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  • How to profit from training in a dojo where EVERYBODY is MUCH better than you?

    Dear Community,

    at first sight, it seems to be a weird question, since many people might dream of practicing in a dojo with a lot of good kendokas. In theory, it means that you can learn from many Senseis/Senpais and, by this, improve fast.

    But please let me explain my case:
    I had practiced Kendo for two years in Germany, when I decided to study abroad in Japan. As I arrived in Japan, I enthusiastically joined the Kendo Club of the University. But after practicing half a year in this Kendo Club, I have to admit: I am exhausted, helpless and, perhaps worst of all, very demotivated to continue any Kendo training at all.

    Literally EVERYBODY in the Kendo Club has been practicing kendo since their childhood (which is since they are around 5 or 6 years old). Most of them carry the 3. Dan. In other words: Everybody is MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH better than me with my two years of experience.

    My problems are especially the following:

    First of all, I always feel a little bit like I am hindering the others' practice, since I often do mistakes as Motodachi or do not understand a technique, that we are supposed to apply in Keiko. This makes me feel very worthless and somehow out of place.

    Secondly, and this is what I hate above all, I have the feeling that my Kendo got worse since I am here in Japan. The training does not concentrate on basics but on applied techniques and Jigeiko. Therefore, I sometimes have the feeling that I am forgetting the very fundamental stuff. After each lesson the Senseis/Senpais criticize something about my basic techniques: be it footwork, strong right hand or tense shoulders. I always try hard to follow their advices in the next training and even started to write them down after each lesson. But the Senseis/Senpais keep criticizing, and I do not see any progress, either. I think that I just need more drill to practice the very basics (which the club activity here does not offer). Or is it just because everybody is significant better, that I do not notice my own progress?

    All this made me a little bit sick of practicing Kendo. At the moment I am almost never in the mood of kendo training and I always think twice before going there (although until now I have never cut kendo training but perhaps I will in the future).

    Do you have any advice? Have you made experiences in a dojo, where you were - by far - the worst Kendoka?
    (Sorry for the long post but just writing it down made me feel a little bit relieved. And sorry for my English, too.)

  • #2
    Originally posted by plokoon View Post
    First of all, I always feel a little bit like I am hindering the others' practice, since I often do mistakes as Motodachi or do not understand a technique, that we are supposed to apply in Keiko. This makes me feel very worthless and somehow out of place.
    I cannot speak too much to this as I only have a year and some months in experience. But a simple truth to keep in mind when you are surrounded by people who far exceed your own skills is this: In the beginning, they were all inexperienced too and have no doubt wrestled with the same feelings in their own way and time. You are not alone in that regard. And no, you have not become spontaneously worse because you are in Japan. You simply need to adjust to a new training approach. I will be attending school in Japan soon (yay!) and am also somewhat dreading what I have seen of Japanese dojos, seeing as my home dojo is veeeeery small and we take a very intentional and details focused approach to training here. But (in all, all, all things) it is better to allow yourself the time you need to adapt than it is to become discouraged.

    Keep on moving forward!

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by plokoon View Post
      All this made me a little bit sick of practicing Kendo. At the moment I am almost never in the mood of kendo training and I always think twice before going there (although until now I have never cut kendo training but perhaps I will in the future).

      Well this is the real problem. You never want to get 'sick of practicing kendo'. I too practiced with a Japanese University dojo (Osaka University) but I had a lot more than 2 years under me. I was, however almost 40yrs old at the time and yeah..at first i was pretty exhausted after training...even though sensei exempted me from kakari-geiko the first few weeks or so. I too made a pile of blunders mostly due to the language barrier but I quickly learned to _watch_ what others were doing and then imitate that...rather than trusting my Japanese language 'skills' and in the end I have to say the months I practiced there were very beneficial to my training.

      In your case, however with only a couple of years of training the important question I have is did you wind up in the university club or the university team practice...or are they different? If you wound up with the team you might try the club (there are often two separate groups that practice at a university a club and the competitive team).

