a MMB! Kendo Blog: July 2005

MMB! Kendo Blog

Saturday, July 30, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
First Taste As A Physiotherapy Student

Getting up at 5:30am
I woke up at 5:30am today. Yes, 5:30am on a Saturday morning. And got out of bed without the slightest struggle. Crazy, isn't it? I was so excited of the day ahead of me that I jumped out of my bed and happily got ready for my first observational physiotherapy experience at the North Sydney Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Centre - Sports Physiotherapy Section.

The clinic usually opens between 7am - 12noon on Saturdays. So I arrived at the main gate of the clinic at 6:45am. However, I had to wait for 45mins before Tristan, one of the clinic's 3 Saturday physiotherapists, arrived as the first appointment of the day was at 7:30am.

I am so in luck
Apparently, the clinic's head physiotherapist who only worked on the weekdays, didn't tell Tristan and the other Saturday physiotherapists about our "one Saturday a month for 3 months" verbal agreement. So I told Tristan all about my physio dream and the observational hours criteria I need to satisfy in order to enroll into the University of Sydney's Physiotherapy course.

Tristan then asked me if I would like to visit every Saturday for the next few months. I was thinking "Oh Wow! I am so in luck. He is giving me the chance to come and visit the clinic every Saturday for the next few months?" You know, I was jumping for joy in my head when I heard that. How could I turn down such a good offer?

"Yes, if that's okay for you?" I said.

Tristan said that's not a problem. So here you go, I can work every Saturday for the next few months to fulfill USyd's 100 observational hours.

The Saturday clinic opens for 5 hours, so it will take 20 visits to meet the 100hrs criteria. That's 4.5 months of weekly visit. Taking out the 2 kendo weekends in August, 5 weeks leave for Japan, 1 Saturday of State Championships and 2 weeks of Christmas & NYE breaks in December, I should be able to fulfill the 100 hours in late January 2006. Woohoo!

Things look so bright ahead!

The observational cases
The first case that I observed was one of Tristan's returning patients with a painful lower back. However, we didn't do much in this case because the patient was simply trying to get Tristan's opinion on whether he should visit a Sports Medicine Doctor and do blood test, MRI Scan, and stuff like that. Tristan had done all he could to fix his back in the previous physio sessions but the pain just kept coming back. So Tristan agreed that he should visit the Sports Medicine Doctor to do a more detailed examination.

Mary, another physiotherapist at the clinic who only comes on Saturdays, arrived at around 7:50am. She has been a physiotherapist for 10 years and came to Sydney from Brighton UK 2 years ago and have been working at this clinic since then.

After Tristan's first patient of the day, I observed all of Mary's five cases for the rest of the morning.

  1. Had surgery on fractured ankle - student rugby player

  2. Sore lower back, buttock and groin - prenancy

  3. Weak knee, Shoulder pain - former rugby player

  4. Neck and right arm pain - right-handed banker (desk job)

  5. Had surgery on dislocated knees - soccer player

I got to say that soccer is a pretty dangerous sport from the cases the clinic received this morning. Apart from the one case that Mary had to look after this morning, Tristan also had two other patients who damaged their knee and had total knee re-construction surgery.

Things I learnt
During my 5 hours at the clinic, I was able to learn how to apply heat pad on patient, and do a few other little things to help Mary with her cases, which was quite satisfying. Below are some of the things I learnt from my observation in the clinic:

  • Be good at listening to patient.

  • Be cheerful and encouraging.

  • Get all the facts about the patient's personal lifestyle.

  • Observe the movements of the patient's complaining body part.

  • Massage can remove scar-tissue, lengthen muscle and help restoring full joint mobility.

  • Heat pad to relax sore but not swelling muscle.

  • Muscle flexibility and strengthening are very important in the rehabilitation process.

  • It's important to do the rehabilitation exercise slowly but correctly to improve the speed of recovery.

I finished at 12:30pm and earned my first all-important physiotherapist signature on the USyd observation experience sheet. YAY!!!

Monday, July 25, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Ahoy! Ready To Set Sail

My wishes granted
Today is a big day for me. First, the Australian Physiotherapy Association could finally tell me the exact course date for the Physiotherapy Assistant Certification course, which means I could start planning for my work leave to attend this course and to do Kendo training in Japan. Then, I was accepted to do observational experience placement at the Northern Sports Physio - my dream Sports Physio Clinic in North Sydney, starting this Saturday. Following that was my manager's approval to grant me a 5-week leave between Oct 4 - Nov 4. Woohoo!!! Luck and good fortune seemed to be coming my way.

In the absence request I sent to my manager, I mentioned about my Kendo training at Nippon Sports Science University - one of the best Japanese Kendo universities - and that this training opportunity is extremely rare. Of course, I did not mention about the Physio certification course.

I was really sceptical of my manager approving my leave request as 3-week leave is generally considered extremely long in the Bank's project, let alone 5 weeks.

After some nervous waiting for my manager's reply, this is what he wrote back to me:

"I will approve this, but you realise that you won't be able to take any more leave until probably April 06?"

