a MMB! Kendo Blog: June 2007

MMB! Kendo Blog

Saturday, June 30, 2007

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Kihon Kote Realisation

I am so happy to update the blog in a totally relaxed and happy mood right now. This is because I have completed all eight university exams, with the last Anatomy laboratory exam on yesterday morning. WOOHOOOO!!! It is so wonderful. I cannot express how free and light I feel right now. 3 weeks of Holiday. TOP THAT!

I tell you, it is such joy to care about nothing but to totally enjoy kendo this morning, without the constant subconscious pressure of work and schedule. So free and light. WOW. And the 3-hour lunch chat with my kendo friends afterwards in Chatswood. Oh, how wonderfully enjoyable. Such is the simple pleasure and joy in life.

WICKED GOAL: Kote that looks like Men
Contrary to my intense exam schedule, I have been to quite a number of training sessions in the past three weeks since the AKC. Not only did the kendo training helped keeping me sane during the intense exam period, I have also found the new purpose in my kendo again - a more concrete one than ever before.

The loss in Melbourne has made me think more deeply about my kendo. It has prompted me to reflect, admit and face my weaknesses directly and honestly. I knew where my problems lie, and was very eager to devise a plan to resolve the problem. And from the self-reflection sessions in the past weeks, I am so happy to tell you that I have found THE stuff that I want to perfect, and that is - a kote that looks like my men.

Now is the end of the sneaky unsightly kote era for me. Now, I will learn to go back to practice kihon kote cut - straight, simple, elegant, and more importantly, to complement my men cut. So that, once I master it, I will have a powerful men and kote combo.

Thursday, 14th June @ UNSW
There were only about ten people training that night due to last weekend's national championships / seminar, plus the beginning of university exam period for many. Ka-bi led the training that night and we focused on kaeshi-do in the waza-drill session.

Saturday, 16th June @ Willoughby
During the jigeiko session, I tried to practice basic kote that initiate like my men with some success from time to time.

Monday, 18th June @ UNSW
During the normal training session, the class practiced kihon cuts.

From 9pm - 9:30pm free jigeiko period, my goal was to practice kote that initiate like my men cut. However, I didn't have much success that night.

Thursday, 21st June @ UNSW
There were about 30 people training that night, with many came from USYD. It was great atmosphere.

We did 3 rounds of kirikaeshi, 10 mins uchikomi-geiko, and kaeshi-do during the waza focus session.

Ka-bi led the training and we practiced kaeshi-do during the waza drill session. It was wonderful to cut do, do, do, do.... over and over again. By the end of that session, the men-kaeshi-do swing was so natural during the jigeiko period.

Jigeiko with Ka-bi was fantastic. I was able to focus and varied well that night. I did more attack to the shinai than usual, and was able to make consistent good snappy cuts. Also, I was alert and in keeping appropriate distance and applied seme. Overall, I felt quite dynamic that night.

Goal of the night for me was, once again, to practice kote that initiated like men. I had some encouraging success that night, with the realisation that the most effective way for a kote cut to complement my men cut is to cut from above my opponent's shinai, i.e. on top of the kote. The old habits of cutting from underneath my opponent's shinai for a sneaky kote point is too weak and unconvincing, and worst of all, the sneaky kote looked 100% opposite to how I would initiate for a men.

This sounds so basic, but honestly, it was my first ever time to really comprehend and fully understand how the most simple basic kote cut will be my most powerful weapon in the long term. And realising this through my own experience has left a very powerful effect and impact on me right now. It is like learning how to balance on the bicycle for the first time. That realisation. Ah, it feels so nice.

Saturday, 23rd June @ Willoughby
Continued my kote practice from last session.

Monday, 25th June @ UNSW
The class practiced basic cut during the first 2 hours of training - kirikaeshi, kihon-men, kihon-kote and kihon-do.

In the extra 30mins free jigeiko session, I continued my practice on kote waza. Not much success though. So I asked Sano Sensei for feedback after the training. He told me that I haven't threatened my opponent with my men cuts, and therefore, my opponent didn't react much to make a decent opening for me to cut their kote.

