Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Demonstration Aftermath (1)
The most obvious and direct impact of the event was the media exposure we received. As a consequence of 3 articles with photos and 2 TV reports (one quite extensive) the phone has been ringing everyday since, with people enquiring. Interestingly, about half of them are women. Usually, prior to the event the majority of callers would never even show up to class, but so far the majorty have. Also, when I ask them to stay a whole class and watch the vast majority don't last til the end. This time however, it's quite different: most have stayed the whole class and a very high proportion join and now attend twice a week.

I don't expect this trend to last but at least if in the process 2-3 new "serious" students join then it will have been a resounding succes.

Class size & levels
It's an interesting situation these days with half of the class with less than 3 weeks of experience, and the other half composed of the usual bunch. J&K are not yet able to lead a beginners class comfortably and at the level I would like. At the same time the advanced group needs some special attention, in preparation for the tournament in October. So I'm caught having to split the class in two and run between one group and another. This is currently making things a bit challenging and impacts negatively, I'm sure, on the quality of the class. So depending on how long and how many beginners stick we may or not completely separate the classes. There are different ways to do that:

- start beginners classes on an additional day. The benefit is that there would be no pressure for time and this may be less intimidating to them. The disadvantages are a possible increase in rent, challenges in having some of the advanced guys to attend to give class instead of me at times, and less exposure to "real" kendo could lead to some demotivation.

- another option is to keep the start of the class for beginners and have the advanced start a bit later:
- 6:30 - 7:30 Beginners
- 7:30 - 9:00 Advance class

... I think I like this last option...
Also this is most likely a short term option, as the beginners who remain will be ready to participate with advanced within 2 months or so. When that happens we'll have to see if we have special team training separated from the rest of the team.

Invitation to VZ (MCBO)

Invited by AG to practice with them for a whole weekend. We've been talking about this for a long time but we never got to organize ourselves and when we finally decided we postponed a few times. It DOES require some amount of planning on my side, as such a trip (to the extreme end of Venezuela) takes some time, and time is not something I have much of these days.

I'm going there with the assumption that they're asking me to give classes and train them as I do in T&T. This may be a wrong assumption but I'm going with that in mind and we'll see...

I wasn't able to have much communication with A, which means that there's no formal practice plan. 1 practice Friday, 2 Saturday, 1 Sunday. That's all I know so far, no idea of who's showing up and what level. As far as my past observations go, we're going to have to do a lot of kihon, kirikaeshi and work on other fundamentals such as "straightness". I know etiquette is going to be an issue, as the mcbo guys somewhat suffer from a lack of it...

Check out the pics:

IKF bogu donation

It's been a while since the last post. The major development has been the granting by IKF/ZNKR of kendo equipment for T&T. I received news back in April/May that they were considering and were asking back then if we were able and willing. Of course there was no question! I received an official letter before Christmas stating that the equipment would be received by the embassy shortly and that I should get in contact with them. That was a great surprise, as even before I called them, a gentleman from the embassy called me to query about the class. The following week, two japanese employees of the embassy showed up for practice (she is 4 dan, he is 3 dan). It's been a blast ever since. She shows up pretty much at every practice, and even though her kendo is not very relevant for a bunch of young men, it's still a blast to keiko with her. He is older and less into Kendo than Aikido, so hasn't practiced much. But he shows up every now and then and we have a lot of fun talking and drinking (mostly the latter).

The following week, two japanese employees of the embassy showed up for practice (she is 4 dan, he is 3 dan). It's been a blast ever since. She shows up pretty much at every practice, and even though her kendo is not very relevant for a bunch of young men, it's still a blast to keiko with her. He is older and less into Kendo than Aikido, so hasn't practiced much. But he shows up every now and then and we have a lot of fun talking and drinking (mostly the latter).

It was very touching and somewhat surprising to see all those who attended; many old students, many parents I'd never seen. Also, it really hit me, realizing how this event was important (more on this in next posts).

Check it out:

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Phone call today from Japanese Embassy

Wonder what it could be :-D

Cross-training seminar this weekend

Thursday to Sunday we invite a friend well seasoned in Aikido and Kendo over for a few days of fun and cross training. We will do some Aikido, some Kendo and more importantly some Aiki-Ken or whatever you call disarming techniques against a sword or weapon. Should be tons of fun, anywhere between 10-20 people should attend, all serious people of course (no clowns invited!). Will be practicing in a few locations and having good fun. More info to come.

