a MMB! Kendo Blog: February 2007

MMB! Kendo Blog

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Nittaidai and Japan

The past few weeks have been jam-packed with full-on kendo actions - first the Nittaidai cultural exchange visit to Sydney on 13, 14, 15 February. That weekend, on the 18th, I flew to Japan and had a few keiko there too while meeting some kendo friends.

13th February - Nittaidai arrives to Sydney
The Nittaidai delegation arrives to Sydney in the early morning of 13th Feb. A few of the kendo friends went to the airport to welcome. I arrived to the airport at 8am, eagerly awaiting to welcome the kendo group. The plane's arrival time, however, kept delaying and eventually ended up one hour late. As much as I wanted to give my Nittaidai friends a big warm welcome, I had to leave for work and missed the chance to greet them at the airport.

That evening, a 2-hour goodwill keiko was held at the University of NSW Lifestyle Centre. There were 3 Nittaidai kendo sensei - Hakamada Sensei, Yagisawa Sensei and Shinzato Sensei, plus 40 Nittaidai students (30 guys and 10 girls) which formed the Nittaidai kendo delegation. On the NSW side, we have about similar number of kenshi turned up for the rare opportunity to engage keiko with such an elite group of kendo players.

We had a 45minutes uchikomi session first, guys with guys, girls with girls, with a mix of Nittaidai students and NSWKA players in each line.

Following that was a 30minutes free jigeiko session. I keiko'ed with 2 Nittaidai girls, and then Shinzato Sensei and Yagisawa Sensei.

With 45minutes left on the clock, team shiai was announced. I played in the womens team in the Taisho position against the Nittaidai girls team captain - Ai Miyauchi.

I tried to stay composed and not be rushed for cuts. Ai was much better than me though, she got the first point with a follow-up men after I turned around after an attack. From this, it tells me that I need to recover and hold my kamae straight after each attack.

The second point was a men debana kote. Ai's timing was superb and caught the instant while I was coming for men.

Afterwards, I asked for comments from Sano Sensei. From his observations, it seemed that I didn't know what to do on the court and was sucked into playing my opponent's game, attacking when I was not ready to attack.

So what is MY game? I am trying to find out what my game is too. To me, it seems that I am lacking a variation in my game. It's too easy for my opponents to adapt to my game.

What I need to do from now on, is to go to each keiko with the intention to practice at least one waza that I don't normally use. Doesn't matter if I get cut during the process, my goal is to practice one new technique that I am normally not confident to use in shiai.

As Komoto Sensei said, it is useful to possess a variety of techniques to accentuate the effectiveness of my one or two best point-taking techniques. To keep my opponents guessing what will come next, making their defence relatively weaker to if I only attack one place.

Goodwill keiko with Nittaidai delegation at UNSW Unigym

That night, we had a casual dinner with the Nittaidai kendo and aikido sensei in Chinatown. I think Cecilijia's life stories on cigarette-smoke-quitting and how her mom and herself got into karate and kendo stole the show of the night. The sensei were quite impressed too. It was a fun night, and of course, lots of beer. :D

Dinner with the visiting Kendo Sensei after goodwill keiko in Chinatown

14th February - Nittaidai Traditional Japanese Martial Arts Demo
14th February 2007 was a significant day in my life. Well, yes, it was Valentine's Day. And I wrote a department-wide email to announce that I was quitting for love on that day. Yes. It's serious! For those who knew, that day was my last day to work in the IT industry as I am quitting for the love of pursuing my interest in the sport physiotherapy area. I was bought rounds of beer during lunch time and was so happy afterwards. My colleagues were trying to persuade me not to check-in any codes I changed, but I wanted to finish my last piece of commercial code in the IT industry, so I worked till the very last minute on the day I quit my job. And I checked in my code.... and it didn't break. Woohooo!!! A grand and happy finale!

Farewell lunch at Cargo Bar

I had to rush to the Olympic Park straight after work and arrived during the middle of the kendo demonstration. There was uchikomi-geiko, ooikomi-geiko, ai-kakari-geiko and shiai-geiko demo.

Anyway, as soon as I sat down next to Mike and behind Jackson, Mike said 'oh, Bibian. You drank beer.' Then, Jackson turned around, and said 'You smell like beer.' Oh great! And I had to attend the Nittaidai dinner party that night.

