||Seattle Branch, U.S.A. / May 2012|
- Contributor: Yayoi Avakyan
Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival 2012
Another year of Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival has come. It was in the beginning of March that Onaka Hiroshi sensei told us what he was planning to show at the festival. When he called my name and told me what I was going to perform, I froze... No way! I am not going to be able to do it!
The Seattle Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival is one of the biggest Japanese festival in Washington state and it usually happens in the beginning of April. The festival is held at the Seattle Center and this year it was scheduled from Friday through Sunday, April 15th. Japanese organizations and individuals from all over the Washington state join and there are usually guests from Japan to introduce some Japanese culture such as arts, crafts, music, performances and martial arts.
This year, they were celebrating its 100th anniversary of when cherry trees from Japan were given to Seattle. It was also 101st anniversary of the birth of Doshin So/Kaiso; the founder of Shorinji Kempo. It was a very special chance for us to show and introduce what the Shorinji Kempo was for Seattleites.
Some senior kenshis from Seattle Branch were giving some ideas to our sensei what we are going to perform this year and at one night, our sensei gave us themes and what he had planned for the event. First, Chinkon was planned for an opening of our performance. Second part was for everybody on the stage to show Tenchiken Dai'ichi through Daiyon. Third, moving kihon by kenshis from Seattle University Branch were planned with the kick mitts. Forth, a paired embu by Mubarak kenshi and Robert kenshi was planned. Fifth, another paired embu was planned by Andrew kenshi and Ryan kenshi. Sixth, very uniquely, sensei paired with Ryan kenshi and Ruth kenshi, Andrew kenshi and Clair kenshi, and Big Taka (Takamasa) kenshi and me for another paired embu, with the interesting theme of big and buffered guys with the Do protectors and Head gears attack delicate, fragile and beautiful looking girls. The plan was that, with Shorinji Kempo techniques, girls would beat up the malicious guys into pieces. And as a finale, KG kenshi was going to perform his solo embu to close our performance.
OK, did I hear it right? Did sensei assign me to have a paired embu with my respectful senpai kenshi? And not only to have a paired embu in front of a big audience for my very first time, did he say that I have to knock my senpai kenshi down? Yes, I heard it right!
I joined the Seattle Branch in the beginning of the year of 2010. At that time, I had actually been looking for a martial art for my son, Takakura (Junior Taka), and I had no luck finding the one that I really felt like sending my son to. I called and spontaneously asked my mom if she knows any martial arts that she can recommend. She mentioned that my brother's daughter and son are practicing Shorinji Kempo in Japan and she really liked the philosophy of it. Ding! I felt karma here and started looking for Shorinji Kempo in Seattle. Very luckily, I found one in Seattle and their practice place is not far away! Ding, ding! This is it! I found the number on the website and called to ask for information. One of the kenshi from Seattle Branch answered the phone and he said that the practice is only open for adults now. NOOO! "But", he said, "you should call our sensei and ask." I've got the sensei's phone number from him and thought better try asking than not trying. With go for broke spirit, I called and asked very enthusiastically that I was very interested in sending my son to practice Shorinji Kempo. He says' "in the past, I was accepting children only with the special circumstance." What is the special circumstance? He was asking ME to join!
I finished all my education in Japan, where they taught at least in my school that martial arts were mostly for men and they even had separate classes for girls to learn cooking, sewing, manners for women, traditional Japanese arts like flower arrangements and tea ceremony while boys learn martial arts like Judo, Kendo, Karate, Aikido and whatever you can think of. I hesitated a tiny bit, but my instinct gave me a sign of "GO" and I said "I am coming with my son to check out the practice."
So that's how my son and I joined Seattle Branch. Even though I started for my son, I really loved the philosophy of it and I probably found myself more interested than my son did. One thing though, I could never get over with is to hit (mildly for the practice purposes) the partners that I practice with for paring practices. I just couldn't do it! I had very hard time doing so and gave my partners a hard time to practice with me. I knew I had to make a contact, but I just couldn't. I really appreciate the help I've got to get over my very weakness especially from my very thoughtful senpai kenshi, Andrew kenshi who joined SK a long time ago, is most passionate towards SK and has been teaching me how important to make a contact for the paired pracitices, and Marcos kenshi who is always cheering, has been very kindly and patiently teaching me techniques and encouraging me to get over the weakness, and Ryan kenshi who joined SK about the same time as I did and yet is one of the most talented kenshi I have ever met and who has been very thoughtfully teaching me without giving up on me so I can get over the fear of hitting. Not only all the rest of kenshi here at Seattle Branch but sensei has always been very, very nice to me and I always appreciate that the sensei has given me the opportunity to join the club. I really feel like as if I have my family here in Seattle! All of my family are back in Japan and I used to feel very lonely but not any more! With all of my SK family here in Seattle, I have worked very hard to get over my weakness to at least to make a brief contact so my partner kenshi can also practice better with me.
OK, sensei gave me a big opportunity to get over my weakness. I have to do it! Thanks to my partner Big Taka kenshi, with a big humor he has, practiced thoroughly with me and helped both techniques and very kindly and patiently watched my proceedings to get over my weakness. Of course, all my fellow kenshis at practice cheered me and that kept me going instead of running away from it!
The big day has arrived! I wasn't feeling well, from a virus I've got a few days prior to the event and of course from nervousness to be on the stage for the very first time for a paired embu. What if something goes wrong or I go blank and cannot remember what I am supposed to do! Chinkon and Tenchikens went well, now after Andrew and Ryan's great and powerful embu, it's my turn.
Maybe because I was not well recovered from the sickness or maybe because I was not wearing glasse and couldn't see the audience well, I wasn't nervous as I thought I could be in the beginning. I have had a stage fright from my childhood, and all the sudden I remembered that I was in front of the audience about to start a paired embu to show! When I faced with Taka kenshi, I felt dizzy and felt very cold. No, today is the day that I have to show my guts! And for the most, I cannot let my sensei, my partner and fellow kenshis down!
Three techniques went very fast. Thanks to the practices, even though I went blank and couldn't remember what I was supposed to do, my body moved... my body moved automatically but kicked with the wrong leg! It was a very first technique after Mae ryusui geri + renhanko with right side gyaku geri. He was ready to receive my right side gyaku-geri and kindly facing the way so I could kick him easily. I throw left gyaku geri instead! Not only I went with the wrong side, I also missed the protector!!
Other two techniques, I really cannot remember what I have done but thanks to the repeated practice, I did it OK. "Things happen, I think it was a very good experience for you." sensei cheered after the embu.
KG kenshi performed his solo embu in front of the audience this year for our closing. It was very beautiful and very through in details I found a lot of beautiful katas there and I enjoyed as much as sensei's solo performance.
Big apologies to my partner kenshi, and his wife and his beautiful son... I am hoping that his family will forgive me for what I am planning this summer. Because I owe him a big one from the promise we made before embu, that is if I say or make my "I am sorry" face at the real performance. I owe him not by missing the protector but I made my "sorry" face after kicking him! Since I owe him one, I am planning to send my big thanks to his family a big Ochugen this summer.
With 104F tempurature,
Yayoi Avakyan, 3rd Kyu, Seattle Branch