a MMB! Kendo Blog: August 2006

MMB! Kendo Blog

Thursday, August 31, 2006

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Russian National Team Members Visit

Тренировка с русскими

UNSW on Monday
Monday was a big day. The 3 Russian national team members - Vitaly, Maxim and Sergei joined the UNSW training, and Ka-bi who usually doesn't attend Monday training also came to lead the class until Sano sensei arrived.

It was a massive rush for me on Monday evening to go home and get the car to pick up the Russians in Gordon at 7pm. By now, I have perfected the all important skills of slipping in and out of office without too much attention, a skill that I acquired well as my kendo year grows. Ayumi-ashi in stealth serves me very well in these occassions. This is how you apply kendo into your daily life.

Anyway, I drove Maxim, Vitaly and Sergey and we arrived to UNSW at around 7:30pm. When we stepped out of the car, we could hear the loud kiai coming all the way from the dojo to the parking lot.

While we were walking upstairs to the dojo, I could hear Kirby was at the dojo entrance greeting Max and Sergey who were walking ahead of me. Kirby also joined the Monday training which was quite unusual as he usually train on Thursday only.

Kirby led the training and we practiced kirikaeshi (slow and fast), kihon-geiko, kote-do and hiki-men.

One-Breath Men Cuts
Sano Sensei arrived half-way through the training, and we did some new men-uchi exercises -cutting as many men cuts as possible in one breath, and we did that for a few rotations. I was able to do up to five men-cuts in one breath.

In the second new men-uchi exercise, Sano sensei instructed us to do as many men cuts in 10 seconds as possible. I was able to do six cuts in 10 seconds, while the highest number in the class was 7, with Michael Henstock close to scoring 8 cuts if he made the 8th cut 0.1 second faster.

In the above two exercises, motodachi has an active and important role in keeping the connection with the person doing the exercises, so that the person practicing could launch the next attack as soon as they turned around from their previous cut.

Afterwards, we had many rounds of mawari-jigeiko. During the rotations, I had the chance to pair up with Sergey and Vitaly.

Sergey was very fast, strong and explosive in his cuts with nice orthodox kendo. Personally, I think he is the strongest of the three. His tokui waza is kote - debana kote, hiki-kote. And he is only 18. He is a force to reckon with, and I can see a lot of future in him.

By the time I was rotated to play Vitaly, my mind and body were very well warmed-up. I landed a few debana-kote, and he retaliated with his explosive fast men cuts and ocassional kote.
From 9pm, we had 30mins free jigeiko. I brought my video-camera to trainingonce again, and taped my matches with Sergey, Michael Henstock and Sano Sensei.

Winning Factor: Mental Strength, Not Physical Ability
I played my last keiko of the night with Sano Sensei. It was an ippon keiko, and lasted for 8 full intensed minutes. I put everything into the game, and there were a few moments when I thought I had cut Sensei's kote, but the cuts didn't convince Sensei and so no point was awarded. I kept trying my best to go for cuts, but it was so difficult to make that ippon happened. My body was getting tired at that stage, and there was one moment late in the jigeiko where there was an open opportunity to make a perfect men-ari, but my mind was not strong enough to grab the moment, and my shinai slipped off the men. I think it is the hardest to keep the mind strong even when physical exhaustion is coming to you. But I must be learn to be prepared for that, as the deciding point of a big match is usually decided by mental strength and not physical ability.

More Power in Cut
At the end of training, I asked for feedbacks from Sano Sensei. He said my men cut was too light and needed more power in the cut to make that ippon scoring sound.

I also asked about what was lacking in my kote cut to warrant an ippon. Sano Sensei said he might have been tough on me, and some shinpans might give me the point. But that still didn't convince me. There must be a reason to why Sano Sensei didn't give me the point. Sano Sensei said there was something lacking, but he couldn't pinpoint where the problem was, and suggested me to look at the video-tapes myself for clues.

After training finished at 9:30pm. About 15 people went to Kirby's house in Bondi to have a welcoming party for the Russians. We had pasta and watched the DVD brought in by the Russians about their training and dojo back in Vladivostok. One thing I saw in that DVD which I really like was their kendo training dummy. Using simple mechnical parts such as coils and shock absorber, Sergey and Vitaly created a very well-functioned 80kg training dummy which imitates real human movements very well. It allows you to practice everything from learning to break opponent's kensen to hiki-waza. Best of all, it won't scream at you if you miss a cut. I would love to a training dummy like that too.

