afternoon cuttin'

Hit the dojo about noon and got set up for cutting practice. Good turnout, nice and sweaty in the dojo, lots of stinky (STANKEE!) targets.
Most folks cut well. I cut like ass first couple times, then hit my stride and nail a few nice shots. We cleaned up, hit the 'bucks with Elvis for a cool bevvie and some mumble mumble, and came home. At the Shirogantakanawa station, they were doing a wee neighborhood festival (probably for Tanabata) and I had some lottery tix from my haircut last week, so I got three spins on the chusen and won...a digital camera? 100,000yen in travel coupons? three packs of tissues and a cloth to clean my glasses!

Hiroko Kuroda

Hiroko Kuroda, originally uploaded by George Arriola.

Yup, that's her.


Ren Kuroda, originally uploaded by George Arriola.

My man jorge hooked me up with this cool software for makin' one's likeness into an icon. Love it.


IMG_1921.JPG, originally uploaded by renfield.

Went with Hiroko to Suitengu Shrine. "Suitengu" is written with the characters for 'water' and 'heavens'; it is the shrine of the ocean. Water is also associated with birth, as the baby sits in a big bag of juice. Dogs are said to have easy births, so a couple of times a month, on properly auspicious "dog" days, all the pregnant women in their 5th month come here to get blessed for a safe and healthy birth, and to get a blessed obi -- a belt you wrap around your stomach to ensure a safe and healthy birth. Seems back in the day, they used to monthly change the rope hanging from the bell you ring when praying at the shrine. Pregnant women who took a bit of that rope and wrapped it around their stomachs supposedly had an easy birth, and so the rumor spread, and now you can buy, in one convenient set for only 3000 yen!
A nafuda to place in your home shrine
An obi
A quick and efficient blessing in the coolness of the inner shrine

As you can see the place was packed; you could never tell that Japan has a declining birth rate!

health check this out

Ah, the joy of nationalized healthcare in Japan. For a couple of days every year, the large multipurpose meeting room upstairs is, with a few simple curtains and an army of white-coated nurses, turned into a full-bore medical clinic.
I arrived slightly before noon, dropped off my urine sample, completed the questionairre about my health (no I do not "Feel the pain in chest, when swallow it", nor die I "have irregular bowels, or bloods in stool") and got in line. Getting weighed whilst fully clothed is always amusing, even better when I seem to have gained both a kilo in weight and half a centimeter in height. Still growing!
Blood pressure was better: 135/82 -- still a bit high, but it's coming down nicely thank you.
Eyes okay, three vials of blood let's-do-that-lying-down-thanks, chest xray, EKG, quick chat with the doctor ("Lose a couple more kilos, keep excersising, you're fine."), hearing ok, and we're done!


Have my yearly health checkup on Friday, so for lack of significant motivational ability, I have focused these past few weeks on the short-term goal of getting better results than last year.
Short of genetic manipulation to rid me of my tendency for high blood pressure, I have few options left, which include:
  • Getting up at 6am every day and spending 30 minutes in the basement dojo; 15 minutes sitting and 15 minutes working through staff and sword basics.
  • Avoiding food after 10pm, no exceptions. (Well, okay, the occasional exception.)
  • One piece of 86% dark chocolate on Sunday evening. (And the occasional cookie when someone brings back boxes of them from some exotic foreign land.)
  • Fighting Fitness on Monday and Wednesday, Honbu Dojo on Tuesday and Friday.
  • Water. Lots of water.


Interesting class -- I showed up an hour late (dealing with end of 2Q stuff at work) and it was a hair short of sweltering in the dojo, but we dove right in.
Started with shin as always, and everyone looked pretty good. Spoke a bit about getting some more extension without necessarily stepping/sliding forward, that is getting maximum reach without closing the distance too much.
Then we did sa, and everyone looked really good. The key is to stay fluid, and keep the hips moving forward (left) without pulling them back and then moving in again. Very hard to keep the draw and cut one smooth motion, but it feels really good when it works.
Finally we went through yochuin. First and most important: do NOT look at the foot you may or may not be cutting! Watch the person onto whom the foot is attached, and get off the centerline; open up the left side of the body, retract the left shoulder and left knee and extend flat -- tsuka flush with the arm and a straight extention of it. Reach deep and force him back, then follow him in and finish him. A simple kata, but quite involved and as always many details easily missed.
Most important is to simply do the kata as it is intended. First believe that the kata "works"; kata exist in a made-up world of marginal reality, where the enemy moves in a specific way, to which you react in a set way, and you win. Later on you get to play the "what if" game -- what if he does this and not that? What if he's standing? What if I did this first? But for now, we just do the kata, and instead of second-guessing it -- this is easier, this feels better, why wouldn't I do this? -- we just do it and try to figure out why it works, how it works.
There is nothing wrong with the kata; there is everything wrong with us.