I was really excited when I read his reply, but at the same time I was a bit frustrated because it might mean that I won't be able to participate in the Hong Kong Asian Kendo Tournament in Feb '06. I had such a wonderful experience in this year's tournament and have been planning to go back again for next year's tournament. Of course, training with Nittaidai is like a once-in-a-life-time experience, so I quickly and happily accepted my manger's terms and conditions. I will deal with the Hong Kong issue later on.

Woohoo! The realisation of my dream to train in Japan and to become a sports physiotherapist is getting closer and closer...

Training in the Past Week
Training has been going well in the past week. There were 5 visiting Japanese university students in Willoughby last Saturday and I was lucky enough to play most of them. After I played the first Japanese student, I somehow got into the motodachi side as people kept lining up to play me. Then two more Japanese visitors queued in my line, and so I was fortunate enough to play most of the visitors. It was physically demanding to play all the people who lined up for me and played my best, but I felt absolutely great after that. I wish there were more Kendo sessions in the weekend.

Mike is back
I went to Pyrmont training tonight. During the jigeiko with Onodera sensei and Payne sensei, I somehow picked up the feel to execute a good harai-men and suriage-men, especially suriage. It suddenly turned so much more effective. Now I just need to remember that shinai-sliding feeling and be able to do it again in the future.

Without taking off my do and tare, I drove straight to UNSW after Pyrmont training. Michael Henstock is back from his 3-month Nittaidai training, and I was really keen to see how much he has improved. We played a sanpon shobu, and Mike won that one in 2-1. All the points were men-ari.

I then played Sano sensei, Erik, Sussan and Yoshiki until it was 9:30pm. My match with sensei was rather short, because Sano sensei told me "I was falling apart". I was really concerned when he said that. Did I really play that badly? Luckily, it was my do himo falling apart. Not my kendo. So I played an ippon-shobu with Sano sensei and it ended rather quickly with Sano sensei scoring a men on me.

Just when I was going to take off my bogu, Mike wanted to do one more jigeiko. So I fought Mike for the second time tonight. This time it was ippon shobu. I got a men-ari on Mike after 10 seconds, which really surprised me. Well, both of us were really keen to go on for more, so I suggested another ippon-shobu. We both tried hard breaking each other's chusen, and that was really fun. It took quite a while before the deciding point was scored. This time, Mike scored a men on me. (tehehe, as you'd have guessed.)

Thumb Sprain
Btw, during the last jigeiko with Mike, I sprained my left thumb during taitari, and it is quite tender when I touch the joint at the bottom of the thumb (metacarpo-phalangeal joint). I think I will need to tape and ice my sprained thumb tonight.

Anyway, I have found a good information website on sports injury as a result of my thumb sprain research -> www.sportsinjuryclinic.net

Sunday, July 17, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生

The intensity of last weekend's National Squad Training stayed on with me throughout the training this week. It felt great to fight with intensity and urgency. Jigeiko became much more involving and challenging when I really put all my focus on my opponent, scrutinizing and pressurising my opponent. It's even more enjoyable when my opponent could match my intensity, and the fighting for the centre-line becomes a psychological and tactical game of control. It is a whole new feel to Kendo which I really love.

I intended to go to all the training sessions in the week. However, my dad needed the only car in my family to drive to the car auction on Monday night and I was feeling unwell on Wednesday, so I could only manage to attend 3 sessions this week. Nonetheless, I really put a lot of effort into those trainings, so I was satisfied with my training this week.

I had a good long jigeiko with Onodera sensei.

I was feeling crook in the early morning and took a sickie from work. However, I was feeling much better after having some medication and a lot of sleep in the afternoon, and so I went to the UNSW training that night.

Kirby led the class and he ran it just like the National Squad Training - stretching, group suburi warm-up, National Squad warm-up routine in bogu. Oh yes, Kirby also picked me to ask how many haya-suburi we should all do, and of course, I quickly answered "47" without thinking and hesitation. It's a low haya-suburi number at UNSW standard. It was funny to hear from Aaron at the end of the training that he said he was scared when I said the number. Somehow "470" was the number he thought he heard. tehehe, I guess the UNSW guys really had haya-suburi-phobia. Poor guys! =P

The class was really small on Thursday - only 12 people were training that night. Many have gone overseas or on holiday trips at this winter holiday season. But Mark Stone and Peter Strauss were there on the night, and I had a couple of good and short jigeiko with Mark Stone. It's nice to hear that he said my kendo was much stronger now.

Half way through the training, Sano sensei was doing a waza demonstration on Kirby and he borrowed my shinai. Remember I have started using the chunky shinai about a month ago? Well, when Sano sensei was using my shinai to do demonstration, I was looking for his face expression, and it was really funny. First Sano sensei hold the shinai, then he looked at the tsuka in an unbelievable sort of way. Then he gripped the tsuka again and demonstrated the cut. After he did some explanations to the class, both his hands gripped the shinai once again, and then he turned to me and asked "what's this?" hahaha. I love my shinai. It is just so much fun to look at people's expression when they gripped the tsuka.

Oh, remember I had to borrow a womens size 38 shinai in last weekend's National Squad Training because I forgot to bring my shinai bag to Brisbane? Hayami lent me her spare shinai, and wow, that shinai felt so light after I have been using the monstrous, chunky size shinai for a month. My shinai swing was so much faster using the normal shinai now.

