a MMB! Kendo Blog: September 2006

MMB! Kendo Blog

Sunday, September 24, 2006

忍耐 + 掌握人生
From a Grain of Salt to Beyond

Sodium & High Performance
Recently, my family has changed to a very low salt intake diet as my mom's liver is not doing too well. I was thinking about if it has affected my kendo performance, so I took interest in reading some articles on the effect between salt and athlete.

Call it a placebo effect or a mind thing, but I did feel more genki and lasted longer on the previous Saturday training after eating a bit more salty food and taking a 1Litre Powerade with me to training. Anyway, I will trial my diet a bit more to see what feels best to me.

Saturday Willoughby (16-Sept)
I was motodachi in this session, and so had plenty of chances to jigeiko. In the final minutes of the training, I went to keiko with Ka-bi.

Ka-bi started off in chudan. I was planning to surprise Ka-bi and and to catch him off-guard. And so, as soon as we came up from sonkyo, I went straight in for a tobikomi-men.

About half-way through the jigeiko, Ka-bi changed to his favourite jodan-no-kamae. Remembering the feedbacks I have received last week against jodan player, I steadied myself and didn't jump around in a rhythm this time.

We finished the jigeiko with an ippon-shobu, with Ka-bi in jodan. After we settled into our respective kamae, Ka-bi went for katate-men, and I subconsciously went for a suriage-men. And it landed! Wow, that was great.

Ka-bi's feedbacks:
The first response from Ka-bi was 'were you trying to catch me off-guard with the quick men at the start?'. So I told Ka-bi I wanted to practice being on the pro-active attacking side right at the very beginning, so that was why I launched a quick tobikomi-men straight from coming from sonkyo. Ka-bi said this kind of attack which relies on speed is quite risky, and more like the high school style kendo. He recommended me to find out more about my opponent after coming from sonkyo. Setting up my opportunities and exploiting my opponent's weaknesses, instead of rushing in blindly to cut.

Having said that, Ka-bi taught me an effective trick on doing a surprise attack at the beginning of shiai - fake-kote first, and when opponent reacts by lifting their shinai to block, cut do. BAMMM!!!

Wednesday - UNSW
Yoshiki called me at lunchtime that day and told me that Fukuda Sensei has just arrived from Japan. He was checking which dojo had jigeiko training that night. So I told him he could bring Fukuda Sensei to Willoughby that night.

Things went otherwise though.

At 6:30pm, when I just arrived home from work, I got a call from Yoshiki asking me what's going on at Willoughby. There was no way we could train in the Willoughby hall because it was full of exhibition items.

So we had to change plan and went to UNSW for keiko instead.

After calling as many SKC people about the cancellation of that night's training, and had a quick dinner, I drove to UNSW for keiko.

For the first hour, Fukuda Sensei led the class to practice kata ippon-me over and over again until we were doing every single move correctly with as much spirit into each move as possible.

In the final 20mins, Yoshiki and I took turns to jigeiko with Fukuda sensei while the rest of the class practice kata or do the beginner course.

Fukuda Sensei's comments:

  • Stand my ground. Don't move back - I can't afford to move back in WKC as my opponent will follow on with more attacks.
  • Sustain pressure and don't back out - While exploring opportunity in chudan no kamae, I moved in (which is good), then backed out (which is bad) for no apparent reason. (My opponent is still in the same position during all that time). If I move in, I must sustain the pressure and not back out.
  • Relax - The general comment was that I was too tensed in the 2 rounds of jigeiko.

Thursday - UNSW
The class had done a few rounds of kirikaeshi and 2 sets of men-uchi when Fukuda Sensei stopped the class and that's when I joined in the class.

Fukuda sensei asked everyone to practice tsuki - sustaining the pressure from the kensen right to the nodo; and pushing in from the hip.

So I started that class with tsuki. I did much better in this tsuki practice compare to just a week ago. My left hand taking more control, and right arm was not overpowering.

