a MMB! Kendo Blog: October 2006

MMB! Kendo Blog

Sunday, October 29, 2006

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Chasing To Attack

Wednesday - Willoughby
Takashi Itakura Sensei is back from his holiday in Japan, and brought with him several new training methods and ideas.

Ooikomi (Kote-Men) Geiko 追い込み稽古
For the past 3 months Wednesday training, the class has been doing a type of ooikomi kote-men geiko, where we execute as many kote-men-kote-men-kote... in consecutive fast small movements from one end of the dojo to the other end. The footwork we have been doing so far has been quick-small-step movements, which looks like hopping (left-foot) and stamping (right-foot) of the foot at the same time.

The new variant to this ooikomi kote-men geiko that Itakura Sensei introduced this week emphasised not only on the consecutive cutting speed, but also on the length of stride. Motodachi would run backwards from one side of the hall to the other side, while the kakari (the one practicing) would chase the motodachi by executing as many kote-men-kote-men-kote-... as possible.

For me, I found this new ooikomi kote-men quite difficult. My coordination in the small-step ooikomi kote-men is still reasonably okay. When it comes to doing this exercise in long stride, however, my feet could not keep up with my quick hand movements, making my movements uncoordinated.

Now thinking about it, I think the key is in the footwork. If my footwork speed can keep up with the speed of my motodachi going backward, all I need is to add my hands so that each cut coincides with every right foot stamps. The number of cuts would be greatly reduced, but one thing for sure is that the cuts will be more coordinated.

Thursday - UNSW

Ooikomi Geiko 追い込み稽古
I arrived to keiko a bit late on Thursday as I missed the express train home from work. When I arrived to the UNSW dojo, Fukuda Sensei was introducing the class to different type of ooikomi-geiko. So the class practiced all sorts of ooikomi-geiko, such as consecutive men, consective kote-men like the one I practiced at SKC on Wednesday, etc.

After that, Fukuda Sensei introduced us a really interesting exercise. With everyone facing a partner without moving the feet, one side attacks the other side as fast as possible. The other side would then block all the oncoming attacks.

With this exercise, the attacking side must have strong wrist work in order to make fast consecutive attacks with constant changing to the shinai-swinging direction.

On the other hand, the defending side must be able to react and pick up the slightest pre-striking signals from the opponent in order to defend all the oncoming attacks. Also the defending movements must be small so to not protect one target while exposing the other.

This kind of fast consecutive attacking practice is especially effective on opponents who tend to swing their shinai excessively to block, who is afraid of being hit by blocking and moving backwards.

Saturday - Willoughby
The UNSW kendo players had a netball competition on Saturday, so the class size was smaller than the normal Saturday sessions.

During the free jigeiko session, I had the chance to keiko with Strenger Sensei and twice with Sano Sensei.

Comments from Strenger Sensei:

  • Tuck-in Chin - remember to tuck in my chin every time I go for the men.
  • Don't lift arms up - In the clash situation after aiuchi-men, my fists ended up well above Strenger sensei's fists position, which made me look vunerable. Try keeping my arms horizontal and extending forward to carry on the forward momentum generated from the men cut.
I had two opportunities to jigeiko with Sano Sensei today. Throughout both jigeiko, Sano Sensei hold very strong kamae and I was having quite a bit of trouble creating and finding attacking opportunities. I tried every way to seme in and get a reaction from him, but none seemed to work. His kamae would remain just as strong as before. I guess my seme must be too weak for Sano Sensei, but I just couldn't work out how to make my seme more effective.

So I tried other shinai-attacking waza before going for my cuts. In those situations, I was able to move in closer to the targets, but Sano Sensei was able to either deflect or counter-attack my cuts. And often, it would end up in tsubazerai situation.

At a loss of how to create openings, all I could think of was Fukuda Sensei's ooikomi-geiko on Thursday, and so I started the crazy machine-gun attack in the hope of landing one successful cut. It was not my style of kendo, but I just couldn't think of any other way to make that ippon happening.

