a MMB! Kendo Blog: May 2007

MMB! Kendo Blog

Saturday, May 26, 2007

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Living High In Intensity

Willoughby Training - 26-May


I just returned home from this morning Saturday's Willoughby keiko. And I can tell you that, right now, I am feeling so high. I love the intensity of every single cut today. The concentration, the focus, the determination... they were at my best. Regardless of my opponent's level of kendo, I made sure that I gave my 100% focus on the person in front of me. And my goals were to do straight and strong kendo, plus to practice a few special waza that I am trying to perfect.

The jigeiko session was very enjoyable today. I was very focused and alert throughout the whole training session. The keiko with Jayson, in particular, was purely exhilarating. I haven't keiko'ed with Jayson for a long time. He possesses very nice kendo which is always a pleasure to watch. And combining that with the intensity he displayed in his game, I was very happy to fight him today. We fought with real intensity, just like what we would do in a real shiai, and so I was able to test the effectiveness of some of the new techniques I have been practicing. That was really good.

Afterwards, I engaged keiko with Chris 'taitari' Barbe, and Payne Sensei before the end of the training. Payne Sensei reminded me not to drop my body after executing a kote cut.

And that was today's training.

Last Two Weeks Updates

So what have been happening in the past 2 weeks since the Korean Kumdo Competition. Well, I got my neuroscience mid-semester exam result back, and I came 4th out of 380 Physiotherapy plus Exercise & Sports Science students. So I am really happy.

Training-wise, I have only been able to attend three kendo training sessions, including today's one. The other two were at University of Sydney last Friday and at Willoughby last Saturday.

Neck Pain - Getting Physio Treatment

I have been having some issues with my neck after the training in University of Sydney two weeks ago - a day before the Korean Kumdo Championships. After that particular training, I had been getting some neck pain. It got better for a few days so I didn't worry too much about it. Last Saturday after Wiloughby's training, however, the pain was giving me a lot of trouble, the range of motion in my neck was substantially reduced due to the pain, and was even hurting when I was laughing at some of Kassandra's golden phrases of the day. The joy and the pain all mixed together in one go. So crazy.

So I went to see my physio, David Garrick at the Sport Physio section of the North Sydney Orthopaedic & Sport Medicine Centre in Crows Nest. When I was an observational physio student at that clinic last year, David taught me a lot of things, so I was very happy to see him again. And was hopeful that he would be able to help me with the neck pain.

I explained the symptoms to David and we both thought that I strained the muscles along the spine. He gave me a hot pack to relax the muscle before doing the physical assessment. There was no pain when he palpated both sides of the neck, but then the pain was re-created when he pressed the center of the spine, especially the C3-5 sections. David said it was very hard to pinpoint the exact problem there... it could be muscle or ligament damage, or might be cartilage problem. However, all we needed to know was that it was soft tissue damage and not neurological pathology, as I didn't have any pain or tingling sensation down my arms or dizziness up in my head.

After some massage and mobilisation to the C3-5 spinal sections, David prescribed me a chin tuck-in exercise to facilitate gliding of the apophyseal joints and to restore the full range of motion (ROM) in my neck.

In the follow-up Wednesday visit, my condition has improved significant with much greater ROM. However, there were still some pain and discomfort at the end of ROM. So David did some more mobilisation around the C3-5 spinal sections. There was one extra technique he used that day, which worked like magic. In sitting position, I was told to flex and extend my neck several times while David manipulated the C3-5 section of the spine. Afterwards, when David told me to try extend my neck like in normal situation, the pain was completely gone. It was so impressive.

David also did a Mulligan spinal mobilisation technique on me. It was a slightly riskier technique, which could not be applied to people who have artery problems, especially the elderly. Anyway, with him holding my neck, I was told to breath in. During the moment I breathed out, he did a sudden movement to my neck, and I could feel a click in my spine. That was so cool! I wanted to learn that too, but David said I won't learn this technique until I get into the postgraduate physiotherapy course. Oh well, I will just have to wait a little longer. But I will wait.

Counting Down...

