By Kazuya Muto
I took a deep breath. There were about 50 students sitting in front of me, most of them native English speakers, and they were all looking up in expectation. "They're not looking at me," I tried to persuade myself. "They're looking at the projection screen behind me."
I took another deep breath and started: "Hello, everyone. My name is Kazuya Muto, and I'm from Japan. Today I'm going to talk about kendo, which is a traditional Japanese martial art." As I spoke, I tried to keep eye contact with my audience. I tried to speak slowly and clearly because I know that people tend to speak too quickly when nervous.
My lips were dry, but as I continued I came to have the strange feeling that I could speak English fluently. My confidence grew. Then things took a turn for the worse.
Students who had prepared a presentation on their own computer had to transfer their presentation to the university computer system before class. Like everyone else, I had done this, and everything had been going well until I came to the point where I would show some kendo footage. I clicked to open the movie files. Nothing happened.
My heart sank. The footage of the kendo matches was central to my presentation. My first thoughts were that my presentation was now a total failure. I had spent all that time researching, preparing and rehearsing, and look at what happened ... I was deeply disappointed.
Suddenly, a student who was familiar with computers said, "Did you bring your lap top? I can fix it if you've brought your lap top." Fortunately I had. "I can fix it while you talk, so keep going," he said. "Don't worry about your computer."
I continued with my presentation, pretending I was calm (though my hands were trembling a little from nervousness). I brought out the shinai I had borrowed from the kendo club, and I showed the class how it was made, how to use it, and how to treat it (traditionally, practitioners of kendo must treat shinai with great respect; even stepping over a shinai is considered to be a great crime). Everyone seemed to be very interested.
I came to the end of my talk, but sadly the kendo footage still couldn't be projected onto the screen. I was about to give up when the lecturer said, "Everyone, come to the front and watch it on the lap top." People hesitated at first, but then an Australian girl yelled, "Yeah! I love movies!" and came to the front. The rest of the class followed.
After the class, some of the students came up to me to tell me that they had enjoyed my presentation. They asked me to play the kendo footage again, and I did, this time with more detailed explanations.
Before I left the classroom, I thanked the lecturer and the person who had tried to fix the computer. "Your presentation was good," the lecturer said kindly. "I mean, it's a shame you couldn't show the footage on the big screen, but that wasn't your fault. It won't affect your mark."
Thomas was waiting for me outside. "Hey, Kazu! Good on you! I really feel like I've got a good understanding of what kendo is now. I like the mystery at the heart of its philosophy. I've been interested in kendo ever since I found out that Yukio Mishima practiced it." I was so relieved to hear that.
Shukan ST: Aug. 4, 2006
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