a MMB! Kendo Blog: May 2005

MMB! Kendo Blog

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Simple Concept, Hard To Perfect

I trained at Master Kim's dojo last night. After stretching and doing warm-up suburi, we moved on to quite a lengthy ashi-sabaki session. We had to do some 30 times of Okuri-ashi (both large and small steps), Fumikomi-ashi at very quick speed up and down the dojo. My legs were very tired at the end of the ashi-sabaki session, especially my calf and gluteal muscles of the left leg. Luckily, with my daily morning gym workout, my legs were holding up quite well than they would otherwise be.

We then put on our bogu and moved on to the waza session. We only practiced a handful of waza today - kiri-kaeshi, men-uchi, hiki-men, hiki-kote, kote-men and aiuchi-men (with shinai-gliding movement), but we practiced all these waza with great focus on every bit of technical details.

We spent a good amount of time practicing the last two waza - kote-men and aiuchi-men (with shinai-gliding movement).

The kote-men we did last night was a variation of the normal kote-men. The idea is like this: you first go for the kote. If your opponent blocks the kote cut by knocking your shinai to your left hand side, you swing the shinai around to cut sayu-men.

Sounds simple, doesn't it? I thought it was very simple in concept too. But my goodness, it was so difficult to execute. Firstly, I had trouble with my footwork when cutting kote. The kote cut itself was another problem, because I was too focused on doing the follow-up sayu-men that I basically didn't intend to land the kote cut properly on my opponent. Then with the sayu-men, I got caught up with the distance - too close. After a few tries, I made some slight improvements and got a nod from Master Kim for the last kote-sayumen. But I knew there are a great deal of work to be done. This kote-sayumen variation is an extremely good shiai waza, and it will be good to practice it so that I can naturally use it in my game in the future.

Kote-sayumen was tricky enough I thought. But no, the simple aiuchi-men (with sliding along the shinai movement) was unbelievably difficult to execute. The idea is like this: you go for men-cut at the same time as your opponent goes for your men. During the rising motion, you glide along your opponent's shinai to take the chusen. Then it's a matter of dropping the shinai on the men.

You wouldn't believe how difficult it is to glide, take chusen and drop the shinai in a split second. By the time I glided along the opponent's shinai, my opponent would already be in the distance to cut my men already. I was always a step slower than my opponent. Practicing with someone with strong arms didn't help either. Master Kim and Jimmy were all wondering why I couldn't execute that waza and kept on explaining to me the concept. I understood the concept, but it was just so hard to grasp the timing and make my hands faster.

Then Jimmy said he would have a try on doing that same waza on my practice partner. Now, he had troubles with executing the cut as well. He was able to do it on the little kids with not much arm power. But against this guy with much more power, he also had the same problem. So we spent like 20mins just discussing and trying how to do this waza. In slow-mo, we were able to do the gliding-men cut. Tried a little bit faster, and everything would fall apart again. I could see Master Kim was getting a little bit frustrated at why we couldn't execute that simple gliding-men movement. But for us, it was very difficult. The problem for me is, I don't have quick hand and small enough gliding movement.

We finished off the training last night with us doing jigeiko one-by-one with Master Kim. The training ended 30mins overtime.

Anyway, the followings are some of the points I got out from last night's training:


  • More power please! Need to make an ippon cut.
  • Distance!! Move backward to get the correct distance before stretching out to cut kote.


  • Must intend to hit kote. If the kote-cut is blocked, then swing around to cut men.
  • Distance!! I had problem with getting the distance too close. Must get the distance right in the followed-up men-cut.
  • For this particular kote-men variation, the body's center-of-gravity should be kept lower than usual when executing kote cut.

Aiuchi-men (with shinai-gliding movement)

  • Small gliding movement to take chusen from opponent
  • All movements should be executed at the rising stage

Sunday, May 29, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Things You Most Want to Learn As a Beginner

I posted a thread in Kendo World Forum today. The thread goes like this:

"I was asked to take the non-bogu beginner class yesterday. The beginner class consisted of 11 people, including first-timer to those who have played for 2 months.

I went through jogeburi, nanameburi and kihon-men, sayu-men and paired-up exercises at the start, reminding them the following points:

  • Left-hand is always in centre.
  • Left-heel must be slightly lifted.
  • Straight back; face squarely to the front.
  • Big and perfect movements; don't rush.
  • Ma-ai; check if you're cutting the men (not air-strike) if your partner doesn't block your cut.

After running through the above basic exercises, I thought it would be good and fun for the beginners to learn kiri-kaeshi - which puts kihon-men, sayu-men, footwork and distance into practice.

Interesting, the attacking movements were generally better than the defending movements. It seemed that no one before actually taught them the footwork for the defending side in kiri-kaeshi. So I made everyone execute kiri-kaeshi very slowly, so that the defending side could get the footwork right. Then, I got them to paired-up again to practice kiri-kaeshi again. I could see they executed the movements with much more confidence and were more enjoyable.

At the end, I asked them what other things they want to improve on and practice...


Then one of them said they needed improvements in everything. Aiyor... fair enough. But basically, I just want to know what beginners would like to learn.

Any thoughts?

I would especially love to hear the opinions from those who have just started kendo in a dojo in the past 3 months or so. "


Rest of Yesterday Training
Because I had to take the beginner class, I only had very little time left at the end of the training to put on my bogu and played only 2 jigeiko. There were 5 Sensei at training yesterday, Payne sensei, Sano sensei, Itakura sensei, Strenger sensei and Onodera sensei. Unfortunately, I didn't have the time to play of any of the sensei.

Suriage: Straight-up motion
I promised Cath that I would jigeiko her since last Saturday, as I narrowly missed out to playing her due to time. Cath hasn't been able to come to training much after her wedding, but she was still pretty strong considering that she only trained once a week.

In this jigeiko, I tried to focus and play like I was in shiai against Cath, but also trying to practice suriage-men when the chance was presented. However, I couldn't quite "catch" Cath's shinai in a number with my suriage-waza, so Cath ended up landing a few men on me. Maybe I wavered too much instead of lifting straight up when doing suriage. Point to watch next time.

Cath announced a sanpon-shobu. This time, I really focused and played like I was in a real shiai. I only did the waza that I was most confident with and left those waza, such as suriage-men, that I was still working on behind for the moment.

