a MMB! Kendo Blog: Blister with Honour

MMB! Kendo Blog

Thursday, January 26, 2006

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Blister with Honour

20 kendoka from around the country attended the Australian Kendo Squad training held in Canberra last weekend, and I was one of them.

Getting To Canberra
On Friday evening after work, I got on a 6pm Greyhound coach with Mike and arrived to Canberra at around 9:25pm. We then walked 10mins to YHA Canberra located in the City centre, which was where us and Nick Bartlett (who flew in from Queensland) would stay for the weekend.

Poor Nick, his taxi driver drove him from the airport to the former YHA in a remote suburban location. It was when they arrived to the old worn-down place that they realised it was not the correct address and had to turn back towards the City. That supposedly short trip from the airport to the City Centre costed him $40!

However, it didn't seem that the other Canberrian taxi drivers fare any better.... read on...

Sat. Jan-21 - Day 1
Nick, Mike and I had our morning breakfast at the YHA, then went to bought my 2 bacon & egg McMuffin at a nearby MacDonald's before taking a taxi to the ANU Sports Centre.

Gosh! The Canberrian taxi driver really had no clue of the whereabout of the YHA. Nick called a taxi to come to the YHA Canberra and specifically told the call centre that it was the YHA on Akuna Street. We waited and waited... and after 15mins of waiting. We grew a bit impatient and so Nick called the taxi call-centre again. Apparently, our taxi driver drove to the former YHA location. (NOT AGAIN!!!) After a further 5mins of waiting, we finally caught a random taxi which passed in front of the YHA and off we went to the ANU Sports Centre.

We arrived to the venue at around 9:20am. At that time, there were only Claire Chan and Chiaki Kobayashi (aka. Obaasan) in the sports hall. After some chatting with Obaasan, we got changed, donned our bogu, ready for the start of the training.

At 10am, we started the squad training.

First, Brett Smith welcomed everyone and gave us an overview of what to expect in the coming two-day of squad training. There would only be 3 sessions on the first day - 2 in the morning and 1 in the afternoon. After that, there would be a team building session, which Brett said would be a lot of fun. However, Brett said the training would be very hard, and we should all try our hardest to go through the training, but he promised that the training wouldn't kill us. He promised.

And so the action began...

First Session - Kihon with Intensity & Zanshin
The first session was 40mins only. We did the each of following for 2 to 3 times: kirikaeshi, men-uchi, kote-uchi, dou-uchi, kote-men-taitari-hiki-men, kote-men-taitari-hiki-kote, kote-men-taitari-hiki-dou.

Then at the very last exercise, we did a combo of all the previous individual exercise in one go.

The exercises themselves were simple, but it was the level of intensity and zanshin which Brett demanded in each cut that made the exercises exhausting.

Second Session - Shiai-geiko
After a 15mins break, the second session of 75mins began. This session was focused on shiai-geiko.

We started off with 10mins of self-warm-up, followed by group suburi and the Australian Squad warm-up routine, which is:

  • kirikaeshi - 3 rotations
  • men-uchi - 3 times each, twice thru, 3 rotations
  • kote-uchi - 3 times each, twice thru, 2 rotations
  • kote-men-uchi - 3 times each, once thru, 2 rotations
  • hiki-men->men->men-taitari-hiki-men->men - once each, 2 rotations
  • short shiai-geiko - approx. 60sec each, 2 rotations

  • Then we had shiai-geiko. Each player would fight another player that Brett had assigned to.

    'Chiaki and Vivian in the first match,' Brett announced.

    THE moment had finally come. This had been the match that many people have been waiting to see, and I too, had been wondering when I would fight Chiaki in a shiai situation. The time has finally come.

    After Brett assigned the playing order of all 9 team matches, the team shiai began. I was in the white team and Chiaki was red.

    It was a big match and I knew deep inside that my performance in this match would be very important. I told myself to fight hard, to stay in the match. However, my mind was weak. I could not find the spark, the winning feeling and the mental energy to pump myself up. In a nutshell, I was feeling flat.

    I was repeating the same attacks over and over again. I, too, found my game very boring. No variety at all, but I couldn't find the energy to make a change. On top of that, Chiaki's height made it very difficult for me to attack her kote and do. It was a boring men men men game for me. To sum it up, I am very disappointed with my performance.

    Anyway, the match went to Chiaki 2-1. Chiaki got the opening match point with a well-timed men-kaeshi-do; I equalised the match with a tobikomi-men; and Chiaki got the winning hiki-kote in my lapse of defence after my men attack.

    So what went wrong?