There were heaps of people training in Willoughby on Saturday morning. The beginner also joined in with the rest of the class.

I had Peter Strauss as motodachi in the waza session, and had a short jigeiko with him afterwards. From my jigeiko experience with him on Saturday, I found that Peter closed in the distance really quickly and favoured renzoku waza, leaving me no chance to relax or re-adjust. He was also the more agressive attacker type of players, and definitely would not wait for the other side. He would pro-actively go in and search for the attacking opportunity. So my jigeiko with him was very fast-pace, and I found him quite difficult to play against. Anyway, I would love to play him a couple more times to see how I should play against his type of players before he leave for Japan in about 2 weeks time.

I also had jigeiko with Gideon Lawrence, Mark Stone, Cath Hallgath and Aaron Alcantara on Saturday.

Monday, July 11, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Beautiful Kendo One Day, Perfect Kendo The Next!

Oh, every part of my body is aching. My foot, my calves, my thighs, my arms, my shoulder and my neck are all aching. I love it!

I love how my body is aching. Really, I like it. It brings me the wonderful memory of how hard I pushed myself physically and mentally in the National Squad Training in Brisbane on the weekend. The training was very intense, of high quality and calibre. Although the participant number was down from previous squad trainings, it was met with a group of keen kendoka who have certainly thrown themselves completely into the training.


No Sword School
I woke up at 4am on Saturday morning and left the house at 5:10am for the 7am Virgin Blue flight from Sydney to Brisbane. The drive to the airport was quite quick in the early morning. It only took 40mins to reach the airport. However, just when I was about 5 mins drive from the airport, I realised that I forgot to take something - the shinai bag!

Oh my heaven! How could I forget the shinai bag. I have never ever forget to take anything to kendo training. I was shocked about myself. How could I go to the National Kendo Squad Training without a shinai. It was 5:40am when I made the unpleasant discovery. My dad, who kindly drove me to the airport, asked me if I want to turn back to collect the shinai. However, I knew if we turned back to get the shinai bag and drove again to the airport, I might run the risk of missing my plane and be late for training if I board the subsequent flight. So we pressed ahead to the airport, without the shinai bag.

I was one of the earliest people to check-in and so I could choose the aisle seat in the first passenger row of the plane. I did a bit of reading while waiting in the departure lounge and just after boarding the plane. When the engine started roaming, I felt very sleepy and slept all the way to Brisbane.

Sunny Brisbane
When I woke up, I was met with beautiful Brisbane weather. It's sunny and warm. The weather couldn't get any better.

I caught a cab to the Wynnum PCYC, arriving there at 9:25am. When I arrived, I was met by Kate Sylvester. We had a good catch-up and chat about Nittaidai. Then I told her about my mishap with the shinai bag. Just then, Brett Smith emerged from the dojo and Kate asked Brett 'what's the penalty for someone who forgot to bring their shinai?'. Brett gave a sly smile, so eerie that I was fearing what he had in his mind. I told Brett that I was from the 'No Sword School', hoping to diverse his mind off from his bag of punishment tricks. 'Ah, Vivian. We'll see,' and he walked back into the dojo. Argh...

Anyway, I was kindly given a shinai by Hayami, and a tsubadome and a tsuba from Sharyn. It later turned out that there was no punishment for this, but my peaceful time didn't last all that long...

The first session of this weeekend ran for 1.5 hours. As with all squad trainings, we started off with the Australian Squad warm-up routine:
  • Men-uchi: 3 times each twice; 3 rotations
  • Kote-uchi: 3 times each twice; 2 rotations
  • Kote-men-uchi: 3 times each once; 2 rotations
  • Hiki routine*: once; 2 rotations
  • Shiai-geiko: 2 rotations

*Hiki routine: starting in tsubazerai. Hiki-men -> men -> men-taitari -> hiki-men --> men

Where's My Bogu
After the first session, we took 30mins break. Just when there were 10 minutes left in the break, I decided to go to the ladies' room, and so I had to take off my bogu. When I came out, my mouth was a bit dry, so I went to took a sip of Powerade, and walked up and down the dojo to keep myself warm while waiting for the start of the 2nd session. Little did I know that I still haven't put on my bogu when Brett called to do a group warm-up. Ah, I was in serious trouble this time. All eyes were on me. And I felt absolutely embarrassed and stupid. So I quickly put on my bogu while everyone watched on. Brett was all smiling, but cunningly. Oh no, would it be squat suburi, or hayasuburi, or some other torture methods he came up with. I thought I was dead this time.

When I was ready, Brett was still wearing that same smile. "How many hayasuburi do you want to do?" Brett asked me. What kind of question was that! Of course I would like none, but I knew Brett would not accept that number, nor would I when Yano sensei was there looking at me. Yano sensei had helped me organise the training arrangement with Nittaidai, and he had advised me to increase the number of hayasuburi workouts. I really didn't want to disappoint sensei, but on the other hand I didn't want to exhaust all my energy in this hayasuburi punishment. "50?" I said hesitantly, thinking that it was a reasonable number. Not too large, not too small. "50!?" Brett exclaimed in his interrogative voice. "Who said Vivian should do 50 only?" Damn. I'm dead, I thought. I was thinking that Brett must have some crazy number in his mind that I would have to do hayasuburi until I dropped dead to satisfy him. Luckily, others kindly suggested 60 and Brett was happy with that number. However, the condition was that I had to do those 60 at the very end of the day when all 4 training sessions finished. I was praying that I would still have 0.1% of energy at the end of the day for those 60 hayasuburi.

