a MMB! Kendo Blog: March 2005

MMB! Kendo Blog

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
30th Australian National Kendo Championships

I had a really enjoyable and successful time in the weekend at the 30th Australian National Kendo Championships held in Canberra. The best kendo players from all around Australia gathered in the ANU Sports & Recreational Centre to fight for the ultimate Individuals and Teams Championship titles over two days.

Friday, 25th March 2005
Andrew van Hamond and his family picked me up at Chatswood station at 8am and we drove all the way to Canberra. Half way through the trip, Andrew spotted Michael Jackson walking alongside the freeway. We were concerned that something might have happened to their car so we made a U-turn to meet them, and indeed, Sussan Deng's car, which Michael Jackson were in, had broken down. They had been waiting there for 4 hours already for NRMA assistance. There were nothing much Andrew and me could do to help, so we drove on. About 2 km further up the highway, there was an NRMA car assisting another broken down car. We notified them about the location of Sussan's car so that they could more easily track where Sussan's car were to assist. I later found out that Sussan's car was towed to Goulburn for repair and she had to trek out to Goulburn another day to pick up the car. Aiyor...

We arrived at the ANU Sports & Recreational Centre at 12noon. We instantly got the good news that Yoshiyuki Usami and Shoko Bunder of NSW have both passed their yondan exam. What a fine effort and result!

The rest of the afternoon was involved in AKR delegate meeting. In the evening, I took a ride on Johnny's car to the Civic Pubs, where the AKR AGM was held. We then went downstairs for dinner. I think about 100 people attended, including the visiting IKF hachidan sensei, Kichio Uehara sensei and Michael Komoto sensei. I only had green salad and two butter roll that evening, because I did not feel like having a whole slab of BBQ meat. I did, however, get some action on the BBQ stove. Yoshiyuki the Iron Chef taught me a few tricks on how to cook steak. Depending how thick the meat was, I had to BBQ the meat for about 5 minutes, then put it into the oven for another 5 minutes. That way, the meat will be cooked inside and crispy outside. The way to test how cooked the meat was to put a finger and test how 'bouncy' it was. I guess that part came down to experience. Yoshi said if the meat texture was like pinching the ear lobe feel, then the meat would be nice and juicy.

That night was a lot of fun. We had a fun time with the Western Australian - Stephen, Angie, Anthony, the Michael Jackson and the rest of the Sydney and UNSW gangs. The highlight of the night had to be the "Be the Man" conversation between Jackson and Takashi Itakura sensei, and also the stand-up comedy between Ron Bennett and Kirby Smith. I got them on my tape. It's absolutely funny to watch them full on acting. It added so much fun and atmosphere to the night.

When we returned to out backpacker hostel, I took a shower, played a bit of table tennis with those crappy bats and went to sleep at 10.30pm.

Saturday, 26th March 2005 - Womens Individuals
I arrived at the competition venue at 8:30am and did shinai check and competitor registration. Then I changed into my kendo gear ready for the opening ceremony. It was my first year to have the early morning free as I moved up from the Kyu ranks to shodan. The womens individuals competition did not start until 11:30am. I spent the early morning watching the NSW Kyu players played, going in and out of the warm-up court to keep myself warm and mentally prepared and ready.

The highlight of the Kyu Individuals competition was about Kai. Despite playing with a fractured toe and undergoing painful shiai, Kai showed tremendous amount of determination and fighting spirit. He deterred all the obstacles to reach the semi-finals, and came 3rd in the end. It was an amazing feat.

Everyone had their own special way of warming up before their kendo match. The best warm-up for me personally was to have a thorough stretching routine followed by a light physical work-out. That means doing a few suburi and executing the waza that I would be confident to execute in the match. The workout was very light, enough to keep myself warm and my muscle ready. I personally don't like to put my men on during the warm-up and doing sparring leading up to my match. I could save the energy for on-court shiai. What I preferred to do as my warm-up routine was to visualize my opponent executing cuts and waza she might use during the shiai and I would practice reacting to this imaginery opponent with the waza that I was confident enough to use. My goal was to get my breathing smooth so that I won't be puffed out too soon on-court, to practice going through the movements until I felt fluent and comfortable, and to apply seme during my warm-up routine against imaginery opponents.

I finished my warm-up just before lunch time. I was so glad that they served the sushi bento before the womens individuals. I knew it was unusual for kendo players to play in full stomach. But I was those strange people that could eat a lot before playing kendo. I need rice to keep my energy up in the match. I guess this strange biological behaviour was probably contributed by the fact that my mum was an excellent cook. When I got home from work and before evening kendo training, I could never resist the tempting smell and taste of the delicious food my mum cooked for the family. So I have trained to play kendo in full stomach since the very beginning.

The pool I was in was the last to be on Court One. I was in and out of watching the pool matches before me, but not intently. I felt I could get 'pumped up' for my matches through having some actions in front of my eyes before I went on court.

I had Hayami Aboutaleb (VIC) and Evangeline Than (WA) in my pool. My 1st pool match was against Hayami. It's strange how I could still remember the things that was going through my mind standing on the courtside. In front of me was my opponent who has won the past 4 years womens title. My brain was asking myself if I was really ready. But once I stood up from sonkyu and had my first loud kiai. I felt really alive and energised. Hayami has a strong men and she would occassionally execute some winning do cuts on her opponent. So I tried not to give her chances to cut those area. I tried to keep calm and steady, only attacking when the opportunity was opened to minimise wasted movements, which was the advice given to me from Master Kim. I remembered Hayami had executed a kote cut and a doh cut that almost scored a point on me. With only 15 seconds left on the clock, I landed a debana kote cut on Hayami. I could hear everyone cheering my name. It was great, but I don't think I was feeling excited at that time. I think I was thinking more about trying to keep calm and not letting my mind slipped. As that was often the case that my opponent equalised soon after I took the 1st point in my other tournaments. Actually, I did not know there was only about 15 seconds left on the court. When the match resumed, we were back into applying seme on each other. Then Hayami came in for the men cut, and I blocked it. That was the last cut of my match against Hayami. The timekeeper blew the whistle and the match was over. I could not believe that I could really win that match. It was really good and certainly gave me a lot of confidence.

