13 Hours in Istanbul

The plane touched down the runway of Istanbul Ataturk Airport at 4:10 AM of the 31st of July, one hour ahead of the 5:10 AM ETA. I was feeling a bit worn out already as I have been technically on the road for over a day having left Davao on the 30th of July at 8:10 AM. I spent almost 11 hours at NAIA Terminals 3 and 1 waiting for my evening flight to Istanbul and spent most of the roughly 12-hour flight awake as my two seatmates sitting on the window and center seats kept making trips to the toilet.

But despite the creeping fatigue, I was buoyed by the prospect of seeing even a little of Istanbul. I was looking forward to the sightseeing tour that Turkish Airlines offer for passengers with at least six hours of wait time at the airport.

I wanted to take the 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM tour schedule that includes a visit inside the Hagia Sophia. But as my ETD to Kaunas, Lithuania from Istanbul is at 4:00 PM (which got delayed for 1 hour and 20 minutes), the much shorter 8:30 to 11:00 AM sightseeing tour will have to do.

Turkish Airlines’ TourIstanbul 8:30 to 11:00 AM Sightseeing Tour Schedule

With still about three hours to kill, I decided to explore the terminal and see if I could find a place to get a cup of coffee. But I had trouble finding a table at the many coffee shops I saw. So I decided to look for the Old Bazaar I read about where I could buy some souvenirs. I figured I should buy what I need already since I may not have the time to do it on my return flight.

Old Bazaar at the airport

Luckily, I quickly found the shop and spent some time there browsing a wide array of items many of which I really liked. I managed to stick to my list and bought what I needed except that I could not find the black soap I promised to buy for my friend Anna Liese and the Istanbul or Turkey mini-bell for my friend Chalyn.

At around half past six in the morning, I decided to start looking for the Hotel Desk where I needed to be at 8:00 AM if I do not want to miss the tour. I had a bit of trouble locating it so I asked one of the airport staff at the information booth just across the passport control area in the departures terminal. The girl told me to head out to the food court, take the elevator located at the left side, and go down to level 1.

As I reached level 1, I asked one of the airport personnel I saw there where the Hotel Desk is located. He told me to pass through passport control first. I was surprised to see the long queue. It took me more than 15 minutes to reach the line closer to the booths. But it was then that things got a bit frustrating. Some people were so eager to go first that there were double lines queueing for each booth and with many people who came much later than me who got through passport control before me.

I finally managed to get through after a little over ten more minutes of waiting. I passed through customs to get to the exit, turned right, and walked straight looking for Starbucks that serves as an easy-to-find landmark for the Hotel Desk that sits beside it. There was no one in line so I went straight to one of the windows and asked about the tour. The guy asked for my boarding pass, checked it, and told me that I will have to take the 8:30-11:00 AM tour. He then told me to wait at the cafe and wait for my name to be called.

I observed that there were already a handful of passengers that seem to be waiting for the tour as well. But Starbucks still have plenty of tables and seats so I was finally I able to get a cup of coffee that I have been longing for since I arrived.

Just before 8:00 AM, one of the Turkish Airlines staff started calling names. I was confused because I did not hear my name. As the group was about to leave, I went to the Hotel Desk to ask if that was for the tour and he told me that it was for the group going to the free accommodation. The hotel stay is for passengers with at least 10 hours of layover who probably prefer to sleep or rest than go for a quick tour of the city.

At about 8:20 AM, the staff called the names on their list. There were more than twenty of us in the group. We were told to follow the tour guide and we left at exactly 8:30 AM. We walked a bit to where the bus will pick us up and waited for about ten minutes there. We got on the bus as soon as it arrived and it left the moment everyone was on board.

I have read a lot of things about Istanbul and seen numerous photos of it over the years. I thought I have a fairly good idea of what I will see. But there was something about actually seeing some parts of the city that made me wish I have more time to enjoy the sights longer than the few seconds that it takes for the bus to pass by. What little traffic on the road was a welcome experience for a change for it meant slowing down to take in some of the views.

The scenery along the coastal road from the European side of Istanbul coming from Atatürk Airport.
The scenery along the coastal road from the European side of Istanbul coming from Atatürk Airport.
The scenery along the coastal road from the European side of Istanbul coming from Atatürk Airport.

