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My Kendo Experience, Session Three! (Final Session)
This is the sequel to [url=http://bungie.net/Forums/posts.aspx?postID=460882]Session Two[/url], and Session One is also available through the link (if you're interested in this, I suggest you read One and Two before reading this... Especially Session One, because it contains rough translations of some of the Japanese words that I use in these threads).
The Final Day (Monday)... I was both looking forward and not looking forward to the end of the Camp. I knew that if it ended, my blisters and muscles would have time to heal... but I also knew that I wouldn't be able to do such rapid-fire group-Kendo like this for another year (until the next camp session).
Anyway, at 5 am, I woke up, got ready, had a small snack of cheese, crackers, and Coca-Cola (Pepsi sucks!)... And then I went down the the lobby of the dorm and waited for the rest of the group to get there, so we could all go outside for some early-morning running and Taiso. This went rather badly... The group was much more spread out than before (since people were more tired), and I finished towards the middle of the group. Its not a race, but I always try to test [i]myself[/i] and finish towards the front of the group... Also, during Taiso, it was very hard for me to keep up with the more in-shape individuals (but, to my "delight," there were many others who were having as much trouble as me) in the more fast-paced swinging excercizes ([i]you[/i] try swinging a sword while moving rapidly back and forth 140 times with blisters on your hands and aching arm muscles without stopping! Its tough!). So, once done with the Taiso, our sensei made us run back to the dorms... which wasn't so bad. But we did have to jump "hurdles" (chains that acted as raised barriers to the parking lot outside the dorm), which, if you're not keeping your breathing in control, can tire you out even more.
7 am: Breakfast. This is the only breakfast I actually stayed for. I had some toast with butter and some OJ for a drink, and sat at a table with the Camp's head sensei (I forgot his name) and chatted with him for a while. Funny guy.... Actually, all the senseis there were funny... and all had the same sort of sense of humor... Rather uncanny, if you think about it...
8-9:30: Bedrest, music (I had brought a CD player along with two Iron Maiden CDs and the Halo Soundtrack ;-) ), and reading (William Gibson's [u]Neuromancer[/u]... Good book, so far).
10 am-12:30 pm: [i][b][u]KENDO GAMES AND KENDO WAR!!!:[/b][/u][/i]
This is one of the most funnest and funniest things I've ever seen/done. The camp split up into two teams: Red balloon team and Blue balloon team. I got picked to the Blues. There were 4 Kendo Games for the first part of the competition, and each team spent ten minutes to decide who would compete in what competition:
[u]Balloon Relay:[/u] This consisted of 3 pairs for each team. Bags were set up on the field that we were on (it was all outside), and each pair had to hold a balloon (filled with air) between their shinais and travel around the bags, without droping/popping the balloon (duh). It was windy out, and the grass was sharp, so that complitcated things a little. Once one pair did so, the next pair had to do the same (hence the name, Relay). Each team has a maximum of 2 balloons that they can use... if they both pop, that team loses (unless the other team pops them and doesn't make it as far). So the first two pairs went up (Red vs. Blue... funny how everything can relate to Halo in some way...), and the Blue pair came back to the start first... However, upon switching the blue balloon from our first pair to our second pair, we lost control of it, and it hit the grass, and the grass, with its nasty razor-sharp edges, popped it mercilessly. So we get balloon number two, and our second pair goes off around the laid-out course, and loses the balloon... but it doesn't pop! They pick it up, start again, and still beat the Red team's second pair (they were slow).... But upon switching, the balloon hits the grass and pops... again :-( So we lost... The rest of my team then complained about how balloon pops shouldn't cout in between pairs (when our balloons popped), and that we still should have been able to continue... I only complained silently (in my head), knowing well that complaining out loud wasn't going to work.
[u]Longest Kiai[/u]: This was simple. Whoever participated (I didn't participate in this one either) had to okuri (I'm not sure if its the right word, but its the only one that comes to my mind... I think it means the way you "run" in kendo... kinda like galloping) across the field while kiaiing. Which ever team makes it the farthest on their first breath is the winner (there were five contestants for each team).... BLUE TEAM WINS! YES!!!!