My next pool match was against Evangeline Than (WA). Angie, as we called her, has played kendo for only 1.5 years. But her kendo was really strong for someone who had only played for such a short period. Anyway, I was the person who executed the first cut in that match. It was a men cut. Angie blocked it. However, my forward momentum carried on after the cut and Angie fell backwards. Subconsciously, I rushed forward hoping to help Angie up. So I extended my right open palm preparing to help her up. In contrast, Angie was thinking that I was going to take the opportunity to launch an attack while she was down. So she was on the floor, fighting to get the shinai in front of her to block any cuts that I might execute on her. I could hear the roar amongst the spectators. I didn't have the slightest intention to take advantage of this attacking opportunity. I think, back in our dojo, everyone was really nice to each other and it just didn't occur to me that I could go to attack a person who was down on the floor. Then came the 'yame' call. I was actually feeling glad that Angie was able to stand up again fine and well. The match continued. In the end, I scored a hiki-men and a kote to win my 2nd pool match.

Because of the number of women competitors and the way the draw was structured, Kate Sylvester and I advanced straight into semi-finals after winning our pool matches. The other four pool winners had to fight another match to determine who would advance to the semi-final. In the end, Claire Chen, Susan Bonar, Kate Sylvester and me were the 4 semin-finalists.

My semi-final match was against Claire Chen. I played her last year in the womens individuals pool. I lost last year's match against Claire by stepping out the shiaijo twice during encho. I could not let this silly mistake happen again. I was feeling very excited when I stepped in to the shiaijo, probably way too excited. Someone told me after the match that he could see I was too excited and not as calm as my match against Hayami. I think that might be true. Claire had very strong debana kote cut and she scored two strong debana kote on me to snatch the womens individuals spot away from me.

It would be nice to go all the way to the finals, but I felt very happy even though I lost my semi-final match. That's because Claire did score two undeniably good kote cuts on me and I had finally broken through the ranks to advance to the knockout rounds in the womens individuals competition.

Kate Sylvester scored a brilliant do cut in the finals to take the womens individuals crown.

I promised Becki that I would shout her lunch if I won my pool matches. I kept my word and we went to Sammy's Kitchen on Bunda Street to have take-away Asian lunch dishes. I had "gong bo" stredded chicken while Johnny and Becki had Szechuan lamb and Szechuan beef respectively.

We carried our lunch boxes back to the competition venue and had probably scented the whole place with our delicious chinese food. We watched the Dan Individuals match for the rest of the afternoon.

Kirby Smith won his 3rd consecutive Dan Indivduals title. Stuart Burke and Master Kim came 2nd and 3rd respectively. It was a very good result for the NSW dan players.

The 30AKC Official Dinner was held at the Deck-Regatta Point, a lakeside restaurant in the middle of Canberra City with beautiful view. We had some finger foods and drinks to begin with in the early evening. It was about 8pm when we were allowed in for the sit-down dinner. I sat with the Burwood guys, The Rixon Sensei's, Master Kim, Stuart Burke and Kirby Smith. During the dinner, Jonathan Cross also joined our table. We had some interesting discussions about training in Japan and in the good old days around Australia. Stuart Burke told us that the dojo he trained in Japan would encourage the players to attend training by showing each member's attendance rate on a board. Members who surpassed 80 training per year would receive a gift, e.g. tsuba with your name engraved, etc. The gift would be different every year. It's an interesting idea and certainly would help encourage members to attend more training. If only we had a purpose-built dojo for kendo only.

We had roast beef, chicken drum stick, roast lamb, a variety of salad, rice cake, anti pasto for dinner. The highlight, however, had to be the creme brulee. Although it would be nice if it was warmer, it tasted very nice. Hmm....Yummy...

We had raffle ticket draw during the dinner. $2 for a ticket. Although most of us believed that draw was rigged, everyone enjoyed it very much. Brett Smith's tickets got pulled out twice. We all chanted 'rigged'. However, it seemed that Brett was enjoying himself too much, and he danced along the 'rigged' chanting rhythms. Quite a funny sight. Jimmy Kim told me that Brett got the dancing moves because he owns a pub.

We went back to the backpackers hostel at 10pm. Becki was waiting for me to give her a back massage, which I had promised her before we went out for dinner. I happily applied what I learnt from my recent Swedish Massage lessons for about 45 minutes. It was great to hear Becki's feedback and that she enjoyed the back massage.

Afterwards, I fell straight into sleep after getting into my bed.

Sunday, 27th March 2005 - Teams Event
The womens team competition was held on Sunday. Shoko, Mel and I discussed the team order in the morning. Mel was comfortable with playing the Taisho position and I felt the chuken position was my favourite position after experimenting playing as the second person in team match in the Hong Kong Asian Tournament. I personally felt that I need to watch one match of kendo action to help ignite my kendo 'fire' before my match. Then I would be all fired up and ready for action. However, if I watched too many matches, the nerves might creep in. So chuken was the best and most comfortable position for me.

I had been in and out of the warm-up hall during the whole morning. Each time, I did a full stretching routine, a few warm-up suburi, and practiced the execution of cuts against imaginery opponent.

