2014 Koshukai & Shodan Shiken, a brief personal journey

2014 Denton SwordThe story really began three weeks prior when David and I came to Dallas for the North TX Irish Festival. In addition to the festival I spent most of Saturday in Denton just to the North visiting my teacher and participating in the Saturday morning class. All was well until the day after we got back where upon I fell ill with a respiratory disease. After a week of making little progress I saw my doctor and started on antibiotics. Meanwhile my heightened conditioning routine, necessary to prepare for the physically demanding Koshukai, came to a halt. I recovered barely in time to gather the many things needed for the long weekend, pack, and drive off to Denton, as planned, on the Wednesday before the weekend.

Thursday morning was spent resting, organizing, and waiting for Sensei to complete his work for the day so we could run errands in the afternoon. I did the driving as we stopped to get gifts for Tanida-Sensei and his wife, arrange for the pizza dinner on Friday, check the key operation at the gym, arrange for tables, arrange for checking in at the hotel, and buy fruit & snacks for the hotel room.

After getting back to the house we enjoyed a smoothie before heading down to the dojo for the Thursday practice. The easel was also brought to the dojo and set up. Everyone in attendance was testing, so the practice consisted of jūkeiko followed by a practice Shiken. Afterwards we went out to eat with Charles-Sensei and continued to discuss planning for our trip to Japan in June. Much later that night Neil-Sensei arrived and settled down in Sensei’s study for the night.

The next day Nemo-San came by in the morning before heading to the airport to pick up Tanida-Sensei, in order to collect the hotel check in paper, the basket for the hotel room, and the care kit. This allowed us time in the morning to complete preparations at the dojo and get things ready to move to the gym for the evening practice.

Promptly at the appointed time, Tanida-Sensei came to the dojo to start the afternoon practice with the assembled Kanchō. Every year he seems on fire to transmit to us the technique and essence of MJER. Every year he challenges us to raise our Iai and that of our students. This year was no different.

Four hours later the practice with the Kanchō is done and we are able to take Tanida-Sensei to a private viewing of Kogushi-Sensei’s family sword at the nearby Denton Annex where it is on display. Afterwards Nemo-San took him back to the hotel to rest while everyone else was busy moving stuff to and preparing the gym for the evening practice.

Promptly at 6:30 he arrived and lead a three-hour practice for everyone in attendance. I wasn’t feeling up to another practice so instead I ran a camera. Afterwards there was a small pizza party at Sensei’s house for Tanida-Sensei and Kanchō.

The next morning I woke up with a migraine that included a touch of nausea, so I took medication and rested that morning while everyone else participated in the morning practice at the gym. I sent the refreshed care kit to Nemo-San courtesy of Neil-Sensei. By noon I was feeling better and was able to participate in the afternoon practice, even doing tatehiza techniques. There was a group photo before everyone dispersed to get ready for the party.

The dinner party that night was at Sensei’s house and featured Martha’s tasty Tex-Mex food. We couldn’t eat enough. We also watched a video of an MJER practice in Japan from the early 1980’s lead by Tanida-Sensei’s and Sensei’s first teacher, who had incredible Iai. Later that evening Sensei presented him with a printed copy of the latest newsletter, which included the published interview that Neil-Sensei did last year with him. Others, including myself, presented their own small gifts before he retired for the night.

The next day we gathered at the gym for the last large group practice in the morning. After a few hours there was a break to allow those testing to do jūkeiko, and everyone else to set up for the Shodan Shiken to follow. I was running on fumes by then so I just helped a little with set up and rested as much as possible.

Before the test the Kanchō were given tournament evaluation forms for the first time ever, and Tanida-Sensei explained how to fill in each part of the form and which pairs of testers we were practicing on. This was done I think to begin preparing us to judge a tournament.

The Shodan Shiken went very well. While I was able to watch Nemo-San and Rob-San from the front table, I could only observe Jon-Sensei and Ali-Sensei from the rear as I awaited my turn. Every one did very well I think.

After the test was over, and the various group photos with the Sensei were done, there was the usual mad rush to break down, change clothes to get ready for lunch, while fielding all the good-byes from the many leaving to go back to where they came from. Finally everything was packed, cleared out, and locked up, and we could journey to Brent’s for a by-reservation-only delicious meal catered by Babe’s of Sanger TX. We couldn’t eat enough of the good food. While resting & digesting in a quiet corner of the house, Tanida-Sensei came by to let Nemo and I know that he wanted to have a practice at the dojo in one hour. I got up and immediately notified everyone else. Knowing we had to go back to the house to get our gear first, everyone jumped up and headed out.

Even dressing out directly at the house and going immediately to the dojo, the practice had already started by the time I arrived. After some general comments by Tanida-Sensei he commenced to teach us the finer points of the paired waza we knew. After three hours this, the last practice, came to a close. Neil-Sensei took his leave to drive back home. The rest of us, after changing, all headed out to a soup/salad/sandwich shop for dinner, our last chance to visit, and to conclude the business side of the event. Tanida-Sensei was taken back to his hotel for the last time as we headed back to the house to grab some sleep.

Morning came very early as a handful of us rose and hurried to the hotel to see him off to the airport by 7AM. Afterwards most of us went back to bed, including myself.

After waking up again I could barely move around to do laundry, re-pack, and head out the door to run some necessary errands, which included a much-needed chair massage of the lower back at The Cupboard. After Sensei completed his work for the day we spent some time checking out his new laptop before heading down to the dojo for the evening practice. There was no practice as the handful that showed up were all way too tired and sore from the weekend. So we just quietly talked about how it all went.

Still worn out I was able to move around a little bit more on Tuesday and conclude my business in Denton (including another chair massage, this time focusing on the upper back & shoulders). With the car fully loaded I headed off back home at 2 PM,– a time picked to avoid both Dallas and Houston rush hours. Back home I was too tired to do more than unpack the car and go to bed. It was several days later until I had the desire or energy to unpack, and eight days until I was finally out of the deep well of exhaustion that effected everything and I could resume my normal work out.

Lesson for next year: Don’t get majorly sick before the Koshukai, and if that fails, settle for just watching and taking notes.


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