Photo with the Nittaidai kendo student group

Me and Chikano Shinzato Sensei

Me with Miyauchi Ai - the current Nittaidai girls team captain

The Nittaidai Sensei and the NSWKA Executive Committee

15th February - UNSW Keiko, Nittaidai Sensei Keiko
The Nittaidai Sensei - Hakamada Sensei, Yagisawa Sensei and Shinzato Sensei - joined the UNSW Thursday night keiko on a private visit. That was so awesome. We got more time to play against the Sensei with a smaller crowd. So we were able to get more feedbacks afterwards.

Sano Sensei led the first half of the training doing various kihon uchikomi. Then in the last 45minutes, we had free jigeiko, which ended up as the class lining up for the 3 visiting Nittaidai Sensei.

I was the first to jigeiko with Hakamada Sensei, and following that was a jigeiko with Shinzato Sensei.

My keiko with Hakamada Sensei at UNSW on Thursday

In the final ippon shobu with Shinzato Sensei, she came over to me and told me not to restrict my cut to one target only. She encouraged me to try cutting all the targets - kote, do, tsuki, men. Anywhere is okay. So again, I should have the courage to try cutting all targets during practice situation like this.

My keiko with Shinzato Sensei (left) who did a kote nuki men on me (right). Look at how straight Shinzato's posture is.

Ai-men - frame 1
(my back facing camera and Shinzato Sensei facing camera)

Ai-men - frame 2

Ai-men - frame 3

Ai-men - frame 4

Ai-men - frame 5

Ai-men - frame 6

Ai-men - frame 7

After the Thursday night UNSW training, we carried on with some more keiko - biru-geiko that is - at the nearby chinese restaurant.

