a MMB! Kendo Blog: February 2005

MMB! Kendo Blog

Saturday, February 19, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Left Foot Stay On the Ground

Kirby Smith came to training with us in Willoughby today. During the waza and jigeiko sessions, Kirby gave me some useful feedbacks about my techniques:

  • Up swing should be as fast as the down swing. My up-swing tend to be a lot slower than my down-swing, whereas what I really should do is make the up-swing and down-swing equally fast.
  • Sucker again. Argh... Kirby did the same thing Sano sensei did to me 3 weeks ago. I was sucked into cutting the deliberately opened kote. Oh no!!! Vivian, you should have known better.
  • Men-kote waza. It was nice to hear Kirby complimented my tricky men-kote waza which I learnt from Master Kim on Wednesday night. However, Kirby said he could see I was doing a feint men because my body was twisted sideway when executing the kote. What I should do was to maintain my up-right upper body posture.

I was feeling very out of breath during the training today. My mind was willing but my body was just completely exhausted. I had been going to as much training (kendo and gym) as possible in the past few weeks in preparation for the Hong Kong tournament, and got burnt out in the process. I guess I was to blame for not giving my body a chance to rest and recover properly after the Ballarat national squad training. I was so tired after the national squad training that I tried to catch up on sleep the whole week and had abandoned my usual morning gym cardio workouts before work, but it was still inadequate rest for my body. I should have taken greater care of my body. My energy level was completely flat on Thursday and I was coughing on Friday night again. I had to drop out of the afternoon kyu / women squad training because I was feeling really unwell. So I watched instead of playing. And I learnt something by watching...

Left Foot
Becki and I were watching Yoshiki's elegant kendo moves. I was observing specifically on how Yoshiki's footwork could move so efficiently and powerfully. Then Becki pointed out that Yoshiki's left foot never left the ground. And she was right. Why didn't I notice that in the past 3 years. The left foot in kendo should always stay in touch with the ground. That way, it would allow you to execute follow-up cuts faster and properly. If the left foot were 'flying' up after launching a cut, the time taken for the left foot to return to the ground and pushed off for the next cut would be longer. And therefore, it would slow down the speed of the follow-up cut and the smoothness of nidan or sandan waza execution. I reckon if I concentrate on making sure that my left foot don't flare up after launching a cut, I could probably fix my leaning forward problem. YAY!!!

Friday, February 18, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Sydney Kendo Club on SBS

SBS Sydney Kendo Club interview.

To listen to the interviews with Payne sensei, Andrew Tan, Chris Barbe, Becki Cox, Myself and Rick Faqhuarson from Sydney Kendo Club, go to: from SBS Sports & Recration Site

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Sword, Body, Agility, Speed

Johnny, Anna, myself and four Korean kids attended the Wednesday night training session at Master Kim's dojo. Throughout the entire session, one person would carry out the waza practice on all six other motodachi in one go. So, there would be six kirikaeshi in one go, six kote-men in one go, etc etc...

The gist of this training method was to improve our agility and speed. Master Kim emphasised that we must try to turn quicky after each cut, so that we could go for the next cut, and the next cut, etc.

Back in Master Kim's university days, they used to practice this training routine with 40 students lining up, each person had to execute each waza 40 times up and 40 times down the line in one go. So for kirikaeshi, that would be a whopping 80 times in one go! That's (2 men cut + 7 sayu-men) x 80 = 720 cuts in one go.

At the end of the training session, Master Kim said there were four important elements in Kendo and they are: Sword, Body, Agility, Speed.

Some of the more interesting waza we practiced tonight were as follow:

  • men-kote. First you feint a men. When your opponent reacts and lifts the arm up to block the men, KOTE!!!!
  • Doh waza with left leading foot. The idea: Right foot steps forward first, then strikes the do at the same time as the left foot stamps on the group. So instead of the usual right foot as the leading foot, left foot is the leading foot in this instant. It is definitely a very powerful doh cut and makes it unpredictable for your opponent.


  • kote kaeshi men
  • kote suriage men
  • kote uchi-otoshi men

Monday, February 14, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Making Tough Decision

It was a tough decision to do more kendo training tonight. Firstly, I was chronically deprived of sleep after the weekend squad training. I only had 5 hours of sleep last night, coughing badly for half an hour during the middle of night and had to wake up to drink hot water to curb the cough. More importantly, today was Valentine's Day. I felt really guilty when I told Tim during lunch that I would be training tonight instead of spending time with him.