Feedbacks from Sano Sensei:

  • Try searching for the follow-up opportunity - After an attack is made and your opponent blocked the first attack, there is always a split second where another opening is exposed. Try to grasp that moment of opportunity. Be prepared to go for that follow-up winning cut.
  • Keep hands in centre after debana-kote - my hands ended up on the left side of my body after completing the debana-kote. This makes my men completely exposed. Try bringing both hands back to the centre once debana-kote is completed, so that the position of the shinai can protect the men target.

Friday Night Dance
I went to the Afro-Latin and Hip-Hop dance classes on Friday. And this time, I found some kendo buddies to join me to class. Aiko and I went fully crazy in the Afro-Latin class, pulling faces and making cool latin dance moves. My shoulder and hip were moving better this time. And it was fantastic to have another crazy carefree person to dance right next to me. So I didn't feel I was the only one who went crazy.

Nurlin joined the Hip-Hop class later in the evening, while Anna Wong watched on. I gotta say that Nurlin is a natural Hip-Hop dancer. She was able to get the hip-hop moves going very quickly.

Just watch out, you may be surrounded by a bunch of Afro-Latin, Hip Hop dancers disguised in kendogi and hakama next time you keiko in Sydney.

Just Some Thoughts...
Another week has passed by so quickly, I had to say I squeezed the juice out of every minute to the best, doing as many things as time and energy would allow. I just hate to waste time and didn't want to lose a moment on idling.

Having done as much as I could, I still feel quite lost. I felt that something was seriously missing, and I knew exactly what it was.

It was quite heart-wrenching when I think about the total amount of time I spent with my parents. In the middle of a casual conversation while I was driving my parents for a family dinner on Saturday, my dad pointed out that I was running around all the time that it seems all I come home for was to have a place to sleep.

When I heard the words, I have that tremendous amount of guilt in me tears start streaming. Luckily it was dark in the car, so no one saw it.

I wanted to do everything I wanted to do while I am still young and have the energy, but there comes a trade-off. What about the time with my family - the closest people to me? Have I really think about setting aside some time with them, like how I schedule time to go to my kendo training?

I need to rethink about the whole thing...

Monday, October 23, 2006

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Going Hip-Hop

It has been a roller-coaster ride for me after the Aus team training, which ended in a rather unexpected and crazy way.

After visiting the doctor in the previous weekend and started taking antibiotics, the flu went away almost immediately, and I was so glad to go back to my normal kendo training and gym routine once more.

I trained 4 times in the past week - Monday and Thursday at UNSW, Wednesday and Saturday at Willoughby.

The focus for me this week was to incorporate all I have learnt in the past few weeks and apply them into the training, and train with vigorous spirit.

Going Afro/Latin and Hip-Hop
Anyway, back to my crazy roller-coaster ride story. I got back to good health this week which I was very happy about. But the ride didn't end just there... it took me to somewhere higher, somewhere very exciting...

I couldn't believe it and imagine myself doing it, but on Friday night I was making Afro-Latin and Hip-Hop dance moves. It was my first dancing class in my life, and I tell you, it was so so SOOOOOO much fun. And I think I almost dislocate my hip after the latin dance class.

It came by as a surprise... One of my colleagues, who was given 6 free dancing class vouchers as a farewell present when she left her previous company, has become pregnant. So she gave me the vouchers a few months ago. As the vouchers are going to expire soon, I decided to use them now - on Friday when there is no Kendo practice in my schedule.

Dancing was so much fun, so crazy, I could feel all my stress flew 100,000 miles away. Instead of shouting kiai and staring straight into the eyes of my opponent, I could laugh and go crazy as much as I like.

I think I am getting addicted to it. We will see... Dancing may appear as a regular event on my weekly schedule from now on.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

忍耐 + 掌握人生
100% Every Point Every Time

AUS Team Training in Melbourne
Last Friday night, I flew down to Melbourne with Ka-bi for the last Australian Team training before the World Championships. The training was a 3-day event, with all 11 Australian team members, 3 flew in from Japan, training together.

