a MMB! Kendo Blog: January 2007

MMB! Kendo Blog

Sunday, January 28, 2007

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Dream No More

I have two dreams.

First is to represent Australia in the World Kendo Championships. Second is to become a Sports Physiotherapist.

Last month, I realised my first dream in Taipei, crossing-sword with many of the world's best and most gifted kenshi, and finally see the level and quality of kendo around the world. And in the process, witnessed history in the making.

As for my second dream, it started two years ago. Since then, I have been trying to work my way towards this dream. I found out all the Universities in NSW that offer the physiotherapy degree. And there is only University of Sydney which offers this course in the metro Sydney. It is harder to get in as a university degree holder than a Year 12 school-leaver. In addition to good high school and university results, it also requires (unofficially) 100 hours of observational experience in a physio clinic. I have been very lucky indeed to have met some nice physio in a famous sports clinic around my area, and finally accumulated my 100 hours of experience earlier last year.

It was 9pm on Wednesday 17-JAN when the result was published on the internet.

Two years. For two years, I have been waiting for this day - the release of the 2007 University Admission results.

That night, I attended kendo training at Willoughby as usual. As soon as the training finished at 9pm, I quickly packed up my gears, rushed home, quickly ran to my room, turned on the computer, and straight to the UAC website.

I was saying to myself, 'please please, please accept me into the course'.

At last, the wait was all over. I see my name on the website. And below that, the course that I have been offered to study - 4 years Full-time Physiotherapy at University of Sydney.

Two years, it was a long wait, but a sweet outcome to a new beginning.

I can't express how happy I am now to cross the line and step into a completely new and exciting world - a world that I have been dreaming for.

My dream now - to become a good sports physiotherapist!

Training in the Past Two Weeks

My Japanese language class was temporarily shifted from Tuesday to Thursday in the past two weeks, so I had to skip the Thursday UNSW training. That said, I was still able to attend the other 3 weekly kendo classes during the week - Monday at UNSW, Wednesday and Saturday at Willoughby.

Straight, Correct Kendo
My goal in these two weeks was to have a nice imposing kamae - to stand tall and straight. Also, my goal is to strike correctly. No twirly twisting shiai-focus bad cuts.

Doing straight cut was all easy and fine in uchikomi geiko session of the training, when everything is pre-determined, choreographed. It was during the jigeiko session, which really revealed whether I had the mental power to keep focusing on what I am trying to practice.

I had to say it was definitely no easy task.

During the jigeiko with Itakura Sensei, I realised that I was still turning my body sideway when I launched into ai-men. It really took a lot of focus and mental power to try to do one good straight ai-men during jigeiko.

Nonetheless, I could feel that I am improving, slowly but surely. Every training, I could feel my cut is just a little straighter and slightly more "square-on".

Rhythm and Opportunities
Another thing that I have been trying to explore since New Year is the relationship between rhythm and opportunity to attack. Many people have their arms or shinai move up and down, up and down, rhythmically. I want to be able to find my opponent's rhythm, and thus grasp their timing, locate the attacking opportunities during the rhythmic cycle, and launch one decisive cut.

Feedbacks from Fukuda Sensei:

I was fortunate to have a good jigeiko session with Fukuda Sensei. Throughout the jigeiko, he was trying to guide me to identify what constitutes a good attacking opportunity.

As those who have seen him would know, Fukuda Sensei plays a very steady style of kendo with no wasted movement. His kendo is both elegant and powerful. No slash and bash. (Well, unless his opponent stands there like a log, or if the other side is too concerned of being hit and lift the shinai everywhere, then he would unleash that scary machine-gun rensoku attack. With a final stab to the throat...) And when he does make his cut, it is of the most dangerous and accurate. To do this, one must have a keen eye for opportunity. And yesterday, he was trying to teach me how to find it.

Basically, it goes like this:

  • Do not cut when your opponent is moving back or standing ground.

  • Cut when your opponent is about to come forward to launch a cut.

  • It is a simple concept. However, to practice this against Fukuda Sensei was extremely difficult.

    Firstly, Fukuda Sensei has a very steady kamae with no rhythmic motions. Even if I parry his shinai, he would come back to the centre straight away with very little opportunity for me to move in. To launch into a cut under those circumstances was basically to invite a stab right into my throat.

    Secondly, Fukuda Sensei is really steady. I mean REALLY REALLY steady. No matter how I tried to seme in, it is very difficult to get any sort of reaction from him. So sometimes, it feels like an eternity to see him move, and this makes me anxious to cut. And if I cut in this immature moment, Mmmmm... yes, another stab to the throat or mune.

    After a couple of mistakes, I tried to have more patience and hold my composure, and be alert for the right opportunity. It was good to made a good cut to finish off the jigeiko.