At 10.40am, the women team competition began. In our pool, we had ACT and WA. Our first pool match was against the ACT team. I played Lyma Balderama in the chuken match and scored a men and a kote cuts. Shoko won her senpo match against Linfang Wu 2-1 and Mel drew her match against Sharyn Wragg. So we won 2-0 gainst ACT.

Next, we played the WA team. The WA team only had two players, so I didn't have to play to win my match. Shoko won her match against Evangeline 2-0, while Mel drew her match against Susan Bonar, who came equal 3rd in the womens individuals in the previous day. Again, we won 2-0 against WA to advance to the womens team finals.

The long rivalry between NSW and VIC continued this year in the womens team finals. The VIC team's line-up was Kate Sylvester as senpo, Claire Chen as chuken, and Hayami Aboutaleb as taisho. I was really excited about the prospect of a re-match against Claire, who took two debana kote points off me the previous day.

Shoko played brilliantly against Kate Sylvester, who won the womens individuals the previous day. It was unfortunate that Shoko lost 2-1 to Kate at the end. However, the excitment of the senpo match rubbed off on me and I was really fired up to play my chuken match.

I tried to stay calm and focus, determined to play a controlled game. Things didn't quite turn out to the way I would like to though. Claire scored yet another debana kote off me in the first 20 seconds of the match. At that time, I was thinking how did I not learn from the same mistakes I had against Claire in yesterday's match. She scored 3 kote cuts in 2 matches in 2 days. I was really afraid that the spectators who had watched my match against Claire the previous day to think 'Geez, Vivian didn't learn anything from her other match'.

From there on, I was more careful about not exposing my kote during my men cut. I was really seeking my attacking opportunity. I did my best to try to break Claire's centre to create attacking opportunities. Fortunately, my effort paid off and I scored a men cut on Claire while she was resettling into chudan no kamae after avoiding my previous men cut. I felt that it was a good men cut too. I could hear the 'pop' sound landed on Claire's men. One white flag went up, then I saw another, then I could hear all the NSW supporters cheering. It felt absolutely sensational. I must thank all the people who cheered on for me in that match. My match was levelled at 1-1 and we had to play shobu. I felt I had more power than ever after scoring that men cut and I just kept looking for attacking opportunities. From what I felt, it seemed that Claire didn't make many attacking attempts after the second re-start. I was not sure if Claire ran out of puff or something, but I remembered I made a lot of attacking attempts. How I wish I could take one more point! In the end, the whistle blew and everyone in the stadium was clapping and cheering really loudly. I drew that match against Claire. I had to say it was absolutely the most enjoyable shiai match I have ever had. When you had so many supporters cheering on for you, you just had all the strength in the world to play on forever. That was the feeling I had in that match.

Mel also played outstandingly in her match against against Hayami. Although Hayami took one point off Mel early in the match, Mel fought really hard and scored a hiki men off Hayami. The match ended in a draw.

While the taisho match was on, I had a lot of troubles sitting in seiza. My lower legs felt really numb and sore as all the blood was sitting in the lower leg area. I had to adjust and re-adjust my seiza while watching Mel throughout the taisho match.

We lost 1-0 in the womens team event to settle in the runner-up position. However, even though we lost, I felt really happy because all of us fought really hard during the match. I could really see and sense that we played our best kendo against the Victorians.

With no more shiai to play, I spent the rest of the day watching shiai and taking photos.

While taking the NSW womens team photos at the Championships flags at the centre of the stadium, the hachidan sensei also took out their own camera and took pictures of us. tehehe. That was funny. The IKF sensei then chatted with us. How I wish I could converse in Japanese. Apparently, Miyagawa sensei commented that I could leap a very long distance from what he saw in the womens team matches. He said that's a very good thing. I was just glad that the sensei noticed me during my shiai matches.

During the lunch break, I had a chance to replay the match I played against Claire in the womens team final on my video camcorder. While watching, Michael Komoto came over and he showed me some of the photos he took of me during that team final match. They were really nice pictures. One of them was a really clear shot of Claire landed the first kote cut point. I wish it was the other way round. =P

He also gave me some good comments on what he noticed about me during my match. My foot stance was too wide, which might waste a bit of cutting distance when I lunged into a cut. I agreed with him and I certainly need to work on my stance to make my kendo more efficient.

I also asked Michael about shin splint in kendo for Becki. Michael then told me a range of medical scans and diagnosis for lower leg injuries. Unfortunately I could not remember all the technical terms. However, it was always enjoyable to look at kendo in a medical point of view.

The Championships ended very successfully from a personal point of view. I was glad to get out of my pool in the womens individuals and the womens team finals match was the highlight of my Canberra trip. I was also very honoured to receive one of the four Fighting Spirit Awards voted by the shinpan at the conclusion of the championships.

Andrew van Hamond's family was very kind indeed to give me a lift back to Sydney. Unfortunately, I had to miss out on the free jigeiko session against the visiting Japanese sensei. I wish I could at least play Michael Komoto sensei as I didn't have a proper chance to play him last time in Hong Kong and I was really looking forward to jigeiko with him at the nationals. Looks like I have to either go to Japan for a visit or meet him in the 2006 Hong Kong Asian tournament for the next jigeiko opportunity.

Monday, 28th March 2005 - Sightseeing with 3 IKF hachidan sensei
On Easter Monday, the 3 IKF sensei flew up to Sydney. Yoshiki, Yvonne (both from UNSW), Leon Withrington and me took them around Sydney to eat kanagaroo, emu and crocodile pizzas! We also went to the Taronga Zoo to visit the animals we ate. =P hahaha. that was really funny. The sensei were very intrigued that we would eat the animals on our national emblem. And of course, we also visited other animals that we didn't eat during lunch. Sano sensei and Cath joined us in the evening to have dinner with the IKF sensei and we had great opportunity to see how a 8th Dan sensei think. It was really inspiring.

