Hello and welcome to another exciting Budo Diaries entry! Unfortunately today’s practice was a bit of a sobering, and rather painful, moment for me. For one thing I had to keiko with Sensei tonight (Ugh! We went from CPU Level 5 to CPU Level 50), and it was also hot as hell in the dojo.
But the heat I can deal with, and getting wiped across the dojo floor by my Sensei is a bit of the norm.
Nah, what really got me was the fact that this is my second to last practice and I am graduating and it just caught up with me.
I personally do my best to not get too emotional or melancholy in public but I couldn’t help it tonight. As soon as practice ended and I could slip my men off it just hit me. Four years of kendo, four whirlwind, rather tough but happy years of kendo, and now this is it. I’ve worked hard and scraped myself up to transform from a beginner with only a vague, maybe even romanticized depiction of what it means to practice kendo into a (somewhat) competent kendoka.
It’s funny but when I began back in freshman year there were some previous members of the team who thought I didn’t have the guts to keep going, that I wasn’t worth it. And I think, or I hope at least, that I’ve proved them wrong by sticking with it. By being the kind of senpai who can give tips to my kohai, someone who is at a terrible height advantage but gutsy enough to land a solid kote-men combo, or a kaeshi do, or a nuki men to make up for my height difference and my speed difference. And I hope I’ve proved my worth especially by going toe-to-toe with Sensei and yes, he pushed me around, yelled in my face, struck my weak points with speed that I only wish I had…
… But I landed one solid men strike on him; it’s quite a feat when you’re as short as I am, or when your style is defensive and you’re a bit of a turtle. I’ve been trying (And am still trying) to break from my cautious defense to be a more aggressive kendoka — but I am proud of my one perfect men that I landed on Sensei. Even if that meant throwing myself against a literal wall, and being shoved back by that wall over and over again, it’s still enough to hear–in between the yelling and the lighting fast strikes –some encouragement: Ganbatte! Fighto!
I was locked in tsuba-zariai with my Sensei, who is the very definition of “tough love” (And damn do I know it, he tsuki’d me four times tonight because I didn’t keep center kamae ugh), yet at the same time when I was at my lowest, I was told to keep at it.
It was enough to get me to surge forward and strike men again, and again, and again.
And finally when I get one more really good, really solid men? Another small bit of praise, however gruff, and it was enough to break me down a bit.
I don’t think I’ll reach the level of my Sensei in a matter of years; unfortunately earnest hard work and enthusiasm for kendo can’t match raw talent and a longer period of training. But it was a step, maybe some tiny bit of validation that maybe I’m not as bad as I was when I first stepped into the dojo and held a shinai in my hand with uncertainty but excitement.
Because I was living a childhood dream — and I think I did my eleven-year-old-self proud with how much I’ve accomplished in four years.
But now it’s over–at least the chapter in my budo experience that I’ve shared with NYU’s kendo team. There’s nothing that can compare with the community that I’ve found here and the way that I think I’ve grown over the last four years, so it’s just a terribly sobering experience to know that… It’s kind of over.
For now, at least.
I’ve got a lot to be thankful for, for these derpy kids I’ve come to know, and for kendo which I sincerely will try to keep in my life because it’s changed me so much — hopefully for the better.
Anyway, before I gush and start sniffling over my keyboard, here’s my second online kendo diary entry:
- What I did really well today: Nuki-men, kote-men combo, ai-men. One solid men on Sensei is like, an amazing accomplishment for me, haha. Also nuki-men is pretty cool.
- What I should REALLY, LEGITIMATELY, MUST IMPROVE ON: Center! I do not want to be a tsuki target again X__X;
- Seriously: 突き is really bad, please don’t get hit by it often