a MMB! Kendo Blog: Founders Cup 2006

MMB! Kendo Blog

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.


    • Hi!
      I enjoyed reading your blog. Thank you! I met Tajima-sensei a year ago while I was teaching English in Tokyo. I looked his name up on the internet and came across your blog. It's so nice to see his smiling face in your pictures. He's a great teacher!
      Tajima-sensei introduced me to kendo while I was in Japan and I practiced after school with his junior high group. He was also kind enough to invite me to the practices of his adult friends. Like a jerk I have not kept in good contact with him but I do think about his kindness, honesty, and teachings just about every day.
      Thanks again for posting these pictures.
      There is no kendo dojo where I live so practicing is impossible for me now. It's great to see that you are getting so much enjoyment out of the practice... and hip hop dancing as well!
      Nice blog!
      -thanks again,
      Kathleen Costello

      By Anonymous kathleen, at Monday, November 06, 2006 12:56:00 PM  

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