a MMB! Kendo Blog: March 2007

MMB! Kendo Blog

Monday, March 26, 2007

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Kaeshi-do like an 8th Dan

I went to the UNSW keiko tonight.

Nuki / Kaeshi Do
The class practiced men-(nuki/kaeshi)-do during the waza focus session. Normally I get really frustrated when executing nuki or kaeshi do, as I found it very hard to grasp the timing and coordination to execute the cut correctly. However, today I had a lightbulb moment. My movements were so smooth, the impact and timing felt so nice, I just wanted to keep practicing nuki / kaeshi do over and over again. It was such a pleasure.

Usually when I practiced against a very high grade visiting Japanese Sensei (e.g. 7th and 8th dan sensei), I would endeavour to do nice kihon cuts. And most of the time, these Sensei love to do either suriage-men or kaeshi-do to counter my men cuts. No matter how fast and small my men cuts were, they were always able to counter them. Their grasp of timing was very precise and their movement was very minimal.

I think I have received enough of those counter-cuts that tonight, I was able to visualise myself being those high-grade Japanese sensei, imitating their actions, and 'feel' how they execute kaeshi-do.

So during the following men-taisuru-waza session, I chose to continue my practice on nuki-do / kaeshi-do. I felt so nice and effortless to execute nuki / kaeshi do when the timing and coordination were spot on. Although there were times when my practicing partners were able to cut my men, overall I could feel the cuts were solid and coordinated. My cut was in front of my body, and my arms were not cramped up. So that was very good.

Jigeiko with Sano Sensei
My last free jigeiko of the night was with Sano Sensei. It was a very nice jigeiko with high intensity. I was also in my shiai mood so I was quite sharp and focused.

However, during my second cut when I did a tobikomi men, Sano Sensei did a nuki-do on me. And that made me really made me think. Why was Sano Sensei able to do a nuki do on me? I knew the answer. My cut was too half-hearted and hesitant, and therefore there was no explosiveness in the cut, giving Sensei enough time to react and counter. So immediately after that, I have been really exploding my kote-men cuts. And it was good to learn from just that early nuki-do incident.

Feedbacks from Sano Sensei:
  • Timing was good
  • Cuts were a bit light on several occassions. Sensei suggested me to aim the terminal point a bit lower than the target to increase the impact on the target.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

忍耐 + 掌握人生
FIK Asian Zone Shinpan Seminar

It has been wonderfully busy for me in the recent weeks. I am totally enjoying my physiotherapy study at university. Although the study load is quite heavy (7 subjects this semester), I found all of them very interesting, and somehow, there are many parts of the course which I could relate to my own experience in kendo. I am loving my study.

Apart from studying, I have been trying to utilise my time as wisely as possible to accommodate kendo practice. Since coming back from Hong Kong, I have been burying myself to prepare for the 2007 FIK Shinpan Seminar in Sydney. So apart from the FIK Asian zone shinpan weekend which I also participated as a shiai-sha, I have only had 4 keiko in the past 3 weeks.

Here is a short report of the past 3 weeks...

I have been carrying on suriage-men and tsuki practice whenever situations permit.

Feedbacks from Kai: My tsuki is too easy to parry away at the moment. Technique is fine, but need a bit more speed if I want to land on target before my opponent can react. Similar to men cut, tsuki can be fast and light. Just remember the feeling of receiving those tsuki from Japanese Sensei - fast and light.

FIK Asian Zone Shinpan Seminar, Sydney

The FIK Asian Zone Shinpan Seminar was held in Sydney last weekend (17-18 March). About 40 participates from the Asian region attended, with over half coming from within various parts of Australia.

It was a rare opportunities to have lots of 8 Dan sensei visiting Sydney. Of the ~40 Sensei who attended, we had the following 8 Dan Sensei:
  • Hitoshi Murakami Sensei (Hanshi 8 Dan)
  • Eiji Taguchi (Hanshi 8 Dan)
  • Yuji Nakata (Hanshi 8 Dan)
  • Mitsuru Hamasaki (Kyoshi 8 Dan)
  • Noriyasu Mikise (Kyoshi 8 Dan)
  • Nobuhide Sato Sensei (Kyoshi 8 Dan)
  • Tsung-Shun Huang (Hanshi 8 Dan) from Taiwan
Purely awesome list. Plus the feedbacks they gave me after my shiai, doubly awesome! Sore wa saikou deshita!

There were plenty of shiai-practice opportunities for the local 1 to 4 dan kendoka during the 2-day seminar. I was one of them.

On the morning of the first day, the shinpan class was conducted in lecture fashion, and so, the shiai-sha had a long wait until mid-afternoon for action.

I played 2 matches on the first day. First against Kate Bulldog Sylvester. Second was with my obaachan Chiaki Kobayashi.

