Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Debbie - The Kendo Blues



The Kendo Blues

After attending the national seminar this weekend and spending some reflection time with senpai Douglas on Saturday, I was inspired to finish off some writing I started a little while ago. The topic of our conversation was the blues; specifically the kendo blues. A place in time when your kendo hits a plateau and you consider giving it all up. Here’s a recent experience of mine…

I turned up for training a few Saturdays ago feeling discouraged and disheartened about my kendo. In the back of my mind I was thinking; Was Kendo really the right place for me to be or was I just wasting my time? Thankfully training went well and it was an enjoyable session. Enjoyable because I was encouraged by the advice delivered by Sam Sensei. It was as though he had read my mind and like a checklist, ticked off and addressed all of the concerns I had had swirling around in my head. It was indeed the catalyst for change that I needed and has since allowed me to move on in my Kendo journey. (Thanks Marleen Sense for listening and encouraging me on).

I have played different sports e.g. gym, netball, basketball, volleyball, touch etc throughout my life and so understand that any sport has its ups and downs. This was a ‘down’. Marleen Sensei describes it as being ‘blue’ but I think it is a little more than that. If anything I would call it a reality check. A life pause, to reflect on what is important and why?

After grading on 27 June 09 I reflected on my performance and concluded that I could have done better. Where had I gone wrong and what were the possible solutions? This pattern of thought lead me down the path of difference and being over critical. I had semi-convinced myself that Kendo was not for me and that I was kidding myself because I was;

- Female. Male numbers far exceed those of women so I was part of a minority
- Maori. Although our club is multicultural, Maori are not represented in great numbers.
- Older. Many of our members are younger than me, some half my age.
- heavier. Being Polynesian and training at the gym 5-6 times per week generally means I am taller and heavier than most of my female opponents.

It made me think about my school days and I was reminded of a young girl named Rachel that I played basketball with. Rachel had a genuine passion for the game and was a fantastic member of the team. Rachel always; had the very best gear, turned up for practice and trained hard. The only problem was that Rachel had a slight build and was shorter than everyone she played with, and against. Because of this height differential, Rachel always seemed to struggle on court. Although Rachel didn’t make any of the representative sides, she always loved playing basketball and seemed to be content. Could this be me and would it be enough for me just to enjoy Kendo and not be a champion? Should I be doing something else that is more compatible with my body type and lifestyle e.g. body-building?

The advice delivered by Sensei Sam that day was simple but effective. He talked about;
- Responsibility. Sensei’s role is to teach us the basic skills however it is up to each of us to discover what strengths and weaknesses we have, and adapt them. Sensei Sam shared with us a story about a respected Sensei he knew who weighed 105kg’s. Although he was heavy, he was a consummate kendoka who utilised his strengths very well
- Difference. Anyone can do Kendo regardless of colour, race, sex, age, weight etc. Again, it is about adapting a style of your own and using it to your advantage.
- Good habits. Kendo can be applied to our every day lives and so it is important to attend training regularly. Doing so means making Kendo a priority and a habit.
- Personal challenge. Throughout our Kendo journey we can expect to face adversity. The challenge for each of us is to face the fear and overcome it. Sensei talked about his own experience in addressing and overcoming his resistance to shiai.

Over the weekend of the 2009 national seminar, Morioka sensei shared many gifts with us. Least of all were his words of wisdom and enlightment. The statement that touched me the most, and that aptly sums up my story, was when he said something along the lines of…’the toughest opponent that we must defeat is the one that lies within us’ . And, it is so true…

Debbie Price
21 July 2009
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