During the shiai-geiko, I noticed that Cath was able to land some men-cuts on me when we were backing out from tsuba-zerai positions. Those points were not counted as I had my shinai leaning on Cath as well, but I think that I need to prevent her from being able to execute men cut on me when backing out.

In the end, I got a debana-kote and a men-cut on Cath to finish the match.

The next and last jigeiko of the day was with So-Yeon. She started playing in bogu not long ago, so I was encouraging her to practice the cutting motions and made her aware of her ma-ai and the attacking opportunities.

So that was the Saturday training. It was a pretty short training for me today and I wish there were more time for jigeiko.

Looking forward to the next training...

Thursday, May 26, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Suriage-Doh + Left Foot + Wrist Power

Mark Stone is back from New York. Mark is a former member of Sydney Kendo Club until he went overseas 2 years ago. Now he is back in Sydney permanently, and tonight he went to training at UNSW.

Tonight's training session was led by Kirby. We started off our waza session with 3 rounds of kiri-kaeshi along the length of the dojo. I partnered with Yoshiki in this particular exercise. Yoshiki was really fast with the kiri-kaeshi, so when I was receiving his cuts, I basically had to run to catch up with him.

For me in this fast kiri-kaeshi exercise, I was trying to get my arm and leg movements coordinated while doing the strikes as fast as I possible could.

I started off *really well* today. I tripped on my hakama at the very first men-cut in kiri-kaeshi and caught the right great toe in the process. Oouch, it REALLY hurted. Of course, I was not supposed to show my emotion to my opponents in kendo, so I just kept going. But man, that was painful. I re-inflamed the pain in the metatarsophalangeal joint of the right great toe that I inflicted on myself in squash last Tuesday. So for the rest of the lesson, I was using no right great toe. I could still play okay without my right great toe, except my sonkyo was very wobbly.

After doing the along-the-dojo kiri-kaeshi, we lined up facing each other and practiced a couple sets of normal kiri-kaeshi, kihon-men, kihon-kote before moving on to the "waza-of-the-night" session.

Tonight's focus was on suriage-doh. We learnt to do the suriage-doh step-by-step. Kirby splitted the suriage-doh waza into 4 separate exercises. We repeated each exercise a few times before moving on to the next one. The four exercises include:

  1. Motodachi strikes men; Shidachi deflects attack by swinging the shinai straight up, where the top 20cms of the shinai sweeps along the opponent's shinai. The shinai's sliding movement will be enough to make the opponent's shinai out of the centre-line.

  2. Motodachi strikes men; Shidachi deflects attack using suriage-waza, followed by doh cut, where the right foot take a step forward diagonally to the right. No follow-through.

  3. Motodachi strikes men; Shidachi deflects attack using suriage-waza, followed by doh cut and passing through Motodachi using ashi-sabaki.

  4. In shiai style, Motodachi strikes men; Shidachi deflects attack using suriage-waza, followed by doh cut and passing through Motodachi using ashi-sabaki. All these motions are done much quicker and in more realistic way.

Kirby emphasised that when we execute suriage, we should aim to catch the opponent's shinai with the first 20cms of our shinai so that we did not have to lift our arms too far up to go over the opponent's shinai before making the doh cut. To be able to catch with the first 20cms of the shinai, one must execute suriage on the opponent's shinai at the earliest possible time.

I found suriage-doh really difficult to execute. My doh cut by itself was not strong, let alone doing an oji-doh waza. I always got caught up with the distance by the time I suriage'd and ready to go for doh. Kirby pointed out that I did not have to take a step forward as my opponent would close in the distance. I should just stay at the same place with my foot sliding to the right when executing suriage-doh.

At the last 30mins, we had mawari-geiko with 2-3 mins in each rotation. During the rotations, I got the chance to play Sussan, Nurlin, Dino, Yvonne, Yoshiki, Mark Stone, and Mandy. I practiced those things I have been working on, plus suriage-men.

Progress with left foot + Wrist power
I think I have finally made some good progress in the use of my left-foot. I was able to go for one-step one-cut attack almost anytime I desired. The only thing that I had trouble was when I was trying to make opening using the shinai with the weight on the left foot. It was very difficult to press down and knock away my opponent's shinai with weight on the left foot only. Normally I would borrow some of the power by transferring the body weight from rear left foot to the front right foot to generate the shinai knocking power. With my weight on the left foot, I had to rely purely on my wrist and arm to generate the shinai knocking power.

I think I will need to build up power in my wrists...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Kata #7, Doh Cut and Suriage

The training at Willoughby dojo tonight started off with 30 mins of kata practice. I was lucky to have Onodera sensei to partner with and we went through kata #1 - #7 as both motodachi and shidachi.

Kata #7
I didn't know Kata #7 before, so Onodera sensei showed me the movements as both motodachi and shidachi.

Out of the 1st 7 kata, I like Kata #7 the most, simply because it looks really cool. The doh cut by shidachi looks so cool, but the foot movements and placements after cut are also difficult. I had troubles in getting my foot and legs to land on the right place. But since this was the first time, I guess the most important thing was to get an idea of the hand and leg movements, and then refine the strokes and fluency of executions in the next practice.

At the end of the Kata session, all of us had to execute as many Kata routines as we learnt. It was my first time to execute all 7 Kata. Generally I think I did okay, but need more confidence in Kata #5 and #6 and more practice in Kata #7. There are less than 3 months till my nidan exam, so I really need to attend all the Kata session from now on to prepare for the exam.

Payne sensei then led the class to do stretching and warm-up. We then splitted up into bogu and beginner groups. Those people in bogu were led by Itakura sensei tonight, while Payne sensei took the beginner class.

The emphasis for tonight's training was on correct execution of kihon cuts. We did 3 set of kirikaeshi, kihon-men, kote-men, and kote-doh. In each of these waza exercises, the first set was executed in slow but big movements; the second set was executed slightly faster and with more fluency; and the last set in shiai style.

Straight Line & Doh Cut
In all these exercises, I know that we should always go in a straight line. However, I found it particularly hard to go in a straight line after the doh-cut. I always ended up moving diagonally to the right. So after the doh execution, I always have to take a sidestep or two to go back to the center line to execute the next cut. I think it maybe due to cutting angle of my doh cut - cutting too much to the front of the doh, instead of the side of the doh. Hmmm... I will need to pay more attention next time I execute doh cut.

