a MMB! Kendo Blog: November 2006

MMB! Kendo Blog

Thursday, November 23, 2006

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Hanshi Says: Don't Move. Don't Cut.

Sumi Sensei, Kendo Hanshi 8th Dan, and Terry Holt Sensei, Kendo 7th Dan, visited Sydney Kendo Club last Thursday. This special Sensei-visit training was scheduled at 5:30pm - 7:30pm, so I had to leave work early to get to the training on time.

About 40 people turned up to this special training.

I led the class to warm-up and suburi, and then Sumi Sensei led the class from there on.

For an hour or so, Sumi Sensei gave us tips and advices on the cutting basics according to what he saw during our suburi session.

Hand Movement:

  • Swing in an arc - When swinging the shinai, the motion should be in a way such that the kensen draws an arc in the air. Not straight up and down.

  • Keep same wrist angle during up-swing - No need to flex the wrist during up-swing. Any wrist movement here is a wasted movement. Only when swinging down, give the wrist a snap.

  • Hand Position - Right hand is always further from the body than the left.
Body Movement:

  • One motion - When seme in and go for cut, it must be in one motion. Don't stop after seme and then cut. One motion, as fast as you can.

  • Seme with straight posture - When seme in, don't lean forward. If you lean forward, it is very hard to bring the left foot forward.

  • Try to push your stomach in front.


  • Movements of Right and Left foot. Looooong then short. Slow then fast. Seme then power. Just like waltzing.

  • One-step one-cut - must not allow left foot to creep up to the right foot for momentum. That's cheating, and it won't help your kendo development.
Practicing Methods:

  • Motodachi's to keep strong centre during men-uchi keiko - In men-uchi, the motodachi has a very important role to make the practice more realistic and meaningful. The motodachi opens up the target just before he/she get hit - don't open up too early. As the goal here is try to make the kakari feels the strong kensen from the motodachi. The kakari must learn to suppress the fear of running into the kensen.


  • 100% committed cut. - To become stronger in kendo, we must learn to suppress the fear of being hit and stab.

  • Enjoy being tsuki'ed - Remove the fear of getting tsuki. Learn to love being tsuki'ed, to the point where you can fully commit to execute your own cut even when you see the tsuki coming directly towards you. When you can reach such a stage, you can become strong in kendo. 'C'mon. C'mon! Tsuki me!'

Feedback from Sumi Sensei:
I am using too much right arm to swing my shinai and so the shinai is not swinging vertically up and down.

Left Foot
Right Foot
Chikara ashi
(Power foot)
Seme ashi
(Pressure foot)
Must be fast at all time
Can be slow
Stride Length
In two-step one-cut situation, left foot does not need to come up to equal distance as the right foot. Left foot can take a smaller step than the right. This is left foot is the power foot and can propel from a further distance because the time to come up to the right foot takes time, and left foot is the power foot, and should propel the body further than the right. However, left foot MUST be quick.

Sorry UnWaki Sama, but I just couldn't stop laugh'in when I see you in the clip.

As soon as Sumi Sensei declared "Hai... Jigeiko desu!", I did a record-breaking sprint from the far corner of the dojo towards Sumi Sensei, and quickly zarei in front of Sensei to secure my position, beating off the whole class to be the first to "Onegaishimasu" Sensei for jigeiko. What a great effort, I thought, to have the opportunity and be the first to jigeiko Sensei. I felt especially happy when I looked back and saw the mile-long queue behind me. There were so many people queuing up that I think there must be quite a few who queue up and never got the chance to do any jigeiko in that session.

My jigeiko with Sumi Sensei was timed to exactly one minute. I went mostly for men cuts and then taitari into Sumi Sensei, where he would stand his ground firmly and taitari back on me every time, except the last one when he side-stepped to signal the end of the jigeiko.

During the whole jigeiko, he only executed two men-cuts, one in an ai-men situation and the other as debana-men. Like what he taught the class about men-cut earlier in the seminar, Sumi Sensei's shinai movement was much smaller than mine and so it only took half the time for him to complete the men-cut.

