Hello from Kazakhstan

by Adil Tleubayev

Abstract. I traveled 5200 km, 10 hours of flight, trained for 2 weeks in different dojos in Europe and still did not pass the exam. This article is about my way in kendo and naginata and how I made my first trip to Europe full of training, acquaintances and hopes.

Greetings, everyone! My name is Adil Tleubayev, I’m from the beautiful country of Kazakhstan. If you attended the recent seminar in Rotterdam, you might recall seeing me there. I would like to share with you a story of my journey through the world of naginata, my dojo’s story, and my travel across Europe.

My journey into the naginata world began towards the tail end of 2020. At that time, I was living and working in Moscow and after half a year of quarantine, I understood that I needed some new activities. I always wanted to do fencing, but there are many types of fencing, and I had to choose. The closest club to me was the Kaminarikan, a kendo and naginata club. Back then I found kendo a little boring, so I started to go to naginata classes at the beginning. After all I thought that naginata is the best choice to keep a social distance in the covid years. So I’ve joined to Andrew and Anna Bragin’s club, a wonderful club with great people, they taught me everything I know, and I’m very glad that I started my journey with them.

The summer of 2022 I returned home to Astana, Kazakhstan, with my family. I continued practicing alone in the backyard of my parents’ house, using a handmade naginata made from PVC pipe. Later in the year, Alex Munirov, with whom we studied together in Kaminarikan, moved to Astana and we decided to open a naginata club here. January 31, 2023, was our first training session as a club. At the beginning there were just the two of us, but after a few months we’ve united with a local kendo club. This integration gave me a new interest in kendo, turning my cold skeptical attitude into enthusiasm.

After one year of training, we named the club 吹雪会 – Fubukikai (Blizzard), embodies the spirit of Astana itself – a city with cold winters, strong winds, and bright sun. So our kamon, a fusion of snow, wind, and sun, captures the essence of our home. Also, three of our kendokas successfully passed the online exam and received 5 kyu.

In March, I was planning to go to Europe, aiming to attend seminar by Sumi Sensei in Turin and seminar in Rotterdam, with a pitstop in Brussels. Unfortunately, Sumi Sensei’s seminar has been cancelled, but since the visa had already been received and the tickets had been purchased, my voyage began in Italy, where I was embraced warmly and kindly. Special thanks to Alice Woo Fontana for your help and organizing training sessions for me. In Turin I attended a training session led by Alessia Cerchia, where I received a lot of tips that helped me improve.

Belgium offered a huge experience in both kendo and naginata. Training sessions with David D’hose, Tyl Dermine, and Jeremy Chev were eye-opening, challenging my abilities and opening up huge room for growth. Jikeiko with them was an emotional shock for me, they showed me naginata on the other side. This shows how much I still have to learn. Thank you very much!

Upon my very first day in Rotterdam, I immediately connected with groups from Germany, whose company and guidance I cherished throughout the seminar days. A heartfelt thanks to the groups led by Jonas Stock and Marie-Luise Göbel for their camaraderie and support — I hope I wasn’t too much of a bother!

The seminar itself left a profound impression on me. It was my first time attending an event of such grandeur. I met a lot of new people, saw and felt how cool it is when so many people share your passion. The seminar afforded me the opportunity to collaborate with numerous attendees, revisit the fundamentals, correct some of my basic mistakes, and gain a deeper understanding of how to convey certain knowledge to others The first day of the seminar was particularly intriguing and inspirational. 

I also attempted the 1st Kyu examination; although I didn’t pass, the feedback I received was invaluable, highlighting errors I am eager to rectify.

The post-exam free keiko was not only about exchanging strikes but also I received a wealth of advice, which I now look forward to applying.

Immense gratitude to Mark Berghaan and his team for organizing this seminar, for lending me naginata, and for all the precious advice he imparted. I am determined to improve!

Overall, the trip was incredibly fulfilling. I encountered numerous people, forged new friendships, and realized how close-knit the world of kendo and naginata truly is. I’ve gathered a wealth of information, which I’m keen to assimilate to enhance my skills and to share with others, helping my community grow stronger.

I invite everyone to Kazakhstan, if you accidentally find yourself in Kazakhstan, be sure to write, we will definitely help you, we will welcome you with kindness, hospitality, we will try to show the beauty of our country, and of course we will arrange a good training.

Add me as a friend on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/adil.tleubayev/ , subscribe to me on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/naginatakz/ or write to my club email info@fubukikai.kz .