We watched some more kendo videos before departing at 2am. It was a long but fun day out.

Willoughby on Wednesday
I drove the 3 Russians to Willoughby dojo for the 7:30pm start. Takashi Itakura Sensei led the training session that night, and we had a few Kim's from Master Choi's dojo joining the training too.

For the first 20mins, I paired up with Sergey to run through Kata 1-7 in both motodachi and shidachi roles three times. The whole class then did stretching and warm-up together, before putting our men and kote on.

The training focused on the basics. We had a lot of good quality basic ashi-sabaki practices up and down the dojo. I again paired up with Sergey, and we did the following exercises along the full length of the dojo:

  1. okuri-ashi x 10 return trips
  2. suri-ashi x 10 return trips
  3. kote-men in super fast little jumpy steps x 5 return trips
  4. 3 sets of full kirikaeshi along the full length of the dojo (focus on accurate men cut. So we did the men cuts in a relatively slow speed but of very high quality)
  5. men-uchi x 3
  6. kote-uchi x 3
  7. do-uchi x 3
  8. kote-men x 3

追い込み稽古 (小手-面)
One thing to watch out for when practicing the super fast jumpy machine-gun styled kote-men is that left heel must always be lifted off the ground.

In the last 15mins, we had ippon-shobu jigeiko. Itakura Sensei emphasised that we should each have one goal to achieve during the jigeiko session. For Sensei himself, his goal was tried not to waver in reaction to opponent's movements. To form good kamae and keep strong kensen at all time.

I had keiko with Sergey, Vitaly, Maxim and Hyun-Duk Kim.

I realised after the jigeiko that my body was not moving in/forward during the cut. My men cut was really lacking the forward momentum. I should try to propel my whole body forward in my cuts.

Another thing I noticed about my cuts was that, I started my cuts from too great a distance. It is good to be able to jump from a great distance to attack my opponent. However, it is very hard to create pressure on my opponent when there is a big distance between me and my opponent.

My Goals in Doing Men-uchi:

  1. Seme, seme, seme...
  2. ...until my seme beat opponent's centre-line;
  3. move in immediately to the attacking zone;
  4. using forward momentum, propel whole body forward to cut men;
  5. follow through cut with quick suri-ashi and good zanshin.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Physical and Mental Strength

It has been a tough ride in the past week. I had been sick from the previous Wednesday, but the condition became worse over the weekend, and I was coughing the whole night on early Monday morning with flam in my throat, and had to take a sickie off work to see the doctor, who prescribed me antibiotics.

All this mess came at a bad timing as I missed Sano sensei's Birthday keiko on Monday. I heard there was a 30mins ganging up at the end of training. Sano sensei vs. the whole class. And I heard too, that everyone played exceptionally well that night. It must have been a great Kendo sight.

UNSW Thursday Training
I slowly gained my health back during the week, and pushed myself to the UNSW Thursday training. To be honest, I wasn't feeling so well and ready for kendo training. Nonetheless, I went as I felt my stamina and skills would go downhill if I missed another training.

The training format was waza geiko, followed by kakari-geiko, and finished off with mawari-jigeiko.

During the waza session, Ka-bi pointed out the followings:

I was lacking the pressuring intensity to make my opponent's react. My goal from now on is to build up and sustain the pressure and intensity to set up my followed-up cuts.

The ultimate of this seme practice is to create fear, freeze my opponent.

Feint-men Kote
I was extending my arms and pushing my shinai forward towards my opponent in an attempt to create reactions from my opponent. Ka-bi pointed out that this is not effective in making reaction. Also, pushing my shinai in would cramp out the space I would need later to execute the swift kote cut.

Ka-bi suggested to start the feint-men kote attack from a distance. Pull the shinai back in an exaggerated movements to create an illusion to opponent that I am aiming for men cut. When opponent reacts by lifting his/her arms up to counter my men attack, his/her lifted arms exposed kote. It is then a simple case of following up with a swift kote cut.

Health is Number 1
Normally, I enjoy kakari-geiko no matter how tough it is. It gives you an uplifting spirit when you have given all you have got and complete the tough training.

This time, however, it was nowhere near that uplifting feeling. I still gave all I have got in every single round of kakari-geiko, but my energy tank was so low to start with that I was puffing for air so badly. I couldn't believe how much one week of sickness could do to my fitness. My lungs collapsed it was not funny.

