After Kendo Practice Thoughts: The Simple Things are the Toughest to Learn

My first shiai.
My first shiai. (Photo credit: A sensei visiting from Hong Kong)

It has been twenty-two months since I took up Kendo. In that time, I have been on a total of about 4 months of hiatus. Considering that our club’s regular training is only once a week, I would say that I have not journeyed far enough from my path as a beginner.

Yesterday after keiko, our sensei had some words to say to us. It is rare for our sensei to indulge in long talks like that. Apart from the language barrier that makes it hard for him sometimes to articulate what he wants to say, he is really a man of few words. In the almost two years of training with him, I observed that he is one of those martial arts teachers (and sport coaches) who can teach a lot of invaluable lessons for those who persevere enough to dig deep beneath the surface. Most times, it is not about what they say but what they do.

I first met sensei during the second day of the newly-formed club’s practice. I was with the two other students who were there the first day. One thing I learned then was he likes pushing students past their limits. And it has never changed. Last night, it seemed like he felt the need to remind us of that once again — in words. He reminded us that Kendo is more than a sport. He said that it requires a lot of self-discipline and always giving our best regardless of how tired we feel.

It has been said that the simplest things are the hardest to learn. I could not agree more. In Kendo’s context, there are things beginners are taught early on. Some of them seem simple enough, but they could be quite a challenge to sustain.

I have been feeling demotivated in kendo for months now. But I held on because I love it and I really want to learn it. A few weeks back, I decided to review the things expected of me as a kendoka. I challenged myself to keep doing them regardless of circumstances outside my control. It may not be easy most of the time. But I find it fulfilling to do these things, especially on days when I do not feel like doing them:

  • Clean the dojo floor – I have to be honest that it can be frustrating to see that not many people do this despite repeated reminders from our officers. Initially, it was supposed to be the beginners’ (read: youngest batches) job. But a recent memo from club officers stated that everyone should do it. I have only recently read said memo. Even before that though, I already promised to myself that I would make it a part of my pre-practice routine. And I have been delivering on that promise since. (I found a thumbtack while cleaning the dojo floor yesterday.)
  • Practice footwork before training starts – Sensei first issued this instruction about two months after the club was formed. He told us to try arriving at least 30 minutes before keiko starts so we could do this. As the club membership grew, he has been repeating the same instruction over and over again. But only a few actually do it without anyone prompting them. I understand why anyone would want to avoid it. It can get really tedious. I am not even good in kendo yet but I find it boring and painful most of the time. But knowing that I am not good served as motivation for me to keep doing it. I told myself that maybe someday, something good will come out of it. For me, it has been one of the challenges I have to overcome even before keiko starts. This is one of the things I made sure to follow since that time sensei told us to do it.
  • Aim for beautiful kendo – This is one thing that sensei said that really stuck to me. It is what I want as well. I find it helpful to keep it in mind. I use it as a guide on how to approach my training. It is not a pleasant feeling to be struck in practice or in shiai (match). It can be tempting to keep blocking (without the intention of doing a counter-strike), tilt my head to avoid being hit, or do things that would compromise proper form and technique. So every training, I challenge myself to receive every hit straight on. I know I suck at matches. But I would like to think that getting into that shiai-jo with the goal of playing beautiful kendo is worth the pain of losing.
  • Push – Sensei’s training can be brutal. I may not look forward to it, but I appreciate its true value. There have been occasions in the past that I took a rest even before the official break has been called. To be fair, those were times that I really cannot seem to carry on anymore. Each time, it felt like I let myself and sensei down. It was not a good feeling. I decided to try not doing it anymore. Lately, there have been times when it seemed like I was about to faint. But I chose to carry on. Surviving that feels like a reward in itself.

I would like to share some excerpts from an article written by one of the celebrities I admire. His writings are among the reasons why I’m a fan. I enjoy reading about his thoughts on travel, food, and Brazilian jiu jitsu. Here are some of the things he shared in a blog post that resonate with me:

As I say at the top of this episode, as I tape my fingers (in the forlorn hope that it might mitigate the osteoarthritis and Heberden’s nodes associated with grip fighting), I will never be a black belt. I will never successfully compete against similarly ranked opponents half my age, I will never be great at Brazilian jiu jitsu. There is an urgency to my training because I’m sure as shit not getting any younger, or more flexible. I’m certainly not getting any faster. And as I head down the highway on my jiu jitsu journey, the likelihood of the wheels coming off the car grows stronger every day.

But I am determined to suck less at this jiu jitsu thing every day if I can.

