a MMB! Kendo Blog: New Zealand National Kendo Seminar

MMB! Kendo Blog

Monday, July 28, 2008

忍耐 + 掌握人生
New Zealand National Kendo Seminar

Breaking the Silence
Since the conclusion of the 2008 Australian National Championships and Seminar in late March, I have immersed myself into university study and have completed my first official clinical experience with one of the largest hospitals in Sydney - working separately in both the Hand Physiotherapy department and the Neurological Physiotherapy department. Working in these departments really made me more appreciative on how lucky I am to have strong and functional body to carry out everyday tasks independently and enjoy life. I have also been fortunate enough to find the opportunity to work with The King's School weekend rugby every Saturday. It is a complete different experience to the clinical work I face in the hospital. Here I see players injure right in front of my eyes - concussion, fractures, dislocation, spinal injuries, cuts and bruises, and sometimes a lot of blood. Fortunately, under the guidance and supervision of several experienced sport physiotherapists and paramedics, and a sports physician working at the school during those sports days, I am gaining more experience and knowledge on dealing with these types of traumas.

Due to all this, I have to trade-off my kendo training time. I have been training only once or twice a week during the university semester. However, I was still keeping up my cardiovascular and strength training at the university gym every morning before lectures began. So I was still able to maintain my 'kendo instinct' and keep up with the training demand during the training sessions.

To the Kiwi Land
After the Autumn university semester finished, I made a quick decision to go to New Zealand in July. Coincidentally, there was the opening of the Auckland Kendo Club's new dojo and the New Zealand national kendo seminar at the same time, which turned out to be the largest kendo event in the Kiwis kendo history. So off I went to New Zealand with my bogu and had a wonderful time training with a very nice and welcoming kiwi kendo community.

New Zealand National Squad Training, 11/07/2008

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to join the New Zealand National Kendo Squad training on Friday, 11th July. There were about 20 - 25 squad members training, led by Martin Lee Sensei. The training began at 10am with jogging, stretching and suburi, and moved on to uchikomi practice for the rest of the morning session. In the afternoon session, we moved on into scenario-based waza session.

A few interesting points that were emphasised during the training:
  • Perform each suburi with total conviction
  • In hiki-waza, move away quickly from opponent. Keep a safe distance so your opponent is not in the position to pose danger to you after you perform hiki-waza. To make hiki-waza practice more realistic, motodachi should try to chase down the kakarite who performs the hiki-waza.
  • The practice of 'active' defence / blocking - be able to apply pressure in your defence when your opponent's attack. Project pressure forward onto your opponent.
At around 3pm, the Japanese delegation led by Inoue Yoshihiko Sensei arrived at the dojo. And the squad immediately carried out a 3-player women's team and 5-player men's team shiai competition. As there were only 5 ladies in the squad training that day, I was so happy when Martin asked if I would like to play twice. But of course! So I got to play in two different positions for my team, as both senpo and taisho.

In my senpo match, there were a lot of tsubazeriai situations, and I had some troubles dissolving and moving out of them. I went for an attack and my opponent would block and try to stick to me into tsubazeriai positions for most of the match. So I spent an awefully long time stuck in tsubazeriai. It was with a great lot of effort that I could finally break myself free from tsubazeriai. Anyway, I was able to score a men-uchi after some time, and straight after restart, I claimed the second point with a debana-kote.

In the taisho match, it was a more energetic and exciting match, and I felt a good connection and intensity were established with my opponent. Again, I claimed my first point with men-uchi. In the the second point, I tried gyaku-do which happily came out with good result.

Inoue Sensei's Observations
After the conclusion of the team shiai, Inoue Sensei gave the squad some advices from his observation of the matches.

Inoue Sensei pointed out from the beginning that there was too much time spent in tsubazeriai in the senpo match. He then prompted us to think why this was happening. The reason, he said, was due to the lack of momentum carried by the body in the attack. So when the two bodies collided, the resulting body clash could not generate enough power for the two colliding bodies to bounce off each other. Thus, resulting into a sticky tsubazeriai position.

Inoue Sensei also pointed out that the attacking distance was too close, especially for the taller players. He suggested that the taller players should try to take advantage of their height, and attack from a longer distance.