I cannot afford to have another sickness from now to World Championships. To be able to train hard, I must stay healthy. Health is number 1.

Every Match is a WKC Match
At the end of the training, I asked Sano Sensei for comments on my jigeiko with him. It was a short jigeiko so there wasn't much to be said. Though I pointed out that I had used quite a lot of hiki-men during that jigeiko and asked Sano Sensei's for his opinion. He said that I need to make a more committed convincing hiki-men to claim the ippon from the shinpan. Maybe I was hitting the mengane; maybe I was not hitting the top of the men to create that snappy ippon sound.

Whatever it is, from now on, I must execute every single cut like I would do it in the World Championships. Every ippon from now counts towards to WKC.

Saturday Willoughby: The Russians are Coming
Maxim Tishchenko who came from a town called Vladivostok in Russia joined the Sydney Kendo Club training in Willoughby on Saturday. Maxim is one of the three Russian National Kendo Team members who will be visiting Sydney this month. Max was the first of the three to arrive to Sydney from their first stop in Canberra. His other 2 compatriots arrived later that day and I will be taking them to UNSW training on Monday night.

Maxim played a very fast style of kendo. He has very good control of shinai, and those who have played him on the day would notice that he has very good wrist power. One of his shinai-disarming flick sent Ken's shinai flying across the dojo like a boomerang.

I brought a video-camera with me to training and taped my jigeiko performance. And it wasn't as pretty as I thought. Footwork was slow and inexplosive. Cuts were predictable and repetitive. At the moment, I think I am lacking a goal to aim for at each training session.

For my kendo to improve, I must walk into the dojo with the right mindset and a goal to achieve in each training sessions. To get into the right mindset, I need to do some imagination and visualisation training to assist my kendo performance in the dojo.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Sliding Ahead

This week has been a little bit difficult to negotiate time for myself to attend dojo training. I only attended Saturday morning training at Willoughby. My usual Monday training was substituted by a scheduled system testing roster at work. From Wednesday onwards, I got a bout of flu from my boss, who has slightly recovered from a serious lung infection just a week before. Poor guy, he must have gone through many sleepless nights after his new bub was born 4 weeks ago.

Even though I couldn't attend as many dojo training as I would like, I have been doing some training on my own - going to the gym and doing the usual cardio/anaerobic exercise routine in the morning before work, and on Thursday and Friday nights, I went to the local sport grounds and did some jogging and a lot of footwork training.

On Saturday, I brought a Japanese friend, whom I met at the Japanese language school I am attending, with me to Willoughby training.

To give you a quick background, I am currently taking Japanese language class every Tuesday after work. Lately, there have been two student teachers taking my class. During conversations, I found out that Aiko, one of the 2 student teachers, is a Kendo 2-Dan, but have stopped praciticing after graduating from high school 3 years ago. I immediately invited her to join our Saturday training. At first she was very hesitant, but after much urging and encouragement, I finally succeeded.

So I brought 2 sets of everything to Saturday training - 2 sets of bogu, 2 tenugui, 2 sets of kendo gi and hakama, well for shinai, I just brought my usual 3 shinai.

Today Payne Sensei led quite a long session of warm-up which finished at 11am. Then we put our bogu on and moved on to waza session. I was one of the 7 motodachi on the floor today. We started off with kirikaeshi, followed by nidan waza, men-taitari-hiki-(men/kote/do) waza, seme-men and finally finished off with kirikaeshi.

From 11:15am onwards, the jigeiko session began. My focus on today's session is to maintain my composure in chudan, keep a strong centre, and concentrate on applying seme on my opponents. I don't have any major discoveries today, but I did found that more ashi-sabaki was very sharp today. I felt very light and at ease moving around, sliding back and forth as I wish. The footwork training at nights really made a difference to my keiko performance.

I also tried to practice oji-waza. Need to work more on the timing as I still couldn't execute my oji waza quick enough to stand the ground (and not to execute backward-going techniques).

The training ended early today at 11:45am as the club's Annual General Meeting was held. Thank you to Andoru for leading SKC for the past 2 years. Congratulations on our new club President Chris Super-Taitari Barbe, and Jayson Snappy-men Chaplin as the new Secretary.

Afterwards, 15 of us (including Sano Sensei too!) went to Black Cow for a big groupie lunch. I had my favourite baked garoupa in half tomato sauce and half cheese and mushroom sauce. Yummy!!!

