This post was written by Will Ng, 3rd Dan. The views and opinions expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect that of the Central London branch, its associates, or the BSKF.
Czech Republic was going to be my last big Kempo trip before I move back to Hong Kong. It also happened to be IKA’s inaugural international Taikai, and 2nd international seminar. Knowing I am unlikely to attend another Taikai / seminar, or spend a great weekend with a bunch of great friends, I was quite determined to get involved in the Taikai as much as possible, and so I entered for pair-form embu (with Antonio), group embu (with Ben and Karl), shakujo tanen and randori categories.
In the weeks leading up to the Taikai, Antonio and I made sure we practised as much as we could both during and outside of class, especially given our schedules did not always match up. But by the time we arrived in Karlovy Vary in Czech Republic, we were reasonably happy with what we had. Of course the embu itself could be refined and perfected even more, but that would probably take months.
The Taikai was due to start at 10am on the Saturday, so we decided to get there earlier for some last minute practice. We managed to run through it 3-4 times (though still not 100% happy or ready at this stage) before the bombshell came. Just before the event kicked off, Yasue Sensei and Mizuno Sensei called us over and said that a proper Taikai must have an opening embu as part of an opening ceremony, and that we should do ours. For a split second we both laughed, thinking that Sensei was just pulling our legs. But of course he wasn’t, and of course it would be very rude and disrespectful to refuse!
Were we prepared? Yes and no. Sure, we'd practised it enough times by then, but psychologically much less so. For a start we thought we had at least another hour to psych ourselves up! My gut was retching. The not-so-big breakfast I had earlier was finding its way back up. Butterflies were flying through a hurricane inside. I’d never been so relieved of how long the opening speech takes, first in English, then translated to Czech. At one point I even imagined myself vomiting in front of a hundred people.
But then the quote that I had read from an article the day before resounded in my head:
“If not me, who? If not now, when?"
This was actually a quote from Emma Watson in her interview with the BBC explaining how she overcame nerves before giving a speech at the UN headquarters. She is completely right. Who else would do it except for me? Even if there was somebody else, this is an opportunity given to me (and Antonio). How stupid would I be to give it away, whether by turning it down, or not giving it my all. And if I didn’t do it now, when else would I do it? My tailored-made black belt has 一期一会 (ichi go ichi-e) written on it, and I’ve been wearing it for the last 7 years. Isn’t this the perfect opportunity to practice what I preach? Chris had told me once – if I’ve been asked to demonstrate or teach something, it is because I have earned the trust. So why lack the confidence?
Antonio and I both knew there was only one thing we could do – one thing we must do – which was to perform the best ever run of our embu. This was it, there was no holding back. To be asked to perform the opening embu at the inaugural IKA Taikai was probably the biggest honour we have had in our Kempo careers (but let's not blow it out of proportions either!) Opportunities like this do not come around often, and probably won’t do for a long while.
Afterwards, we were both so happy and relieved that we did it. The rest of the Taikai felt like a breeze after that. As it turned out, we didn’t win in the competition later on that day, but I left the Taikai with no regrets.
Learning that we should have the confidence to say yes every time without hesitation was worth more than any trophy or medal, because we can do it; because others have faith in us, so we should have faith in ourselves too; because "if not me, who? And if not now, when?"
This post was written by Will Ng, 2nd Dan. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect that of the Mayfair branch nor the BSKF.
It has finally happened. In the space of a few years, a number of groups that had split from the World Shorinji Kempo Organisation (WSKO), some previously unconnected or unknown to each other, finally came together and took part in the inaugural international seminar under the banner of International Kempo Association (IKA). But it wasn’t just a case of participating in any training seminar. Rather, every group that joined together this weekend has helped build the new organisation, one where each and every person can freely express themselves, and contribute to goals of Shorinji kempo. Shorinji kempo has finally returned to its roots - to Japan, to So Doshin’s founding philosophy and techniques.
The training seminar kicked off on the morning of the 10th October, and was attended by over 70 representatives from Japan, the UK, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Czech Republic and Hong Kong. Despite jet lags from previous day’s travels, the energy and atmosphere were positive, and spirits ran high. Everyone was determined to learn as much as possible not only from the masters of the art, but also from each other. We all made a point to train with kenshi we hadn't trained with before, and regularly change partners to maximise our learning, and made lots of new friends along the way.
Mizuno Sensei (8th Dan, chief instructor of the BSKF) led the philosophy session after lunch, in English and Japanese. One thing he said that particularly stood out was this:
“You must take responsibility for your life, your actions and decisions...Your responsibility is your life. On each occasion, you must help yourself. There is no one from whom you can ask for help. Which way shall I go? That is your responsibility.”
Indeed, every action and decision that we make is solely and entirely our own responsibility. To fully comprehend and realise this idea actually requires a great deal of courage. The courage to believe, the courage to stand firm for your beliefs, and the courage to own up to your actions.
But that is not to say we cannot support each other. The establishment of the IKA was only made possible by the solidarity and comradeship each country, branch and individual have shown to each other. Both concepts of individual responsibility and support for others were accurately and eloquently reflected throughout our training and our attitudes to training this weekend.
After-party speeches. Gratitude, friendship and love between Mizuno Sensei, Imai Sensei and Yoshinaga Sensei.
The after-party took place on the Sunday evening at the hotel where we stayed. Drinks were flowing, more new friends were made (in a less painful setting), and emotions ran high. The end of the training ended on a high note, but this was only the beginning. As each of us stood together, shoulder to shoulder, this was only the beginning of a movement that will only become bigger and stronger. And so a new era has begun.
The BSKF would like to thank Yoshinaga Sensei, Imai Sensei, and all other Sensei’s, kenshi and helpers who made the event so smooth, enjoyable and most importantly of all, fun. We fully appreciate that a phenomenal amount of work has been put into it and to make this possible, so thank you. We look forward to many more successful seminars to come!