Dinner after Thursday UNSW training and, of course, biru keiko with Yagisawa Sensei, Hakamada Sensei, and Shinzato Sensei]
Photo taken by Thao

~~~ JAPAN~~~
I flew to Japan on 18th February and had keiko at various local dojo in Chiba.

20th February - Katsuura, Chiba
I had a 2.5-hour keiko with some of the International Budo University's bekkasei up on a hill in Katsuura. Michael led the keiko and we concentrated on practicing suriage-men and morote tsuki.

A few points from the lesson:
  • The wrist turning movement during suriage - When doing omote-suriage, turn the wrists during the suriage movement so that the palmar side of the right hand is facing down. Whereas in ura-suriage, the palmar side of the right hand faces upwards during the suriage movement.
  • Allow the shinai to slant diagonally during suriage - When the opponent's shinai is coming down, extend the arms forward so that your shinai is slanting diagonally. With this positioning, your men and kote are well-protected by the angle of the slanting shinai. So if your opponent executes a cut, their shinai will be brushed off by your upward-extending slanting shinai.
  • Kensen always in the centre-line during suriage - while the hands can be off centre during the suriage movement, the kensen should always be in the centre-line.
  • Small kensen movement - A particular problem for me is the up and down swing is too big at the moment. In order to suriage and strike the target with the valid part of the shinai when your opponent is coming at full speed to you, the shinai movement must be kept small.
  • Tsuki with your foot, not hands - a good tsuki comes from good footwork. If you have stepped into the right distance, the opponent's throat should be right in front of the kensen. So all you need to do is to extend the arm to hit the target.
  • Wrist ulnar flexion at the point of tsuki - ulnar flexed your wrist at that very moment when the kensen stabs on the opponent's nodo, and use tenouchi at the same time. Withdraw kensen immediately after the thrust.

Ricky (Sweden), Carlos (Canada), me, Michael, Nico (Chile), Luka (Austria)

21st February - Kumakiri dojo, Kamogawa, Chiba
I had a 1.5-hour keiko at Kumakiri dojo with Michael and 3 IBU bekkasei. Wednesday night is the kid night at Kumakiri dojo, so there were about 20 young, fast and very genki little kids with awesome spirit just keep coming and coming to keiko with us. Some kids were shorter than my shinai but they have so much spirit in their kendo, it's so admirable.

I tried to practice what I have learnt the night before - suriage men and morote tsuki. I tried to tsuki many times during the night (when doing jigeiko with the adults). It was difficult to get the timing and opportunity of the tsuki right, and most of the time, my shinai would just be deflected off my opponent's shinai. I am just glad that I was able to land one during the night.

Apparently, all Kumakiri Sensei was allowed to practice in high school was tsuki. No men, no kote, no do. Just tsuki. No wonder his cut is seme is so strong and cut so straight. I had two jigeiko with Kumakiri Sensei that night. And I had to really stand my ground, or else I would get bulldozed by his rensoku attacks. It is when you keiko with Sensei like this that you really know there is no time to hesitate and no time to be weak. The spirit must move forward no matter how many times you get cut. You must try and try and try if you want to stand a chance in these keiko and make it meaningful.

Feeback from Kumakiri Sensei:
  • Using too much right hand at the moment. So after a men cut, my shinai seems to be slanted to the right.

Dinner with Alex Bennett and Michael

Enjoying my tonkatsu at Yamamoto Tonkatsu, Onjuku, Chiba

Carlos making pancake in the middle of the bogu shop.

hano matsuri in Katsuura, 24-25 Feb 2007

Kote, kote, kote.... a dinner party with the IBU students

Everyone, Say Cheers!

26th February - Nagasa HS, Kamogawa, Chiba
I went to the 1-hr keiko at Nagasa High School today with Michael, Carlos, Luka and Nico, and had jigeiko with Tominaga Sensei (7 dan), Kumakiri Sensei (7 dan), Suzuki Sensei (7 dan) and Hasegawa-san.

The Sensei was really strong, and I came out with mixed and, maybe, confused feeling. It seems like every cut that I made, the Sensei could see it coming so clearly, and executes various kind of oji-waza on me so effortlessly. It must be beautiful for the others waiting in the line to watch such oji waza in play, but for me, I was very confused. All I was trying to do was straight good cut, but my game was just too simple and monotonous, and so easy to counter.

Through the keiko, I learn not only the need to have more variety in my technical ability, but it is extremely important to keep a good strong positive spirit during the process. No matter how strong my opponents are, I must stand tall and keep trying again and again. Try different things over and over again, until eventually things become better and better. As Michael says, 'they can beat you up, but they can't break your spirit.'

Feedbacks from the Sensei:
  • Kumakiri Sensei - still using too much right hand during strikes. Keep trying to use more left hand and keep right hand loose.
  • Suzuki Sensei - keep up the good straight cuts.
  • Hasegawa-san - my eyes are betraying me. I looked at the target which I was going to strike and that sent signals to my opponent. Keep my eyes looking at the whole picture instead of the target that I am about to strike.

So that's it for now. Tonight, I will have a strawberry cake house party, where Nico is going to prepare the cake. Should be a fun night.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Picton 2007

I went to the annual Picton Weekend with David Banbury, who has kindly offered to give me a lift to Picton, which is about 1.5 hrs drive from where I live.

The training officially began at 9:30am. Kirby started the training weekend by leading the 50 of us through some stretching and suburi. The rest of the day was splitted up into four main session - 1.) Kihon Uchikomi 2.) Kata / Grading Preparation 3.) Harai waza & Hiki waza in focus 4.) Free Jigeiko

Session 1: Kihon Uchikomi
In the first 1.5 hrs session, Payne Sensei led the class and demonstrated a range of waza and then for us to execute. We covered a wide range of waza, from kirikaeshi, kihon men/kote/do, nidan and sandan waza, hiki waza, harai waza, uchikomi geiko and kakari geiko.