Afterwards, I drove Aiko to Chatswood station. On the way, she told me that she gave away all her kendo gears after senior high school graduation as the kendo training was too harsh to find enjoyment anymore. In her kendo years, she and her friends often trained to the stage where one became unconscious. But today, she said she was very happy to play kendo again. It was great for me to hear that. I really hope that she will come to kendo training with me from now on.

Kendo Videos
I would like to share some videos I taped at the 53rd All Japan University Championships 2006 at the Nippon Budokan. Also, I found two exciting videos in YouTube kindly uploaded by dodaichi85.

Finals of the 53rd All Japan University Championships

Senpo match

Jiho match

Sansho match

Chuken match

Gosho match

Fukusho match

Taisho match

Miyazaki vs. Eiga

Sunday, August 13, 2006

忍耐 + 掌握人生
It's All About Skill Refinement Now

After the Founders Cup last weekend, I have trained twice - Thursday at UNSW and Saturday in Willoughby.

UNSW Training on Thursday
I arrived just after the warm-up session, and so I joined straight into the waza session after doing some self stretching and warm-up exercises.

Kirby led the training tonight. We started off with kirikaeshi, followed by seme-men and seme-kote with special emphasis on the follow-through zanshin. Afterwards, we practiced continuous men-hiki-men. I realise that I was having some troubles cutting right on top of the men as the left wrist cast was restricting my wrist ulnar flexion movement. I hope, however, that this is only temporary, and once I take the cast off in a few weeks time, I will be able to strike hiki-men with the correct shinai angle, right on top of the men.

After the waza session, we had kakari-geiko session with Sano sensei and Kirby as motodachi. I have a total of 3 kakari-geiko - 2 with Kirby and 1 with Sano sensei. I like this session a lot, as it makes me feel so pumped up and excited in the process.

In the last 15 minutes, we had free jigeiko. I fought Kirby, who was practicing in chudan, and Jackson for ippon shobu to finish off the training.

Willoughby on Saturday
We had two visitors on Saturday morning Willoughby training - Kuniko Takahashi, 4th Dan from Tokyo, and Sang-Hee Ro (otherwise known as Rainmaker on the KW Forum), 1st Dan from the Gulf Coast, U.S.

We had group stretching, warm-up and footwork exercises as usual. In the waza session, we had Sano sensei, Itakura sensei, Takahashi-san, Doug, Mark and Taek as Motodachi, with 5-6 people queuing up for each motodachi. We did kirikaeshi, kote-men-do, men-hiki-men, uchikomki geiko and seme-men to finish off before going into the jigeiko session.

Uchikomi geiko with Taek was great. My cuts were flowing and the men-taitari-hiki-men was strong. Taek is a really good motodachi. He was rock-solid when I did taitari, didn't move back even a tiny bit. So I was able to do my best men-taitari-hiki-men on him.

From 11am onwards, we had short jigeiko rotation for 30mins. From 11:30am onwards, it was free jigeiko of unlimited duration. I had jigeiko with Sano sensei, Itakura sensei and Kuniko during the supposedly 1 minute jigeiko session. My one-minute session was so exact while others seemed to have much longer session. The duration was controlled by Doug as he banged the taiko to signal rotation. So basically, the duration really depended on how much the other person in Doug's line could entertain Doug while it was your turn to have jigeiko with another motodachi.

In the free jigeiko session, I had keiko with Mark Stone and Taek Yang, and I felt I performed quite well in both keiko.

At the end of the training, I went up to Sano sensei to thank for the training and ask for comments. He asked me if I am doing a fitness regimen at the moment. I replied that I am going to the gym every weekday before work. He said that this is good and I should keep doing what I am doing now. From now to December, I should not worry about changing my kendo. If I take on any new skills to add to my kendo repertoire, it would be a bonus. But now, it is more important to keep practicing the way I have been practicing. Refining the skills to get ready for the World Championships.

After training, 14 of us went to Black Cow for lunch. Later, Jackson and I decided to go to Fitness First for gym workout. Yoshiki happened to be with us, so we asked Yoshiki if he would like to come along too. So we borrowed Andrew Tan's platinum pass for Yoshiki and off we went for the afternoon gym session.

