忍耐 + 掌握人生
Ending on a High
The night before the competition, I made some rice balls to take to the championships and rested really early that night. It must have been some 9 hours of solid sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I felt so nice, relaxed and energised.
I entered in the Women's individual's event and the Dan individual's event. My first event, which was the women's event did not start until after lunch, so I had plenty of time to compose my mind and support my club mates in the kyu grade matches after the early morning shinai weigh-in and the opening ceremony. And of course, I kept eating my rice balls throughout the morning...
In the women's competition, I was placed in a pool of 3 competitors. In my first pool match, I started a little bit sluggishly. My feet were not moving as quickly as I would like. But slowly, my body became awake, and I won my first pool match with two tobikomi-men.
I had a rest after my first match while the other two competitors in my pool fought against each other. I was able to take up that opportunity and geared up all the energy in my body and my mind to really explode in the next match.
Explode I did. As soon as I started the next match, I quickly moved in to launch a tobikomi-men.
Then the match restarted again. My opponent attempted to execute a kote-men straight away, and I executed nuki-men.
And that was it. It was a really quick match (I was later told that 4.66 seconds was the official time). With that performance, it really boosted my confidence and spirit up a few notches.
In the semi-final, I had my match against Chiaki, who flew in that morning from Melbourne just for the competition. I launched the first attack in the match - a tobikomi-men again. The strike was powerful, but Chiaki managed to raise her shinai up to block it just a few millimeters from the target. I continued my zanshin forward, and the follow-through momentum took me into the tsubazerai situation. I was there trying to set up for the next cut. Chiaki, however, stopped and said "You've got the point!" I was perplexed.
So I turned around and looked at the judges. And the flags were up! I looked at Chiaki, and she looked at me. I whispered quietly to say sorry about the point. However, that was all I could do. And because I was still in the middle of a match, I had to quickly forget about that, re-focus, and not let that sympathetic feeling carry through and affect my performance.
Chiaki and I have fought each other so many times that we knew what worked and what didn't on each others. A minute or so into the match, both of us were in chudan no kamae trying to seme into each other. I remembered that I was trying to invite Chiaki to come for an attack, particularly for a kote. And I was hoping to execute nuki-men if she came into the attack.
And she did!
This time, however, she changed her timing slightly, delaying her kote attack for a fraction of a second. So my arms rose up a fraction of a second too early, and so she landed a very nice kote on me.
Now at 1-1, it would have been nice to end the match with some kind of a brilliant cut. Unfortunately, maybe a little bit of an anti-climax, Chiaki stepped out of the court twice. And so, I was awarded another point, and ultimately the match to go through to the final.
I have been in this event's final for a number of years now, and for the past two years, I have been tripping over in the last hurdle. So I really wanted this match badly. I knew I had what it takes to win the title, but it was probably whether I had enough confidence to perform like how a winner would do. This time, I have prepared everything I could the way I wanted - and I just needed to perform it on the court in the match that mattered the most - to make good cuts, good tenouchi, good zanshin, good spirit. I wanted this match!
Fighting Daseul in the final was always a challenge. She also trained very hard and was a good fighter. So I knew I needed to perform on the top of my game if I really wanted to take a point from her. I was moving around the court quite powerfully, but as expected, the match eventually went into encho. I could hear many people were cheering for me throughout the match, and it really helped me to fight on. So thank you to all of you who supported me throughout the competition.
Both of us were moving very cautiously at this stage. I told myself not to do silly things to ruin what I have set up already (which I have done a few time in previous competitions). At the end-stage of the match, I remembered that I attempted a semete-kote but ended up in tsubazerai situation. Daseul then attempted a hiki-men, which I blocked and chased her up with a tobikomi-men, who was still moving backwards from her hiki-men. I really leaped into the men cut with everything that I have got. I really wanted it badly.
And thank goodness. It landed! 'Men-ari!'
Ohhh, finally!!! Finally, I made it through. Oh, thank you to all of you, no matter where you are from, who helped me and encouraged me along the way to prepare, and make it through to the title.
The Dan individuals event followed straight after the Women's final. Now, it was much more enjoyable for me as I have achieved what I really wanted to get out of this Championships. So no matter what result I got in the Dan event, I would still be happy provided that I performed to my best level in those matches too. And I think I did. I won my first pool match with two debana-kote, but lost my next pool match with a well-timed kote. However, I was satisfied with the way I performed.
Ending on a High Note
My club did very well in this State Championships. The Dan Individuals competition was eventually won by Daisuke, with Ray Kato coming equal third, Mrs. Cross came third in the women's event, Kenji the super kid won the under 16 title, and Nobuko took out the fighting spirit award. So it was a successful day for my club.
Afterwards, the 'Plum Girls' went to a nearby Vietnamese restaurant to celebrate the completion of the last major event of the year. What a satisfying finish for the 2008 kendo year (and for my hungry stomach too)!
Let's hope 2009 will be even better! Brazil, here I come!!!