a MMB! Kendo Blog: August 2007

MMB! Kendo Blog

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Yatta! New Horizon

A whole lot of things have happened since the last update 2 weeks ago. There were the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force visit to Sydney, my 3 Dan grading, Founders Cup team championships, etc...

Monday, 6 August @ Five Dock & UNSW
The kendo delegate leader of the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force contacted the Association a few weeks ago that they would visit dojo around Sydney this week. So I was very excited the whole day, looking forward to the Monday evening's keiko. When I rocked up to the dojo that night, I was in total shock. Goodness me, I thought there would only be 5 or 6 visitors, but no, there werer 23 of them! Woohooo!!!

The hall in Five Dock is usually roomy enough to cater for about 8 pairs of people doing jigeiko. Tonight, however, there were 20 pairs doing jigeiko at the same time. And with most of the navy visitors young and fast, we were literally bumping into each other every 10 seconds. Hiki-waza was not a good idea in such a small confined space when you couldn't see what was behind you. You simply could not back out, so it really brought the intensity up, by forcing you to make a real effort to pressure in and go for the next cut. With spirited kiai echoing from every corner of the dojo, and the high intensity and energy flowing around, I had an extremely enjoyable keiko with many of the visitors.

Group photo with 23 visiting Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force visitors
Photo taken by: Mashiba

After the Five Dock keiko finished, I took Daisuke and Yoshi to UNSW for the last 30mins jigeiko session. What a great kendo night!

Wednesday, 8 August @ Willoughby
Six navy officers visited the Willoughby dojo. After a short suburi and uchikomi-geiko session. We had jigeiko for the rest of the night. I was able to play all 6 visitors.

After the keiko finished, we went to the nearby Willoughby pub for a cool down biru-geiko session.

Feedback from Maeda Sensei:
Maeda Sensei noticed that my men cut was not straight - I twisted my body to reach out more with my right arm. So he adviced me to pay more attention on doing a straight and square men cut during practice.

Group photo at Willoughby

And after biru-geiko...

Thursday, 9 August @ UNSW
I had a bit of fever, and decided during the day that I would rest for the night. However, I still went to UNSW, driving Daisuke and Elaine to the training, and watching the Navy officers having their last training session in Sydney before sailing off to Darwin.

There were a lot of people turned up to the training that night, so the dojo was quite full (though it was still far from the Monday night Five Dock scene just days ago).

My 'moment of glory' of the night was banging on the taiko every 2 minutes for the short mawari jigeiko session.

Saturday, 11 August @ Wollongong - 3 Dan Grading
I drove Ceciljia and Elaine to Wollongong. And for the whole 1.5 hrs trip, we were screaming on top of our lungs like crazy, doing the JAWS theme song, but will a kendo twist. It was so much fun and I certainly had a lot of exercises to my abdominal and facial muscles from laughing so much.

A seminar was held in the morning , where Sano Sensei led the Dan group; Payne Sensei with the Kyu group; and Rixon Sensei took the beginner group.

In the Dan group, Sano Sensei drew our attention on maai (distance) and how to take the centre by using seme and waza.

Following the seminar was the junior 'balloon' competition and the state association's AGM.

At 2pm, registration for grading began. There were 90 people grading from 6 Kyu to 3 Dan. Amongst them, nine people tested for 3 Dan. Two grading panels were set up - one for 6 kyu to 2 kyu; the other for 1 kyu to 3 dan.

After about 1 hour of watching the 1 kyu to 2 dan exams, it was finally my turn to try for 3 dan. My first match was against Dwight from the Burwood Korean kumdo club, and my 2nd match against Rocky from University of Sydney Kendo Club. I felt quite happy with my first match performance - I was confident and landed a few cuts in my first match. However, I wasn't quite sure about the second one - I felt I was a bit rushed and couldn't find my own rhythm during the match with Rocky, who launched some rapid attacks throughout the match.

I was the first to finish both my 3 dan jitsugi matches, and so I was able to enjoy and watched and enjoyed the performance of other 3 dan exam participants.

