a MMB! Kendo Blog: Training & Mental Practice

MMB! Kendo Blog

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.


  • Welcome back Vivian!

    First of all: CONGRATULATIONS! What a great result in your exam! I hope it goes as well (or even better) for the rest of them. Keep at it, for we will use you as an online counselor, haha.

    It's hard times when one can't train as much as desired. I've been there. But if your spirit's up: there's no problem. You're always well focused, so you won't "loose" practice.

    It's a very interesting thing that "mental training". We sure "think" a lot 'bout waza, training and things to do next practice. I spend a lot of my idle time on that. But I never really focused so much as you recommend. It's true that there are feelings associated with that "perfect ippon", so we should be able to reproduce it.

    Do you thing this also builds up confidence and by that enhancing your seme? Can one imagine ones movement and our opponent's reaction? That tension on the tip of his/her shinai...that slow step back or moment of doubt...?

    I will sure start doing it often and with full concentration.

    Thank you for this interesting point of view. Good luck Vivian!

    By Blogger Leon, at Thursday, May 03, 2007 9:27:00 PM  

  • Ask me if you need help with Biochem. Lol...

    By Anonymous Paul, at Thursday, May 03, 2007 11:46:00 PM  

  • Thanks Leon.

    Nice point about confidence in mental practice. Yes, certainly. With the continuous mental imaging of the perfect ippon in your mind, the chances for you to be able to reproduce it in real physical scenario is greater because you have rehearsed and see the successful outcome so many times.

    The more you do this, the more successful your cut will be in shiai situation.

    By Blogger Vivian Yung, at Friday, May 04, 2007 9:09:00 PM  

  • I KNEW it! I knew that day-dreaming kendo is a good thing, like I do always whenever and wherever.

    By Blogger Ivan, at Sunday, May 06, 2007 1:29:00 AM  

  • Hey Ivan,

    Good for you on your kendo-focused day-dreaming.

    Have fun at your squad training tomorrow.

    By Blogger Vivian Yung, at Sunday, May 06, 2007 1:41:00 AM  

  • Hey Viv!

    Hope you made it through your first set of uni exams alright.

    Sounds like you're really getting into it with your "visualisation" research! =)


    By Blogger Eug, at Friday, May 11, 2007 11:26:00 PM  

  • Vivian, I have been reading your blog for the last couple of weeks. I'm so impressed with your devotion to kendo and the concrete steps that you have taken to improve it. I'm a nidan myself and have more than a year to goto qualify for sandan but I feel that reading your blog and thinking about my kendo according to the advice given by different sempai's and senseis has been immensely beneficial to me.
    I plan to consolidate all the advice from your blog as I have received similar advice through the years from senseis (but unfortunately not written it down anywhere).
    I will start a blog chronicling my kendo journey as well from now on.

    Kudos to you for improving everyone's kendo and keep it up !
    Ganbatte kudasai !

    -Prasant(from yushinkan(NY))

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Saturday, May 12, 2007 9:37:00 AM  

  • Hey Eug! Thank you for your message.

    Yes, I am loving uni! Finally, for 2 years, finally finally finally! I got to be a physio student. I will try to do my best to get the best results in the next few exams. Then, I can enjoy a one month university break! Yahoooooooo!!!

    By Blogger Vivian Yung, at Saturday, May 12, 2007 11:13:00 PM  

  • Hi Prasant,

    Thank you for your nice sentiment about this blog. It is very nice for me to hear that the blog is interesting for your kendo development too.

    Let me know when you have started your blog, and wish you all the best in your training.

    By Blogger Vivian Yung, at Saturday, May 12, 2007 11:15:00 PM  

  • Hi Vivian~

    This is Lin from Moo Do Kwan, I just finish reading your post, and it was..... your way of training, both physical and mental way was out of my imagination, so cool~~

    You know what? Me and the other girls in my club really adore you, >///< and our goal was to beat you someday~~ also, i apologise for saying that you are scary, that's not what i was trying to say, whenever I say someone was scary in front of that person, that's the best compliment from me, =_=" sorry if i confused you as well, =

    I always train with the "half sleep" attitude as you said, and skipping kendo lessons just because of my laziness. But from now on, I will switch my self to the "awake" mode~~ and train with respect to the spirit and the sword.

    Finally~~ I'm looking forward to fight you again, and next time, I will be stronger, and I will beat you~~

    PS: Good Luck for ur exams and trainings as well~~~

    PPS: Ah~~ forgot to say, you know what? Just before the women's final, me and Mary had a bet with each other, to see who's going to win, and we both bet on you.... =_=" so.....

    By Blogger Alpheus, at Monday, May 14, 2007 4:35:00 PM  

  • I'm starting a Bibian Fan Mailing List (BFML). Please everyone, register on my blog.

    haha, vivian, my apologies. Couldn't help.

    By Blogger Ivan, at Monday, May 14, 2007 6:48:00 PM  

  • Hello Lin. Thank you for such nice sentiments and supports here and at the competitions. Let us all strive to train our best, and when the 2008 national championships is held in Sydney, the NSW girls will field a super super strong team and claim the womens titles in both teams and individuals events. The NSW girls power!

    By Blogger Vivian Yung, at Saturday, May 19, 2007 5:17:00 PM  

  • Ivan, you must be kidding me! o_0

    By Blogger Vivian Yung, at Saturday, May 19, 2007 5:27:00 PM  

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