So if I can make some very strong men cuts first and make my opponent scared of my men cuts, then they will try to protect their men more the next time I initiate an attack. So then, there will be greater possibilities of them to expose their kote while preempting to block my men. Then PA-KOON!!! I can easily cut a nice straight kote.

Thursday, 28th June @ UNSW
Sano Sensei led the training by asking the class to concentrate on men cut at first, to get the coordinated one smooth movement. Next, he introduced us to his 'mock-kote' practice. He asked the motodachi to keep the centre, and the kakari to do a straight on kote. The main purpose of this 'mock-kote' practice wasn't about actually hitting the target, but to get us understand the effective distance to the opponent's kote and the very small distance that the shinai needs to clear in order to go over to the other side of the opponent's shinai and cut kote. With this, there is very small exposure of your own kote when initiating the kote attack.

'Wow', I thought to myself. 'Did Sano Sensei design this session for me?' This is exactly what I wanted to practice. So it was a very productive and useful training session for me.

Saturday, 30th June @ Willoughby
I started kendo exactly 6 years ago, so today marks my 6th anniversary in kendo. \(^o^)/

There were so many sempai today that I didn't have to be motodachi.

And so, I had a really great time going around to keiko against all the strong motodachi. I jigeiko with the young Japanese 3 Dan who has extremely fast kendo. His kote-men. So smooth, fluid, swift and powerful. Then afterwards, I went to keiko with Itakura Sensei, Sano Sensei, Payne Sensei, Ka-bi, Doug, and Mark Stone.

The keiko with Ka-bi today was so exciting. The connection and intensity were there. In the end, both of us got so fired up, and we eventually went on to full kakari-geiko. And so, when the drum banged to signal the end, Ka-bi said, '10 seconds. Vivian, are you ready?' Heh, bring it on, Ka-bi. I was feeling so pumped I just wanted to swing my shinai. Ai-kakari-geiko? That's exactly what I desired. PA-BAM PA-PA-PA-BAM... We were like two mad people going full on against each other. Wow, so exhilarating to end the keiko feeling so high.

And so, with this, I will finish here on a 'high' note.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

忍耐 + 掌握人生
32nd Australian Kendo Championships, Melbourne

The 32nd Australian National Kendo Championships was held in Melbourne last weekend during the Queen's Birthday long weekend. And I participated in the womens individuals, dan individuals and womens team events.

Friday, 8th June 2007
It was the last day of the university semester. After finishing the morning anatomy laboratory class, I went home to pack for my evening flight to Melbourne.

It was pouring rain in Sydney the whole day - a treacherous condition with quite a few big dramas happening around central NSW.

My flight was scheduled to depart at 8:30pm, so I got to the airport at around 7pm. However, due to the weather condition, it ended up departing at 10pm, so when I got to the YHA youth hostel in Central Melbourne, it was almost 12am. I got into my room, and found that Cecilijia was already fast-asleep. I put my luggages down, slipped straight into bed, and slept like a log all within 5 minutes.

Saturday, 9th June 2007
Surprisingly I had a very nice comfy sleep, probably due to the fact that I was so tired after the long journey from the previous night. Cecilijia and I got up at 6:30am. I went to reheat my pre-packed breakfast I brought from home.

One thing I had to mention was the fantastic facilities in this YHA. It was well beyond my expectation. It got 7 fridges for their guests to store their food, numerous microwaves... basically, all their facilities were very nice and clean. I was quite impressed.

OK, back to the story, David Banbury, Ceciljia and I started trekking to Kenshikan at around 7:20am for the 7:30am bus transportation to the competition venue. At Kenshikan, we met many inter-state people who stayed in the Kenshikan overnight - including the Michael Jackson, Ka-bi, Andrew, Ephragm, Elaine and Gideon from NSW.

After a 20mins drive, we got to the competition venue.

I got the championship programme at the reception and quickly checked my draws. They were pretty good draws I thought, and I also found a photo of me taken by Dave at last year's Founders Cup on the front cover of the programme. That was pretty cool.

The opening ceremony started at around 9am. Following straight after that was the Kyu individuals competition. That morning was quite chilly. So while the Kyu competition was on, I was trying to keep myself warm by jogging around in the adjacent warm-up arena.

