I felt the last post didn't go far enough to give a taste of actual kenshusei life so I've decided to do a week where I explain what the training involves.
First thing bright and early at 6AM on Monday morning: Zazen, seated meditation. My thoughts on zazen are that there are people who are suited to it and those who are not. The people who are into in talk about how it gives them a wonderful sense of centeredness that remains with them the rest of the day and things like that. For me the main point of zazen is to be seen to be making an effort and to use the 40 minutes to think over what I need to do this week, wonder how much the upcoming seminar costs, think about rearranging my website and so on. For zazen you're meant to sit in lotus position on the edge of a round cushion so you're seated on a tripod consisting of your knees and your bum. If you can't do lotus you're basically putting your weight on your legs which results in dead legs. You keep yours hands in the position shown above, and you gaze ahead at a space in front of you and try empty your mind. I still do actually try sometimes but it feels like a bit of a waste of time when I could be thinking about new colouring techniques.
7AM we have a Regular Class on Mondays. It tends to be mainly lower grades that come to this one. In situations like that we the kenshusei help sensei by pairing always with the lower grades and help them through the moves. You get some stuff with these guys that's way off the map and it can be a real challenge. Kenshusei are the ones who be Uke for sensei the most also. The idea being we can glean some insight from being thrown by sensei personally. You can, but feeling it and actually understanding what it was you felt are different things. When taking ukemi, you're trying to help sensei demonstrate the technique clearly which means being able to understand what she's going to do, follow her movement and take ukemi properly - that means 'receiving' the technique properly and taking a fall or a roll in a safe way. This can be nerve-wrecking especially when you're only occasionally called up and trying not to tense up in your desperation to please in front of a room of your fellow students can be the hardest part.
After class on Mondays we have a kenshusei meeting with Yoko-sensei to discuss upcoming events, things that have happened or were brought to our attention during the week, appoint weekly tasks etc. Today being the week after Golden Week, there were lots of omiyage sweets to be had with our usual green tea. There's this one from Fukuoka called Hataka Toorimon which is absolutely amazing. I wish I'd saved mine because I think it would be amazing with coffee. It's like a western-influenced wagashi with white an paste in the middle with butter and cream, the outside has a wonderfully milky taste and soft cake texture. So good.
Then we disperse to go about our days. In the evening classes are held in two places: the main dojo in Nishijin and in a Youth Centre in Fushimi. At the moment I'm in the Nishijin team of kenshusei so I help in the Middle Schoolers class. It's mainly for kids who have gotten too big for kids class though some lower grade adults attend too. The teacher tends to change a lot depending on who's free which makes it kind of interesting.
Aaaand that's all for Monday. Tune in tomorrow for Tuesday's schedule.