I was sitting in the window seat at the right side of the bus with a great view of the coastal scenery. We were coming from the European side of the city where the airport was located. On the left, there were many fascinating sights as well including the views of the Yedikule Fortress, Old Samatya Armanian District, the Walls of Constantinople (Istanbul City Walls), Hagia Sophia, and so much more. I was really hoping we could at least slow down or stop for a few minutes just to see more of them. But we were on a tight schedule. I just have to remind myself that the short tour is much better than just staying at the airport and not seeing any of it at all.

At Galata Bridge with the Golden Horn behind me
Another view from where I was standing at Galata Bridge

I did not take many photos as I did not want to miss the sights as the bus continues on its route. The first stop was at Galata Bridge. Our tour guide told us we will spend ten minutes there to take photos. The sight of birds flying and gliding gracefully against a backdrop of the water and the cityscape was among the most beautiful things I have seen as the bus journeyed along the coastal road. And I got to see it again as we spent time at the bridge. Birds were soaring above the Golden Horn that glistened as the thin clouds on the clear, blue sky offered little cover from the bright sunlight.

Dolmabahçe Mosque
Dolmabahçe Mosque

The second and last stop was at Dolmabahçe Palace where we spent twenty minutes wandering around taking photos. There was a cafe at the palace grounds with outdoor seating with a nice view of the European coast of the Bosphorus.

Dolmabahçe Clock Tower (Dolmabahçe Saat Kulesi)
The main gate (Sultan’s Gate) at Dolmabahçe Palace
Outdoor seating, and just a small section, of the waterfront cafe in the palace grounds that offers a great view of the Bosphorus.
Another view from the cafe
View of the clock tower from the Sultan’s Gate
View from the exit

We left Dolmabahçe Palace at exactly twenty minutes after we arrived and continued the sightseeing tour, this time en route to the airport.

I have always been fascinated with the things I have read about Istanbul. While I thought of wanting to see it at some point, I did not really have that much of a strong desire to do it until that moment when the tour started last week. As the tour guide started telling us about the city, I found myself wanting to explore it at length, see its breathtaking architecture and landmarks, taste as many of the foods as I can, and drink plenty of Turkish coffee and tea, among many other things.

If there was one thing I was sure about as I stepped off the bus back at the airport, it would be this: I want to come back. I started the tour just curious about what I would see. And I finished it already in love with the city.

INTJ Struggles I Can Totally Relate To

Screenshot from https://www.16personalities.com/intj-personality

I’m an INTJ with Type 5 Enneagram who has a longstanding fascination with zodiac signs. And no, I don’t think that astrology or personality types should shape and define people’s lives. But I’m a great believer in the insights they give to help me understand myself and others better.

I’ve long been interested with astrology. I even know what my moon sign is and has been in countless conversations about the topic with friends. It helped me gain a better understanding of myself and the people around me. It helped me in times when I just want to make sense of people’s actions and motivations. But this interest did not extend to psychology’s different personality types until much later.

I first heard of the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in high school when the guidance office administered the test to us. The result indicated that I was an INTJ but it was something that was really not clear to me at that time. Fast forward to college, I took the same exam at the university equivalent of a guidance office and I still got the same result. Still, it was not something that I gave much thought about.

In recent years, I noticed an uptick of interest on these topics. I often see a lot of Facebook friends’ post about their zodiac signs and MBTI types. I started to develop a keen interest on my MBTI. I took some of the online tests I came across and was surprised to get the same result. I’ve heard of friends whose MBTI type changed over the years. It seems that I’m so set in my ways that even after all these years, I’m still an INTJ.

Lately, I’ve been in a most frustrating situation. It has been building up for almost three years. And I don’t know if it’s a good thing, but the last straw happened. I’ve been through similar frustrations on this particular issue in the past which prompted me to step away from the least empowering environment I’ve been in. But there has always been a part of me that still felt like I was not ready to completely let go. This time though, something just snapped that I could almost literally feel it. The first thing I did was to disconnect from all the people associated with it. I even deactivated my Facebook account to give myself time to process things without coming across anything that might fuel all the negative feelings I had at that moment. I didn’t plan to go offline for long. But curiously, one day stretched into almost a month, give or take three days, and I still don’t feel like activating my Facebook account again. And I realized that even in the past, it’s that feeling that indicates that I’ve reached saturation point.

Looking back, here are some of the INTJ struggles I can totally relate to in the context of my personal experiences in that environment that I now choose to leave behind.

