This year is starting out with what seems like one resounding theme: Letting go of all things that no longer serve me. It is about re-evaluating priorities and making hard decisions. From goals to friendships and everything in between. This year is about growth in meaningful ways. It is about being more selective with the things I choose to spend my time on. And most importantly, it is about knowing which things deserve my commitment and support. Anything that diminishes my worth should not have space in my life this 2017.
I have not been writing about kendo in the past months. I guess that was a reflection of how I felt about my kendo journey — confused, demotivated, lost, and generally uninspired. I wish I could go back in the beginning and grasp at that feeling of excitement and joy in learning despite the hardships. Lately, it just felt like all suffering without the fun. Another reason I have not been writing about practice was because I went on a hiatus again. This time the self-imposed break lasted for three months. The longest number of consecutive weeks I stopped training. It is not something I am proud of. But it felt like the thing I needed most at that time.
1st Day Back
Getting back on track is tough. I knew that when I came back three weeks ago. And I realized once again that there is no easing your way in. There is no process or program that those coming back from a long break can get into to relearn the basics and build the stamina for the grueling bogu class. It felt weird training on my own with largely no supervision as everyone was in bogu and training intensely. It felt uncomfortable and made me think that I should have brought my bogu so I can join the regular training despite knowing that it is ill-advised to jump right into an intense training after months of inactivity.
I still was not ready to join the bogu class, but I did anyway. I guess I was lucky because there was a scheduled kyu exam that day so keiko was shortened by almost an hour. I was in the zone. I may not be back to my old form, but it was not as bad as I expected. And I did not stop to rest so that was one of the things I was thankful for, especially since there was no water break.
Two hours of non-stop keiko with no hydration breaks in a training venue with poor ventilation. I honestly do not know how I survived that. I promised myself to just follow everyone’s lead in keiko (read: do not be that nail that sticks out). This means enduring like the rest is doing regardless of how the former competitive athlete in me thinks that there is something seriously wrong with what I was doing to myself.
To put my (constant) dilemma in context, some advices, information, and instructions we receive can be confusing or ambiguous at best. We are not supposed to stop to rest during keiko unless the sensei or dojo leader calls for a break. But our club’s dojo leaders say that it is okay to ask permission from sensei for a quick water break. So it is left to members’ discretion if they want to do it or not. And yet there is this thing about kendo that makes you hesitate to do something unless those who outrank you take the lead. So the message can get a bit murky sometimes.
Our club manager said something in the past about kendo being a traditional martial art and it is common for practitioners to practice for hours without drinking water. I noticed that there seems to be an impression that traditional martial arts do things differently. This is something that I find hard to understand, especially since a lot of things I do now seem to depart from what I learned from the best coaches of my other sport and from some of the country’s top experts in sports nutrition, sports psychology, strength and conditioning, sport doctors, physical therapists, masseurs, and more during the years I was with the national team. I am stumped by how club-based martial art practitioners whose level of fitness is not at par with national athletes train so recklessly and seemingly without much care for how our kind of training impacts our body. But all these thoughts I keep to myself. I have repeatedly raised my concern about proper hydration in training given the duration, intensity, and poorly ventilated venue not to mention the constricting equipment that we wear that make us sweat profusely even without the merciless heat.
Apart from training for two hours without drinking any drop of water and sweating buckets, I also received jarring blows to my head from sensei. Not just once but at least five times when he was using me as “dummy” to explain to everyone what we were doing wrong. The pain was excruciating but I had to stand there as if it did not bother me. I put it behind me until the next day when I noticed losing trains of thoughts several times. I was even close to making an embarrassing mistake at the grocery when I almost put the cat food I picked up from the shelf inside my bag. It was the first time that it happened to me. And there were those moments I forgot what I was thinking about and I had trouble concentrating at work. It may or may not be related to the blow. But it was scary just the same since it all happened the day after I received the blows.
My kendo journey at the moment confuses me and leaves me feeling helpless. I believe in the concept of emptying the cup or losing preconceived notions. I have been trying to do that from the beginning. But a part of me is unsure if it would be wise to unlearn what various experts in the field of sports and sport sciences have taught me over the years.
For now, I just tell myself to endure. Because I love kendo and I truly want to keep following the path to wherever it leads me.
A friend’s Facebook post yesterday made me look back to my own experiences booking train tickets online for my Geneva-Aix les Bains-Paris-Brussels-Antwerp trip last year. I have not thought much about the process at that time. It was just one of the whirlwind of activities I had to deal with prior to the trip. But now that I reflect on it, I would have to say that it was a bit confusing at first.