It turned out that the tsuki practice was the prelude to seme-men practice. The emphasis in this seme-men practice was to maintain strong seme while moving in, with kensen pointing towards the opponent's throat, before flicking to cut men in the final moment.

After the seme-men practice, we had approx. 10mins kakari-geiko session, where Sano sensei, Fukuda sensei and Ka-bi were the motodachi. Afterwards, we had jigeiko against the 3 motodachi.

In any keiko with Fukuda sensei, if you didn't find an opening and just blindly rush in to attack, you will be very sorry as your throat will get very very sore. That was what happened to Ken.

In Ken's jigeiko with Fukuda, he got tsuki'ed three times in the two-minute jigeiko. The impact of each tsuki was very powerful, with Fukuda executing each tsuki at the most devastating time as Ken put all his forward momentum into his men-cut.

Reviews & Feedbacks:

  • Patience - I should be patience and only attack when I can sense my opponent's spirit weakens. Take the chance immediately when I find that moment. [Fukuda Sensei]
  • Finding opportunity from issoku-ito-no-maai - Distance. Distance. I need to be patience in finding the opportunity and openings from issoku-ito-no-maai before moving in too close. [Fukuda Sensei]
  • Straight-in men-cut - When I go for men-cut in kakari-geiko, I am moving diagonally forward, instead of straight in, to cut men. Ka-bi said he just have to cut straight and he could get my men. [Ka-bi]
  • Condition my left foot to launch successive men cuts quickly - I realise that my foot can't turn around and launch an successive attack as quickly as I would like to. I need to practice turning around quickly.

Saturday - Hornsby
We had training at Hornsby this Saturday - a once-off change of venue as the Willoughby hall was hosting an annual art exhibition event.

I was motodachi until the start of the jigeiko session as Fukuda Sensei joined in from there on. It was good that I had the chance to queue up and play against the other motodachi. After each jigeiko, I was able to re-coup energy for the next jigeiko, and so I was able to put 100% of my effort in each one.

Reviews and Feedbacks:

  • Straight-in men-cut - Itakura sensei pointed out exactly the same thing Ka-bi pointed out on Thursday. I need to come straight in for men cut.
  • Emphasis on correctness over speed - In uchikomi-geiko, my cuts were nice and straight, but when I go into kakari or jigeiko situation, I put too much emphasis on speed and neglect correct posture and technique. Itakura Sensei suggested me to slow down and practice proper cuts, or else it will impede my kendo development in the future.
  • Men: Tuck-in the chin - Also from the video, I could see that my head was tilting back in men cut. Need to tuck-in the chin.
  • Debana-Kote: Shinai position - I found out from watching my video tapes that I was pulling my shinai back too much. My arms should still be in front of my body after the debana-kote.
  • Kote: cut with left hand - I am leaning in with my right hand and right body. Try to push and cut from the left hand.

Friday, September 15, 2006

忍耐 + 掌握人生
See You In Taipei

Photos taken at the Founders Cup 2006 with some of the Founding members of Australian Kendo. I am just so honoured to be in this photo with all the important kendo icons in Australia.

48 Hours with The Russians
Vitaly and Sergei stayed with my family last weekend. On Friday after work, I met up with them in Wynyard and took them to the Australian Hotel in The Rocks where we tried some dinky di Aussie food - kangaroo, emu and crocodile pizzas, a sweet potato salad, and of course, some Aussie beer (Beez Neez honey wheat beer) to go with our meal too. We ate and ate and ate... and we realised that there were just too much food. So I said don't worry about about the pizza base. Then Vitaly started taking the meat slice off the pizza base, put some sweet potato salad on the meat slice, and roll it up into a wrap. That was a really fantastic idea, and it tasted really good too.

After the pub dinner, we walked around the harbour foreshore outside the Circular Quay Ocean Terminal and took some nice pictures with the Sydney Opera House as the backdrop, and... some silly pictures of us getting rescued with lifesaver hoop around our neck. Mmmmm...

