A few years ago we’ve took it upon ourselves to improve our kendo and the relationships with other dojo and kenshi in the Netherlands as well as dojo and kenshi beyond our borders. Knokken & Wokken (First a fight, then a bite) is one of those initiatives as is the koryu seminar and regular visits to other dojo. Chrétien visited our friends at St. Gallen last winter and again, this time accompanied by Bink sensei, in April. I visited Sergio at Bun Bu Ichi on my Holiday in Aruba and had a truly wonderful time.
Touchdown was at roughly 20:00 on Friday night. Now this is not a major airport like Schiphol or Heathtrow so after a very short walk we could collect our bags and headed outside. We start wearing shorts and all sorts of summer clothing when the temperature reaches 21° so the first thing you notice when you step outside that it’s hot, 32° hot. After being dropped off by a cab at our house for the next 12 days we had a snack and went to bed. The next day, still a bit (perhaps a lot) jet lagged and getting used to 30°+ weather I got picked up for my first kendo session in Aruba. The people are all very friendly (you see ‘Aruba, one happy Island’ signs everywhere and they’re spot on) and the dojo is really something else. Born and mostly raised in the Netherlands I’m used to buildings having windows and such. Imagine stepping inside a dojo with no actual windows but shutters instead, a slight (and for me much need) breeze can be felt, it was truly the start of an amazing experience. We started with kata, in those temperatures not an easy task. Regular training started after kata, finishing with some nice jigeiko. It was a wonderful experience and one of the most difficult trainings I’ve ever had. As time went on and the heat slowly(I wish) started to get to me all I could think about was keep a straight posture, keep your kensen in the center and don’t embarrass yourself or your sensei especially since Valasquez sensei is an old member of KKDH and a friend of Bink Sensei. I somehow made it to the end of training.
On Monday I attended the second training after a day of s.u.p. No kata this time but among other things Tokuren inspired exercises. The heat didn’t bother me as much as it did on Saturday and all things considering I was pretty happy with my kendo. I had to skip training on Wednesday due to a, or actually the wedding since that was the whole reason I was in Aruba. Unfortunately I had to skip training on Saturday as well due to an inflamed eye…….. By Monday I was good to go and ready to enjoy my final training at Bun Bu Ichi. I was in luck as the wife of Valasquez sensei just returned from a week long kendo camp in the USA. Now I’ve met Valasquez sensei once before in the Netherlands when he visited our dojo and I was quite impressed. I’m the average height of a Dutch woman, problem is, I’m a guy. Valasquez sensei is a quite a bit taller and fast with explosive movements, so yeah, impressive. His wife is roughly the same height as me, a tad smaller even but just as impressive. I poured my heart and soul in my kendo that day, gave everything I had to give plus a little extra. I enjoyed myself immensely, received some pointers, praise and kind words that certainly helped me in my preparation for my sandan exam. I want to thank all of the members of Bun Bu Ichi and Valasquez sensei in particular who made my stay unforgettable. It was a wonderful experience and I hope to see you in the (near) future.
Every year during Pentecost a spring seminar is held in Oldenburg Germany, roughly a three hour car ride from KKDH. This year we decided to attend the seminar with a group of KKDH kenshi. Unfortunately due to the recent attacks and heightened threat level the original group of Japanese sensei weren’t able to come to Germany. Instead of canceling the whole event they found Aoki sensei from Kokugikan Berlin who was willing to lead the shortened seminar. Friday night after a hellish drive full of traffic jams due to roadwork and traffic we finally made it to our destination. The next morning after a five minute walk from our guesthouse we arrived at the venue where we met up with Roelof. The seven KKDH samurai were ready for a day of kendo. I was slightly worried that my level of proficiency in German wouldn’t be sufficient to understand the finer points of explanations, or understand them at all. Fortunately for me as well as some of the others who shared the same concerns these concerns were unnecessary. For those who had some trouble a very nice German sensei explained things in English. Anyway after a morning of kendo it was time for lunch. This was all arranged by the organizers of the seminar, and was great with salads, bread, cake, applebread, fruit and more. After lunch the second half started only to end at 18:00 after which a BBQ arranged by the organizers was held at the youth hostel next door. Once again there was an abundant amount of food and beverages and great company. At 22:30 we called it a night and returned to our guest house for a night cap. The next day we had some problems starting up resulting in, to my horror, all of us getting to the venue late. We got changed and got ready for a morning full of kendo, our last part of the seminar. This too was highly enjoyable and we’ve all learned a great deal. After a “quick” shower we got ourselves some lunch at Kahn a Mongolian Chinese restaurant. The drive back took us about two hours less and in only three hours we were back at KKDH. We’ve had a great time and hopefully next year we’ll have a bigger group of KKDH kenshi attending the spring seminar in Oldenburg.
Thank you Seikenjuku Oldenburg for organizing such a great seminer. The hospitality, atmosphere and kendo was terrific, we’ll see you next year!