Only two weeks to the Nationals!!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

忍耐 + 掌握人生
10th Korean Kumdo Championships

It has been an energising and colourful two weeks since the last post. I have started to visit and train in my own university's dojo in the main campus. Besides going to a different dojo to train, I also attended the State Squad Training down in Wollongong last Tuesday night, and competed in the Korean Kumdo Championships on the weekend. The experience I got out of all them were very pleasant and positive, so I am very happy.

University of Sydney Kendo Club
Two Fridays ago, I decided to visit my university's kendo club after my biochemistry exam to de-stress, rejuvenate and to see the training activities ran by the club. When I stepped into the dojo, I was very surprised to see so many people training. There were some 40 people, with the class equally splitted into bogu and beginner classes.

I must say the energy and enthusiasm displayed by all the players there were infectious. Everyone was very keen to learn and play kendo, and so I had a very good training session there.

I returned there to train again last Friday, just before the Korean Kumdo Championships on the following day. I really enjoy the training there and am considering to attend the Friday's training session of my university on a regular basis from now on.

State Squad Training - Wollongong
There was state squad training last Tuesday down in Wollongong. After my 5pm lecture finished, I drove straight to Wollongong for the training. About 10 squad members turned up to training and we had 30 mins of waza session, with the rest as shiai geiko and free jigeiko.

In the shiai-geiko session, the focus was to practice playing in a team situation. Paul Rixon Sensei told us to initiate high success rate cut, and refrain ourselves from making brashed and risky moves. In a team situation, it is better to have a draw , instead of risking too highly and lose point for the team.

The training finished at 9:30pm. And by the time I got home, it was 11pm and I clocked up 220km in one day.

10th Korean Kumdo Championships, 12-May
It has been a while since my last competition. With the recent reduced and irregular training frequency, I was honestly quite nervous about this competition. I didn't know whether I could play well and there were just too many unnecessary worries in my head.

I participated in the Womens Individuals and the Dan Individuals events. Kyu and children competitions were first up on the day, so there was quite a while before the Women's competition.

While waiting for my match, I knew deep inside me that I was way too nervous. Some people asked why would I be nervous for a local competition when I have competed in bigger championships like the Worlds. However, to me, I see all competitions are the same. If there is a desire to achieve a goal, there must be some kind of emotional, mental and physiological effects on the body.

To suppress my nervousness, I decided to direct my focus and energy to something more pleasant and positive. I told myself that my goal in this competition was to play as strongly and positive as I can, to show everyone my best kendo, so that no matter what the final result would be, win or lost, I could walk out feeling like a winner.

That change of thinking instantly gave me a rush of positive energy, and I was really looking forward to my match against any players. Whoever they were, strong or weak, I didn't really care. I just wanted to go out there and show my strong and straight kendo to everyone who was watching and supporting me from the side.

I played four matches, each winning 2-0, before reaching the Women's Individuals finals. As I expected, my opponent was Shoko from Wollongong. I was very prepared this time mentally, and I was ready to play my best kendo without any worries or fear - just total commitment to every single cut I am going to throw in. The match result turned out very positively and I won the match 2-0 with two men cuts. The whole process from the pool matches to winning in the final was just great.

Now, with less than 4 weeks to go, let's hope that I can take this positive energy with me and continue on to achieve greater in National Championships in Melbourne.

During the competition - I am on the right.
(photo taken by David Banbury)

(photo taken by David Banbury)

Me and my trophy - with Brendan Kee (ACT) next to me
(photo taken by Thao)

A happy snap with Thao
(photo taken by Thao)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Training & Mental Practice

Thank you for all the personal emails and supportive messages during this busy period. Even though I can't reply as quickly I would like to, I really treasure the kind messages. They really mean a lot to me.

So What's Been Happening?

What a jam-packed, exciting and bustling life for me in the past few weeks! The mid-semester exams have started 2 weeks ago, with the first being Biomechanics. Last week was Anatomy Practical exam.

I got my biomechanics results back yesterday and I ranked 3rd out of 147 physiotherapy students. So I am quite excited about that. It is certainly be a big motivator for me to study harder.

Tomorrow it will be biochemistry exam and next Thursday will be Neuroscience exam. So wish me luck! :D


With the busy and intense university schedule which coincided with various other recent special events, my kendo training frequency has suffered somewhat. I have only been able to train once a week in the past month on Monday night at UNSW. Yes, it has been frustrating, but I must learn to keep my spirit up, and utilise the limited training time to the maximum.