However, there were not much time left till the Asian Tournament in Hong Kong next weekend and the National Championships next month. If I did't train hard now, I wouldn't have time to get ready for the Championships. Every training session was more important than ever. So I decided to drag my tired body to get more training.

Tonight session at Master Kim's dojo focused on the theoretical / technical aspects of kendo. The things we focused on tonight were basic cuts and seme - attacking opponent's centre-line.

During the kote cut practice, Master Kim pointed out that I was cutting from below the opponent's kote, so the shinai landed on the opponent's kote in an angle, resulting in a 'dull' cut. To execute a crisp kote cut, I should extend my left arm to just above my opponent's kote and simply drop it flat on top of the kote. Master Kim then told me to hold the shinai with my left hand only and do kote cut. I could instantly feel my kote cut became much sharper when I cut from above my opponent's kote. Master Kim told me that I should remember this feeling and always execute the kote cut in that way.

Towards the end of the training, we practiced the application of seme. Master Kim observed during the weekend's squad training that the good Japanese players were able to break into their opponent's territory, holding their own centre-line while destroying their opponent's. We experimented with a seme technique: a slight side-step to the right and pressing your opponent's shinai shank at the same time, trespassing into your opponent's territory in the process. While you maintain your centre-line in line with your opponent, your opponent's centre-line was forced off away from you because of the pressure applied on their shinai's shank.

We also practiced chudan against jodan. Master Kim said to play against jodan, footwork was extremely important. While in chudan, the foot should move forward and backward to create opportunity to attack.

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Playing Rifle Kendo

Travelling to Ballarat
The Australian Squad Training was held in Ballarat last weekend. It was one of the 4 - 5 training weekends per year designed to get the group of aspiring Australian Kendo team representatives to practice high quality kendo in preparation for the 2006 World Kendo Championships (WKC). The next WKC will be held in Taiwan in December 2006.

Back to the Aust squad training weekend. The actual training session was scheduled to start at 10am on Saturday, but my kendo 'battle' started waaaaaaaaay before that, having to wake up at 3:30am for a 5am flight check-in to catch the 6am Qantas flight which arrived to Melbourne at 7.20am. I wasn't alone in waking up way before the crack of dawn. Sano sensei, Master Kim, Jimmy and Michael also caught the earliest Qantas flight of the day. I fared pretty well compared to my fellow kendoka in getting the most sleep - a good 8 hours compared to Sano sensei's and Mike's 3 hours(??!!) sleep. Not surprisingly, Mike slept all the way to Melbourne, waking up only for the on-flight breakfast.

We picked up our Blue Ford Falcon at the Melbourne airport and drove off at 8am, 106km from Ballarat. At around 9.15am, we stopped by a McDonald's along the M8 motorway for some more breakfast and was met by several other kendoka from NSW and Victoria. From there to Ballarat, there were 36km between them. So we predicted that there would be another 15 minutes drive. We left McDonald's at 9.25am and continuous our journey. When we turned off at the Ballarat motorway exit, it was 9.40am. Theoretically, that should be enough time to get us ready for the 10am start. But in reality, things were different. We were lost in direction. Having no clues of where the Eastwood Leisure Complex was located. We asked a couple of locals but they didn't know either. At last, Jimmy and I found out the direction from a young delivery truck driver from 'The Good Guy'. It was 9.50am. Turn right at Peel Street. Straight ahead at the light. Go pass the speed hump. There's the kindergarten. Yes, it's Eastwood Street. Finally, we could see the Eastwood Leisure Complex.

By the time we walked into the dojo, Brett Smith - the Team Coach, and all the other kendoka were ready to start. Brett gave us a final 2 minutes warning to get ourselves prepared. There's no way I could undress, and put on my gi, hakama, contact lenses, and bogu and be ready to go in 2 minutes. Fear ran through my body as the thought of being late and the type of punishment we had seen and experienced in the other squad training re-surfaced to me. Luckily, we were saved by a nice Brett.

The Training
The focus of this weekend's training was not so much on the physical side of kendo, but more on the mental aspects. During the weekend, Brett Smith emphasised the importance of forging a connection with your opponent. He detested the slash and bash kendo, the kind of kendo that depends on quickness, and constant repetition of techniques until a valid one was landed. Rather than exhausting your energy in playing irrational kendo, he said we should aim to make each cut a perfect and effective cut. We should set-up the point, look for the right opportunity and launch the attack. And that, I thought, was what constituted a 'rational' cut - the type of cut that you could show full intention and committment to the shinpan. As Brett concluded at the end of the weekend, we should strive to play 'rifle' kendo, not 'machine-gun' kendo.

