Archive for July, 2010

A Busy Week of Dealing With Upstarts

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

This week has been quite busy with interviews and combat tests. On Monday, I traveled far off to the Mikawa Peninsula (requiring a journey by boat) to talk to Clan Kokkyū. They are a quite large clan, but it turns out that the group that is interested in me are a very small detachment who operate like one of the new, upstartstartups, that isstartups, that is groups.

Yesterday I went to a grueling interview with all the warriors of Clan Shōshindō except for Kirika. I was questioned about my history, about tactics, and about the uses of various weapons, and I also did some sparring. Their warriors are quite skilled, but they are yet another upstart clan, and I would not be well suited for a life with them.

After that, I stopped by Yagyū for a kataA sequence of moves in martial arts, performed as a practice exercise to train the fighter’s muscle memory and reflexes in preparation for real combat. May be anywhere from a brief, 15-second movement to a full sequence that takes five minutes or more to complete. Usually solitary, but there are some two-person kata.

You may wish to see some videos of standard karate katas.A sequence of fighting moves used as a practice technique in martial arts. test for the mysterious gumi“group”Japanese for “group”; can refer to anything from a “five-person group” (a common work-unit in Japanese corporations) up to an entire branch of the Yakuza such as the Yamaguchi-gumi. from Kawachi Province. They wished to see me perform some kata using the sansetsukonA three-sectional staff. Looks vaguely like a nunchaku with an extra section. Famously used as an intimidation technique by one of the bad guys in Raiders of the Lost Ark, who smiled evilly and then folded it up into a coat-hanger.

Three-sectional staff; weapon that looks like a nunchaku with three sticks instead of two. and the manrikigusariA chain weapon with weights at both ends, which can be used for striking or entangling.A ninja weapon consisting of a length of chain with stuff at one or both ends. Generally has weights at both ends, but occasionally one weight will be replaced by a hook. The weapon can be used for entangling (by wrapping a weight around an enemy’s limb) or for a direct strike with one of the weights. It can also be used to entangle an enemy’s weapon with one end, then strike the enemy’s body with the weight on the other end. They hate that.

When the chain has one end attached to a kama, it’s known as a kusari-gama. (Kusari means “chain”; when it’s the second item in a compound word, it becomes -gusari. Similarly, kama becomes -gama in compounds.)
. Unfortunately, I made an elementary blunder with the manrikigusari, trying to use the Jeikyū grappling hook (which I’ve been using more and more lately) in a way that only works with the Pirōto hook (which is what I started off with, years ago). By the time I realized my error, it was too late; I had already failed.

I returned home to Hoshiakari and Akane in low spirits. A visit from our friend Arujin was a helpful restorative, as he is most convivial and witty.

Today, I have spent the morning exchanging messages with a herald who represents Clan Ōkiten, who are based in the pleasure district of Kamishichiken, near where Clan Iwinaga once had its castle. Apparently they are a larger, more mature clan, and I am to speak with one of the lower nobles in their leadership. I must prepare myself.

A Scroll That Goes Well With Tea

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Various clans and gumi“group”Japanese for “group”; can refer to anything from a “five-person group” (a common work-unit in Japanese corporations) up to an entire branch of the Yakuza such as the Yamaguchi-gumi.s may actually be interested in me. Plans are afoot, which will involve me visiting a number of castles next week in order to talk to captains and nobles, and demonstrate my kataA sequence of moves in martial arts, performed as a practice exercise to train the fighter’s muscle memory and reflexes in preparation for real combat. May be anywhere from a brief, 15-second movement to a full sequence that takes five minutes or more to complete. Usually solitary, but there are some two-person kata.

You may wish to see some videos of standard karate katas.A sequence of fighting moves used as a practice technique in martial arts. and skills.

At least one of these will be a test of my knowledge of the Jōgesen ryūA school, tradition, or style in martial arts.A school, tradition, or style in martial arts.. A long time ago, when I was a member of Clan Nettobuku and learning the way of Aka Hōseki Jōgesen for the first time, I purchased a scroll by the Pragmatic Warriors, called Sure-Footed Combat With Jōgesen. I still have it. I am alternating between reading this scroll while sipping some delightful tea that Akane and I purchased on our last trip into Heian-kyō, and practicing some of the moves in the yard of our home. I am working on some kata that I may actually be able to put into practice some day.

Of course, I should also be working on Living Stone ryū kata with the ninja-tōThe short sword most associated with ninjas. Note that unlike the katana and wakizashi carried by samurai, the ninja-tō was straight rather than curved. It was roughly the length of a wakizashi.

The ninja-tō was also generally of inferior workmanship compared to the more expensive blades available to samurai. Even if a ninja could acquire a katana, it would be too long and unwieldy to carry on most missions; ninja generally relied on smaller weapons like the shuriken and manrikigusari, and on more deniable weapons like the kama.

