this was just my second day) and already I was called fast and scary?

WHOOOOAAAA!!!! What had just happened?!?!?!!??!

Back to my sensei , he repeated what he said to me couple more times after keiko was over:

“Your movements are ‘sharper’ now!”

Music to my ears! So that means… goal reached!!!!! Hurray!!!

I am so happy! So happy of my improvements, and yet unable to share it with anyone. I’ve worked long and hard to get here, and now I’m somewhat ‘here.’ Of course, I need plenty more work and improvement must continue.

Next goal: Become much sharper and faster!

Last Sunday's jigeiko, trying out hiki-kote. Really, moving backward is so weird for me. I need more practice with this.

Last Sunday’s jigeiko, trying out hiki-kote. Really, moving backward is so weird for me. I need more practice with this.


Share your thoughts?

%d bloggers like this: