Sage joined the Naginata Club in Fall 2017 and has since started spending more and more time with the club. This is Gasshuku from her perspective:
The McGill Naginata club’s Spring Gasshuku is not just a training camp. While we had three practices a day, between two to three hours each, for the duration of the event, the focus wasn’t solely on improving technique or endurance or strength, as a training camp would imply.
Rather, Gasshuku focused on both Naginata as a martial art, and Naginata as a social activity.
Each day of Gasshuku, you would eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner with everyone else, helping to cook and clean. You would walk to the gym with everyone, and head back together afterwards. It was a great experience; the people critiquing your attacks in the dojo would also be the person you saw fall asleep at 7.10 AM on the sofa, or someone who helped you wash a million dishes, or the person you ran across an intersection with as the traffic light changed to green.
Gasshuku didn’t just aim to be an extended practice session; it emphasized also cooperation and club bonding. How else could about 16 people in one air bnb work?
Gasshuku also touched upon the philosophy of Naginata. One of the exercises was to come up with a kata which demonstrated the core components of Naginata. The movements didn’t need to be real Naginata moves, as long as they captured the unique aspects of Naginata as a martial art. This required me to think about the movements I was making, rather than simply trying to actually do them without tripping. More broadly, Gasshuku also focused on perseverance, especially in its morning “warmup” sets; pushing yourself as far as you could go and then continuing to do so through the repeated sets.
Gasshuku improved my technique and helped me feel more comfortable around my fellow club members. It wasn’t a training camp that allowed people to distance themselves and sink themselves in their own work and emotions; it forced you to interact and cooperate and coordinate, and in doing so, become closer with those around you. It was an amazing experience, and one that I look forwards to next year.
Written by Sage Minard
Pictures from Marija Landekic