忍耐 + 掌握人生
I did IT
Three weeks. Three long weeks. It has proven to be too painfully long to be out of kendo. So painful that I felt I was lifted out from hell as soon as I put on my kendogi and hakama. Instantly, I felt like I was on a mission. I felt so excited.
Saturday, 1st July
Saturday was the first day of the Australian Team selection trial. I woke up at 8am. Upon waking up, I immediately received a phone call from 'Kate'. Kate said she accidentally put two left kote into her bogu bag when she finished training the other night and hoping if I had a spare pair of kote. What a crazy story to start off the day. So I packed two pairs of kote in my bogu bag, put on my kendogi and hakama, taped the hand cast to my left wrist, had breakfast, and off I went.
The two-day Selection Trial was held at Cook + Phillip Aquatic and Fitness Centre - right at the heart of Sydney CBD.
When I arrived, the majority of the Australian Squad has already arrived. As soon as I walked in, there was Kate Sylvester right at the entrance. We chatted for a little while, and she asked me how my wrist was feeling. It was really kind of her. As soon as she heard my 2nd injury to my wrist three weeks ago, she rang me up to find out the condition. I was so surprised and extremely grateful to her warm and supportive gesture.
Anyhow, I pulled out my second pair of kote and offered them to Kate.
'Is this a joke?' Kate looked totally confused. I was confused too.
'Didn't you rang me this morning about the two left kote?'
'No, it wasn't me.'
It wasn't Kate?? So who was on the other side of the phone this morning. Michael Henstock was listening to the whole conversation between Kate and me, and kept asking me who I was talking to on the phone this morning. Just when Michael was trying to 'help' me remember who I was talking to this morning, Claire Chan came over and asked if I have brought her a spare pair of kote.
The Squad started off with a group stretching and suburi warm-up, followed by the Australian Team warm-up. This was my first time to be training in full bogu in the past three weeks. And I tell you, I was on fire. I was so excited to swing the shinai and cut a solid target. The many nights doing suri-ashi in the park finally pays off, I felt so light with my footwork. I was flying.
The main part of the first session was shinza-like shiai-geiko. First, we were divided into mens and womens groups. Then, we were further splitted up into groups of three or four. Each player had two shiai opportunities in this session. For a four-player group, the playing order would be A-B, B-C, C-D, D-A.
I had my two shiai with Chiaki Kobayashi and Sharyn Wragg. I felt very happy with my overall performance. The cuts were strong, my brain was working, my mind was strong, and I felt I played positive and exciting kendo throughout the two matches. I couldn't ask for a better start to the selection trial.
It was 12:40pm when all the shiai from the first session finished. I had lunch with Sano sensei, Stuart and Kirby at the nearby Vegetarian Yum-Cha restaurant right next to the Centre.
Shiai and the Waiting Game
It was wait and shiai, shiai and wait all afternoon, just like how a real competition would be. For the whole afternoon, I had two matches. Vivian v Hayami. Vivian v Kate.
I started the match off with a planned tobikomi-men as soon as I went up from sonkyo. Just wanted to see how a fast surprised attack from sonkyo would turn out to be. Even though Hayami was able to block it, I felt the plan went quite well. At least I was clearly on the attacking side at the beginning.
The matches then went on with both sides attacking quite evenly. It was an exciting match and I was able to utilise a good variety of cuts which makes the game interesting. I was really enjoying every moment of it.
That match ended in a fury of debana kote. BAMM!!! You scored a kote on me!?! Now, it is MY turn to score one back on you. PAMM!!! 1-1. I wish I was the last one to claim the deciding point, but all credits to Hayami, she scored debana kote once more - BAMM!!! - to snatch the deciding point and the match away. 2-1 to Hayami.
Even though I didn't win that match. I didn't feel I have lost either because I felt I played really well. Both Hayami and I really enjoyed that match.
When Brett announced my next match with Kate, Kate and I happened to stand right next to each other. We both turned, looked, and smiled at each other. In my mind, I was saying 'YAY' to this opportunity. We both have been looking forward to this match, and KNEW this would be a great match.
I was feeling so pumped up, so excited for this match, I couldn't be any more positive than how I played in that game. I scored the first point with a debana-kote, and took the second with a hiki-men to finish the match. WOW! That felt awesome! I was on fire.
The first day of selection trial ended happily for me and my wrist. Wrist injury? What injury!? Huh?
Sunday, 2nd July
I set my alarm clock to 7:30am and slept at 10pm on Saturday night. It is very rare that I would set aside more than 8hours of sleep for myself, but usually if the opportunity presents, I would quite happily take it. Though this morning, I woke up at 5am and was feeling excited for the day ahead. Apart from feeling excited, I didn't know what better things I could do at 5am (at that time, the thought of World Cup didn't come to me), so I went back to sleep. In and out of sleep until 7:20am when I said enough was enough. I turned the alarm clock off, jumped out of the bed, and started preparing for the day ahead.
The day started off with one last time of the Australian Team warm-up, and team shiai followed straight after. I was called to play the senpo position for the red team. My shiai partner was Sharyn. I continued my positive momentum from the previous day and scored a debana kote and tobikomi-men to snatch the match 2-0.
That turned out to be my final match of the Selection Trial. For the rest of the day, the Selection Panel had a difficult task of choosing players into the final 5-player team for both the mens and the womens teams.
Comments from Kate
During breaks and after each keiko with Kate, she would so kindly give me some pointers and feedbacks on my performance. What a great sempai!
These are the feedbacks in point-forms:
- More snappy men cut.
- Hiki-men needs more varieties.
- Keep up the footwork and body-weight shifting practice to control the centre.
The moment that I have been waiting for years have finally arrived at around 3:15pm today. The announcement of the Australian Kendo Team for the 13th World Kendo Championships.
Australian Mens Team:
- Stuart Burke
- Ben Kelly
- Arpad Maksay
- Brett Smith
- Kirby Smith
Australian Womens Team:
- Hayami Aboutaleb
- Claire Chan
- Chiaki Kobayashi
- Kate Sylvester
- Vivian Yung
My Dream Comes True!