I do it because it’s hard. Because it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And because it never ends. Every day presents me with a series of problems that I spend the rest of the day thinking about how I might solve — or at least chip away at. Next day same. And the day after that. ~ SWEEP THE LEG, JOHNNY! by Anthony Bourdain

I am still in the earliest stages of my kendo journey. I am still far from being good at my level. I do not know what my future in this martial art will be. But to borrow Anthony Bourdain’s words: I am determined to suck less at this kendo thing every day if I can.

Advertisements

March Highlights – Inspired. Reconnected. Empowered.

I welcomed March, which also happened to be Women’s Month, with a simple goal of doing something, no matter how small, for the women in sports advocacy. Somehow, along the way, small milestones just piled up. I couldn’t think of a better way to end it than how it did – being with like-minded people who inspired and re-energized me to dream and do more.

March 6 – Davao Kendo Club’s 1st Women’s Shiai/Tournament

(Photo credit: Jesh Juson)
(Photo credit: Jesh Juson)

March 8 – Women in Rowing PH featured in our IF’s website and International Women’s Day video

Screenshot from the World Rowing website
Screenshot from the World Rowing website

March 28-30 – IMPULSE Seminar: Empowerment of women in sports in the Philippines

(Photo credit: Krizanne Ty)
(Photo credit: Krizanne Ty)

Looking forward to more collaborations with all the inspiring women and men around me.

Thanks for the Wild Ride, 2015!

This year has been far from boring despite my lack of expectations going in. The Chinese horoscopes I have read  hinted of little promise for my sign. Given the somewhat unfavorable predictions, I opted to block them from my mind (yes, I’m selective like that). So I welcomed the year a bit wary of what’s to come. But with a firm resolve that whatever happens, I will do my best to get through whatever life throws at me.

For a year that was supposed to have little to look forward to though all sorts of crazy things happened. The good, the bad, and everything in-between — they all made this year unpredictably eventful. Here are some of my 2015’s highlights. Every experience was an opportunity for gratitude, happiness, learning, and growth.

Family is Love

We don’t do showy love in our family. But we see and feel it. And this year, there have been several ways I’ve seen how they support me in what I do. They may not always understand my choices given the traditional beliefs some of them have. But I could count on them to be there for me. It has always been more than enough. My dad, mom, and sister each in his and her own ways have helped me a lot this year.

It was sad and scary though when my dad was hospitalized last November. He had to stay at the hospital for several days. It didn’t help that we were not really sure what was wrong with him. He’s been dealing with diabetes and high blood pressure for so long. Thankfully, he got better quickly and was able to go home a few days later.

Friends I’m Lucky to Have

I don’t often see my closest friends since I moved back to my hometown. So it’s always a happy occasion when I get to meet them. I had a chance to do just that this year for some friends I haven’t seen for a long time.

Early this year, I met up with Nathan, my brod who got me into arnis, dragonboat, and capoeira. It’s been almost eight years since I last saw him so I was happy to reconnect with him. I’ve seen him again after that when I went to Manila. I had dinner with Sis Lilet who was in Davao a few months back. I had a meet up with my kindred Karen and former workmate Ailene when I was in Singapore. I likewise had a chance to see my awesome Virgo friends Anna Liese, Babs, and Chalyn when I was in Manila last July. I stayed with my former teammates Belen, Jess, and Adrian when I was in Paris. A common friend from Pencak Silat also made time to visit us while I was there. And just a few days ago, I had lunch with high school friends Leonor and Deanna who are based in Cebu and Cagayan de Oro respectively.

I’ve also kept in touch with my best buddies Bixie (Seoul), Min-Min (Melbourne), Beth with Milo (Maryland) and Aileen (Singapore).

Getting an Apology I No Longer Expected

Early this year, I found a message on my Facebook account’s “other” inbox a few days after it was sent. I usually don’t check that inbox so I don’t know what prompted me to open it. I was surprised to find that message there, especially at a time when I no longer expected it. It was a most touching message that I’ll never forget. Here’s to closures and great stories that last a lifetime.

Health I Need to Take Better Care Of

I had at least two worrisome respiratory woes this year. Both required visits to a pulmonologist. During my first check-up, the chest x-ray showed some fluids in one of my lungs. I was worried about this because it was the first time that it happened to me. The doctor gave me a lot of medicines. I was advised to refrain from doing physical activities. This meant skipping kendo training for at least two to three weeks each time. The treatment worked so I was more than glad I stuck to it. But the problem recurred a few weeks later, but without the lung fluids. I got another round of prescriptions. I made sure I followed the doctor’s advice to the letter. This was a few days before I had to leave for jury/umpire duties at the Singapore SEA Games.