Saturday - Willoughby
The next morning, I drove Vitaly and Sergei from home, picked up Max and Eleana from Gordon, and met up with Aiko at Chatswood station and head to the dojo. 6 people in a 1.8Ltr engine Toyota Corolla wagon made a VERY cramped kendo bus.

There were plenty of senior grades attending the Saturday training, so I didn't have to be motodachi, and was able to do some kihon waza keiko before engaging in the jigeiko session with Ka-bi, Doug, Maxim and Itakura sensei.

Yoshiki watched my jigeiko with Ka-bi, and commented that I was jumping up and down too much when fighting against Ka-bi's jodan, which didn't work well for me. It was all too predictable for Ka-bi, and he could easily grasp my rhythm from my movements.

I need to practice moving around, while at the same time pushing in with seme, without too much big jerky rhythmic movements when playing against jodan players.

I received a lot of feedbacks in my last jigeiko with Itakura sensei. There were 2 things he pointed out in my kendo:

  • Seme-Men - Be patient. Sustain the pressure from the kensen on your opponent to the very last moment. This is done by keeping the kensen pointing straight at the opponent's throat right to the very very last moment before flexing the wrist to make the men-cut.
  • Push from the hip to bring whole body forward. If this is done correctly, the men-taitari will be strong.

It was Sergei's 19th Birthday. Twins and Kassandra prepared a birthday cake and we ate it after training, before going to Black Cow for lunch.

After lunch, I drove the Russians to the CentrePoint Tower observation deck to view the Sydney skyline. We spent about 2 hours there and by the time we came out, the sun had already set.

I dropped Max and Eleana back to Gordon, and went home with Vitaly and Sergei to drop off the bogu and shinai, before driving back to Chatswood again with my family for dinner. I took them to Fook Yuen Seafood restaurant - my favourite Chinese Restaurant - and we had Peking Duck and some of my favourite dishes there. It was great to hear later that one of Sergei's wishes was to eat Peking Duck, and he was really happy to have that wish realised on his birthday. We chatted a lot about their town and the interesting lifestyles in Russia. What a great night!

See you later, Peking Duck!

We spent the rest of the night watching lots of kendo DVDs - Vitaly's and Sergei's DVD about their dojo in Vladivostok, Kendo Nippon DVD on Kyushu Gakuin keiko kai, and some kendo videos on Youtube.com.

Vitaly and Sergei

We watched the kendo DVD until early next morning and so I didn't get up from bed until 10am. Sergei wanted to play table tennis, and so I opened up my Stiga table tennis table which I haven't used since the last big house party long long time ago, picked up my good pimpled-rubber winning bat and had a few hit with Sergei.

Sergei was actually very good for someone who doesn't play competitively. He told me that he used to play table tennis a lot before taking up karate and kendo. I think he is simply very talented in coordination, and so I was actually able to have a decent rally incorporating smashes and spins into the game. It's been a long time since I played a decent game outside my former table tennis club.

Anyway, Sergei challenged me for a few games, and that was really good fun. My tokui waza, which are my different type of serves - long fast straight down the line, short back-spin, crazy side spins, etc. - were still serving me very well. Sergei had some troubles in the first couple of games, but I could see he was adapting very quickly, and in the last few games, he could return a lot of them and we had some good rallies.

We had great fun playing table tennis. And also... I rediscovered some of the muscles on my right body again.

After 1 hour of table tennis, my family took the Russians to Kam Fook in Chatswood for yum cha. It was their first time to try yum cha and it was great to see them trying all different food, especially with Sergei. I was surprised that he received the yum cha so well. He would spin the turntable and try cow stomach and cow intestine along with the different dumplings, water chestnut cake (my favourite), etc. without having us introducing the food first. It was definitely great, and my parents were so happy.

