30 years with an English Kenshi (part 2: Trevor and kendo kata) - by Ozawa Hiroshi sensei
Updated: Nov 15, 2020
What I am about to write about is not necessarily in chronological order. I will write
about the fun and hilarious memories that Trevor and I and our friends have shared as
they come to mind.
The University of Nottingham's Trent campus was a 20-30 minute bus ride from the
City Centre. The campus was not so large, but it was covered with grass, which made
me feel like a European university that I had imagined. The thing I envied most as a PE
teacher was that they were blessed with good sports facilities and the field was all
well-established lawn. It was blessed with all kinds of sports facilities such as a football
field (3 sides), a cricket field, a rugby field, an archery field, and tennis courts.
I was given a guesthouse for the accommodation. It was a two-story house with one
bedroom on the ground floor and three bedrooms on the first floor, with one bathroom
on the ground and one on the first floor. I thought to myself, "What is this space?" I was
baffled that it was too big for me to live alone. When I asked Dennis about it the next
day, he said he thought my family of five would be there. It's just fine for a family of
five, but when I tell him I'm the only one this time, he says, "It's certainly spacious."
Oh well, I thought, I'll just go to bed for the night. The house was empty and quiet, but it was early April and it was windy, and the back of the building was covered with large trees, whatever they were, and made a horrible noise. I could not sleep. The next day, I asked Dennis to change it to a room with more human presence because I couldn't sleep because it was too quiet, and I asked him to change it to a room next to the student cafeteria. In truth, it was too quiet to be scary.
The new room was comfortable for me as it was divided into four separate rooms:
dining room, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. In the morning I went to the cafeteria
before the students and ate whatever I wanted. After all, if you open one door, you are in
the dining room. It was perfect and comfortable for me as a foodie. Plus it was fun to
open the curtains and see the students in action. I used to think that students are the
same in Japan as in England.
Kendo training began the day after we arrived. It was three times a week, Monday,
Wednesday, and Friday, for two hours, from 7 to 9 pm. The dojo was an old gym, but
the floor was wood. It was built for basketball and gymnastics, so the wooden floors
were a bit hard, but I appreciated the wooden floors. It is often said that the floor is the
most important thing in the dojo.
First, I told him that it is important to practice kendo kata in parallel with the basics of
kendo techniques. Trevor responded by leading an hour-long kata practice session.
1. When practicing kata, keep your eyes on your opponent.
2. Do not blink.
3. Each form must be done in one breath. (This has been corrected to say that this
is painful and may be done in two breaths).
Trevor followed these three things well during kata practice. I even thought he was an
honest man. Anyone can perform without taking their eyes off the opponent. However,
Trevor was extreme, and when he finished his seven Tachi-swords and kneeled down to
replace them with small Tachi-swords, he groped for the small Tachi-swords to keep his
eyes on his opponent. When I saw that, I thought, "I don't have to go that far," and I
thought he was really honest. It's strange because if I didn't say anything, I would keep
my mouth shut, and eventually, I would learn the point and he was able to change the
swords without taking his eyes off the other person. I would say this is Trevor's
speciality. As far as I know, Trevor is the only one who can do this.
The same was true of not blinking. Ten forms of kendo kata, if you don't blink your
eyelids remain open for about 7 to 8 minutes. At first, everyone was practicing the kata
with tears trickling down their faces. But it's a strange thing to get used to, and at some
point, everyone stopped blinking. While I was there, a friend of mine from Japan came
to practice kata with me. When my friend did a battling sword and a woman did a sword,
her friend's cheeks turned red with a poof. When I asked her later, she said she was
embarrassed to be stared at (I don't know what he was thinking...).
Not only in sports but also to leaders from all walks of life, "What kind of people do
you want to develop? When asked the question, "What makes an honest person grow,"
most people respond that the honest person grows. This is because an honest person has
a mind that thinks and accepts what is said in a good way. I don't think you have to have
that kind of personality to absorb what you're told. The mentor advises the person to
grow and not try to hold them down, so an honest person will improve technically and
humanly. Kendo, in particular, is boring because of the repetition of the same basic
training day after day and the repetition of simple techniques. Technically, the
techniques are almost the same as they were yesterday, but if you are an honest person,
you are sure to improve. If you keep doing that, you won't know when you've grown, but you will certainly improve.
When Trevor met me, he was a shodan. We practiced Kendo kata and the basics three
times a week, and a month or two later we went to the grading examination. Dennis
passed third Dan and Trevor second Dan.
A few years after passing Nidan, he came to Tokyo for the first time to take the third
Dan exam. Hotel rates in Tokyo were expensive, so he stayed in the wooden-floor room
at the Koubukan. He stayed there for 2 to 3 weeks with his kendo equipment and a
sleeping bag. When he woke up in the morning, he had to clean the floor and do 500
swings in front of the mirror before washing his face. I always joked, "To me, the
floor of the dojo is more important than your face."
Trevor would wake up at 6 am and continued with the duty. Thanks to him, the floor
was kept clean. I took him to Kodansha Noma Dojo once or twice a week. At that
time, he was exempted from cleaning the floor but he seemed to be doing the swinging
when he got back home. As a result, he passed third Dan without any problem.
The examination was held by the Shinjuku Kendo Federation. After the
announcement of the results, Mr. Hashiba, the chairman of Shinjuku Kendo Federation,
gave a critique to all the participants. His words of praise are still fresh in my mind.
"I would like to congratulate all of you who have passed the test. However, I would like
to make a complaint to you. Kendo kata is not good at all. The foreigner who
passed third Dan was the best at it. What are the Japanese doing?
Learn from foreigners and practice more kendo kata."
It was a critique of anger. That man was Trevor. Anton Vargas from the Netherlands was there too, so he must remember it well. I enjoyed it...
This is the second in a series of eight articles written by Ozawa Hiroshi sensei (Kyoshi 8 Dan). Kindly translated by Matsuda Kazuyo sensei (Renshi 7 Dan).