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
We did more technical, ippon refinement type of practice in the second session, which lasted for one hour. At the start, we were cutting men, kote like we normally did in practice. However, Brett was not satisfied with that kind of cuts at all. He commanded a more aggressive, ippon style cut from us in every single cut. No more practice cut. Every cut must be a decisive ippon cut. "From now on," Brett continued, "we must all practiced making ippon in every cut and should carry on with this type of practice back in our own dojo." Brett said that the Motodachi also had an important role to play to help and urge their partner to bring the best out of them.

In this session, we also practiced a few rounds of more shiai-focus type of waza routine. There was one where Motodachi would cut men, while the other side would choose whatever type of oji waza to counter-attack the men-uchi. Brett emphasised that the Motodachi must fully committed to the men cut to allow the partner to practice the oji waza. Another type of shiai focus waza practice was quite similar to the one I just mentioned, but the Motodachi would cut kote while the other side did the counter-attack. We then splitted into several groups of four, and had shiai-geiko where one person would be motodachi in 3 matches in a row and then swapped with the next person in line, and so on.

Fish Burger
At 12:30pm, we stopped for a one-hour lunch. Kirby kindly drove me to a nearby fish and chip shop along the Manly beach. I ordered a fish burger while Kirby had some pasta. Oh, that was the best fish burger I have ever had. The burger was HUGE, and the fish was so fresh. The fish was crusted very crisply and the silky flesh was so juicy inside, it's SOOOOO DELICIOUS! For all this, it only costed $5.90. Amazing value that you would never find in Sydney.

When I got back to the dojo, I put my bogu on straight away, leaving no chance for Brett.

250 Hayasuburi
The third session, which lasted for one hour, was really tough. We started off with stretching and suburi warm-up. When the suburi warm-up finished, Brett, who was right next to me, turned to me. "Vivian!" Oh no! What have I done wrong this time! "How many hayasuburi do you think we should do?" Oh God, couldn't you just pick someone else. So I looked around, trying to see what the others were thinking, hoping to get a clue on their faces. I didn't want the others to suffer if I said a number too large. On the other hand, if I suggested a small number, then it wouldn't reflect too well on me as it seemed that I was slack. "50?" I suggested. "50!?" Brett exclaimed in a surprised tone. "I have trained hard enough I don't want to do 50." Brett continued. Argh, I have fallen into another trap set up by Brett. "Vivian can do 50 hayasuburi, while the rest of us will do 30. We will start when Vivian reached 20." Okay, so I did 20 extra hayasuburi than everyone else.

We then put on our men and kote, and did the National Squad Warm-up. Then Brett introduced the ippon shiai-geiko. In 1 or 2 minutes, both sides would try to score ippon. When an ippon was scored, the shiai for that pair would stop. The winner would rest; The loser, however, would have to do 50 hayasuburi. If it's a draw, both sides would do 25 hayasuburi.

I was thinking 'oh my god' when Brett explained the rules. I looked at Kirby and knew that I was almost doomed. Nonetheless, I tried my hardest, and I think I actually played pretty well against Kirby, and was happy with my performance. In the end, it was still Me who had to do the 50 hayasuburi when Kirby scored a men-cut on me. Following that was matches against Nick Bartlett, Ben Kelly, Okamoto-san and Tamura-san. Man, I did 250 hayasuburi after 5 rotations. In the last round, I played Yukita-san - a Japanese girl from Queensland. Brett increased the loser penalty to 70 hayasuburi for that last bout. I knew I got a chance in this last match I was very determined not to let the chance slip by. In the end, God looked kindly on me. Yukita, however, had done a total 320 hayasuburi after 6 rotations. I felt sorry for her, but I was just glad to take a rest in the end.

We finished this exhausting 1-hour session with 2 rounds of the following routine:

kiri-kaeshi -> men-taitari-hiki-men -> men-taitari-hiki-kote -> men-taitari-hiki-do -> kirikaeshi

Free Jigeiko
After a 30mins break, we moved on to the final session of the day. We did a few cuts to warm-up, and then off to jigeiko. I was so lucky to be rotated to Yano sensei at the last warm-up rotation, so I lost no time in being the first person to play Yano sensei.

Playing Yano sensei was awesome! Of course I played my very very best kendo against Yano sensei, but he was able to deflect and counter-attacked most of my cuts. Even though I was cut many thousand times by Yano sensei, I felt I played really sharp and nice kendo. I was very focused and determined. My movements were more fluent and explosive than ever before. I was REALLY going for the ippon. In the end I scored a quick debana-kote on Yano sensei. I was really happy with that de-kote because I think it was really nice, and Yano sensei acknowledged that too.