With 15 mins left in the training, we moved on to jigeiko. I played Adrian and Igor who were in my line during the waza session, plus Donny. Tonight I found some fluency in blocking my opponent's cut with small sliding movements. After trying a few times, I decided to do some men-suriage-men. To my surprise, I landed some nice men cut with a rather high success rate. I just, somehow, found the rhythm tonight. I think I will use suriage-men as the stepping stone to improve my oji-waza.

I broke a shinai during the jigeiko with Igor. Aiyor, I really like the balance of that particular shinai. I bought the shinai bamboo staves 1.5 years ago and assembled them myself. I even made a short tsuka to suit my weight balance preference. It's sad that it had to retire.

Just when I was about to play Toshio, Itakura sensei stopped the class and told us to do uchikomi-geiko with 3 minutes till the end of class. Using the new shinai, I found I could do fluent kote-men cuts. Maybe it was a good thing to move on to new things afterall.

Monday, May 23, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Using My Last Bit of Energy

Kanyil from Taiwan, whom I met in the Kendo World Forum, came to Sydney for a visit. Andrew decided to take Kanyil along to the 2.5 hours UNSW training tonight, so I also went to UNSW training.

We had the usual UNSW-styled stretching and warm-up. There was no crazy haya-suburi tonight, but we did some interesting variations of haya-suburi. I think we did about 50 haya-men-suburi and 50 haya-kote-men suburi.

After the warm-up, we had ashi-sabaki practice. We practiced moving forward, backward and sideways individually under Yoshiki’s commands. We also paired up to face a practice partner and practice ma-ai. For me, the focus in this session was on my left foot. I experiment with putting various weight distributions on the left foot with the goal of maintaining stable kamae and quick push-off.

One thing I found during the ashi-sabaki practice was that when I put too much weight on my left foot, my right foot tended to creep in closer to the left foot, making my foot stance very narrow. This was particularly prevalent during the individual ashi-sabaki practice, as I could put all my focus on footwork and tended to put more weight, sometimes too much, on the left foot. Although the left foot should generally be used to support the body weight in kamae, I think the right foot should also bear some weight so that my body weight is balancely distributed, which allows my feet to move around with adequate distance between them to keep my kamae stable.

We also did a few rounds of kiri-kaeshi along the length of the dojo in big movements before putting our men and kote on.

Sano sensei then led the class and we did some more kiri-kaeshi exercises along the length of the dojo, but this time, Sano sensei instructed us to do the kiri-kaeshi as fast as we physically can. We made 6 lines and rotated amongst the people in our own line for the motodachi role. There were 4 people in my line - Andrew, Kanyil, Dino and me. We would have one person as motodachi and the other 3 would rotate to execute kiri-kaeshi. When the last person in the queue has executed kiri-kaeshi, the last person would swap role with the motodachi so that the motodachi would execute kiri-kaeshi and then go to the back of the line.

The rotation concept was pretty simple and clear I thought, but for some reasons, the more Sano sensei tried to explain to us, the more confused people seemed to get. Sano sensei even demonstrated the rotation concept using our line. However, I had to say that Sano sensei has picked the wrong line to do demonstration. Our line set a pretty poor example, with frequent stuff-up. =P Sano sensei jokingly said that it's time to utilise the skills we obtained from our university degree to work out the rotation concept. It's sad, isn't it? =P haha, but that was funny.

We also did men-waza practice using the same rotation concept, with the goal of making an ippon in each cut.

We then moved into 2 lines facing each other. Tonight's focus was on creating attacking opportunity by deflecting the opponent's shinai on both sides (omote and ura) using your choice of deflecting waza.

For this particular session, I chose to practice uchiotoshi-men, osae-men and harai-men. One thing I noticed when I executed omote-osae-men was that I was using too much right hand to cut men, so the cut kept slipping off the opponent's men. And of course, the cut was not snappy at all. I found that the problem lied on the position of the kensen after executing the osae-waza and just before launching for the men-cut. The kensen was pointing too much to the right, instead of pointing more towards the opponent's center line. I had to use my right hand to pull the shinai back to the center line before cutting men, and that has contributed to the problem. At future trainings, I will need to reduce the kensen movement while maintaining the pressing-down force on the opponent's shinai.

The formal session ended with one last round of kiri-kaeshi at 9pm before the class broke into optional jigeiko session. I have been waiting for the moment to jigeiko with Kanyil in this whole training session, so I dashed straight in to ask Kanyil for a jigeiko before my closest rival, Yoshiki, by 3 secs. =P Anyway, Kanyil had to re-adjust his gear, so neither of us could jigeiko with him. So instead of waiting, Yoshiki and I went for a jigeiko.

I have always enjoyed doing jigeiko with Yoshiki simply because we could really maintain high intensity throughout the jigeiko. There's never the need to worry about the slash and bash type of physical kendo, but the opportunity to explore the psychological side of the game. I think that's one of the most appealing things to me in kendo. In fact, the psychological mind-play was the answer I gave to my friend who asked me in the weekend about what I like about kendo. I think kendo is like a game of chess - if you could understand your opponent better than your opponent could understand you, you would win the game.

Anyway, back to jigeiko with Yoshiki. We had a pretty long jigeiko together. We both applied seme to each other. Yoshiki could apply good seme and I could feel it. At the start of the jigeiko, I was sort of too carried away with seme and ma-ai, and neglected to practice and explore the use of shinai in creating openings. So I wasn't able to move in to attack until the later half of the jigeiko when I started working on deflecting the shinai.

I tried using the shinai to create openings, mainly osae-men and uchiotoshi-men. However, as mentioned before, I think I was using too much right hand in my cuts, so I will need to take care of my kensen position before I launch the cut.

There was one technique which I don't normally use until tonight. In one particular drill during the earlier waza practice session, motodachi were required to react and cut men as soon as the opponent moved in to deflect the shinai. After practcing a few rotations, the feeling of looking for the right moment to attack just after the opponent executed the deflecting waza stayed with me. The perfect time for me to move in and launch men-cut was at the short instant when my opponent's kensen deviated off-centre after deflecting my shinai. I tried to maintain this feeling during the jigeiko with Yoshiki, and I felt I have got the idea of the timing. It's now a matter of refining the action more in future trainings.

