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.Afterwords
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.