I also played Ben Kelly, Hayami and John Isaacs. My men-cuts and de-kote were really sharp and were working really well for me in those jigeiko too. It's really good to play against great players, which noticeably pulled my kendo level up higher. I had to say I worked really hard on Saturday, and during the jigeiko with John, my left calf muscle started to twitch and get muscle spasm. So I had to stop and stretch the calf muscle. I went back to fight a final ippon-shobu against Dave Bunder before Brett called it a day.

When everyone was lining up to thank the sensei, I walked up to Brett and asked about my 60 hayasuburi punishment. He said I could just do 40 because he made me do an extra 20 in the mid-session. I happily complied and was glad the training was over for the day.

When I thanked Yano sensei, he said my men-cut has improved a lot. It's much shaper now. The last time I played Yano sensei was in the National Squad Training in Wollongong last October. My men-cut was executed two-movement at that time, but now it was a fluent one movement cut. I could tell that Yano sensei was very happy to see my improvement. I was very happy too. The key, I think, was in the left foot.

Nick Bartlett has kindly offered his apartment for Kirby and me to stay. We took showers before making our way to dinner.

Kirby's ladies set
We had dinner at Azabu Japanese Restaurant with Shigeoka sensei, John Isaacs, Tamura-san, Martino and Sharyn. I had some Eda Mame, Yakitori, seafood dumplings, potato crochet as well as Tonkatsu curry as main. The menu was quite unique. There were a lot of authentic Japanese dishes I have never seen in other Japanese restaurants before. It took us a while to order the food. Sharyn ordered a ladies set which has 6 courses, and all for just $14.50. What great value! So Kirby wanted to order the same set too. However the waitress refused to take Kirby's order at first, saying that the set was only available to ladies. "But I am a lady", Kirby said in his most feminine voice. For a moment, the waitress wasn't sure whether Kirby was a guy or a girl, and seemed a bit embarrassed. The rest of us just watched the entertainment before us, and cracked out laughing. In the end, the waitress gave in, and allowed Kirby to order the ladies set too.

After the dinner, Nick drove Sharyn and Martino back to the backpackers in the City. We stopped by gelatissimo and watched the Wallabies played the Springbok match in one of the pubs on Queens St Mall before heading home.

Nick played the 30AKC DVD and we watched a few matches of Nick's and Kirby's matches before we decided to call it a day at 10:30pm.


Me Versus Kate
The squad training started at 9:30am on Sunday. We were told that the first session would be shiai. When we were told to do our own warm-ups, it was much quieter than usual. I could sense that everyone seemed a lot more serious, probably mentally preparing for the shiai to follow.

We did the National Squad warm-up routine together, and after that, shiai began. I was assigned to play against Kate Sylvester. Brett told us to prepare ourselves just like the way we would do in a real championships.

For me, I like having my men on way before my shiai began, so I didn't bother to take it off even though there were 6 shiai matches before mine. My way of preparing myself was more like meditation style. With my eyes shut, I visualised my winning cuts, trying to make those winning cuts clear and perfect in my mind.

With about two matches to go, I started to do some light stretching and warm-up for my match. I tried to be focused and set the right mentality and instil the right shiai attitude in my mind.

Finally it was my match against Kate. The last time I played Kate in shiai was back in the 2003 Nationals. It's been a long time and much have changed since then. She has become the new National Champion and I have improved my kendo a lot.

We were quite cautious about each other at the very beginning of the shiai. I could sense that both of us were quite tensed up. I made the first men-cut and Kate blocked it. I felt the nervous energy flowing within me at the beginning of the shiai, and that we were both quite defensive. When one moved, the other would move to cut too, even though the opportunity wasn't there. The first part of our shiai was, I think, too much slash and bash. Slowly, we both re-adjusted and worked in from toma and seme in. I was determined to seme in, and launched a powerful men cut when I just moved within my cutting zone. Unfortunately, Kate sensed it and succeed in her debana-kote, stealing the split second off my men-cut which also landed after I was scored. Kote-ari (1:0) to Kate.

After the re-start, I told myself not to rush things and setup my attack carefully. I inched forward as I constantly applied seme on Kate. Wait, wait... tap on Kate's shinai to test her kensen... tap on the other side of her shinai... point my kensen upward to see if her kensen would follow... keep applying pressure forward... BAMM!!! I scored a men-cut on Kate just before Kate's kote cut. Men-ari (1:1) to me.

C'mon! I need to take one more point. Just one more. However, not long after the match restarted, Brett called time's up. So my match against Kate ended in hikiwake.

First Match Syndrome
After 3 more matches, we had a post-shiai review discussion. Brett wasn't satisfied with our shiai performance. He said that as a group, we suffered from the first match syndrome. The intensity wasn't there. Our minds weren't focused on the match enough. There were too much wasted cuts and we seemed to forget about setting our attacking opportunities up. He re-iterated the importance to make every practice perfect. The old saying that practice makes perfect is crap. If we practice low quality shiai, we will only become good at playing low quality shiai. Only perfect practice makes perfect. We should take every opportunity to play our best, so to become the best.

After the 20mins break, we entered into the second session of the day, which lasted for an hour. Similar to Saturday's second session, we focused our attention our shiai-effective waza. As I became more and more shiai-minded during the training, my debana-kote became more fluent and convincing, and the body movements for zanshin that followed the debana-kote also became very natural when I was full of confidence of my cut. I felt I have moved a step higher after this session which made me feel very happy.