We both made nice cuts, mainly men and debana-kote on each other. The jigeiko ended by ippon-shobu, with Yoshiki's beautiful men-cut.

I then played jigeiko with Erik. It's been a long time since I last jigeiko with Erik. I think the last time was in Picton. Anyway, after jigeiko for about 5 mins, we moved on to ippon-shobu. However, neither of us were able to score an ippon after a long long while, probably another 5 mins, so we eventually ended the jigeiko with a hikiwake.

When I finished the jigeiko with Erik, Kanyil had also finished his jigeiko with Sano sensei. So I finally got the chance to jigeiko with Kanyil. We had the jigeiko for about 5 mins. During that jigeiko, I further practiced on the osae and uchiotoshi waza, as well as debana-kote and some other feinting moves to mix things up a bit. Kanyil was pretty strong in tsuba-zerai, so I didn't attempt to execute too many unnecessary movements or feinting acts at close distance. It was nice to have jigeiko with Kanyil and I really enjoyed it.

The last jigeiko of the night was with Kenji. I have always noticed Kenji to have a nice men-cut. He has a really powerful and fluid men-cut. It's kind of like text-book style men-cut. I wish I had such beautiful men-cut as well. Anyway, back to the jigeko. We both practiced seme and were actively looking for openings. Kenji tended to move from side to side in search of openings. I tried to maintain the kensen pointing to the center and the correct distribution of weight on my left foot, and carried on with the practice on deflecting the shinai until 9:30pm when the training finished.

I haven't had such a long kendo training session for a long time. I was so exhausted after the training and was breathing quite heavily, but the feeling was really nice. I knew I had a good workout. Luckily I didn't have cramped in my calves as Andrew and Kanyil did afterwards. =P

We went to the Kensington Chinese Restaurant to have supper after the training and I returned home not until 11:30pm.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生

Since the Korean Kumdo Competition, I didn't go to training until today. It wasn't my intention to skip so many training sessions but the unforgiving pain in my right great toe gave me no choice but to rest. What happend was, I was playing squash with my colleagues during lunch on Tuesday. It was so much fun and I really enjoyed the session until I went for this short ball... I dashed in to save the shot. Just before I hit the ball, I applied a sudden brake to stabilise myself, and all the weight happened to transfer to my great toe. I could hear the metatarsophalangeal joint of the great toe (around the sesamoid bone) cracked and that was it. I was in pain after that, and had to limp back to the office. Who would have thought that I could injure myself at a social squash game. I went to the Royal North Shore Hospital to have X-ray that night, and luckily no fracture was found. Phew!!!

Although the joint still hurts and is bruised around the area and I can occassionally hear the cracking noise of the joint when I put slightly more pressure in the medial side of my right foot, I felt that the condition is better now and I could go for training today.

There was a big turnout to today's training. The beginners had to train in the outdoor area again. They were pretty lucky today as Kirby volunteered to take the intermediate beginner class and Andrew van Hamond took the absolute beginner class.

For the people in bogu, we did the normal routine of kirikaeshi, kihon-men, kote-men and kihon-do. Additionally we concentrated on nuki-kote today. Andrew has covered the points that Sano sensei raised during the nuki-kote session in his blog. Basically, we should launch the nuki-waza attack when the opponent has committed into the cut and in the downswing phase of the shinai. To execute nuki-waza, we simply moved our body slightly away from the opponent's shinai swing path and then launched the counter-attack.

Payne sensei then instructed the class to move on to jigeiko with our motodachi, so I played Sano sensei. Before the jigeiko started, Sano sensei came to tell everyone in my line that he would only cut men, and we should not have to worry too much of being cut and should try to practice the waza we have just learnt. I was the first one in the line so I went straight to sonkyu and jigeiko with Sano sensei. I had so much trouble doing a proper sonkyu today. Without the help of my great toe, I kept falling sideway or forward in sonkyu. haha, thinking about it now, I should have done geidan-kamae instead of sonkyu, just like what Kai did in the Nationals Championships with his fractured toe.

Due to limited movement, i told myself to focus more on seme, moving in with pressure, making openings and maintain a good kamae posture and correct application of left foot, instead of cutting in as many time as possible.

Even though Sano sensei played a handicapped men-waza-only jigeiko, it was so difficult to play him today. His seme was so strong that I felt I was totally overwhelmed and being controlled by his game. The osae-waza (pushing the opponent's shinai down) followed by men-cut which I was trying to work on just fell apart. As soon as I did osae-waza, Sano sensei would be one step ahead of me and be in the position to cut my men before I could launch my men-cut. From that, I could easily tell that he could not feel any of my seme. Anyway, the jigeiko ended with me cutting his deliberately opened men.

I went to queue for Isaac Bober after Sano sensei's jigeiko. While I was waiting, Kirby Smith who has just finished teaching the beginner class came to ask me for jigeiko. What an honour for me to play against Kirby. I could sense that a lot of people were watching Kirby, especially since he has just finished teaching the beginner class and the beginners can come inside and it's natural for them to pick Kirby as the one to watch.

After rising from Sonkyu, Kirby went into a kakari-geiko styled jigeiko. I tried my best not to let Kirby and the audience down and do my best to match his stamina and launched attacks myself. Kirby's attacks were really quick. The feeling was like both of us were using a machine-gun to shoot each other, except Kirby's attacking frequency was much higher. The kakari-geiko styled jigeiko probably went on for about a minute and then slowed down to more normal speed. I cannot remember exactly what I did now, but I got a debana-kote on Kirby, so that was good. Kirby then announced ippon-shobu and so we re-adjusted to chudan-no-kamae for the final ippon. It ended in 5 seconds! What happened was I seme in and launched a men-cut, but Kirby saw it and did this beautiful suriage-men on me. BANG! That was it, that's ippon in 5 seconds.

I then went back to queue for Isaac. Unfortunately when it was about to be my turn, Isaac came over and said he had to go at 11:30am and so no more jigeiko for him. Aiyor...