Saturday Afternoon Gym Session
First, I had to drive Jackson and Yoshiki to my house first to pick up my gym stuff. Then we drove to Jackson's mansion to pick up his stuff, and finally we stopped by the Warringah Mall to buy a pair of shoes, socks and shirt for Yoshiki. While Yoshiki was trying on his Converse shoes in FootLocker, Jackson and I walked around the store and browse for clothes. I was browsing and browsing and came across this Turkey t-shirt. "Hey Jackon. Look! This T-shirt is for you. Big Turkey." Jackson is a Big Turkey. Don't ask why. Anyhow, we decided to buy a Turkey t-shirt each and will wear it together one day.

So finally, at 5pm, we arrived to the Dee Why Fitness First. We started off with cardio workout. Jackson and Yoshiki went on the bike, and I went on the treadmill. Initially I was planning to do a 10mins jog. However, I felt so genki that afternoon, I just kept running and running. Eventually I ran 7kms in 30mins. I thought I should move on to other exercises, and so I jumped off the treadmill to join Jackson and Yoshiki in the weight area.

I did some shoulder, back and abs exercises first. And then joined Jackson and Yoshiki in the chin-up area. They seemed to be having a lot of fun around the chin-up machine, and so each of us did a few reps of chin-ups. Yoshiki was very good at it. It was funny watching Jackson doing it as he was just so tall and big. He was almost touching the floor hanging on the chin-up bar.

We called it a day at 6:45pm.

Monday, August 07, 2006

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Founders Cup 2006

It has been a fun, crazy, strange, zany, exciting, exhilarating, busy weekend, as some people like to put it that way.

The annual Founders Cup was hosted by University of NSW last weekend. We had four visiting Sensei from Japan this year - Jun Takeuchi sensei (7-Dan), Hiroshi Tanaka sensei (7-Dan), Akira Tajima sensei (6-Dan) and Miho Maki sensei (6-Dan). They have been instrumental to the development of Australian Kendo, as early as the 1960s.

UNSW Keiko
Tajima sensei & son Kenji, and Maki sensei arrived to Sydney on Thursday morning. That night, I met them at the UNSW dojo and we had training together. Kirby led the training where we did stretching and warm-up, followed by kirikaeshi, kihon geiko and uchikomi-geiko where the sensei observed from the side. Tajima sensei made a comment that the taller guys should try to cut from a further distance (without breaking their posture) to take advantage of their longer reach.

Next, the class had kakari-geiko against the two visiting Sensei, Sano Sensei and Kirby. I had a total of 6 kakari-geiko, 3 of which were with Tajima sensei, 2 with Maki sensei, and 1 with Ka-bi.

The duration of each of the 5 kakari-geiko with the visiting Sensei were relatively short compared to the one with Ka-bi. Ka-bi really made me worked hard, making me run and cut and swing the shinai like a mad man. Never allowed a moment to catch my breath. For the final moments of that kakari-geiko, Kabi made me do about 10x men-taitari-men. That was really exhausting, but truly exhilarating. In a way, it gave me the kind of feeling which links me back to the crazy training at Nittaidai. To throw myself in and give it all I have got. Pushing all the way to the limit. Knowing that I will have nothing left in the end. I like it. I really like it.

After the kakari-geiko, we had about 15mins left on the clock, and I had a jigeiko with Maki sensei.

Maki sensei gave me feedbacks on my training tonight. During kihon geiko, she pointed out that my left leg was not following up in my cuts. I need to bring my left foot up quickly in each cut, so that I cut with my whole body.

After the training, we spent a long time packing up (as usual) and chatting. Afterwards, several of us went to a nearby Chinese restaurant and had supper.

More Than Just Email
I sat next to Maki sensei and Ken (aka. Xiao Chen). Ken was super animated that night. He was raving about the Shangtong girl he met at 7-Eleven store earlier that day. (Ken started working in 7-Eleven a week or so ago). The girl went up to him and asked if he would know where to get a computer fixed. Then Ken pointed to his index finger down, and said 'Here'. The girl was a little confused. 'Where?', she asked again. Ken then pointed to himself, 'Here. Right here. I can fix the computer for you'. So Ken got the girl's address and telephone number, and made an appointment to meet her at her house the next day.

Wow, Ken got the girl's number and address? And he is meeting this girl in her house the next day??? Impressive. So this is how it is done if you want to get more than an email address.

Let The Founders Cup Begins
Maki sensei and I woke up at 6:30am, had breakfast, and left home at 7:20am. We arrived to UNSW at 8am to find that we were the earliest people there.