Sensei's Onigiri
After the second session, we had an hour break for lunch. Shigeoka sensei has kindly prepared some onigiri breakfast bento for Kirby, Nick and me in the morning, but because we had already eaten our breakfast when we got the bento in the morning, we ate them for lunch instead. The bento was really nice indeed, especially prepared from a 7th Dan sensei. Wow, I felt so previleged!

Precious Ippon
The goal for the third session was to teach us how to set up and make effective ippons. We had mawari shiai geiko. Brett introduced this rules that each side both had 3 cuts for attack. It's like your 3 bullets. Once you fired your 3 bullets, you could not attack anymore, but would still be able to apply seme and defence the attack from your opponent.

We splitted up into guys and ladies groups and rotated within the groups. This exercise was my favourite exercise out of the whole training. The high intensity and concentration involved made this exercise very challenging and exciting. It kept my adrenalin pumping. Through this exercise, Brett wanted us to understand how precious each attacking opportunity was. We should not make wasted cut, but should set up our attack, and when the opportunity presented itself, BAMM! Commit fully into the ippon.

Jigeiko with Brett Smith
After a 20 mins break, We went into the final session of the weekend - jigeiko session. Like the February National Squad Training, I played my last jigeiko of the weekend with Brett Smith. I really gave everything I got into this one jigeiko. I tried my hardest to search for attacking opportunity, gathered up all my energy for one burst of men-cut. However, Brett was able to easily deflect all my cuts.

Brett stopped me in the middle of the jigeiko, and told me that he was impressed with my performance over the weekend. From now on, he wanted me to train like this back in my dojo. He said that he was happy to see that my cuts were sharper than the previous squad training, but my body still needed improvement. He said I was leaning forward in my men cut, leaving my hip behind. This problem was more apparent when I was tired towards the end of the training, and my chin started to lift up too. He made me do a few men-uchi on him with my hip pushing forward and my chin tucked in until he was satisfied. Then we resumed the jigeiko and had ippon-shobu. Brett made me worked really hard until I finally scored a men-uchi. I was so tired after this jigeiko but it was so satisfying to end the squad training this way, knowing that I have made progress and what I needed to work on.

Australian Team & My Dream
This time next year, I will be ready for the Australian Team selection trial. My dream is to represent Australia in the World Championships. I will definiely keep training hard to realise my dream.

To The Airport
After the training, Sano sensei kindly offered to give me a lift to the airport, Yano sensei and Itakura sensei were all flying back to Sydney after 7:30pm and we had a bit of spare time, so they have decided to go and eat and have a chat before heading to the airpot. Sano sensei asked me if there were anything I would like to eat. Without second thought, I excitedly told them about the Fish Burger cafe. So Sano sensei, Yano sensei, Itakura sensei and I all went to the Fish Burger place. It's great to try the Fish Burger again before I left Brisbane.

After about an hour at the cafe, we parted for the airport. Sano sensei was kind enough to offer me a ride around Brisbane before we headed for the airport. Following Sano sensei, I had the opportunity to see what the Qantas Club was all about. tehehe, I certainly made use of the services provided in the Qantas Club, by having two bowls of vegetable and beef soup, as well as a glass of orange juice. Itakura sensei, who also had Qantas Club membership, joined us about an hour before the flight. We had some interesting chats about kendo and othe stuff, and listen to their thoughts while in shiai. And I have to say it's quite funny listening to the sensei's conversation and comments about each other's kendo. tehehe, very entertaining indeed.

My dad picked me up in the Sydney airport and I got home at 10:30pm. After unpacking and taking a shower, I went straight to bed and was soundly asleep not long after.

It was a tiring, but definitely an exciting and memorable weekend. I was very happy with the way my body coped with the training I had in the past week. Woohoo, I am feeling 110% now.

Friday, July 08, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Reaching To New Height


5 training sessions in 4 days! I made it, just like the way I wanted it to be. Things just get better and better each day. I feel ready for the National Squad onslaught this weekend. C'mon! Bring it on!

I went to UNSW training last night. Peter Strauss was there too. He will stay in Sydney for 3 weeks before moving to Japan permanently for his new job with SAP.

We did a few rounds of kirikaeshi along the length of the dojo. Then we practiced a few rounds of kihon-men and kihon-kote before moving on to the waza-focus session.

The waza that Kirby wanted us to focus on was debana. First, we practiced debana-men. Both kendoka would start in chudan no kamae in toma distance. One side would take a step forward to close the distance to issoku-ito-no-maai. As soon as one side took the one step forward, the other side would instanteneously launch a men-cut.

I think the key to executing debana waza effectively was a focus mind, watching and scrutinising the opponent's every single movement. Your left foot would be ready to push off any second. And as soon as an opening was spotted, you would pounce on the opportunity and cutting straight away, not letting any split seconds to slip by.

We practiced debana-kote in a similar format for a few rounds. As we became more comfortable with the movements, Kirby would introduce the idea of practicing it with random timing and seme into the waza, making the situation more realistic.

