Naginata in Canada

Montreal, May 17, 2017

As a new student at Utrecht University, I started to train in both Kendo and Naginata at Sakura Kai in the fall of 2003. We practiced under the supervision of Roeland van Houte, and would regularly visit (or receive visits from) Raboen-sensei, or Berghaan-sensei.

While I didn’t join many international tournaments during my time at Sakura Kai, I did participate in the goodwill at the WNC in Brussels as well as the ENC in the Netherlands.
Besides those tournaments I attended nearly all the NNR Seminars at that time, which were tremendously educational and, maybe more importantly, fun.

Due to various reasons I stopped practicing Naginata sometime before 2010. I traveled around for a while until I landed in Montreal, Canada. There, I bought a naginata and occasionally did some exercises before or after kendo practice.

Fast forward to the WNC 2015 in Montreal, where I was put in contact with Marija Landekic, the Canadian team captain. She had recently returned from living in Japan for some years and moved to Montreal to start her PhD at McGill University. Together, we talked about setting up a new student club at McGill. Marija first started practicing naginata at JCCC in Toronto and had previously set up a very successful club at the University of Toronto. With my own past background as president of Sakura Kai and reasonable naginata experience, we formed a good team.

After some time we had everything together and in February 2016 we ran our first practice. The McGill Student Naginata Club was founded and our first semester saw around 10 members. Having the support of the CNF and the nearby Montreal Naginata Club helped a lot. They provided us with a set of naginata to start with and occasional visitors to boost our level of practice. One huge benefit of starting with two instructors was that between the two of us, there was always someone to lead the practice, regardless of work and other responsibilities interfering.

It has been a real joy to practice naginata again, even though it sometimes means taking a step back from kendo. Last year, we attended the Canadian National Championships with nine members.  This spring, we organized our internal training camp during which twelve of us spent roughly 20 hours in the gym over a long weekend. In April we visited the JSS Seminar and Yamauchi Memorial Tournament in New Jersey (a good six hour drive from Montreal) with seven club members. Thanks to Engalla-sensei’s hospitality we spent a cozy weekend with about half the attendees of the seminar in one house! Soon after that, Berghaan-sensei visited us in Montreal for a few training sessions. Finally, in May we attended the Toronto tournament with a few of the students who didn’t leave for the summer.

Notable results in this last year:
Shiai yudansha first place at Nationals: Marija Landekic
Engi dangai second place at New Jersey: William Choi / Kevin Hallé
Engi dangai second place at Toronto: Sam Zhou / Julia Luo

The McGill Student Naginata Club is looking forward to expanding with the coming fall season. Last year’s students are getting their first bogu, and a new cohort of beginners are currently planning their first year at university, unaware that they’ll soon be part of this wonderful community.

If you ever find yourself in the general vicinity, please don’t hesitate to drop by!

Lunch during training camp (M. Landekic, V. Xi, S. Zhou, F. Stabile)
Lunch during training camp (M. Landekic, V. Xi, S. Zhou, F. Stabile)
Temporary Practice Space (ltr: M. Landekic, S. Zhou, C. Wang, W. Choi, H. Liu, S. Bruins)
Temporary Practice Space (ltr: M. Landekic, S. Zhou, C. Wang, W. Choi, H. Liu, S. Bruins)