I returned last night from my four day visit to Japan. This was a brief but enjoyable experience, having been taken excellent care of by my friend and host Itagaki- san. I managed to catch up with a few old friends and had 3 excellent keiko sessions; with Chiba-sensei at Hitotsubashi Daigaku, at the civic dojo in Machida, Kanagawa-ken and on my final evening at Shibuya kenyukai. With many people preparing for the 6th 7th and 8th dan grading examinations next week, the level of kendo was excellent.
Whilst I had the chance I broached the subject of shibori in tenouchi with a number of hachidan sensei and got a unanimous – “not necessary”.
The kyoshi examination itself was interesting to say the least. There must have been close to 150 candidates. Only six of us were not Japanese. The other 5 were all people I knew from France, Belgium, Switzerland, Holland and Hong Kong.
We had been given the examination topics which included kendo philosophy, instruction methodology, refereeing, kata and kendo general knowledge to study in advance. There was also a requirement to write an essay on a subject to be given on the day. The actual examination session was well organised by the ZNKR and there was an English speaking official on hand to help non-Japanese speakers understand the process. The examination was broken down into two papers to be completed in 2, 50 minute sessions with a sixty minute third session allowed for the essay.
We had been informed in advance that the first two papers were to be completed either on a multi-choice or written answer basis. When the papers arrived the non-Japanese candidates all looked totally surprised. The format was indeed multiple choice, but very different to multiple choice as we understood it. What we actually received were large blocks of text from the study material with key words and phrases removed and substituted with numbers, then on the page following the question, a list of phrases with corresponding letters was shown.
We had to put the correct letter against the matching number. Some of the options were similar and would have made sense in several places, our job however was to match the exact word to the exact location. Comparing notes after with my European friends, we had all prepared in the same way, by reading the material and trying to remember the concepts rather than the words. I had in fact tried to go beyond the prescribed texts and read Victor Harris’s translation of Ogawa Chutaro’s teachings and Noma Hisashi’s kendo reader, so the placing of letters against numbers boiled down to common sense and guesswork. Hopefully I got more right than wrong.
Talking to Japanese friends afterwards, it appears that this is the normal Japanese examination approach. However although I had spent a fair amount of time in Japan in the past, my only examination experience was taking the test to convert my British driving licence into a Japanese one, which consisted of an eye test and jumping up and down on one leg to demonstrate coordination. Whist an interesting experience, this was perhaps not a good indicator of what to expect for the Kyoshi test.
I did manage to anaesthetise the shock by going straight to a great keiko session in Shibuya followed by a drinking party, so it is now a matter of sitting back and waiting for the results.