a MMB! Kendo Blog: October 2005

MMB! Kendo Blog

Friday, October 28, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Nittaidai Cooking Party

Cooking Party - 27/10
Gosh! I think I must have put on an extra 2 kilos after last night's cooking party. All the girls from 3rd year Kendo came to my homestay, and each of them brought a dish or two and cooked at the house. Now I found out that, not only do the Nittaidai girls excel in Kendo, they are also very good at cooking.

We had suki-yaki , okonomi-yaki with katsuo-boshi, vegetable & sausage soup, fried-chicken, a few type of pasta, self-invented 'Nittaidai' salad, kapa (similar to nikomi but without tofu) and 'Nittaidai' konyaku jelly and peach in fresh cream dessert.

Wooa, everyone ate so much last night, we had to hold our stomachs after the dinner or it would have exploded. The food was so delicious that it was irresistible to stop munching.

At the Cooking Party

Comments Received in the Past Few Days...

Extend both arms - I had a jigeiko with Watanabe yesterday. His comments after the jigeiko was that I need to fully extend both arms after finishing a men-cut.

One men-cut action - Okada Sensei observed that I was pulling my shinai up and thus exposing the kote momentarily, before launching men cut. I should extend my arms out so that the men-cut is in one smooth movement. The feeling should be like going for tsuki, and at the last minute, push the arms up to cut men.

Gyaku Doh - After executing the gyaku-doh by slashing the shinai across the opponent's body and stepping to the rear left, it is important to take a step in to close off the distance between the opponent so that the opponent won't have space to execute a men cut.

Seme & crisp cut - I could only grasp a part of Shinzato Sensei's comment to me after the jigeiko through her hand movements and from hearing the kendo keywords. I think she was trying to tell me to use more seme, and make sure I have an aim in landing a crispy cut on a specific target.

Photo taken after the training on Tuesday

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
2:1 - I won!?

Shiai-Geiko - Oct-21
The All Japan University (Women) Championships will be held on 13th November. So apart from the many waza practices and kakari-geiko we did, we also had some shiai-geiko practice during last Wednesday Oct-19 and Friday Oct-21, and I actually had the opportunity to shiai against a 1st or 2nd year girl during the Friday practice.

On Friday, after 3pm - 4:30pm joint guys & girls club training. (There were 150 students training in one hall that day!) We had the girls only training. After about half an hour of waza training, Okada Sensei organised shiai-geiko for the main part of the day's training routine.

We started with 2 rounds of team shiai (6 in each team). All the university representatives in the white team, and the next best team in red. For me and the rest of the girls, we clapped and cheered on.

After the 2 rounds of team shiai finished, I was told to put my men on for shiai too! It was an individual match between me and a 1st or 2nd year student. Wow, how cool would this be!

All the Nittaidai friends were saying 'Gambatte' to me before the match, and I was feeling quite good and positive about the shiai-geiko to come. In some way, I was looking forward to the geiko very much. To try the new things I have learnt in the past weeks and showed them to my teachers and friends.

As soon as I stood up from sonkyo, I launched a men attack. However, my quick-thinking opponent sensed it and countered my attack with a super quick debana-kote.

Oh my goodness, I lost the first point like 3 seconds!? Is that all I could show (or not show) to my teachers and friends???

While I was walking back to the starting line, I looked at my friends' face and they all gave me very reasurring looks and smiles and cheered me on. They gave me couragement and inspiration, and I would hear them shouting encouragement words out. For myself, Okada Sensei and all my Nittaidai friends, I would do my very best to stay in the match and played as well as I could. Feeling energised, I made some quick men attacks. I also tried using the fake men then gyaku-doh waza that I learnt here in Nittaidai, but to no avail. The shinai got stuck in the process. Anyway, it's good to try this new thing in a shiai-geiko situation. The men cuts that I made landed one or two on the target, but wasn't convincing enough to warrant a point. So I tried seme and debana-kote. And to my surprise, I landed a perfect de-kote with a beautiful popping sound that I too was amazed. Then all the flags went up. Oh my Goodness, I scored. I just scored a point on a Nittaidai girl. Wow! That's so crazy. My friends were all clapping and cheering at that time.