“Ninja-ken” is another perfectly acceptable name for this weapon; it’s like the difference between saying “ninja blade” and “ninja sword” in English.The short sword most associated with ninjas. Note that unlike the katana and wakizashi carried by samurai, the ninja-tō was straight rather than curved. Also known as a “ninja-ken”.. There is a clan with a castle in Kamishichiken, very close to where Castle Iwinaga once was. They have need of a ninja with skills in the Pagoda Bearer and Living Stone styles; my Pagoda Bearer skills are as sharp as ever, but I can always use a bit more practice at Living Stone. If I can impress them, I may find that they are the right clan for me. (As long as they don’t require archery skills. The herald I have spoken with was quite unclear on that point.)

The Days Creep Forward

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

The world is full of perplexing things. After my discussion with Binya of Clan Atsuzen — which I thought had gone so well — I heard from his herald that my answers had not been sufficiently pleasing. I have asked her to supply me with more information, so that I might improve my skills.

But the timed test kataA sequence of moves in martial arts, performed as a practice exercise to train the fighter’s muscle memory and reflexes in preparation for real combat. May be anywhere from a brief, 15-second movement to a full sequence that takes five minutes or more to complete. Usually solitary, but there are some two-person kata.

You may wish to see some videos of standard karate katas.A sequence of fighting moves used as a practice technique in martial arts. for Clan Shōnindō? I was not able to complete all the moves and strikes in the time allotted, and I suspect that nobody could. But what I did complete was apparently sufficient to please them. Next Tuesday, I will visit Castle Shōnindō and meet with Kirika, the warrior woman I have spoken with. I shall probably meet others of the clan, as well.

I am still fairly sure that Clan Shōnindō is too small and young for me. But the fact that they have female fighters among them speaks well for them.

In the meantime, I have yet another test coming up today, this time of my Aka Hōseki JōgesenA very popular sansetsukon (three-sectional staff) style.A very popular sansetsukon (three-sectional staff) style. skills. I have not even touched the sansetsukonA three-sectional staff. Looks vaguely like a nunchaku with an extra section. Famously used as an intimidation technique by one of the bad guys in Raiders of the Lost Ark, who smiled evilly and then folded it up into a coat-hanger.

Three-sectional staff; weapon that looks like a nunchaku with three sticks instead of two. in a year, and I was honest about this when speaking to the herald who is trying to connect me with some gumi“group”Japanese for “group”; can refer to anything from a “five-person group” (a common work-unit in Japanese corporations) up to an entire branch of the Yakuza such as the Yamaguchi-gumi. in Kawachi Province. Truly, I suspect that either the gumi or the herald must be somewhat desperate to consider me for their clan, as I am given to understand that they require a Jōgesen expert.

For my part, taking their test costs me nothing but an hour of my time, and may help me refresh a bit. Since I already expect to do poorly, failure cannot harm my self-esteem.

To be honest, I think I am taking this test partly out of boredom. With the exception of yesterday, when I bore a message swiftly to KamishichikenOne of the entertainment districts in Heian-kyō, the capital.One of the entertainment districts in Heian-kyō, the capital. for my friend Arina, I have had no missions to complete. Even that example of courier duty did not include any combat. I must find something to occupy myself.

Test Coming Up. Am I Ready?

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

I have been very busy talking to heralds, and even to representatives of clans who might want to take me in. It seems that a flurry of messages back and forth is often needed just to set up one meeting with a clan’s scout.

On Tuesday, I spoke with a captain of Clan Mitsugenso, who was a pleasant type and enjoyable to talk to. Sadly, his clan uses a great deal of mounted combat, and I would have to do horseback riding with armor on. This is not my Way; it would only lead me to be conflicted and unhappy, as I have been before.

A discussion yesterday, with a man from Clan Atsuzen, went quite well. Binya of Atsuzen asked me many questions about combat, urban stealth techniques, and so on, and seemed quite pleased with my answers. I await word from their herald to see what the next steps will be… though I am unsure if the style and culture of the clan will suit me. I must visit their castle and evaluate the atmosphere there.

Finally, last week I spoke with a warrior from Clan Shōnindō. She seems to have been satisfied with my words, because that clan now wishes to evaluate my fighting skills. I will shortly receive a test kataA sequence of moves in martial arts, performed as a practice exercise to train the fighter’s muscle memory and reflexes in preparation for real combat. May be anywhere from a brief, 15-second movement to a full sequence that takes five minutes or more to complete. Usually solitary, but there are some two-person kata.

You may wish to see some videos of standard karate katas.A sequence of fighting moves used as a practice technique in martial arts., which must be performed within a short time.

Time limits are not my friend. I have long known that my problem is not in performing executions well or silently; it is in performing them quickly.

So, even though Shōnindō is probably much too small a clan for me, I still should throw myself into this exercise. I must practice being faster, and this will be a good way to do it.

And who knows? I may even succeed.

The messenger who will administer the test should be arriving shortly. I must prepare myself.

GanbarimasuJapanese for “I will do my best” or “I will persevere and not give up”, or even “Charge!” if said with the right emotion.Japanese for “I will do my best” or “I will persevere and not give up”, or even “Charge!” if said with the right emotion..