    I think it's all in my head. I wasn't mentally prepared. I had doubts in my own abilities even before the match started. I was too carried away in worrying whether I could have the energy during the shiai, that my energy was sapped away even before the match started.


    That is what I need. I need to think like a champion. To have 110% confidence in my ability. Have belief in myself. That is what I need.

    We had about 45mins lunch break after the second session, and I ate my two Bacon and Egg McMuffin which I bought in the morning.

    Third Session - More Shiai-geiko
    After lunch, we had a 90mins third session. We did more shiai practice in two courts. One for the guys and another for the ladies.

    Brett Smith assigned everyone our first shiai partner. I had Kate Sylvester in my first match.

    To my surprise, I scored a tobikomi-men very early in the match. However, with about 30secs before the end of the match, Kate scored a equalising kote cut to draw the match.

    Kote: Gaze & Zanshin
    After the match, Kate came over and so kindly gave me some feedbacks on my performance. Her comments were both encouraging and helpful. She said I had a powerful and fast kote, but one thing that I need to be careful of is my gaze before the kote cut. Apparently, I was looking at the kote just before I went for the kote cut. So Kate could tell if I was going for kote or men. Another thing was that I was cutting the kote sideway and the follow-through zanshin was not smooth.

    So for kote cut, I need to keep my gaze forward, and to cut kote straight-on.

    I invited Claire to be my second shiai partner. We had a rather equal match... until the very last second when Claire executed a kote-cut, which landed slightly above the kote target, but the shimpan awarded the point anyway.

    For the last shiai, I invited Hayami as my shiai partner. That match ended so quickly. I was sucked into Hayami's game plan. She was drawing me the whole time to come for men cut. Two times. Two times I attempted tobikomi-men. And two times. Two times she executed perfect debana-kote right on the target.

    What's wrong with my kote? Is it really such an obvious target? Have I been sucked into other people's trap all this time? I really have to find the answer, and find it out quickly, because all the major Championships are not long away.

    Last session - Team Building
    We changed into casual clothing for the final session of the day. The final session lasted for about 2 hours and it was on team building and to foster a stronger TEAM SPIRIT. We were very lucky indeed to have Mr. Andy Schollum - a Professional Teamwork advisor who has worked in the past for the Australian Swim Team and NRL teams amongst others.

    Andy gave the squad a task which we must achieve in less than an hour to qualify for the World Kendo Championships. The task was a team game called MASTER MIND. The goal of the game was to decode the secrets to unlock a box which contained the secret to Life, Love and [something I couldn't remember].

    We splitted up into 6 groups of 3. In each group, there were one MASTER MIND, a MIND 2, and a MIND 3. Each team member was situated about 80 metres away from each other.

    MIND 2 and MIND 3 each hold half of the full alphanumeric secret. MIND 2 and MIND 3 had to pass the alphanumeric secret back to MASTER MIND using a set of predetermined codes shared by the members within the same team. The concept used here was similar to Morse Code. For example, A is represented by calling out 'BLEEP' 1 time, B = 'BLEEP' x 2; C = 'BLEEP' x 3, ..., F = 'COCK-A-DOODLE-DO' x 1; G = 'COCK-A-DOODLE-DO' x 2, etc, etc.

    For my team, our codes were:

    A - 1x; B - 2x; C - 3x; D - 4x; E - 5x

    F - 1x; G - 2x; H - 3x; I - 4x; J - 5x

    K - 1x; L - 2x; M - 3x; N - 4x; O - 5x

    P - 1x; Q - 2x; R - 3x; S - 4x; T - 5x

    U - 1x; V - 2x; W - 3x; X - 4x; YZ - 5x

    1 - 1x; 2 - 2x; 3 - 3x; 4 - 4x; 5 - 5x

    6 - 1x; 7 - 2x; 8 - 3x; 9 - 4x; 0 - 5x

    Our team secret: AMATRSHOPE

    The codes were pretty stupid sounds. It was pretty embarrassing just to think about what we would be screaming and yelling on top of our lung to pass the codes between team members during that one-hour game.

    But once the game started, and when everyone was yelling out stupid codes, like 'COCK-A-DOODLE-DO', 'MIEOW', etc, we got really excited. It was a lot of fun.

    The funniest part was to watch Takashi Itakura - a person famed for his seriousness, yelling out 'Boofhead' on top of his lung. Everyone laughed so much just watching such a serious guy doing this. Ooooh, that had to be the funniest moment in the squad training. Master Kim, too, was pretty funny when he had to yell out 'Dumdee Doo'.

    It was so funny to hear what Takashi said to Andy after the game... about his dignity and how he must not let his wife know that he played this game. Classic!!!!

