a MMB! Kendo Blog: From Kata to Tsuki

MMB! Kendo Blog

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.


  • Congrats on the exam results! Looks like your effort was well worth it :)

    "pull-push men cut"...could you please explain a bit more what are you talking about with this? I don´t quite understand.

    By Anonymous HandsomeW, at Monday, July 23, 2007 8:53:00 AM  

  • Thank you HandsomeW.

    In push-pull men, the left-hand pushes forward while the right-hand pulls the shinai back, resulting in the tip of the shinai drawing a backward arc in the air. To complete the cut, the left-hand pulls backward and the right-hand pushes forward to cut the target.

    It is a good surprise technique, but not to use it frequently as it momentarily exposes the kote. It is very effective, however, in varying the men-cut timing.

    By Blogger Vivian Yung, at Monday, July 23, 2007 9:44:00 AM  

  • Congratulations on the exams! Indeed your effort is paying back!

    And it's paying back at all levels. It seems that your kihon-kote is progressing, that's really good. It's always beautiful to admire someone with straight technique during shiai.

    It was very nice to read about kata. Some people just "forget" about kata, but it also is part of kendo. For me it's very difficult to really give it...spirit, as if I was in a real combat-situation. But as I am still learning the correct moves...I believe it's expectable.

    Nice (and long :D) post Vivian, thanks! And good luck!

    By Blogger Leon, at Monday, July 23, 2007 11:07:00 PM  

  • Leon, thank you for your kind words.

    By Blogger Vivian Yung, at Thursday, July 26, 2007 10:45:00 PM  

  • Congrats on your results Viv!

    Without Kata our technique would lose precision.

    By Blogger Eddie 哥哥, at Sunday, July 29, 2007 2:16:00 AM  

  • Thanks Eddie. Yes, it is so much more enjoyable to practice kata once you understand what each movement mean. I like kata, it is so graceful and elegant. It looks easy, but difficult to perfect.

    By Blogger Vivian Yung, at Sunday, July 29, 2007 1:50:00 PM  

  • earlier this year we've been taught some type of push-pull semi-sashi men that doesn't expose kote hehehe :D

    By Blogger Paburo, at Wednesday, August 08, 2007 5:35:00 PM  

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