忍耐 + 掌握人生
Victory and Friendship
The training in the past month had seen some ups and downs, but I had a very good last week of training leading up to the Nationals. The last two training sessions at Five Dock last Monday and Willoughby last Wednesday both reassured me that I was mentally and physically ready for the National Championships at the end of the week. I was feeling 'on fire' on those two training sessions. My legs were moving, my spirit and concentration were high, and I knew that nothing could stop me besides myself. If I were to play in the Nationals on those two evenings, no doubt I would have done very well.
Meeting Bulldog - 21/03/2008
Easter Friday saw the beginning of the biggest annual kendo event in the national calendar. I assisted in the result collation during the National Dan Grading examination. In the afternoon, there were the volunteer meeting, competitor registration, shinai weigh-in, shinpan seminar and AKR annual general meeting.
While sitting on the floor busily distributing tasks and t-shirts to the volunteers during a lunch time meeting with the volunteers, a pair of hands from behind my back came leaning over my shoulder. I turned around.
"Hey Turt!" And there she was, Kate, my dear friend greeting me. (well, for those of you who don't know, I love turtles / tortoises. And hence the name.)
I was so glad to see Kate (she is known as Bulldog in the Australian Team), and to share the next few days together on- and off-court. Some people were very surprised how well we get along with each other, how she could possibly come to stay at my place during the Championships especially when we were to fight so furiously on-court in the next two days. They even asked if we grudged at each other over the breakfast table every morning. When Kate told me some of the 'concerns' that other people had over our relationship, I was actually very happy to hear, because deep down, I knew that this kind of friendly rivalry is very rare, especially in nowadays sporting world. So the 'concerns' of others only reaffirmed our special friendship and rivalry.
Women's Individuals - 22/03/2008
Kate and I both got up at 6am, and arrived to the venue at 7:20am to set-up the championships arena. Thanks to the great team of volunteers who turned up so early in the day and work tirelessly throughout the championships to make the hall set-up and running of the championships go so smoothly.
The Opening Ceremony started at 9:15am, and following straight after that was the Kyu Individuals competition. NSW did exceptionally well, grabbing 1st, 2nd and 3rd places, with 5 NSW members in the top 8. Congratulations to my very own clubmate, Luke, for winning the title; Nick coming 3rd; and David for coming in the top 8. It was a great start for NSW in the Championships.
Unfortunately, I was not able to watch the later stages of the Kyu Individuals as I had to warm-up for the Women's Individuals that followed straight after the Kyu's.
I had been waiting for this day since the last national championships, and I really wanted to perform to my best on the day. When I started to do some warm-up at 11am to get ready for the Women's Individuals, however, I could feel that my legs were a little weak. My mind was ready, but my body was not. I thought, maybe it was due to the running-around earlier in the morning, or maybe I ate my breakfast so early that day that the fuel left inside me was running low by late morning. In any case, I was, at the time, experiencing some difficulties in getting my body ready. I really wish I could munch on an energy bar before my match.
As a result, I did not put my bogu on during warm-up to conserve energy, and only did some suburi and mental visualisation to prepare my body and mind.
The women's individuals competition started at 12noon. My first match in the pool was up against Kumie Dawkins (Victoria). Although I won the match 1-0 with a nuki-do, deep down I was struggling physically. My legs were not really under my control. They were just weak. And although this was a big taboo, I actually had some 'what if I lost' thoughts half way through the match when the score was still lock at 0-0.
My second match in the pool was up against the up-and-coming young Queenslander Dale Fisher. I saw her other pool match against Kumie, and I could see she has got power and good techniques. I was expecting a tough match with Dale. Fortunately, I scored two quick points to advance to the knock-out phase.
The first knock-out match was against my 'obaa-chan' Chiaki ('obaasan' = grandma; Chiaki keeps calling me 'grandpa', so I have to retaliate somehow.) Unlike the first two pool matches, I have fought against Chiaki many times, so we knew each other styles quite intimately. I knew if I stayed calm and patiently wait for the good opportunity to cut, I should be in for a good fight. And also, historically, I haven't lost to Chiaki in encho situation. So another way of looking into the match was to stay as long as possible. So patience and rational decision were the keys to this match.
We both attacked and defensed quite equally in the 3-minute duration of the match, and so ended up in the encho situation. And fortunately for me, history repeated itself, and I scored men-ari straight after encho to advance to the semi-finals.
And there, I met Kate in my semi-final match. I have been anticipating this match, and really wanted to take this match to advance to the final. I was really determined to throw everything I have got on the court, leaving nothing behind. But Kate would step up every time in reply, applying pressure and leaving no opportunities for me to attack. In the end, the match went into encho. I cannot remember how long after encho, but I was attempting to cut men. Thinking about it after the match, the cut was not fully committed with my hand and body moving upwards instead of forward. With that, Kate the Bulldog punished me with a devastating debana kote.
