by Denis Fumagalli pictures from Tyl Dermine
I was asked if I could make a little article about how I came to practice Naginata, here it is.
As a child I practiced judo and jujitsu for 9 years, after health problems I had to stop and find another activity. Quite naturally a martial art is imposed! The mix of physical engagement, tradition and martial aspect led me to … kendo :p
Yes, yes, not naginata at all, but it is through kendo that I have been practicing for 9 years now that I had the opportunity to meet and exchange in an incredible good spirit with David D’Hose, Tyl Dermine and Marie-Luise Göbel.
The Obernai kendo dojo had organized an inter-weapon seminar as in the “budo” disciplines (in the broad sense) you can easily practice with other weapons just by having the right pieces of armor, so we had sent a lot of mails to different sensei in France, Switzerland, Germany and Belgium.
David and Tyl were willing to do this hybrid seminar with a program like : discovery of naginata to kendoka, naginata basics, some ishu geiko in a spirit of exchange.
As we are in Alsace, in the East of France (I didn’t specify it), it is quite natural that Marie-Luise and the dojo of Mainz answered present. The enthusiasm and the good mood of the workshop gave a great energy and we did it again 3 years in a row. It was the trigger.
You are welcome to the next edition (as soon as we can practice again of course).
Being a jack-of-all-trades, I started looking for a sensei in France but lack of luck there is no sensei in the East…
After a few trips to Belgium to learn the basics and train, I quickly realized that I would have to practice regularly and that someone could correct me or give me exercises to do solo without having to drive 6 hours! So I contacted Marie-Luise again and she was a bit perplexed about this somewhat exotic form of learning but she didn’t refuse, naginataka don’t seem to be running around.
So I started by going to the dojo in Germany when I could (which was quite complicated), I got 2 E-bu in Belgium, ordered Ha-bu in Japan, watched tutorials to assemble the whole thing and bought Suneate.
The whole thing took me almost a year!
For 3 years now I continue to learn in this way. During the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, I was going to Mainz once a month to train and absorb as much information as possible to be able to rework all this but since the Covid nothing…
2h drive to Mainz, 2h training and then 2h back, that’s the schedule of the day.
Back to the dojo, I work on everything alone for 2 hours a week or with the help of my kendoka senpais who are always willing to act as a “striking dummy” so that I can correct myself, check the precision etc.
I hope to be able to resume this rhythm as soon as possible and to come to Belgium to say hello.
In short, nothing is impossible, you just have to give yourself the means (I’m sure many people have already said that). The real plus is that everybody is extremely benevolent and tries to share his knowledge, whether it is during the inter-army training courses, when I go to Germany, to Belgium or even to the dojo (of naginata as well as kendo), all the senseis have put some effort to make this project possible which seemed to be in a bad way.
There are other martial arts that I would like to learn, like yari, tankendo, jukondo… but senseis in Europe are rare to be able to learn in a “regular” way and learning from video is not the best solution, I think.
I can only invite the practitioner that you may be to do inter-weapons, I find that it strengthens the knowledge of your disciple in addition to teaching you a new one!
Whether it is the idea of leg attacks for a kendoka or the work of proximity for a naginataka, the idea of distances of attack, of threat, of cut can be found in all disciplines!
I remain convinced that to be a “good fighter” you have to be complete, you have to be able to do everything and that there is always something to learn from another discipline, the only real problem is the time that you can allocate to the practice of each discipline…
NB: A big thank you to my kendo sensei, Christophe Picard who also supported me in this idea and who let me a corner of the room to train naginata in addition to my kendo training. Thanks to Tyl and David for their kindness and the sharing of all their knowledge to the little kendoka that I am. And finally, thanks to Marie-Luise who trains me as well as she can and who corrects me a thousand and one times.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)