I was really interested to know what an 8th Dan sensei strived to achieve and improve in his kendo. So out of curiosity, I asked Miyagawa sensei that question. He said that he has won a lot of tournaments when he was young. He was fast and full of energy, but as time passed by, it was not possible to play as fast as the young people now. Many people asked Miyagawa sensei about when he considered himself to play the best kendo. They asked him if he thought that his best kendo days were during his younger days when he won a lot of tournaments. Miyagawa sensei said it was impossible to play as fast as he used to be, but he could see his kendo better now than ever before. It became more of a mind game now for him in kendo. Instead of matching his younger opponents with speed and power, he strived to improve the way he looked at his kendo and his opponent's kendo. So even though he was slower now, he considered his kendo to be stronger than any time before.

I think that's the beauty of kendo. Kendo is not a purely physical game. It encompasses the mind, body and spirit and it's about self-discovery and self-improvement. Kendo never dies. Many play to their 80s and still possess very strong kendo. We should always strive to improve ourselves and ready to take in fresh insights like the beginners as there are endless things to learn in kendo.

As Michael Komoto sensei wrote:

'I think that all of us, in the progress of our careers must become more serious, fastidious even, to discipline and polish ourselves. Looking at the 8 dan sensei we can see good examples. However, I keep the words of Zeami close to heart: In his "Fushikaden" along the extensive technical and theoretical instruction about Noh theatre, Zeami also admonishes the Noh artist to "keep the heart of the beginner," to keep fresh insight, and the enthusiasm we had when we first started our study. Befittingly, the title Fushikaden means "the flower" and in this, I infer Zeami likened the effortless perfection of the flower that blooms with the flawless performance of accomplished artist.'

I am so grateful to be blessed with so many good sensei in my kendo career. They all selflessly passed on their precious experience to me and ecnouraged me to improve my kendo. I feel that there is nothing but to train harder in each kendo training session, so that I won't disappoint them. Now I am more eager than ever before to strive to improve my kendo and become stronger.

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Monday, March 21, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Sharp Kote Cut

I trained at Master Kim's dojo tonight. Including tonight, there are only two more training sessions before the National Championships this weekend.

There were 6 people training tonight - Master Kim, Jimmy, 3 Korean kids and me. The first half of tonight session was standard routine - warm-up stretching, suburi. We then practiced kirikaeshi, kihon and seme waza, debane kote, uchiotoshi men. Tonight training was more focused on techniques rather than stamina. We were told to cut down our training intensity to half that of last week in the week leading up to the Championships. With less than one week to go till the Championships, now it all comes down to the mind. Visualisation would be a good way to help me to prepare for the competition.

The two points Master Kim pointed out tonight were about my kote cuts. I was cutting the kote in an angle. The shinai did not land flat on top of my opponent's right kote. Instead, the kenzen was pointing skyward and so the shinai was hitting the side of the kote. The problem was that my wrist was way below the kote level and so there was no way the shinai would land horizontally on my opponent's kote.

To fix the kote problem, there are a number of things to note:
  • Relax right hand / arm
  • The position of the right arm - the forearm should be closer to the body when relaxed
  • Check the cutting distance
  • Cut with correct part of shinai
  • Shinai should land flat on kote
  • Left arm should do the shinai swing motion
Initially, I practiced a few kote cuts with left hand only until I was confident that the shinai could land flat on the kote and cut with the correct part of shinai. Then I also gripped with my right hand and I could instantly feel the improvement in my kote cut. It had become so much sharper and stronger and you could see it was a clear kote cut.

It gave me so much more confidence with my kote cut tonight. I must remember this kote cut feeling so that I could use it in the competitions. Must keep practicing and visualising this perfect kote cut.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Leading Up to the Nationals

I have had 5 kendo training sessions in the past week, including skipping my Swedish Massage lesson to go to training at Burwood Moo Do Kwan on Tuesday night on the advise of Master Kim. I was not the only one outside of Burwood dojo to join the class. Mike was also there that night, which was a welcome sight for me. About the training, it was REALLY tough. After surviving the suburi session which seemed to last for an eternity, we had jigeiko for the full 60 minutes. The Burwood guys were so fast and had so much energy and I realised that my cuts were too slow in comparasion to them. They would probably have done 3 cuts when I completed one. The last person I played on that night was Master Song. My shoulders were dead tired when I played Master Song and I had to say my cuts were really sloppy. And then there was a row of lower grades sitting down in seiza watched the jigeiko. I was seriously so happy when Master Song signalled the end of the training session. I had never been so thirsty in my whole life until that night. Mike and I went to the corner store after the training and I just gulped the 600ml Powerade down in 10 seconds. It felt so good when the cold liquid went down my throat. I knew I had a good workout that night.

I had a jigeiko with Itakura sensei on Saturday morning in Willoughby. I was trying to practice seme kote cut, so I made sure my kensen was pointing to Itakura sensei's throat until the last minute when I switched to cut kote. Normally, when I pointed my kensen to my opponent and started to move in, my opponent would think that I was going for men so they would naturally lift their arms up to block. When they lifted the arms up, it opened up the kote and I would have a chance to score a kote cut. However, that didn't happen on Itakura sensei. I tried a few more of the seme kote just to see if Itakura sensei would react. Not at all. He didn't even move a bit. All my kote cuts slid off his right kote and missed. Itakura sensei then stopped me and asked what I was trying to do. I told him exactly what I was trying to do but the seme kote did not work on him because he didn't even react the slightest bit. Itakura sensei then pointed out that my distance was too far when I executed the seme kote and so he didn't feel my pressure of my kensen pointing. What I needed to do was to close the distance and at the same time point my kensen to his throat. That would inject pressure on him and there would be a greater chance that he might react. That way, there would be chance to cut the kote.