After the restart, I played almost like how I played before I scored the first de-kote. And once again, I landed de-kote in a similar situation. Can you believe it? I couldn't believe it myself at that time. 2-1??? I won??? Was that a dream??? Oh my God! That made my day. I was so happy.

I have to say that I was only able to do this with the encouragement of all my teachers and friends. I just want to say my most heart-felt, sincere thanks to all their supports, advices and patience they have given me so far. They are all great people.

Takano Aiko - the girls' team captain - gave me the most influential piece of advice I have received since coming to Japan. My left hand was pushing too much to the right that my left-hand, and therefore, my shinai were all off the centre-line during chudan-no-kamae.

It's such a small, subtle observation but an extremely important one for me to improve my power in chudan-no-kamae. By making sure my left hand doesn't push too far to the right, it will relax my left shoulder and thus my upper body.

Now I am thinking about my left hand's position all the time when I train.

Katate-Tsuki & Doh-Kirikaeshi
Woohoo! We had several rounds of katate-tsuki last Friday. And amazingly I was able to land a few right on the targets too.

We also did some Kaeshi-Doh-Kirikaeshi, where the motodachi cut men, and the shidachi practiced kaeshi-doh (migi and hidari).

Monday, October 17, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Nittaidai, Katsuura & Onjuku

So many things have happened since my last post on Friday.

Last Friday afternoon, just before the 3pm Kendo Club training, I tagged along Miki to the Kyudo extra-curricular class. The Sensei kindly gave permission for me to film the class, and I was given the chance to try Kyudo myself too. The bow is really really long, probably some 2.5m, and we gripped the lower part of the bow to draw the arrow back.

After about 30mins of observing and waiting, I finally got the chance to try. My first shot missed the target by miles. hehe. However, the 2nd one was the closest to the target than anyone in the club I saw today. hahaha. I am so proud of myself. Kimiko taped the whole thing, so I got proof to show you guys! Mind you, no one actually landed the arrow on the target today. hahaha. But mine was still the closest. YAY!

Oct-14 Kendo Training
There were 2 Kendo training sessions on Friday - Club training 3pm - 5pm; Womens training 5pm - 7:30pm.

Shiai-geiko / Mitori-geiko went on in the first hour. This was the last chance for shiai-geiko for those representing Nittaidai in the All Japan University Championships on Sunday. After that was free club jigeiko session. I practiced with Yamamoto-San. During the practice, all I could think of was to be proactive and played as energetic as the Nittaidai students. So I just kept attacking and attacking during our geiko. After the jigeiko, Yamamoto-San kindly came forward to give me advices. Although I could not understand the full sentence of what he was saying, I could pick out the important word, and that was 'seme'. He kept repeating the word 'seme' which gave me a light-bulb moment. Oh, yes. I have totally forgot about seme and attacking for the sake of imitating the energy shown by the Nittaidai students. I was probably freaked out because I was playing against all these great players. That's not my kendo. I need to seme in.

So in my next jigeiko with Hakamada Sensei, I really concentrated on seme. I could feel there was more connection between me and Hakamada Sensei during the jigeiko. So I felt very good afterwards for taking a small improvement in my kendo today.

At 5pm, the club training ended and the womens kendo training started. We started with kirikaeshi and other kihon-uchi rotations before going into more specific waza practices.

Kote: Each round consists of 3 kote variations - 1) debana-kote; 2) Fake-men, and when the motodachi lifts her hand arm to block men, cut kote; 3) Men-debana-kote

Doh: Each round consists of 2 doh variations - 1) Nuki-doh; 2) Kaeshi-doh. Okada Sensei told me to loosen up my left hand grip when executing the doh cut, so to allow the left hand to slide up the tsuka, or even releasing the left hand if need be so that the hands wouldn't get tangle up during the doh-uchi process.

Combination: Each round consists of 3 variations - 1) Men-nuki-doh; 2) Kote-kaeshi-hiki-kote; 3) Men-debana-Men.

Tsuki: Renzoku-tsuki - each round consist of 3 quick succession of tsuki. It was here that I got a big bruise on my collar bone from numerous tsuki trauma. Oouchie!!!!

