by Kristopher Inting photo credits to Rikki, Ronin, Red, Ejay, Konig, Igarashi-Sensei, Verns, Alain, Dane and Melvin
Last September 27 and 28, about 100 kendoka from all over the country made their way to the St. Marie Eugenie Sports Complex of Assumption Antipolo for a weekend of hard training, fun and camaraderie. It was the 4th Annual IGA Ken Gasshuku, and I am happy to report that aside from being the biggest ever, it was also the best one ever!
Training was led of course by Igarashi Koji Sensei. He was ably assisted by Matsumoto Takeshi Sensei, Tachibana Masatsune, Nakagane Ryosuke, Alain Duminy, Sugawara Shinmei, Loida Estanilla-Inting, and yours truly.
We were also graced by the presence of the leadership of the other Kendo clubs in the Philippines. For the IGA Ken Dojo, I was there of course to represent IGA Ken Arena, Mr. Johnny Besa (the current Dasma Manager) was there to represent IGA Ken Dasma, and Alexis Espina (the current President) was there to represent UP Ken. Representing the Iloilo Kendo Club was club founder Mr. Ryan Gomez. Representing the Davao Kendo Club was club manager Mr. Johnny Lardera Jr. Representing Manila Kendo Club was board member Mr. Andre Brillantes.
The Gasshuku started with a grueling 2000 suburi challenge. Many of the participants were apprehensive about this, as it was the first time they were asked to do so many at one time. However through good planning and pacing by Igarashi-Sensei, the challenge was met and completed.
This was followed by the first of three bogu evaluations, where bogu class candidates from Arena, Dasma and UP Ken tried to prove that they were indeed ready to wear bogu. Under the careful scrutiny of the judging panel all candidates were found wanting, so none passed in this attempt.
Around noon time, a team from the Manila Bulletin arrived in order to cover the event. They stayed for the entire afternoon, getting interviews from me, Alain and Igarashi-Sensei. They also took numerous photos of the practice session. We hope to read that article soon on their newspaper.
The afternoon session was started with a lecture by Igarashi-Sensei on key Kendo topics. This was followed by a refresher on shiai procedure and etiquette, in preparation for the competition the next day.Scenes from Day 1
This was followed by almost 2 hours of kihon waza-geiko, uchikomi-geiko and jigeiko. The training session ended with the second attempt for bogu evaluation, but again all the candidates did not pass. Not to worry though, as they had a third and final attempt the next day.
As the day turned into night, the activities were then shifted from the gym to our official hotel for the Gasshuku, Cristina Villas Mountain Resort and Hotel. A fellowship dinner was had, during which the presence of our visitors from Iloilo and Davao were acknowledged through the donation of shinai and shinai bags. This was followed by a meeting of the various teams competing in the shiai the next day in order to flesh out the line-ups and team names. And as you will see later, team names were very creative.
Finally, by 9:30pm, the night’s activities were over, and the Gasshuku participants dispersed to get some much needed rest…or did they? In fact the night was just starting. Igarashi-Sensei held a shimpan seminar in his room for the yudansha in preparation for the shiai. Most of the other participants opted to explore the resort, make use of the facilities (especially the swimming pool), or just simply lounge around with friends and talk about various topics. Many were still up by midnight, which made me wonder personally where they would get the energy for the activities the next day. Finally though, everyone was tucked in by 1:30am.Scenes from Cristina Villas.
Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny. Surprisingly enough, everyone was awake early, and ready for check out on-time. I guess excitement for the day’s activities trumped lack of sleep and aching joints.
The second day of the Gasshuku was dedicated to various shiai. The first was a tournament involving 9 ten-man teams, involving all the participants who were there Sunday morning. Each team was a mix of non-bogu and bogu class members, captained by a senior yudansha. After a series of hard fought matches, joint third place was secured by the “Better Team” and the “In-Team”. Second place was won by “Team Shunka Shuutou”. The Ten-Man Team Champions were “Team Ninja Warriors”.
The second shiai of the day was a Red Team vs White Team match up, where all bogu class mudansha were divided into two teams and pitted against each other. In the end, Red Team got the victory.
Finally it was time for the individual 1-dan and 2-dan matches. This was indeed an exciting showcase of skill and determination. In the end, 3rd place was won by Joshua Espiritu, 2nd place by Jomar Romero, and the Individual Champion was Rikki Daniel Reyes.