So I went to play Takashi Itakura sensei. A few weeks ago, Itakura sensei's comments prompted me to focus more of my attention on seme and its relationship with my opponent's reaction. I always get highly constructive feedbacks from Itakura sensei. After the jigeiko, Itakura sensei reminded me to keep working on my body posture and don't lean forward and sideway in my men-cut.

I then asked Rick Farquharson to jigeiko with me. The jigeiko went really good, and I really enjoyed playing against Rick. We both tried to play our best kendo and I had a really good opportunity to practice the various things I wanted to perfect at the moment, which include kamae posture, the use of left foot, moving in with seme, and creating openings using shinai. On top of that I also tried to maintain my feinting techniques inventory by going through each of them and trying to see Rick's reaction. It was really good that I was able to revise techniques and practice on new ones during this long jigeiko session with Rick. Thanks Rick, I really enjoy jigeiko'ing with you.

I also had a jigeko with Chris Barbe at the last 10 minutes of the training. While we were playing, I saw Cath lining up, waiting to jigeiko with me. It has been a really really long while since I last played Cath - maybe half a year?? Anyway, Chris and I had an ippon-shobu, but it went on really really long as both sides couldn't make a convincing ippon. When I finally scored an ippon men-cut on Chris, it was already 12noon and so there was no time to jigeiko with Cath. Aiyor, I felt sorry that Cath has been waiting for me but I couldn't play her. Next training I am definitely going to line up for Cath!

Playing with a crooked right foot actually helped me to concentrate on the use of my left foot. As I could not put much weight on my right foot, I was forced to support my body weight with my left foot. I found that my kamae was very stable today and I could apply seme through my right foot by sliding forward and backward with much ease. I will need to build on this feeling and work on the footwork in the next trainings.

Sometimes accident can lead one to pleasant discovery. =P

Saturday, May 14, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
8th Korean Kumdo Championships

The annual Korean Kumdo Championships was held today at the Macquarie University Sports Centre. I registered myself to play in the womens individuals and dan individuals events, as well as the dan team event.

I had a birthday party to attend last night and went to sleep later than I'd like to. So this morning, I had a real struggle to get out of bed. I actually had this thought of skipping the early part of the day and then turned up just before the womens event starts. But I knew this was a very silly thought and so I dragged my sleepy body out of bed, packed my bogu bag and video equipments, ate some breakfast, and made my way to the venue. I arrived at the venue at 8:30am, enough time for me to register and weighed the shinai.

The Korean Championships is growing strongly every year. This year's event was really well-attended by the affiliated Kendo/Kumdo clubs in NSW and ACT. More than 100 players from 10 clubs participated in different categories of the individuals and teams events.

The championships started with the Kyu Individuals event. 7 members from my club competed in this event. I was able to watch all the matches of my club mates on Court 2 as my club based near that area. Ben Ng won all the way to the quarter finals, but narrowly lost at hantei - judges decision - at the end of the encho period. Andrew also scored some very beautiful debana-kote in his pool matches. It was a pity that the two jogai hansoku has prevented him from advancing further in the event.

While the Kyu individuals event was in progress, I tried to keep myself warmed up, my body prepared, and my mind focused for the shiai action. It took me a very long time to prepare myself for the shiai today. Quite frankly, I was feeling very flat. The kind of adrenalin and excitement that I experienced in the Hong Kong tournament and the recent National Championships wasn't with me today. I just wasn't pumped up. I drank some Powerade in the hope that it would bring my energy level up. It did sorta helped but I still wasn't feeling the top. I guess this is part of the challenges in kendo, and all other sports. Not everyday can be 'my' day, and I must try my best to overcome this obstacle and play the best that I can. The mental side plays a much more important role during the 'off' days. It requires a bigger effort to keep positive belief in myself. And today, I had to face this challenge.

The womens individuals started at around 11:30am. In my pool were Natalia (UNSW) and Lee (Han Rim Won). I was able to score two men cuts early on in both matches to conserve some energy for the next rounds.

In the quarter finals, I played against Da-Seul Chun - a very promising youngster who have improved very rapidly in her short kendo career. Apparently, from what I was told, she trained 5 days a week at Moo Do Kwan. No wonder she improved so fast. Next year she will be old enough to play in the National Championships, and I really look forward to see her represent NSW in the Nationals.

I have played her once before at last year's State Championships. She, as well as all other female kendoka from Moo Do Kwan, is very good at kote waza. She almost scored a hiki-kote on me during the match. I won the match with a hiki-do and a men.

One thing I noticed when watching the tape re-play of that match was that Da-Seul liked oji-waza and hiki-waza only. She did not do one single shikake waza in the whole match. We would be in chudan-no-kamae and she would not initiate the attack. It was always me who came in for the attack from chudan-no-kamae. She would wait till I come in for the attack, and then launch a counter-attack, such as hiki waza. If we were in tsubazerai, either she would do the hiki-waza first, or I would do the hiki waza and she avoided my cut and followed that on with a men cut. In short, Da-Seul liked playing close-distance game.

In the semi-finals, I played against Anna Wong (UNSW). She also started kendo about two years ago and have progressed a lot in the short period of time. I scored a debana-kote early on in the match. During that match, I realised that I should start applying more seme while we were in chudan-no-kamae. Small step by step, I etched forward with seme. I was able to sense Anna's hesitation in her moves and took the opportunity to gain distance. However, I still had troubles in taking advantage of the situation and launch a valid strike. I have just started seriously working on seme and this is something that I need to work on to make it becomes a more natural part of my game and be able to make valid strike according to my opponent's reactions. I scored the match point with a men cut after Anna missed hers.

The womens finals was scheduled to run after the Opening Ceremony (which was held at around 1.30pm) with all other individuals finals. I had a chance to take my bogu off, ate the organiser's provided lunch, and watched some matches before putting my bogu on for the dan individuals matches.

What a good fortune I have run into! I was drawn to play Takeshi Okazaki (USYD) and Sung-Ki Lee (Han Rim Won). Deep inside, I knew that I had no chance to get through. My goal was to play like a dan grade, if you know what I mean. No slash and bash. I told myself to use this opportunity to trial my seme, look for opportunities and launch attacks only if there were openings.

I think this is my second dan individuals tournament I have participated since I came to the Dan rank. Today I finally won my first dan individuals match when I played Sung-Ki Lee. I won that match with an ippon, scoring a debana-kote. I think I played a pretty controlled game in that match, so I was quite pleased with the outcome.