Tsubazerai #1: In this exercise, two person in normal issoku-ito-no-maai. Then the person practicing would attempt to cut the motodachi, resulting in a tsubazerai situation. There, the person practicing actively explored for hiki-men opportunity and cut when the opportunity was spotted. The motodachi has an important role to quickly follow up the person practicing and keep issoku-ito-no-maai distance. Don't stay back when the person practicing was practicing the hiki-men. Chase the person down! Connection here was very important.

Tsubazerai #2: In tsubazerai, the motodachi would try to texecute a hiki waza, either hiki-men/kote/doh. The person practicing has to try chase down the motodachi who was going backwards from hiki waza, and execute men cut on the backward-going motodachi.

After the waza training was the uchikomi and kakari-geiko practices. That was HELL!!!!

First up was uchikomi-geiko. The 4th year students would be motodachi, while the 1st, 2nd and 3rd year students would keep on doing uchikomi geiko. I was told to observe on the side for this round. Gosh, I really don't think I would survive if I was to do this uchikomi-geiko exercises. There were probably some 20 rounds of uchikomi-geiko. The sight was very gruelling and scary, almost torturous. The 4th year motodachi would knock the very tired students off with their shinai, pushing and swinging them to the floor and smashing them to the wall. Sometimes the younger students were too tired after being smashed to the wall, that they fell on the ground, and the motodachi would come and beat them up. So the younger students would get up as quickly from the floor as possible to avoid being beaten.

haha, that's how champions are made. Really tough training.

Anyway, I had the honour to join in the 3rd / 4th year student kakari-geiko that followed the torturous rounds of uchikomi geiko. We did about 7-8 rounds of ai-kakari-geiko. I was so so so out of breath at the end of the session my arms could barely lift up above my head.

We completed the training with suburi - jogeburi, men-suburi, and haya-suburi. Lots of them.

So that has to be the most tiring training session I have had in my kendo career, probably more to come later on in my next few weeks in Japan.

After getting changed to our tracksuit. We did some more strength training before finishing off with cool-down stretching.

It was good to end the tough training with a good meal that night with Miki and Hoso.

Miki, Hoso and Me

Oct-15 Kumikiri Dojo, Chiba
Michael Komoto drove me and another German-born Russian to Chiba today and was later joined by the 3 International Budo University foreign students to train at the Kumikiri Dojo in Chiba.

It was a special occasion that day, and Kawasei Sensei, 8th Dan Hanshi visited the dojo. He jigeikoed with everyone one-by-one until he geiko'ed everyone. The comment he gave me after the geiko was to extend my arms forward rather than lifting them upwards after a men-cut.

I then played many other 7th Dan Sensei, so it was a really good experience.

Onsen, Chiba Budougu & Onjuku
After the training, all 6 of us went to have Onsen - hot spring. It was so nice to have onsen overlooking the absolutely magnificent Pacific Ocean. It was such a beautiful sight.

Afterwards, we spent about an hour in Chiba Budougu in Katsuura to wait for the Russian to complete his kendogu purchase before making our way back to Michael Komoto's home in Onjuku.

Onjuku is such a pretty little town. It's like a mini Bondi with many surfers. Anyway, we spent the night watching many kendo videos before going to sleep at 12am.

Oct-16: The 53th All Japan University Kendo Championships

Kayo(L-R), Miki & Me

I caught the bus with the International Budo University students at 6am to travel to the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo where the 53th All Japan University Kendo Championships was held.

All I could say about the kendo I saw in the Championships was awesome - so fast, so powerful, so full of energy. There were 64 teams competing for the champion title.

Anyway, I was sitting with the Nittaidai gang. During the day, many famous kendoka walked into our area. One of them was Eiga Naoki. He is good friends of Shizawa Sensei, Yagizawa Sensei and Shinzato Sensei. Miki talked to Shinzato Sensei about having a photo taken between Eiga and me. So yeah, here it is... I am so lucky.

One of the 4th year student told me that my kendo idol, Suzuki Aki Sensei - one of the 2 female Sensei who visited Melbourne with Chiba Sensei in August will be coming to Nittaidai next Wednesday and the student even told me that Suzuki Sensei know me. Wow, how nice of a Sensei could remember such an insignificant Aussie Kendoka. Now I am very looking forward to geiko with my idol again.