Goudou Geiko
At 4pm, there was a 1-hour goudou-geiko session, and all the visiting Japanese Sensei were motodachi in this session. I had the opportunity to keiko with Oda Katsuo Sensei 7 Dan, Nishi Sensei 7 Dan (son of Nishi Sensei 9 Dan), and Shibayama Sensei 7 Dan. It was really wonderful to keiko with these Sensei. Even now, I can still remember clearly how Oda Sensei's strong control of the centre dissipated all my attacks. And I just couldn't go faster than him in ai-men situation. And then there was Nishi Sensei's straight and unstoppable men cuts, and Shibayama Sensei's pinpoint kote cuts on the smallest opening. It was so wonderful to train with these high calibre kendo Sensei. And made me realise once again how much more I need to train in order to reach their stage of kendo.

New Zealand National Kendo Seminar (Day 1), 12/07/2008
Saturday was the official opening of the New Zealand National Kendo Seminar. After some speeches and introduction of the visiting delegations, the seminar went straight into the kendo kata session.

The Auckland Kendo Club

The visiting Japanese delegation, with Inoue Yoshihiko Hanshi sitting in the front

Spot me!

We were extremely fortunate to have Inoue Yoshihiko Sensei, Kendo Hanshi 8 Dan, who is the head of the All Japan Kendo Federation Kendo Kata committee, to teach the seminar participants kendo kata in the morning session.

I have read Inoue Sensei's writings prior to this seminar: the Kendo Kata series published in the earlier volumes of the Kendo World magazine, and also Kendo Kata: Essence and Application - a book also published by Kendo World Publications. Inoue Sensei teaches kendo beyond simple procedures and techniques, but goes into the reasons and meaning behind every movement. And from there, he relates the spirit of each movement to the development of human character. It is very beautiful and extremely stimulating to listen to Inoue Sensei's teaching. He is the most inspirational kendo Sensei I have ever met. His teachings go beyond kendo, and even people from non-martial arts background have been dazzled by his speeches. I am not exaggerating. If only I had video-taped the whole weekend to show you all... oh, but bugger my little handycam, it ran out of battery when I needed it the most.

For the whole morning session, for well over two hours, we only practiced kata from ippon-me to sanbon-me, but it was the most in-depth, most thorough practice of any kendo kata training I have ever done.

Jodan is the heaven kamae, the all powerful stance with the sword-tip pointing up. When assuming jodan no kamae from chudan no kamae, raise your arms up like the sun rising slowly and majestically from the horizon. Don't rush and assume jodan carelessly in an abrupt movement - an analogy is that the sun does not just pop up from the horizon to the sky in one go.

The cut executed by uchidachi is a strong cut with full conviction, as this attack requires the sword to cut through the very hard human skull, and all the way down and through the human torso. As such, the uchidachi's kiai 'yaa' should reflect the strength and power in that cut.

Shidachi should counter-cut uchidachi's attack immediately. The kiai 'tou' should follow immediately after 'yaa' with no break in between. This is because if shidachi allows a long break after uchidachi's attack, uchidachi would have enough time to re-adjust or even follow up the first failed attack with another attack.

Meaning of Ippon-me, Nihon-me, and Sanbon-me
The first three kata actually shows a progression of the mind - the juggle between the display of physical prowess & technical skills and the display of compassion and the ultimate objective of the way of kendo.

In Ippon-me, shidachi takes the life of the uchidachi with a strike to the shomen. In nihon-me, shidachi takes shidachi's arm even though he has the choice to take the life of uchidachi. In sanbon-me, shidachi uses tsuki to control uchidachi, literally making uchidachi stares death in the face. But shidachi's compassion gives uchidachi a chance to live, and in the process to reflect on the meaning of life. As you can see, the degree of compassion transcends to the highest level as the kata progresses from ippon-me to sanbon-me.

Introduction to Iaido, Uchikomi Keiko
In the afternoon, we had a two-hour introductory session to Iaido led by Katsuo Oda Sensei. Oda Sensei showed us all the basics - from how to secure the katana in the obi, to the many ways of drawing the katana and putting the katana away, and finally a demonstration of kata #1.

Tenouchi, and the coordination and use of fingers and wrists are very important in Iaido, just like in Kendo. To make a crisp cut with a 'swooosh' sound with the katana, or a smooth drawing of the katana from the saya, mastery of the tenouchi is essential.

Following the Iaido session, the seminar moved on to the Kendo uchikomi-geiko session, where we practiced many rounds of basics and kirikaeshi.