I remember spending some time looking for the best routes and transportation options. I had to figure out how to get from Geneva airport to Aix-les-Bains and book tickets for that as well as for other trips. I made all the arrangements on my own so I was initially anxious about how things would turn out. But I was pleasantly surprised everything went well — well, at least most of it. And these are some of the things that helped me through it.
Rome2rio is informative and user-friendly. I has been my go-to source of information when looking for the best routes. I find it helpful and reliable. I like how it made some of my past trips a lot easier to plan.
Booking tickets with Voyages-sncf.com was a breeze. And in hindsight, the “Ticketless” option I chose on my Thalys ticket was more convenient. I just saved the barcode ID they sent me on my phone and presented it to the inspector as instructed.
My TGV e-ticket, however, was another story. I thought that I just had to present the e-ticket I printed as stated on the confirmation email I received. But as I was sitting at the lounge area across the information and ticketing booths at Gare d’Aix-les-Bains-Le Revard, I noticed that most of the passengers I saw were holding what looked like boarding passes. So I approached the woman issuing tickets out to ask if I needed to confirm my reservation again. And this is where my Aix les Bains to Paris misadventure began. I had trouble conversing with the woman because she was talking to me in French the whole time. And whatever little I have learned in my French 10 class in college did not help. After a lot of pointing to the printed ticket and showing the email confirmation, she finally understood what I was trying to say and gave me a boarding pass. Too bad I did not get the chance to use it and enjoy the free Wi-Fi onboard the TGV train since I mistakenly went to the wrong platform and boarded the wrong train.
Fond Memories and Takeaways
- What they say about booking train tickets online months before your trip is true. The Aix-les-Bains to Paris ticket I purchased on Voyages-sncf.com only cost me $42. The cost of the ticket from Bellegard to Paris that I had to buy after I missed the TGV train to Paris-Gare de Lyon was approximately EUR100 (give or take 1 or 2 Euros) not to mention the price of the ticket from Culoz to Bellegard. Boarding the wrong train was an expensive mistake on my part. But on the upside, I got to see more of France and met some of the kindest strangers I will never forget.
- The beautiful scenery reminded me once again why I love traveling by train (Amsterdam to The Hague, Beijing to Hangzhou to Xiamen, Guangzhou to Hong Kong, and others)
- The stranger seated next to me in the Thalys train who put (and retrieved) my heavy luggage on the overhead compartment
- Paris-Gare de Lyon and Gare du Nord — the architecture, trains, vibe, and the people
- Taking the train from Brussels Midi to Brussels Airport instead of heading straight to Antwerp. I chose that route because I figured it would be more convenient for me to take the shuttle from the airport that stops directly in front of the hotel where I will be staying. On the downside, I missed out on the chance to see the Antwerpen-Centraal railway station which was one of the city’s attractions.
- Meeting a US-educated Tanzanian politician at the platform while waiting for the train and having an interesting conversation with him about education and politics during the trip from Brussels Midi to the airport.
Japanese and Korean dramas are among my guilty pleasures. But I have not written much about the ones that I like. The first and last time I wrote about something I watched was back in 2012 soon after I finished watching Warrior Baek Dong Soo. In the past few weeks, I have been following K-dramas currently airing. Here are my top five picks:
5. Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo
Genre: Historical drama, Fantasy, Romance
One name: Lee Joon‑gi. The first teaser of this drama popped up on my radar a few months ago. And I was hooked the instant my eyes clapped on Lee Joon‑gi. I have been a fan since his stint at My Girl in 2005. There was a lot of hype surrounding this drama months leading to its first episode. I find it a tad disappointing though. With so many actors at play, there were certain episodes that it felt like the lead actor was left at the sidelines. It was tedious and heavy at some points. But things seem to be picking up lately. One thing that keeps me happy is that Lee Joon‑gi never fails to deliver.
4. Moonlight Drawn by Clouds
Genre: Historical drama, Coming-of-Age, Romantic-Comedy
It took me a while to check this one out. I decided to make a quick peek out of curiousity. I was not really expecting to get past the first episode. But I was surprised how it somehow got to me. It has all the makings of a cliche but Park Bo-gum and Kim Yoo-jung pulled it off. I stopped watching on the 10th episode not because I was no longer enjoying it. Limited time and that feeling of dread that it will not have a happy ending made me stop. But only for now. I intend to finish it when I have the time.