    Sano Sensei suggested me to try this tactic, and also mix with a few other things that I have already been doing. To keep my game varied and my opponents guessing all the time.

    Tuesday, January 16, 2007

    忍耐 + 掌握人生
    Kendo into Year 2007

    One year has zoomed past so quickly, and what an exciting tremendous kendo year. After the whirlwind tour of the World Championships and the relaxing and rejuvenating holiday in Japan the past month, it is time to settle down and look ahead into what Year 2007 could bring.

    At the beginning of Year 2006, I have wrote down a list of New Year Kendo Resolution - goals that I strive to achieve. The 2006 goals were fairly shiai-oriented as it was an important kendo competition year with the World Championships at the end of the year.

    I would say that I have achieved or close to achieving all the goals in Year 2006. It was nice to train in the past year with a clear goal in mind, and it has definitely helped motivates me to be even more passionate about improving my kendo.

    With the completion of the 13WKC campaign, I have decided to concentrate on doing good correct kendo, and fixing up any bad habits that I didn't have the time to change in the shiai-focused Year 2006.

    So here is my list of kendo goals for 2007...

    Kendo Goals for 2007:

    • Straight, correct kendo
    • Better understanding of timing / rhythm
    • Explore seme & opponent's reactions
    • Expand waza repertoire

    Great start to the Year. I began Year 2007 doing Kendo. Yes, that's right! Toshigoshi-shinen keiko (or New Year midnight keiko) in Japan.

    Post-WKC Review
    I am still compiling a post-WKC review, which I am looking forward to share with you in the weeks to come.

    Post-WKC Japan
    For the trip in Japan after the WKC, however, I am ready to tell you now. Here are the things I did after the WKC up till I came back to Sydney last week.

    I had a wonderfully relaxing 3.5 weeks holiday in Japan, and did some keiko at the following dojos,

    • Mirai High School, Kamogawa, Chiba
    • Katsuura, Chiba
    • Toshigoshi-shinen keiko, Kamogawa, Chiba
    • Tajima Sensei's High School dojo, Tokyo

    It was great to keiko with some of the IBU bekkasei in Katsuura, experience the hard-core traditional Japanese toshigoshi-shinen keiko, meet the Sensei who came to Founders Cup 2006, and see my Nittaidai homestay buddy Mikiko.

    Toshigoshi-shinen Keiko
    At 10pm on New Year's Eve, Michael and I met up with 3 bekkasei from IBU and drove all the way to Kamogawa for the new year keiko. The keiko started at 11pm. About 40 locals attended. After some warm-up and one set of kirikaeshi, it was free jigeiko for the rest of the night. I had 3 keiko before the break at 11.55pm. First was with a senior high school girl. Then, I keiko with Carlos from McGill University, Canada, who is doing the 1-year bekkasei program at IBU. My last keiko of 2006 was with Michael. What a great way to wrap up the fantastic Year 2006!

    At 11.55pm, we lined up and took our kote/men off for mokuso and a nice speech by a respected Sensei in the area. After about 10 minutes, we put on our kote / men again, and resumed jigeiko once again. I had the opportunities to play 2 more jigeiko until the 12.30am finish.

    Afterwards, Michael drove us to Tanjou Temple for the first pray in the new year.

    There are also various other memorable things I did in Japan.

    One was travelling with the Shinpan Research Study Group to Yamagata on Christmas Day and join the group as an observer, and also enjoy the onsen in Niigata.

    I also had the chance to meet up with my old friends and Sensei, such as my Nittaidai homestay buddy Mikiko Hanyu, and some of the Sensei who visited Sydney during the Founders Cup 2006.

    Without writing too much, I will let the photos do the talking.

    Yamamoto Tonkatsu, Katsuura, Chiba

    The 3 attacking opportunity methods

    The 3 attacking opportunities

    Kendo from the eye of Kumakiri Sensei...

    At Yamagata with two Czech Republic team members (back row), and Uehara Sensei, Ozawa Sensei (front row)

    Onjuku, Chiba

    Onjuku, Chiba

    With Miho Maki Sensei in Onjuku

    Miho, Michael and myself

    Meeting my Nittaidai buddy, Mikiko Hanyu in Tokyo

    Miki and me with lots of yummy food and sake

    At Tanjou Temple on New Year's morning with Michael and IBU bekkasei

    Applying indigo-dye to my men

    Re-enacting Yuko's cunning fake-men to kote cut on me

    Exchanging zekken with Yuko

    After-keiko photo with Tanaka Sensei, Tajima Sensei, and Yuko (front row)

    With Yuko at the dinner after the keiko

    My favourite nabeyaki udon restaurant up the Katsuura hill

    My favourite nabeyaki udon restaurant


    That is how my favourite nabeyaki udon looks like