Brett so kindly vacated his house for Ka-bi and me to stay for the weekend. He had a really nice big house, with lots of cool interesting displays around the house. And, as our national team coach, he has shinai in every room of the house. Not just one, but several in each room. Well, okay okay, except the toilet then.

We had 4 training sessions on Saturday, of which an afternoon session was on the track. That evening, we had a fantastic BBQ and Kendo DVD party at Brett's house - the place where Ka-bi and me were staying. The party finished quite early at 10pm, as we had another big day ahead.

On Sunday, we had a team soccer / freesbie warm-up in the park before joining the regular Kenshikan Sunday morning club training. The highlight of the morning was the jigeiko with Yano Sensei. I was so happy to have the chance to jigeiko with him. Last time I had jigeiko with Yano Sensei was more than a year ago up in the Sunny Brisbane Aus squad training.

Feedback from Yano Sensei:

  • I didn't have any seme at all. Try using the front foot to test the condition. Slide in, test reaction, and then attack.

Following that were another 2 Aus Team keiko sessions, with the last session lasted for 2 hours. By that time, we all knew very well that everyone was aching and sore everywhere. Shoulder, legs, feet were the worst affected areas. In spite of that, the whole team put in tremendous spirit, putting our heart and soul into every cut, every kiai.

The last 30mins of training was purely exhilarating. The atmosphere was just SUPER. Those doing the cuts put in everything they have got, all their energy and the best ever spirit, while the rest of the team cheered, encouraged and urged the best of the best performance out of those out there. It seems that we have suddenly forgot about the pain. The atmosphere must have push our endorphin level to the highest.

The team definitely ended the weekend training at the highest note. We were all happy about the effort and the capabilities of each one of us in the team. Brett reminded us that we were not quite there yet to compete in the WKCs, but if we put in this kind of intensity and passion into each of our remaining training sessions back in our home dojo, we will be able to hit the best level when the WKCs come.

That evening, Ka-bi and me were so tired we just sat on the couch and watched movies from Brett's DVD collection. First we watched "Dodgeball". Then, we decided to watch "The Incredibles". Stuart returned back after a dinner with Sano sensei and Chiaki just in time to watch his hundreth time of "The Incredibles". This time with another two "Big Kids" and in English version.

On Monday, we had the morning doing team-bonding exercises. Afterwards, we walked around town and before long, it was time to head to the airport and fly home.

After coming back to Sydney, I have been bogged down with cold, runny nose and sore throat. I have probably over-exerted myself in the weekend, which over-taxed my body immune system. I tried getting as much rest as possible, but the condition didn't get any better. So finally, I decided to go to the doctor this weekend, and now I am on antibiotics. As my online kendo friend puts it this way... the keiko didn't kill me, but the flu did.

Saturday at Willoughby
I went to Willoughby for kendo training for the first time since coming back from Melbourne. I was one of the 7 motodachi and so had plenty of jigeiko at the final 1-hour jigeiko session.

During the middle of my jigeiko with Sano Sensei, he did two perfectly timed debana-kote, which almost score an ippon. That rang a wake-up bell on me. Was Sano Sensei able to tell whether I was going for men or kote from my initiating posture. So I checked my posture and make sure that my body was straight no matter I was going for men or kote.

My final jigeiko of the day was with Fukuda Sensei. Remembering all the advises I was given, I made sure that I used my foot and my body to test and apply seme. And took any opening opportunities immeidately when presented.

Feedbacks from Fukuda Sensei:

  • Don't hesitate. Remove the bad habit of lifting the shinai up to defence and block. Condition myself to attack as 1st reaction rather than defence.

Islam, Ramadan and Kendo
As you might be aware, those who practice Islam are in the middle of the Ramadan period, where fasting is practiced by all observant Muslims. Eating, drinking, sexual intercourse and smoking are not allowed between dawn and sunset.

I am neither a Muslim nor have I any Islamic religious belief. However, I am very curious to see if any of our kendo friends here who are actively practicing kendo and are also observing the Ramadan.