Getting sick sucks for a lot of reasons. I realized I need to take better care of my health from now on.

Jury/Umpire Duties

I once read an interview of an experienced umpire who said something like a good race for us jury members is when we remain “invisible”. And I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s every jury/umpire/referee’s wish that every race goes as smoothly as possible.

I’ve been generally lucky in the previous umpiring assignments I’ve had. But that all ended this year. I’ve had a lot of challenging firsts while doing jury/umpire duties in the past months.

SEA Games

Crews at the Start area.
Crews at the Start area.

This year’s SEAG was memorable for me because I got assigned as Responsible Judge at the Finish. I’ve done Judge at the Finish several times but not the responsible judge task. I was also Judge at the Start at one of the toughest days to be assigned in that post given the bad weather that was threatening to get worse by the minute.

During the last day of races (Final A), I was the only female umpire of the four out on the racing course. It was raining hard early that morning and quite windy too. The weather improved a bit so the races started as scheduled. But it was still raining. I was a bit worried about some boat classes like the coxless pair and four given the weather conditions.

As my luck would have it, I was the umpire for the women’s coxless four (W4-). It turned out to be one of the toughest events to follow that day. Some of the teams’ boats were already swerving as soon as the race started. The wind was not helping at all. Everyone was moving into others’ lanes. I was using my white flag and bullhorn almost throughout the duration of the race. I had several instances of near collisions involving not just one or two crews but most of them. Two teams were so close to colliding with each other as they approach the finish. I was surprised that the race ended without mishap.

World Masters Regatta

Umpire Boats
Umpire Boats

My first assignment as jury member for a world event was equally memorable. It was the busiest regatta I’ve been to. Over 3,500 participants were competing in different age categories (27 to 90+). Races were scheduled from 6:00AM to 7:00PM for three and a half days. Jury members were assigned to work in shifts. There were only 3 minutes intervals between races. I’ve never experienced calling out a false start before. But in that event, I had two false starts and one close call when I was assigned as Judge at the Start.

Crews at the Start Area. Taken while hanging out near the Aligner's Hut while I was off shift.
Crews at the Start Area. Taken while hanging out near the Aligner’s Hut while I was off shift.

During my afternoon shift in the last day of races, I was static umpire at 500m (350-700m zone). A male single sculler in lane 1 stopped as his boat approached the 500m mark. I asked him if he was okay and he said he doesn’t want to continue anymore. He said he would like to leave the race course and go directly to the rental boat pontoon. Only a few races after that, a women’s pair boat in lane 6 capsized. The boat driver and I quickly went to assist the capsized crew. The rescue boat stationed near my umpire boat was gone and I wasn’t getting any response on my call for assistance on my hand-held radio. We had to assist the distressed crew fast because the next race was already coming in.

Despite pushing me way out of my comfort zone, I have to say all the umpiring experiences I’ve had this year taught me a lot. And most of all, it made me realize that there’s nothing to fear when I’m out there doing my job. That stepping up is exactly what we do, if needed.

Kendo Journey

With the MKC senseis and senpais
With the MKC senseis and senpais

It hasn’t been a great year for me in Kendo. I went on a long hiatus at least twice. I stopped training for a month during the first quarter of the year. Then I had to take breaks of at least two to three weeks each to recuperate when I was having respiratory problems and when I had to travel for jury duties. My second long break from kendo was from August to October. I only came back after a fellow kendoka told me about the kyu assessment scheduled for November. I thought maybe I should give it a shot and see if I’ve learned anything in all those months I’ve trained. Because honestly, I’ve always felt lost given the prevailing lack of feedback.

I wasn’t expecting much from myself for the kyu assessment. Still, I felt a bit sad and disappointed soon after I failed my first ever 1 kyu exam. But looking back to what I’ve been through, it didn’t seem bad at all. It was funny actually how everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong in the days leading to the evaluation. Failing the assessment on the last day of November seemed like a fitting end to the worst month I’ve had in 2015. Work-related changes that required learning some new skills, sleeping at the hospital for a few days when my dad was hospitalized, learning Kata 1-3 only a few weeks before evaluation, and cramming Bokuto 1-9 lessons in two days all took their toll in my performance.