Next activity was the third and final bogu evaluation. And in this attempt I am proud to say that all the candidates gave it their all and then some more. Enough effort was given that all the candidates from the previous two attempts passed. So congratulations to Neil, Paul, Peachie, Riki (M.), Meeko, JP, Jenny, Dylan, Tamorah, Alexis, Verns, Dale and Yunosuke. You guys truly deserved to pass!
The awarding ceremony followed, where medals were given to the winning teams and individual competitors from the shiai. 16 fighting spirit awards were also given to various deserving participants.
Finally the day ended with uchikomi for the no bogu class, and jigeiko for the bogu class members. Then it was wrap up time. Some went home immediately, while a good number of us decided to bond further by having an impromptu fellowship dinner in the nearby Cloud9 Antipolo Hotel. Then Gasshuku was truly over.Scenes from Day 2.
Pushing Past our Limits
If there was a theme in this Gasshuku, it was “Pushing Past Limits”. It was evident in the training aspect. Before Gasshuku, none of the participants were confident about doing 2000 suburi. Yet everyone proved it was certainly possible.
It was evident with the bogu exam candidates. Even after failing the exam twice, they still found the energy and wherewithal to push past their disappointment and finally succeed on the third attempt.
It was evident in the shiai. Many people suddenly brought out their “A-game”, and pulled off surprises. Some of the match results were certainly unexpected, as the underdog pulled off a win. In others, people suddenly displayed beautiful Kendo, which made me personally wonder where that sudden burst of skill came from. To those who showed their stuff in the shiai, I hope you can keep that inspired Kendo going.
Finally it was evident in the event itself. Never before have we organized an event for 100+ people. Never before have we invited participants from different dojo, some of them flying in from different parts of the country. And to pull this off with no big problem was simply miraculous.
Why This Gasshuku Was Better
The technical answer to this question is that this was the most well organized Gasshuku of IGA Ken to date. To repeat an earlier statement, as large as the scope of this event was, this was pulled off with barely a hitch to mar the proceedings. The full answer is more than that however.
Part of the answer was simply because everyone enjoyed themselves so much. It was evident in the smiles people sported during breaks, even after being physically and mentally tested just a few minutes prior. It was evident in the mixing and mingling of the people from different dojo, making new friends and enjoying each other’s company. It was seen in the spontaneous celebration of virtually everyone present when the bogu class candidates finally passed on their third try. Everyone was in high spirits during this event, and buoyed up one another as result.
The final part of the answer was supplied by Alain Duminy, one of our senior members, in his personal reflection on the Gasshuku. It looked and felt like a major international Kendo event. My take away is that Philippine Kendo is indeed maturing, and the future is bright and exciting.
This Gasshuku was also personally important for me, because it proved the viability of IGA Ken as an organization. As many of the members know, the Gasshuku has been my personal pet project over the years, something that I make sure to manage every time it is held. This year however was different. Due to health issues, I was unavailable for most of September, during the crunch time for this project. There were people who stepped up during my forced absence however, making sure that everything would be prepared for the day itself. In many ways, this is actually their Gasshuku, because it couldn’t have been pulled off without them. And this just goes to show that our club has become a stable and proving ground for future Kendo leaders in the country.
On that note, I would like to thank the Gasshuku Committee for their successful effort, in particular to Verns, April, Choi, Angge, Rikki, and Raffy. I would also like to thank Igarashi-Sensei for conceiving and leading a very good and comprehensive training regimen. I would also like to thank all the other senior yudansha for your help, namely Matsumoto-Sensei, Tachibana-San, Nakagane-San, Alain, and Shinmei. I would also like to thank my co-leaders from the other participating dojo, Johnny B., Alexis, Ryan, Johnny L., and Andre, for organizing your own people and bringing them to the event. I would like to thank all the participants of the Gasshuku, for without your participation this would not have been the success it was.
My final thanks is for my wife Loida. For managing to return from the U.S. earlier than expected, and helping to nurse me back to health so that I could actually participate in the Gasshuku. You are the inspiration that keeps me going, even when there are many obstacles in the way.
I am certainly looking forward to next year’s Gasshuku. May it be even bigger and better than this one.