It was definitely good to jigeiko with Sumi Sensei. But I must say, one minute is just TOO SHORT! I want more!!!

I also had jigeiko with Holt Sensei (Mumeishi, UK) and Gazziniga Sensei (Mumeishi, Melbourne) before the end of the training.

The most interesting part of the night, however, was during dinner time. I was sitting next to Fukuda Sensei, who was sitting directly opposite to Sumi Sensei. Fukuda Sensei was the only other person who speaks fluent Japanese at the dinner, so he was able to have some nice kendo discussions with Sumi Sensei. I tried to listen as closely as possible on what the Sensei were discussing in the hope that I would be able to pick up some good knowledge from the conversation. Also, the fact that Sumi Sensei could speak relatively good English and Fukuda Sensei who ever so kindly tried to involve me in the conversation, allowed me to receive some good feedbacks and insights from Sumi Sensei.

Hanshi's Wisdom

During the dinner, I asked Sumi Sensei a question that I like to ask 8th Dan Sensei whenever I have the opportunity to talk to them.

"What are you working on in your kendo at the moment?"

"Don't move. Don't hit." replied Sumi Sensei.


At first, I was thinking.... WHAT!?!?! I was totally lost.

"Muzukashii ne!" Totally confused and astounded by his reply, I didn't know what else to say.

"Soo desu ne." Sumi Sensei then told me two stories.

The Emperor's Fighting Cock
The first one was a fighting-cock story from the ancient Chinese philosopher Kong Fu Zi.

In the story, there was this Chinese emperor who had a fighting-cock. He wanted to train up this fighting-cock, and so he handed it to a trainer.

"Please train up this fighting-cock for me", the Emperor said.

One month later, the Emperor asked the trainer, "How is my fighting-cock?"

The trainer replied, "The cock is very musclely built now."

Another month has gone, and the Emperor asked the trainer about his fighting-cock.

The trainer replied, "The cock is technically-sound now."

Third month, the Emperor asked the same question again.

The trainer replied, "The cock is ready now, he will stand tall and high, and his opponent will turn away."

So the Emperor took the fighting-cock to a fighting-cock tournament.

There, the Emperor's cock just stood proudly there with lots of spirit and as soon as the opponent saw the Emperor's cock, it quickly turned around and ran away.

So Sumi Sensei said, "I want to be the fighting-cock in the story."

(Of course the winning one, I assume.)

The Cats and Mouse Story
He went on and gave me another old Japanese cat and mouse story.

There were 3 cats facing a mouse.

The first cat, who possesses very fine technique, tried to catch the mouse. However, the mouse was equally skillfully and dodged all the attacks that the cat made.

The second cat, who possesses power and speed, then took up the challenge to chase down the mouse. However, the mouse was even faster. And in the end, the second cat ran out of breath and gave up.

The first two cat turned to the third cat, who was an old but experienced veteran, and said 'why don't you try catching the mouse?'

The veteran said, 'alright, I will have a try.' So he walked up slowly, with a powerful aura generating from his confident composure and spirit. This spirit startled and frozen the mouse on the spot. And all the veteran had to do was just to grab the mouse, and there he got it.

The Hanshi
Sumi Sensei also told me another thing that he is striving to achieve at every keiko.

No matter who he is playing, where he is playing, at all time, his goal is to have the other person wanting to jigeiko with him again as soon as they finished a keiko and went into sonkyo. The best thing is to play in a way such that the other person wants to practice with you again and again.

Wow, the Hanshi.

Sore wa saikou desu!!!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

忍耐 + 掌握人生
On Fire!

Finally got my Australian Team zekken this week

In the past 2 weeks, I set myself a small set of goals. And they were quite simple:

1) To get enough sleep every night of the week, so that I can focus and train hard every session.

In order to achieve this, I forced myself to go to rest as quickly as possible after evening activities (whether it was keiko, Japanese class or dancing) during the week.

Having the extra hours of sleep, I could feel I am in good mood and good spirit during the day, and got extra energy to train and go "full on" during keiko session.