After that match, I moved to the court-side silently watching the women's individuals final between Kate and Claire Chan. How I wish I could be on the court at that very moment. I will have to train and prepare myself better for the next Championships.
In the end, Kate won the Women's Individuals title. Claire Chan came 2nd; Claire Homsey and myself came equal 3rd.
With the completion of the Women's Individuals event, I was free for the rest of the afternoon. Kate, however, also entered in the Dan Open Individual's event, which she played some brilliant kendo and did extremely well to come 3rd place. Brett Smith, our national team coach, won the Championships - what a nice way to celebrate before his wedding in two weeks time. \(^o^)/
Sydney Harbour Cruise
That night, 155 AKC participants attended the welcoming dinner on a Sydney Harbour Cruise. It was great to see the big turnout. And contrary to the weather forecast, there was no rain, which made me really happy as I have been a little bit worried about the weather.
At the time, it was a little hard to swallow the comments as it came a bit too sudden and unexpected. But I thought, maybe Arpad was right. Kate had been continuously charging in, applying pressure every second in our last match. Why couldn't I do the same? Why should I relax, re-set, regain composure before launching the next cut. There should be no need to regain composure, when I should be composed at ALL time.
Women's Team - 23/03/2008
Kate and I arrived to the Championships venue at 8am on Easter Sunday. I ate plenty of cereal that morning to make sure I had enough energy to last through the women's team competition. In fact, that morning, I felt exceptionally good. Maybe it was the combination of the relaxing and fun time I had on the cruise the previous night, plus the yummy cereal. I was really ready. I even did warm-up with Luke to prepare for his Kyu Team final match, of which the NSW team took the title.
When the ladies start going back to the warm-up room to put on their bogu and get ready, I was already ready. Ready to just go out and fight anyone I faced.
I still remember the 'concerned' but rather funny look on Shoko's face when she walked into the warm-up room. She came over to me and asked if I was alright, as I was sitting in the corner of the room on some gym mats, all by myself, with my men and kote on, fully ready, and watching over the other state teams getting ready.
I did some more paired up warm-up practice with Shoko before our first team match against ACT at 10:20am.
ACT had a strong women team this year, and Reika of ACT snatched a win in the senpo match 1-0. DaSeul came back strongly to then win the chuken match 2-0. So when it came to my taisho match, the overall match score was 1-1 with NSW leading by 1 point.
My taisho match was up against Sharyn. I still remembered how I conceded a point to Sharyn in the last nationals when she followed up my men cut with a hiki-kote. I told myself to keep going 'forward, forward, forward' the whole time, especially after the cut. And tried to applied as much pressure as possible throughout the match. I scored the first point with a hiki-men, and sealed the team victory with a second men cut to advance to the Final.
On the other court, the Victoria team won their match against Western Australia who has advanced from their pool after Western Australia won a very close battle against South Australia in the Representative match.
So the Women's Team final was between NSW and Victoria, where Victoria has held the title of this event for at least the past ten years.
This year, however, NSW has fielded a strong women's team. It is a welcome addition to have the fast and exciting youngster DaSeul on our team. DaSeul was our senpo, Shoko as chuken, and myself as taisho. And on the other side, the Victoria team has Chiaki as senpo, Claire Chan as chuken, and Kate as taisho.
YAY! A re-match against Kate for me. This time, I was feeling good, very full of energy, and really ready to jump into action on court. Plus, my stomach was not empty, so I felt extra good.
Leading up to my taisho match, the NSW team was trailing 0-1 in the overall team score. So I must win my match to give NSW a chance.
As soon as I came up from sonkyo, my mind was very much in the middle of the game. I was trying to apply pressure every moment. Going forward, forward, forward, to fight straight on, squarely against Kate right in front of me.
I launched myself into a men cut, literally throwing myself in. And this time, there was no answer from Kate. I scored a men cut five seconds into the match. That was just what I needed so badly. It was a start that I wanted all the time. Now, NSW and Victoria were locked at 1-1 in the overall score.
The match restarted again, and I had no other thoughts but completely focusing on pressuring Kate to succumb and make openings. It was a very intense game. Both Kate and I were really seeking that one perfect striking moment. It was such a great match, and I really enjoyed every moment of that high intensity. I pressured in, and waited patiently for my moment. And almost towards time, I took one step in, and Kate reacted a little. Then I took another step in. This time, I could sense Kate was going to launch into a cut. And instantaneously, I debana-kote'ed as Kate launched into a men strike. BAM-PAM. And the flags went up. I beat Kate's men with de-kote by just a fraction of a second. 2-0.
