My life with naginata by Jana
I can’t actually believe that at the end of this year it is going to be 20 years since my first experience with naginata. It was in 1997 when I met Zaitsu Sensei at aikido practice and agreed that I will give naginata a go so it can be introduced to the wide public at 4th Budo Festival in Prague. On this occasion I also met Noda Sensei (Hanshi) and Kanno Sensei (Renshi) completely unaware they were going to play a very important role in my life and I am going to meet them many times again.
For a short of period of time I did both naginata and aikido, but later I decided to stick just with naginata and I became the right hand of Zaitsu Sensei. Together we established “Naginata Gorenkai” club in Prague and joined ENF and INF to be able to participate at international seminars, to grade and also to represent our country at championships.
After about a year of practicing I followed my heart and applied with the help of Zaitsu Sensei, Kanno Sensei and her sister Takako (later she became my Japanese mum) for one year of study at International Budo University at Katsura in Japan. In spring of 2000 I joined another 20 students from all around the world and began my life in Japan. It wasn’t an easy year, different culture, food, missing family and friends….But an unforgettable experience of hard every day practice with Japanese students at a very high level under the leadership of Kimura Sensei, pain, tiredness and trying to pull yourself together mentally and physically. On the other side it was also a year full of travelling, studying Japanese language and culture at school, making new friends, cycling to the nearest beach, experiencing earthquakes, during school holidays working at the fruit farm and fish farm…I still feel very privileged I was invited to spend a few days practising at Noda Sensei’s home dojo at that time and to meet the highest people of the All Japan Naginata Federation (even though I was completely unaware of it). Before leaving Japan I managed to pass written exam of 1st Dan all in Japanese.
After returning back to Czech I needed a bit of time to adapt again to European mentality and attitude of practice. I started a few years of organizing seminars, naginata demonstrations, talks and attending international competitions. In 2002 me and Tereza Vokata (at the moment living in Montreal, USA) won 3rd place at Engi-Kyogi (first big achievement of Czech Republic).
Later in 2003, I became a World Champion in Shiai-Kyogi in San Jose in California. Unbelievable experience and totally unexpected as I was still recovering from a very painfull kidney infection. I still remember the moment when I was told that I am in the final and I couldn’t get my head around it at first, but then I was in the moment.
After that I started to feel a little bit overwhelmed with my personal life. I got married and divorced within one year and lost my fighting spirit. At the end of 2006 I met my future husband and the following year I was moving to live together with him in the UK. In 2008 our first daughter was born and in 2010 our second one. A few years later my love for naginata started to slowly show up again and I got in contact with Rachel from London Dojo. Since then I am trying to attend their annual seminars and any chance of practice. But of course my family is the first priority for me at the moment. I also tried to visit Zaitsu Sensei every summer in Czech and I am still in contact with my Japanese family. Unfortunately Zaitsu Sensei moved back to Japan after nearly 20 years living in Czech which left one empty space in my heart.
There was of course many more people on my naginata journey than I mentioned above. I met a lot great Senseis and made lots of friends all around the world. Thank you everybody for being part of my naginata life.
I didn’t give up and who knows what the future will be when my kids grow up. Because naginata was, is, and will be part of my life.