I had a tough time even during the two days of pre-evaluation training with the visiting MKC senpais and senseis. My shinai was damaged on the first day so I couldn’t use it. The only available replacement I could use was Lim sensei’s carbon fiber shinai. Apart from the difference in size, it was also a lot heavier than I expected. I experienced using men’s size shinais before. But sensei’s shinai was quite heavy. I could feel my shoulders protesting the whole time I was using it. The next day, one of my male dojo mates lent me his extra shinai. While it was lighter than Lim sensei’s shinai, the grip was different so I had to adjust to that as well. Just when I thought that nothing could go wrong anymore after what I’ve been through, I was proven wrong. The night before the evaluation, our club manager told our batch that we can only take up to 2 kyu. This was perfectly fine with me given how ill-prepared I was. So I was surprised when the next day he told us that we’ll be taking the 1 kyu evaluation instead. And as the results show, I messed it up big time.

Despite the disappointing results though, I couldn’t help but feel motivated. Ono sensei’s unexpected feedback inspired me to do better. Because he doesn’t seem the type who’d say something without meaning it.

Strangers to Remember

The kindness of strangers is another highlight for me. I’ve met several in my travels this year. I may not know or remember their names, but my interactions with them have been unforgettable.

-The young accountant I met at NAIA Terminal 1 while I was waiting to check-in. We’re on the same flight going to Abu Dhabi. He’s a new addition to the country’s growing number of OFWs. We ended up as buddies until we had to go our separate ways in Abu Dhabi. He was on his way to Jeddah and I was traveling to Geneva.
-The dedicated volunteers met at the World Championships in Lac d’Aiguebelette, France and the World Masters Regatta in Hazewinkel, Belgium
-The old lady who chatted with me at the boulangerie near the hotel in Aix les Bains
-The owner/chef of a restaurant where I had one of the sumptuous dinners I’ve had in Aix les Bains
-The teenage kid who helped me when I got on the wrong train on my way to Paris
-The train conductor on the same train who kindly looked for a new and detailed route for me (which was not easy given the train schedules)
-The couple at the train station in Culoz who helped me after the teenage kid left me in their care. They made sure that I get to Bellegard as smoothly as possible so I could catch the train to Paris Gare de Lyon
-The guy seated next to me on the Thalys train going to Brussels who kindly put and retrieved my luggage for me on the overhead compartment.
-The US-educated Tanzanian guy I chatted with on the way to Brussels airport
-The rower who took the time to give his thanks saying that we’ve all been really nice and that it was the best masters regatta he’d been to.
-The girl I met at Brussels airport going home. It was like we’ve been friends for a long time. She was on her way home to Tarlac after a 6-month visit with his father, stepmother and stepsiblings who live in Liège, Belgium.

All these encounters left me with stories and memories that inspire me.

Travel

MBS, home sweet home while in Singapore. Taken while hanging out with my former workmate who's now based in Singapore.
Marina Bay Sands – home sweet home during the SEAG. Taken by my former workmate, who’s now based in Singapore, while we were hanging out.

I didn’t expect to travel this year except maybe for the SEA Games. The notice of my selection as one of the jury members for a world regatta came in the first quarter of 2015.

My first trip was to Singapore for the SEA Games. Unlike my previous trips, I didn’t have to go to Manila this time. The Davao-Singapore direct flight made it more convenient for me. Soon after I returned from Singapore, I traveled to Manila. While Manila’s been home for me for almost two decades, I haven’t been there much in recent years. It was like traveling to somewhere familiar, but feeling like everything has changed.

Two months after, I traveled to France to attend a conference. The trip took me from Davao to Manila to Abu Dhabi and to Geneva. The view during the plane’s approach to Geneva airport was simply breathtaking. It was one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve seen from a plane’s window. The hour-long road trip from Geneva to Aix-les-Bains was delightful. I still remember the picturesque scenery on both sides of the road. I stayed at a hotel in Aix-les-Bains with my friend and fellow umpire from Myanmar. She booked with the same airline so we could meet at Abu Dhabi airport then travel together to France from there.

Rooftops in Aix les Bains. Taken from the hotel room's balcony.
Rooftops in Aix les Bains. Taken from the hotel room’s balcony.

From Aix-les-Bains, it’s only about 20-minute bus ride to Lac d’Aiguebelette which is part of one of the communes in Savoie, France. It’s one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve seen. This year, it was the venue for the world championships and the conference.

My friend and I went our separate ways after the conference. Her friend who’s based in the Netherlands picked her up in our hotel on our last day in Aix les Bains. They were traveling to Barcelona together while I’ll be traveling to Paris. But what could’ve have been a simple trip became a circuitous journey when I got on the wrong train. I ended up in Culoz before traveling to Bellegard to catch a train to Gare de Lyon in Paris. Thanks to the kindness of strangers, what could’ve been an unpleasant experience became a happy sightseeing side-trip and memorable adventure.