The seminar was delayed to 9:30am as speeches were made to welcome and introduce the visiting sensei and group photos were taken.

Almost 100 people attended the morning seminar. Kirby led the stretching and warm-up. I am sure there were a few shocked faces when Kirby led the group to swing their arms to draw big circles while twirling their hips. I am sure UNSW members and those familiar with Kirby's crazy warm-up routine were smiling at those shocked horrified faces.

Anyway, we finished off the warm-up with 40 lunges back and forth the hall.

After putting our men and kote on, we formed two long rows and paired up to do kirikaeshi, kihon-men, kihon-do and kihon-kote-men. Tanaka sensei pointed out that my left hand was out of the centre line when executing do cut. Left hand should always remain in the centre while cutting do.

Correct Hand Positioning
Tanaka sensei showed us a method to check whether we were gripping and swinging the shinai correctly. First, he asked everyone to extend their arms to shoulder height, with open-palms and fingers pointing to the front. Left hand would then slip just one palm length below the right. This forms the basic men-uchi position.

The rule of thumb for what constitutes a good hand positioning is that the fingers of both hands should be pointing to the same direction at all time, and palms should be slanting at the same angle.

However, there is one exception. For do cut, if we observed the rule strictly, it would be impossible for the shinai to touch the do if the body is facing squarely to the front. So in executing a do cut, the hip should be facing diagonally to the right (i.e. in the same direction where you would go pass your opponent).

We also did the 1-2 timing exercise to get coordinate our cut with footwork. First we practiced kihon-men with very small sliding footwork. Then, we substituted the sliding footwork with fumikomi. Tajima sensei said that it is important to get the footwork movement natural without breaking the body posture. We can increase the size of the foot step as our footwork improves.

The seminar finished at 11am, and the NSWKA annual general meeting began. During this AGM, we elected a new team of Executives and another team of NSW Kendo Board members. Congratulations to Andrew Tan for becoming the new NSWKA President, and Jackson for the vice-president position.

Grading was conducted in the afternoon. 76 people passed grades ranging from 6-kyu all the way up to 2-dan. Congratulations to all who achieved new grade.

The grading finished 1.5 hours earlier than planned. So we had an extra seminar session with Tanaka sensei carrying on from where he left off in the morning seminar. We practiced oji-waza with the 1-2-3 timing, including suriage-men, kaeshi-men and kaeshi-do.

From 5pm onwards, we had free jigeiko session. I was able to jigeiko with Tanaka sensei, Yuko Tanaka (Tanaka sensei's daughter) and Kirby.

In Tanaka sensei's keiko, I just tried to play and show my best kendo as much as possible. Tanaka sensei's grasp of timing was just spot-on. He was able to deflect and counter most of my cuts. However, I really didn't care how many times I got hit in the head, I was just simply happy to have the opportunity to keiko with him.

Next, I keiko'ed with Yuko. Yuko has just graduated from senior high school, so she played fast and exciting kendo, and I really enjoyed that very much. She used quite a few feinting technique, such as feint-men to kote, and feint-kote to men. Basically, her kendo just kept me guessing all the time. Her tokui-waza was men-kaeshi-do, as she later told me, and she used that quite a few times during the jigeiko. It was fun at the end when we had a silent mutual ai-men challenge. We just kept going in for men, men, men... it was simply exhilarating.

After Yuko's jigeiko, I had keiko with Kirby. Kirby went up to his favourite kamae - jodan. My goal was to try to keep him guessing as much as possible so to occupy his mind with defencing my attacks. In doing that, I tried to move my kensen and keep my footwork light as much as possible, while trying to cover my men and kote. However, Kirby was still able to land a few katate-men on me. At the end of the jigeiko, I asked Kirby whether my men was very exposed. He said that I was swinging my shinai up and down in a rhythm, so he was able to pick up my timing and attack when my shinai was swinging down. When a person goes into rhythm and on the moment the shinai moves down, it is an opportunity for the opponents to cut. Advice: Don't get into a rhythm.

The first day of Founders Cup finished at 6pm. That night, we had the welcoming party at Amira's Palace Lebanese Restaurant in Surry Hill. I sat with Yuko and Kenji and had a great time chatting with them.

Yuko Tanaka, me and Kenji Tajima at the Welcoming Party

Highlights of the night was the bellydancing. Being Kirby, it was pretty natural that he was the first person to be invited by the bellydancer and got up to dance.