Being judged for not being “friendly” or sociable
I’m not really good at social settings. Some people may think that I use this as a psychological crutch or an excuse not to try. But I do try. But expecting me to be as bubbly and “friendly” as everyone else will not change who I really am. I’m more of an observer. And I don’t enjoy gossip and neither am I good at small talk. My keeping to myself or not joining conversations is not arrogance. It’s just my default mode, especially when I’m focused on the task at hand.

Some people assuming I’m a cold and heartless bitch
I find it easier to deal with logic than emotions. But that does not mean I lack empathy. I just show it differently. I can actually relate with a lot of things people around me go through. I may not be good at offering words of comfort. But I focus my energy on how I could make things a little bit better for others. And if I could improve something in my environment that will make it a better place for others, then I will gladly take on that challenge.

Being misunderstood
I’m used to being misunderstood. I can’t really blame people when I find it difficult to articulate what’s truly on my mind. And talking in a straightforward and cold manner only adds to the impression that I’m a bitch.

Focusing on logic and issue rather than emotion and personality
Fighting with someone who focuses on personality rather than the issues at hand is extremely frustrating and draining. It doesn’t make sense to me why someone has to focus on my negative traits and personality when I could easily do the same to that person. I find it mindboggling how my personality is more important than the issues when even without me in the picture the same problems that affect other people still exist. I didn’t even create those problems and yet I’m made to feel like it’s my fault for being a bad person. And the most frustrating thing was I began to believe those things being thrown my way. It made me feel helpless and unhappy. But thankfully, I got to realize that there were many people around me who actually believe and support me in their own quiet ways.

Dealing with a person who gossips and says a lot of bad things behind people’s back
I recently learned that the person who attacks my personality every time we have a rift has been saying a lot of really bad things about me behind my back. This was even after two years have passed since our last major rift. And for someone in a position of power to do that to someone who chooses to keep silent about the issue is not only unfair. It also eroded whatever little respect I was trying to preserve. I don’t have to like you to work with you. And I will tell you what the problem is in your face. That’s how I tend to approach anything that needs to be done. So I find it difficult to understand how some people can attack from behind instead of confronting the person head-on.

In the end, there are some things that just don’t make sense that are better left behind. If it’s not helping me grow or become a better person, then it’s high time I remove myself from that situation — to heal and devote myself to things that support my growth.

Jury Duties at this Year’s Junior Champs

With the release of the ARF jury list last week, I now can prepare for my assignments for this year. It’s quite a coincidence that I’ll be doing jury duties for two junior championships. From what I understand the Asian championships will also serve as the qualification regatta for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games which will be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Umpiring may not be an easy job, and often a thankless one too, but it is something that I always look forward to. The constant challenge and being around people who are driven, committed, and passionate about what they do make every stint a worthwhile experience.

Jury list for the 2017 World Rowing Junior Championships in Trakai, Lithuania
Jury list for the 2017 Asian Rowing Junior Championships and FISA Asian Qualification Regatta for the Youth Olympic Games (YOG)

A Matcha Mille Crepe Kind of Day

I have been craving for Milky Cakes and Sweets’ matcha mille crepe as soon as I saw some photos of it on their Facebook page. So I finally headed out to their stall at the ground floor of SM Lanang this morning after I finished with my errands. I bought a slice for take out and had it after lunch.

Exactly my plan
Matcha Mille Crepe to go
Milky Cakes and Sweets’ matcha mille crepe

There are three things in matcha mille crepe that I love — matcha, crepes, and layers. But there is something about all of them together that did not quite work for me. I could taste the matcha and the crepe which is good. And yet there is something that I seem to be missing. Maybe it is all about the layers. My choices in cakes have always been simple. Maybe all that layering made it complicated for me. It got me thinking why I like layers in the first place.

28 Hours in Cebu

Last Sunday’s trip to Cebu was not for leisure. But it proved to be a welcome break to what has been a most stressful month. Not only was I able to accomplish what I needed to do there. I also got to spend time with my high school friend

DAY 1

Can’t it be just “new driver”? ~ Seen on the way from the airport to Mabolo

The flight was delayed by about an hour so I arrived at Cebu at around 2:00PM. I took a taxi to the inn where I was staying. I chose the place because it was near the building where the office I needed to visit the next day was located. My only plan for the day was the meet-up with my friend later in the evening after her coaching training. I spent the rest of the afternoon catching up on some much-needed rest and sleep.

My friend and I later had dinner and a long chat somewhere at Ayala Terraces.

