Sunday, June 10, 2012

Chicago June 2012: Chicago Kendo Club and Choyokan club

Also this year I traveled to Chicago. This time I participate to the ASCO meeting, the most important meeting on Clinical Oncology in USA. I was guest of my friends, Gianni and Antonella, in a nice apartment at N Pine Grove. The meeting was incredible, about 35000 persons were present and there were too many things to learn. It was a bit frustrating make decision on what to listen since many of the parallel sessions were all interesting.
Althouhg I was busy with the meeting also this time I took with me the bogou and I visited two if the three dojo of Chicago:  Chicago Kendo Club and Choyokan Dojo.
I have been many times to the Chicago Kendo Club and this time I met again Andy, which takes care of the dojo web and represents the contact to visit the dojo. Andy and me practiced the kendo no kata, it was very good for me, since in about a year I could try the yondan exam and we do not practice very frequently kata at my dojo. He gave me some useful suggestions, expecially for the kodachi kata, which I practiced really very few times. I know that the yondan it a very challenging exam and I am not so sure I will manage to pass it, but I continue practicing and trying to implement all the suggestions I get at my dojo and in the places I visit during my trips.
I also met again a very kind Japanese lady sensei that run the training, but unfortunately I missed her names.
In the complex the training was very similar to the others I had at the CKC. This time I tried to focus on having a live shinai tip and using the seme to induce the opponent to attach. Both targets are still very far away but I keep trying. At the same time I am also practicing jodan. I like a lot the strength of the jodan no kamae. It is roughly three year that I have inserted in my practice also jodan no kamae and it was nice to see that also at the CKC a student and Condon sensei were practicing jodan.  I am actually trying to obtain a decent kote from jodan. Although my sensei show me the critical tips of the kote I found it very difficult and frequently my kote is not precise. Condon sensei provided me a very good tip on the kote, he suggested me to focus on my left thumb. He told me that if I end my kote technique with the thumb facing the floor kote get more precise. It was true the precision of my kote improved and I felt more conformtable on it. Great suggestion!
Off course I crossed the shinai with Andy and it was challenging as always!
Antonella, my friend, and her little sun Lorenzo, 5 years old, took me to the Chicago Kendo Club and Lorenzo wanted to stay to see his God father, me, practicing. It was amazing, Lorenzo was completely captured from Kendo practice and even if the practice was two hours long he did not want to leave and watched with great attention all the training.  Maybe in a couple of years I will go with him to the CKC for the practice ^_^.

Two days before flying back to Italy I also visited the Choyokan kendo Dojo. My first visit to the Choyokan was in 2006. Actually It was a Sunday practice at the UIC Sports and Fitness Center. It was a very difficult training for me, since the level of the students was very high.
This time I visited the dojo located at the Ravenswood Fellowship United Methodist Church, which is very near to the CKC. I was a little shy, as it normally happen when I visit a new dojo. It was nice to meet again Sakamoto sensei. Before the training Sakamoto sensei was showing the differences between various type of shinai and talking about one having a large tsuka I said that it was particularly convenient for jodan, since the balance is more near the tsuba and the tip is much ligher. Sakamoto sensei then asked me if I was a jodan player and I said that I was learning it. It was so kind to ask me to practice also there. I appreciated a lot the invitation because I do not play jodan when I visit a new dojo for the first time. Essentially my technique is still poor and I do not want that people think I am arrogant. But the offer to practice was so kind that I did my best trying also jodan techniques. After a warm up and some suburi we focus on various shikake and ojii waza technique. Then we had about 40 minutes jigeiko. I had the possibility to practice with Sakamoto sensei and also with other students. As I do normally I start in chudan no kamae only in the last part of the jigeiko I play jodan no kamae. One of the various problems I have with jodan is the difficulty of keeping the ideal distance from the opponent. This was a point that Sakamoto sensei highlighted at the end of the jigeiko. He told me that stepping back, to get again the right distance, is affecting all the strenght of the jodan kamae, that mean that I have to rebuild again my spirit to be ready to attach and defend, which is clearly a strong advantage for the opponent. So I have to work more on avoiding to step back and try to build a more strong spirit to avoid to be pressed by the opponent. I will work on it!
As normally happen the jigeiko time ended to rapidly, but I felt very happy to have visited the Choyokan Dojo.

Friday, June 8, 2012

15 Worl Kendo Chanpionship: Novara 2012

This is a report not on a trip visiting a dojo around the world but a brief description of the "behind the scenes" of the 15 WKC.
I was part of the volontiers involved in the 15 WKC. I started my work abount three days before the start of the WKC, provinding support to the arrival of teams, delegations and referees. I share this work with other four volonties. We collected people and orginized their bus transportation.  I  also used my car to bring referees to their hotels. It was a very nice job it allowed me to meet many high rank kendokas. It was very nice to meet Yuge sensei, the president of the Southern California Kendo Federation, the owner of e.bogu, Kumpf sensei and many others.  I was also present at the arrival of the Japanese delegation, 36 sensei, encharged of the supervision of the WKC event. It was impressive.
I worked at Malpensa airport from Monday to Wednesday, and Friday morning I arrived at 6:30 at the location where WKC was taking place. I was assigned to the recording of the results of the shai at one of the four shai-jo (shai-jo A). I was a little worry since I never did it ,but the chief of the table and one of my friend help me to handle the paper work. It was exciting to see  shai of people from all over the world. Being at the table I had the opportunity to record a lot of shai that are collected in this You Tube playlist.
The most impressive shai for me was the Male individual final between Japan and Korea. More then 5 minutes of tight contact betwenn the fighters, very few strike but very impressive. In my modest opinion was really a fight showing what kendo is.
In the video below you can see the final part of the shai  where Japan won with a tsuki.

I met a lot of friends and it was very nice to meet again Marsten Sensei, from Seattle, and many others.
Furthermore, every day, before the competitions started, I made a lot of pictures of the people present at the WKC. So if you were there, maybe you are in one of these pictures:

At the end of the first day there was a brief open jigeiko it was absolutely GREAT to cross shinai with referees, competitors, etc. I had a great time during the three days of competitions. Being part of the volontiers I can say that, although not everything was perfect, the Italian Kendo Confederation did a very good job in organizing the event. Kendo in Italy is run on volontary basis and the strenght of the WKC in Novara were really all the volonteers that did their best to make everything work as perfect as it was possible. In conclusion, I would like to  report the very professional behaviour of people from the SANKEI company that were at the 15 WKC with a stand for bogou repair. I left them a pair of kote with two holes and I asked for repair of the holes and not the total replacement of the leather. I went to pick up the kote on the last day of the competions and, instead of closing the holes, they exchanged all the leather. In practice I got two new kote. I said that it did not matter if they did a full repleacement and I could pay for the repair, but they say that it was their mistake and therefore I had not to pay anything. I said that it was ok and I could pay anyway for the good work, but there was no way to pay them. In my opinion this was a very professional behaviour that should be taken as reference.