    In my team, Martino Ellero took the MASTER MIND role, I did MIND 2 and Sharyn was MIND 3.

    Martino received one wrong code from both Sharyn and me in the first go, so we both had to pass our codes twice. Martino, the MASTER MIND of our team, and us did some careful cross-checking, and were able to decode our own team codes very quickly.

    However, there were some troubles with 2 other teams. One member of the other team doesn't understand English too well, and there were some misunderstanding in the code passing. So those of us in the MIND 2 groups who have finished with our own team decoding went to help that team to pass and decode the secret.

    Unfortunately, time ran out and we could only decode 4 of the 6 team secrets.

    So the Australian are out of the World Kendo Championships because of failing to call out 'Dumdeedoo' or 'Boofhead' correctly. OH DARN!!!!

    Anyway, after the game, we went back to the sport centre and had a 30mins discussion on our MASTER MIND game performance.

    Andy introduced us to the 4 elements of team success - Task, Intellect, Spirit and Emotion. He drew a scale with Task & Emotion on the left hand side and Spirit and Emotion on the right hand side. To succeed in a team environment, both side of the scale should have equal weighting.

    Task + Intellect = Spirit + Emotion

    After explaining each element, Andy asked us what we want to get out of doing Kendo.

    Answers replied include: to become a better leader; to contribute back to the Kendo community,
    To make friends, to understand oneself better, to develop a better personality, to win, to become good at Kendo.

    My personal reply to that question was 'To rise to the challenge'.

    Andy marked each person's answers to either the right or left hand side of the scale. And at the end of the answering session, we could clearly see that most of the replies were on the right hand side of the scale - the human emotion's side.

    Andy then said that the key to a strongly bond and successful team was to have a good understanding of each other's goals in life and kendo. Once we knew each other's goals, we could help each other in achieving that goal. And that, was something that we would discuss in the early Sunday morning session - the biggest challenge each of us faced (or facing) in our life.

    He told us the story about his father, Ron, a WWII veteran, who gave him a lot of inspirational. Wherever Ron goes (butcher shop, the supermarket, etc), everyone would welcome him and asked him how he is doing, and Ron would pull a joke or two and everyone would be happy. As a kid, Andy always wondered how his dad could make people become happy so easily.

    One day, Ron and Andy went to the supermarket together. At the checkout counter, there was this young kid looking tired, head down, shoulder slumped. Ron said something to the kid, and instantly, Andy could see that kid got some new found energy, head high, and smiling again. Andy asked his dad how he did it, and Ron replied. ‘Son, just spreading a little joy.’

    And ‘spread a little joy’ is the motto of Ron. Ron would like to leave the people feeling happier than before they have met him. Andy later found out later that it takes great effort in doing it so seemingly easy.

    The seminar finished at around 5pm.

    Nick, Mike and I caught a taxi back to the hotel, took a shower, and at around 7pm, we went to join Takashi, Hayami, Kate, Claire and Chiaki to dinner at a Chinese restaurant on Bunda Street. I was so so so hungry that night, I ate 5 bowls of rice! Afterwards, we went to a café for more chatting PLUS eating ice-cream. I had two scoops of mango and chocolate hazelnut.

    I slept at 11pm that night.

    Sunday, Feb-22
    I woke up at 6am to get ready for the 7am start on Sunday. We caught a taxi to the ANU Campus, stopping by a drive-thru MacDonald’s on the way. I bought 4 Bacon & Egg McMuffin (Yes, there was nothing open in Canberra other than MacDonald’s on an early Sunday morning), while Mike had a big breakfast, and Nick had a Old English McMuffin and hash brown.

    Fifth Session – Team Building
    We arrived to ANU at about 6:45am and had breakfast before the 7am start of the Team Building session.

    This session Andy got each of us to talk about the biggest challenge we faced in our life and how we overcome the challenge. Andy started off by telling his with a story of how he became a facilitator.

    20 years ago when Andy was a facilitator trainee, he had to face a group of very depressing, sulking and unmotivated group of workers in his second ever session as a facilitator. The group were waiting for their fate on whether they would be laid off because of the uncertain future of their company. Andy was really scared when he walked into the room and saw that group of people. As cheery as he could be, but no matter what he did, there was very little response from the group. He looked over to Peter, his mentor, and searched for clue. Peter tried to signal something to him, but Andy didn't understand what he meant. He was feeling so scared that he was shaking the whole time.

    That night, Peter came to visit him in his room. 'What's wrong? You don't look too well,' said Peter. Andy wanted to tell him that he didn't know whether he could go on as a facilitator, but somehow the sentence came out of his mouth to be 'I don't think I can go on anymore'.

