Following Taikai, the team continued training for the next 3 days at Shibuya Dojo and Kita-Matsudo Dojo. Shibuya Dojo is located within walk distance from Shibuya metro station. Against the backdrop of skyscrappers, the shrine and tori gates around the dojo compound offers a brief respite from the hustle and bustle of busy city life.
The dojo retains much of traditional japanese architectural style. For example, both sides of the dojo are flanked by sliding doors & windows (shōji). The floor are lacquered wood secured with wood pegs. Besides aesthetic purposes, they serve another very useful function - allowing iaidokas to check body posture. The cool weather permeates through the dojo floors and makes for a refreshing practice into the evening. Practice is typically led by a senior Sensei, followed by a short break before proceeding to practice in small groups overseen by other Senseis. Again, we see the smoothness and crisp, precise motions demonstrated by the Senseis as we observe, follow and learn.
Here, we also see upfront Japanese efficiency. Group practice is done with minimal explanations or comments. Where necessary, communication is curt and short, yet clear (despite language barrier). Everyone respects each other's time.
Training for remaining two days is done at Kita-Matsudo Dojo. The dojo is located within the town's community center and is shared with other interest groups such as Kendo. The team had the opportunity to do a bit of sight seeing in between training. We went to Sakuraya to peruse some training items and later chanced by Kitanomaru park and the beautiful autumn sights.
Kita-Matsudo community center has a park as well, and its beauty wasn't revealed to us until the next day when we headed back for afternoon training. =)
Esaka Sensei dropped by to observe practice and showed us some corrections as well. Each of us tried as best as we could to absorb what knowledge the respective Senseis impart to each of us. Even if we couldn't immediately comprehend the second order details, we kept working at it to at least be able to commit it to body muscle memory for practice back home. Before we knew it, the day's training came to an end, and with it the training sessions for the Taikai trip.
The next day, the team did a half-day shopping at Asakusa and had dinner with Matsumoto Sensei @ 3+5 Hachi restaurant. During dinner, we cracked jokes, catch-up on events, discussed plans for future keiko sessions and also shared on teaching iaido. Matsumoto Sensei shared iaido offered him an avenue to get away briefly from busy work, to be able to recharge and return to daily commitments. Indeed, this is true for most of us, be it iaido or other interests.
The important thing is to keep at it in developing oneself's and at the same time help others as well. In the context of teaching others iai, helping others would eventually help the whole dojo grow - in terms of the technical competency but more importantly, establish a nurturing, closely-knitted and forward-looking community of iaidokas. In all practice sessions, we see the Senseis observe and try to best tailor explanations to feed individual understanding. They also share unreservedly to make our iai better. To that end, the least we could do is to keep their teachings in mind and pass it on to future generations.
We would like to thank all the Japanese Senseis for their hospitality in hosting us and teaching us throughout all the practices.
All in all, this year's Taikai trip is a success. Its success is only possible through the stalwart leadership of Michael, Kancho, supported by all the dojo members in the planning, organisation, and looking out for each other during the Taikai trip.
We would also like to thank the rest of the dojo members for holding the fort back home while the team is overseas training.
We hope this 3-part series is able to provide some insights into Iai Taikai and practices overseas. Readers interested in learning more about Iaido may do so by contacting us on our home page: https://www.mjersg.org/.
Till next time. Cheers.