Session 2: Kata
For the second 1.5 hrs session, I participated in the kata group, with Payne Sensei, Sano Sensei, Itakura Sensei and Ka-bi coaching the group, answering questions, correcting the kata execution and giving individual feedbacks and comments.

I paired up with Jackson, and we practiced kata 1 - 7. After practicing the first 7 kata routines for an hour. We wanted to try out the kodachi kata 1 - 3. However, neither of us had a kodachi at the time, and we were looking around for a spare kodachi. We were so lucky that Payne Sensei kindly lent us his kodachi and also helped us learn the kodachi kata.

I have done kodachi 1 - 3 a few times before, but the last time was almost 6 months ago, and I have almost totally forgotten all the moves. With my 3rd Dan grading coming up this August in Wollongong, I think it is really time for me to be diligent in practicing kodachi kata.

At the end of the session, all the kata pairs had to demonstrate the kata we had been practicing. Every pair started the same time, and stopped when the pair had performed the last kata they learnt.

Jackson was really keen to perform all 10 Kata routines, including our last-minute kodachi kata. So we did all 10 kata. Well... it was an interesting performance. We did alright until Kata 4, when we both tried to stab each other at the same time. My bad. I was the motodachi and should be doing the kaeshi-men on Jackson. Apart from that glitch, we did alright up to the kodachi kata when I forgot to put my left hand down in tsuburi. And when I went to settle back in the kodachi chudan no kamae where I was supposed to lift my left hand up to my waist, I realised that my left hand was already there... Mmmmm... more practice more practice...

We had a 1 hour lunch break before the third session where Sano Sensei led the waza group, while Ted Rixon Sensei led the Kyu Squad training.

Session 3: Harai and Hiki Waza
In the first half of this session, we practiced without men and kote, and focused on harai-kote, harai-men (both omote and ura). In the second half of the session, we put on our men and kote, and practiced the harai waza with actual striking to the target. We also practiced hiki waza in this session.

During this session, Sano Sensei pointed out a few things that we should consider:

  • Cutting distance between you and partner.
  • Cutting with correct part of the shinai.
  • Hand-foot coordination in harai waza - we practice one-two timing. At the count of one, we execute harai waza and lift the shinai up while the right foot slides forward. At the count of two, the left foot moves up while the shinai strikes the target.
  • Hiki-men's zanshin - the shinai will momentarily point upwards after hiki-men is executed, but should always return to chudan no kamae to complete the zanshin.
  • Hiki-do's zanshin - be careful of the hasuji (cutting angle) of the shinai after cutting. Make sure it is not a scrape to the side of the body. Whichever angle the shinai cuts in, the shinai should come out at the same angle.
Session 4: Free Jigeiko
The third session finished at around 4pm, which was followed by free jigeiko. Most of the people were visually tired from the day-long training, especially the wear and tear on the feet after a hot day.

I wouldn't hide the fact that my feet were quite tired by then, but that tiredness was overcome by the joy and expectation of free jigeiko with people from other clubs who I don't normally get a chance to engage keiko with. So I quickly put on my men and kote, and went straight to onegaishimasu Shoko Bunder. I think we beat everyone to be the first pair to engage jigeiko :)

After one hour of about 6-7 jigeiko, Sensei signaled it was the end of the day training.

The Crazy Overnight Stay at Wirrimbilli Sanctuary
Most of the girls took a shower at the Picton High School before heading to the Wirrimbilli Sanctuary for a crazy long night with a lot of crazy UNSW people, and other more civilised people from other clubs :P

We had a BBQ dinner that night at the Sanctuary. Then beer followed after that. I only drank two bottles of beer (plus a lot of breakfast juice) that night, but managed to get myself controllably hyped up and happy. And we chatted and laughed late into the night.

Anyway, when I finally went back to the girls' cabin and sleep (I was the third to go back for rest), there were still more than half of the girls out and about running around and having fun. Well, that went on for the whole night.

When all the girls eventually came back to the cabin to sleep, there were lots of ruffling noise as the mosquitoes were flying around attacking the top bunk's people. So at 3am in the morning, someone finally couldn't stand the mosquitoes and jumped up. Then a whole string of events happened after that... At 4am, another person jumped up and said she was feeling very hungry. So a few of the girls got some instant noodle from the boy's cabin and went out to eat. When they come back, they reported seeing a light somewhere in the direction of Gideon's car. They went to check it, and found Gideon there cooking chicken... Yes, all at 4 in the morning.

What a weird night!

Sunday: Grading
Anyway, the next day we had grading. I couldn't grade as I still have to wait another half year before I am eligible for my 3rd dan grading. So I watched and helped the backend organisation of the grading.

There were a total of 37 people graded successfully in the weekend. Of those people, 4 were successfully graded to shodan, and they are Chris Barbe, Jayson Chaplin, Adam Lee and Stephen Ellis.

We had an hour of free jigeiko after the grading before the end of the training weekend.

Most of the people went to the George IV pub in the centre of Picton town for lunch and beer. For me, it was my first time to try the "pork pie" that all the other people have been raving about.

Anyway, here are the photos of the weekend. Enjoy!

BBQ dinner at the Wirrimbilli Sanctuary

Say Cheers!

My BBQ dinner

Elaine and David

Elaine, Sussan and Andrew VH

The ANU people - The Cunninghams, Martino and Rebecca

Mmmm... how come there is a Sano bin here

A very happy me surrounded by a group of very happy and crazy people

Cecilijia and me

The infamous pork pie at George IV pub in Picton

Pork pie is a traditional British food. It consists of pork and pork jelly in a hot water crust pastry and is normally eaten cold.