And this time i have some interesting pictures to share with you all.
The sword art i am practicing is a form of Kenjitsu, called Shin Kage Ryu (New shadow style). I have been practicing in this dojo for around 4 months now, i believe. And my abilities has greatly improved over that period of time, and i feel very welcomed by all my classmates and senseis.
So last weeks Sunday, me and everyone from my sword fighting Dojo went to the country side to one the the members country homes, to practice our sword cutting techniques. This day we were around 12 people going together, but in my dojo i think the number of members we have is around 20 or higher.
Ive always been fascinated with martial arts and the dedication people can have for the arts. But i have never been able to truly try it out in Sweden. So that is why i got so excited to try it out once i came to japan. The first time i got to hear about this Fighting style was when one of their teachers, Michael Kontas, came to my school to hold a presentation about the history of Shin Kage Ryu, to look at different weapons they use and also to let us ask any questions that had risen up in our minds.
I got very interested right away and decided to give it a try. I talked with Mike-sensei after his presentation about if there were any requirement, any demands from the students, the philosophy of the fighting style and just general curious questions i had. Everything he had told me made me even more curious about this martial art, so i asked him if it was possible for me to come and have a look, and since he gladly let me come and see what his practice was like, i went there the Friday just a few days afterwords.
This is Mike-sensei demonstrating i perfect cut
It looked great, and Mike-sensei came up to me from time to time to tell me about what they did, and the meaning behind some of the different moves they performed. After the class, i talked some more with him and decided to give it a try for maby a few weeks or something. It was really fun and challenging from the start, and here i am 4 months later, still practicing with Mike-sensei. At the moment, he is the only one to teach me and help me during class, because he is the only one that can intstruct me in English, and my Japanese is not good enough to understand what the other teachers want to me do. Of course they can show me physically if i am doing one small step wrong, or things alike, but if i am going to learn a new move, i am going to need the help in English so i know what is expected of me.
And about 2 times a year they all go out to the countryside to practice their sword cutting techniques with real sword on Japanese traditional Tatami mats. Before we came to the house, they had let the mattresses lay in water for a few days to soak up alot of water to make its consistency like human flesh. It smelled horribly but when i carried them around, i felt the weight and constancy of it to be a good substitute. I asked why we didnt use bamboo like i thought they always used. And they told me that because bamboo can have different constancy, when you strike with your sword, the bamboo can actually hurt or damage your sword. Which is not ideal for a few hundred years old sword.
We spent the entire day at the very beautiful house right next to a man made lake with beautiful scenery. At first we spent about 4 hours, i believe, cutting mattresses, and after that we spend the rest of the evening eating Delicious food grilled from a traditional Japanese fireplace. I did try the Sake they had brought, but just like the western alcohol, i can not drink a single drip without disgust.
Since the Shin Kage Ryu does not focus on sparring or just defeating your opponent, you most of the time spend it alone and practicing different move sets against an imaginary opponent. This means you are not focusing on how strong you are, nor about how fast you can hit or how many times. It is all about the technique. During my normal classes, sometimes i was curious as to why we never practiced against someone else, or did anything other than simply sharpening the small tiny details in each move to nail it down perfectly, until i got the chance to practice with a real sword.
I got to cut a few times and to feel how different it was, i tried cutting with different mindsets. And that made me realize one thing that i dont think western sword fighting has, and that is that force doesnt matter if you do not have the proper technique. when i used force or tried to just do a fast strike, i realized that my cuts were not clean, they were clunky and if they had been on a real person or against armor, my blade would have gotten stuck inside the body or maby only made a small cut in the armor. But when i made it with only the technique in mind, the cut was clean, it was fluent and it didnt make me blade bounce of the mattress after the cut.
The chance to experience how it feels to use a real sword and how the small details in your move set makes all the difference, was truly invaluable to me. Now i got a much better picture of what i need to improve my technique and also to make my moves more fluent and less choppy. I hope for a good 6 more months of this and hopefully i will have gotten a little bit better at my craft before i return to Sweden!
Sensei, if you are reading this, thank you for your guidance and perseverance during the last few months. I will make you proud!
And here are some more pictures of that day.
My grand Master Demonstrates the first cut of the day.This is me and the Soke (Grand Master) of my Dojo (Right) and one of our older members,(Left) who it is impressive to see in action, even at such an old age, he is still going strong and shows up every week for practice.
I am taking all the help i can get!
And this is what it looked like after we had cut and rolled out the mattresses to dry up in the sun! I think we won this battle. Good job!