In the last rounds of exercises, both side would go for the cut - one side would go for men, while the other side practiced debana-kote. Kirby especially emphasised the point of cutting straight down in debana-kote and keeping the body upright. Both side should get hit if the exercise was executed correctly. No one should worry about being cut in this exercise.

In the last 20 minutes, we had mawari-geiko. I played Sussan, Aaron, Peter, Kirby, Jackson and Cecelia. I was trying to practice seme and was experimenting a bit in how my kensen movement would make my opponent's react. It was quite fun practicing and exploring the link between my kensen and my opponent's reactions. It's even better when it worked the way I'd like and be able to capitalise on the opportunity. I enjoyed it.

After the training, Kirby gave me some feedbacks on seme, and a few hints on how to counter-attack with suriage waza. Kirby could do the most perfect suriage waza. Below were some of my observations on Kirby's suriage movements:

  • The kensen should be at opponent's head height;
  • Kensen should always be in the centre line;
  • Right hand should be in the centre line; while
  • Left hand control the shinai direction;
  • Kensen should be right in the centre after suriage.

Kirby suggested that we should practice the movement in front of a mirror. The shinai should point to the head of the person in the mirror.

New Kendo Year
This week is my 4th year anniversay in first stepping into a kendojo. The past year has been a fascinating kendo year for me - earning my shodan, winning my first state kendo title, the Hong Kong tournament, and the good results in the Nationals.

Stepping into the fifth year, I hope my kendo will reach a new height, be even more passionate about learning and training, and hopefully good results will follow. Nidan next, Nittaidai after, Hong Kong Tournament in Feb'06 and then Nationals!

What's better than starting off the new year with the National Squad Training!

For my birthday, I will do a little celebration and indulge myself in getting a good massage.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
I Am Back and Alive

If it was not for fulfilling the training plan I have set myself last weekend, I would not have gone into so much trouble in negotiating my way to the dojo. Now I can see how goal-setting has influenced my decision. To be successful, you first need to set yourself a goal and a plan.

Anyway, the trouble I had to face tonight was transportation. The faithful Mitsubishi Magna wagon has finally decided to retire after serving our family for 10 years, and we will need to buy a new car to replace the Magna.

Meanwhile, it was a nightmare for me to go to training when my older brother also needed the only car in the family to go and watch the State of Origin decider with his friends in Newtown. To try to fit into his plan, I left work early today, changed my clothes, packed my bogu bag, eat a quick 10 minutes dinner, then rode my brother's car to the dojo. I arrived at the dojo at 7pm tonight.

Andrew van Hamond and I practiced kata ipponme to nanahonme about 10 rounds before the whole class went through the kata once together and parted for the kendo session.

Btw, we had two visitors from the USS Kitty Hawk naval ship tonight. Gregory, the Hawaiian guy who joined the Monday night Pyrmont and UNSW training, came again. I found out later that he is currently nidan and used to train 7 days a week while he was back in Hawaii. He moved to Japan earlier this year and was training 3-4 times a week. At the moment, he is working as an aircraft electrician on USS Kitty Hawk.

Joining Gregory was Abraham. He started kendo a few months ago and currently hold yonkyu. He works as a intelligence officer on the naval ship.

Itakura sensei led the class tonight. We did 3 rounds of kirikaeshi, 3 rounds of 3 kihon-men, 3 rounds of 3 kihon-kote, and 3 rounds of 3 kihon-kote-men, and then jigeiko.

Tonight was another good night at training. My stamina was high and my mind was focused. I was able to do nice kendo tonight.

First, I had jigeiko with Onodera sensei. I finally got the feeling back on how to control kensen and apply seme. Jigeiko was so much fun again, I really enjoyed it.

I then went to queue for Gregory again. There were 3 people before me, so it took a while, but when it was my turn, I had so much fun out there. I was not hesitating, and was played confidently. I think I have played some nice kendo tonight.

Gregory possessed very beautiful and snappy men cut. His nidan waza - kote-men - was also very fluent. His shinai swing was definitely faster than me. I tried to keep my cuts small and my kensen straight in the centre so to give him a hard time to display his snappy men cut on me. We were both actively searching for each other's weaknesses and fully committing to every cut. That was so much fun. Now that my stamina was back, this jigeiko had become a really exciting mind game. We both made some beautiful cuts on each other. Gregory scored some powerful men-cut while I did some nice, snappy debana-kote.

We went on to play ippon-shobu. However, before anyone scored, Doug called the end of jigeiko session and introduced the ippon-shiai-geiko where two players would fight for the ultimate ippon while everyone else made a circle around the two shiai-sha. Winner would stay to fight the next challenger.

First two up were Gregory and Andrew Tan. It was good to see that Andrew's stamina has come back up now. He was still doing the text-book perfect cut which I wish I had. After a few rounds of ippon-shobu and shiai-sha coming in and out of the court, I stepped forward to challenge Kai.

I really enjoyed the moment out there. Having so many people watching made me excited to show my best kendo to everyone. In the end, the match ended in hikiwake.

We took a group photo at the end to celebrate the visit of our two USS Kitty Hawk friends. A group of us took the visitors to the Willoughby Hotel to have a drink and chat, and watched the final stages of the State of Origin decider. Blues won a deciding 32-10. I am not a rugby fan, but I have to say 'GO NSW'!

