WED 18-JUL: Iaido training begins!
Our first training venue is located at the Yotsuya Hiroba in Shinjuku. It's about a 5 minute walk from the Yotsuya 3-chome subway station which happens to be the next closest stop from our apartment, so we decided to make the trip on foot.
The class is scheduled from 6pm - 9pm, but we showed up early to greet Tsubaki Sensei (Kyoshi 7 Dan), who may or may not be staying for practice. We arrived around 5:30, and already saw a couple of students getting the small school auditorium ready. Preparation involved moving some furniture around, opening the windows and doors, and setting up fans. Unfortunately, this also let in all the mosquitos who were thirsting for hot Iaidoka blood, but in a scorcher like today every little bit of airflow is a necessity.
Tsubaki Sensei arrived around 5:45 and with no sign of Hatakenaka Sensei (Kyoshi 8 Dan) yet, we changed and started warm-ups. Several more students gradually appeared, and finally, midway through our suburi practice, Hatakenaka Sensei made her entrance and was greeting warmly by all. She directed Tsubaki Sensei to continue our warm-up until she finished changing, then we all moved onto free practice.
Over the next hour and half, several other students arrived, and a couple of them left. In total, there were about 15 of us at the class tonight; less than usual due to university exams. Each new attendee first bowed to Hatakenaka Sensei and Tsubaki Sensei before starting their own practice. Hatakenaka Sensei would rotate between her own practice and giving some pointers to each of her students.
Nearing two hours into the class, Kikkawa Sensei (Kyoshi 8 Dan) showed up. It seems his presence is a common one, as a student immediately brought over a chair for him to sit on. He didn't stay there long, as he seemed to take a lot of interest in helping out Hatakenaka Sensei's son, Kei (5 Dan)
At 8:00pm Hatakenaka Sensei called for an embu:
Group 1 consisted of 2 Dan and below. Five members.
Group 2 consisted of 3 Dan and 4 Dan. Five members, including Hanna and I.
Group 3 consisted of 5 Dan. Three members, including Peter, Momoko (5 Dan), and Kei.
We each did two Koryu followed by three Shitei Waza from ZNKR Seitei. I felt a bit nervous going in, but the overall positive energy of the class gave me strength. It was a great feeling training with other such high-level and dedicated individuals.
The ending of class was as exactly as we remembered from previous trips. Everyone gathers in a circle facing each other and go through the 12 Seitei Kata as one student calls them out. We wrapped up with closing etiquette and got a quick group photo before the students went to work putting the gym back to the way it was.
After several minutes of changing out of our sweat soaked, uniforms, everyone gathered at the front before leaving in small groups in all directions. We made plans with Tsubaki Sensei for practice tomorrow, and went back to hotel for some much needed food and rest. First things first: LAUNDRY!!!