An unexpected visit from a 7th Dan Sensei from Japan

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.

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