2014 (Jan) Grading Taiwan (Andrew's Report)

January 28, 2014

Day 1 (Tue) – Day of Arrival in Kaohsiung, 2-5pm


We met up Hou Sensei and Stanley from the Taiwan team, and we went to check-in to our hotel, ICON. We dropped off our luggage and got our gear to headed towards the Dojo, so that we learnt the route to get there. Taiwan’s MRT system is pretty much the same as Singapore. According to the locals, the mayor came to Singapore and loved how the system was setup, that he decided to duplicate it here as well. Certain parts of the station, you have a brief sense of déjà vu, as if we were back in Singapore.



We finally reached the Dojo and we were very impressed. Nice cool sea breeze blowing into the Dojo, with the polished wooden floors, made us feel so homely that we could practice with such serenity and calmness. We went around taking some pictures of the Dojo, and we also wrote down our wish on a wooden block to hang on the tree for it to be manifested to the universe!


After hanging around, we went to eat lunch. Hou Sensei brought us to a really famous local eatery. The food was awesome and I think we overate a little bit, after all it was the first meal. After having such a delicious meal, we took a slow walk to the Dojo.


Upon returning to the Dojo, we got changed and started practicing so that we could get used to the swords that was lent to us during our stay. The swords that we borrowed were very nice blades made by Noshyudo, our favourite swordsmiths from Japan. The balance and weight of the swords are very refined that after practicing for couple of hours, we easily got used to it pretty fast.


In the evening we returned to the hotel, had dinner near by and oiled and cleaned our swords in preparation for the next day training. 


Day 2 (Wed) – We meet Kobara Sensei, 2-5pm 


We took a good rest and had a late breakfast as our training only started in the afternoon. 


We also got to meet Kobara Sensei for the first time! It is truly an honour to meet such a humble and amazing person. For this day, he knew we just arrived yesterday, so it as a very light training. Even though it was a short training, we learnt a few tips to improve ourselves immediately. The power of learning from our 8th Dan Sensei!! We focused quite a lot on our fundamentals to improve them and get them corrected. From footwork to drawing of the sword. The angle of the sword and all the finer details. As my favourite saying goes, “Always be humble, because you don’t know what you don’t know!!”


For lunch, Fang Sensei took us to eat a local fastfood. They focus mostly on chicken and it was quite good!!


Day 3 (Thur) Full Day Training 10am-5pm


Day 3 was a pretty amazing day. Today we had the privilege of being tutored by by Mochizai Sensei. He is such a detailed person, one look and he know’s where to help us adjust. Today I had a really amazing breakthrough for my Noto. I think the correction he helped us made was worth the whole trip here already!! Thanks to his teachings and making us practice multiple times, we greatly improved our fundamentals immediately. 


For lunch we ate in as they ordered bento for us. It was really nice!! After that we continue our practice to drill it into our bodies on what we have learned.


Day 4 (Fri) Full Day Training


Today we had the privilege of being taught by Charlie sensei, he went through the various wazas and started teaching us the wazas that we didn’t know too well. He corrected us on the various areas and by the end of the day we knew all the Batto Ho wazas and also improved on our basic techniques!! Today Ashley and I had the easiest day in terms of understanding as Charlie sensei taught us in English! So it was pretty straight forward without any language barrier. 


Day 5 (Sat) Full day Training


Today was the most productive and awesome breakthrough for us. We were personally taught by Kobara sensei and supported by Fang Sensei as well for the whole morning and afternoon session.


Kobara sensei started off with footwork of the various Batto Ho waza then went into the details, followed by intense repetition for our muscles to remember. It felt like we did each waza like 20-30 times!! It was intense, but we loved it!! We didn’t know that he wanted us to perform those the next day at Enbu until the next morning. All we can say is, “Thanks for pushing us and teaching us with such passion Kobara sensei!!” and thanks for Fang Sensei’s Chinese explanation and pointers in supporting all of us.


We finally finished the day with all our bodies aching, but Charlie Sensei brought us to go eat a very nice meal!! Got to love the food in Taiwan!!


Day 6 (Sun) – Grading and Enbu 


Morning Grading


An air of anticipation and seriousness surrounded the morning air, yet it was filled with a sense of calmness. Those taking their grading were there early to practice their last round before they prepared to take their grading in the morning. Today the temperature was a little bit colder than usual around the 16C range. 


At about 10am, the official grading started and the sho-dan was the first to start. The Singapore team was the first to go. Despite the fact that this was their first time coming here to Taiwan, they performed with confidence and executed their five wazas in front of the judges. After finishing, the Ni-dan and so forth took their grading. It was pretty amazing to see the different level of performance. We really learnt a lot just by watching everyone taking their grading. It is interesting to see how as you level up, the power and perfection of each waza is executed more beautifully. The performance has definitely given us great inspiration and motivation for us to practice more so that we can build up our confidence and at the same time conquer our inner self.


After grading, we had a short lunch in preparation of our Enbu. Our fellow members who took their grading received their results and everyone passed!!


It was awesome to see the relief on everyone’s face and especially the smiles.


Afternoon Enbu


In the afternoon, it was Enbu. We were pretty nervous as it was the first time we will be performing in front of the judges!! Considering the fact that we only started Iaido 6 months ago and we definitely knew we were far from reaching a comfortable level of confidence, we just did our best!! Thankfully we had 5 days of intense training to really help us level up as much as we could. We did our best in taking the lessons from all the senseis’ and apply it to our performance. We believe the hardest challenge was the fact that we knew we made a mistake, we should just get over it and continue in finishing it. Sounds easy, but in reality it was easier said than done.


After our turn it was the higher ranks turn to perform. We concluded the Enbu with the judges displaying their performance. It was really amazing to see the higher levels, as it gave us a guage on how much more we had to learn and far we have to push ourselves to reach that higher level of performance.


We ended the day with lots of photo taking and giving of gifts to the judges. We followed that we a dinner party at the seaside and had some drinks with the whole team. It was a really amazing day!! 


Overall this past 6 days has really been an immensely productive training. We think what we have learnt this week is easily equivalent to months of training added up. Considering the fact that it was over 30hrs of training in a short period of time and it was everyday, the learning curve was greatly accelerated as if it was like a Boot Camp. To really master Iaido, we really need to put our hard work of 10,000hrs into it to really reach a professional and expert level.

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