a MMB! Kendo Blog: Nittaidai and Japan

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.


Post a Comment

<< Home