忍耐 + 掌握人生
7th Asian Open Championships 2007
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.
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.
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 Joanne Chan
Chiemi, Ayumi and Yukari from Kokugakuin at the welcoming dinner