a MMB! Kendo Blog: July 2007

MMB! Kendo Blog

Sunday, July 29, 2007

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Kendo with the King's

Since the last update a week ago, there have been two significant happenings. Both from kendo, the first was an enduring intense soreness that I haven't had for at least 2-3 years, the other was teaching kendo at The King's School.

Saturday, 21 July @ Willoughby & East Roseville
I had a full-on continuous six hours of kendo training. Yes, continuous - that means, no break. That was crazy. And I ended up in an excruciating, enduring intense muscle soreness in my quadriceps the next 3 days.

This was how it happened...

Every year in August, there is a state team competition called the Founders Cup. This year, my club has been very enthusiastic about competing in this event, and there were more members wanting to compete in the team event than the available 5 team spots. So, for the first time in memory, a Selection Program has been put in place in the club to evaluate and select members to represent the club to compete. It is marvelous to see the enthusiasm, and having a training program to train together will really build up the team spirit.

I put my name down to the Selection Program to trial for the team. The Selection Program, led by Itakura Sensei, runs for 3 weeks. I attended my first Selection training last Saturday.

9am - 10am
This first Saturday session was non-committed - that means attendance to this training would not count towards the final scoring system. So there were only four people turned up - Dave Banbury, Luke and me. Itakura Sensei led the training.

We ran around the two big sporting fields adjacent to the dojo for 20 minutes. After catching our breaths, we did 5 minutes of steps, 2 sets of 30 full squats. Then we picked up our shinai, and did 15 minutes of suburi until it was 10am.

10am - 12noon
Payne Sensei could not make it to training today. So Itakura Sensei led the training again. There, we did a lot of uchikomi practice, with the final 45 mins on jigeiko. The intensity was high throughout the training session, so it was very enjoyable, though I was quite tired by the end of that session.

12noon - 1:15pm
I practiced kata 1-7 and kodachi 1-3 with Michael Henstock for our 3 Dan grading preparation, while Sano Sensei watched on to give us invaluable feedbacks.

1:30pm - 3pm
Itakura Sensei led the eight people who turned up to the 1.5 hrs special squad training in East Roseville. Here is a rough idea of what we did:

  • 6 full sets of kirikaeshi (along the full length of the hall)
  • 2 sets of continuous men-taitari-men (along the full length of the hall)
  • 2 sets of renzoku-men (along the full length of the hall)
  • 2 sets of renzoku-kote (along the full length of the hall)
  • Twice 2 sets of 5x kihon-men (with the emphasis on realistic situation)
  • Twice 2 sets of 5x kihon-kote
  • Twice 2 sets of 5x kihon-do
  • Twice 2 sets of 5x kote-men
  • Twice tsubazarei waza
  • Kaeshi waza
  • Men-taisuru waza
  • Kote-taisuru waza
  • many many sets of uchikomi geiko
I was completely exhausted at the end of the training, especially after 6 hours of full effort of training. However, I was very proud to complete the training. Plus, with an empty stomach, I was ready to devour my tomato sauce baked garoupa rice at "Black Cow" with my fellow training buddies who braved the day after the last session.

During the afternoon training session, Daisuke Taira showed me a really cool and effective tsubazarei waza that you often see in fast Japanese high school kendo competition videos, where they come cutting your men from one side, and at tsubazarei, they magically step behind you with their lightning footwork, unstabling you with their hip turn and hand-punching movement, and when you try to balance yourself by extending your arms, they execute their hiki-men or hiki-do on you. All done so quickly and fast, like a magician.

It is so hard to write out in words on how to execute this totally slick moves without pictures or seeing it for yourself. But if you have seen or experience what I have described, I am sure you know what I am talking about. Yes, that funky move. Anyway, Daisuke has showed me and taught me the moves. It is quite difficult to get everything done well, coordinated and quickly. Now, I will just have to practice doing it.

Anyway, that 6 hours resulted in 3 days long of intense muscle soreness in my quadriceps. I couldn't walk downstairs without agony, going from standing to sitting was pure excruciating. My quads were utterly exhausted. Through recommendation, I went to the pharmacy on Monday to get some aspirin for pain relief. The soreness finally dulled on Tuesday and I was completely ready again for the squad training onslaught on Wednesday night.