And here it is - the Ka-bi's bellydancing moves...

Dino was sitting directly opposite Ka-bi, so he got 'hooked' up and become the next person to dance. Nice dance, Dino.

While the bellydancing was going on, Ka-bi suddenly walked towards me and dragged me up. With the many pairs of eyes looking at me, it was pretty hard to escape. So I got up and danced. It was fun but a bit embarrassing as I couldn't dance very well. Nonetheless, I tried my best. Well, though if I knew the UNSW guys were videotaping me and were planning to show it to Someone, I would have done a much better job. You guys should have notified me!!!

Everyone went pretty crazy in the party. Even Sano sensei got up and bellydanced! What a great night.

Shinpan Seminar
Sunday is the Founders Cup team competition day. A 1.5hrs shimpan seminar was conducted by Tanaka sensei before the competition. Below are a few points of interest noted in the seminar:

  • Point should not be awarded during the process of shoing zanshin. Point should be awarded after a person finishes executing zanshin.

  • Shinpan should be competent in judging a technically superior ippon waza.

  • If the time-keeper raises the time-out flag at the same time as an ippon is called, the ippon is still valid.

  • Practicing shinpaning skills can improve one's kendo, as one can appreciate what constitutes yuko-datotsu.

  • The Founders Cup Tournament began at 11:30pm. I was relatively free for most of the day. The only official thing I did during the tournament was being the motodachi on court 1, announcing ippon-me to nanahon-me.

    At lunch time, Takashi finalised our Sydney Kendo Club dan team order. I decided to practice my World Championships position and volunteered to be senpo.

    And guess who I played against in our first round against UNSW.


    My initial guess of senpo for the UNSW team would be Yoshiki, with Ka-bi being the Taisho. I have thought about Ka-bi going for the senpo position just to practice that role for the WKC, but I didn't expect that to be the reality.

    When I found out that I was going to play Ka-bi, I was very excited. It would to be a fun and excited match.

    I started off relatively well. Moving around, keeping Ka-bi guessing without going into a regular rhythm. However, about half way through the match, my left calf started becoming tired from all the moving around. So I just relaxed for one second.


    Ka-bi saw it and took advantage of my lapse of concentration with a katate-men. Men-ari.

    After restart, I tried to search for attacking opportunities and resumed moving around. Though I think my movements must have slowed down a bit. Ka-bi scored a second beautiful katate-men to claim the match 2-0.

    Jodan Advices
    After the team match, I had the opportunity to ask Tajima sensei, who was the chu-shinpan for my match. Here are some advices Tajima sensei gave me on how to play against jodan:

  • Maintain agile footwork and movements at all time.

  • Move around, more specifically to your right, jodan opponent's left.

  • Very important to seme in to gain distance. As jodan player has longer attacking range, it is a disadvantage for a chudan player to play from toi-maai. Therefore, it is important to seme in (to chika-maai) so that you are in your own attacking range.

  • Jigeiko
    At the conclusion of the Founders Cup tournament, we had one hour of free jigeiko. I had a very exciting jigeiko with Yuko, with both of us trying to snatch the final ippon away from each other. It was a fast and furious encounters. Most exhilarating indeed.

    Just after I finished my jigeiko with Yuko, Tajima sensei walked in and was ready for jigeiko. I quickly queued up and had a good jigeiko with Tajima sensei. I was very fortunate to keiko with him for a relatively long duration. He allowed me to practice on the advices he gave me regarding jodan during the jigeiko. At the very end of that jigeiko, I had sanbon-shobu match against Tajima sensei in chudan, another sanbon-shobu against jodan, and a final ippon-shobu against chudan.

    Afterwards, I went to queue up for Tanaka sensei, and Strenger sensei happened to be queuing up just before me. While we were both waiting for our turns, Strenger sensei kindly gave me feedbacks on his observations of my jigeiko against Yuko:

  • It seems that I was thinking too much during that jigeiko. I should play my own kendo.

  • Yuko is a fast player with a great repertoire of techniques, which kept me guessing all the time. I asked Strenger sensei what he would do if he faces an opponent with unpredictable moves. His reply is to...

  • Attack instead of trying to figure out what my opponent's next move is.

  • The drums banged at 7pm and I narrowly missed out on my final chance to jigeiko with Tanaka sensei. I paired up with Sussan for a final ippon-shobu and finished off the full weekend of kendo with kirikaeshi.

