Sunday, February 26, 2006

Tournament Celebration Dinner

The steady development of the Tech Buddies website took a short hiatus as I prepared for last week's tournament. Getting back on track I called for a meeting this Sunday afternoon. Decisions made and decisions set aside we re-grouped to concentrate in the current phase.

Immediately after the meeting I run by Kendo practice and there's a huge showing of club members. Though the workout wasn't so terribly exhaustive, we had fun mixing it up a bit. Mark commanded us to choose our favorite weapon. Then, the people interested in Naginata fought against those of us who preferred Kendo. Long spear versus the sword was an interesting spin on short-range combat and new techniques had to be learned.

With a short practice session over we clean up and head for Imperial Garden for our after tournament celebration dinner. Kiyota Sensei was invited and our big lot got the special banquet room in the corner as always. The outcome was good and the food was well served. The Kendo Club looks to be going strong and we talk about keeping it that way. All is takes is a consistent showing at practice and people who are dedicated to their art--a bit of sweat and lots of dedication.

Activity: 3 | Energy: 2 | Friends: 3

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Ginza Lunch with Grandfather

My grandfather has been staying with us this last week until my aunt and uncle get back from their trip to Vietnam. Since he's usually home just sitting around alone, I decide to take him out to lunch at the Japanese restuarant just down the road. I don't believe he's had sushi before so I get him a nice simple sampler from Ginza of Tokyo here out on the eastside. Though their lunchtime menu is short, the meal was excellent and my grandfather and I had a good time.

Activity: 3 | Energy: 2 | Friends: 3

Ginza Lunch with Grandfather

Monday, February 20, 2006

8th Annual Detroit Open Kendo Tournament

So far so good. I get up an hour before anyone else does and unlike last year's stupor, I make my way to the weight room for a light lift and after, a morning swim. When I get done I wake up Henry and we're the first ones down for breakfast. But then that's good to not rush through the meal and we're left with time to get warmed up.

Though Henry and I were the first to be ready, the slow morning pace always seem to get someone behind and our vans leave the hotel late. We arrive at the Seaholm gym just after the start of morning ceremonies and our club quietly sneaks into the back row for warm up and kihon (drill practice). After a pledge, an anthom, a few works from Tagawa Sensei, the tournament begins.

I help out the newer members find their way around and get to their respective courts. I look myself and find that I'm in Court E. I stretch a little more and was startled by a tap on the shoulder. It was Tei Fujiwara who had been in our club before moving down to Detroit and joining the Detroit Dojo. He had taught me a lot in my early days of training and so we wish each other luck.

Looking over the tournament schedule again, I see that I have the first round bye. What luck? I take that time to meditate for a short moment and then tie up my bogu (armor) and get ready to fight. In the second round I face W. Tang from the University of Waterloo-Ontario Kendo Club. I had seen his fight from the previous round and he earned his spot to this round by ruthlussly pounding his opponent with a flurry of attacks. He basically outpowered the other guy to win his way to me. My strategy was simple, stay calm, stay relaxed. I followed this mantra throughout and I won the match in just under a minute with two hits to his men (head).

By the third round I was facing J. Hankins from the Central Kentucky University Kendo Club. He was much faster than me but he was rather tense. With no points scored, he knocked me out of the ring and I was penalized a half point. But before the match could go into encho (overtime) I got a hit off his men. Since there was still some time left, I calmed down and attacked only when needed and so I hung on to the only point scored and won.

Detroit Kendo Open Bracket

A year ago, I lost out in the first round and now I'm suddenly in contention for a place. However, in the fourth round I would be pitted against a familiar acquaintance in W. Debruhl from the Eastern Michigan University Kendo Club. I had met him in other tournaments and even got to know him better at the National Championships last year. We had a similar amount of training and had both failed our shodan tests just months ago but the big difference, and I mean big, is that he's over a foot taller than me. And if there wasn't already more pressure in the matter, Sugawara Sensei was the head judge in the match. I fought what I believed was a valient fight but alas, I was not able to get a hit on him. His men was far out of my reach so I tried for kote (wrists). On a few hits, I saw a flag up for my point but with only one judge's call, it wasn't enough to score. Grimly, I lost and went out in the fourth round.