One of my kendo buddies is observing the Ramadan at the moment. For her to be able to train this month, she has to do training without food and, toughest of all, without a drop of water before, during and after keiko.

Without food is okay, but without a single drop of water doing kendo for 2 hours in the scorching heat of 38 degrees, plus the unforgivingly long daylight in the Southern Hemisphere is just unimaginable.

I wonder how many top athletes in the world who can observe the Ramadan and keep up with their tough training routines.

In fact, this is so interesting I am going to post this on the Kendo World forum.

Friday, October 06, 2006

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Onwards to Melbourne

It is beer hour now, and I am sitting in the office eating pizzas and pies. Good that the Friday night drinks is on my floor tonight, so food is easily within reach. In an hour time, I will be dragging my bogu bag and shinai from the office to the airport. And will fly with Ka-bi to the final Australian Team training session before the World Championships.

Monday - Five Dock
I went to Five Dock for keiko as Monday was a public holiday (Labour Day) and UNSW was closed. A lot of the core UNSWKC group also attended the Five Dock training.

After one round of kirikaeshi, the rest of the 1-hour session was mawari-jigeiko.

During the 10 rounds of jigeiko, my focus on that training session was on the body posture, making sure that I make as minimal unnecessary movements as possible.

I had 2 rotations paired up with Yoshiyuki, and it was very exciting to engage keiko with him. He is a fast player. Unlike most of the players in the club where they execute one cut at a time, he is the type of player that has a keen eye for opportunities. If the first cut does not exceed, he spared no time to cut the next opened target, and so on, until he scored an ippon. PAM BAMM BAMM. The consecutive follow-up cuts were executed in such a short time that players who were more accustomed to the one-cut-at-a-time style found themselves in a defensive position.

Feedbacks from Yoshiyuki:

  • Keen eyes for opportunities - Most players are accustomed to the set-up > one cut > follow-through > set-up cycle. If I could train my eyes to keep looking for opportunities and my body ready to launch the attack as soon as I finished a cut, I could create my attacking opporutnities myself, and difficult for my opponent to deal with.
  • Close-distance snappy kote - When in close-distance situation, the body is allowed to lunge to a level lower than normal kamae. Position the arms in a lower-than-normal level to allow the extended arms to cut with the correct part of the shinai.

Friday - Willoughby
Mark Stone and I led the training as Itakura Sensei was away. It was a great basics training session . And I used this session to really concentrate on the basics of posture, footwork and men cuts.

Itakura Sensei has set out debana-men as the waza in focus on the night. So after working on sashi-men that the class practiced last week, we focused on debana-men.

The emphasis of the night were on:
  • One-step one-cut
  • Keeping the kensen as close to the nodo as possible before launching men-cut
  • Cutting with the correct part of the shinani
It was great to hear the positive feedbacks from Dave Banbury that he felt the pressure from my kensen when I went for men-cut.

Anyway, it is time for me to fly...

Onwards to Melbourne... then to Taipei.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Building Up My Strategic War-Chest

Photo taken at Sydney Kendo Club on 9-Sept

Monday - UNSW
I got a flu virus over the weekend, and took a sickie from work on Monday as I was feeling quite miserable that morning. I slept and slept and slept throughout Monday, and when I finally woke up that afternoon, the virus has magically gone. I was feeling well and back to spirit again. And so I started contemplating the idea of attending kendo training that night too. From feeling miserable to feeling good and genki enough to exercise in one day. How magical was that sleep!

I was glad that Monday training focused on basic cuts, concentrating on making each men cut perfect. It wasn't too strenuous. Rather than on stamina, I worked on my techniques which suited my body condition on the day.

At 9pm, Fukuda sensei, Mike, Yoshiki and Jackson came to join the free jigeiko session after the Five Dock dojo session finished at 8:30pm.

I had a 10mins jigeiko with Sano sensei.