What a great feeling! Not only was I happy with the win, but everyone on my team was so happy. DaSeul was crying as soon as I scored the de-kote. And for Shoko, what a nice way to finish her last time at the nationals by taking out gold.
So that was my National Championships in 2008.
Later on that morning, Sano Sensei from UNSW won the Veteran's event. Then in the afternoon, NSW came runner-up in both the Kata Team, and Dan Team events.
on a private visit during the 33AKC
For full results of the Championships, you can go to http://www.nswkendo.org/akc2008
Following the national championships, I also participated in the national kendo seminar, which was led by Shigeoka Sensei.
The motto of the seminar was 'relax'. Shigeoka Sensei said everything he was going to teach is easy. 'So please don't think it is hard. You can do it!'
The morning session on the first day concentrated on footwork. After practicing a few forward and backward suriashi. Shigeoka Sensei introduced us to a 'game' - to play with footwork, which consisted of:
- 3-step diagonally to the right, then 3-step diagonally to the left.
- 1-step diagonally to the right, then 1-step diagonally to the left; this is much harder then the 3-step version as it requires great footwork coordination.
- Footwork to cut in the north, south, east, west directions.
After a short break, the class put on the bogu and practiced variations of kirikaeshi for the rest of the morning. The points that were brought to attention include:
- Execute sayumen in both correct angle and cutting side of the shinai
- Kiri-musubi: both side executing sayumen at the same time
- One-breathe kirikaeshi
Also, in one-breath kirikaeshi, it is very difficult to keep your spirit up high all the way from start to finish. However, we must try to maintain and carry that spirit all the way to the final men cut. As in shiai, we must maintain our spirit all the time, as score are made when opponent relax their mind.
There are many ways to receive kirikaeshi, depending on the level of your opponents. For advanced player, Shigeoka Sensei would use kiri-otoshi (cut down) to receive the cut. This is the hardest way for the kakarite to execute kirikaeshi as shinai are being knocked downwards every time the motodachi receive a sayumen.
For beginners, Shigeoka Sensei would use the suriage way, which is executed in an upward sweeping motion. This method of receiving sayumen is the easiest for beginners to execute sayumen as the upward sweeping motion assist the kakarite to swing the shinai back up for another strike.
A few other points:
- Don't go into rhythm. Keep kamae and left foot stable.
- Bring left foot up quickly with each step --> this determines how well you will do in shiai.
- No helicopter swing in executing sayumen during kirikaeshi.
Shigeoka Sensei kept on emphasising that there is no need to use strength in cut, and introduced us to the idea of relying on the shinai's own weight to cut. He then instructed us to try a few rotations of executing a 'No-strength' men cut that relies purely on gravity to pull the weight of the shinai down. As easy as it sound, it was actually much harder than most people in the class thought. People were finding it extremely difficult to not use strength at all, and many were surprised how much excess strength they use in the normal men-cut.
This can be quite difficult for many who have been relying on momentum on taking an extra step to cut men. In order to help make the practice of one-step men-uchi a little bit easier, Shigeoka Sensei suggested the class to lift the right foot up the floor a few millimeters before going for the men cut. That way, there was no way one can move their left foot.
In the afternoon session, we practiced various waza, including:
- kote-do against kote-men
And at the end of the day, we had a short free jigeiko session. I was the first to line up for Yano Sensei. And following that, I had jigeiko with Kevin Chin (Melbourne Uni), Shigeoka Sensei, and Ryuji Nakamura. I had great keiko with all of them, which was a great way to finish the first day of seminar.
Comments from the Sensei:
- Shigeoka Sensei: hold the kensen position to the throat as long as possible before lifting up to strike men.
- Yano Sensei: most emphasis was on men, so try to develop and build up a variety of waza from men. e.g. cut men, then follow up with another technique.
There is a phrase in Japanese called 'kan-kyuu-kyou-jyaku' 緩急強弱 or slow, fast, strong, and weak. The first two modes are particularly important in executing kata. Fast and slow movements should be distinct. Don't try to rush the movements as kata is, afterall, for demonstrating the elegance of movements in kendo.
In kata, uchidachi (teacher) has the responsibility to guide shidachi (student) in executing correct techniques; not necessary verbal instructions, but using body movements as a guide. e.g. make sure that shidachi is ready to cut before lauching into 'yaa'; and adjusting distance, etc.
The seminar finished off with one final jigeiko session. And for me, I had the opportunities to jigeiko with Brian Brestovac Sensei (WA), Joe Semmler Sensei (ACT) and Sano Sensei (NSW). What a nice way to finish off the five-day kendo onslaught with some good jikeiko.