      If you are at the club you might speak with sensei and ask him for advice. It may be that you really need to be in a machi dojo... rather than the university dojo. The wonderful thing about being in Japan is that if you look you'll find a dojo that matches where you are and your needs. You should not feel that you are stuck with one dojo as we often are outside of Japan.
      Last edited by Neil Gendzwill; 30th April 2012, 11:45 PM. Reason: Fix quote

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      • #4
        I don't consider myself so experienced (3.5 years), but I have kendo friends who are quite advanced who joined University clubs in Japan who were challenged by the class regiment and even felt like they got worse. One in particular is a very talented kenshi who I admire, so I couldn't believe it for a second that they were getting worse. I interpreted it simply as being in a new environment with highly competitive kendo players who were training hard since elementary (primary) school.

        Overall, I think you should defer to the more experienced posters here and I hope someone will correct the following observation if I'm wrong, but it sounds to me that you would feel a lot better about your kendo if you found a training environment that focused more on basics. You might have to practice outside of the university for this. Have you discussed this with the Sensei at the university? They may make an arrangement for you to work on more kihon and refining your basics, or perhaps they can put you in touch with a dojo.

        Please don't be discouraged, and please keep us posted!

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by plokoon View Post
          Secondly, and this is what I hate above all, I have the feeling that my Kendo got worse since I am here in Japan. ... Or is it just because everybody is significant better, that I do not notice my own progress?
          More likely what is happening is that your awareness has improved to the point where you are noticing your problem points more than before, which, while it feels like you are getting worse, is actually a sign of improvement. It is fairly common among Taiji students, for example, as they become more and more aware of places they keep unneeded tension in their body that they feel like they are getting worse than they were before, when actually they are improving and just better able to notice problems they didn't realize they had before. Basically they have less tension, but notice it more. While not kendo, I went through a major period of this about 4 years ago myself in iai. You just need to keep fighting through it.

          For what it's worth.
          Rennis

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          • #6
            I agree with rfoxmich and Rennis on the practical matters. As someone who has moved between countries a few times I have to say this feeling isn't unique to kendo. So my thought is:

            Enjoy!

            You're in Japan, you're doing kendo. It's a journey, enjoy the scenery... even if you just drive in circles.

            Comment


            • #7
              In some ways this is a unique situation, and isn't necessarily limited to because you are in Japan. Perhaps you see this more clearly because you are in Japan, but in reality it is not so uncommon.

              Perhaps the best way to consider your situation is that you are unique inside this club, and everyone else is working on a different point in the curriculum. If you were elsewhere and there were other people of your level or skill, perhaps you would see the other students getting the same feedback as you. So in getting particular feedback in this club you are alone essentially, and therefore may feel singled out or somehow uncomfortable. This is normal to some degree and I encourage you not to loose heart. After all, the Japanese are famous for making an outsider feel unskilled and clueless.

              What you are comprehending in the practice is, perhaps, I think true, and you are seeing some parts of the situation. The rest of the members are working on much more advanced curriculum because they are sandan or higher, and you are not. You feel like you are not practicing the fundamentals that you need to work on, and after practice you are getting critiqued on basic fundamentals. So I guess my advice is to focus on working on the fundamentals. When they do waza drills that are more advanced, for certain do the techniques, but during gigeiko in your mind focus on the fundamentals.

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              • #8
                I experienced the same thing myself when I returned to Japan to live there for, good golly, a second time. I started practicing with the Nagoya University team and they were very focused, very fast, and very competition orientated.

                I had a feeling that they were merely tolerating me and I made tons of mistakes as motodachi, didn't understand all of their rather complicated drills, and just like you, felt like I was getting in the way. So, I felt my desire to practice start to slip away as well.

                So, I completely understand what you're saying. But I have some advice that completely worked for me, and here it is:

                Go find another dojo!

                That's what I did. If you're living in Japan you basically can't throw a stone without hitting a Kendo dojo somewhere. I found another place that was full of adults whose skills ranked from superb to near beginner. It saved my Kendo experience.