I lost both matches 2-0. However, I wasn't too concerned about the result, because I told myself that this would be a great opportunity to practice those new techniques that I have been trying to master in recent time. And I did it without fear. However, I think I was a bit too concerned about showing nice composed kamae, too worried about my form, which affected my shiai instinct.

At the end of the day, the shinpan participants and shiai-sha formed 4 parallel lines and had 6 mawari-keiko before lining up for the 7 and 8 Dan Sensei. I had keiko with Hyun-Jin Jin Sensei (Kyoshi 7 Dan) from Korea and Sato Sensei.

On the second day, I had a total of 7 shiai (2mins each) in the following order:
  • Me vs Shoko Bunder 0-2
  • Me vs Kate 1-0
  • Me vs Chiaki 1-0
  • Me vs Toshio Nishimoto 0-0
  • Me vs Shoko 2-0
  • Me vs Kate 1-0
  • Me vs Chiaki 0-2
I was keen to play shiai on the second day, and was moving around quite well. Even the Shinpaning Sensei said I have improved a lot from the previous day. Well, I think I am just in my right kind of mindset on Sunday. I wish I could improve at such a rate day by day like that!

I received a lot of feedbacks and advices on the second day from different Sensei from different countries and fellow shiai-sha.
  • Jin Sensei from Korea: use more wrist to flick the shinai in men-cut
  • Huang Sensei from Taiwan: in kote cut, right foot should step in the direction of opponent's right foot. Keep the body and shinai straight in the same direction during kote cut.
  • Taiwanese Sensei(s): Practice more shiai type of waza (tricks) for shiai-use.
  • Kate: make sure to push from the hip.
  • Shoko: I have been able to create fear during a tsuki attempt, thus making her cuts more hesitant. I should keep on practicing tsuki that way.
Also, during the dinner on Sunday, various Sensei from the Japanese delegation gave me advices on practicing tsuki. Hamasaki Sensei recommended me to practice tsuki with a table tennis ball hanging from a string. And make sure that each thrust to the ping-pong ball sends it directly backward, but not to the side.

I was also told by some 8 Dan Sensei not to practice tsuki for the moment, but to concentrate on men, kote and do cuts. Mmmm...

Anyway, the seminar ended with goudou-geiko in the similar fashion to the previous day, with 6 mawari-geiko following by keiko with 7 & 8 dan sensei. Due to the long queue and limited time, I had keiko with Murakami Sensei only.

After a short lunch break, a 5 & 6 dan kendo grading was held. Sano Sensei and Ben Kelly passed their 6 dan & 5 dan grading respectively. It's so exciting, I am so happy for them. Omedetou gozaimasu!!!

Thao, me, Nurlin

Shiai-sha group photo

with Murakami Sensei (Hanshi 8 Dan)

With Eda Chen, the superwoman HKKA secretary from Hong Kong

Monday, March 05, 2007

忍耐 + 掌握人生
7th Asian Open Championships 2007

A report on the final day of my trip in Japan and the 7th Hong Kong Asian Kendo Open Championships.

28th February - Kumakiri dojo, Kamogawa, Chiba
Record number of IBU bekkasei students wanted to attend keiko at Kumariki dojo, so there were 7 people fitted in the normally 5 people car. Quite a crammed situation at the back of the car. However, everyone is quite happy as we could all go and play kendo.

I had a very good training that night. After the first hour keiko with the super genki kids. We had the adult class for the second hour. I played with Kumakiri Sensei (7 dan), followed by Yamashita Sensei (7 dan) - a Sensei with great light touch who could return at least 3 lightning fast cuts for every cut you make. Then I played against another senpai, before going crazy with tsuki and suriage-men practice with Michael. The class did 3 mawari-geiko to finish off the training for the night.

Feedbacks from Kumakiri Sensei:
  • Watch the end position of right hand and shinai - too much right hand power causes my shinai to slant diagonally after the men cut.
  • Go straight thru after men-cut - do not drift away from centre-line.

Photo at Kumakiri Dojo, Kamogawa, Chiba

1st March - Arrived to Hong Kong
I arrived to Hong Kong on Thursday night, had a late dinner eating wanton noodle soup before going to a German pub in Lan Kwan Fong with Michael, Suzuki Sensei and 3 Kokugakuin girls - Ayumi, Chiemi, and Yukari. We were all tuned in to the busy lifestyle straight away after landed in Hong Kong.

In Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong

2nd March - Seminar, Goudou-geiko
A kendo seminar was scheduled between 7:30pm - 10pm. Akira Matsui Sensei (8 dan hanshi) was the chief instructor and referee of the tournament, while Toda Sensei (8 dan hanshi) led the seminar and Masatake Sumi Sensei (8 dan hanshi) also instructed the seminar group.

The seminar attendees were splited into 3 groups - 1 dan & below, 2-3 dan, 4 dan & above. All groups performed the same exercises, which were designed to prepare those who were grading the next day.