The Nittaidai came 3rd in the Championships. In the Quarter-finals, Nittaidai beat the International Budo University. In the Semi-finals, the Nittidai team lost to the eventual winner. The winning team was really strong and they beat the runner-up really decisively. Very exciting kendo.

Friday, October 14, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Training at Nittaidai

This is a Kendo World & Seiko teams photo taken at the Kyoto Jitsugyoudan Tournament on Monday. I am in the 2nd row - 2nd from left.

Tuesday Oct-11
All this dream of coming to train at Nittaidai, and now I am here - in this amazing sport institution. On Tuesday, Michael Komoto and I left Alex Bennett's home at midday to catch the 1pm bullet train to Tokyo, and then onwards to Nittaidai. We arrived at Nittaidai at around 5pm, and was met by Kunio Shizawa Sensei and my homestay buddy, Mikiko Hanyo. We discussed my schedule for the next 4 weeks together for about an hour. Then we moved the luggages to Miki's home before returning back to Nittaidai to watch the afternoon kendo training. Shizawa Sensei, MK, Miki and I then went to a nearby small, but classy sushi shop, and later joined by Yagizawa Sensei. We talked a lot throughout the night, not to mention the many beer that goes with the dinner. The 5 of us have probably drank something like 12 1-Litre bottles of beer. From my observation, I think Yagizawa Sensei is a very very good drinker. He drank beer like water.

We had some very interesting conversations. During the dinner, Shizawa Sensei showed us the photos of his 3 luxury boats and they are named after Ron Bennett - Captain Bennett 1, 2 and 3!!! Very classy.

Btw, the sushi chef was a very animated and entertaining person. His chopsticks 'sushi power' demo, and the fake violin performance all fooled us... not to mention his superior skills in sushi-making.

Wednesday Oct-12
Miki and I woke up at 6:30am and arriving at Nittaidai at 7am for the 1hr morning training. There, I was introduced to all the 3rd year student - Shoko, Hoso, Sanae, Sayaka, Kayo, Saiyuri, and Ai. They will be coming to Australia on 12th February 2006, so you guys will meet them too. Takano Aiko, whom I played a shiai match with her in Sydney this year, is now the captain of the Nittaidai Womens Kendo Team.

The morning training session was relatively light compared to what would come next in the afternoon Kendo training sessions. The morning training consists of warm-up stretching, 10mins walking around the Athletics field, 10mins jogging, 2 rotations of 10reps squat/push-up/sit-up/back exercises, and concluded with cool-down stretching.

The afternoon training session started at 4:30pm today. After stretching and suburi, about 20 male member names were called. These guys will be competing at the All Japan University Student Championships this Sunday, and so there was shiai-geiko practices for these 20 members. For the rest of the club, we sat down and had mitori-geiko. During the shiai-geiko, Miki pointed to the room upstairs and said "Furusawa Sensei" and told me that Furusawa Sensei is Kendo 9th Dan Hanshi. 9th Dan!!!! Wow, first day in Nittaidai and I can geiko with a 9th Dan. It's like a dream.

After the shiai-geiko, we had jigeiko, and I engaged geiko with Okada Sensei (womens team head coach), Furusawa Sensei (Kendo 9th Dan), Shintsato Chikano Sensei (womens team coach). At 6:30pm, the kendo club training session finished. Immediately following that was the women kendo training session, which went on for another hour. There were lots of kirikaeshi and men-uchi waza practices. But the exercises that killed me the most was the along the length of the dojo geiko - kirikaeshi, kote-men, renzoku-men, etc... My calves were so tired at the end of the training. Then there were more, the pair-up haya-doh suburi in squating position, etc, etc... At the end, we finished off with about 100 jogeburi, 100 men-suburi, 100 haya-suburi. Then we had a cool-down stretching routine. And that was my first kendo training at Nittaidai.

Below are the advices I received from Sensei:

  • Furusawa Sensei: Good kendo. Try to make the attacks more flowing. Pamm-Bamm, Pamm-Bamm, etc...
  • Okada Sensei: Keep chin tucked in; Body must move in together when executing the cut; Take large step for fumikomi; Left leg must follow up quickly after fumikomi; Right forearm should remain relaxed. Te-no-uchi is uchi for hand (te), not elbow or forearm. Therefore, the forearm and elbow should not have to do much work. It's the hands that do the work. Tense arms -> No power. Shoulder and arms should remain relaxed to generate maximum whipping power; Each cut should be executed like a wall of wave pushing forward; Do not lift arms up after men-cut; Use visualisation to trainthe mind and body to move straight like a wall of wave; No up-down movement and the ki should not die down or disperse after cut.

