Monday, March 28, 2011

The Chicago recap

Rather than retyping everything about my trip to Chicago, I will share with you the account that I shared with my Mugai group here in Virginia:

Hi Everyone,

Now that I'm fairly well rested and can think clearly, I'll share my experience in Chicago (I apologize in advance for the length).

I arrived Thursday evening, so I could get some rest before training on Friday morning. As it turned out, it was a very wise decision. I don't think I would have survived all that training coming straight from the airport (like Dave did, ouch). Needless to say, I'm tired and sore, but I also came home strangely energized by the incredibly positive experience I had out there. The training may have been brutal, but it was well worth it, as I learned a great deal.

On Friday morning we started off by going over hashirigakari. Since these are my weakest kata, I welcomed the chance to practice them under Alvarez-sensei's guidance (thankfully, he is a very patient man). We spent a good deal of time going over various aspects of timing and other little details. Next we had lunch delivered to the dojo, and we got to spend most of that time listening to Alvarez-sensei tell stories of his various adventures. After lunch we worked on shoto kumitachi for (Dave wasn't kidding) FOUR hours. Alvarez-sensei showed us how to work jujutsu in there to make it more effective. Later we worked on daito kumitachi and we learned some tips and tweaks there, as well.

On Saturday we worked on various kneeling and standing kata before we all went out for lunch. After lunch was shinsa. I'm disappointed that Alberto didn't share his feelings about the testing experience (hint, hint). I know how much he put into preparing and he deserves our congratulations. I found it very helpful to watch the testing. It's always nice to see how things work before you actually have to do them. If anyone is wondering why I didn't test for shodan, it really all came down to cutting. There wasn't any time to practice cutting before shinsa, and Alvarez-sensei is now requiring gyaku-kesa for shodan. I was already feel shakey about my cutting and I couldn't imagine attempting something I'd never even tried before during the actual test. You can all be sure that I'll be pushing for lots of cutting so I can be confident when the next testing opportunity comes along. :)

Anyway, after shinsa, I really enjoy watching the "disposal" of the extra mats. It was especially interesting to watch Alvarez-sensei teach someone who'd never cut mats before how to cut. Of, course, it was great to watch him do his own cutting. He's pretty amazing. After we cleaned all that up we worked on habiki no kata (Mugai kenjutsu) and then Shinto Ryu shoto kenjutsu. As with the kumitachi, Alvarez-sensei stressed the importance of jujutsu principles and how they relate to kenjutsu. Very informative stuff. Unfortunately, we missed the Shinto Ryu daito kenjutsu, which they covered on Sunday.

The intense training was well balanced by the social side of the trip. I have to admit, when Alberto and I arrived at the dojo on Friday morning, I was nervous and a little intimidated, but it didn't last long. Everyone was supportive, helpful and best of all, fun. I can't say enough about how welcome Brian and his group made me feel. By lunch time, they had me feeling like family. Honestly, if you walked in on Friday afternoon, you'd already think we'd all been training together at that dojo for years. I'll spare the details, but some of the social highlights were a group dinner on Friday night, then on Saturday, a crazy road trip to Denny's and lunch at a place with really weird decor. Oh yes, and I vaguely recall something about pitchers of margaritas on Saturday night. :)

Before this gets any longer (I really could go on and on) I'll end by saying that this was an amazing trip and I am extremely fortunate to have been able to attend. I came to realize that I really am a part of a wonderful extended family of Mugai students that will welcome me anywhere and I'm more excited about Mugai than ever. I'm already looking forward to the next trip, whenever that may be. I also want to step up my training. So who's up for starting to train 2 days a week. :)

If you made it this far, thanks for reading and I apologize if any (or all) of it made no sense!


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