Back to swordfighting regularly again
With the school semester back in session, I now have three battodo (swordfighting) classes a week, two of which I have to teach. They basically span all levels now. There's the regular class that my sensei--who has recently been promoted to shihan (master) after 25 or more years practicing and teaching hundreds of students (possibly over a thousand) in a number of different martial arts--on Saturday's at our headquarter dojo that I attend primarily for practice. It's students of all skill levels but all adult. On Friday's I have the class at the Univ of Arizona for college students. Finally, there's a middle-school/high-school level class to teach, full of students from 12 to 17 years of age and of many ranks.
The college class is really more a club and it just started again this Friday, with the addition of three new students. We're lucky in that the university has a very good recreational/sports center with plenty of rooms (with beautiful polished wood floors). We currently use the racketball courts since they are the easiest to reserve ahead of time, but my sempais (senior students) are looking to getting one of the larger rooms which also have the padded mats to work on.
The mats are great but I was surprised just how much they cost (up to $500 for a 5' x 10' section). They're also kinda heavy and not easy to move around, so it's best to have them available in one room permanently. We can use the mats for doing rolls, and kneeling work.
The high-school class has yet to start but I have been the assistant teacher for several years, and each semester we get about ten to twenty students. Some of the students have been with us for years. In fact, two of my college students spent 4 years or more learning at the high-school level and eventually became black belts before they even started college. There is another batch which are nearly approaching that level as well.
What I've seen over the years is that most people either really like the sport, or they give it a shot for a few weeks and then quit. The ones that practice for a long time but leave are usually adults with busy lives. The high-school class certainly helps capture their interest at a young age, which is when they are most able to grow mentally and physically into the sport. We've had many an aimless and largely distracted individual that finds their focus through the practice.
We're also going to return to cutting targets on a bi-weekly basis on the weekends outside of the class which is the real fun part. It takes some time of practice to get to that level but it's something that is in the reach of most people. The cutting practice however, takes several hours of time even for a small group of a dozen people, especially when most of them don't have their own swords and have to share the class one. After years of use and without sharpening my primary katana is getting pretty dull. I need to work on it, or send it for sharpening (which is almost as costly as buying a new starter cutting sword).
For me, three times a week will certainly help me get back in shape, although I have to make sure I practice as well as teach. It's not easy to do a hard and fast sport, while talking and teaching simultaneously. Even when you build up stamina and breathing pace, to get real practice you have to push beyond your own limits.