Sano Sensei's feedback:
Sano Sensei told me after the training that during our jigeiko, he was practicing on picking out when I was going for men and when I was going for kote from my pre-striking body posture and hand motions. With men-cut, I go straight in. However, with kote-cut, I tended to turn my body to the side. And therefore, he could pick out when I was going to do a kote, and countered with kote nuki men in a number of occassions.

  • Same pre-striking posture - To strike kote like going for men; and to strike men like going for kote. This would make it difficult for my opponent to predict my cutting intention, thus more difficult for my opponent to block or counter-attack.

Thursday - UNSW
In the waza session, we did several rounds of tsuki / men practice, with 4 cuts in each round. In each individual cut, we could choose to practice either tsuki or men. The idea was to launch a men cut that looks like a tsuki, and a tsuki that looks like a men.

I focused particularly on having the kensen as close to the nodo (or throat) as possible, very much like going for tsuki, and at the very very last moment, lifted the kensen for sashi-men. It was very effective. From the reactions of my practice opponents, I could see in their face that they were preparing to receive that fateful stab to the throat, which turned out to be a sashi-men. It was enlightening to see the power of the kensen.

Fukuda Sensei's advices on tsuki:

  • When executing tsuki, you should put your whole mind and body into it. You should not worry about missing the target, and should not be scared when executing tsuki against those who are of higher grades than yourself. Even if a tsuki missed the target, the emotional impact on your opponent is quite substantial. A determined, good-spirited tsuki, even if it missed, could have a devastating impact by defeating your opponent's spirit. And that could be the precursor to the winning cut.

Afterwards, we had ippon-geiko where we could only execute men and tsuki. One more thing, NO BLOCKING. The idea is to train the mind to throw everything into an attack without any hesitation. No blocking or hesitation, or else Fukuda Sensei would go very very angry.

Following the rounds of ippon-geiko was kakari-geiko, with Sano Sensei, Fukuda Sensei and Ka-bi as motodachi. I did a total 8 rounds of 15-sec kakari-geiko.

In the final 20 mins of the training, I had jigeiko with Sussan, Jayson Chaplin and Yoshiki. I had very good keiko and was in very good spirit. I was imagining myself playing in the WKC and needing to score that ippon badly. That was how I played in those jigeiko. I was focusing my seme and concentraing on my pre-kote cut posture. (i.e.To execute a kote that looks like a men, and vice versa.)

Saturday - Willoughby
Yoshiyuki the Champion is back. It is his first keiko with the club since his first child was born 4 months ago. It so so great to have him training with us again.

In the jigeiko session, I had jigeiko with Fukuda Sensei, Yoshiyuki, Itakura Sensei, Mike Henstock.

Yoshiyuki's Feedbacks:
  • Never voluntarily move-out from tsuba-zerai - There is no such thing as mutual agreement to move out from tsubazerai. And NEVER EVER do that in the World Championships. It is very risky to voluntarily move back, as the opponent can easily take advantage of your willingness and score a men-cut while you back off.

  • Sayu-kote suburi - We quite often see opponents who lift their arms up high to protect their men, with their kensen wildly off the center. This exposes both their do and kote.

    There is a good suburi exercise for cutting this kind of exposed kote with arms lifted up high, and kenzen off centre. It is almost like doing do cut suburi, but instead of swinging down in a 45 degree angle, the swing to the kote is horizontal.

    This kind of suburi is good for wrist strength building, giving you more control on your shinai movements. It is extremely useful in shiai situation when opponent has both arms up high.

Fukuda Sensei's Feedbacks & Advices:

    • Don't get into a rhythm - No rhythmic rocking movements before men-cut.
    • Issoku-ito no men-uchi - Practice as much one-step one-cut men-uchi as possible.
    • Cutting opportunities:
      1. Cut when opponent's mind is changing - when they are in the process of deciding the launch of a cut; and when the action signal is being transmitted from the brain to the arms and legs to execute the cut.
      2. Find your opponent's movement pattern - Attack during the process of completing a pattern (e.g. twirling the shinai). Entice your opponent to go into a movement pattern. When they go into a pattern, you can predict their next move, and then cut while they are in the middle of executing a pattern.