We started off with full set of kirikaeshi. For the following exercises, Toda Sensei broke the kirikaeshi down into its essential elements - men, sayumen, sayumen with side-step footwork. The point that Toda Sensei tried to emphasise was to project the ki forward. We also did some debana kote practice before the group finished off the seminar with 6x 3-minute mawari-geiko and kirikaeshi.

The highlight for me in the goudou-geiko was the keiko with Toda Sensei. I respected Toda Sensei a lot from the video footage I have seen of him. So after waiting for some 7-8 people in front of me in the queue, I was so happy to have a chance to keiko with Toda Sensei. And I wasn't going to be intimidated either. As such, for my first move, I went for morote tsuki! PAMM!!! And it landed - dead on the target. The impact felt so nice and solid. What a great way to start a keiko with an 8 dan sensei. I knew Toda Sensei had let his guard opened slightly, probably to see what level I was at. Goodness, if I could land a beautiful solid tsuki like that in shiai situation, I would be over the moon. But what a way to start a keiko.

I think with that morote tsuki, I was rewarded with extra keiko time with Toda Sensei. I did my best to show my best kendo to Toda Sensei, and he gave me some quick feedbacks to me.

Feedback from Toda Sensei:

  • Do not creep in too close - hold kamae and be patient. Explore opportunities in issoku-ito-no-maai, instead of creeping in to chika-maai.

After the keiko with Toda Sensei, I ran around to look for the Kokugakuin girls. And then, I found Chiemi lying on the floor with an ice pack on her left knee, while the other two girls were kneeling down around her crying. Apparently, her knee gave way during the keiko with Sumi Sensei, and she was eventually taken to the Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital in Happy Valley for first aid treatment. Coincidentally, that is the hospital where I was born.

So that night, the Kokugakuin team, a HKKA staff, Michael and I accompanied Chiemi to the hospital until early next morning. I went back to the hotel earlier than the rest, but couldn't sleep and so I chatted outside the hotel with a few Sensei and a couple of late arrivers from the airport, including Gabriel from Canada, whose flight was delayed by 10 hours. And then a few more minutes later, I saw the group of Aussies, headed by Jackson, walking towards us. I was waving so vigorously to them that Sumi Sensei thought the girls had came back from the hospital and went off to the same direction where the Aussie group were walking. Oopsy...

Anyway, eventually, the Kokugakuin girls arrived back to the hotel by taxi, and Chiemi had a knee brace on with suspected medial collateral ligament rupture, but no bone fracture.

Afterwards, Wong President invited me to a "small dinner" which turned out to be so extravagant that we couldn't imagine what a "big dinner" would be like.

I got back to the hotel for rest at 3:30am.

3rd March - Competition Day
The team caught the 11am bus to the venue. We had shinai weigh-in, lunch and a little bit of rest before the opening ceremony. While swinging my shinai, I was looking at my really pretty leather tsuba given to me by Chris as a gift to use at the last WKC. It was a very thick beautiful tsuba, but it was quite heavy by itself. However, I never really knew how heavy it was. So I took in the shinai weigh-in station and got it weighted. It weighed a whopping 62 grams! Goodness me, I never really thought it would be THAT heavy. So for this tournament, I temporary switched to a lighter plastic tsuba.

Coincidentally while I was switching tsuba, Toda Sensei and Matsui Sensei were right next to me, so I greeted them and gave them a kangaroo pin.

Then Toda Sensei talked to me, and the conversation went like this...

Toda Sensei: "I have a question for you. Why do you... (pause)"

Me: "Oh, why do I want to do kendo?"

T: "No, no. Why do you want to tsuki me?"

M: "I have been practicing tsuki in the past two weeks, and so I wanted to tsuki."

T: "Who taught you tsuki?"

.... and so the conversation went on.

The opening ceremony started at 1:30pm, and the competition followed straight after. Like previous years, there were four shiai-jo. The only difference in this year event was that both the 2 dan & below team event and the womens team event were held at the same time. So two shiai-jo were assigned to 2 dan & below team event, and another 2 shiai-jo assigned to womens team event.

There were 13 womens team participated in this year's event, with 3-4 teams in each pool.

Pool Matches
Our team were drawn in the same pool as Asian Kendo Club Team A and Hong Kong Team B.

Chiaki kicked off our campaign as our team senpo, myself as chuken, and Elaine as taisho.

Our first team match was against Asian Kendo Club Team A. Chiaki started off her match showing some very good, light and fast kendo moves, which gave me a little spark for my next match.

My chuken match was against Ogura-san. The match started off quite well for me. I was confident and composed. I felt I was in control and knew what I was doing on the court this time. I tried a variety of technique, of which I used tsuki a couple of times. Although they didn't land on the target, I felt that I have achieved the intended reaction from my opponent.

