My First European Seminar

by Gabriel Poujol

Hello all, I’m Gabriel Poujol, and I’m currently a visiting Canadian naginata player currently on exchange in Germany. While practicing in Germany, I was excited to hear of a yearly seminar not too far from where I live. And so on the 14th June, I traveled with dojomates of JGU Mainz and Ingelheim who were kind enough to offer me a ride to an isshu-jiai seminar in Obernai, France. This seminar on the eve of the World’s championship, attended by both naginatakas and kendokas from France, Germany and Belgium, would be my first European seminar.

The first day focused on kihon and handling the naginata. More experienced naginata players were put on one side while more beginner naginata players would be taught directly by David D’Hose sensei. While some kendo guys had never or only a few times held a naginata, there were skilled practitioners who could handle both weapons, and they were placed with the more experienced naginata group. The two groups were then brought together to show what they learned in rotating pairs, including Shikake-Oji forms. Saturday’s work ended in ji geiko. At the end, senseis joined in the keiko and I was happy to have the opportunity to spar with Dermine sensei.

The naginata and kendo community then came together again in the evening, treated to a real Tarte flambe buffet, topped with smoky flavours and Munster cheese, before resting for the next day.
Sunday had some kendokas (and naginatakas) switching to shinai, which required some adaptation on my footwork to handle the ferocious attacks. Thankfully, demonstrations of kendo vs naginata situations showed strategies to counter from both sides. This included counters to ikki-waza for naginata, and crouching suneate strikes for kendo, techniques not really taught in regular practice. As the day went on, everyone seemed to incorporate and adapt the techniques to their own style, including myself.

Overall my favorite part of the seminar was when the culmination of two days of hard training were put into practice in one-on-one sparring with shinpan which made for an intense learning experience. It seemed everyone was more confident, especially in kendo vs naginata, and were not afraid to take the initiative. Intense discussions after every match about the efficacy of techniques sometimes had people switch to French, but many people were willing to translate for non-french speakers. A small grading was done at the end of the seminar with kendokas getting big, new, naginata kyu grades!
I really had a wonderful time. People were always willing to take the time to show me new techniques and answer my many questions, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn from the best in Europe. I very much look forward to seeing everyone again soon.

Special thanks goes to David D’hose Renshi and Tyl Dermine Sensei for supervising us in this seminar, the Kendo Club D’Obernai for organizing this event, and Denis Fumagalli and his parents for offering us a warm place to stay.