We got back on Monday from the Mandal Budo Summer Camp. The kendo classes were well attended by experienced kendoka from around Norway and I enjoyed teaching this motivated group of people. Hopefully they also feel that they gained from the experience.
As planned, my wife and I used the opportunity to try karate for the first time and I also attempted shorinji kempo, whilst my wife went back for a second karate session. We were exceptionally lucky to receive personal attention from two excellent teachers, Els Muilwijk sensei for Wado Ryu karate and Yamaue Keido sensei for shorinji kempo. Both experiences were really enjoyable.
There are obvious differences between most martial arts and even when reasonably fit from other activities, several gruelling 90 minute sessions resulted in completely new aches, in muscles that we did not know we possessed. For shorinji kempo the big change was in trying to move from kendo footwork to walking on the inside edge of the feet. Blocking with the open hand and return punching made sense, but then the concept of gyaku tsuki took some mastering, as stepping forward with one foot and punching from the other side is alien to kendo. I suppose the closest experience is in the way we receive kirikaeshi. Fortunately the latter half of the session moved into a drill where we had to block a punch and turn and throw the attacker – long forgotten judo muscle memory helped me both through the throws and the break-falls. The throw was done from a half kneeling lunge position, so my push leg is still twitching.
Karate was equally interesting. We were taught the basic stance, (pigeon toed) and the kicks and punches, before doing a one/two sparring routine with experienced partners. This time through my kendo experience, I was more or less able to understand and predict the attacker’s timing and became reasonably competitive. Els then attempted to teach us the “Wanshu” kata, which we later heard, is quite advanced and part of the Wado Ryu third dan test. She did a great job in keeping in front of us, so that we were able to follow her example. The consensus was that my wife did a much better job than I. Being a keen dancer who still regularly attends classes, her flexibility really paid off.
In fact she went back without me for another session to complete the kata and to learn more free fighting technique. I spent most of the flight home watching out for kidney punches. Hopefully the experience will give me a better understanding of the difficulties experienced by beginners as well as a healthy fear of my wife.