Auckland Kendo Club - Opening Ceremony
The Auckland Kendo Club's official opening ceremony started at 7pm that evening. After speeches were delivered by Graham Sayer Sensei (President of the Auckland Kendo Club), Inoue Hanshi, and the Consulate-general of Japan, we then enjoyed the brilliant and exciting performance of the Chinese Dragon Dance, the Taisho-Koto (traditional Japanese musical instrument) demonstration, the two kendo demonstration matches between the local Sensei and the visiting Japanese Sensei, and an Iaido performance by Oda Katsuo Sensei Iaido Hanshi. Afterwards, everyone enjoyed a wonderful and fun time drinking and mingling.

Yamaguichi-san, Alicia Cavan, me (L-R)

Yamaguichi-san, Alicia Cavan, me (L-R)

Before the Official Opening of the Auckland Kendo Club

Guests at the Opening Ceremony

Opening Ceremony - cutting the ribbon

Cheeeeeers! Oda Sensei on the right

Ken Wells Sensei (far end) and Graham Sayer Sensei before their demonstration matches with the visiting Japanese Sensei

Graham Sayer Sensei during his demonstration match in the Opening Ceremony

Alan Stephenson demonstrated Kendo Nippon Kata at the Opening Ceremony

About the speeches that were delivered earlier in the evening, I was particularly moved by Inoue Hanshi's speech on 'the meaning of dojo', and would like to share this beautiful speech to everyone who reads here:

"In relation to the speech given by President Sayer about the dojo, I would just like to comment about the meaning of what a dojo is: a dojo is a place for people to conduct the study of their life.

When we speak about this study, it is really the study about one's own heart. In the process of this study, we acquire the elements that make us human beings.

From the very beginning, from the time that we were born, we come to this “road” of life with a very pure heart, but in the process of growing up and coming of age, there are a lot of effects on our lives, things that we learn and the understanding that we come to have, and in this way, that pure heart of ours, we can say, becomes soiled or takes on some mistaken understanding about the meaning of life.

With time and the impact of the events that have occurred in our lives, some troubles accumulate in our hearts - some misunderstandings, confusion, illusions. However, we must have the desire and spirit to refresh ourselves, renew ourselves, and regain that purity: this is the meaning and purpose of our study of kendo.

In the history and development of the Japanese traditional cultures, there is a very specific type of theatre, called the Noh theatre. In the Noh theatre, in the early stages, there was a great Zeami Motokiyo. Zeami served to define what Noh theatre would become, formalizing Noh in his treatise the Kadensho.

Zeami articulated three points about the approach one should have in their life and study:

From the very beginning, the pure heart – do not forget the simple, uncomplicated, pure heart that we are born with, try to regain that, to find that once again.

The second element, from moment to moment in our lives, not just broad theoretical concepts, but in practice in everyday life - from moment to moment, to see the wonderful things in our lives, to be aware of them, to keep your heart full of wonder, you must never lose this.

The third element, even throughout your life, when you become senior in age, you have accumulated a wealth of experience, you've seen all, you’ve studied all, even then, look upon life, and find unexpected moments, see the fantastic nature of things, be surprised, continue to be full of emotion, and continue to see the beauty of one's life.

From the time that we are all born, and all throughout our lives, even until the moment that we die, be a person who is full of emotion, full of the joy of life. This is the thing to learn.

Today, I think all participants must remember that during our severe practice, a young child caught my attention. From the distant part of the room I looked over and heard his voice calling out so clearly 'yaaaaaaaa meeeennnnn'. It was so enthusiastic. It was this pure, heart full of passion that I wanted to point out to you all. Pease remember it

All of us acquire some education, and there is the impact of the environment over the years, and as a result our hearts become more complex. I want you to take care, to not lose that pure voice, that unobstructed, simple joy of doing things.

I would like you all to have this freshness of your life, to revere life. To have that pure voice that rings out. When you possess this and you are confronted with another person, in all tracks of life, if you have this emotion, this feeling, you will project this out, and engage the heart of your counterpart with it. They will be able to feel your heart as well. This is the kind of human being that I would like to ask everyone to try to become, to strive to become.

In the process of our study, also keep in mind that we would like to find that purity of life through practicing earnestly, and polish ourselves as human beings. We should strive to polish our hearts, wash away the confusion, and regain purity. A human being can do this in a way, like hearing music or seeing some beautiful art. The moment that we are confronted with some beautiful thing, we will have a fullness in our hearts, emotions pour forth, and as a result of this experience we can feel the joy and beauty of life. A heart of a person is the same thing, with it, you can move and inspire others, your joy can evoke joy in others.

If we each do this, and more and more people refine themselves, elevate themselves, become enlightened in this way, we will have a society full of such wonderful people, and society itself will become enlightened. This is the study we undertake, to make an enlightened society, bright and full of optimism. This must be our aim.