So I tested out this closing-in seme kote cut in the State Squad Training in the afternoon and I was able to execute better seme kote cuts with higher success rate.

Next weekend will be the National Championships in Canberra. I am so looking forward to test my skills on my opponent. It's time to see how much I have improved compared to the others.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Nippon Sport Science University Goodwill Keiko

A 139 strong Nittaidai delegation visited Sydney for a series of cultural exchange demonstration and training this weekend. Amongst them, 42 sensei and students were from the Nittaidai Kendo Club.

A goodwill geiko between Nittaidai kendoka and NSW kendoka was held today at the Sydney University Sports & Aquatic Centre. About 50 NSW kendoka participated the training session.

We had a 10 minutes group stretching and suburi session, led by a Nittaidai student. After that, we had a short opening speech from Andrew van Hamond representating NSWKA and also a speech from Yagisawa sensei on behalf of Nittaidai. The Nittaidai then presented NSWKA with heaps of shinai, which we happily and readily accepted.

We then went straight into warm-up in bogu. The guys played against guys and girls played against girls. We did kirikaeshi, kihon-men, kihon-kote, kote-men. Unlike last year, we did not have to try out hand on tsuki and katate-tsuki. While queuing during the warm-up, I watched the many Nittaidai students execute men-cuts. All of them pushed their arms straight forward after the men-cut instead of lifting the arms up in the arm. Their good techniques and zanshin after the cut probably rubbed off to me and I felt I did my best men-cut and zanshin and I wasn't lifting my arms up in the air after the cut.

Straight after the warm-up was shiai-geiko. There were 2 Dan team , 1 women team and 1 Kyu team competitions. I was selected to play in the NSW women team against Nittaidai. Shoko played senpo, Da-Seul as jiho, Anna as chuken, Natalia as hukusho, and I played taisho.

Although we lost all our matches, we played very well as a team. Da-Seul had a particularly interesting match. She played against a jodan opponent and managed to hold up very well, losing only 1 point in her match.

I was really looking forward to my match against Nittaidai women team taisho - Takano Aiko. I knew Takano would be more superior than me in skill, but I still wanted to see how far (or close) the gap between us was. I tried to play what I was taught, applying seme, holding my centre, and keeping the concentration high. I reckon we were in chudan no kamae 40% of the time and the other time we were in tsubazerai or at very close distance attacking. I remembered I tried a feint-do-men cut on Takano and the shinai connected to her men, but the cut was too shallow. While some other men cuts were too deep and weren't clean at all.

Takano also did 2 to 3 feint-do-men cuts on me. It was pretty funny how we used the same feinting techniques on each other. She nearly got me in two occasions but I dodged violently, almost a full squat in the second dodge. It was definitely not a good display of kendo and I should really try to get rid of this bad habit of dodging or bending. But when I went on court, I just subconsciously did all those bad habits again. When I did my almost-full-squat dodge, I could hear the roar from the crowd and I actually saw the Nittaidai girls giggled and looked at each other for what they just saw. I really needed to look after my posture during training if I wanted to get rid of this deep-rooted posture problem. Roberto Kishikawa sensei, the Hong Kong team coach, said I tried to avoid getting hit too much which had compromised my posture. He said I should try to play correct-postured kendo and he was super right. I dodged too much and I need to correct this problem, particularly after cutting kote.

My taisho matched ended with Takano getting 2 points off me. Although I lost in the end, it was a much more enjoyable match than the previous year's Nittaidai matches from memory and the match was much closer. I could appreciate more on the application of seme and mental side of kendo rather than thinking primarily about trying to cut my opponents.

A 30-minute jigeiko session followed the team shiai matches. I played a further 3 Nittaidai girls - Ishi, Hashimoto and Sakurai. Those matches were very enjoyable for me as each of them had some sort of special techniques and it was fun to explore what techniques they had up in their sleeves. I wish there were more time for the jigeiko session. I would certainly like to play a few more Nittaidai girls before the end of the goodwill keiko.

At the closing ceremony, the NSWKA presented heaps of wine to Nittaidai and both sides made a thank you speech for the keiko event.

All the Nittaidai sensei (Shizawa sensei, Yagisawa sensei, Hakamada sensei and Sakurai sensei) invited me and any interested kendoka from NSW to come to Nittaidai and train with them in September/October if we were to visit Nittaidai. I would dearly love to train with Nittaidai. Being offered to train with the best university kendo students was not something that any normal kendoka would have and I would not want to miss this opportunity. Now I have to do some serious thinking about the prospect of visiting Nittaidai. Hopefully, I could get some other NSW Kendoka to come along.

Friday, March 04, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
2005 Hong Kong Asian (Regional) Invitational Kendo Tournament

Absolutely the best and most memorable kendo trip I have ever been to! It was so much fun in Hong Kong, travelling in this busy city with my crazy kendo friends. I made so many friends in the trip and I also fulfilled my own objectives - to eat snake soup, gai dan jei and poached egg/milk in Hong Kong. Manager, can I take another holiday now?

Anyway, I will try to cover what I have done in the past crazy week in brief.