                I understand that it isn't always easy if you don't have connections, or know someone who can point you in the right direction to a new dojo, but hell man, if I did it, so can you.

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                • #9
                  Yeah... please don't be so hard on yourself. I assume you're 5 kyu or 3kyu? Even though these guys are 3 dan, I'm willing to bet some of these guys fight just as good as 4 dan or even 5 dan. The fact is...even if you're a shodan, thier kendo is at least 5 or 7 years ahead of you. That's a huge difference. Please don't compare your kendo to theirs, you're not being fair to youself. Kendo takes time.

                  As for your sensei/sempai being critical, it's only because they care about your kendo, if they didn't, they wouldn't say anything. You need to just suck it up and listen, it's what I had to do... or you can follow Scott H's advice and find another dojo.

                  Good luck in whatever you choose to do.

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                  • #10
                    I hate to say it but maybe you should have looked at practicing with a highschool or local dojo. They are not going to accomodate you being less experienced and even somebody with more experience would most likely have trouble. So I don't think staying, feeling worse about yourself and hoping to improve will be better. Highschool practice will most likely still be tough but you probably won't have the same feeling like your hindering their practice. Especially if you are older than the highschoolers they will be more polite because your an adult.

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                    • #11
                      Oh...high school dojos are often _much_ harder practices than university dojos. That's why I suggested a machi dojo or to see if there's a club rather than the team.. if he's practicing with the team.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by rfoxmich View Post
                        That's why I suggested a machi dojo or to see if there's a club rather than the team.. if he's practicing with the team.
                        Completely agree. Best to find a club, and not try to hang around with a team. Team dojos have concerns that club dojos simply don't have. When I stopped practicing with (i.e.-bothering) the Nagoya Uni team, it was the local Toyota Tsusho club dojo that I found my way to.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          First of all, I always feel a little bit like I am hindering the others' practice,
                          One thing that may take away a little bit of guilt for you is this: one of the best way of learning things, is to teach others how to do it. Not only do you need to demonstrate, but you also need to analyze, break down and explain. Thus, by having your sempai explain things to you, you could be helping them a bit as well

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                          • #14
                            First of all: Thank you so much for all your posts and efforts to help me! Your suggestions were really helpful and I read them all. What I find especially motivating is that some of you who are more experienced than me made similiar experiences and had similiar problems. Even though it is only a message board in the internet, it feels so good to be not alone with these kinds of problems!

                            Your recommendations in mind, I have approached one of the sempais (who is actually my friend) this week and asked him, whether I should join the machi club or the high school students' practice (by the way: I am studying in Niigata; university club and team are one and the same, no separate practices). He told me that my technique has advanced since I joined the university club/team and that I should not be discouraged and continue practicing in the university dojo. Since he is a quite close friend, I assume that he was honest with me (that is, he did not make compliments just to flatter me).
                            Nevertheless, personally, I still do not think that I have improved. But luckily, just today another sempai offered, without me even asking him!, to give me private kendo lessons once a week for one hour. Of course I accepted and I am very excited now and look forward to both the private lessons and the university training in the following weeks.
                            Yet, I might start asking regularly here on kendo world for your advice, since I really appreciate your opinions.

                            One last thing. This:

                            After all, the Japanese are famous for making an outsider feel unskilled and clueless.
                            is so true! Contrary to prevailing opinion, sometimes I really have difficulties to consider Japan to be one of the most welcoming country in the world.

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                            • #15
                              he he he he..... I have been doing kendo for 9 years and now I am sandan and going for Yondan this year. 5 years ago my sensei criticize about me using too much right hand, fumikomi, bigger swing, seme.... Now, 5 years later, he criticize my right hand, fumikomi, bigger swing and seme... Basic 5 years ago and basic 5 years later. I forgot to say that I often being criticized for my kiai as well...... so if you don't want to hear such critics, probably good idea to find something different. But this is what you will hear next forever years to come ????

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