For some reason, a lot of people came to kendo practice last night. In a double-strange twist, there was an even number of people, so we were all able to pair up. Winding up in a triple-strange trifecta, no other children showed up, so I was able to pair up with Ivon for practice.
After a good 45 minutes of kata, during which Ivon and I perfected the first four kendo kata, there was 30 minutes of warm-up, and then everyone put on bogu for full-contact practice. Miyata-sensei led practice, instructing us to repetitions of striking kiri-kaeshi, men, kote, do, and various combinations. Then we moved into doing combinations of blocks or dodges and strikes.
Partnered with Ivon, I let him perform the strikes and repetitions on me, without hitting him back. Ivon performed swimmingly, valiantly striking and shuffling, and voicing a resounding kiai. He only got flustered when he couldn’t hear what anyone was trying to say, and so couldn’t follow instructions, and didn’t know what to do. With everyone yelling, and the men tied tightly to the head, it is difficult to hear anything not directly in front of or behind your head.
So, we slowed down, got close to each other to explain what sensei wanted us to do, and then practiced.
At about quarter-’till, we were organized into to large groups for full-contact keiko. We’d practice with our partner until sensei blew his whistle, then rotate to the left. Ivon and I practiced for a few minutes, with him voicing kiai, striking me, and running through. He did great, the whistle blew, he rotated to his left, and I to mine. We each had a new partner, and so it went.
About 10 minutes later, after several more rotations, Miyata-sensei blew the whistle, and called for final kiri-kaeshi. We always finish each night’s practice with a kiri-kaishi session, and it is when you put any remaining strength into the best form and kiai you can muster, and finish out the night, nobly.
About half-way through my turn, I saw Ivon over by the wall, with his men off, just sobbing uncontrollably, wringing his hands, his face bright red. I didn’t know what happened, but had to finish with my partner before I could go over and find out. Sylvette seemed to be taking good care of him, so I wasn’t too worried. I wondered if someone hit his fingers, or if the pressure and noise of the rotation had gotten to him.
Finally, I got to go over and kneel by him. Ivon was still crying, and although he couldn’t talk, insisted that he wasn’t hurt or anything. So I simply kneeled by him, and put my arm around him. His men was placed neatly on his kote against the wall, with his tenugi stretched across the men, all in perfect form. He obviously took care when placing it, despite whatever torment he was experiencing.
He gradually calmed, as sensei ran the non-bugo wearing beginners through some paces. When they could barely stand, he called it a night, and we all lined up and kneeled for the ceremonial removal of the men, and final bows of the night. Ivon was about to grab up his men & kote to join up, and we assured him he could just leave it there, and line up.
On the drive home, we talked about what happened, and it turned out he hyperventilated. He wasn’t bugged at all by the noise and confusion of the rotation. No one had hit him. He was just practicing as hard as he could, and right about when we did kiri-kaeshi, he ran out of breath. He said he could smell his own breath inside the men, and it was difficult to take a good breath. The shortness of breath made him start crying for no reason (his words), and he couldn’t stop. He really appreciated that so many people stopped and were nice to him to try and cheer him up, but he wasn’t sad. He was just practicing as hard as he could.
What a great little boy.
That evening, we read an article about hyperventilation. Now he knows how to recognize when he’s getting short of breath, when he needs to take a break, and that it’s OK for him to take a break when he needs to.
I love that little guy!