Michael, Natalia and I caught CX110 from Sydney to Hong Kong. When we arrived, we wasn't able to contact any of our teammates who arrived in earlier days, so we waited at the entrance of our apartment at 47 Conduit Road in Mid-Level - a beautiful and posh area in HK. After an hour of waiting, Andrew, Anna and Jackson finally appeared. We put our luggages in the apartment and set off to explore Hong Kong straight away and also to buy a few extra mattresses so that everyone would have a mattress to sleep on instead of the solid floor. We walked from our apartment to Central CBD and caught MTR (mass transit railway) to Causeway Bay. We walked around Sogo department store and Time Square in search for the camping type of mattress. There were many sporting and camping stores, but only one store stocked that type of mattress and the price appeared to be sky high. So we ditched that idea and decided to go back to Central where the others bought their mattresses. Along the way back home, I fulfilled one of my objectives, to eat "gai dan jei" - a Hong Kong waffle. Afterwards, we caught MTR back to Central and ate dinner there. We were planning to visit Yung Kee 鏞記, a super famous Chinese Restaurant in Hong Kong for its roasted goose. However, due to its popularity, we couldn't get any seat. So we went to the chinese restaurant opposite Yung Kee and ate some soup noodles. While the others were still finishing their noodles, Andrew and I rushed off to the corner store a few streets up the road to buy mattresses. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, it was 9:30pm and the store was already closed. So that night, the guys and Anna had to sleep in their sleeping bags on the floor. Natalia and I were the two lucky ones to have a mattress and a folded bed to sleep on that night.

I don't know how much Yoshinoya 吉 野 家 had paid the Michael Jackson brothers and Natalia, but these guys craved for Yoshinoya the whole day. So today, we had not one but two of our meals in Yoshinoya (breakfast and dinner).

Today, we caught the Star Ferry from Central to Tsim Sha Tsui. I managed to buy the Sony stuff for my brother and Jackson found a tailored-made suit shop in Jordan.

Jaskson and the Tailor

An evening kendo training session has been organised by the Hong Kong Kendo Association at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium in Wan Chai. There were tonnes of people training that night (about 100 kendoka) all cramped in to two small dojo. I played Masago Takeshi sensei, Agnes Lee and Joanne Chan tonight. After the training, the girls had a super long shower before joining the others at a local Hong Kong cafe (Natalia took Mike's shoes to shower, so poor Mike had to walk bare-feet to the cafe in drizzling weather while the girls were still in the shower.) Yasuhiko Nozaki sensei who was widely travelled around Asia and Australia joined our table. We had a great time trying to understand each other's Japanese and English and talked just about everything in kendo in Australia. =D Throughout the evening, a few Chinese kendoka went around all the tables to "gan bei" with each of the team's sensei. When they came to our table, they naturally picked Andrew, who was the oldest, and said "gan bei, sensei". Andrew - the NSWKA team shodan sensei! We laughed so much on that night. With Michael Jackson in our team, we were definitely the craziest team there. It was so much fun.

After the late party last night. We all slept in as the 2nd Dan and below competition did not start until 3:15pm. We even managed to do 3 hours of shopping in Kowloon before the competition. I accompanied Anna to Yau Ma Tei to buy some Chinese caligraphy and painting paper, paint and brushes, while the guys went crazy in Mong Kok. We had such a relaxing and fun time that it was hard to believe we would be playing in an important kendo competition later in the day.

The NSW Team - Jackson, Vivian, Anna, Natalia, Michael and Andrew (L-R)

We arrived at the Hong Kong Park Indoor Sporting Stadium at 2:45pm. The competition event for Saturday was the 2nd Dan & below team competition. Andrew (senpo), me (chuken) and Mike (taisho) were in NSW Team A, while Anna (senpo), Natalia (chuken) and Jackson (taisho) were in NSW Team B.

My team were drawn to play in Pool C. We had one win and a draw in our pool, but trailed the Hong Kong B Team who also had one win and a draw by one small point. We initially thought our run for this event, which we had the highest hope of going beyond the pool, was over and became really disappointed. When the officers ushered us to get prepared to play in the knockout round, we then realised that the 2nd placed team in each pool would also be promoted to the knockout round and played against the 1st placed team of another pool. We accepted our good fortune with high spirit and were determined not let the chance to slip by. We played extremely well in the subsequent knockout rounds, taking a clean 3-0 sweep in each of the team match to reach the team finals.

It was really special to play in the final of my first ever overseas kendo trip. I felt so special to be one of the final 6 players on court, while over 200 people surrounded the court, watching and cheering for every good kendo moves. The match was so close against Hong Kong A team. We both had 1 win, 1 draw and 1 loss, but when it came to the small point count, we narrowly lost by 1 point. So Hong Kong A came 1st and NSW A came 2nd.

There was free jigeiko at the end of the day and I played Jun Takeuchi sensei and Lai sensei from Hong Kong.

That night we went to Shum Shui Po where Jackson returned his friends PS2 mini for repair. We then had dinner at a local Hong Kong cafe, where there was no English menu. So I had to translate all the dishes on the menu for everyone and ordered food according to what type of meat, rice or noodle, fried or steamed, for all 6 of us. Howard Cheng, a former UNSW member also joined us on the night. We then went to a dessert place where Jackson shouted everyone a couple of yummy desserts.

The girls woke up at 6:45am while the guys slept till 7:30am. We arrived at the Hong Kong Park Indoor Sport Centre at 8am. The day began with the official opening ceremony. Then the womens team competition followed. We played Singapore B in our pool. Unlike the 2nd Dan & below competition, the womens team competition was a 5-player team event. However, the NSW team only had 3 womens. For us to move to the next round, we had to win every match we had to play. I had a good 2-0 win over Wong (taisho of Singapore B). Unfortunately, it was a monumental task to fight back from 2-0 down to begin with, so we didn't advance to the next round. But I had a great time playing out there nonetheless.