3. The K2
Genre: Political drama, Action, Romance, Thriller
I am a Ji Chang-wook fan so it makes sense that I would watch this. I also like Im Yoona so that makes two reasons already to get me curious. But the biggest draw is that its being an action drama. I am a huge fan of action, adventure, detective, mystery, and thriller dramas so there is no way I am going to miss this.
2. Woman with a Suitcase
Genre: Legal drama, Comedy, Drama
This one was another surprise. The curious cat in me just wanted to know what it is about. The lead actors (Joo Jin-mo! and Choi Ji-woo) are rocking it. It has an interesting cast with Lee Joon delivering like he always does.
1. On the Way to the Airport
Genre: Romance, Melodrama
The last drama that I started watching turned out to be the one I like best, at least for now. It took me a while to finally decide to see it. But it has been an INTENSE ride right from the first episode. The extra marital affairs theme is touchy. But the writer and production group seem to be pulling it off splendidly. I am into this for the rawness of emotions it squeezes out and the complexities surrounding the lives of the characters. Kim Ha-neul and Lee Sang-yoon are superb in making their characters come to life. I also love how Lee Sang-yoon does this romance thing. He has a knack of making me fall for him in every role that he plays. I am not sure if rooting for their characters to end together is bad. But that is what I have been doing from the get-go.
I was about to step outside briefly from the dojo more than 30 minutes before keiko started yesterday when I noticed a man who just came in seemingly looking for someone. I approached him and bowed as a greeting, which has sort of become a habit for me since I started doing kendo. I thought he was one of those people who come from time to time to watch or inquire about kendo. He told me that he was looking for our Japanese 3rd Dan senpai. I told him that he hasn’t arrived yet and that he’d probably be coming in a few minutes.
Our guest told me that he was from Japan and that he played kendo there. I asked if he’d be joining us that day and he was sort of noncommittal about it. We talked a bit after that. I apologized that I couldn’t speak Japanese and he laughed and told me that it was okay since he also couldn’t speak English well either. It was around this time that I saw our sensei so I introduced our guest and left them to talk.
Our Japanese senpai arrived a few minutes after. I didn’t notice our sensei leave. I later learned that he had a meeting so he couldn’t join us for keiko. But I saw him approached one of the new members and heard him telling him and the others to do the footwork exercises. It’s been one of his long-standing instructions to everyone since about two months after I started kendo. We’re supposed to practice our footwork thirty minutes before keiko starts. And he’s been reminding us of that over and over again since a lot of us seem to have this unshakeable habit of ignoring it.
I noticed that like what happens most of the time, only a handful of us did what sensei told us to do. Most of everyone who were already there were either standing around or taking a lot of time setting up their bogu. Some were just sitting there. This has been a norm for a long time.
I noticed the newest batch member that Lim sensei talked to earlier. He was just standing there doing nothing. I asked him if Lim sensei told them to do the footwork exercises and he just nodded to me and slowly left without saying anything. I remembered again how bad it feels to be ignored when you’re trying to tell junior members to do something. And then I thought about how this same person ignored our sensei. If he can do that to our sensei, I figured he’d do it to everyone else if he chooses to. So I really shouldn’t feel bad about it.
It turned out that our Japanese guest was a 7th Dan sensei from Japan. He joined our practice and ended up teaching us a lot of things. It was a great experience to review the basics again and receive a lot of feedback on how to improve our kendo.
One thing stood out for me yesterday apart from having a surprise visitor who turned out to be a high-ranking sensei. It was how undisciplined and unteachable we’ve become as a group. This time, and initially unbeknownst to us, there was a visiting sensei who saw us act like we normally do in the dojo. It revealed once again the kind of kendo mindset we have as a group.
At the end of keiko, our Japanese senpai told us that our guest sensei will be leaving for Japan but will be back after two weeks. And that he’ll be staying in Davao for a while and will help teach us. We’re all happy to hear this. I personally hope that things will get a little bit better soon when it comes to etiquette in the dojo.
I have two states of being: talkative and silent. I can talk for hours with anyone about a lot of things. I’m comfortable with absurd, deep, silly, pointless, and whatever type of conversation a moment calls for. I can also be silent not only in my regular forays into solitude. I tend to choose silence when I don’t see the value of talking. If I’m not talking it’s probably because:
1. I have nothing “cool” to say
I’m one of those proverbial pegs that don’t easily fit in certain circles. I’m cool with being “uncool”. I believe that we all have tribes where we fit in seamlessly. I may not get to see the people in my tribes as much or as often as I like, but I take comfort from the fact that they empower me.