My former teammates who now live in Paris picked me up at Gare de Lyon. I stayed with them during my short visit. No matter how short though, I was still able to see the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Sacré-Cœur, and the Arc de Triomphe. I enjoyed exploring a little bit of Place Charles de Gaulle and ventured on my own to the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise to visit Oscar Wilde’s tomb.

From Paris, I took the Thalys train from Gare du Nord to Bruxelles-Midi then transferred to another train going to Brussels Airport. I chose that route because it seemed more convenient for me. I wanted to take the Airport Express shuttle that stops at Crowne Plaza Antwerpen where I’ll be staying. In hindsight though I wished I just took the train to Antwerpen-Centraal to see the station’s beautiful architecture. I didn’t know then that I won’t have the time to explore the city given our busy schedule. I didn’t see much of Belgium much to my regret. The only sightseeing I’ve done while in Antwerp was the long walk I did soon after I arrived and the daily trips from the hotel to Willebroek where the Hazewinkel rowing venue was located.

I may not have been able to see much of the places I’ve been to this year. But in each place I’ve discovered more than I expected. All the experiences and things I’ve seen made me want to travel more. It also made me realize that traveling solo is one of the best experiences one can have.

Work I Enjoy

I was happy with work this year. I had to learn new skills to adapt to constantly-changing requirements. But it was all fun despite the long hours I have to do sometimes. More importantly, I’m grateful that the work I do now allows me to pursue my passions. It may not be as financially rewarding as my last “regular” job. But venturing out on my own was a risk I was prepared to take on so as to have more freedom to do what I love.

It’s been year of ups and downs. But despite the struggles, the good things far outweigh the bad. At the end of the day, I learned many things along the way.

So I’ll end this with a quote: “Trust me, I never lose; I either win or learn!” Unknown

Sayonara and Thank You, 2015!

Kids Playing Amazing Dodgeball

The winning team kept it simple. They were strategic, synchronized, focused, efficient, and effective. And I love how they have girls on their team! Cute and impressive! It may seem like they took the game way too seriously than their opponents. But I don’t think so. People of all ages just play differently. Some could be a bit intense, but that doesn’t mean they’re not having fun. It could be that for them seriously going at it and giving their best may be their idea of fun.

Well-played, both teams!

 

[PhotoJournal] 2015 World Rowing Masters Regatta

2015 World Rowing Masters Regatta
Hazewinkel, Belgium
10 to 13 September 2015

Wednesday, 9 September

One of the pontoons at the venue. Taken at dusk after the umpiring seminar on September 9th.
One of the pontoons at the venue. Taken at dusk after the umpiring seminar.
Finish Tower and exhibit area from a distance.
Finish Tower and exhibit area from a distance.
Umpire boats
Umpire boats
Training boat on display at the exhibit area.
Training boat on display at the exhibit area.
Official programs distributed during the seminar.
Official programs distributed during the seminar. There were over 3,000 rowers who participated in the event. Jury members had to work in shifts. It was the busiest race I have been to with only 3 minutes intervals between races. Day 2 & 3 of races started at 8:00AM and finished just before 7:00PM.
Read about the Masters Fund for the Youth Rowing Programme.
Read about the Masters Fund for the Youth Rowing Programme.

 

Thursday, 10 September

Photo taken at the restaurant after the continuation of the umpiring seminar. Rowers are getting ready for the start of the first day of races at 1:00PM.
Photo taken at the restaurant after the continuation of the umpiring seminar. Rowers are getting ready for the start of the first day of races at 1:00PM.
View from the container van equipment office where we get hand-held radios before the start of jury duties.
View from the container van equipment office where we get hand-held radios before the start of jury duties.
Photo taken after my 1st shift duty at Lane Control ended.
Photo taken after my 1st shift duty at Lane Control ended.
Spent the free time after my shift at the "Checkpoint Charlie" post near the Aligner's Hut.
Spent the free time after my shift at the “Checkpoint Charlie” post near the Aligner’s Hut.
Crews at the Pre-Start area.
Crews at the Pre-Start area.
8+'s at the Start.
8+’s at the Start.
FISA President Jean-Christophe Rolland awarding medals and pins to octogenarians – rowers over the age of 80 during the opening ceremony.
FISA President Jean-Christophe Rolland awarding medals and pins to octogenarians (rowers over the age of 80) during the opening ceremony.

