These are the memories that count.
When you move in sync with your team through the warm-up. The rush when you land a solid strike. And the silly moments before and after practice, when you’re just surrounded by your team and you can’t help but smile and laugh together at everything and absolutely nothing at all.
Those are the memories that I am going to carry with me long after my four years with this team, and that help buffer the sobering thought that I’m graduating — because this isn’t the end for my love for kendo and it’s certainly not the end for NYU’s kendo team, not at all.
I’ll keep the waxing poetic about my team rather short, because I think with every Budo Diaries post–so far anyroad–I’ve been talking about all the things that I will miss about the team. Tonight, I’m going to talk how I am proud of these kids.
But first I will preface this with just one little thing: Do what you love. Chase your dreams, especially if you have the opportunity to try it out during college.
I keep saying it, but I only dreamed about doing kendo as a child. When the opportunity offered itself during my freshman year at NYU, I signed up for the beginner class but was so hesitant — should I, or should I not go? Ultimately, I chose to go, and I cannot imagine another life where I didn’t make that choice.
Now as a senior, I’ve had the privilege of seeing some amazing kendoka come and go. We like to joke that there is a specific “golden” graduating class that had excellent leadership and excellent kendo skills to boot; they certainly set the standard for what it means to be a cohesive kendo team.
While we may look at our past senpai fondly, I’d like to argue that this year the class of 2013’s team did not disappoint. We’ve had excellent leadership managing the club–and let me tell you, this is a university team but it’s like herding kittens back and forth. And we’ve also had a stunning year of victories that certainly went over and beyond our expectations.
What might have been a year of “transition” after losing some top-notch kendoka was actually a year of profound “success” as the team made waves amongst the east-coast intercollegiate community. People know about NYU, from the minute we walk into another dojo. (I’m not sure how much of it is Sensei exaggerating or not, but he always relates back to us that other sensei know of us, and will watch us during warm-ups and comment back to him: Your kids look perfect out there.
Whether that’s the case or not, I can see it. As NYU students we have a bit of a self-deprecating humor streak going on, and while we may not see ourselves as a big deal, I see in this team a fighting spirit that can’t be beat, one that I’m glad to have been part of for the last four years.
We may not be the best of the best at tournaments, but we give a good showing, and our presence is certainly known.
It’s just wonderful to have been there from the “beginning”; many of our current team-members are my kohai, and I’ve seen them grow tremendously over the last four years. These kids have all improved skill-wise, for sure, (I do miss the days when I could score ippon on kids who can now bowl me over easily haha), but I find that through their participation on the team they’ve gained invaluable skills on and off the dojo. And then there’s also that good feeling of knowing that the team legacy continues on, with a solid trio of freshman determined to stick around for the long haul.
And you know, as sad and emotional and schmoopy as I can get over the sobering fact that in two more weeks I’m going to be dumped off into the real world… I really can’t feel sad about leaving NYU kendo anymore. I know the team is in good hands, I know that these kids got the guts to succeed at whatever they wish to do — and that’s enough for me.
Also I suppose I can’t feel too sad about missing these trolls after last night’s “special senior send off” event, which included kakarigeiko with next year’s e-board. For those of you who don’t know, kakarigeiko is essentially “rapid fire strikes”; there is an attacker and a receiver, with the receiver opening up for strikes but the attacker actually making their own opportunities. This also isn’t just rapid fire, hit-however-you-like, but where the attacker must strike and react with proper zanshin and zeal — and with lot’s, and lot’s of kiai, to make as many strikes as possible within an allotted time period.
It can be tiring, especially after going through several rounds of it with no breaks. I’m pretty sure Sensei was grinning at me when he told me to start it off. And honestly, it’s kind of fitting; when I first began I was never really sure of my strikes, and at times embarrassed by the whole notion of “kiai”, and often was told to kiai louder with each strike. Yesterday, though, when I squared off against my first kakarigeiko partner, one of my dearest Littles and impromptu “little sister”, I didn’t need to be told twice to show spirit.
I didn’t need to be reminded at all, and I carried on with strong kiai and strong strikes all the way up ’till the end of the seven rounds of taking on e-board members, captains, and one previous captain who showed up last night. It was rough, but it was so worth it — if only to prove in a small way that yes, I have improved over the last four years.
And if ending that grisly round-robin of kakarigeiko also meant earning applause from the rest of the team well — that was a plus :)
Also earning a service award sanctioned from Sensei and our co-coach was just another plus — one that I really didn’t expect but am honored to have earned it. Their words of encouragement added to the award are just touching, but also just another reminder of how far I personally have come. (They were also kind enough to remember I am an English major and gifted me with a copy of The Book of Five Rings, which I intend to read diligently over the summer – more on that later)
So it’s with a high-note ending like this that I really can’t feel sad anymore about leaving. Instead, I look forward to what the future may hold for the team and for my own kendo. I will proudly carry the memories and learning experiences I’ve earned from my years with the NYU kendo team — because this is not the end for my kendo career.
It’s just another beginning.
Annnnd if you managed to stick around through that round of utterly rambly nonsense, you earn a prize — here’s the things I did well and things I need to improve on section! (Best prize ever no?)
- What I did really well
todayyesterday: Kiai and fighting spirit! Even in the face of an endurance-testing kakarigeiko run, I know I can endure and keep at it.
- What I should improve on: So my kote is actually pretty bad, it needs to be fixed!