Celebrate ‘hatsumode’

Quoting the official invitation:

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You are cordially invited to attend the celebration of Hatsumode (the Seasonal First Visit to the Shrine) on New Year’s Day 2013 January 1st.

Hotel Okura Amsterdam
Otter and Esperance Room
Ferdinand Bolstraat 333
Amsterdam
16:00- 17:00

Free entrance
Donations appreciated

Program:
15:30 Registration of guests
16:00 Shinto ceremony: Hatsumode
17:00 Naorai (congratulatory toast with sake)
18:00 End

RSVP: Please reply before December 24th to confirm your attendance. Send to office@shinto.nl. After December 24th you will receive a confirmation.

Hatsumode is the seasonal first visit to the shrine in order to receive the pure blessings of nature. During New Year’s Day the guests of Hotel Okura may visit a special shrine that is temporarily constructed (see picture below). Due to the gracious courtesy of Hotel Okura we can celebrate the Grand New Year ceremony for the 8th time. Since 8 is an auspicious number, we expect this ceremony will attract many guests. We recommend replying as soon as possible.

The ceremony will be performed by drs. Paul de Leeuw, Shintomaster and Yurie Umamoto, Miko.

Kyu exams in Almere

In a few weeks, at the end of January, the Almere dojo will host their semi-annual kyu gradings. While they are in no way official ranks related to the NKR/EKF, our internal shinsa are a nice way of determining one’s progress.

Our internal exams are a nice preparation for the official NKR ikkyu shinsa, hopefully lowering any nervousness or fears student may feel. They are also a nice confidence boost for our beginners to whom kendo class may often seem like an endless repetition of “not good enough!“. Getting confirmation that you are actually making progress, which you might not notice every week, is very pleasant.

Students are advised to properly prepare for the exams, as if attending a real shinsa. Read through our shinsa prep guide and then read through our various study materials.

Summary of class, 18/12

Last night was a training out of the ordinary. Seeing how it was the last tuesday-night session for 2012, the turnup was smaller with only one sensei appearing and the group totaling out at roughly fifteen people (nine in bogu). While Roelof-sensei kept an eye on everyone for details, Kiwa-sempai led the advanced group in what I found to be a tremendously educational class.

The first half hour of class was spent on practicing kendo kata. I’m not aware of any pointers given out to other couples, but these are some that Nienke and myself received while repeatedly going through kata #3. This was under the watchful eye of Onno-sempai, Roelof-sensei and Kiwa-sempai

  • When lowering and raising the bokuto, do it slowly. Build tension.
  • When attacking, step in deeply from the hips (which is something Ran-sempai also corrected me on).
  • When defending and pulling back, you can either step back deeper and pull back through the center, or you can compensate for a too-small step by pulling back the bokuto off-center. The prior appears to be preferable.
  • When countering, the pattern is right-left-right-left-right, as opposed to what I had been doing: right-right-left-right-left.

The next half hour was spent on learning the bokuto ni yoru kendo kihon waza keikoho, also known as the kihon bokuto waza. This set of exercises is relatively new and targeted mostly at beginning students and lower-ranked kendo. Here, one practices the various techniques in kendo in a more realistic as well as entry-level setting: unarmoured and with a bokuto, which is shorter than a shinai. Much more information can be read in this excelent PDF. In class we practiced kata #1 through #3, which are:

  1. The four basic targets: men, kote, dou and tsuki.
  2. A successive kote-men.
  3. The harai-men technique.

The last half hour was dedicated to jigeiko. The beginners’ group joined Roelof-sensei for kihon practice, while the advanced group went through their desired routines. Roelof-sensei closed class with remarks regarding the fact that most people still over-use their right hand and that they need to focus more on the left hand. He also reminded us of the year’s closing, the fact that first class of 2013 is on 05/01 and of the buffet on 12/01.

Dojo holidays

Dear kenshi,

Please be aware that the dojo will be closed on 25/12, 29/12 and 01/01. Saturday 22/12 will be the last training of 2012 in Amstelveen. Almere’s last training was on the 15th, so they’re closed an additional week.

We will commence training on saturday 05/01.

In the mean time, we advise that all students make good use of this spare time, to do maintenance on their equipment! We don’t want to see splintered or damaged shinai in January!

Summary of class 1, 15/12

This summary is for the Almere group, who practice in the morning.

It’s great to see how our group keeps growing with newbies, who also show great attendance. Sadly, we don’t seem to have much luck with the guys in bogu. On the one hand lenience on attendance is part of the friendly atmosphere of our Almere dojo, but on the other hand it does keep ourselves and our juniors from learning as quickly as we could. We will certainly strive to improve attendance in 2013.

When it comes to our members, it’s also interesting to see how many young kids we attract. We don’t yet rival our mother-dojo in Amstelveen (who have flocks of Japanese children attending training on saturday), but with five under-ten year olds and numerous teenagers we’re certainly a young group.

Now, on to class. After warming-up we started with lunges in order to improve footwork and balance. There are two commonly made mistakes: either you keep a too-narrow stance and can’t keep your balance, or you over-compensate for that and take a too-wide stance (as per graphic A above). Kris-fukushou reminds us that we really should keep our feet at the proper width during the whole practice. Move in straight lines.

We practiced kihon in the motodachi system, with the eight guys in bogu acting as partner for the fourteen or so people without bogu. After that the group was split up as usual and my group moved on to waza practice. The two most important lessons for myself were about debana kote and suriage men.

With debana kote I was always confused: do I need to move my shinai over or under my opponent’s blade? Turns out that it’s neither, because both are too slow :) As per graphic B, Kris explained that your shinai stays almost level, while the opponent moves in for amen-strike. That way you automatically duck under his shinai and you also stay close enough for a quick kote strike.

Now, suriage men is apparently a very difficult technique for kyu-grade students, but it doesn’t hurt to get introduced. Kris-fukushou suggested the D/C-shaped movement that is also mentioned by Salmon-sensei in the linked article. And as Salmon-sensei points out, most of us were having lots of issues with both the movements and the timing. In my case I feel way too slow and I have it in my mind suriage men is a two-stage movement, while it should be more of a single arc where you deflect and strike from the deflect position.

Class was closed with all student in bogu acting as motodachi in uchikomi geiko, which the other students had to run twice. That meant a total of fourteen rounds of five strikes for everyone. A great way to close this last class of the year!

New opportunities

Renshinjuku’s students would like to extend their best wishes to Heeren-sensei in his new commercial undertaking: iParking Schiphol.

Starting this month, Heeren-sensei now runs a valet parking company mainly targeting travelers departing from Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. Their services are however also available for events and other occasions.

Should you require valet parking on the short term, you might be interested in their current introductory offer of 56% discount.

Bogu repairs

Our friend Debby Vigneau informs us that she will soon open her bogu repair shop Ichi Gan. Hers is one of the few shops inside Europe dedicated to repairing parts of your kendo armor, which seems like a good chance to get something repaired quickly.

Debby will be attending the ABKF Winter Seminar in Brussels, on the 15th and 16th of December, where you can hand over kit that you would like to have repaired. She can then take it with her, or even fix it for you on-site.

We would like to wish Debby good fortune with her new undertaking!