Although I haven't been able to train in a dojo, I have been watching some kendo videos. With the strong insistence of my friends to upload some more personal kendo videos on to YouTube, I have uploaded the following three. They are recorded during the 2004 and 2007 Nippon Sport Science University's Japanese Martial Arts Demonstration in Sydney.

I particularly like the 2004 video clips, and I refer to it as my kendo encyclopedia, with all different basic cuts and waza, in slow-motion and full speed. The thing I get inspired the most is that the students all perform every waza so straight, so nicely. The uchikomi-geiko is executed with big, straight, correct cuts - speed and power without compromising posture.

2004 Nittaidai Demo - Part 1

2004 Nittaidai Demo - Part 2

2007 Nittaidai Demo

In the past month training inside the dojo, I have been specifically focusing on:
  • Suriage-men - I am slowly getting the hang on this waza now. So at training I am trying to practice as much as possible to reinforce the feeling within me.
  • Gyaku-do - Yes, it is something special and different for me. I was inspired after watching a couple of kendo videos, and wanted to master this technique and use it in surprise situation. At the moment, I am having some trouble getting the shinai out after executing the gyaku-do when I use it as an oji-waza. When I use it as shikake-waza, I need to experiment better on how to seme in to create a reaction from my opponents. So still in the trial and error phase for me with gyaku-do.

Night Training in the Park
I have also been going to the local park after my study late at night to exercise and keep my fitness up. I love it when it is completely dark with only the moon and stars shining above. It gives me a sense of peacefulness and a time to reflect after a day of busy schedule.

My normal routine at the park is to jog 10 times around the sports field to keep my cardio fitness up. Afterwards, I do ashi-sabaki training - suriashi, okuriashi, lunges over and over again, along the length of the football field side line. By the end of this ashi-sabaki session, my legs would be quite exhausted. So then, I go into suburi and visualisation training.

Anyway, after I finish writing this entry, I will go to the park for a jog and enjoy the beautiful Autumn night in the Southern Hemisphere.

Mental Practice

Talking about visualisation, I recently gave a presentation at the university about the power of mental practice in enhancing performance. Coincidentally, there was a thread on the Kendo World Forum which was about mental practice, so I wrote a little bit of what I have learnt in my research project on this area. The thread is http://www.kendo-world.com/forum/showthread.php?t=13769&page=3

Here is what I wrote...

"Mental practice is a fascinating and exciting technique. One of the major explanations for how mental practice works is using the neuromuscular hypothesis.

When you mentally imaging an action without active physical movement, it actually triggers physiological response in the body. One of the way to measure this is using EMG (Electromyography), which measures the muscle activities.

Researches have found that during mental practice WITHOUT any active physical movement, the brain actually sends electrical signal, through the neuromotor pathways, to the effecting muscles. The researchers were able to record spinal reflex activities and also EMG activities in the muscle groups responsible for the particular action you are imaging.

As a result of this priming of the neuromotor pathways, mental practice can help establish and reinforce appropriate coordination, and ultimately enhance performance....

In several major experiments on the topic of mental practice, researchers have found a couple of very interesting points, which we might incorporate these ideas into our own kendo training.
  1. Internal / external imagery - internal imagery (imaging from 1st person point of view) is better than external imagery (from an observer point of view). More electromyographic activities are recorded during internal imagery.
  2. Behavioural vs Environmental Focus - focus on behaviour (such as muscle tension, palmar sweat) elicits more physiological response than focus on the physical environment (such as where things are).

To be effective in mental training, you must be quite focused and aroused to get the maximal benefit.

So if you are half falling asleep, you may not get the maximum benefit of mental training. To get a good result, you should be quite focused and mentally aroused to 'feel' how your perfect ippon is like - how the tip of the shinai transmits that really nice feeling to your arms and body, the feel of that strong and beautiful fumikomi, the loud and spirited kiai, the perfect ippon BAMMMM sound on the target, the fluid motion of your cut, the perfect zanshin after the ippon. These are the things you may like to try imaging yourself, and best when you set a nice and quiet place to allow you to focus on it."

So until the next entry, I hope this will leave something interesting for us all to consider and incorporate into our own training.