-Inoue Yoshihiko hanshi

Oda Katsuo Sensei and me

VVVVVVVVVVVV, so Japanese...


Mika Inoue Sensei

New Zealand National Kendo Seminar (Day 2), 13/07/2008

Asa-geiko began at 6am the next morning. With the previous night's partying and staying up till 1am, I only had about 3 hours of real sleep before getting up again for the asa-geiko. However, once I put on my men and made my first loud kiai of the day, I felt energised and great for the early training. It was wonderful to have the chance to keiko with Graham Sayer Sensei, Ken Wells Sensei and Alan Stephenson Sensei from New Zealand, and also several visiting Japanese Sensei. At the end of the session, all the 5 Dan & below kendoka were made to do rounds and rounds of kakari-geiko against the motodachi. With more than 100-people packed into the dojo, the training atmosphere was absolutely awesome. It reminded me of the training atmosphere in Japan. That was absolutely awesome.

Scenario-based kendo practice
Following a break after the morning training session, Inoue Hanshi led us to a scenario-based kendo training session. All participants were paired up with a partner of similar grade. The training built from simple one-sided planned attack, to attack-and-counter-attack of increasing intensity and complexity. Inoue Hanshi used several demonstrations between various pairs of participants to emphasise on the importance of intent, commitment and preparedness in succeeding in an attack. Put simply, it is the state of mind that distinguishes the best from the rest.

With the completion of the second part of the morning training session, all the participants enjoyed an extended lunch-break while Inoue Sensei had a long interview with the TV crew from Asia Downunder - a popular TV show in New Zealand. The extended break was probably a good thing for those who would be participating in the kendo and iaido grading in that afternoon. For me, I was able to relax and enjoy while the locals go for their grading.

Documentary on YouTube from Asia Downunder

Inoue Hanshi being interviewed by Asian Downunder TV crew

Inoue Hanshi being interviewed by Asian Downunder TV crew

Alicia Cavan - current New Zealand women's champion, who successfully graded to 3 Dan on the day

Yamaguchi-san and me

Writing up kendo exam essay

Inoue Hanshi cerebrated his 80th birthday (which was a few months ago) with the Kiwis with a banana boat. hehe, so cute. He is great fun to be with outside of the dojo.

Well, the next morning after the last day of the seminar, I found myself lost my voice completely. Yes, I couldn't make a sound at all. All I could manage to communicate with another human was by whispering or through writing. Oh, that was so tough.

So, maybe as a fitting end, I will let the photos do the talk about my tour of the North Island of New Zealand. Oh, New Zealand is so beautiful. I want to go back there again.

Wishing Well - Kerrikerri, northern region of the north island of New Zealand

Russell, Bay of Islands

Somewhere in the north of the north island

My Kung Fu Panda pose - photo taken at the Waimangu Volcanic Valley, near Rotorua


  • Viv, you're the real Lady of Kendo + Studies + Seminars.

    Let's go "Ski Kendo in NZ". Two weeks @Wanaka skiing, then Kendo @Auckland for another two weeks.

    By Blogger Bishojo美少女, at Monday, August 11, 2008 8:53:00 PM  

  • Yes yes, let's do a kendo trip in New Zealand plus some tour. I would loooove to go back there again.

    By Blogger Vivian Yung, at Monday, August 11, 2008 11:27:00 PM  

  • Back on track! It is nice to see your posts once again! I really enjoyed all the way, what a great experience!

    The speech given by Inoue sensei is priceless. I'd like to translate to Spanish to share whith my fellow kendoka here, if it's ok to do so.

    It's so nice to keiko in such a big and nice place, full of people. It really "charges you up" ^_^

    Congrats to you, your studies seem to go very well, since you put a lot of effort in it. That's so great!!

    On the good news side, Kubo sensei is returning to Uruguay next year...yay!!!

    Looking forward to your next post!

    By Blogger Leon, at Tuesday, August 12, 2008 1:56:00 AM  

  • Hey Leon,

    Thanks for the comment. Yes, it is nice for me to come back to blogging after a long break.

    Feel free to translate that speech and share it with your kendo friends. It is a beautiful speech that should be shared around.

    Great to hear that Kubo Sensei has decided to go back to Uraguay next year. You guys must have practiced hard to attract him back again.

    Look forward to hear more from you.

    By Blogger Vivian Yung, at Saturday, August 16, 2008 5:52:00 PM  

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