2) To be able to control when to "switch on" and get fire-up.

I felt that sometimes I could fire up and go madly at training. At other times, however, no matter how hard I try, I just couldn't get that "spark". So I have been trying to find out how I could ignite that spark whenever I need to. What to get me fire-up. So that when the big time comes, I can control how to creat that energy and fire in me.

Last Saturday when I watched the 54th AJKC finals, I was so inspired by Uchimura's spirit. In the close up shots, you could see that "thousand miles killing stare". That focusness just grasped my breath away. And his kiai, there was so much intensity and spirit in it, it just made my nerves tingled. And I knew straight away, I wanted to be just like that when I step onto the shiai-jo.

Watching kendo videos on YouTube is very addictive. After watching all the 54th AJKC clips, I went on to watch other great kendo shiai clips. This went on for a while, and in the end, I got all psyched up and ready to go for the action myself. It felt like I was the person in the clip, whether it was Miyazaki or whichever Kendo God I was watching. I could visualise myself doing the brilliant cuts and get all psyched up.

And then, from there, I found that I could get myself on fire when I re-lived the moment when that perfect ippon is scored - That feeling when the shinai bounces ever so nicely off the opponent's men, that beautiful BAMM ippon sound.

It is that hand feeling, that shockwave that is transferred from the tip of the shinai to the hands, and that BAMMM sound in my ear when an ippon is scored that gets me psyched up.

So at training in the past week, I have been trying to satisfy this hunger of getting that shockwave to my hands and the beautiful ippon sound.

With that urge to satisfy that hunger, the training becomes more intensed and very meaningful, and I really enjoy the training in the past week.

Monday - UNSW
Sano Sensei led the class on Monday and we did a lot of kihon along the length of the dojo - I think we only did kirikaeshi and kote-men from the time I arrived to training at 7:30pm up till the official ending time at 9pm.

From 9pm for half an hour, there was free jigeiko for those keen for some more.

That night was GOOOOOOOD! I had an extremely exciting time at jigeiko. I was quick enough to be the first person to onegaishimasu Sano Sensei, beating Yoshiki's onegaishimasu by a little bit. YAY!!! So I got to go first.

Afterwards, I had ippon-geiko with Yoshiki, a sanbon-geiko with Mike, an ippon-geiko with Gideon the Gov.

Last but not least, a final jigeiko with Fukuda Sensei to wrap up an excellent keiko night.

I was feeling on fire that night - so focused, so intensed, so full of energy. I was feeling so pumped.

Feedbacks from Sano Sensei:

  • Do something in tsubazerai - I spent too long in tsubazerai, too cautious. Try not to think too much and do something.
Feedbacks from Fukuda Sensei:

  • Use more kote-men - Try to incorporate kote-men waza in my keiko. It is an excellent shiai-technique. It is especially effective when your opponent is just about to come forward to strike.
Thursday - UNSW
The focus of this training was on various waza - seme-men, debana-kote and kaeshi-do. We spent a considerable time practicing these various waza. In the last 15mins, we had mawari-jigeiko.

The class finished at 9pm. However, because there was no badminton booking after us, Fukuda Sensei decided to do shiai-geiko with both Sano Sensei and Ka-bi one after the other.

The matches were really intense it was extremely exciting to watch and to soak in the atmosphere.

Saturday - Sydney
I led the warm-up and suburi once again, and Ka-bi led the rest of the class.

In this training, I focused on achieving the goal I set for this week - to be able to fire-up at keiko time. I think I did it and put 120% in every one of my jigeiko, including the ones when I jigeiko'ed with the little kids. I made sure that I kept up my intensity. Not that I was cutting madly and running all over the kids. I still played accordingly to their level - but my spirit was there to make the jigeiko real and intense for them. And I think it is the responsibility for the motodachi to urge and bring the best out of the kakari. And I think I did that, and to my best.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

忍耐 + 掌握人生
To Lead by Example

I only trained 2 nights this week, which is less than my usual training frequency. However, I felt satisfied and good with the effort I put into my keiko. Best of all, I felt good stepping out of the dojo, and into my normal day life.

