Thursday, July 20, 2017
But, I digress.
Monday, July 17, 2017
I truly just love Master Song and think he is the greatest teacher I probably have ever had, and I have had a lot of really great teachers over the years. I love watching him teach (not just me....which I must say... he is so completely patient with a middle aged chubby chick on a quest for preserving her youth). He knows each of his students and he spars with each and every one of them every night. It is entirely captivating. And apparently he never gets tired. These young adults are panting and huffing and the guy hardly breaks a sweat. He has the best game face I have ever seen, and I love listening to him yell. If you have been to a Kendo studio, you know there is a lot of yelling. I can't tell if they are words or sounds, but it is loud, and, at first, it blew me away because I typically do not like shouting or loud noises. In fact, when I took Moustache Man, he leaned over and said, "Seriously, Mom, you hate loud noises. This is going to drive you crazy." But, it doesn't. I actually like it because it makes sense to shout when you are gonna whap someone with a bamboo stick.
Did I mention that he is 60?
So I am learning words. The uniform that is worn is called a hakama. I received mine tonight but have no idea how to put it on, and, of course, being the ridiculous woman I am, I just want to know what gets worn under it. Pipers don't wear britches but I always did. And it's not like I can ask someone...so, hey, I know you just met me, but are you wearing shorts or just panties under there?
Kamae is the basic stance. This is the thing I am learning how to do. It isn't as easy as you think it is. The bamboo sword (shinai) is a lot trickier to wield than it looks. The foot work (okuri-ashi) is also pretty tricky. But, I practice in my living room and scare the cats and make my teenage sons laugh. So, yeah, there is the family entertainment of it all.
My favorite part was at the end of the night. You kneel in front of each other and say thank you. I think. I am not sure if I was supposed to talk or just bow. No one told me to shut up, but maybe they will get around to it.
Thus far, I am enjoying myself. It is a lot of work but it doesn't feel like being at the boring gym.
Saturday, July 15, 2017
So, why Kendo?
I am not Japanese, and I truly know nothing about Japanese culture. Of all the world's literature I've read, I have never read anything Japanese. I do eat sushi, but it's American sushi which is apparently very different. I don't read Manga, and have only heard of that because I am the advisor of our Gaming and Anime club on campus. I don't follow any sports, but when I have, it has always involved ice and sticks and guys dressed in orange (Go, Flyers!).
I'd like to say it's because I like the pants. And it is true, of all the martial arts uniforms, the Kendo uniform is the most appealing to a woman of my size because it is blue and not white. But, I can buy Palazzo pants and save a lot of time, effort, and sweat if that were truly the case.
I'd like to say it's because they would kick me out of Geisha Girl school for being slightly dopic and a terrible singer, or that I have a deep desire to be a samurai warrior. Neither is true, although I suspect I would get hauled out of a Geisha training school for having little musical and dance talent.
But the truth is this...I know nothing about Kendo, but it looks challenging and a lot of fun, and who DOESN'T want to whack someone in the head with a bamboo stick?
I had never heard of Kendo. But, I was talking to my colleagues about trying to find something I could do with my teenage sons, and my Dean said she lived near a Kendo Dojo (she probably called it a studio). She said it looked like a lot of fun and that is seemed to be something that I would probably love. I am not sure if that is because I present myself as someone who wants to whap people with sticks (probably), because I am the kind of person who likes big pants (so true), or because I love a good challenge (amen). But, in any case, I looked it up, got the address, and hijacked my 15 year old son, Moustache Man, to the Dojo.
He hated it. Instantly.
I fell in love. Instantly.
But, I couldn't justify, yet, being a middle aged woman amongst a gaggle of young Japanese adults until I realized that there were people there older than me. On that night, I was the only person who wasn't Japanese, but the very kind and wise Master told me that since it was Friday, and it was summer, not everyone was there.
So I went back Monday. I dragged my 14 year old, Sharpie Boy, with me this time. He loved it. But, he has functional cerebral palsy as a result of an infant stroke and is Rain-Man Autistic, and rules aren't a really strong magnet for him. He wasn't sold on it. But, omgosh, I was.
It could be the academic in me, but I truly love being a student. As far as reasons go, not knowing anything is usually a good place to start. If we approach something with some knowledge, we sometimes over exaggerate what we know and we place a block where we need to be open. For example, I have been horseback riding for years. I am not an expert, and I have never owned a horse. I go on trail rides about 4 times a year, and I truly love it. When I go, it is usually with a mixed group, and inevitably, someone says, "oh, I know how to ride a horse" because once - when she was a tot - she went on a pony ride. She doesn't listen to the instructions and then we all suffer because the horse wants to eat snacks all along the trail and she doesn't know how to control him. I try to stay humble on every trip I take because I don't know the horse or the route, and because, while I have ridden a lot, I have not studied horsemanship. I go because I enjoy it, and I try to learn something new every time. Humility is a place to start and stay.
So, in visiting the Kendo Dojo twice, I realized that it was something I truly wanted to learn how to do. It will help keep me focused on exercising regularly, and it allows me to be a student. As a professor, I spend my time teaching others, and in this case, I will be learning. This is where I want to be. I may never be good enough to spar with anyone else, and that is OK. I will work toward that goal. For now, I am learning - not just about the practice of Kendo, but about a culture I know nothing about.