Anyway, the taisho of Singapore B team later clinched the all-important ippon from Hong Kong A team in the representative match to advance to the final. So I felt happy that we lost to a strong 2nd place team afterall.

The Men Open Team competition began after the conclusion of the women event. Natalia, me, Andrew, Mike and Jackson played senpo, jiho, chuken, hukusho, taisho respectively. We were drawn to play in the same pool as the eventual winning team Kagoshima Shigakukan University A team. This Japanese university team's kendo played really strong and beautiful kendo. When I played my match, I could completely feel the overwhelming presence of my Japanese University opponent. He seems to become much bigger on-court than he was off court. I think after about 10 seconds on court, the match between me and that Japanese Uni guy was already finished. That guy took 2 points off me from 2 cuts (1 men, 1 debana kote). It was the quickest shiai finish I have ever experienced so far. We also played another team in our pool. We lost 4-1. Who won the 1 point? Andrew did. He was certainly very pleased of that one point.

Tournament Group photo

After the closing ceremony and getting our team trophy and medals (Andrew also won the fighting spirit award), there were time for some jigeiko. I played 2 ladies from Kagoshima Shigakukan University. Just when I was taking my men off, Michael Komoto sensei came over and I was so glad to have a chance to play him. Komoto sensei was the regular writer in Kendo World's Kendo Clinic section. Anyway, I quickly put my men on again, but the tenugui wasn't tie up properly as I was rushed by the announcement that the jigeiko session was over. So in the end I only had a 1 minute short jigeiko with Komoto sensei. How I wished I had not taken my men off before so that I could play Komoto sensei for longer.

We had our celebration party/dinner at Rainbow Seafood Restaurant 天虹海鮮酒家 on Lamma Island. We caught the ferry from Queen's Pier at 7:30pm for a 45 minutes ride to Lamma Island. On the way, Andrew and I had a good long chat with Alexander Bennett sensei and Michael Komoto sensei (both editor/writer of Kendo World magazine) about almost everything in Kendo. I even went into discussion with Komoto sensei about plantar fascitis and flat foot and how kendo would improve these conditions. =P Crazy! Anyhow, my ultimate dream was to become a sport physiotherapist, so any discussions in this area would only be beneficial to my long-term future. tehehe.

The seafood dinner was absolutely fantastic. The seafood was most fresh. We ate bamboo clams, prawns, lobsters in baked cheese, sashimi, etc etc. Everything was so fresh. All the Japanese sensei who were seated in my table kept saying that the seafood was super nice. If the Japanese, who were famed for eating seafood back in their home country, were saying good things about these seafood, then the stuff I was eating on that night must be superb. And it really did taste so nice.

Alexander Bennett (Kendo World magazine editor) with his chick

Andrew, Michael Komoto sensei (Kendo World magazine's Kendo Clinic writer), Alexander Bennett (Kendo World's editor)

Being the craziest team in the whole tournament, the guys went to the Osaka Ryokenkai team table and declared a drinking challenge between NSW (Michael Jackson and Andrew) and Japan. The drink in that challenge was - chinese rice wine. According to Andrew and Mike, and the face of the Japanese, that chinese rice wine didn't taste all that nice. Both sides drank a few cups. It was really funny to watch the pushing and shuffing of that bottle of rice wine. All the tables was pretty much watching this crazy wine challenge between the NSW guys and these Japanese uni students. It was such a funny sight and we surely had a lot of fun.

The NSW vs Japan drinking challenge

The NSW Team, Yasuhiko Nozaki sensei (front middle) and Harry (right)

On the return journey back to Hong Kong Island, Eda Chen told Christophe Haist (a German who was now working in Singapore) about Lan Kwai Fong - a famed place in Hong Kong where all the "gwei lo" went to the pub. So when we arrived back to Hong Kong Island at 12pm, Christophe, 2 Osaka Ryokenkai ladies, plus the NSW team less Andrew went around the pubs in Lan Kwai Fong. Christophe was really excited and surprised to see the Michael Jackson brothers' acted so much like his two German Kendo friends whose names were Sasha and Young. He didn't expect anyone anywhere in the world would be as crazy as his two German friends. Now that he saw the famed Michael Jackson brothers, he took a couple of videos on the Michael Jackson brothers to take it back to Germany and show them to Sasha and Young in the future. Anyway, we went to Bit Point which claimed to be a German pub. Anyway, Mike bought us the first round of drinks. After that, we then went to another bar where there was a dance floor and good loud music. I was feeling pretty high already after just one drink and Christophe was really eager to go and dance. So we went to dance while the others kept on chatting. I met this white cap guy on the dance floor and he was so good at dancing. He taught me a few dance steps and it was absolutely fun. He told me that he did puppet moves during his day job and showed me a few puppet moves. He was really cool. How I wish I could dance.

We went home at 2:30am that night.