After all the dan grade jitsugi exams finished, we waited for about 10 minutes and finally, Rixon Sensei announced the grading codes of those who passed the jitsugi section to prepare for the kata examination.

In Japan, 3 Dan only has to do Kata 1-7. But in Australia, on top of Kata 1-7, we are also examined on Kodachi 1-3. Again, I was paired up with Dwight, and performed the shidachi role. Thanks to the help of all the sensei in the past months, I was able to complete the kata portion with great confidence.

With the completion of both jitsugi and kata sessions, I handed in my exam paper on 'the importance of kirikaeshi' to the grading panel.

While the grading panels were collating and finalising the grading results, a free jigeiko session was arranged. I had a keiko with Yuko Tanaka who was having a short holiday in Canberra in the previous week. Her favourite tricks were feint-men to kote and kaeshi-do. It was enjoyable to play her again, and I was keen to taste her tricks and see how I fared this time since our last keiko in Tokyo in January. Unfortunately, the 30 minutes jigeiko session was over too quickly and so we only had a short keiko with each other. Nonetheless it was enjoyable. Ah, but it would be nice if we had more time...

And so, the results of the grading were announced. A total of 78 people passed the exams ranging from 6 kyu to 3 dan. Amongst them, 6 passed 3 dan. And I was one of them! Yatta!!!!

(L-R) me, Elaine and Ka-bi enjoying our gelato at the seaside restaurant near the Wollongong lighthouse


Sunday, 12 August @ Wollongong - Founders Cup Team Championships
An early morning rise again. This time, I had the companionship of Elaine and Daisuke in the 1.5 hrs drive, and arrived to Wollongong at around 8:30am.

When I arrived to the venue, Itakura Sensei notified me that I would be in the Dan Kata competition with Nishimoto-san. As time drew closer to the kata competition, Nishimoto-san was nowhere to be seen. So instead, Daisuke was quickly nominated to be my kata partner, and we did a super quick run-through of Kata 1-7.

Of course, with that little preparation and partnership, there were quite a bit of stuff-ups during the kata competition. Basically as soon as we performed ippon-me, we both knew it was over. All we could do was to enjoy performing the rest of the kata routine (without anymore stuff-ups). The funniest thing from this hilarious impromptu kata partnership was that, on two occasions, Daisuke made a slightly incorrect move and apologised so loud that I think everyone around the court could hear. In normal situation, the pair would carry on the rest of the kata routine as if nothing wrong happened. But this time, however, there was no intention to cover up the stuff-ups whatsoever. In Ropponme, our kote-suriage-kote partnership completely failed, however, Daisuke suriage'd me again and again until he successfully suriage'd me. Ah, my goodness. Poor Daisuke, he was so traumatized after the impromptu kata performance that he vowed to win all his matches in the afternoon's dan team competition.

For the rest of the morning, I shinpan'ed for the womens team competition and also managed to do a bit of study on the side.

At around 2pm, the Founders Cup Dan Team competition began. In my team, we had Daisuke (senpo), Jayson (jiho), myself (chuken), Toshio (fukusho), and Yoshihiro (taisho).

Our first match was against Han Rim Won. Our team performed strongly, winning the first round 4-0. For me, I drew my match 1-1. During the match, I did a tsuki which landed dead on the tsuki-dare. I was really hoping that the referees would give me a point on that, but maybe my posture wasn't convincing enough... but it was encouraging to be able to tsuki on the target under pressurised situation.

In the semi-final, we faced last year's winner - University of Sydney Kendo Club. In my match, I played against Louis Estrada who was a nito player. He is certainly an up and rising star, and it really amazes me with his lightning fast learning and improvement rate. Anyway, back to the match... I won my match with a gyaku-do - my first ever gyaku-do point in a competition setting. In the end, my team won with an overall score of 4-1.

Last year's Founders Cup, I fought Ka-bi (UNSW) in the senpo position. This year in the Dan Team Final, Ka-bi and I crossed sword again. But this time, both of us were in the chuken position.

Daisuke started off our final campaign strongly, taking out his opponent convincingly 2-0. Jayson carried on the momentum by winning his match 2-1.