In the Teams Competition I took the ever so important roster Chuken spot (third member) who is responsible for winning the point and keeping us in the match. Augelli took the first spot, followed by Tia, then me, John, with Mike taking the last match. One by one we faced the tough and highly skilled fighters from the Etobicoke Kendo Club and one by one we fell to each point. In fact, Etobicoke's Chuken had earlier won first place in the shodan division. Though we lost, I don't think we can be faulted for trying our best against a very tough team.

After the closing ceremonies, the medals and trophies were awarded to the top finishers. This left us going home nearly empty handed if it wasn't for Mark having earned a third place medal for his win in the sandan division. I would say of this experience we improved vastly over last year's results. All of us, especially myself included, had overcome our own personal goals and the long road back will be a time for reflection.

8th Annual Detroit Open Kendo Tournament
Gallery | Movie

Activity: 3 | Energy: 3 | Friends: 3

8th Annual Detroit Open Kendo Tournament

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Long Road

In the earliest hours of the morning, just after what we call the late night, I woke up to get myself ready for the weekend. No pressure, just relax, pack and say a little prayer. It's time again for the 8th Annual Detroit Kendo Open and this year I go into it with an added aura of experience. I pack light and run a final check over my weapon, it's fine, time to go. This morning had to have been the coldest day of the season so far as I drove down an empty street and caught eye of a temperature reading which had negative sixteen degrees. However, it wasn't so much the cold weather but the anticipation that ran chills over my bones. This year, I won't lose out in the first round.

I run to Cub Foods to pickup some food and drink for the long drive ahead and afterwards meet up with the UW Kendo Club. We pack the vans full and in the caravan spirit, headed out east. Though tired, I can't say that I needed to sleep or even attempted the bumpy slumber. I tried to keep my mind clear and joked a bit with my team before catching up on some reading. As far as traditions go, we almost always stop at the Belvedere Oasis to eat a light breakfast before moving on.

The next leg up in this trip would be many hours later so it was best to stretch out those legs now. On this leg of the trip, we drove into some questionable weather before heading up to the Michigan penninsula. Steadily, the landscape changed from a snowy tundra to a chilly snowless barren. In the van, I try to get to know my team a bit better. Though it's only been a year, several of the regular members had moved on and I'm suddenly in a senior position. We keep to a light mood before making our next stop for lunch. We stop in Battle Creek at a truck stop and ate a place called Arlene's Diner, your very typical highway diner.

The next stop from here on out was Detroit and we leave with our appetites satisfied and ambitions high. Now's about a good time we strategize for the team even as well far as pointing out some last adjustments to our fighting form. All of this we do today because there will be no time tomorrow.

We arrive in Detroit and check in at our hotel. Like last year, we're staying at the Westin, a very nice place to rest away from home. Hopefully, I won't repeat last year's drunkenness and pass out in the lobby the night before the tournament. I remember how Henry was sent to search for me as he combed all parts of the hotel until finally finding me slumping in slumber on a comfy lobby sofa. I was sure excited last year after completing my ikkyu test and I let celebration get the best of me.

By early evening, all the schools get together for a banquet dinner where we're suppose to mingle and get to know our peers...but mostly, these people would be our opponents the next day. Dinner wasn't great with only a small piece of chicken on the plate. I believe that Mike had asked "The appetizer's good so when does the meal get here?" Sadly for him, he just had it.

After dinner Mike, Tia and I go for a swim and relax in the jacuzzi. In the pool area, we meet a family who was staying at the hotel and the mother of the kids in the pool had gone to Wisconsin in '96 and had even taken the Kendo Class under Kiyota Sensei. It was good to hear that Kendo and Sensei had been one of those fond memories that she can recall from those college days. It certainly has been true for me. Once out of the pool a lot of us go up to the room to drink some scotch, and for many of us, like myself, we drink to a good tournament, cheers and then I go to bed, ready for tomorrow's fortune.

Activity: 3 | Energy: 1 | Friends: 3

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Snow Day

I awoke this morning to Diana's engrossing excitement of a school snow day. The Madison School District hasn't called one of these in five years and my sister made it a point to inform everyone. We sat there in the early morning darkness with the emitting glow of the tv news as other school districts called off school for the day.

It brought back memories of my younger days when I lived next door to my best bud Adam. I remember how snow days gave us an excuse to spend all afternoon playing outside digging tunnels through the steep banks of snow, deposited there by the large street plows. Those were some of the most endearing memories that I still hold onto today because they represent a time of innocence that one can never get back. They were truly carefree days where just about the only thing on our minds was the fun and joy we got out of hanging out together—friends in it 'til the end. Adam's mom made sure that we would eventually come back inside to warm up with ready made mugs of hot cocoa.

