In May, on the back of a tiring business trip to Hong Kong and southern China, Rachel was warmly welcomed into the small but dedicated Hong Kong Naginata dojo.
Willingly giving up her only two days free on a weekend, she was absolutely delighted and humbled by the Naginata students friendliness. They are all are under the guidance of Roy (who achieved his Shodan at the last World Naginata Championships in Himeijii). His gentle manner and humility was clearly of a man who had an honest heart.
Just a note, Roy first visited London dojo many years ago when we welcomed him as someone just starting out in Naginata. Later both Roy and Georgina joined the BNA delegation to the INF Sweden seminar in 2006, that was the last time Rachel saw both Roy and Georgiana.
It was evident this was a group of good friends, and the camaraderie was really touching. Some students knew Roy from Hong Kong Kendo, or had been introduced to Naginata through word-of-mouth. This friendship spirit pervaded the dojo, and it was clear everyone was focused on learning Naginata and improving.
The first practice was a Sunday and just under 4 hours, and there were five keen students. The second practice was the following Saturday just under 3 hours, and again there were 5 students. To Rachel’s delight Johnston had been a university student in London and Kendo player learning under Paul Gray (also the London Naginata dojo’s sempai) and had started learning Naginata in London too before departing after only a couple of month’s Naginata classes. Her visit coincided with Johnson’s decision to ‘check out’ Kendo and Naginata now that he had returned to Hong Kong.
Rachel was astonished that some students had been practicing between 1-5 years and had either had only one chance to take a kyu exam, 5kyu or take no exam at all, as their standard was high for the time in years they had dedicated to practice, and this was a credit to Roy’s teaching and patience.
Georgiana in particular was good partnering Roy to help him progress too, and her shikake-oji 6, 7 and 8 was a meritorious effort and Roy had clearly not forgotten seminar teachings.
Everyone who was experienced had bogu. Rachel was smiling at the doh that was lent to her (she took over only her clothes, and men & nagi kote combination) as it was the “old style” barrel looking type. The doh was hand-made by Chiba Bogu and was really light (albeit a little big as it was Roy’s best doh).
Both practices had left a lasting impression that this was clearly relaxed friends learning under Roy’s patience and kindness. His attention to his students was evident and deserved praise. Importantly everyone enjoyed learning together and helped each other out.
Once again Rachel was struck how learning Naginata round the world required dedication, motivation and fortitude often against some tremendous odds. Those in Japan or others who have senior sensei “on their doorstep” perhaps not realising other Naginata players are not so fortunate. This made Hong Kong players eagerness and hunger to learn so humbling.
Rachel’s abiding memory of Hong Kong Naginata is one of generosity and big-heartedness, and cannot wait to return to see everyone’s Naginata improvement but mostly see Roy, Georgiana, Winnie, Daisy, Matt and Johnson’s smiles.
(Hong Kong Naginata dojo regular normal practice night is Tuesday)