A historic day  

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

We’ve just watched the live announcement that Barack Obama has secured his place in history as the first African-American president of the USA. I feel the American people have done themselves proud, and in so doing have taken a big step towards healing the rifts and bridging the divides that cause so many problems in our world. I have felt from the outset of this campaign that what the world needs is a visionary, a healer and a reconciler of differences. I hope and pray that America has delivered that to all of us tonight.

Of John McCain, much as I have disagreed with his rhetoric, his speech conceding defeat to Obama was that of a true gentleman; a dignified and sincere plea to the American people to get behind the new president. Alas, the same could not be said for some of his more redneck supporters who booed at the mention of Obama’s name. But to my mind, this has what this campaign has been all about: The replacement of Bush’s simplistic, gun-toting, redneck world view with a more considered, intelligent and engaging attitude to the world and its different peoples and cultures. I would say that, judging by tonight’s emphatic vote, the American people agree with that sentiment. Well done America – you exemplify the true spirit of democracy.

Now all we need to do is great rid of those arseholes in Number 10, and maybe we can all move forward to a better world.

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The journey begins  

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

I have now started training at my friend K-san’s dojo in central Tokyo. And what a marvellous experience it is. In the space of just one week I’ve managed to pack in no less than 9 hours solid training – that’s an incredible improvement over what I’m able to do in the UK. I don’t mind admitting a little nervousness at joining the dojo – I’d read some reports that the regime was a little harsh for Western tastes, but I was pleasantly surprised at how relaxed it actually was. I’m not sure what kind of training the guy who’s review I’d read was used to, but despite the fact that I’d not trained seriously for some months, I didn’t think it was too dissimilar to the sessions we are used to in the UK. Although after the first one, my legs were pretty painful and I’m still waiting for the skin to grow back on my feet. Still – it’s my own fault for being lazy, so no sympathy!

The standard of Iaido here is quire simply in a different class to the UK. I have a good friend who lived and studied here for a long time, and he always bemoans the standards in the UK. Now I can see very clearly what he means. I have been extremely fortunate to have had some personal instruction from my new 7th dan teacher, and the effect has been nothing short of dramatic. My cuts have suddenly taken on an expansive, powerful quality that is quite extraordinary. I feel quite sure my skill will increase in leaps and bounds with continued practice.

The class itself is held in an old school gym – very similar to the gym at Simon Langton's in Canterbury where I trained with K san and P last Summer. The only difference is the smell of the yakitori wafting in from a nearby restaurant – makes it pretty hard to concentrate when the old stomach starts rumbling!

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