Next match was against Takeshi - the super fast kendo player with excellent technique and lightning speed. I really admired his men cuts and his debana-kote and hiki-waza. He launched into his cuts with explosive power. You should see his men and hiki-men. For his size, it looked like he climbed on top his giant opponent to strike the men decidedly. His hiki-men was the best executed hiki waza I have seen in my kendo years. I really want to become so powerful in my game too.

Back to the match with Takeshi. When I was waiting on the court side waiting for Takeshi to get ready on the other end of the court. I could hear the USYD people saying 'oh, oh, it's Takeshi vs. Vivian. This is going to be a great match!' I agree. This is the match that I have been looking forward to. I could feel all the eyes scrutinising every single move that we made.

The match finally started. In my mind, I was thinking only one thing. Seme. 'Keep the pressure up and don't let Takeshi's seme overwhelmed me', I thought to myself. I think I played quite well considering what a strong player Takeshi was. In the first point, Takeshi launched a super fast debana-kote when I went for his men. In the second point, I launched my favourite hiki-men waza, Takeshi almost thought that I was going for his do and had his shinai down momentarily, but he was quick to see that I was actually going for his men and so he was successful in blocking my attack. While the hiki waza momentum still carried me backward, Takeshi took advantage of that split second to follow up his blocking with a men cut. And that was it. The match was over.

After my dan individuals matches finished, I went to shinpan the other dan individuals match. I really enjoyed shinpaning and looked at the match from the shinpan's perspective. I had quite a lot of opportunities to practice being the chief judge during the day, which have helped me built up my confidence in making commands.

After the opening ceremony, all the individuals finals matches were on. My opponent for the womens individuals finals was Shoko Bunder (Wollongong). From my previous shiai experience, I knew Shoko's favourite waza was debana-kote. So I told myself to be careful of my positioning of the forearm and made sure I didn't make unneccesary openings for her. I tried to apply as much seme as possible when we were both in chudan-no-kamae and slowly pushed forward, step-by-step, with the intention to make Shoko moved backward or to make her kamae wavered so that I could launch an attack. Shoko hold her centre relatively strongly, so I had to try knocking her shinai on both sides to make openings. I launched some attacks after making openings that way but without success, and it became a tsubazerai situation. Fortunately, my tokui-waza worked well in the first go and got a point for my hiki-men.

After the restart of the match, we both attacked and defensed equally. However, I have some serious doubt about the final match point. To be honest, I didn't think I scored the second men cut. In fact, I thought that point should really go to Shoko. I was going for the men cut, but Shoko saw it and did a debana-kote, which I thought, landed on my kote. My men cut slipped off Shoko's men and it was definitely not a valid strike. However, two judges' flags went up in favour of me.

When I walked back to the starting lines, I checked and re-checked the colour of the judges' flag. I was actually quite confused and I was really wondering what Shoko was thinking at that moment too. But the decision was made and the match was finished. I was happy to win the womens individuals, but I wish I could win without any doubts. I wish I did not have to rush to Shoko after the match to tell her that I did not score the second men cut. I was sorry that the match had to end that way.

The dan team competitions started at 4pm. My club was short of Dan players, so we got Jayson Chaplin to play for us as well. Although Jayson was only a 3rd Kyu, he possessed a very powerful men cut and we all had confidence in him that he would pose serious challenge to other dan opponents.

The Sydney Kendo Club team was made up of Toshio Nishiomoto (senpo), myself (jiho), Andrew van Hamond (chuken), Jayson Chaplin (fukusho) and Masaru Onodera (taisho).

Our first team match was against Han Rim Won. In my match, I had to play Kim. Sorry I couldn't recognise which Kim I played. There were 3 Kims in Han Rim Won's team alone.

I had quite a lot of trouble playing that match because Kim used a lot of strength and his push was really strong. I felt like I was being pushed around a lot in that match. He also launched quick succession of men cuts and I found it very hard to compose myself, set up for my own points and launch attack. In the end I lost that match 1-0.

The overall team score drew at 2-2 and luckily, we won by 1 point. Jayson and Andrew both won their matches 2-0. Jayson had a tough match. He had to play against Wan-Sung Kim who came 3rd in the Dan Individuals. Everyone was wondering how he could beat Wan-Sung at the end of the match. Jayson was really on fire in the whole team competition. Little wonder he was awarded the Fighting Spirit Award in the Award Ceremony.

In the second round, we had to face UNSW. In my match, I played against Yoshiki Ohtsuka. I tried my best to stay in the game, but lost to Yoshiki's beautiful debana-kote and men cut. However, our team won in the overall score to advance to the dan team finals.

The finals was against USYD and UTS joint team. USYD kendo club only started 6 months ago and they have quickly built up some strong kendo players in their ranks. In my match, I had to play against Ted Choi, who was the instructor in USYD kendo club. As soon as my match started. Ted quickly scored a debana-kote. I was thinking how could I lose a point so early in the match. I really didn't want to lose my match so quickly like that, so when the match restarted, I tried to compose myself, applied seme and to do the right things. I felt I played better in the rest of that match and hold up pretty well. But in the end, I still lost because of that one point conceded early in the match. USYD/UTS played really strongly in that match and won 4-0.

Just a word about those players who I have played against today or from my club. Takeshi was named the Most Valuable Player at the award ceremony, Jayson Chaplin was awarded the Fighting Spirit Award, and Da-Seul won the Under 16 individuals.

When I watched the playback of my matches, I think my posture and kamae has generally made some improvements. The tilting of my head seemed to be less severe in those matches and my right arm was not as stiff as before. It was also encouraging to hear from the other players who came up to me during the day and said I played nicely and had a good posture in my matches.

Another thing about my matches today is that I still lacked seme. Applying seme was still not natural to me and I could see I was really making a conscious effort to apply seme during the matches. I will need to make seme a more natural part of my game and make it more powerful. My goal is to improve the power of my seme to the stage where I could feel my own seme even when watching the playback of my matches.

Between now and the next competition, I would need to work on seme and it would also be nice to add at least one more waza to my tokui waza list.