Thursday - UNSW
About 20 people were at UNSW training on Thursday night.

After warm-up, we men-tsuke and had several rounds of kirikaeshi.

Next, Fukuda Sensei picked Kirby, Gideon, Mike, Jackson, Yoshiki and me out to be the motodachi for the rounds of kakari-geiko to follow. This week, Fukuda Sensei wanted to experience the integral part of what all Japanese students do day-in day-out in their training. For those that have trained in a Japanese University, such as Ka-bi in International Budo University, or Mike and me in Nittaidai, kakari-geiko is a must in all training sessions.

In his final sentence, Fukuda Sensei said he gave permission for the motodachi to do ashi-harai (or foot-sweep) to the kakari. You should see the contrasting expressions on the kakari side and the motodachi side.

For Jackson, he was beaming with smile. Because there were two girls queuing up for him. Well, you can guess the rest. Fortunately, Fukuda Sensei noticed that, and gave Jackson a little speech so he wouldn't do inappropriate things. Mmmm....

So with 6 motodachi on the floor and 2 kakari queuing up for each motodachi, we had a continuous rotation of kakari-geiko. After a kakari finished a round of kakari-geiko, s/he would move to the back of the next queue, ready to go again for another set with the next motodachi.

Depending on the level of the kakari, the motodachi would either passively holding the kensen or going full-out to execute ai-kakari-geiko.

Although the bouts were only short - about 10 secs each, there were about 8 - 10 rounds of kakari-geiko in each of the 2 go. So that gave both the kakari and motodachi very thorough cardio workout.

During short break between for the kakari to catch their breath, the 6 motodachi would execute 3 sets of ai-kakari-geiko. It was great to release all the energy in one go. All there was in mind was to just go full-in, with all the determination in the world, to cut and cut and cut. I was puffing when it finished, but with the most satisfying feeling.

In the last 40mins, we had free jigeiko. I had my jigeiko with Jackson, Fukuda Sensei, Yoshiki, Kirby and Mike. It was great to be able to jigeiko one good player after the other. It made me realise that everyone around me was training hard, and I must train hard too in order to improve at the same or faster rate as those dedicated.

Comments from Fukuda Sensei
  • No cheap-shot hiki-waza. Use seme or waza from tsubazerai - Fukuda Sensei personally regards sneaky hiki-waza as student level kendo. Only student level would be awarded ippon for sneaky hiki-waza. The focus should be on using seme or waza to create opening to score. In tsubazerai, try using waza such as harai-hiki-kote, or seme technique such as when one side steps backward, use seme to create opening opportunity.
Saturday - Willoughby
In last Saturday's club meeting, the committee decided that the club should have a junior Dan grade to lead warm-up and suburi, while attending Sensei would correct and give advices and feedbacks to the class. So I volunteered to take the warm-up and suburi for this Saturday to kick-start this initiative.

I led a class of 30 to do stretching and suburi. I thought my job for leading the class was done until Payne Sensei indicated that he would let the junior Dan grade to take the class. So I unexpected had to lead the class into the waza session.

It was good for my kendo development as 30 pairs of eyes, including sensei and sempai, were scrutinizing my every move as I demonstrate before each exercise. Standing right in front of the class to lead means that I have to do my best, show my best kendo and spirit, so to create the right kind of training atmosphere for everyone to train at their best.

The kind of exercises that I decided to practice today were all very familiar to everyone. What I wanted was the correctness and intensity of each cut. We practiced the following for a few rounds - kirikaeshi, kihon-men, seme-men, kihon-kote, seme-kote (going into tsubazerai), kote-men, and uchikomi-geiko. And Payne Sensei and Itakura Sensei would give comments and advices to the class.

In the last 30 minutes, the class had free jigeiko.

It was a very rewarding experience to lead the class. On one hand, it was nice to hear that my friends were happy to have a good training that day. On the other hand, it helped my kendo improve too. Standing in front of the class made me concentrate on making each cut perfect, which in turn, helped bringing the best spirit and kendo out of me.