I drove them back to Gordon after returning home to pick up their gears and burnt a couple of kendo DVDs. That's my 48 hours with the Russians. What an interesting and fun time!

Monday - UNSW
It was crunch-time at work as the project approached the final phase of a system development lifecycle, so I got out of work later than I would like (but very early for the rest of my team standard). I got home (45mins by train), eat quick dinner, and drove 45mins back to UNSW. It was 8pm when I arrived, and while I was finding a parking spot, the fire-alarm went off in the Unigym. People was coming out of the Unigym and eventually the kendo people, still wearing their armour, came walking out.

I decided to train without the wrist protector for the first time since rupturing my wrist ligament in late April. I put some tapings around the wrist and lower palm to give the recovering area some support, and my wrist held up very well. It was very good to have more flexibility in my left wrist for cutting.

At the end of the Monday training session, I had jigeiko with Aaron, Nurlin and Nat, and I video-taped those keiko for video analysis.

Post-training Video Self-Analysis:

  • Hiki-do - After executing a hiki-do, it is safer to circle back to the left hand side. This is because after cutting hiki-do, my body is already on the left hand side of my opponent, so it is quicker to move back to the left to get away from my opponent in a short time.
  • Debana-kote - the body should move in quickly after debana-kote. At the moment, I am going in for the debana-kote cut quickly, but the footwork stopped abruptly after the kote cut. I should zoom in quickly before and after the debana-kote.
  • 100% Concentration at all time - there are some periods where I was day-dreaming and not applying seme and not doing anything. I must concentrate at all time.
  • Snappy Men / Hiki-men - Now that my left wrist protector has been removed, I should try re-training my left wrist to do snappy men / hiki-men cut.
  • Seme with body, not arms - in kamae, I extend and lift my arms up too much for seme purposes, which is unnecesary. I should move my whole body in, and not with my arms, if I were to seme.
  • Be more aggressive in my attack - I lift my arms to block and defend too much when I could have shown more initiatives in attacking.
  • Try more kote-men.
Wednesday - Willoughby
It was the 3 Russians last training in Sydney before flying back to Russia on Friday. Vitaly led the training, while Itakura Sensei made comments about the finer points of what to improve in our basic cuts. I had one last time of doing jigeiko with all 3 Russians at the mawari-jigeiko session.

See You In Taipei! См. Вас в Тайбэе

Thursday - UNSW
It was a small class on Thursday - only 13 people turned up. At the beginning of the training session, Kirby asked everyone to tell the whole class what their individual goal was in that session.

My own goal was to practice seme, creating opportunities to cut.

Among various things, the highlight was the morote tsuki practice and the kakari-geiko.

I realised how much right hand I was using when doing morote tsuki. I wasn't able to get the tsuki-dare at all in the first few rounds of rotations. I have relied on my right hand too much since having my left wrist cast on. Now that I have taken the left wrist cast off, it was extremely obvious that my right hand was over-powering my left hand. And so I had to constantly and consciously tell myself to use my left hand and push from the hip. After about 6 rounds of morote-tsuki practice, I was able to land on the target with high success rate. In the next tsuki practice, I will need to add a bit more power in my left hand thrust to make it an ippon tsuki.

I had jigeiko with Jackson, Thao, Aaron and Yoshiki. My goal in all those jigeiko was to sustain the pressure from the kensen on my opponent's throat to the very last moment before flexing the wrist to make the men-cut.

Reviews and Feedbacks:

  • Aaron kindly gave me feedbacks on the jigeiko we had. It was great to hear that he could feel the intensity in my seme, which he said, was hard to deal with. This is very encouraging for me to know that I am moving in the right direction with seme practice.
  • The jigeiko with Yoshiki was really good. Yoshiki's men cuts were overwhelming. They were so powerful and big, yet I didn't have anytime to react. There was no pre-emptive signals before his cuts. Something that I need to learn from and practice.