Monday, May 09, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Pushing To A Higher Level

I wasn't in the mood to do kendo training tonight. Maybe I have not been going to the Monday training for the past two weeks and my Monday laziness has creeped in. Or more likely it was due to the extra reps of power lunges on top of my daily stair-climber and cross-trainer cardio routine at Fitness First this morning. My bum and thighs were aching the rest of the day, but I decided to go to kendo training at Master Kim's dojo tonight anyway, knowing that I would feel happy and satisfied afterwards.

Master Kim, Jimmy, Chu-Hee as well as four junior players were at training tonight. We did the usual stretching and suburi warm-up routine. Geez, I think I really tired out my bum and thigh muscles at the gym this morning. I got a cramp in my right bum muscle when I was stretching the other parts of the body. Oouch, my bum.... So for the rest of the training, I kept stretching whenever I had a chance.

We did ashi-sabaki exercises, then put on the bogu and did numerous rounds of kirikaeshi and kakari-geiko. We then took turns doing semete-men, semete-kote, and debana-kote 4 times at a time.

One step debana-kote
With the debana-kote, I actually did more than 4 debana-kote because Master Kim was not satisfied with my footwork. So I had to repeat the waza again and again until Master Kim was satisfied. The problem was that I kept moving into my opponent after debana-kote and cramped out the distance. Master Kim emphasised that I should just take one fumikomi-step and that's it. No more stepping forward. Just one step. The distance has been closed in when my opponent came for the cut and there was no need to move in. Master Kim suggested that I could even take a step back after debana-kote so that I wouldn't get tangled up and would be able to show zanshin. I tried this new way of doing zanshin in debana-kote and it felt so much cleaner than before. I will need to practice and experiment the various way of zanshin in debana-kote to find out how I can convince the shinpan judging my match in the future.

After the waza practice, we had 4 bouts of mawari-geiko with the junior players. After that, the junior players left the court and the rest of us had 2 rounds of jigeiko, which lasted for 30 minutes. I had my two jigeiko with Jimmy and Master Kim.

There were quite a number of things I wanted to work on in the jigeiko. It's funny how things that I need to work on kept popping up in my head one by one. One minute, my brain was telling me to keep my hand position in check; the next minute, it was reminding me to work on seme and try psyching my opponents out; then again, it was telling me to make sure my left foot is holding up correctly. With so many things to work on at once, it required a lot of effort to keep the concentration as these things were still unnatural movements for me. However, I should expect that will become easier as the more I practice. Anyway, working on my *psyching* power was quite a lot of fun. It's fun to see the reaction of my opponent.

I tried a new way of doing uchiotoshi tonight. I usually do uchiotoshi from the outside (i.e. knocking my opponent's shinai on the right hand side). However, I tried uchiotoshi from the inside this time. I watched the 2004 All Japan 7th Dan Championships DVD again and saw Miyazaki scored a brilliant uchiotoshi-men that way in his 3rd round match. Yes, I was watching that DVD again. I am just addicted to everything Miyazaki now. Miyazaki is the Kendo God, and I want to learn every movement from him. Thank you to Andrew for giving me this precious Kendo Bible.

Anyway, back to the variant of uchiotoshi. I replayed that point Miyazaki scored with that uchiotoshi-men so many times that the movements and image have now stucked in my head. I tried to imitate Miyazaki's movement and had some early success with this new technique. At ippon-shobu in the jigeiko against Jimmy, I used this very waza and was able to score, which was very encouraging for me.

Against Master Kim, however, it was much more difficult to execute either style of uchiotoshi-men. I was able to land a few cuts on Master Kim's men, but all were too light and could not be considered as ippon cuts. During the jigeiko, I had two moments of lapse of concentraion, and Master Kim quickly followed those up with a straight men cut. BANG!!! Apart from uchiotoshi-men, I also tried other feinting techniques, debana-kote... but Master Kim was able to read my intentions, and deflected all my attacking attempts.

Just when I was running out of ideas to surprise Master Kim, the thought of doing a katsugi-men popped up in my head. Before I executed the technique, I tried to recall everything that Fukuda Sensei taught me about the katsugi-waza - moving forward while executing katsugi. So I went for it... and Yes, Master Kim opened up his men when I executed the katsugi waza, and I followed that up with a men cut. I wouldn't say it was a beautiful ippon, as I reckon my body was leaning forward a bit, but it was good to get this point anyway. I think it is such a good surprise waza that I should work on and refine it more so that I can use it in tight shiai situation.

Blocking with minimal movements
At the conclusion session, Master Kim pointed out that our blocking movements were too large. The movements in blocking and deflecting the opponent's attack should be kept to the minimum, and as close to the centre as possible so that a counter-attack can be quickly followed up.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
The Most Exhilarating Training By Far

Wow! What an absolutely exciting day! 6 Sensei turned up at training today. Yano Sensei was there too. How good was that to see him in Willoughby again. I really wish he could come to the Saturday training more often because he got the most elegant kendo and I really want to learn that from him.

Today there was a shiai-geiko and shinpan seminar organised between the Sydney Kendo Club and the UNSW Kendo Club. Having said that, there were kendoka from other clubs at today's seminar and geiko as well.

Shinpan seminar was conducted in the first hour. Kendoka, mostly from the kyu grades, participated in shiai-geiko. I had my chance to practice shinpan'ing for three matches. I did okay during the practice, but I reckon I should build up my confidence in making the commands. My voice was weak when I called out the commands and I felt that I was calling out with hesitation. I needed to have confidence in myself, so that the shiai-sha can have confidence in my decision.

Oh, another thing during the shinpan practice... While Andrew van Hamond, Master Kim and I were sitting down waiting for our turn to shinpan, I had my arms folded in front of my chest and Master Kim slumped into the chair and had his legs crossed. I didn't see how Andrew looked like at that moment but it must be dodgy as well. Payne Sensei walked up to us and said how he wish he had a camera to take a photo of us. He said we should sit properly with feet on the floor and hands on the laps holding the shinpan flags. tehehe. Lucky Payne Sensei picked that up today, or else I would make myself look silly at a real championships. Nonetheless, it was funny to think about how we sat. =P

We then moved on to team shiai competitions in the second hour - kyu, dan, and Sensei shiai-geiko. I played as chuken for Sydney Kendo Club in the Dan team. Nak-Hieon was senpo, Nishimoto-San was jiho, Andrew was hukusho and Takeshi was taisho. The match was only short - just two minutes. My match was against Jackson. Yes, Jackson again. I always get drawn to play Jackson in competitions when I was a Kyu grade. The last two times were at the 2004 National Championships and the 2004 Korean Kumdo Competition. Both time I lost to Jackson. He got the height, size, power and reach and I always found it difficult to play Jackson in tsubazerai or just after I attack. The feeling was like leaping into a concrete wall.