 

Friday, 11 September

It was still dark when we arrived at the venue. I was on the 1st and 3rd shift as Judge at the Start and Umpire at 100 (50m to 350m zone) respectively.
It was still dark when we arrived at the venue. I was on the 1st and 3rd shift as Judge at the Start and Umpire at 100 (50m to 350m zone) respectively.
The only other photo I managed to take that day. Taken after my shift.
The only other photo I managed to take that day. Taken after my shift.

 

Saturday, 12 September
2nd Shift: Control Commission – Out Pontoon 4
4th Shift: Umpire at 500 (350m to 750 zone)

Sunday, 13 September

Beautiful foggy morning on the last day of races.
Beautiful foggy morning on the last day of races. Out Pontoon 5 where I was assigned for my last duty for the 2015 WRMR.
Very Special Race - Umpires vs Organizers vs Volunteers
Very Special Race – (L-R: Volunteers vs Organizers vs Umpires)

 

(September 8-13, 2015)

[PhotoJournal] 2015 World Rowing Championships and WhatsNext2Rowing Conference

2015 World Rowing Championships
Lac d’Aiguebelette
30 August to 6 September 2015

Info board at the lobby in our hotel.
Info boards at the lobby in our hotel.
At the designated venue shuttle bus stop in Aix-les-Bains. A block away from our hotel.
At the designated venue shuttle bus stop in Aix-les-Bains. A block away from our hotel.
View from outside the bus window while traveling to Lac d'Aiguebelette.
View from outside the bus window while traveling to Lac d’Aiguebelette.
One of the properties overlooking a section of the lake. Imagine waking up every morning to a great view.
One of the properties overlooking a section of the lake. Imagine waking up every morning to a great view.
It was a first for my colleague from Myanmar and I to just enjoy hanging out at the competition venue and not working as umpires. This was taken at the spectators' area teeming with people. There were also several stalls selling merchandises as well as food and beverages. (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
It was a first for my colleague from Myanmar and I to just enjoy hanging out at the competition venue and not working as umpires. This was taken at the spectators’ area teeming with people. There were also several stalls selling merchandises as well as food and beverages. (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
At the spectators' area. (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
At the spectators’ area. (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Near the Finish area.
Near the Finish area.
Crews approaching the finish line with the umpire and media boats following. The two swans gliding on the water seemed unperturbed by all the excitement around them.
Crews approaching the finish line with the umpire and media boats following. The two swans gliding on the water seemed unperturbed by all the excitement around them.
This photo failed to capture the beauty of this lake.
This photo failed to capture the beauty of this lake.
One of the pontoons at the venue.
One of the pontoons at the venue.
Waiting for the shuttle at the parking lot. Buses have designated routes picking up participants from bus stops near their respective hotels in various towns near the venue.
Waiting for the shuttle at the parking lot. Buses have designated routes picking up participants from bus stops near their respective hotels in various towns near the venue.
Watching the A Finals for W4-, M2+, LM2-, LM1x, LW1x, LM4x, LW4x at the grandstand.
Watching the A Finals for W4-, M2+, LM2-, LM1x, LW1x, LM4x, LW4x at the grandstand.

What’s Next to Rowing Conference
Lac d’Aiguebelette
4 September 2015

Tricia Smith (FISA Vice President), Matt Smith (FISA Executive Director), and Jacomine Ravensbergen (FISA Women´s Cross Commission Chair) (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Tricia Smith (FISA Vice President), Matt Smith (FISA Executive Director), and Jacomine Ravensbergen (FISA Women´s Cross Commission Chair)
(Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Anita DeFrantz, Executive Board member, International Olympic Committee (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Anita DeFrantz, Executive Board member, International Olympic Committee
(Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Nicole Girard-Savoy, IOC Manager, Olympic Solidarity International Olympic Committee (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Nicole Girard-Savoy, IOC Manager, Olympic Solidarity International Olympic Committee
(Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Sevara Ganiyeva, Uzbekistan Rowing International Specialist; FISA Youth Commission member (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Sevara Ganiyeva, Uzbekistan Rowing International Specialist; FISA Youth Commission member
(Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Oluode Olubunmi Ola, Nigerian NF Secretary General; Nigerian NOC Women and Sport Commission (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Oluode Olubunmi Ola, Nigerian NF Secretary General; Nigerian NOC Women and Sport Commission
(Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Chantal Buchser, IOC Sports Department, Commissions and Projects - Project Manager The IOC Athlete Career Programme and Lenka Wech, FISA Executive Committee Member (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Chantal Buchser, IOC Sports Department, Commissions and Projects – Project Manager
The IOC Athlete Career Programme and Lenka Wech, FISA Executive Committee Member
(Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Sheila Stephens Desbans, FISA Development Department Manager (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Sheila Stephens Desbans, FISA Development Department Manager
(Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Jean-Christophe Rolland, FISA President
Jean-Christophe Rolland, FISA President (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)