As you can see, I have been given a lot of great advices in my first day at Nittaidai. Now, I will make sure that I put the above points into practice and improve my kendo.

Miki is part of the Taiko club, and I was fortunate to see the club practices. It's good to have some music background, so I was able to pick up the rhythm relatively quickly. I recognised the piece that they were practicing. It was played in the Nittaidai demo in Sydney. Next year, Miki and the rest of her 3rd year Taiko clubmates will come to Sydney to perform, so we will see them in action.

Okada Sensei, Miki, Hoso and I rode our bikes to dinner at a small specialty restaurant tonight. Only one type of food called Nikomi is served in this store. Nikomi is a beef stew with konyak, tofu. After that, we had milkshakes at Mos Burger next door and chatted for about an hour before returning home.

Thursday - Oct-13

Miki and the rest of the 3rd year students had to attend class at Nittaidai's Yokohama campus and there were no morning kendo training today. So I had plenty of free time before the 4:30pm kendo club training.

Caught a train to Shibuya and walked around the various department stores there, and bought a few cool stationery items.

Today's afternoon club training was in a similar format to yesterday's training. There were 7 shiai-geiko for the men, and that lasted for about 1hr. Following that was free jigeiko. I played Yagisawa Sensei and Watanabe Sensei (Men Team Coach). At 6:30pm, the club training finished. The girls had more strength training exercises (squat/push-up/sit-up/back) until 7pm.

Tonight, Miki and I rode our bikes for about 10mins to a 100 Yen shop nearby the restaurant that we were going tonight. Had a good time chatting plus learning Japanese (and English for Miki) throughout the dinner.

Today - Oct-14

Woke up at 6:30am for 7am morning training. Same routine as Wednesday. At the end of today's training, we would give a back and leg massage to our training buddy to loosen up the tension in the muscles.

That's been what happening to me up until now.

Thank you everyone who have sent me emails and left messages on my blog. Doomo Arigatou Gozaimasu! Gambatte!!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
I am in Japan!

I am having absolutely great fun here in Japan. Oh yeah!!! I am totally enjoying myself here. Through Michael Komoto and Alex Bennett, I have been making lots of great kendo friends, such as Yoshiyama Sensei who is super famous for writing numerous important works for the IKF, including the 100 Years history of the Zen Kendo and the grading examination training guide. I even had the great honour to visit his house and join him for dinner last night with Michael Komoto. Gosh! His house is a museum. So many art works. There are 2 big grand pianos at his house, because his sister in law is a pianist, and his father is a famous painter. Waaaa. I am going to show you the videos I taped last night. Magnificent.

Everyone is super nice here. They have been treating me so well. 4 weeks do not seem to be enough. I wat more leaves!!!!!

I competed in the Kyoto Companies Kendo Tournament today. It is the place where the annual Kyoto Taikai in May is held. hahaha, so previleged to play in such a historical place in my first kendo geiko in Japan.

Good news. I came third in the Womens Individuals and 3rd in the Team events. Woohooo!!!!!! Something I could bring back to show my friends and family. YAY!!!!

Kendo World Team A and B came equal 3rd in the Team event. YAY! Well done KW! Yoko San and myself came 2nd and 3rd respectively in the womens category. Alan Cornell came 3rd in the nidan and below division, and Greg Robinson came 2nd in the yondan division.

Anyway, I am completely drunk now coming back from the after-party of the competition. I have never drunk so many beers and sake in my whole life!!! People just kept pouring beer and sake into your glass. I tell you, Japan has a completely crazy drinking culture. I have probably drank some 2-3 litres of beer and alcohol tonight. Easy. I never knew I am such a good drinker until tonight. Oh, that:s a worry, but too happy to care at the moment. Okay, this does not sound like Vivian. I think I ought to go to rest myself, before catching the shinkasen back to Tokyo and doing some more heavy training at the Nippon Sports Science University. Oh yes, and I will try not to get injured.