Friday, 10 August 2012

Asia Trip 2012: Kyudo in Chiba - Day 1

THU 26-JUL: The two hour ride from Shinjuku to Narita finally gave us some time to reflect on an incredibly successful trip, our very own "shugyo", with only a one more leg to go.

The day began like every other. The clouds and forecasted thundershowers burned away early by an untiring sun. The 30+C/65+% humidity, a staple of this trip, gave us more satisfaction as we persevered through the worst the season had to offer.

Heat, Training, and Food. Characterizations of our stay in Tokyo. While the training has come to an end, our flexible train schedule allowed us to pay one last visit to Numazukou for some Kaiten Sushi followed by dessert.

To recap so far, that's 2 days of Kyudo, 8 days of Iaido, 4 days with Kaiten Sushi, 4 days with Ramen, 30+ desserts, and now we're off to a city known for its Unagi.

By the end of the two local train segments to Narita, most of it standing with our luggage, we were pretty exhausted. An easy check-in to our hotel gave us a chance to rest and find some food before our 6:30pm appointment with Kohama Sumiko Sensei, Kyoshi 6 Dan, a friend and former prefectural team-mate of our Kyudo Sensei.  Thankfully, it was not a busy time of year, and due to her close relationship with Takahashi Sensei, was gracious enough to organize our training in Chiba.

We were invited to join her regular evening class at the Nakadai Sports Complex, a three-story building complete with gym courts and martial arts dojos (Wood, Tatami, and Kyudojo). The surrounding park also included a large athletics track and even a Sumo dojo. Kohama Sensei greeted us warmly in the lobby, recognizing us immediately, and seemed to know quite a lot about us and our experiences so far. As with every new Sensei we've met, she still wanted to confirm who understood Japanese (only Hanna), and how to tell Michael and I apart (Michael wears glasses). She made small talk with Hanna as we made our way up one level followed by a long, narrow staircase to the third floor Kyudojo. As we stepped into the practice area, the fatigue of the last week was quickly forgotten, and our excitement to get back into the Kyudo practice gave us strength and motivation to perform.

We quietly made our way to the back of the room, doing our best not to interrupt the beginner class currently in session. Six young students of varying levels were learning the basics of Taihai and Shaho-Shagi. We were directed to change and be ready to join them for a couple of Taihai rounds while Kohama Sensei assumed control of the class. At 7:30, the beginners took their leave and the rest of us got ready for free shooting. Following Takahashi Sensei's direction, we waited a couple of rounds for the 3 and 4 Dans to practice, taking care to note their timing before joining in. After observing their use of Taikai timing, we quickly settled into the rotation, loosing at least 10 arrows and seamlessly (I hope) joining with the seniors. Breaks and Yatori were taken at varying intervals, and we resolved to perform the latter much more often than the former.

As the night progressed, we received several corrections, many different from those received in Okayama. Kohama Sensei has a quite hands-on approach to instruction, similar to Satoh Kaoru Sensei from the Tamano-shi Kyudojo, while contrary to that of Satoh Tadashi Sensei and Tanaka Chotaro Sensei from the Mitsui Kyudojo. Each location has also focused on very different parts of our technique, and we couldn't be more happy. Large variances in instruction, while frustrating and confusing in the short term, is perfect for this type of trip. Regular training in foreign countries are based on these bursts of senior instruction, and we made sure to record and bring these back to Canada for further study.

At ~9pm, the PA system announced the close of all evening sessions. We did our best to help cleanup while not getting in the way of others, then Kohama Sensei gave us a ride back to the hotel and confirmed our meet up for the next day. Unagi lunch followed by an afternoon of Kyudo!

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