I got home at 11pm tonight.

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Still Fighting On!

I am still sticking to the training plan that I set myself in the weekend. Things are looking good now. My stamina is coming back. My body and muscles are slowly but surely listening to what my heart wants. Although I still lack the speed, I think all signs are showing that I am getting back on track. I'd say I am 80% fit now and I can feel that I will be fully fit for the weekend National Squad Training.

I went to Pyrmont and UNSW trainings on Monday night. Yup, two training sessions in one night. It's been a long time since I trained in Pyrmont as I have been attending training sessions at Master Kim's dojo on Monday nights in Artarmon, where it was much closer to my home.

Going back to Pyrmont was good. The no-muck-around one-hour intensive jigeiko certainly brought all the adrenalin up (and also made my body dead tired). I knew I had worked hard when my left calf muscle started to ache half way through the training session. A welcome indication that I was using the correct kendo muscle groups and building them up. It's been a while since the last time I had such high frequency in leaping out to execute cuts for such long duration.

There were two visitors at Pyrmont tonight. A Japanese guy who I later found out that he had rang me before in the previous week. He came and observed for the duration of our 1-hour Pyrmont training. Then, there was a Hawaiian guy who has been training in Japan for about 4 years. He was really good. His kendo was fast and strong. I didn't have a chance to play him in Pyrmont, but was the first one to play him in UNSW. Yes, Kirby, Andrew van Hamond, me, this Hawaiian guy and the visiting Japanese guy all went straight to UNSW training after the Pyrmont session ended at 8:30pm. Actually, when I was rushing out the dojo, Andrew was teasing me that I was going to be late for whatever things I was going to. He didn't know at the time that I was rushing to UNSW. Andrew just followed me when he found out that I told him about the UNSW plan.

We arrived at UNSW at 9pm for the free jigeiko session. I put on my bogu straight away and played against the visiting Hawaiian guy. As I said before, his kendo was powerful and fast, and also very nice too. I hope he is going to Willoughby training on Wednesday so that I could play him once more before he leaves Sydney on Thursday.

I also played Gideon, Yoshiki, Jackson and Adam before the session ended at 9:30pm. The training left me in high spirit. It gave me the much needed confidence that I will be able to tackle the intensive National Squad Training in the weekend.

On Tuesday night, I arrived to the Hornsby dojo just after 8pm. One of my family car's engine has broken down and deemed unsafe to drive. With only one car, I had to wait for my brother to return from his singing lesson before I could drive to training.

When I arrived, Strenger sensei was teaching the class kihon kata. I quickly put on my bogu and joined in. After about 20 minutes of kihon kata, we put on our bogu and practiced kihon waza before jigeiko.

Learn To Play My Style
I was lucky to be rotated as the first person to play Strenger sensei. Strenger sensei unleashed his attacks from all sides, like machine-gun. I had a lot of trouble trying to read his attacks and all I was thinking was to block, block, block. Of course, because of my defensive mode, Strenger sensei was able to increase his attacking frequency even more and I was bound to get hit with that sort of attack.

So after the training, I expressed the problem I had and asked for advice from Strenger sensei. Strenger sensei said when he was training in Japan, his sensei also did the same thing to him. The problem I had was that I was following my opponent's style, instead of stepping up my style to overcome my opponent's style. Maybe I am lacking seme? I don't know. But that's something I will need to work on. To play my style and create an aura with it so that my opponent would step back just looking at my style of play.

Have confidence in myself
Also, Strenger sensei said that my cuts were good, but what I needed was to have confidence in myself.

Don't hesitate when cutting. Show strong zanshin!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Fight On!

I am very worried now. I don't know, I am feeling quite lost. I pushed myself back to full bogu training on Tuesday as the flu slowly subsided. I made myself to go on Wednesday and yesterday as well, making it back to a more acceptable training frequency than the previous weeks. 3 training sessions were the upper limit my body could hold up to looking at the miserable and fragile condition of my health and body. On Thursday morning, I had been juggling with the thought of whether to attend that night's training at UNSW as well, but in the end I decided if I went, my fragile body would probably collapsed and it would do more harm than good. I really want to get back to top gear, but my body wouldn't listen to me. My kendo was so slow and clumpsy. My mind and body were struggling. Adding to that was the thought of the National Squad Training in Brisbane next weekend. After reading Brett Smith's email which told the Squad to be prepared for a high intensity 8 training sessions over 2 days, I am very worried now.

Okay, that's enough of self-pitying. No one will pity me for not looking after my health and playing badly in the Squad. I need to finish with this self-pity note and move on.

I have a plan for next week:
  • Monday - Pyrmont training (7:30pm-8:30pm), followed by UNSW training (9pm-9:30pm)
  • Tuesday - Hornsby (7:30pm - 9pm)
  • Wednesday - Willoughby (7:30pm - 9pm)
  • Thursday - UNSW (7:30pm - 9pm)
  • Friday - My birthday today. Rest before flying up to Brisbane on early Saturday morning
  • Saturday - National Squad Training in Brisbane (4 sessions)
  • Sunday - National Squad Training in Brisbane (4 sessions)

Now that my flu is gone, I hope that I will get back into shape for the Squad Training.