ten ten

Hiroko was at Fighting Fitness with Haruka, and then I met them for dinner at the cool cool gyoza (potsticker) place Tenten. Damn fine feed.

tokyu hands

Went to the practice at Akabane this morning for some cutting. There were lots of people, but plenty of space so we had four stands -- two pegged and two balanced. I was on the far right (no peg), and just couldn't get into it. I guess I was stressing a bit because on Thursday Gosoke announced that I was going to cut in front of everyone at the national tournament next month, with Tanaka-sensei and Naganuma-sensei. So on my third or so cut, my brain froze, and so did my finger, and I flung and dropped my sword. Akama-san standing way behind me was pretty surprised, and I felt like an ass. So I stopped for a bit, sat and chilled out. I went over to apologize to Naganuma-sensei and said I was done for the day and he replied "What? If one of your finger doesn't work, use the rest. Don't do that again. Dangerous. Now get back over there and cut. Stop worrying about it." So I gave it another go. Had many failures attempting zagi nukiuchi (yoko-ichi monji; horizontal cut from a seated draw) but I nailed one perfectly. The target was barely balanced, and the bottom half hardly fell after I cut it. Of course no one was watching, but then I noticed Yokoshima-san looking at me and as I picked up the top half of the roll to make sure I actually cut it completely (as opposed to cutting into an existing failed cut) I asked "You buyin' it?" and he smiles his magical smile and goes "I'll give you that one!" So I felt better. Couldn't nail it any more, though I a couple of close cuts (hanging by a last thread.) Gyakugesa (rising diagonal) is no problem; I nail that one about 80-90 percent, and yoko-ichi is 10-20 percent, so put them together and I get 100%!

After practice I went to Tokyu Hands in Shibuya to do some birthday shopping for myself. I bought myself the killer GoodGrips can opener, plus a really slick Surefire flashlight.
Also bought some supplies (A-B epoxy, aluminum tape, rubber tape) to help with my various home improvement projects: fixing the two saya I split, putting the basil on the balcony on a little shelf hanging off the wall, and protecting the floor from the feet of our new chairs.


2 hours of stunningly humid practice. Only four of us so at least we had room. Gosoke was in a great mood, too. We ran through several different kata, and he actually interspersed some comments in between exclamations of our lack of talent and ability. He was also a mosquito-killing machine. He'd sit on there, thumbing away an email on his cell phone, watching us without looking at us (don't be fooled: he sees EVERYTHING) and fanning himself, when all of a sudden *WHAP* "Heh!" The bugs don't have a chance again him.
After practice Gosoke treated us to sushi for my birthday, and we talked about someday having enough money in the organization to get our own, permanent home dojo. Nothing big or fancy, just a place we could train 24-7. We'd invariably have a couple of live-in student-teachers, and maybe enough money on the side to pay the treasurer Yoshida-sensei for all the time she spends minding our books.

happy birthday

To me.

Lee told me to call him, so I dialed Charity's cell. Was having a fairly hectic morning at work because of some early morning problems, but as soon as I got Charity on the phone, everyone in the bar at the top of the Gramercy Hotel sang Happy Birthday to me. Gotta love them!

ghosts and aliens

Had an instructors meeting at which I gave everyone the low-down on the seminars in the US and Canada. After the meeting we all went to the regular underground feeding hole, and somehow got into a discussion about ghosts and aliens. Seems Sekido-san and Naganuma-sensei have all had creepy experiences, but Tanaka-sensei wins. He said when he was a little kid he'd see wierd people all the time. He'd be riding his bike late at night and there'd be an old woman walking on the side of the road. He'd steer clear of her thinking "that's a dangerous place to walk" and then after passing her he'd look back...and there was no one there. He saw goblins and strange people, and every time he'd go "You see that guy?" and his friends would all go "There's no one there, dude!"
He also saw a UFO, which got us started on talking about aliens. I did my best Japanese translation of "Any significantly advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" and we debated the possibilities of alien life, and why they'd bother to visit us. Then Niina-gosoke somehow tied that into iai, talking about the infinite expandability of the universe inside yourself. He said "You can't watch yourself in a mirror to see yourself. That's looking from the inside out. You have to expand your mind (heart/spirit) infinitely, so that you can see yourself from the outside." I guess that's what he means by mushin, the detachment one gets from seeing ones' self from a 3rd person perspective. Also helps put your own relative smallness in the universe in perspective; expand your mind to fill the universe and your 'self' is insignificantly small.
Plus, the friend onions were really good.

mh-unit design shop

There's a cool design store just around the corner from my apartment. Lots of neat things (furniture, kitchenstuff, etc.) and an office for designers. Jorge would love it.

planet japan

Time article about Japanese politeness.
Also some good articles in the sidebar about Japan.


