Ok, I passed Ikkyu. Should have done it ages ago. Thank god I finally got it over with.

So, story time.

A really nice woman at Shimpukan, Kimura San, said last week that she would drive us to the grading in Saitama (about 2 hours by train, ouch). She seems to get on really well with Kotomi, and they talk a lot about kendo and the dojo and so on. We were really grateful for her offer. So on Saturday I was to practice with Book-sensei (I don't want to use the real names of some of the teachers here), as he had set the whole thing up for me. He is 7th dan in kendo, 6th dan in Iaido and either 8th dan or 6th dan (can't remember) in Jodo. He used to be a police man and now trains the Metropolitan police force in arresting techniques, and is sent around the world by the AJKF to teach kendo.... wow, what a guy! Anyway, I practised with him for all of two minutes and he said "no problem, just do this tomorrow."

However. Here we go, you knew it was coming. Grumpy had somehow gotten word that I was going to a grading. Remember that he was the one that said grading was out-of-the-question. While we were sitting down talking to someone he told us to go over to Book-sensei and thank him, which we had already done before and which I was going to do again anyway (I like thanking people). So Grumpy pretty much forces us to go over and interrupt Book-sensei's conversation, he tells us to bow to Book-sensi and then bowed with us and said in very proper Japanese (all serious sounding) something like "thank you for giving Benji this opportunity." I was so utterly pissed off. I was being forced to do something which I wanted to do properly, in my own way, later on. And it was obvious that this was Grumpy's way of getting involved.

So anyway, it seems Grumpy told Book-sensei to drive me to the grading (even though Kimura san already said she would), and because, somehow, Grumpy is the leader of the dojo, Book-sensei said he would. To top it off, at the end of the practice Grumpy went up to Book sensei, and in a loud voice so that everyone could hear said "Benji is a vegetarian and doesn't drink alcohol." Thank you Grumpy. He also told Kotomi that we should have applied to the Noda kendo federation to see if I was even allowed to grade... You should have heard Kotomi swearing on the way back home.

Anyway. Turns out that Kimura san would come with us anyway, so she picked us up in the morning (6:45) and drove us out of Noda to where Book sensei was waiting with his wife (who was coming too), she is 6th dan in kendo. His car was like a brand new spaceship lol. He told us he can actually speak English but doesn't because he's Japanese. Utter coolness. We drove for perhaps an hour and a half, and thanks to the state-of-the-art navigation system that every Japanese car seems to have, we arrived at the dojo, which was huge and on the third floor of a sports complex. Kotomi told me that Book-sensei reminds her of a child who constantly has to remind himself that he is an adult and needs to act appropriately. I really like him, he acts very serious, but you can always catch him grinning when no one is watching.

The grading was for junior-highschool students. I think that's about 10-15 years old maybe. The only foreigner there, and obviously not in junior-high. Also by far the tallest, even among the parents watching on. Sigh.

The grading went fine. I was nervous as hell, but more about falling over in sankyo than about my kendo. Once the keiko started I just went at it. I fought against two pretty tall kids, but it was obvious they were scared of me. Then kata afterwards. And 20 minutes of standing listening to the grading panel talk about kendo. In Japanese. But it was pretty cool seeing an old guy in a suit get up and grab a shinai and do a perfect men cut so that the hall shook. When they told us we could leave you could hear the kids swearing under their breath (making kids stand and listen to lectures isn't going to keep them interested in kendo). They posted the numbers of those who had passed on the wall (very traditional in Japan), and it was hilarious to see the little kids run up and scream and cheer. They seemed really happy. I was handed my certificate (which usually takes 2 weeks) because they knew I was leaving soon. The Japanese certificates are far nicer than the New Zealand ones... something should be done about that. I also went up to the two kids who had done keiko with me and apologised. They thought it was pretty funny. I hope I didn't hit them to hard.

I packed up and we left. Sensei said we should eat to celebrate, so we went and had some pasts and pizza. He rang Grumpy from his phone to tell him I had passed, and said "thanks to your amazing teaching Benji has passed Ikkyu" with a grin, and Kotomi and Kimura san could hardly contain their laughter. It turn out everyone thinks Grumpy is a little strange, but everyone has to stay on his good side because he sort of controls the dojo. I don't quite get all of it. Sensei and his wife refused our money when we tried to pay for the food. Then Sensei gave me a shinai, which he had set up himself, and which was like the ones he always uses (probably super expensive). Then his wife gave me a traditional piece of cloth used to wrap gi and hakama in, and two tenagui. I was bowing and saying arigato over and over. I should be the one giving presents >.> When they dropped us off we gave them money for the petrol, which they at first refused, but took when we insisted quite strongly.

And then we drove home with Kimura san, talking about all sorts of stuff. A good day I think.

Here are the videos. I did almost everything wrong, but oh well. Learn from your mistakes, and from slow motion frame-by-frame replays lol.

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