Gasshuku Reflections Part 1

The 4th IGA Ken Gasshuku was such a memorable event for the participants that many of them have spontaneously written about their experiences and thoughts about it. This is the first of a series of articles showcasing these reflections.

Alain Duminy is one of the senior members of the club, someone many members turn to for advice and inspiration. A French national, he fell in love with the Philippines (and with a certain Pilipina in particular), and has decided to settle here. He has done Kendo in many places all around the world, and is always more than willing to share those experiences with us. He and his son Alexandre currently practice out of the Dasma Village Dojo of IGA Ken.

I usually do not post like this, but this Gasshuku was such a special experience I will take the time to share my own learning. Hopefully it won’t be a Rikki long post 

2000 suburi
The past few weeks before gashuku people were already nervously talking about the 2000 suburi impossible challenge. Some said they will skip the morning session, some said they won’t survive it, some came prepared with gloves… But all in all, until we started, few believed they could do it. On that morning I decided to take the exact opposite approach. I conditioned myself that I will not only do the 2000, but I will do them well, and make sure I assist and motivate others to do the same. I did my suburi as big as I could, with a very big voice, providing a beacon to the people in the back so they would keep the right rhythm. I would move beside people showing signs of weakening to carry them in my moves. And during the break I would smile, make a few jokes and project a go go, we can do it attitude. I don’t know how much this actually helped others, but it did a miracle on me. I went thru the 2000 suburi surprisingly easily. Of course I suffered. But I could probably have done many more. All this to say that the mind set amd attitude we take to the challenge is critical in succeeding. We always hear that the mind is stronger than the body. I confirmed that morning that indeed, a strong mind and will, the inside conviction that we will succeed, is a great part of the actual success. Mind over body. Any time.

I have already posted about this. I will not repeat myself. This is one whole separate part of kendo learning. And something we do not practice enough. I remembered when I was in the Kitamoto seminar that a couple of mornings were dedicated to shinpan. And one of the clear memories were the frustration of 5th dan fighters scoring points that were not called by 1st dan shinpan like me at that time. More to learn for all of us. But one thing I will never ever forget, is that the shinpan call is almighty. The shinpan is always always right and at no time should you feel cheated by the results. Maybe you were a tiny bit faster, maybe more precise than the opponent, but your strike should not have left any room for any mistake. Next time, do better so there is no room for error. This is how I think every time I have doubt about a shinpan call.

My shiai
And I mean shiai, not gi geiko. I write this now because I forgot that during my first shiai. I was told “it does not count” and I went into the fight with the wrong mind set, the wrong focus and the wrong attitude. I went for geiko instead of shiai and guess what, the result exactly reflected that. It struck me after, when my opponent told me “I saw you smiling when I tried hiki waza on you”. What? What the heck? I was smiling during my shiai!?! What was I thinking? I was observing my opponent instead of fighting. I completely changed my mindset and attitude on my second shiai. And the result for me ended up so differently. I loved the experience 1000 times more. Did I say that already? Mind over body 

My kendo
I think this Gasshuku was also for me a major turning event in my personal kendo. First after the 2000 suburi I realized that I have never been as relaxed, and my kendo as smoothed before. The 2000 suburi had taken away some of the strength and harshness from my shoulders, arms, hands and fingers. I would feel my shinai better and the strikes were faster. I made a mental note that I should try to replicate this without having to perform 2000 suburi every time. I also realized that you guys have changed so much in the last 4 years.
Being a shinpan of the yudansha matches, I saw the quality of the kendo, the focus, and that many were now fighting with their head. I realized then that many of you will now help me grow my kendo. I hope that 18 months from now, sensei will allow me to try for 4th dan. 18 months is a very short period of time. So looking at you, I made another mental note that I need to start now my own program to develop a kendo I can be proud of showing during the test.

I will not repeat what other said on how awesome and well organized it was. Kudos to the team. But I want to share here a “moment of sudden reflection” I had during Sunday afternoon. While being motodachi, I noticed from the corner of my eye then MKC folks arriving, pulling the bogu bag, shinai bag on the shoulder, looking at us with surprise. Then a few other images flashed in my mind: the suburi teams lined up in front of a piece of paper with their name on it, the shiai scoring forms on the wall, the groups around the dojo: Iloilo in that corner, Dasmarinas over there, Davao here and then Arena peeps. I saw the journalists taking picture and conducting interviews, I saw the loooong lines of men and people in seiza doing mokuso, and the huge kiais of 200,000 suburi. And I realized then that I had already seen that, felt that. During international kendo events in Hong Kong, France, Japan, Germany or Switzerland. Yes I think this 4th Gasshuku was something else, not only bigger and better, but the start of another league of events. Kendo in the Philippines is maturing fast and well. And each of you is part of that transformation. This Gasshuku is the start of bigger things to come.

Proud family
It is just amazing to see how much passion everyone has for Kendo. I see many people “play” a sport. But during gasshuku, I can tell, no one was there to “play”. This is so much more than a sport, because on the way you people practice and put your soul into it. This is why I see al of you not as co-players, but as an extended kendo family.

Proud dad
Yup… I did not tag anyone in this post, but I need to end tagging Alexandre Jean Duminy. He made me so proud this week end. He actually did the 2000 suburi, refusing to take it easy when I started to get worried. He practiced hard. Fought even harder, specially against the Iloilo guy who was trying to split his men open  He wouldn’t give up. I am proud of him and he deserved his medals. Congrats Alex.

Let’s all practice and level up together.

Alain Duminy

Alain Duminy's photo.
Alain Duminy's photo.
Alain Duminy's photo.

What dyou think?