Posts Tagged ‘Shion-dojo’

20160910_230056Regular readers will know that I am a frequent  visitor to Southern Spain, since my wife and I finally decided to invest in a second home in Marbella. I’ve still not reached the nirvana of retirement, so my wife gets to top up her tan by the pool whilst I peer into my office laptop with the air-conditioning switched to maximum.

I was reluctant to commit to spending so much time here, until I discovered that Shion dojo had active kendo clubs at Estepona and Benalmadena. As we are based halfway between the two, I have the option of four keiko sessions per week. The other plus is that as the Costa del Sol is such a popular holiday destination, we get lots of kendo visitors.

Jacques van Alsenoy, 6th dan from Antwerp is a regular summer visitor and we made a mental note to train together when we were both here. Unfortunately Jacques was due to drive home the day after we arrived. Nevertheless, we both made it to the dojo on Tuesday and we had a really enjoyable keiko.

Friday saw the beginning of a seminar run by Mikko Salonen, kyoshi 7 dan, Makrus Frey, kyoshi  7 dan and Susanna Porevuo renshi 6 dan. On Friday I joined the seminar for the final keiko before enjoying tapas with Fernando, the Shion shihan and the Finnish group. On Saturday my colleagues bumped me up to be (a working) shinpancho for a Spanish open competition. It was great fun to referee with Mikko and Marcus as we have all previously worked together in European and World Championships.

For me the best part of every seminar or taikai is the open keiko session and I enjoyed my practice with kendoka from Spain, Estonia and had a great 1 on 1 with Mikko.

Sayonara parties have various formats, but Shion have their own take on the way it should be done. Fernando and his family provided a wonderful beach barbecue party, with sardines cooked over olive wood and home-made gazpacho and tortillas. Our schedule did not allow me to take part in the final Sunday session, but I am already starting to think about next week’s schedule at Mumeishi  when I look forward  to welcoming  Sueno sensei,  hanshi, hachidan  to the U.K.

As far as my friends in Spain are concerned, the story continues. My friend and sempai, Hayashi Kozo  sensei , kyoshi, hachidan is coming to the  UK to run a seminar  in October and we hope to extend the trip by a few days so that he can enjoy the hospitality of Shion dojo on the 25thand 26th of October.

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Nagamatsu senseiAs well as escaping a week of the British winter for the sunny south of Spain I had the pleasure of meeting Nagamatsu sensei from Hyogo Kendo Federation who was on the second stop of his teaching tour of Spain, which takes in Madrid, Malaga, Valencia and Santander. Nagamatsu sensei is a hachidan, former Hyogo police instructor who is now shihan of Kwansei Gakuin University.

I was able to take part in the first of his teaching sessions in Malaga which took place at Shion Dojo’s Estepona location. After an introduction where he talked about correct rei , sonkyo and posture, sensei spent much of the two hour session looking at everyone’s basics and made a number of very interesting observations after watching men suburi.

He stated that the weight of the cut should be in the shinai’s monouchi and that we should aim for maximum extension using the shoulders, elbows, wrists and tenouchi in that order. He also made the point that the feet and abdomen should play a key part in the striking process, using the analogy, ichi-gan, ni-soku, san-tan, shi-riki. (first sight, second feet, third abdomen, fourth power / waza).

Sensei was emphatic that the shinai should be raised to only at a 45 degree angle and not allowed to go back beyond that. I have heard this many times before and always try to give the same advice myself, but Nagamatsu sensei’s explanation of why was enlightening.  His view was that 45 degrees is the natural extension angle of the shoulder joint and that if we reach back beyond this point then we have to change our grip.

By keeping to the 45 degree rule we are able to lift the shinai and strike in the timing of one (ichibyoshi). If we go beyond that point, we follow a timing of two, as the movement is broken as we rearrange the positions of our fingers on the tsuka.

We then had a jigeiko session where sensei took great trouble to work with people on their individual strengths and challenges. Some tired but happy kenshi then headed for some very welcome beer and tapas at a local bar. Unfortunately I only had the chance to attend one of the three sessions before my own travel schedule took me in a different direction, but for me it was a much appreciated learning experience and I am sure that my friends in Malaga will make some real progress on the back of Nagamatsu sensei’s teaching.

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Kendo Estepona1I am back in the UK after a break in Spain where I had the pleasure of training with the members of Shion dojo in Estepona. I enjoyed keiko and socialising with everyone over a beer afterwards and got some tips on good places to visit in the area. By throwing my men and kote into my hand luggage, I immediately went from being a tourist to visiting friends. Later last week I received a Facebook message from a French reader asking about beginners classes in Osaka and I am waiting on an answer to an email before making an introduction.

I enjoy the benefits of social networking. Like many people of my generation I am a relatively late convert to Facebook, I can’t keep my messages short enough to master Twitter, but as a head-hunter I make extensive use of LinkedIn, which I see as an extremely useful business tool. Although I am a member of the Kendo Business Professionals forum, I tend to separate my kendo social life from my business activity, so LinkedIn is reserved for reaching out to people with job-offers and following up references while Facebook is a way to keep-up with my wider circle of kendo friends.

The contact I have with people on LinkedIn is very positive. Most are extremely generous in offering advice and referring people to help and be helped, I find however that there is something very transactional about these on-line relationships. People talk about “paying-forward” which to my mind means doing a favour for someone in the hope that they or one of their contacts will do the same for them when they need it. Relationships in kendo however, be they face-to-face or on-line appear to be much more selfless. We are a network where people give without asking for anything in return, now or in the future.

I imagine that the same could be said be said about other common interest groups, I am sure that Rugby players, Rotarians, Sudoku aficionados and Sci-Fi fans all have lots in common with others of their kind, but I believe that kendo is unique in welcoming visitors regardless of grade, with open arms. A number of other martial arts have a very different policy; admittance to the group is often jealously guarded, at least to those who are not prepared to pay a membership fee.

I have practised kendo now in dozens of countries, referred friends and students to dojo around the world and welcomed numerous visitors to kendo in the UK. With luck we will be able to welcome many more for the Mumeishi 3s in November. In the meantime thanks to all in Estepona for making my summer break special.

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