Closing down the Chag dojo

A friend who had invited us to give kendo classes in his mixed martial arts dojo had to close said dojo for lack of funds. Goes to show that good ideas and people aren't always enough to get such a noble project off the ground... Never was able to generate enough funds to pay the rent and the few who joined the dojo left when some crooks posing as instructors stole them and took them to their own dojos.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Backyard Tameshigiri Pics

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Old poster

Found this old ad... Friend of mine trying promote our class in his dojo. Looks pretty cool, except the way the shinai is held...

Monday, August 28, 2006

no kendo for the past week

Had to leave urgently for a business proposal in Suriname, and spent the week there. Not much exercise during that week, and lots of frustration and steam that I will have to get rid of at practice tomorrow!!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Bamboo cutting

Had fun today cutting some bamboo with D at the new house. Originally though of cutting some banana trees to clear up the area behind the house but that turned out to be way too boring and easy. Bamboo on the other hand turned out to be as fun as last time in Barbados. My Hanwei sword was quite up to the challenge against some pretty thick bamboo. It went through 2" pieces like butter. Much harder were the 3-4" bamboo with thick "skin". The blade bent quite a few times, but after some straightening it went back to work just fine. D swung wide a couple of time and almost cut off his left leg but otherwise it was a lot of fun and we sure will do this again soon.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Other Kendo dojo in T&T (2)

This interesting piece of information is posted on the website of a martial arts organization I mentioned previously: "May 2nd: The Kendo classes have started in Barataria and will soon spread to the other ... Branches." Things are getting exciting...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Don't think it's going to work out. Simply too far; a good 20mins drive from the highway, past farms and through a very bumpy road (almost requiring a 4x4). Most people don't own a car in T&T, so there's a heavy reliance on (private) taxis. Problem is the taxis usually travel on main routes, picking up and dropping off clients on the way (up to 5 per car). Getting there would require a lot of hustling and convincing taxi drivers to go out of their way to reach this faraway place. Then the way back would be impossible (taxis don't wait).

So the offered location couldn't be used during the week for most people. Weekend would be more possible because schedules are more flexible... but the problem would remain: our dojo would be called the "Inaka dojo" (in Trini the "bush dojo"). We already have trouble attracting enough people in central areas, how are we going to attract enough people for classes there? Here are some options:

1- place is used as a "retreat" for weekend and special events
2- dojo is targeting the kids from the direct neighborhood (about 150 families, on average 2 kids per family, 5-16 years old)

To balance these options we have to consider the costs:
- property will be offered for free or sold at symbolic price (assuming proper proposal is made)
- building will cost between $100,000 and $200,000 TT (15k-30k USD)
- time spent managing the construction and maintenance of the property

On the positive side, no one will be interested on this land for a long while, so there's no rush to decide.

The NGO managing the housing project has other projects all around T&T. If provided with a proper proposal, they would be interested with a "community-based" dojo. But the question is, who would go there to teach?

Not sure what to do...

Tatemae & Honne

... or the face & the truth.

Things will get exciting in the wild world of Kendo in Trinidad. With the largest provider of martial arts in the country now promoting Kendo just like Subway could promote its new sandwich, we now have to develop the keen sense of self-restraint that Kendo teaches. (I suppose Kendo also teaches to attack relentlessely and question crap, but I will conveniently ignore this for the purpose of making a point).

So we will be confronted with something we may be uncomfortable with. It may or may not have anything to do with Kendo as we know it. It may make us look good, it may make us look like a bunch of maniacs. Either way, all we can do is acknowledge and say "wow, very interesting".

The last thing we need right now is some enemies, and as such, the last thing we should do is disrespect them, however questionable their sport may be.

What is bad about having enemies?
- small country, word goes around quick
- we need all the help we can get in promoting Kendo, so one person pissed off by us, is one person too many, especially if that person is at the head of a dojo
- they have bigger muscles than us...
- who's going to invite us for demos next time?

What are signs of disrespect in this world?
- laughing or any facial expression
- not returning their bows
- interrupting them
- questioning their credibility
- asking too many questions

ok JR?

Other Kendo Dojo in T&T?

It took longer than I thought but it happened: a Karate dojo now claiming they do Kendo. It's actually nothing new, as many questionable characters have already told me that they do/have done kendo in the past. I've also been told of a couple of places teaching iaido/kenjutsu (see earlier posts). Of course this is all a great joke, as none have received proper and legitimate accreditation or even trained for any decent amount of time. They are merely Karate dojos claiming to teach the use of the Japanese sword either because they smell the $$ opportunity or because they want to impress wannabe 'samurais'.

Well whatever the reason, it now appears that there will be a "Kendo Team Demo" during a Karate tournament later this month. I can't wait to see this...