by Susanne Koch
It’s never wrong to have a healthy exchange between different people. In conversation you get a different point of view or sometimes even good advice. Especially when you have limited possibilities to connect, you should take every opportunity to meet new people. For us, a small naginata group from Schaffhausen (Switzerland), has a more or less spontaneous trip to the Coupe Tokunaga in Paris been such an opportunity.
But let us begin from the start. Our group was formed in August 2021. Under the strict eye of our Senpai Susanne and the supervision of our Sensei Gur Nedzvetsky we regularly practiced naginata. Sometimes in front of a medieval castle, sometimes on a playground and some other times in various changing sports halls. At this time we could barely imagine how far we would come in a half year.
At the end of January one of our members saw the advertisement for the Coupe Tokunaga on Instagram. After a short discussion everything was settled – we will go to Paris. We planned the trip, booked the hotel and started to train. Luckily we found a place to practice (a ballet hall) because at this time holidays started and the municipal schools were closed, together with their sports halls. With this happy coincidence we were able to train way more than we usually did. After 14 days and 10 very intense sessions we took the train to Paris.
Our first day, the 11th February, was a special day for us. For the first time in the history of our group we could do naginata with our Sensei Gur in person – before we were limited to YouTube tutorials and Whatsapp videos from him. Now we finally could practice together. We found a small park right next to our hotel for training. The session with Gur was great and the following exam for 5th and 6th kyu were an amazing experience for us.
The next day started and so did the Coupe Tokunaga. Before we were able to set out for the competition we had to prepare our naginatas, which was quite challenging in the small hotel room between the beds, the equipment and us standing constantly in each other’s way. Still, we finished our preparations and went to the Institute Français du Judo.
The morning was marked by tension and nervousness. For us it was the first time fighting against many different, far more skilled and experienced naginataka, instead of each other.
Our opponents in Shiai were strong and experienced fighters. It was a great honor for us that at least one of us made it to the round of 16. But at a certain point the skill-gap between us and other practitioners was way too high and we watched tensely the fights between the best fighters of Europe. The afternoon competition was a special event for us too. In Schaffhausen we practiced a
lot of Shiai but we did not have enough people to do any team competitions. It was way more exciting that we did not compete as a preset team, but that the teams were widely mixed. While the whole day was stunning, it was also exhausting and so we went back to our hotel after the fights, instead of doing some tourism like originally planned. In Engi on the next day, our Senpai Susanne and her French partners were able to hold their own against their competitors. We are very proud to have her in our team.
Connecting to French, Belgian, Dutch and – last but not least – Israeli people was a great enrichment for us. Especially the care of Alain Guillaume during every little spare time he got was heartwarming. It was a welcoming start for us in the European naginata scene. We highly benefited from the knowledge of the experienced and skilled naginataka during the event.
Furthermore, the Coupe Tokunaga gave us a good insight into the French speaking naginata scene. We say thanks for letting us be a part of it and we hope we can come next year as well. We also say thank you to all of the people who helped us before and during the event.
We, the Swiss naginataka, are highly motivated to work hard on our skills and hope the naginata will become our bridge to other countries and the key to new friends and colleagues, so please do not forget us when you plan your next tournament.