    At the end, I went to rei with the visiting sensei, and gave my SKC polo-shirt to Yuko as she really likes the SKC club logo. Hopefully, it will fit her alright.

    Hiroshi Tanaka Sensei, me and Yuko Tanaka at the Founders Cup

    Party at Andrew van Hamond's home with the Sensei on Sunday night

    It was an awesome weekend. Great organising and hosting by the UNSW Kendo Club. I am looking forward to the Sensei visiting Sydney again in two years time.

    And hopefully, I will be able to meet and keiko with the visiting sensei in Tokyo when I visit Japan later this year.

    Tuesday, August 01, 2006

    忍耐 + 掌握人生
    Oh, That's Beautiful

    So much has happened in the past few weeks. It's been so wonderful, exciting and memorable I wish time could just stop so that I could savour the moment if only for a little longer.

    We have had a few visitors in our dojo lately. Michael Komoto Sensei joined one training session each at UNSW and Sydney Kendo Club in mid-July. And last week, we had Uchiyama-san visiting from Tokyo.

    Nuki & Kaeshi-Do
    Komoto Sensei visited UNSW on 13/7 and led the waza session where we practiced kaeshi-do. We first practiced the footwork for executing a good nuki / kaeshi-do, which is a forward diagonal step to the right. Here, it is important to move the foot forward diagonally, and not a side-step. Then we practiced the cutting movement. Lastly, we put everything together and practiced men-kaeshi-do, and slowly building up the speed.

    Following the waza session was mawari-geiko.

    I was very happy to have a chance to jigeiko with Komoto Sensei, if just for a short while. During the jigeiko, I could remember that many of my seme-men cuts were countered by his subtle suriage-men. I tried speeding up my men cuts to shorten his effective counter-attack reaction time, but without success. His suriage-men still worked wonders no matter how fast I cut.

    Suriage Waza

    Komoto Sensei gave me a few pointers regarding suriage-waza:

    When the opponent's shinai is coming down, extend the arms forward so that your shinai is slanting diagonally. In this situation, the left hand will be on the right hand side of the body with the palmar side facing up. The right hand will be deviated slightly to the right of your own centre-line with palmar side facing down. Your kensen should still be in the centre-line.

    With this positioning, your men and kote are well-protected by the angle of the slanting shinai. So if your opponent executes a cut, their shinai will be brushed off by your upward-extending slanting shinai. With your shinai directly above your opponent's head, it is just a matter of dropping your shinai on their men. No big twirling forceful movement is needed.

    One more point. Don't be afraid to extend your shinai in a way that the kensen is well above your opponent's head. The gist of making a successful suriage is about keeping the kensen in the centre, and your hand positioning movement smooth and subtle in one fluent move.

    A few more advices from Komoto Sensei after Saturday's Willoughby training.

  • My hand positioning in receiving taitari is too far away from the body. I should keep my hands closer to the body, so that my body will take the blunt of the force when receiving taitari.

  • In kirikaeshi, right hand traverses too much to the side of the body in sayu-men. I need to reduce the right sayu-men cutting angle.

  • Translating Komoto Sensei's comments for Ken (aka. Xiao Chen).  Posted by Picasa

    Dinner with Komoto Sensei after Thursday night training Posted by Picasa

    UnWaki sama - a Korean with surprisingly big eyes Posted by Picasa

    Lunch at Black Cow after Saturday's Willoughby training Posted by Picasa

    Thanks Aaron for your effort in taking the group photo Posted by Picasa

    Following Komoto Sensei's departure was the arrival of another visitor, Uchiyama-san, who is a Kendo teacher at Kinjo Gakuen, Tokyo. I had two jigeiko with him in his two Saturday visits to Sydney Kendo Club, and he gave me the following advices:

    Men: Left hand punch
    At the moment, my right hand is stretching out too much during men-uchi, resulting in my body twisting to the left. Uchiyama-san suggested that I should possess the feeling of punching in with my left hand when executing men cuts. This should eliminate the body-turning problem.

    Kote: Cut with the body & move in
    Uchiyama-san, as well as Sano sensei, both commented on my seme-kote. Uchiyama-san said I am cutting too much with my hands at the moment, and not enough with my body. Both Sensei said that I need to commit wholly to the cut by moving my body in when going for seme-kote.