Wednesday, 25 July @ Willoughby
There were 8 people turned up to the 6:30pm - 7:30pm fitness training. Afterwards, I practiced the 10 kata with Toshio for the next 30 minutes. From 8pm - 9pm, Itakura Sensei led the uchikomi practice.

Good news, I didn't have any muscle soreness after that training. It was great to go through the storm and now enjoyed the serenity.

Friday, 27 July @ The King's School
That morning, I taught a group of nine Year 8 boarding school students and their mentor/teacher for the first time. The class was scheduled at 7:15am. So I got out of bed at 5:40am, eager to meet my new kendo buddies for the first time.

The preparation leading up to the class was smooth. I put a shinai order to Japan on Monday afternoon, and 3 days later on the Thursday afternoon the box of shinai arrived - perfectly in time for the boys to take their first lesson.

So in the first lesson, I taught the boys the basics of how to hold the shinai, chudan-no-kamae, kihon-men, tachi-rei and sonkyo. As my students were a group of 13-14 y.o. (besides their mentoring teacher), I have to design how to teach in a way that will get their maximum interest. And I figured, the less I speak, and more by letting them doing the movements, the more enjoyable it would be for them.

Also, I let them pair-up, and correct each other, which can improve their understanding of what is correct by observing their beginner model executing the movement. To be able to tell the friends what is incorrect will result in greater chance of themselves doing the technique correctly. And I think it is important to develop this skills when they do self-practice at their own time.

Not that the boys had this problem (they were quite smart and observant ), but I was sitting here thinking about how to teach beginners to avoid the "flaring left elbow" and "too much right arm" problem during a men strike. I have a good solution to that. If a beginner is having the "flaring left elbow" problem, ask them to do suburi with their left hand only. After a few left-hand only katate-men suburi, they should be able to realise the correct left arm/elbow position in a men strike.

Genki little samurai at their first lesson

Saturday, 28 July @ Willoughby & East Roseville
The training structure was similar to the previous Saturday, with a full-on program from 9am to 3pm. However, this time, I had been able to recharge my energy with Kassandra's "Sai-Mai-Lo" - a super yummy refreshing chinese dessert, with sago, melon, lychee in it. Ah, so yummy!

Friday, July 20, 2007

忍耐 + 掌握人生
From Kata to Tsuki

Monday, 2 July @ UNSW
Michael arrived to Sydney on Sunday. So I took him to the first keiko of his trip to UNSW on Monday night. It was a rather big class, with members from USYD joining us.

Sano Sensei led the class to focus on doing proper and meaningful suburi. He challenged everyone to try:
  • Execute every shomen in one smooth motion, with the suriage-men feeling.
  • Stay in starting position for as long as possible. Once the cutting motion is initiated, it should be fast and fluid until it returns to the starting position. Stop at the cutting height for as long as possible until the next cut.
  • Try holding on to the starting position longer than the people next to you before executing the next shomen.

Mike Henstock, myself, Jackson

The jigeiko session was especially enjoyable in this session. I had jigeiko with 8 people. First one was with Ken Chen, who recently won the Chinese National Kendo Championships. Ken has an unusual style in that he waved his kensen quite a lot. I tried something different tonight by attacking his shinai a lot. It turned out to be quite successful in disrupting his preparation to cut and deflecting his actual cuts.

My goal of the night was to practice same initiation motion for both men and kote. Overall, it was a successful session with some encouraging results to my kote cut.

After-keiko supper at a Korean Restaurant in the City

Wednesday, 4 July @ Willoughby
Wednesday the kata night at Willoughby. Michael led the whole class to practice Kata 1 - 4 and explaining the meaning and concept behind each move. It was especially valuable as my 3 Dan grading is coming up soon, and it is great to practice kata in such details again.

Kata 3
After shidachi deflects uchidachi thrust, shidachi should take two distinct steps forward without thrusting the arms out.

