by Jackie Graham
On the weekend of the 12th -14th March 2010, I participated in the 10th Asian Tournament and sat my Nidan exam.
For weeks before my exam, I was working very hard every practice to try and improve my technique, move faster with the body, lower my shoulders and stop using my right hand so much!!
It felt that nothing was working well, and my mind did not feel strong. But many people in the dojo help me during keiko.
The days before my exam, I practiced every day at home and I still felt very nervous and that nothing was working the way it should!
12th March was my exam date. On that day I felt very nervous.
I arrived at the venue and saw many others also looking nervous. Some were from Hong Kong, others from all over Asia like Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore.
We had a 2 hour Dan seminar first, during which I did not really take in very much due to my nerves!
Finally we had to register and we all recieved our numbers. It was obvious that all the ladies had to fight two men during the exam.
It seemed to take ages then finally it was my turn.
I was thinking about all that I had been tought: kamae, use your left hand, relax your shoulders, keep posture straight, go through use your body!!!!!
Then as soon as I did rei to my opponent, a huge sense of calm was inside me. My mind was also empty.
Given how nervous I was before, it was a strange feeling to have during my exam!!
My first fight I felt I did not do very well. But my second I felt I did okay. I tried a couple of debana kote, but missed but carried through anyway. I can remember feeling my kiai inside my whole body, and trying my best with every cut.
When I was through to the kata I still felt relaxed and did my 5 kata as if I were doing it with Kishikawa Sensei.
Then I was asked to repeat number 3…….at this point I was nervous!!
I was trying to think what I had done wrong. Then on the second attempt I stepped back on my left foot, when it should have been my right.
Oh no! I thought I had failed. But I passed. I felt very happy and also very relieved!
The next day I was fighting in the ladies 3 team competition.
My first opponent was from Taiwan and very strong. I tried my best but she beat me with two very good men.
My second opponent was a Japanese lady from Beijing. I remember how I felt during my exam and tried to feel the same way.
Luckily I managed to hit 2 men.
The next day and a half was spent helping and watching the mens’ competition.
During this weekend, I re-kindled friendships from last year, and made new ones. It was a great feeling of being part of something.
I have learned one big thing from this experience.
My mind was not as strong as usual before the dan exam because of many factors, but with the support of Kishikawa Sensei, and other members of the dojo
I feel my mind is stronger now than before. Kendo challenges us both physically and mentally, but for me the mental growth over the past few months has been amazing.
Kendo breeds a sense of respect for oneself first, which can then be carried through into everyday life.
I feel very grateful to be able to learn something so meaningful.