DAY 2

Taking care of business

Early Monday morning was for taking care of my main reason for traveling to Cebu. I finished what I had to do by 10:00AM and headed back to the inn to rest and get ready for check-out.

Lunch at Zubo Chon

Zubo Chon
The placemat
Delicious crispy skin and flavorful meat

Eating lechon is part of a Cebu experience. And I was not planning on leaving without having one. My friend brought me to Zubo Chon after I told her I want to eat it for lunch. I was happy with the restaurant’s lechon although my friend told me she prefers the one she buys in one of the city’s public markets. Something to keep in mind for next time.

A Glimpse of Casa Gorordo

Casa Gorordo Museum
Outside looking in

My friend wanted to have coffee at the cafe in Casa Gorordo so I could look around the old house/museum. But it was closed when we got there. We were told that it does not open on Monday’s. Luckily, there are other spots worth exploring nearby so the trip was not entirely wasted.

Location: No 35 Lopez Jaena, Cebu City

Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House

From Casa Gorordo, we walked to Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House. This old house may not look as grand as Casa Gorordo. But it was impressive in its own way. The house is said to be one of the oldest Chinese houses built outside of China. More than 90% of the original roofs and walls are still intact. One of the volunteer guides there told us that since it was built, the house has withstood some of the strongest earthquakes that struck Cebu.

A little about the old house
Some of the many items to find at the ground floor of the house
Dining table at the ground floor
One of the windows at the ground floor
Tempted to play a game of sungka ~ at the 2nd floor of the house
View of the garden below
An old radio that’s still working
An old harp
A banggera with a clay jar that stores drinking water. I remember a similar jar at my grandparents’ home and how the water stored there was always cool to drink.
Wishing well
An old boat used as a window planter. View from the garden
Not sure why there’s a portrait of a couple at the cooking area. But I love these old pots.
At the ground floor again

The interior is filled with things — from old everyday household items to religious sculptures and images that made me think about some of the collection I saw at the Baclayon Church in Bohol when I was a kid.

According to the guide, the owners still live in the house on weekends.

Location: Parian District, Cebu City
Admission Fee: Php50.00

The Jesuit House

Inside the compound where the old house and the hardware business are located

At the second level of the house

An old movie projector
How the Jesuit House looked like in the past
The newly opened Cafe Parian inside the compound

Located only a few meters away from the Yap-Sandiego ancestral house, the 1730 Jesuit House stood hidden in no-so-plain-sight. I love the story of how it was “discovered” by the son of the owner who was studying at the Ateneo in the 1980’s. According to the story my friend told me, the son was looking at photos of the old Jesuit House in a textbook when he suddenly realized that it looked familiar. It turned out that the building has served as the bodega or warehouse for their family’s business for many generations.

The first and second level of the Jesuit House are made of coral stones. It has many interesting features including the wood reliefs and floorboards.

Location: 26 Zulueta St, Cebu City
Admission: Php50.00

Heritage of Cebu Monument

One section of this impressive monument

This monument immediately captured my interest as my friend drove past it on our way to Casa Gorordo. It was our last stop in our unplanned culture and heritage tour. Heritage of Cebu monument was stunning up close as it was from afar. I love the details and the way all the sculptures seem to blend so well together. I could have spent more time gawking at it if it were not for the merciless heat of the sun that was already beginning to make my head ache.

Homeward-bound

We made a quick stop to my friend’s home in Mandaue before we headed to Mactan International Airport to catch my 5:55PM flight to Davao. I like how there are many trees on the side of the road leading to the airport as well as the many cafes, restaurants, and shops inside the terminal. Those are just some of the things I hope to see in Davao’s airport in the near future.

Twenty-eight hours in Cebu may not be enough to see what the Queen City of the South has to offer. But it was enough to enjoy some of the city’s best.

Feeling Like a Misfit in Kendo

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.

2nd Day

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.

3rd Day

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, and sports masseurs among others. 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.

Traveling in Europe by Train

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.

Screenshot of my friend's post
Screenshot of a friend’s post

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

My go to source of information for routes, transportation options, and more
My go to source of information for routes, transportation options, and more

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.

Voyages-sncf.com

Aix les Bains to Paris (TGV)
Aix les Bains to Paris (TGV) – Train tickets for me and my friend from Myanmar who asked me to book a ticket for her as well
Paris to Brussels (Thalys)
Paris to Brussels (Thalys)

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.

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.

Here’s why I’m not talking

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.

Words of Advice from a Brod

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.

Nates_editedOne 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.