A seminar dedicated to shiai technique

by Aleksandra Kivisalu

First impressions never happen twice. We move forward intuitively, here in Estonia, and we try different methods. If we stand still, this is not stability; it is fraught with regression.

Yes, not every club has a Sensei. My idea was to invite François Sensei to lead a bogu seminar and to motivate our “soft and cozy company” to start training seriously for real life, so to speak.

To accustom to wearing bogu is a delicate mission. I have seen more than once in both kendo and naginata when people, after their first training in bogu, left the dojo forever. It will take a long time before bogu becomes like a “second skin.” Dudes, it can be hard to start; you sweat, bruises hurt, you might stop believing in yourself after a couple of workouts and are unlikely to come back. Naginata is a brutal martial art, no matter what beautiful forms it takes at first.

But, as François Sensei rightly noted, for some people, moral and physical stress is a normal environment; they can withstand it, perceive pressure like a fish in water. So, men-o-tsuke! Less words, we immediately got to work.

We have little time. Two days for the seminar is almost nothing. High intensity, short rest intervals. Look, think, analyze, do. Storyboarding of each movement. Seemed hard, but actually, properly dosed physical load. Everything is calculated; I realized that everything was calculated correctly when after the seminar, the correct muscle groups hurt. Naginata can actually be so professional or even scientific. Wow. And everything is under control, even humor. Without unnecessary sentimentality.

No time to die, just four more tasks.

Sensei took every student apart for parts and put them back together again with new capacities for evolution, confidently melting the raw material into the desired form. For every student, the very first sparring in their lives took place, and it was the perfect ending of the seminar because it was sparring with the Sensei. The first impression, the first battle, which, of course, was lost to the strongest master, but the feeling from this lost battle was like a huge personal victory. It’s like jumping with a parachute. You will land anyway, but you will have invaluable experience.

I saw that this is exactly what happened, left a lasting impression on everyone. And this is an awesome thing when a master knows how to emphasize the dignity of a beginner student in sparring, morally supports and motivates him… while practically gutting him, hehehe…

All that happened at the seminar changed my established concept of naginata. This is the case when the result exceeded expectations and left me speechless, and now I don’t know how to end this article XD.