Friday, September 08, 2006

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Farewell Dino


Me against Ka-bi in the Founders Cup Tournament

Carrying on from the latest post-training video self-analysis, my goals for last Saturday and Monday keiko were to practice the very basic of applying pressure to create an attacking opportunity, which is:

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

Saturday Willoughby Keiko
I was one of the seven motodachi during last Saturday training, so I had plenty of opportunities to jigeiko with different players.

I tasted some successes with my new seme approach, which was being conscious in generating seme through my posture and pushing my opponents backward. As a result, I created more attacking opportunities as my opponents try to deal with my seme, and I was able to land a few men cuts that I hadn't been able to do before and also created some very good openings for debana kote.

The highlights of Saturday keiko was with Dino, Aiko and Nurlin. It was my last keiko with Dino at SKC before he flies out to Spain this Sunday. Aiko, my nihongo teacher, came to training at SKC for the 2nd time and I finally had a chance to jigeiko her. That was great.

I invited Nurlin to jigeiko with me for the second time of the day with 5 minutes to the end of training. It was a great keiko as I was really able to concentrate on trialing different kind of seme to see the response and reactions from Nurlin.

Feedbacks from Nurlin: She was able to see me coming in for cuts in the first keiko, but in the second, she wasn't able to see them coming before I landed the cuts. Also, it seems that I have been successful in creating fear to freeze her movements. So I think I am going into the right direction. Now I just have to keep practicing it.

After the training, about 20 of us went to Zen - a Japanese restaurant on Penhurst Street, Willoughby for lunch and club meeting. Afterwards, I drove Aiko and Lester to Chatswood station, and Max and Eleana to back to Gordon.

That night, we had a farewell party for Dino at Elaine's place. It was a great night with lots of food and beer. And we played a lot of games too. Here is one of the many great moments during the parties which I managed to record into my camera.

Monday UNSW Keiko
This session the whole class concentrated on moving in from toi-maai and do a perfect men cut. I had plenty of sleep the previous night, and was really pumped up. Throughout the training, I constantly reminded myself to execute each cut like an ippon cut in the World Championships.

We did a lot of men and debana-kote practice. At the end of the session, I had jigeiko with Sano sensei, Yoshiki and Mark Stone.

Once again, I concentrated on practicing seme, moving in to cut a perfect men / kote cut. It was so much harder practicing seme against Sano sensei. Sano sensei held very strong centre, and it was extremely difficult for me to apply enough seme to create opportunities to cut. I think I need more attack-the-shinai techniques against strong players to create the opportunities to cut. Pure emotional seme without physical shinai attacking technique is extremely hard to unsettle the strong centre of an experienced player.

Wednesday Willoughby Keiko
We practiced kata, a lot of ashi-sabaki and perfect basics cuts.

Tonight I could feel that good flick at the very last moment in a men-cut. I have been doing the hand-weight exercise my hand physiotherapist advised me to do whenever I have time at work. I still feel pain in my left wrist from time to time, but it is definitely becoming stronger again.

I asked Itakura Sensei for comments at the end of training, and he pointed out that my upper body is leaning forward.

Next lesson, I need to practice:

  • seme forward from the hip, and
  • punch in with left fist.

Thursday Dino Farewell Keiko

This is Dino's last keiko in Sydney before flying out for his 1-year stint in Spain. We spent quite a fair amount on kirikaeshi, men, kote and kote-men, before the 15-sec rounds of kakari-geiko against Sano sensei, and Dino.

In the final half an hour, we had a big farewell keiko for Dino. Dino had to fight each one of us, which is some 30 of us, one by one, from lowest grade to highest grade. Dino faced a new challenger whenever an ippon was scored or 60 secs was up.

Just when Dino thought it was all over when his ippon-geiko against Sano sensei was over... we had something more for Dino. I will let you see it for yourself in the youtube video-clip below. Enjoy!!!

A Tribute to Dino

Farewell Dino!

All the best in Spain!