A great time was had at Ken's celebration on Wednesday, and AKC were very happy to see a representation from Waikato. Jordan's speech to the dojo was very professional and I think he covered everything that Sam and Marleen had asked very well.
The point was made, both from us and by AKC, that we all enjoy such events as an opportunity to re-establish friendships and be part of our larger kendo community. Getting together for a shiai is about "competition", seminars people are often focused on their grading. At informal keiko however, we can be in an attitude of one kendo, to learn from each other and enjoy each others company.
Therefore, AKC has extended the invitation to us to practice together at least once every 2-3 months, and we should alternate who travels to each others home.
I personally found the evening challenging. It is true that there is "one kendo", and theoretically all people of the same level should have been taught the same thing, no-matter what club and sesei they train with.
However we can become very tuned to the people we train with regularly, and training with another club can "re-open" your eyes to thinking, making openings, etc.
While we are all taught the same thing (one-kedo), other clubs will be focusing on a different aspect of the "one-kendo" at any particular time in their training calendar.
At WKC we are currently focusing on the three types of seme or footwork. Using these, I was able to surprise some of my old sensei from AKC and JSK! (particularly "move left foot up" technique that WKC sensei are currently teaching).
It was clear to me that JSK were focusing on "waiting for correct opening". They were strong on "oji-waza" last night, making first attack very difficult.
I think that AKC have been focusing on "give everything". When they attack, it is very difficult to conduct oji waza or keep distance.
Perhaps these different things are like "volume settings". At the moment, WKC is focusing on increasing the "volume" on their foot-work. When this is compared to the "volume" from JSK or any other club on their current teaching focus, together the fight has interesting "music" or a "harmony" that we both enjoy.
We each in kendo will learn a "song" that we like to play for ourselves. On my song, the volume setting is low on speed as I am a european who is getting older, so my volume must be higher on correct opening and oji waza. Young peoples songs should have high volume on speed, and as they grow older, may be able to translate this into correct opening and then oji as they grow older.
The nice thing about kendo is that we can keep singing as we grow older, with any level of fitness, we just change which harmony we give our volume to.
In 2013 I would like to obtain my ni-dan. To do so will be hard for me, as my kendo does not come from natural ability like some lucky people. It has taken me a longer time to get to my level than other people do, I am naturally clumsy! It is hard to be able to understand something and see it done correctly, but be un-able to repeat it yourself. On the other hand, perhaps people like me may experience a greater feeling of achievement when they do manage to achieve something, and this is our version of "kendo reward".
Sho-dan is about correctly demonstrating all of the basics. For me, ni-dan will be about showing a higher level of understanding about the basics, making my kendo more "beautiful" and correct.
In this way, grading is not about "winning" but about "understanding". So, if I choose this viewpoint, it is not selfish to get a grade so that I am "better" than somebody with a lower grade. Instead, it is about personal learning and understanding.
Contemplating this, there is little joy in learning how to "win" at shiai. If this were the only way to be happy in kendo, then at a competition with 50 kendoka, only 1 out of 50 will be happy at the end of the shiai!
Instead, if we take joy out of when we do something correctly, and, more importantly, take joy when our "opponent" does something correctly "to" us, we will get more enjoyment out of kendo.
In this way, we get as much joy out of teaching others as we do out of learning.
I think this is a strong aspect at WKC, and one of the reasons I enjoy coming. We should not take such things for granted. Attitudes within dojo's are set by the "culture" that the dojo sensei choose, and Sam and Marleen have set a very good culture to follow.
This was evidenced this Tuesday when Leo gave a very good lesson when Sam and Marleen were not able to attend. While they were not there, Leo and the rest of us knew the culture that had been developed for us to follow by the sensei, and Leo gave a very good lesson to us.
So, this is what I have learnt this week, or has become apparent to me on reflection following this week. If we are not to see each other again before Christmas, then this is also my Christmas farewell, and I look forward to training again with all of you in the new year, listening to your different songs :)