Yakov Macak sensei visited and observed the squad training on Sunday. He made a comment about the importance of hasuji - cutting at the correct angle or correct flight of path. To execute a perfect scoring cut, we must check that we cut with the correct part of the shinai and at the correct cutting angle.

During the weekend, we went through a variety of training method. Amongst them, I found the '3 attacks only' training method very interesting. The idea was this: you and your opponent were given 3 attacking opportunities each. You could execute whatever attacking waza you liked in those 3 attacking opportunities. You could do ni-dan or even san-dan waza if you wished to, but that would mean using two or three attacking opportunities respectively. Once you exhausted your ammunition, you could only defend but not attack.

I found this training method required very intensed concentration and awareness of attacking the opponent's centre-line while defending my own. Here, there's definitely no room for the slash and bash type of kendo as we were given only 3 attacking opportunities in each match. During those 3-attack matches, I could really practice seme and at the same time feel my opponent's seme at his or her best. The quality of those 3-attack matches were really high.

I played Sano sensei at the last of those 3-attack matches. I had to say I couldn't withstand Sano sensei's seme. In our first attacks, we both went for aiuchi-men. Then each of us did another attack but I could not quite remember what they were. The last of my 3 attacks, Sano sensei applied really strong seme and my kamae wavered. I thought he must be planning to attack soon. I thought if I didn't act, he would come for cut. So I was lured into attack even though the opportunity wasn't there, and of course, I was easily blocked by Sano sensei, wasting my last attacking opportunity. From this match, I could feel that Sano sensei had a much stronger seme than mine and I was affected by his actions. What I should have done was to hold my composure, to hold my centre-line, keep calm, and above all, work with my own plan instead of succumbing to Sano sensei's seme and make irrational attack.

Takashi had been helping me to fix the leaning forward problem in cutting. He asked me to tsuki him during one of the technique sessions when we could choose our own technique to practice. After executing a few tsuki, the feeling of pushing my hip forward stayed with me and I was able to do a good-postured men-cut. Hmm... it's time for me to start practice tsuki.

Takashi also pointed out that I was lifting the shinai up after completing a strike. I should maintain correct posture after the strike, so that I could launch another strike if necessary. I think this boiled down to showing good zanshin after the cut.

The Aust Squad had a special warm-up routine that we went through at each training session. Brett asked everyone to learn the routine by heart, so that at the next squad training everyone should know it back to front.

So just in case I forget by the time I go for the next Aust squad training, here is the Aust Squad warm-up routine:

  • 3 men cuts, twice. 3 rotations
  • 3 kote cuts, twice. 2 rotations
  • 3 kote-men, once. 2 rotations
  • 1 set of tsubazerai routine. 2 rotations (starting from tsubazerai, hiki-men, men, men-hiki-men, men)
  • shiai-geiko. 2 rotations

Both training days ended with jigeiko. I played Chiaki Kobayashi, Hayami Aboutaleb and Claire Chan in the Saturday jigeiko session. I was privileged to be the last person to play Brett Smith in Sunday's jigeikko session. Although the jigeiko with Brett was short because of the limited time and the number of people before me queuing to play him, Brett pointed out two things about my kendo:

  1. I should push with my whole body forward. Aiyor, another sensei pointed out the same problem that seemed to be bugging me on and on and on... He said if I push my body forward, my kendo would become much stronger.

  2. Don't bounce too much. Brett said I was bouncing up and down too much during the jigeiko. I guessed I was extra bouncy in that jigeiko because I was very excited to play against Brett. The excitement made me go bouncing crazy.

Another important thing that Brett told me was that I wasn't showing enough zanshin after my men cut. I was too relaxed when I turned around, which showed no zanshin and was very vunerable to my opponent's follow-up attack. What I should do now to correct this problem was to take a few more steps forward after the cut before turning around, plus hold my kamae and show strong zanshin. If I can maintain a strong physical posture followed by an unrelenting mental posture after an attack, my opponent will be unable to follow up with anything. That is what I should be aspiring to. True zanshin is born through maintaining an unbreakable physical and mental presence and alertness.

Thinking about it now, I think the All Japan Kendo Championships is a very good example. In AJKC, when a player scored a valid cut, they took a few more steps to follow through, then turn around to face the opponent and hold super strong chudan no kamae. That's what good zanshin was supposed to look like.


  • Keep working on pushing from the hip
  • Show good zanshin with good physical and mental posture
  • Don't bounce too much
  • Experiment with seme. Don't waver under opponent's seme.
  • Hasuji - cut with correct flight of path
  • Set-up --> create opportunity --> attack

Monday, February 07, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Good Exercise to Practice Powering the Body Forward

Tonight I went to train in Master Kim's dojo. It was a hot and humid day, so Master Kim told us that tonight we would have a compact training.