[REPOST] Translation: A Passage in a Japanese Textbook for Middle Schoolers

I was not a figure skating fan before. But stumbling upon a video of Yuzuru Hanyu’s nearly flawless performance in a pre-Sochi Olympics competition instantly made me a huge fan of the young athlete from Japan. The initial admiration for his talent was quickly transformed into deep respect and awe as I learned more about his journey. I always look forward to his performances. Win or lose, I find that he unfailingly leaves a mark — often subtly but powerfully imparting life lessons worth learning.

This article is just one of the many about him that I find truly inspiring. I teared up reading it.

 

When the Going Gets Tough, Keep Going

medal

Lately, I have been engrossed in some self-inflicted dramas. I somehow overlooked the fact that I am not a powerless victim incapable of controlling the things that I can. Whatever issues I may have can only be summed up into any of these: 1) things I can change and 2) things beyond my control. For instance, there are no outside factors I can blame if I am overweight and unfit. I only have to point a finger to my own laziness and lack of self-discipline to know where the buck stops.

On the upside, I know that I have it in me to improve things. I may no longer be a competitive athlete, but I have learned a few things from being one to get through life. If there are things I learned from all the years of training for flag and country, they would be these:

Embrace fear

The demands and expectations from competitive athletes being trained to represent their country are high. I imagine the training of elite athletes as not much different from military training sans the guns, artillery, and occasional (and secret) hazing that some unlucky plebes get. Routines are a given. But it is not the kind of routine where you can predict what is going to happen every single time. Instead, you learn to face your fears over and over again.

Life as an athlete is filled with surprises as well as intense levels of hardships and pains. I have experienced constant dread not knowing what kind of new challenge lies ahead. I remember early mornings when my teammate and I, often the earliest birds, wait at the track oval for our land training – the first workout of the day. I remember the feeling of anticipation mingled with apprehension of what awaits us.

As I watched the sky lighten up as the sun rises, the only thing I could do then was to muster the courage to taken on whatever it is that comes my way. Because the only thing my teammates and I are sure of is that we cannot really know what our so-called training routines have in store for us. Our coaches and trainers had the knack of surpassing our expectations in raising the proverbial bar that we were expected to hurdle. I have learned to expect the unexpected and just put myself out there like there will be no tomorrow.

Do not expect an easy life

There is no such thing as “easy” days in training. There are only less hellish days. Just when you have thought you got it all together, something is bound to come up to prove you wrong. I have learned to rely on willpower to get through the toughest conditions. And I realized that happiness is not about breezing through life. It is about going through hell and coming out a much better person from it. The seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years spent in training can change you in more ways you can imagine.

You get what you give

Anyone can cheat during training. But the ones who do ultimately end up on the losing end. The less you give of yourself into the hours of grueling training, the less chances you get in breaking your personal best(s).

In a team sport, it is a great disservice to the team when you slack off. We have often been told that the strength of the team is it’s weakest (wo)man. Slacking off means you are not improving with the others. You become a burden to those who are trying their best to secure a win for the team.

The trouble with mediocrity is that it could become a habit. One day adds up to the many other days. And the more you indulge in it, the easier it becomes to accept it. In sport and in life, you get what you give. If you demand excellence from yourself, you’re more likely to get excellent results.

The rules are simple

The way professional and amateur athletes play nowadays is much different than before. Advancements in sports technology, nutrition, and other aspects of competitive training have changed how games are played. There is nothing wrong in optimizing available resources to ensure peak performance as long as they are legal and within the sports’ standards.

But beyond the innovative training programs, high-tech equipment, and well-chosen nutritional supplements, the simple rules still apply such as:

Get the right amount of sleep – Lights off at 9:00PM and wake up at 5:00AM. These are among the rules we lived by at the athletes’ dorm. And I can really say that I tend to perform much better when I get enough sleep.

Eat right – Eating right is important for optimum performance. It is still the most effective way to maintain, lose, or gain weight and fuel performance.

