Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jodo Shoudan test

3rd April - In class – “I’m happy because it’s Friday!” Cheers. One of my students jumps up and hi-fives me. I feel like a rockstar.

After school I eat everything and have a glass of wine or so with Josh on skype. We have a wonderful conversation.

4th - Up at 6.30am. Brush out the wine, get picked up at 7.30 to go to our two day test for Jodo. I am less than happy about this, due to the hour of the morning and the fact Jodo is taking over my life. We spend a full SEVEN HOURS training. A rotund little man with a high pitched voice makes fun of my walk but proceeds to turn my flimsy stick waving into some kind of immovable force. A lot of people give us advice for our test the next day, which is lovely but detrimental as it is all different advice.

Went to our hotel and chilled in the AC, then went out for dinner. We did NOT want to go, we were so exhausted and it was so hot. But everyone was there, even the Kendo President of Nichinan. Starry-eyed much! He knew my Kendo teacher, so I was instantly on my guard. Until then I hadn’t much cared whether I passed my test, because I don’t take Jodo seriously. But knowing I had a KENDOKA’s eyes on me made me realise I had to.

I was again struck by the idea that foreigners are just like escorts – fed and liquored for entertainment. Not that I’m complaining. Had legitimate fun, and got to talk to a lot of different people who for some reason or other have found an interest in a martial art.

After dinner/drinks we all went to Purikura (Japanese photo booths), then Devon and I went out dancing. We started in a totally empty club which we didn’t altogether mind, and drank Kamikazes which taste like straight vodka for the first sip and then nothing after that because your mouth is numb.

Went to another club. I ordered a drink called “Everyone Passion” because no-one can deny marketing like that. We danced and got bought drinks, but when I tried to drink my own they became frustrated and gave us these different ones, so being from NZ I decided it was time to leave. Stopped on the way home for 10 cakes, scones and cookies – conveniently placed baked goods will be the death of me – and another place for ice cream. You know you live somewhere balmy when the 3am McDonald’s is replaced by 3am ice blocks.

5th April - Up early, and into our Hakama for the test. We train for 3 hours, eat a giant bento, and then begin our physical exam. (5 sets of movements with a partner using first a staff and then a wooden sword.) My hands are shaking but I finally realise the importance of the Kiai (scream). It focuses you, steadies you, and makes your movement complete instead of as shaky as your hands feel. I can only imagine its worth in a life or death situation. I hate the feeling of not trusting your cognitive memory so rely on muscle memory for the test. It’s hard to give up mental control in that situation, but when you’re nervous it can be really detrimental.

I like Kendo for this reason, because it is pure reflex, reactions, and doing what you can when you can. Your brain doesn’t get much of a chance to second guess you. Jodo on the other hand, is remembering set sequences perfectly. Like one of the girls said, the only way you could show you were any good at it would be by calling someone who knows the opposite sequence to “fight” with. In Kendo you just fight.

Anyway – I passed! I am a Jodo Shoudan. The instructor who one day prior had made fun of the very way I walked shouted “GANBATTE!!” at me and started laughing. Everyone congratulated us and now I know why people like sports. The feeling of achieving things is a whole new realm of glowing. Don’t think I’ll make a habit of it though.

We travelled home in the rain, where I promptly got into my futon and started watching Bad Girls Club. Appalling.

23rd May to 2nd April - random occurances

23rd May - Lots of extra Jodo practices. Rain ALL THE TIME.

24th - Still raining. My students seem to go dead in the rain, or it could just be my terrible lessons. They have to be formatted for now, as we are sticking to the textbook religiously until it finishes (halfway through the school year) and I can make my own. I doubt my kids would appreciate any efforts at fun in this weather anyway.

The saving grace is Totogawa sensei ripping his pants. He pats his ass meaningfully every time he walks by me. I cannot stop laughing.

25th - No class, go to Jodo.

26th - Kendo, bruises and ice blocks.

27th - Last day of Kendo for the third grade students, who stop their after school clubs just two months into the school year in order to spend the rest of the year studying for university exams, which are in January NEXT year.

There was a really sweet feeling of “final practice ganbatte (try your best)”, yelling of “hai dou!” (yes the right way/go!) and general community. My first year student hits me so hard that even below the helmet and chest armour I’m beginning to feel pain. She gets me on an existing weak spot on my forearm and I have to run it under cold water at the end of practice biting back a stray tear. We do our final jumping strikes together (50 at the beginning and end of practice) and practically scream the numbers out. After getting changed I go back to give the third graders presents and take photos with them. One thing I always found funny at the end of practice is that the male students just throw their clothes off in the dojo, and will talk to you while standing in their boxers/hopping around trying to get their legs in their pants. They don’t even seem to notice so I don’t anymore either.

28th - Saturday, but work anyway. Funny how quickly it stops feeling like a Saturday. I have no class so I read The Stand all day. One of the teachers comes in when I am alone at my desk and says “sabishi” (lonesome/sad) and fake-cries into his arm. I am allowed home at 3pm. Productive day.

Pouring with rain so make a “cocktail” (everything in my liquor cabinet except the wine), put on boots and proceed to stomp through puddles all the way to Devon’s. Then we walk to the station with my companion and proceed to Nichinan.

When we get there the taxi driver isn’t having a bar of us, partially because I clamber over his seats with my phone outstretched trying to put it to his ear so Julian can tell him the directions in magical Japanese, and Holly tries to sit on his doilies with her rain jumpsuit. Taxis here are made of doilies.

Arrive at Julian’s event, which is World Beer Trivia. There is world beer, and trivia. The venue is a cool brick building, with the feeling of being in an old mill or something. Our team name was Lichtenstein and we dominated. Probably because the questions were made by a Kiwi. Although – Koalas have human fingerprints! Chimpanzees don’t. Unbelievable. My evolution was a lie. It was nice to sit around and have actual conversation instead of constantly trying to find a better place, or doing karaoke. Our team won because we were so obnoxious, our prize being MORE BEER.

My most unusual memory of this night is coming out of the toilet, and being walloped on the ass by an old Japanese man. Julian laughed so hard he fell on the floor. Just when you think you know a country…

Off we went to Karaoke. Now, we had all been warned at our respective workplaces about a typhoon that was to hit in the morning. Typical us assumed “in the morning” meant “when you wake up” and had no bearing on actual time. Cue us running screaming down the street with a broken umbrella being blown all over the road.

Upon getting to Karaoke alive, we continued in the loud/obnoxious vein with loud singing, bar hopping to the one other bar, and going home in a taxi just saying “hai” to everything because you don’t understand what he’s saying.

29th - Typhoon all day. Up at 6am because the wind was so incredibly loud. It found so many gaps in my house that I could actually feel a breeze while sitting on my futon with everything shut up tight. Bummed around all day and avoided opening doors.

30th - No class or Kendo today, so went exploring Obi on my bike. Found an old 2nd hand store, where I found a 200 year old Sake gourd, complete with bear claw. Best. Purchase. Of. Life.

1st April - No school. Pottered round in the sun.

2nd - Nothing of note