2. I’m thinking of how to say things without offending anyone
I tend to say things in an honest and straightforward manner. I come across as cold and logical which baffles me because I’m more like the opposite of that. I do think things through a lot and I’m not afraid to call out any bullshit when I hear it which may be the reasons why I’m sending out this heartless bitch vibe.
3. I’m trying to get a feel of things
I’m slow to warm up. Engaging in small talks is the equivalent of me walking through a field riddled with landmines. But my ignoring anyone isn’t about arrogance which seems to be the conclusion some people jump at. I’m cautious, wary, and unsure of how to deal with people who may be too sensitive for my brand of honesty.
4. It takes time for me to connect, if at all
I find it hard to maintain a conversation with anyone that I can’t connect with even at the most superficial level. There are people I can connect with in an instant. Some of the friendships I’ve been lucky to have over the past years have been built on instantaneous connections. But there are just some people I can’t seem to reach no matter how hard I try. And I guess it’s futile to lament or dwell on that fact. The best thing I can do is move on and let things be.
5. I’m done talking
There’s a limit to the amount of crap I’m willing to take. I’ll try hard to let my voice be heard, especially on matters that could potentially affect not just me but other people around me. But I know when my views aren’t welcome. If I were those who deliberately ignore or try to silence me, I’d be less worried if I voice out contrarian views. What would be more worrisome is when I go silent. And when I say silent, it’s a silence so profound that my ability to care is buried so deep. I’ll have no qualms about quietly watching and doing nothing while everything burns.
Joining a sorority in my first year in college not only meant being part of a sisterhood. It also gave me the opportunity to meet some of the best male friends I have from our sorority’s partner fraternity. One of the things I like about my brods, especially the ones I’m closest with, is their brutal honestly. I can rely on them to call me out on my bullshit and dish out sage advice if needed.
One brod has become a coach and confidant over the years. He was the one who got me into arnis. And I remember that time when he had enough of my wallowing over my first heartbreak so he brought me to his dragon boat training. He was also my teacher in capoeira. As a longtime practitioner and teacher of martial arts, he’s been one of the few people I can really count on when I need someone to talk to when I’m having a tough time in kendo. When it comes to words of advice, he unfailingly gives me a lot to think about:
I think you are being too dependent on what is taught in class. Do you train morning and night on top of the regular class? It’s not about 1 hour before class additional training. It’s about lifestyle. Are you thinking like a kendoka? Or as someone who does kendo. You were an elite rower. You know what it takes to be elite. Apply your knowledge from other disciplines that you have been elite in to this one. The formula is the same.
Complacency kills. Keep the edge sharp. Train like the old men of war. They survived real combat. Not like this pretend fighting crap. Read Musashi and his book of the 5 rings. There is real wisdom in there.
you don’t do a martial art. you are the martial art. you don’t wield a weapon. you are the weapon. you don’t have a rank. you are the rank.
“the true master of an art reveals it in every action” – samurai maxim from the book ” zen in the martial arts ” by Joe Hyams
Actually having too many techniques for attack is not an advantage. It’s about how many techniques you have mastered. In tourneys I have a maximum of 3 techniques that I have mastered. The trick is having a defense that can’t be breached. When you can’t get hit, you’re only concern will be scoring.
Find the strike you like. Then create a defense based on that strike
Just train until your art is your philosophy. You need to be the sword .
A Samurai will recognize a fellow samurai among simple swordsman.
The body mind and spirit must be one in a fight. You need to allow the art to take over. That is Why you train to embody the art so that you can move without conscious thought. If you are focused on making something work then that is conscious thought.
Skills will tell everyone how to identify a senior. Not skill because of power , strength , and speed but because of simplicity and effortless ease of movement and execution with intent. You can be in a corner alone and your movement will show who you are. I repeat. Work to understand your art. Find the essence of it
A martial artist’s road is a solitary one sis. Who cares what anyone else thinks? You are your own sword . They will not wield yours and vice versa.
And it’s not a sport. It’s a way to enlightenment via understanding the blade. Never degrade your system by calling it a sport.
It’s the mindset sis. The objective is to kill your opponent without getting hit. So how do you that? When you know what method of killing your opponents you prefer then you practice it to the point that it becomes second nature for you. When you fight or spar you will be responding without conscious thought.