    Peter, who was a former fighter jet pilot and a recipient of the highest Australian miliatary honour heard that and he used a imagery military situation as Andy and Peter normally did for fun when chatting.

    'Imagine you and me are faced with a group of fighter jet enemies in the sky.' Peter said.

    'You feel scared. You had a choice to turn around.'

    'However, if you turn around, you will be leaving me behind, fighting the enemies alone.'

    'I would not blame you for turning around, and we would still be friends in the future, but our relationship would just end there.'

    With that, Andy gained a newfound energy within him, but he still didn't know what to do with his class tomorrow.

    'You will figure out.' Peter assured him, and walked away, leaving Andy to figure out himself.

    And Peter was right. After thinking over the night, Andy thought that there must be one or two person in that group who would be more opened and easy to chat with. So Andy would target those people to generate a closer and more friendly atmosphere and hoped that feeling would spread to everyone in the room.

    And it worked. There were one or two guys who empathised with Andy - the poor guy who had to stand in front of a group of unmotivated workers and tried to motivate them. So with that, those one or two guys was a big help to Andy in getting the group involved. And eventually, the whole group was filled with enthusiasm and newfound energy at the end of the 3-day seminar. The seminar turned out to be a real success.

    Andy said that it was Peter who didn't give him any sympathy, which allowed him to eventually overcome his challenge and succeed. If Peter showed sympathy to Andy, Andy would not have become a facilitator. 'It is okay to shy away from the challenge', Andy said, 'but eventually the failure to overcome the challenge would haunt me for the rest of my life'. He was glad that Peter didn't give him any sympathy.

    From this story, Andy showed us that we should learn to use sympathy wisely when helping a team member to overcome challenges. Andy also talked about the difference between Empathy, Infinity and Sympathy.

    Afterwards, each of us took turn to talk about the biggest challenge we have faced and how we overcame it. It was a great opportunity to understand more about every member on the squad. For me, I talked about my sports physiotherapist dream and what I am doing in order to realise my dream.

    Towards the end of the Team Building session, Andy asked the squad to come up with a phrase, a word or an acronym that can represent the spirit of Australian Kendo.

    We splitted up into 3 teams. In my team of 5, we came up with the word 'Blister' . Blister, as every kendo man and woman know, represents all the hard work, dedication, passion, pride, etc, we have put into our kendo. It's like the badge of honour. So in the end, we had 'Blister with Honour' to represent the spirit of Australian Kendo.

    The morning Team Building session finished at 10am.

    Sixth Session - Team Shiai
    The sixth session started at around 10:45am. We had another session of team shiai. There were 9 matches in total, and I played the fifth position. This time, Brett assigned me to play against Claire Chan.

    While waiting for my turn, I tried to get myself focused and told myself what I should do from sonkyu. My plan was to do a quick suprised tobikomi-men cut immediately after hajime. However, when I went on to the shiai-jo and came up from sonkyu, it was 3 seconds later that I realised that I forgot to do my surprised attack...

    I felt that my performance improved slightly from yeseterday. However, I think I was sucked into Claire's game, and was a little bit too impatient to wait for the right opportunity to attack. In the end, Claire got two debana-kote and won that match.

    Seventh Session - Situational Shiai
    In the sixth session, Brett introduced us to 3 situational shiai situations.

  • Situation 1: Chuken match - Red side has won both the previous senpo and jiho matches.
  • Situation 2: Jiho match - Red side has won the senpo match
  • Situation 3: Daihyoshu-sen

  • Each of us had to find a partner and we would fight for 4 mins in Situation 1, 2; and 3 mins in Situation 3. At the end of each match, we had to report the shiai result back to the team manager who would record the results down.

    In Situation 1, I had Kate as my shiai-partner. I played the White team part. The final result was 1-1 draw.
    In Situation 2, I fought Hayami. The final result was 1-1 draw.
    In Situation 3, I fought Claire. We had no score after the 3mins match.

    After the situational shiai matches, Brett explained to us that fighting in a team situation is different to fighting in an Individuals shiai. For a team that is leading in points, the strategy for the player is to preserve the advantageous situation and do not make any risky attempts; Only make attacks when an obvious attacking opportunity presents itself. For a team that is losing in points, of course, the players would have to fight hard to gain more points.

    Eighth and Final Session: Free Jigeiko
    We had 40mins free jigeiko. I had jigeiko with Stephen Ellis, Yakov Macak sensei, Brett Smith and Dave Bunder.