Kata 4
In wakigamae, the blade should face diagonally downwards away from the body, slanting in 45 degree angle.

Afterwards the kata session, Nishimoto-san led a short 15 minutes mawari-geiko session.

Thursday, 5 July @ UNSW
After a 20 mins warm-up & suburi session, we put our men and kote on. First, we started off with a few kirikaeshi. Next, we had mawari-uchikomi geiko over and over and over again... with the final 5 rounds in ai-kakari-geiko. I was really puffing for air in the final few rounds.

Moving on to the waza session, Michael introduced 2 kote variations.

  1. For opponents with tight inflexible shinai grip, you can press on opponent's shinai sideway (omote side). If they react by pushing back really hard, simply let your kensen slide up. Your opponent's reaction force will make their shinai drift off the centre. Thus, exposing their kote.
  2. For opponents with soft kamae where kensen does not touch, you go with shinai raising straight up and down, but move your entire body to align with sagittal plane centered on opponent's right kote. This is done by crossing the right foot over the centre line to step towards opponent's right foot. Now, the opponent's kote is clearly square and straight in front of you.
Thursday night keiko at UNSW

Saturday, 7 July @ Willoughby
Continued on practicing kihon kote.

After-keiko lunch at Toraya, Chatswood

Monday, 9 July @Five Dock & UNSW
Michael and I went to Five Dock for the 1-hour jigeiko session in Five Dock before rushing to UNSW for the 9pm - 9:30pm free jigeiko session. It was a good night of practice, full of action.

Wednesday, 11 July @ Willoughby

Warm-up session

Itakura Sensei led the class to practice Kata 1 to 4 for the first half hours. Then Michael led the senior class to practice Kata 5 - 7 and Kodachi 1 - 3. A few points to note...

Kata 6
Shidachi lowers the bokken to level parallel to the floor. It does NOT go all the way to gedan.

Kata 7
Some people advocates that the shidachi should execute the do cut in the 2nd step. However, for most senior Sensei in Japan, they execute the do cut in their 1st step.

About turning the circle to go back to starting position. It is always tricky to end in the centre of the dojo. Often, the pair ended up somewhere more towards the shidachi side. Here is the trick to finish Kata 7 nicely in the centre of the dojo.

  • Uchidachi - take the 5 steps to the starting position in straight line. This is because uchidachi is further away from the starting position and need to utilise efficient movement to get back to starting position.
  • Shidachi - begin the first step by taking a subtle step backward 45 degrees to the left to provide adequate distance for the uchidachi to move forward and diagonally back to the starting position. Shidachi's right foot then goes laterally at a right angle the sagittal plane of his alignment with uchidachi.

Kodachi 1

Shidachi's kensen should aim between uchidachi's eyes.

Good shidachi will take a big step back to assume jodan as zanshin.

Kodachi 2
Shidachi slides the right foot one-foot-length forward, with kensen pointing to uchidachi's chest. It is important to clearly differentiate the different level of shidachi's kensen in Kodachi 1 & 2.

After deflecting uchidachi's men cut, shidachi takes a diagonal step forward. Be careful of the distance here. For me, too often the distance is too far from uchidachi. Thus, difficult for me to grab uchidachi's elbow to complete zanshin.

Shidachi's blade should be next to waist pointing towards uchidachi's throat. The blade should slant diagonally downward away from body.

Kodachi 3
Shidachi assumes gedan-hanmi-no-kamae immediately in one smooth movement. The little finger should touch the leg.

When flipping uchidachi's bokken, Shidachi should aim to cast it out to the diagonal right (suri-otoshi).

Uchidachi immediately steps forward with the left foot and strikes shidachi's right do. Shidachi steps forward to the diagonal left, opening the body up to the diagonal right. At the same time, the right hand, which is holding the katana vertically, moves in a horizontal sweeping motion to block uchidachi's do strike. The kodachi should end of about two-third down the uchidachi's blade.

After the shinogi slides up uchidachi's blade, the two blades should be perpendicular to each other, forming a cross.