There were 6 people training tonight - Master Kim, Jimmy Kim, Andrew Tan, me and two Korean kids. After the stretching and suburi sessions, we were splitted into two groups with Master Kim and Jimmy as motodachi. I was in Jimmy's line.

The first waza session was on kirikaeshi, uchikomi-geiko and kakari-geiko. Master Kim repeatedly pointed out that we were not powering our body forward when cutting. Master Kim then demonstrated on Jimmy how to propel and power the body forward both with and without the shinai. It was when he demonstrated without shinai that it gave me the exact idea of what kind of feeling I should expect and aim for when moving my body forward. The way Master Kim demonstrated was like this: In chudan no kamae, he propelled forward as if he was doing a men cut but without actually cutting. Instead, he pushed powerfully forward into Jimmy's body and at that same instant, his right foot fumikomi. This demonstration made it very clear how the body was supposed to move forward. The correct body movement would give the body maximum power to push the opponent back.

We swapped the queues and I did some more kakari-geiko with Master Kim. Again, Master Kim was encouraging me to cut with my whole body while I was executing my kakari-geiko. It was exhausting but I could feel that I had much more power in my forward momentum after carrying the idea of Master Kim's earlier demonstration of aiming to push into my opponent's body.

Jimmy, Andrew and myself then practiced seme-men. We were told to focus on pushing the body in and cutting as soon as there was a slight deviation of the opponent's shinai from the centre.

During the training, Master Kim pointed out the followings regarding my techniques:

  • Straight through after men cut. I was moving side-way after men cut. I was too carried away with the thought of avoiding to bump into my opponent after a men cut by moving side-way. With this worry in mind, it weakened my intention to power forward. I should not worry about bumping into my opponent and should concentrate on power my body forward. If my opponent did not move, tai-atari into my opponent.
  • Snappy Men. It was not snappy enough, probably due to the lack of forward momentum when cutting the men. As a result, the shinai could not bounce off the men. The root cure for this problem - power my body forward. Simple.
  • Watch the right foot! My right foot was lifting up when launching for men cut (toes pointing upwards). The correct way should be with the foot parallel to the floor, with minimal foot lifting.
  • One men cut movement. My seme-men cut was executed in two separate movements instead of one quick movement. As a result, it took too long to move in from isoku-ito-no-maai to men. I think that to correct this problem, my footwork should always be ready to launch forward with maximum momentum.

Towards the end of the training, Master Kim explained that there were different foot stance for different cut just before launching the attack. For example, a shorter foot stance for men cut, whereas a longer foot stance for kote cut. I gathered that's because men is further in distance than kote. So the rear leg should bring closer to the front leg in order to gain distance. In the case of kote, the distance was much closer to men. Therefore, the rear leg could be further away from the front leg. This allowed enough distance for the rear leg to push forward at maximum power without closing into the opponent too much.

Master Kim said it was possible to tell which type of players just by looking at their foot stance.

I told Master Kim that his demonstration of moving the body in (without shinai) by pushing into the opponent's body had helped me understand what I should by striving for when launching men cut. He then told us that back in his Korean high school and uni trainings, it was normal routine for them to practice 100 times of that body push exercise per training session. Master Kim told us that all the cuts, whether it's men, kote, doh and tsuki, should cut with the body powering in. The power does not come from the hand and arm but the body. He then demonstrated a few more of that exercise and we tried them against each other. I found that, to have strength in my push, I need to get the distance right. The push must be done at the same time as my right foot land. And, more importantly, I must push my body with my hip forward. Purely pushing with the arm would not give me enough energy to push my opponent backward.

What a simple yet effective exercise! Master Kim promised us that we would practice this exercise in the next training. He said after 3 months, we would be very good at pushing in. I am certainly looking forward to that day coming. =D

Sunday, February 06, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Thinking Beyond

This weekend was the first full kendo weekend in the many weeks to come. This weekend was the annual Picton Kendo Weekend.

On Saturday, about 60 kenkoka attended the training. We had the Dan and Kyu Squad Training in the morning. In the afternoon, we had a choice to attend either the shimpan seminar or the grading seminar. I attended the shimpan seminar which was conducted by Payne sensei, Semmler sensei and Sano sensei, who had attended the Asia Regional Shimpan Seminar in Hong Kong last December.