Ever since I had my annual health checkup a couple of days ago, I've been wondering about my standing heart rate. It's low, like 45. This would make sense if I was a marathon runner or something, but swinging a sword every day for two hours is, while no simple feat, not quite up there with hardcore cardiovascular training.
Also, it looks like I've managed to not inheret high blood pressure from my mom.
So anyway I guess I'm just naturally mellow? That makes no sense either.

ofoto is upsetting me

OK, I tried several times to put up links to the various photos I've taken and uploaded to Ofoto. Unfortunately none of them seem to be working. Looks like Ofoto lets me send valid links to specified email addresses, but if I try to cut-and-paste that URL and blog it, it doesn't work. I don't think Ofoto used to work like this...then again maybe all the old links I've posted to Ofoto haven't worked either, and just no one's bothered to tell me about them...stay tuned. In the mean time, if you want to see photos, email me and I'll send you a private link that'll definitely work.
Anyway here they are again:
Iai in Canada
Hoshina-san in LA
Iai in Cali
Cali with the Arriola Clan
Day in Nappa Valley
Hiroko's Day at the Getty Museum
Playing with Momo and Kensuke
Mallardi's Bye-bye BBQ


Tanaka-sensei was bit late to class, so I ran everyone through the fundamentals. There were two new guys, one dude it was his first day, so Tanaka-sensei had me stay with them the whole time. We covered the basics nice and slow; proper grip, stance, readying and cutting, sheathing. Then we connected the basics into some simple excercises. New guy was pretty good -- he seemed to grok the concept fairly quickly, but he barely had enough arm strength to hold the sword for more than five minutes. That'll change, though.
From 8:30 Tanaka-sensei let us work on our own, occasionally correcting here and there. My inchuyo needs help; it's too wavey, like it bubbles up when I draw, settles down when I parry, and then waves up again and sideways when I flow into the cut. When he does it there is no wasted movement; sword comes out and right into the parry, then immediately his hips change direction and flow right into the cut. Fast, smooth, effortless. Someday...


Only Chihara-kun and Tanaka-kun showed up for practice today -- most students are still dealing with finals before summer break begins. Today was a fine summer day in Japan at the end of rainy season; a gray sky and oppressive humidity. So we practiced with our minds today. We thought alot about how we move the way we move, and why. Fundamentals took up the first hour and fifteen minutes, so we did a couple of kata for the last 45. And when I got home and cleaned my sword, I noticed that my saya is split! Serves me right for buying a cheap saya in the first place, I guess.

ramen navi

Ric "Semper Fi" Jones points out his buddy's ramen page.

on yer own

Today at practice Kanai-san said "Beginners with Tanaka-sensei, upper-ranks with me...ren, go practice on your own; I can't teach you. I'll be calling YOU sensei soon." Damn, I don't think so. She's SO much better than I am; she has much more control of her sword, and she really gets her hips into her cuts, like she's not even trying. So anyway I stuck myself in the corner and practiced inchuyo and migi-no-teki on my own. Near the end of class Tanaka-sensei said "Ren, you're so stiff. You're trying too hard; all strength and tension. Relax. Cut more...sawayakani" Hmm, same thing Sanno-sensei told me, so I really do need to relax and flow more; less brute force, more relaxed flow.

design interact

Jorge is famous

chiba cutting

Went to Shimosanakayama (west Funabashi) to do some cutting with the Chiba crew. Akama-san came out, too as he lives close. He was testing a couple of the swords he's selling. He buys older/thrashed blades, has them repolished, replaces all the fittings himself, and then sells them. Couple of nice blades, too.
Today, as usual, I sucked. Jinrai (rising diagonal cut from seated draw, followed by horizontal cut) was OK, but still can't nail the yoko-ichi monji (horizontal cut from the draw.) Tried about 5 times, had one almost success; hanging by a thread. Other times I either get stuck in the middle or drag out the blade without cutting the whole target. *sigh* Gotta keep cranking.

After cutting went home and sewed snaps onto the sleeves so that I can easily attach my instructor/rank patch. Sewing and ironing are the two things I should never, ever be forced to do. My own personal hell is being forced to iron a dress shirt and sew all the buttons back on. It'd never happen. Laundry I can handle, cooking, washing dishes, vacuuming, dusting, separating the trash, watering the plants...all these and more I can deal with. Just can't iron nor sew. Oh well, nobody's perfect.

Hiroko went up to Azabu-jyuban to meet Haruka so that they could eat kakigori (shaved ice) and then I joined them after getting raped on the Canadian Dollar-Japanese Yen exchange rate at the exchange place in Roppongi Hills(note: Citibank is the only bank in Japan that lets you deposit foreign currency. As long as it's US dollars. You can exchange yen into countless other currencies, but if you are holding a stack of, say, Canadian Dollars, you're screwed.)

We then thoroughly enjoyed My Big Fat Greek Wedding and finished off the evening with a Korean BBQ feast at Sankoen.