The three-step movement should be in line to the direction of the two bodies. A common mistake is to move sideway to where the bodies are facing. Also be careful of the distance between the two bodies.

Thursday, 12 July @ UNSW
In this session, Michael taught the class on how to become good motodachi - the correct manner to receive cuts. A good motodachi should promote the kakari to develop correct cut. Good motodachi will adjust the distance, if necessary, to make sure that the kakari is cutting with the right part of the shinai. Here are several technical points on how to become good motodachi:
  1. Always start from to-maai, without the kensen touching.
  2. Stay in straight line to receive kakari's cut. Don't step sideway when the kakari is about to cut. If kakari is coming in very fast, the motodachi can start to move slightly earlier with the "5-step" technique - move back with rear foot first, take 3 steps straight backward, with step 4 & 5 curve out to the side.
  3. During uchikomi geiko, don't change the target-opening once the kakari has initiated his / her attack. For example, when the motodachi has the men opened, and you have just launched into attacking men, and suddenly the motodachi moved his hand across to open kote. This creates a lot of confusion, and it is mighty frustrating. Remember, it is not a test on reflex here. It is about developing good correct cut.
  4. To receive kote, don't move the right arm far across the opposite side of the body. It is very unrealistic when the kote is way off centre.
  5. To receive kote-men, open the kote in the usual way. Afterwards, move the shinai to the right (i.e. crossing the centre-line of the body) to receive men cut.
Supper after keiko

Saturday, 14 July @ Willoughby

I had 4 jigeiko during the free jigeiko session - Mark Stone, Sano Sensei, Michael and Payne Sensei. Here are some photos with Michael...

Jigeiko with Michael

Got tsuki'ed dead on during jigeiko

My turn to practice...

Yes, Michael opened for me, but I am quite happy by the fact that I didn't miss the target.


At Genki Ramen, Artarmon

Hanging around talking kendo in Artamon after lunch

Monday, 16 July @ UNSW

On the way to keiko, I was listening to the ABC newsradio report on the Socceroos (Australian National Soccer Team) performance at the Asian Cup. The Socceroos lost to Iraq 1-3 in their pool match, which was a shock to everyone as the Australian Team is one of the favourites to win the Cup.

A sport commentator (sorry, I couldn't catch his name) analysed the match performance and presented a very interesting insight. He said that 95% of the game is determined by the mental toughness of the players. He said that Australian Soccer has always been enjoying its underdog status in the international arena. And the Socceroos thrived on its underdog status.

On the other hand, the Australian Cricket Team has always been viewed as favourite to win in any international cricket tournaments. They are mentally adapted to the pressure to win and thrived on it. Therefore, they can do well year round.

In this Asian Cup, however, the Socceroos is viewed as favourite to win. It is an unusual situation for the team who is not accustomed to being viewed as favourite. The pressure to win, inability to adjust their mental state to handle the different expectation, etc... ultimately resulted in the inability to deliver results.

I am now reading a journal on mental toughness from the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology. I will try to share some interesting ideas once I finished reading it.

At the dojo...

Sano Sensei taught the class 1-2-3 timing:
  • At 1, upswing for motodachi; unmoved for kakari
  • At 2, downswing for motodachi; upswing for kakari
  • At 3, motodachi's shinai is deflected by the upswing of kakari; downward striking for kakari
This 1-2-3 timing can be applied to oji waza situation, such as suriage-men, kaeshi-do, etc.

Stamina was a bit flat tonight as a cold is developing with blocked nose and ears. So I tried to focus on seme and vary between men and kote cut.

Tonight, I tried the pull-push men cut - a variation of men-cut which I don't usually use. It turned out to be quite successful in tricking the opponent's timing.

Exam Results are Out

I got my first semester physiotherapy results back on Monday. Yahoo!

Biomechanics A 75 Distinction
Designing Health Research 82 Distinction
Foundations of Health Psychology 74 Credit
Functional Anatomy A 80 Distinction
Introductory Neuroscience 91 High Distinction
Molecules and Energy 83 Distinction
Motor Performance and Learning 85 High Distinction

Eiga, my buddy. Let's take a photo together.