To those who have never met me, my name is Dan Bouchard, I am a naginata player from
western Canada. I took some time to visit my brother studying in France this year, and like many
of my trips I decided to try to find practice while I was there. I have always found the community
and the experience of practice with new players worth the extra checked bag, so I make a point
of getting in touch when I go somewhere new. To date I’ve been lucky enough to have practiced
in seven different countries. I reached out through my federation, and David Dose Sensei
connected me with some of the instructors in the French Naginata Federation. After my return
he asked me to detail some of my experiences for the ENF newsletter, so here we are.
The first club I visited was the Club de Saint-Germaine-en-Laye led by Benoit Laurençon
Sensei. I could tell immediately that it was a competitive club. The practice was rigorous, and
despite having recently traveled, the players made sure I did not compromise my footwork or
movement during the drills. The practice emphasized using harai, and following up with forward
movement, creating an opening and taking the space to make a good strike. Afterwards there
was a rotation of free practice and shiai-keiko. The practice was very spirited, and everyone was
very forth-coming with comments and discussion on successful ippon.
I wasn’t able to attend a second practice with Saint-Germain-en-Laye, but luckily I was
able to get in touch with another dojo in the Paris area on my way back to the Charles de Gaulle
airport and my flight home. The Club de Rocquencourt, led by Nathalie Marcinowski Sensei, is a
more traditionally structured class.
The practice emphasized using footwork and diagonal lines
to make striking opportunities. Marcinowski Sensei had a really good lesson on being aware of
where the kisaki is when you take kamae where your naginata isn’t in your field of vision, like
hasso no kamae. Having the position of the kissaki in your mind, you then only need to move it
directly to the target in order to have a straight and efficient strike. If you have the opportunity
and you are trying to improve your mochikae waza, I’d suggest you ask her about it.
Overall I had a wonderful time meeting everyone I did. The naginata community in
France was incredibly hospitable, offering rides to the train and sharing a beer after practice.
Most of all I was impressed by the younger players at both clubs. I think the French Team is
going to have some very strong players in a few years. So to everyone I was lucky enough to
share a bit of practice time with, I would like to send my dearest thanks and I hope to see you all