I slept in till 9:30am. Went to visit my auntie in Kowloon Tong and went to lunch with her at a Japanese Restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui. Then we went shopping for souvenirs for my friends at a Chinese Department Store in Tsim Sha Tsui. After that we went to Sham Shui Po to eat snake soup - another one of my eating objectives in Hong Kong. After finishing my snake soup, I took some photos of a live snake in the front of the shop. The woman, who was probably the store owner, saw me took photos of the snake and offered to take a live snake out from one of the many wooden snake boxes. Of course I accepted the offer with great excitment. So my auntie took heaps of photos of me handling the snake. The snake store woman who watched on kept on saying that I was one of those very few girls who wasn't afraid of touching a live snake. She kept asking if I was scared or not. I was having too much fun patting the snake and taking photos to answer the owner's question every time she asked. tehehe, and all the customers in the whole store was probably thinking what the hell this girl was doing with the snake. Anyway, after the snake drama, I had dinner with my grandparents, uncle and aunties at a restaurant in Sham Shui Po. After dinner, we went to have chinese desserts at the really famous "Chong Kee" dessert store, also located in Sham Shui Po. The chinese desserts were really nice and I bought two extra boxes of desserts for the Michael Jackson brothers and Nat. When I returned back to our apartment at 9:45pm, I got a call from Jackson to come out to Time Square to watch the movie "Constantine". I had to quickly rush out of the apartment, caught a taxi and arrived at the cinema at 10:10pm - just before the movie started. I also brought the dessert along with me and we all finished the two boxes of desserts in less than 2 minutes. That was super fast. About the movie, it was alright. I found the movie storyline weird but interesting. Anyway, we got home at around 12:30am the next morning.

Snake Soup. Yum!!!

We slept in till 11:30am. I had lunch with my Godmother and visited my high school teachers at St. Paul's Co-educational College. I was so happy to see my teachers again and had a good long chat with them. After I finished all my friend and school visits, I went to Mong Kok to meet up with Jackson, Mike and Nat and came straight back to our apartment.

Training at Queen Elizabeth stadium tonight. The advance class was scheduled to start at 9pm, but we planned to go a bit earlier so that we could watch the earlier beginner class. We left the apartment at 7:30pm. Just when Mike was checking if the apartment door was locked properly. Jackson and I realised that we both left our apartment keys inside the apartment. So we had to call a lock picker from Sheung Wan to open the door for us. That delayed our trip by 30 minutes plus set us back HK$350. Fortunately, we still managed to arrive to the Queen Elizabeth Stadium an hour before the scheduled start.

The advance class was taken by Roberto Kishikawa sensei, who was the Hong Kong team coach. We started off with Shiai geiko between NSW and Hong Kong. Mike, Nat, me and Jackson rotated to play 6 rounds of ippon shiai geiko with the 15-20 Hong Kong players training on that night. Following the shiai geiko session was the jigeiko with sensei. I finally had a chance to play a 10-minute jigeiko with Kishikawa sensei. I also had a chance to play Joanne Chan again and Eda Chen. The training finished at 10:30pm.

The Hong Kong kendoka seemed to go to supper after every training session. We went to the same local Chinese cafe we went on Friday. I had a chance to chat to almost all the people training there on that night. During the chat, I found that TVB (a Hong Kong channel) was making a kendo TV series and one of the Hong Kong kendo sensei was assisting in that series. The Kendo series was going to be released later this year or early next year. I was certainly looking forward to watching that series.

Mike, Nat, Jackson and I also had some good discussion with Kishikawa sensei about how we played and what we need to improve and aim for in our kendo. The comments and advices that Kishikawa sensei made were opened up some new perspectives of how I should view and train kendo. I have compiled a list of what Kishikawa sensei said during that night. To make the list easier for me to review in the future, I have grouped all the sensei's comments at the end of this post.

All of us slept in till 12noon. We went to Yung Kee 鏞記 to try the famous roasted goose soup noodle, thousand year egg and ginger for lunch. I knew Yung Kee was pretty large, but I didn't know it spanned at least 4 levels as we had to take the lift to the fourth floor to our table, and the fourth floor wasn't small at all. All the tables around us were people in formal business attire, while we were a bunch of really casual-dressed tourists. Our table was absolutely the odd one out in such a formal dining surrounding. The lunch was good and the roasted goose was really nice. Anyway,after lunch, the Michael Jackson brothers went to Mong Kok to buy mobile phones, while Nat and I went to pick up Jackson's suit and ate poached milk/egg at the Australian Dairy Shop in Jordan. I was so happy to complete all my eating objectives in this short Hong Kong trip. We then went back to our apartment for the last time before Jackson and I went to check-in for our flights back to Australia, while Mike and Nat check-in to their hotel.

So yeah, here you go. A story of my one crazy Kendo week in Hong Kong.

Quotable Quotes from Sensei:
  • Kishikawa sensei - one should eliminate the fear of being cut, especially in training. In shiai, it's acceptable to dodge opponent's cut, but in training, one should aim to perfect each move and should not worry about being cut, but should learn from being cut.
  • Kishikawa sensei - there are different levels of ippon. There are the good ippon and the superb ippon. We could get away with good ippon in the lower grades, but at the higher level, like the matches in the Mens Team Finals, all the ippons must be superb.
  • Kishikawa sensei - At the moment, all of us had only one type of men-cut. We should explore all types of men cut - big cut, small cut. One type of men cut might work on opponent A, but not on opponent B. Basically, different cuts work on different opponents and we should explore all different types of men-cut when we are still young.
  • Kishikawa sensei - kendo is more than just a sport, because it encompassed more than just the physical dimension, but also the mental and psychological aspects of human. And that's what makes kendo special and interesting.
  • Kishikawa sensei - shiai is like two animals fighting for its prey. It is a life and dead situation. And that was the mentality that the Japanese University players were playing in this tournament. They were fighting with high intensity and spirit, like animals going for their prey. When you think about kendo in that way, your kendo will come to life.
  • Kishikawa sensei - When you realise a problem in your kendo, acknowledge and fix it so that you can improve to a higher level in the future. Ignoring it can only temporarily mask the problem but the problem will never go away and your level of kendo will forever stay at the same level.
  • Nozaki sensei - after men-cut, left hand should be like punching the opponent's throat. Do not lift the shinai up.
  • Nozaki sensei - be conscious of the left-leg footwork.