    I was very happy to finally have a chance to engage jigeiko with Stephen. The jigeiko was great. Stephen possessed very nice techniques and he made me work hard and do something special (aka. a surprised gyaku-do) to get the final point.

    Stephen kindly gave me some feedbacks afterwards in an email. He noticed during my keiko that my body leaned forward a second before I launched a men attack. So from now on, I will need to take extra care of my body posture to make sure that I don't send too many signals to my opponent before an attack.

    Next, was jigeiko with Macak sensei. I was feeling great in that jigeiko and personally I think I was satisfied with that jigeiko performance. At the end of the training, Macak sensei gave me some feedbacks from his weekend observations. He said my left foot took a step in before launching into a cut. I should try to explode into a cut from a stationary position without juggling my feet.

    It was my aim to fight Brett Smith at the end of each National Squad Training, and this time it was no exception. The jigeiko with Brett was so difficult this time. I had great trouble in moving Brett's shinai out of the way fast enough to make a cut. I tried knocking, twirling, pressing Brett's shinai before coming for a cut. By the time I moved in, However, Brett would have already recovered his centre, and I kept running into his kensen cut after cut.

    Brett told me that my upper body was launching into the cut first, leaving my back and lower body behind. And because of that, Brett had the time to recover his centre, and by the time I moved in, I ran straight into Brett's shinai.

    I need to move my back in and the whole body forward as soon as I took control of the centre.

    Going Back Home
    I went home with the KIMs (Master Kim, Daniel Kim and Jimmy Kim) in Master Kim's car. We left Canberra at around 5pm and arrived to Strathfield at about 8pm where I met my family and had a hearty meal at the local Chinese restaurant.

    I think the toughest part of this squad training was the mental preparation. Physically, the training was not as hard as the other previous squad trainings. However, I have had a lot of troubles keeping my spirit high, my confidence up, and finding that feeling, that burning desire to fight in that weekend. I don't know if it was the food or not, but I was feeling quite flat on the first day. The second day was slightly better, but I knew deep inside that it was not my best performance. There is a lot of mental preparation I need to go through, and definitely I will need to be both physically and mentally prepared before any squad trainings or big competitions.

    Technique-wise, I will need to focus on pushing my whole body forward when launching a cut; To keep my gaze forward (not looking at the target area) and body straight when cutting kote; and to keep posture straight and left foot ready to launch into a cut anytime without juggling the foot.


    • I want to know how long it took you to post this entry!!??! haha

      that code thing is really funny, I still dont understand it though.

      By Blogger Eddie 哥哥, at Saturday, January 28, 2006 12:52:00 PM  

    • It must have taken me some 4 hours to think and to type this entry. I didn't want to give a vague recount as it seems that every moment was important to me. So although it was really time-consuming, I think it was worth the effort.

      Yes, the MASTER MIND game was so much fun. I hope there will be more team-building session in the coming squad training. Though I think chances are pretty low, as the next squad training will be on 17th April - day after the National Championships in Perth.

      The Australian Team selection will be in early July, and the place will likely to be Sydney or Canberra.

      By Blogger Vivian Yung, at Sunday, January 29, 2006 1:29:00 AM  

    • By the way Gong Hei Fat Choy!!

      By Blogger Eddie 哥哥, at Sunday, January 29, 2006 3:09:00 AM  

    • Happy Chinese New Year~! May all your wishes (kendo and otherwise) come true ~!!

      By Blogger plautus, at Sunday, January 29, 2006 10:51:00 AM  

    • To all my dear blog friends: 恭喜發財! 新年快樂! May all your dreams come true, wishes be granted in the Year of the Dog.

      YAY!!! This is MY YEAR!!!

      By Blogger Vivian Yung, at Sunday, January 29, 2006 10:52:00 AM  

    • Hey Viv:

      I really liked this post ^^... it's very detailed and insightful, and always a little inspiring ^^;;

      Hope you get to go to the nationals! That'd be awesome...

      By Blogger Quoth the raven, at Sunday, January 29, 2006 12:33:00 PM  

    • Thank you Sussan. I am glad that you enjoyed the read. It made me happy too.

      By Blogger Vivian Yung, at Sunday, January 29, 2006 8:20:00 PM  

    • She said I had a powerful and fast kote, but one thing that I need to be careful of is my gaze before the kote cut.

      Good tip. This is the act of encapsulating the whole target in a single gaze. With practice, your only point of judgement will be whether you are within striking distance of your opponent. You will develop a sense of where the wrist, abdomen, or other targets are without having to fix your gaze specifically on these.

      By Blogger ChiyoDad, at Tuesday, February 07, 2006 4:16:00 PM  

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