When it comes to sweet treats, Davao has its share of the best ones in my book. I’m a bit picky with desserts and sweets. Anything that doesn’t have chocolate or green tea in it isn’t high on my list. But I’ve tasted a lot of Davao’s delicious durian everything – candies, coffees, cheesecakes, jams, pastillas, pies, and yema among others. I think that anyone who visits this place or knows anyone from here should give them a try. Here are some of what I usually give or recommend to friends:
I like everything from this brand. But it’s the 65% Dark Chocolate that really got me hooked. My first taste of it was a pleasant surprise. The quality was better than some of the artisanal local brands of chocolates I’ve tried in the past. The more recent ones I’ve tasted though are even better. I don’t know if they improved on it or not. All I know is that there’s something about its texture now that I really love.
Where to buy: Visit their website for a list of retailers or shop at their online store.
Cacao Davao Durian Filled Dark Chocolate
Cacao Davao has a wide range of products that include unsweetened 100% chocolate callets, cocoa powder, cocoa nibs, and cocoa butter to name a few. But it’s their durian filled dark chocolate that makes me go the extra miles, literally. The store where they sell them is not along the usual routes I take or pass through when I’m downtown. But I find myself making the effort to go there, especially before I travel. It’s usually one of the pasalubongs or gifts I give to friends I’ll be meeting in my travels.
Where to buy: Cacao Davao, San Pedro Extension, Davao City (in front of Phoenix Gas Station)
Apo ni Lola Assorted Durian Candies
Apo ni Lola is one of my most recent discoveries. I didn’t even know that there was such a brand. I haven’t come across it before in my visits at the fruits stands in Magsaysay. I’m not sure if I just didn’t notice them or the fruit stalls I’ve been to don’t sell them. Apparently, this brand is an offshoot of the popular Lola Abon’s brand and is owned by a third generation member of the family. It was when I spent a night with my aunt and cousin at the Royal Mandaya Hotel that I found out about this. There was this small souvenir shop at the mezzanine that sells them at factory prices. I like their assorted durian candies, durian piayaya, and yema durian sandwich spread. I haven’t tried the durian hopia, but if it’s as good as the piayaya then I’ll probably love it as well.
Where to buy: Apo ni Lola, #28 San Miguel Village, Matina, Davao City; Souvenir shop at the Mezzanine of the Royal Mandaya Hotel, Palma Gil St., Davao City
IMPULSE PH participants have been busy in the past three months since the seminar. I have been trying to keep track of what my tribe mates/sports sisters have been up to as part of a project I will be doing beginning the second half of the year. Here’s something I made that provides a glimpse of what some of the IMPULSEPH ladies have been up to so far:
The naive sixteen-year old probinsyana in me was shocked the first time I went to the market with my aunt the first few days after arriving in Manila several years ago. I was surprised at the prices of bananas and calamansi among others. Spending most of my early years in my grandparents’ home in the province made me clueless to the workings of a highly-urbanized city life.
I grew up in a place where a lot of things I wanted or needed were found and picked in my grandparents’ backyard. I lived in the midst of fruit-bearing trees like avocado, banana, cacao, guava, mango, pomelo, santol, and star fruit to name a few. I learned about drying and roasting coffee beans and cacao seeds after watching and helping my grandmother. My first taste of tablea and hot chocolate prepared in batirol was at my grandparents’ home.
Fast-forward to that day in a market somewhere in Manila, I stood there processing what I saw as my aunt paid for the things she bought. I think it was then that I realized that I was truly far from home and from everything that comfort represented. That moment gave me a glimpse of what my life would be in college and the years following that as I stayed in the big city.
Seven years after coming back to Davao for good, I still marvel at a lot of things that I used to take for granted — especially the fruits. Davao City may be urbanized, but it is not hard to find the finest fruits fresh from farms. And if you are lucky to find yourself in the city in August, you can have your fill of a wide array of fruits for cheap.
Fruits are among Davao’s treasures. This is why I was excited like many other Davaoenos when I heard about the Asian Fruit Market project. But I forgot about it until recently when I noticed that they have already initiated it. I passed by the area earlier but did not have time to explore the stalls. I noticed that at 11:00AM many of the booths were still empty. But I expect that things will be livelier later in the day. I think AFM is still at its initial phase. I cannot wait to see how it will look and feel like several weeks or months from now.