[u]Balloon Cut[/u]: Five contestants (for each team) for this one, too. A balloon is thrown, and whoever is up to cut it has to do so with their shinai (which doesn't have an edge). I participated in this one, and the first time through, no one could cut the balloons. The second time through (sudden death), no one could cut the balloons.... So it was a big tie.... I hate ties.
[u]Bogu Race[/u]: This one involved 5 contestants for each team again (none of which were me), and it was a head-to-head mutltirace. The first person from each team went up against eachother to see who could put their bogu (armor) on the fastest without making mistakes. For each obvious mistake seen by the judges, you get a penalty. 2 penalties and you're disqualified. If there are no penalties, the fastest one wins... if both are disqualified, its a tie. Due to our slowness and carelessness, we lost :-(
So, the score was Blue team: 1, Red Team: 2...
Up next was [u]KENDO WAR[/u]! This was a two-part semi-team sport (you'll see why I said semi-team later):
We split up into our teams (same teams as in the games):
[url=http://list.toronto-kendo-club.ca/gallery/album26/BlueArmy]Blue Army[/url] (I'm the farthest one on the right... you can't really see me well, but its me, I assure you).
With the balloons fastened to our heads, we stormed into battle against the Red Army. We stayed in small clusters of three (at first) so we could watch eachother's backs (those helmets give you no peripheral vision). The instant we met with the Red Army on the battlefield, it was [url=http://list.toronto-kendo-club.ca/gallery/album26/AllIsValid]mayhem[/url] (I'm not in that picture... I think I'm off-camera to the right, getting my ass kicked). Each person tried to pop their opponents balloon. The balloon was the life force, so once that was gone (even if it simply comes off the helmet but doesn't pop), you're gone.
So I, and the two others I minigrouped with, singled some poor Red out and popped her balloon. I then turned around and saw another Red coming straight for me. He was a ways away from me, so I turned around to check if the two of my teamates were still with me... They weren't. I don't know where the hell they went, but I was stranded with this Red coming straight for me. This particular Red is a very good Kendoist named Andrew who happened to be the head sensei's son... (so you know he's damn good). After about 45 seconds of desparately trying to pop his Red Balloon, I was defeated. He then continued on to be the last man remaining... thus the winner of the first round.
The second round was split up into teams again, lined up from youngest to oldest. The youngest one on the Blue team (since Red team won last, we got to pick first), chose who to fight out of the Red team. These fights were formal, and the object of it was to still, pop the frickin' balloon. Then, after that fight, the youngest from the Red team chose who to fight, and then it kept switching back and forth between teams, going up by age. The first time I was up, I was [i]chosen[/i] (it wasn't my turn to choose) by the same Andrew who kicked my ass in the first round (Red team had older young people, so he, being older than me, got to choose before I did). When we walked onto the field to fight, he had a nasty grin on his face... We fought, and believe it or not.... I won! And when his balloon popped, he said, "I can't believe you beat me." In my head, I was thinking, [i]neither can I...[/i]. So later, I got to choose who I wanted to fight. I chose a chinese (I think she was chinese) woman, simply because she was my height and I knew who she was (I had talked to her the night before). Having beaten her in Session Two's Engine Shiai, she slumped when I chose her... Well, I beat her again (and that was also to my surprise, since I don't think I'm very good)....
So Red team was widdled down to the last person. This person managed to then beat 7 blues in a row (since she was the last, there was no other reds to fight), including me, and was finally beaten by a Blue (if she hadn't been exhausted by then, I think she would have won). Now we come to where I think this was a semi-team sport. Since the Reds were gone, it was the last 2 Blues against eachother. Needless to say, a Blue won... Yey! We Won!
But, we still lost, since the overall score was Blue 2, and Red 3...
1 pm: Sayonara BBQ. Good Food... no, awesome food! Afterwords, we then said our goodbyes. Then me, my sensei, my mother, and the other person from our dojo got into the car and rode for 7 hours until we made it back home.
So that was Kendo Camp... I hope you enjoyed reading these threads... Perhaps I'll tell my experience next year when I go back... But until then: [i]See ya 'round on the Underground![/i]