After fighting a chudan player and a nito player in the previous two rounds, I had to fight Ka-bi the jodan master in the final. I tried to move around and threaten Ka-bi as much as possible, but in the end, Ka-bi was the stronger one, taking both points with beautiful katate-men.

Toshio drew his fukusho match. With 2 win : 1 draw : 1 loss, our team had a nice lead coming into the taisho match - Yoshihiro Fuchita vs. Michael Henstock. It was an extremely exciting and beautiful match to watch. I was able to sense the intensed tension going on between the two. Michael took the first point with an extremely convincing tobikomi-men cut. Yoshihiro then equalised with a lightning fast kote. The time was ticking by... could Yoshi hold on to the team score lead, would Michael come up with another ippon... the tension was certainly running very high by that point. Then, Michael launched into a tobikomi-men, and Yoshihiro saw that and countered with a nuki-do. PAMMM!!! Do-ari. Yoshihiro took the last point of the Championships, and our team won the Dan Team Final!

Thanks to David Banbury and Twins for the following photos.
Click here for more Founders Cup photos taken by David Banbury

Daisuke, Jayson, me, Toshio, Yoshihiro (R-L)

After winning the semi-final

Winning the Finals

Receiving the Rex Lawley Memorial Trophy from Betty Lawley

Yoshihiro, Toshio, me, Jayson, Daisuke (L-R) at the Presentation Ceremony

Gold to Sydney Kendo Club

With Betty Lawley and Steve Lawley

Yuko and me - taken after our jigeiko on Sunday afternoon

Sunday, August 05, 2007

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Ahoy! Captain!

This week has been an exciting kendo week for me. I had 5 kendo sessions this week without feeling stressed for time. It feels very nice.

Monday, 30 July @ Five Dock & UNSW
Two high caliber kumdo teachers from Korean, Yoon and Ung visited Five Dock on their short private stay in Sydney. During the one-hour mawari-geiko session, I had the opportunity to jigeiko with Yoon. His kendo was very powerful, orthodox and elegant. The one thing that particularly impressed me and the difference between his kendo and mine was that, his attacks were continuous. He didn't stop after scoring an obviously valid point. His cuts continued on. The analogy would be like a lion going for his prey. After catching the target, he would not let go, but continued the relentless attack. That was a big and obvious mentality between his and my kendo, which I can learn from.

Keiko with Toshio was also particularly enjoyable that night. Toshio was playing jodan, and so I had the nice opportunity to experiment how to fight against jodan players. I trialled the position and angle of my shinai, and the seme from left kote then cut right kote tactic with some positive outcomes.

Afterwards training at Five Dock finished, I went to UNSW for their last 30mins jigeiko session. I had jigeiko with Sano Sensei and Gideon, and only had time to practice 3 men cuts each with Jackson as time was up.

Wednesday, 1 August @ Willoughby
That night was internal club team selection shiai. I had two fights - first one with Chris, and the second one with Taek.

While waiting for my games, I remembered the positive feeling at this year's National Championships during my wait to fight Kate the Bulldog in the womens team event. That strong desire to fight Kate made myself felt very strong - physically relaxed yet mentally focused.

And so, I told myself to enjoy and look forward the fight with Chris and Taek. And it worked quite nicely. I felt that I was playing nice, straight kendo, though at times during the shiai with Taek, I did feel that I was rushed by Taek's fast and continuous attacks a little too much, and wasn't able to control the overall rhythm of the game. Nonetheless, I was happy to win both matches 2-0, giving me a nice lead in the club's Dan team selection ladder.

Friday, 3 August Morning @ The King's School
I got up at 5:50am in the morning and arrived to the school at 6:50am.

Following on last week's first lesson, I decided to expand on the topic of suburi, footwork with the emphasis on coordination.

After a quick warm-up stretch, we reviewed what the class learnt last week - shomen suburi, with the emphasis on straight and big swing to the mid-line of the body, straight left knee and raised heel.

After the quick review, I led the class to practice suriashi along the length of the hall several times. Then, I combined the shomen and footwork practice together, by asking them to cut shomen and suriashi all the way to the end of the hall. Eventually, I taught them the footwork on how to turn around nicely to change direction 180 degrees to quickly cut again.