However, Ogura-san took the first point with debana-kote. When I committed myself to the men, I could see that kote coming and it was at such a late stage that I couldn't do anything but to think to myself, 'damn, it is going to score'.

When the match restarted, my concentration might have lapsed a little bit and I could feel that my next debana-kote was so half-hearted, that it sent an alarm signal to myself. I knew I must stay positive and have belief in myself if I were to stay in the game. So I re-adjusted myself, and stay composed and calm. At the same time, attacking with positive energy. And so I got a men cut when Ogura-san was trying to de-kote me. But I got to her quicker this time, and equalised the match.

In shobu, we were both trying to attack and searched for the winning point. Ogura-san did quite a number of hiki-do and de-kote attempts on me in the process.

There wasn't much time on the clock, and I was thinking how I could break away from stand-off situation. Eventually, I thought I would try a shikake-do cut. And BAMMM!!! Do-ari. And I won that match 2-1.

The next team match was against Hong Kong B Team. Chiaki won her senpo match 2-0, with a beautiful kote-nuki-men that sent her opponent's shinai flying, and a debana-kote.

In my chuken match, I won mine in 11 seconds - 2 cuts 2 points. So that gave me a pleasant and welcomed break afterwards.

In the KO quarter-final match, our team faced the Asian Kendo Club Team B. Chiaki won hers 2-0 with a beautiful men-kaeshi-do which wowed the audience, and another men-debana-kote to finish off the match.

For my match, I carried on with the momentum of my previous matches and tried to stay composed while varying my game as much as possible. It was a pretty tight game and both of our timing was very similar. There was one ai-hiki-men which we both landed on the target at the same time. "What a beautiful ai-hiki-men. It must be spectacular to watch", I thought to myself. At that time, I was really enjoying the match. I kept thinking about Toda Sensei's comment the other night about setting up the attack from issoku-ito-no-maai and be patient. There was one scary moment when I did a tsuki, while my opponent did a kaeshi-men on me. It was such a close men.

Eventually, my opponent did a hiki-do on me, and I followed up with a tobikomi-men. Men-ari.

There wasn't that much time on the clock and if I could hold off my opponent a bit, I could win the match for the team. But unfortunately, I hesitated a bit in a men-attack, and my opponent equalised the match with a de-kote just 5 seconds away from the whistle.

So 1-1 drew for my match.

Representative Match
Eventually, both team scored the same points and so the winner had to be decided by representative match. Both Chiaki and myself were feeling very confident and positive at that time, but eventually I took the role to fight in the representative match.

By now, I could see that there was a small crowd gathering around the court which made me feel nice and supportive. Whether or not they were cheering for me or not, I liked that atmosphere.

The match went on with a couple of close calls. There were a couple of ai-mens. I had one men cut which almost scored if the I cut just 2-3 cms deeper. In the end, I tried the do cut which I attempted earlier in another match, but this time, my opponent blocked it and she followed up with a tobikomi-men to snatch the match point away.

It was a pity that my team couldn't go to semi-final, but I was happy with my performance. I felt I performed better in this tournament than in the last WKC.

After several promises, I finally had the chance to keiko with my friend Gabriel Weitzner Sensei who came all the way from Canada! We had a very good keiko, and an energetic one too. Gabriel worked me hard in the final run with renzoku ai-men, which was simply exhilarating, even though I was puffing hard for air. I was literally throwing my body into each cut in the final few ai-men when I simply couldn't rely on my tired arms and legs anymore. The keiko finished off with a kirikaeshi.

Feedbacks from Weitzner Sensei:

  • Apply more seme - From what he saw in my quarter-final match, he suggested me to apply more seme in my game to push my opponent back.
  • Keep practicing big strong cuts in keiko - It doesn't matter if I get hit. Keep practicing and eventually my kendo will become stronger.

Chiaki, me, Elaine

Jacky, Timkai, Bibian

Saturday Night Welcoming Dinner
During the welcoming party later that evening, I had the chance to talk to Roberto Kishikawa Sensei, 7 dan, who is the Hong Kong Team coach. He had watched both my WKC match and my matches in the quarter-final in this tournament. And he said I have changed and improved a lot from the last WKC. There were more variety to my game, and included waza like tsuki. My men has also become stronger and were able to create chances for myself to attack. He recommended that my kote should be set up and executed in the same way as my men. He felt that my kote was based purely on my quick reflexes and good timing. But I need to build my kote up so that it could be executed in the same way as my men.

Eiji Omoto Sensei also came to gave me advice during the dinner, and he said everytime I attempt tsuki, I should not stop there, but follow up with a men. Tsuki-men, tsuki-men.

At the welcoming party

Me and Roberto Kishikawa Sensei

Me and Joanne Chan

Chiemi, Ayumi and Yukari from Kokugakuin at the welcoming dinner