The Kyu individuals finished at around 12:15pm, with the 16-year-old talent Paris Davey from Queensland taking out the title, and 3 ACT players filled up the rest of the podium spots.

Womens Individuals
With the earlier than expected completion of the Kyu grade competition, the womens competition had a 15-minute earlier start than schedule. I was in the second pool on court B, up against Alison Craven from Western Australia and S. Kelso from Victoria. I won both matches 2-0, all with men cuts to advance to the knockout round.

In the first knockout round, my opponent was Sharyn from ACT. After the 3-minute whistled was blown, we were still locked at 0-0. So we had to continue on to encho. From there, I launched a men cut, and Sharyn caught the moment and countered with a hiki-kote. Two flags went up, and that was it.

It was really disappointing to end this year's women individual campaign so early for me. Losing the match was fine, but dealing with the conflicting emotions that came with it was difficult. I was quite disappointed that I could not maintain my last year's result, not to mention my desire to surpass it. During the whole match, I was trying to play positive, straight and proper kendo, and it was really disappointing that I was not able to create and take a single scoring opportunity.

From this, however, I was able to learn. I have talked to various sensei and sempai later that day and they have given me some valuable feedbacks. I have been lacking variety in my game - a problem that I knew since the last World Championships. In fact, 'expand my waza repertoire' is one of my kendo goals for this year. With the recent schedule, however, I have missed too many kendo training sessions, and this has, more or less, affected my ability to adjust, vary my game in this competition. Itakura Sensei advised me that I need to plan and use my limited training time in the dojo very well from now on. With the changing circumstances in my life, it is now a focus on quality rather than quantity. It would be difficult for me to go back to the 5-6 training sessions a week that I used to enjoy. Now, it is more about having a clear goal and purpose in each training session. Maybe focusing on one aspect and spend a quality amount of time to master that aspect. I won't be able to rely on repetition training anymore, so I must train smart to get the maximum value out of each training session.

Anyway, to finish the story, Susan Bonar from Western Australia became the newly-crowned women's individuals champion after a 17-minute battle against Kate Sylvester from Victoria.

Thank you to David Banbury for taking all the following wonderful photos!

Womens Individuals (I am on the right)

Womens in the individuals (I am on the right)

Here I come... DOOOO!!!

My tobikomi-men in the womens indivduals

Another one

Attempting a Gyuku-do

I am coming...

In tsubazerai

Lock at tsubazeria...

Another photo in tsubazerai

Womens individuals (I am facing the camera)

Here I come again...

There was quite a long time before my pool match in the Dan individuals competition. So I had some good time catching up with Kate the Bulldog. It was nice to hear that her study is going well and that we are both learning some very similar topics in our study, the ATP and Krebs Cycle and all that. It is definitely nice to have a kendo buddy who is just as serious about improving her kendo and doing well in university - someone who is in the same boat, so to speak.

Dan Individuals
After a bit of waiting, my Dan Individuals pool matches were finally on. My first opponent was Darren Boyd from ACT. Darren scored a hiki-men on me from tsubazerai in the early-half of the match, and I equalised with a debana-kote in the second-half to close the match at 1-1. Next up was against Ron Walker from Victoria. It was a nice match, and I really enjoyed the match against Ron. He is a big tall guy, but he doesn't rely too much on strength. Very nice and clean kendo with no pushing or shuffling.

Drawing from my other matches' experience, I was moving around better and varying my game more in this match. I was able to create a number of opportunities for myself and there were a number of flag that was raised. However, because the cut was light or I wasn't able to follow up my zanshin, I missed those valuable opportunities to score. Towards the end of the 5-minute match, Ron scored two beautiful kote to end the match.

It was nice to see Ron do well next day to win the Veteran's individuals competition, with my club mate Toshio Nishimoto in jodan coming second.