With his height, my best chance would be to score debana-kote. Anyway, that was what I thought. I tried to put what I have learnt so far into use in that match, especially the followings:

  • Apply seme to control opponents;
  • Keep my chu-shin;
  • the use of left foot - so that I can launch attack in one step instead of two;
  • the use of right foot to apply seme. e.g. sliding of the right foot which Kirby taught us on Thursday UNSW training;
  • Debana-kote - anticipate opponent's intention to attack, land flat and snappy cut on kote; and
  • Experiment Miyazaki Masahiro's style of uchiotoshi at issoku-ito-no-ma-ai.

The above are the things that I wanted to achieve in this shiai with Jackson. Apart from cutting Jackson's men but was greeted by The Great Wall of Jackson on impact and fell on the ground, I started off pretty well. We were both in chudan at issoku-ito-no-ma-ai, applying seme to explore the openings. I remember I tried pressing Jackson's shinai on both sides, but he kept his chu-shin so I was not able to move in and attack. Both of our movements were rather clean at that time. No wasted movements or slash and bash.

We were in issoku-ito-no-ma-ai for quite some time, well, maybe it's not really that long. It's probably 20 seconds only but it seemed quite long out there on the shiai-jo. Jackson made a move forward and all I remembered was that I slightly pressed his shinai away and launched a men-cut, which just landed on Jackson's men. I wasn't sure if the cut was powerful enough to be considered an ippon at that time, but was awarded an ippon from the shinpan. However, from what Andrew Tan and Yoshiki told me afterwards, they thought it was a good men-cut too. Yoshiki said that I did a one-step one-cut which was really good. I was also happy to hear from Andrew about Fukuda Sensei's reaction when I landed that men-cut. =D

When the match restarted, Jackson geared up his attacking frequency. He showered men and hiki-men cuts on me, which really disrupted the holding of my kamae. I tried to block and deflect Jackson's shinai away and only attacked when I felt prepared to do so. However, thinking about it now, I think I was too defensive and should have taken that opportunity to try different oji waza. I felt that Jackson had the upper-hand and I was simply reacting and defending Jackson's attacks. I realised that I was too defensive half-way through the match and tried to be more prepared to attack. I tried a couple of debana-kote while Jackson went for men. A couple of my cuts landed on Jackson's kote but they were not convincing enough to earn an ippon. And so, the match ended that way.

The highlight of the Dan Team competition was the match between Takeshi and Kirby. Wow, that match was a real eye-popper. Jodan vs Chudan at their best. There was so much speed and explosive power. Their movements were so agile. Takeshi took the first point with his lightning fast hiki-kote cut. Kirby then drew the match not long after with a beautifully executed men-debana-katate-kote.

The most anticipated event of the day - Sensei vs Senpai shiai-geiko. On the Sensei side, there were ( position order) Itakura Sensei, Fukuda Sensei, Yano Sensei, Onodera Sensei, and Master Kim. On the Senpai side, there were T.K. Kim, Isaac, Yoshiyuki, Kirby, and Yoshiki.

My most privileged moment came when Payne Sensei asked if I would like to shinpan the team matches. I cannot describe how excited I was to be offered this rare opportunity to shinpan the matches between my Sensei and my Senpai. I really could not believe my luck. Of course I took the offer up with great enthusiasm.

Payne Sensei was the chief shinpan, while Doug and I were the two assistant shinpans. The matches were of really high standard so I had a really good shinpaning experience. I felt so honoured to be part of this exciting Sensei shiai-geiko. Thank you Payne Sensei for giving me this opportunity. Thank you to all the Sensei who came to Willoughby training today. I wonder if anyone took any photos of those matches.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Kendo: A Psychological Mind Game

I trained a total of 4 times this week at Hornsby on Tuesday, Willoughby on Wednesday and Saturday and UNSW on Thursday. Below are a list of advices given to me by my Sensei and Sempai this week.

Understand and control your opponent's mind
This week, I was again working on the uchiotoshi-men. However, it didn't quite work and I found out that my opponents didn't feel any pressure when I execute uchiotoshi and they were able to re-adjust their shinai to stop me coming in for men cut. I discussed this problem with Itakura Sensei on Saturday during the jigeiko with him. He suggested me to take a step forward and experiment with how my opponent would react with my step-in. The objective is to create enough seme to make my opponent reacts in some way (e.g. lifting the shinai up, stepping back, etc). When they feel my seme and react, I can go in and execute my cuts.

Itakura Sensei said that understanding how to influence my opponent's psychological state in kendo is very important. Using brute force to move my opponent's shinai away is one way of attacking. Influencing the psychological state so that my opponent's destabilise their kensen themselves is another way of attacking. However, the latter one would be the longer-lasting type of kendo.

Itakura Sensei's comments remind me of what Miyazaki Sensei, 8th Dan, said to me after the 30AKC. Miyazaki Sensei said that his kendo has become more of a mind game, and he considered himself to be playing the best kendo now than ever before, even when facing the younger, faster, physically stronger players. That's because he has mastered the psychological play in kendo. He is able to grasp his opponent's psychological state and control it. So without using too much power, he is able to overcome his younger and quicker opponent.

More advices...
Fukuda Sensei: "don't extend my arms too much in chudan no kamae."

I also experimented with keeping my arms closer to my body in hiki waza. In hiki-men, I used to extend my arms quite far, and then flicking the wrist to cut men. On the advice from Fukuda Sensei, I tried to keep my arms closer to my chest as long as possible before extending out to cut men. I found the hiki-men cut became more powerful that way.

Kirby Smith: "Keep my chin in when cutting men."

Takeshi: "Don't step backwards before going forward for men-cut. If opponent steps forward, try to stand ground and keep the centre of the kensen."