Choose the proper way to train – There are many elements in a good training program. A well-designed and sport-specific program, qualified coaches and trainers to handle the training, and the support from sports nutritionists, psychologists, physiotherapists, and more all contribute to achieving peak performance. Knowing what is good for you and your body helps. And that includes making good decisions based on what is right for you.

Make time for mental/psychological preparations – The demands of playing a sport is not just physical. There is a lot of mental and psychological element going on. Visualization and mental training through positive suggestions are some of the techniques I have learned from two sports psychologists who have greatly influenced me.

Opt for a healthy lifestyle – Healthy living makes it easier for the mind and body to step up when the going gets tough.

Not everyone gets to win the gold and step on the podium or the world stage of sports. But everyone can live as champions in everyday life. These are the things that I need to remind myself to crawl out of the rut that I seem to have fallen into.

Set the Bar High and See What Happens

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” – Michelangelo

There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who step up and those who fold.

“Sport is a metaphor for life”  is an adage that rings true for me. That is one of the several reasons why I strongly advocate the IOC’s Sport for All program. I believe that everyone can benefit not just from the fun and fitness one can get from sports but also in the life lessons that can be drawn from them.

I have been told quite a few times by well-meaning people that I should not set the same expectations from sports club members that I would from elite athletes (i.e. national team members). It is as if I am not aware of the differences when I have been a product of both. I started out from a club team before I became part of the national team. And I went back to being a part of clubs in at least two different sports since I retired. All these in a span of over twenty years. So, yes, I should know better than to expect club athletes to deliver the same performance as national athletes do. After all, the latter spend more hours training. They follow programs specifically designed by high level coaches, trainers, psychologists, and other support personnel. Even my hardest training days at the club do not compare to a typical day of training with the national team.

Despite the glaring differences, however, I also know from experience that club teams can be a vast resource of talents. Clubs are among the focus areas of grassroots sports development. It would be a disservice to athletes at this level for club leaders to set the bar low citing the same reason I often hear.

Among the most memorable people I met in sports are some of my teammates in the club team at the university. The women’s team was just formed then so we relied not just on the men’s team captain but also in the other male teammates to help us with training. It was an experience not for the fainthearted. We were constantly challenged, shouted at, and sometimes insulted. And yet, the women’s team held on. We rose up to the challenges instead of folding up. I have never been prouder of our team then. And we grew stronger largely because we were constantly pushed past our limits by certain individuals from the men’s team who would make the meanest marine drill sergeant proud. It was the attitude I developed during the years of training with the club that helped me pass the grueling try-outs for the women’s national team.

Being in a club team does not mean you have to limit yourself only to what some people’s idea of what training in that level should be. While it is true that training programs have to be tailored to the fitness level and skills of members at any given time, it is not bad to dig much deeper and aim for something greater from yourself. At the very least, developing mental strength is one thing athletes can do across all levels of their chosen sports or martial arts.

If there is something I usually expect from my club teammates, it would be to break down stereotypes. There is no better place to begin than at the grassroots — the clubs. Do not let other people’s limited experience hold you back from exploring what you can achieve if you stretch yourself past what you believe you can do.

Kendo Musings: A Long Way from Thriving

There is a quote I like which says, “Go where you’re celebrated, not tolerated”. I prefer to use the word thrive though instead of celebrated. Because it connotes continual growth amidst a sense of fulfillment and happiness despite whatever struggles that come in any endeavor worth pursuing.

I have been writing a lot about Kendo lately than rowing which I am deeply passionate about. As I revisited some of my written musings over the past months, there is one thing that jumps out to me. I love what I do as a kendoka. But it seems that I am still far from getting a sense of fulfillment from it like what rowing has generously gifted me with over the years.

There really should be no comparison because they are different in several ways. And yet, they are the same in many things as well. I have the same passion, energy, and curiosity for these two pursuits. But I feel more fulfilled doing my current role in rowing. In contrast, most of the happy times I had from doing Kendo can be traced to those moments of overcoming the pain and hardships that come with training. Making an infinitesimal step forward often feels like a major achievement which is a result of pushing myself out of my comfort zone. But other than the training aspect, I am having a hard time figuring out my place in the scheme of things.

I do not feel the sense of community that I feel in rowing where being with friends and colleagues inspires me. Rowing people edify me. They make me want to strive more in improving myself. And even during the bad times, I still find plenty to be thankful about the experiences I have had with the sport itself and the people I meet through it. For this reason, I am always grateful to be part of that community. In Kendo though, at least in this small part of the world where I practice it, I often feel that I do not belong. It is like I am taking a solitary walk in a path I could not quite clearly see.