And now that I've grown up, those days rarely come around. Today, however, I think I'll take it easy. Adam no longer lives next door and we won't be returning to those ready made mugs of cocoa. But today, when I take a look out the window and catch sight of those snow banks, I see myself digging away without a care in the world.

Activity: 1 | Energy: 2 | Friends: 1

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

First Bogu

Early this morning I get a call about a leaky faucet at our Drake Street house. Between David and I, one of us will have to go over there and fix it. Sadly for me, Tuesdays are my extended and exhaustively long days where I have class until late into the evening.

I've also been dropping by the Kendo Class to help out as a TA in my downtime between classes. It was quite an eventful day even for the students of the Kendo Class. Today, they get to pick out their bogu (armor) and learn about the proper way of putting it on. Nearly one by one, I go to each student to assist them and point out what they're doing wrong as well as to discipline them to the respect they must show for their armor. It hasn't been very long since I was doing this very same thing. It's been just over a year now since I've been studying Kendo and I'm quite keen on the progress I've made.

Activity: 3 | Energy: 3 | Friends: 2

Trying on Bogu in Kendo Class

You're Beautiful by James Blunt

My life is brilliant.
My love is pure.
I saw an angel.
Of that I'm sure.
She smiled at me on the subway.
She was with another man.
But I won't lose no sleep on that,
'Cause I've got a plan.

You're beautiful. You're beautiful.
You're beautiful, it's true.
I saw you face in a crowded place,
And I don't know what to do,
'Cause I'll never be with you.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Super Sunday XL

It's sure warm outside for an early February. Though I'd normally not complain about these conditions but this warm spell is horrible for Hoofer's First Year Snow Kiting program. Despite this shortcoming I went out to Vilas Park this afternoon with John to practice flying the kites. The forecast called for a mildly windy day with gusts all afternoon.

We started launching with the 3 meter kite and went up to the 4 meter as the wind begins to pick up. With the 4m I had a run where I sat myself down on the grown to fly but the gusts were literally lifting my weight up into the air and tossing me around.

After leaving the park I get a call from Brock bringing good news. Over this weekend, Tech Buddies gets its first subscribing customer. This is huge. She said something about really liking our business model and I take that as a score one for us. I'm excited. We'll have to frame this first buck and see where it takes us.

Lastly, tonight's Super Bowl XL was rather fun to watch, especially in High Definition television. Of course the Pittsburgh Steelers beat out the Seattle Seahawks 21-10, but the score fails to mark the best moments of a game that stayed close until the end. This, along with the Super Bowl commercials, kept my eyes on the tube and my ass to the seat the whole time.

Super Bowl XL

Activity: 3 | Energy: 3 | Friends: 2

Super Bowl XL

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Madison East Falls to Wausau

With Saturday night off work, I had my first chance of the semester to catch one of Diana's Varsity Basketball games. They played at home against the Wausau Girl's Team who gave them a good run. Unfortunately, some late fouls and porous defense caught Madison East a bit behind and the team lost another one.

Afterwards, I treated my Dad, Diana, Austin, and Allie out for a late night dinner at Damon's Grill on the East Side. Though it wasn't much to appease a defeat, it did, however, put away our appetites.

Activity: 3 | Energy: 2 | Friends: 3

Friday, February 03, 2006

Just Hit Me Already

Friday's Kendo practice was the return of our Sempai Mark who has been in Pakistan doing research. Practice went well at first go and he didn't even yell at me the usual amount. Then during ji-geiko (combat practice), I was matched up with John and got my left thumb just smashed to bloody hell. I immediately fell writhing in pain and I sat out the rest of practice. This is terrible news with the tournament just two weeks away.

Later, however, I had my thumb examined and got it popped out and back into place. I'll take the weekend to rest it, then back to the fore.

Activity: 2 | Energy: 2 | Friends: 3

Fei Tai Kai Detroit

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Sad Sushi

Right around lunch time, I met up with Stephanie for lunch at Takara on State Street. This was a much needed excursion from the busy lives we both live. I'll have to say that the food wasn't spectacular whereas in fact it was a bit disappointing but it nonetheless gave us time to talk about all those things that good friends talk about.

Activity: 2 | Energy: 2 | Friends: 3