The kids were very observant and so they were able to perform the tasks I asked them to do quite nicely. And so at the end of the training session, I asked them to pair up, with one side as motodachi while the other practice cutting with the correct part of shinai, follow through after cut, and turn around to show zanshin.

Honestly, I am quite impressed by the learning rate of these Year 8 kids. Hopefully, many of them will decide to stay on and become a strong kendo players in the future.

Friday, 3 August Afternoon @ University of Sydney
Friday is the laboratory day for me in University. After my anatomy and neuroscience labs finished at noon, I stayed in the library and studied until the 3pm kendo training in the university main campus 30mins drive away.

Mark Kim led the class of about 40 players. Quite an impressive class turnout. After a great deal of time practicing footwork, the class was split into bogu, non-bogu and beginner groups.

Those in bogu practiced many many rounds of kirikaeshi combined with hiki waza. It was a tough stamina intensive session. Jigeiko session followed after a short break.

It is nice to jigeiko with those who I don't usually jigeiko with, and so those jigeiko were very stimulating and enjoyable.

During my jigeiko with Shunsuke Yamagata, he told me that he was able to see that I was coming either for men or kote, as the distance just before those cuts were distinctly different. Thanks for Shunsuke, as I am trying to make my men cut looks like kote cut and vice versa. I will have to take more care with the cutting distance.

Another memorable moment was the debana morotte-tsuki that I landed nicely on Ken when he came for my men. Oh, that connection to the hands during the tsuki. It was such a great feeling.

Saturday, 4 August @ Willoughby & West Lindfield
In the morning Willoughby session, I taught the beginner groups for ~30mins before joining the main group for jigeiko.

The main ideas that I tried to get across to the beginner group was correct foot stance, striking posture, coordinated cut, and the footwork in kirikaeshi for both motodachi and kakarite.

After teaching the beginner group, I put on my bogu and had jigeiko with Itakura Sensei, Sano Sensei and Ka-bi.

After my last jigeiko with Ka-bi a few weeks ago in Willoughby, I remembered to keep a close eye on Ka-bi when we got into sonkyo - just before standing up to fight. As soon as I saw him wearing that cunning smile again, I knew he was going to do throw out his sonkyo trick again (which he successfully got me dead on last time).

In sonkyo, as soon as both of us started the upward movement, I knew I had to throw myself in to launch a men cut as he would be coming in the cut my men. Ta da! And it turned out to be just that. Ka-bi the big joker. It was enjoyable to fight Ka-bi, as always. Unfortunately, with the limited time, we had to do ippon-geiko, and Ka-bi took the point with a nice men-nuki-do.

The club team selection was scheduled at 1pm at West Lindfield - 10mins drive from Willoughby. So in between the two sessions, I was able to practice Kata 1-5 with John, who will be going for his 1 Dan exam next Saturday.

After the short kata practice, I drove Daisuke to the dojo in West Lindfield. There, we had a nice picnic style lunch very kindly prepared by Kassandra. And I, had my two big servings of Sai-Mai-Lo plus some hot noodle as well. Oh, yummy!

At 1pm, we had individual warm-up before the 1:30pm start to the shiai matches. There were about 9 Kyu shiai matches and 6 Dan shiai matches. As I had already played my 2 shiai on Wednesday night, I only had one more shiai to play on that afternoon - against Fuchita-san.

I know Fuchita-san is a very strong player, who is technically much more superior than me. And so, I told myself before the game to keep myself steady, attacking only when I felt confident and safe to do so. Nonetheless, Fuchita-san, who played very strongly in his other two shiai matches, also took two nice points from me - men-nuki-do & hiki-men to finish off the game.

Fuchita-san scored ippon with men-nuki-do

With the conclusion of the team selection program, the club's dan and kyu teams were announced. I am very happy to be selected as part of the team with my very strong teammates. To my surprise, Itakura Sensei also announced that I would be the captain of the team. What a great honour to be with a team of such high caliber. I am looking forward for our team to perform well in next Sunday's state team championships. Gambarimashooooou!