I had a chance to shimpan 5 matches during the shimpan session. I was feeling very rusty with shimpaning in my first 2 shimpan matches. However, towards the later matches, I could feel I was almost in a 'no mind' state. I didn't have to struggle with which colour flag belongs to which player. When the player executed a cut, I was able to capture that split second in my head and make decision straight away. That feeling was good.

At the end of the day, we had a jigeiko session. I was one of the three lucky ones to have a jigeiko opportunity with Ron Bennett sensei. Both of us got one kote cut on each other. That was fun. Then I played Takahiro, 4th Dan, from Wollongong. He has a very straight but relaxed upper body posture, which reminds me of Yano sensei. I was always in awe with how beautiful and effortless Yano sensei's kendo was. I also played Malcolm Schultz from ANU in my last jigeiko of the day. Malcolm earned his shodan the next day.

Know The Waza
At the end of the shimpan session, we had a feedback and QA session. The 3 sensei repeatedly emphasised the importance of having a good knowledge of various waza in order to become a good shimpan. Only by understanding the waza well can one judge the others on how well their waza executions were. And this can only be achieved by continuously practicing the waza during kendo training.

Sano sensei also pointed out that good shimpan should be prepared to judge the more difficult points on top of the obvious points that any audience could easily tell. He pointed out that there was no such thing as aiuchi cuts in shiai. One cut always land before the other. As a shimpan, we should aim to be more sharper-minded and be able to judge the more difficult cuts.

49 kendoka registered to grade on Sunday. The Sydney Kendo Club had some very good results, with a few people jumping grades. More notably was Andrew Tan, SKC President. Although he has been training for one year only, he has developed beautiful kendo posture and technique, almost textbook-like. I was watching the grading behind the grading panel and I could see the sensei watching and nodding approvingly at Andrew's beautiful execution of kendo techniques. Taek earned his nidan on the day too with the highlight being the tsuki in the jigeiko against Martino Ellero which wowed everyone. I could see David Bunder, the dojo stewart on the day, turned and looked at the grading panel in amazement. That was impressive.

After grading, we had a jigeiko session. First up was jigeiko with Min-jih. It has been a long time since I played jigeiko against Min-jih and I felt really happy to be able to play him again. Then I had jigeiko with both of the Bunders, Mike Henstock, Natalia and Erik.

Thinking Beyond
Playing the Bunders was extremely worthwhile. I gained a lot of feedbacks from them with regard to anticipating opponent's move and breaking of the centre.

Shoko pointed out that I was blindly going for the kote cut straight after I apply pressure to my opponent's shinai without analysing whether my opponent has or has not exposed his or her kote. I should be more of my opponent's reaction to my pressure and act accordingly. Shoko emphasised the importance to think beyond the current situation and anticipate my opponent's reaction in response to my moves. I guess that's where kendo becomes more interesting. The phychological and tactical parts of the game and how to trick and outwit your opponents. Hmmm... I like it.

Dave taught me a really simple but effective technique to break my opponent's centre. When both players are in chudan no kamae, do a sudden squeeze and relax of grip of shinai. This movement makes a sudden jerk in the shinai which knocks the opponent's shinai away from centre and opens the men target. Launch straight into men cut after the jerk movement. I tried this technique in the jigeiko afterwards and found it really effective. I am definitely going to practice this technique more in my training to perfect my moves. Thanks Dave!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Counting Down to Hong Kong

I am so excited to receive the country entry list from Eda Chen, Hong Kong Kendo Association Secretary, to confirm team entries. From the list, it looks like this year Hong Kong Asian Kendo Tournament will be huge. Almost 300 participants from all over Asia will participate in this event.

In the two team events that I will be competing in, there are a total of 32 teams in the Dan Open event, while there are 15 teams in the 2nd Dan and below category.

It will be my first overseas kendo experience and I am absolutely excited about the prospect of playing against kendoka from other countries and see how well I will fare.

Only 23 more nights...

Team lists [Dan Open Team Total, 2nd Dan and Below Team Total]
Namiki Kenyukai (Japan) [1,0]
Osaka Ryokenkai (Japan) [2,0]
Kinyou kai (Japan) [1,0]
Shibuya Kenyuukai (Japan) [1,0]
Japan Airline (Japan) [3,0]
Hihaino Sato Shinbukai (Japan) [1,0]
Shigakukan University (Japan) [2,0]
Asia Kendo Club (Japan) [2,0]
New South Wales Kendo Association [1,2]
Shanghai Kendo Club [3,3]
Beijing Allied Kendo Team [3,3]
Singapore Kendo Club [3,3]
Macau [2,0]
Hong Kong [3,3]
Manila [1,1]
Chinese Taipei [1,0]
Thailand [2,0]