Now, continuing with the Dan Individuals competition... there were quite a number of excellent and exciting matches. It was enjoyable to see Kate fighting so strongly and advancing to the knockout round to play against Brett. Then there was the excitingly close match between Brett and Sugimoto. The final between Nick Bartlett and Ka-bi was purely exhilarating to watch. I really enjoyed watching these kenshi displaying such strong and elegant kendo for the rest of us to enjoy and learn from. Congratulations to Nick who fought so brilliantly to win the Dan Individuals title.

Me in the Dan Individuals

Me facing Darren Boyd in the Dan Individuals

Attempted a hiki-do

Debana-kote from me

Against Ron Walker in the Dan Individuals (I am on the right)

32AKC Dinner Party
That evening, Kate drove Cecilijia and me from the competition venue directly to the dinner party venue in her 1976 Charger.

All the 32AKC participants attended the party. During the party, individualised and numbered gold pins were presented to all those who represented Australia in the past World Championships, with no. 1 being the first Australian representatives. For me, my number is W008 (which means the 8th woman to represent Australia in the World Championships). YAY!!! I like my number 8.

My obaa-chan Chiaki, me, Kate the Bulldog

Past Australian WKC representatives who attended the Saturday party

Sunday, 10th June 2007
Sunday was the team and veteran individuals competition day. The Kyu Team competition was first up in the day, with the NSW Kyu Team finishing second.

Womens Team Competition
Following that was the Womens Team competition. The NSW Womens Team was drawn to play the Victorian Team.

For the NSW womens team, we decided our team order in the very last minute. All the time prior to the team event, I have been thinking about doing chuken, and there were people suggesting me to do senpo. But once I saw the draw and knew that we will play against VIC team first, all I wanted was the position that I could fight Kate. I really want to fight Kate. For me, I see her as having very nice and strong kendo. And I know, that we will have a nice shiai together. And I just want to fight Kate.

So when we finally lined up in our team order for the competition, I looked at Kate, and I could see that she was surprised to see me in the Taisho position. She was stunned for a moment. I am guessing that she was probably expecting to fight against Shoko. But NO. I want to fight you, Kate. And here I am.

It was absolutely exhilarating to get my wish and fight Kate. I really enjoy every moment on court. We both fought with spirit. It was so nice to be able to forge a connection, a strong intensity, while we were in our chuden, searching and exploring that small opportunity and grab the point.

But who would have though the 3-minute would pass by so quickly. It felt like 1-minute. That nice intensity... ah, I just wish the match could just go on...

So my match with Kate ended in 0-0. And with that, it marked a nice ending to my 32AKC campaign.

For the rest of the day, I watched the rest of the competitions with my friends, and cheered the NSW Dan Team to victory. A super awesome effort to Michael Henstock, Dave Bunder, Takashi, Ka-bi and Stuart for playing so inspirationally to bring the Dan Team title back home.

At the award ceremony, the following prizes were awarded to the NSW team members:

  • Dan Team winner - Mike Henstock, Dave Bunder, Takashi, Ka-bi, Stuart
  • Kyu Team runner-up - Mike Criniti, Erphragm, Dave Banbury, Elaine, Phillip
  • Veteran's Individuals - Toshio Nishimoto
  • Dan Individuals runner-up - Ka-bi
  • Dan Individuals 2nd runner-up - Takashi
  • Fighting Spirit Awards (2 out of 4 went to NSW players) - Mike Henstock, Elaine Chan
I was awarded the John Butler - Achievement in Kendo Award, which is quite an honour for me to see my name engraved amongst all the other significant figures in the Australian Kendo history.

Accepting the John Butler Award

Accepting the John Bulter Award from Richard Ward, AKR President

Next 2 weeks - Exams!
This is my exam schedule for the next 2 weeks. Wish me luck!

  • 6/18 Mon 09:00-11:10 Neuroscience
  • 6/20 Wed 09:00-11:10 Biochemistry
  • 6/21 Thu 12:30-14:40 Design & Health Research
  • 6/22 Fri 12:30-13:40 Biomechanics
  • 6/25 Mon 12:30-14:40 Motor Performance & Learning
  • 6/27 Wed 12:30-13:40 Psychology
  • 6/28 Thu 12:30-13:40 Functional Anatomy (written)
  • 6/29 Fri 11:00-12:00 Functional Anatomy (laboratory)