a MMB! Kendo Blog: 34AKC - Shomen ni... Rei

MMB! Kendo Blog

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

忍耐 + 掌握人生
34AKC - Shomen ni... Rei

Lead-up to the Nationals
There have been some ups and downs in the weeks leading up to the nationals. Since being selected onto the Australian Team in late February for the upcoming world championships in Brazil, I was so determined to improve my kendo and eliminate every single weakness in my kendo, I pulled my kendo apart so much that I felt so despair I could not reckonise my own kendo anymore. That was just 3 weeks before the nationals. In the end, I told myself to just let it go, don't force myself too much, and forget about fixing everything. And I was able to enjoy training once again.

I was glad that the last two training in the final week before the championships ended up well, which made me felt prepared and ready for the weekend. Like my last State Championships preparation, I adjusted my diet and tapered my gym training in the last week to gear up for the weekend. Unlike the State Championships, however, I had to juggle my kendo training with the demanding university study load, I really didn't have any seconds to lay idle and daydream. To be honest, my head was racing a hundred million miles all the time... juggling to keep my balance.

I arrived to Adelaide on Friday, and my two dojo mates, Kassandra and Twins kindly picked me up from the airport. We had an early dinner in Chinatown, and I ate a yummy BBQ pork (cha siu) rice dish, and ordered a fried rice for takeaway. As many of you would already know, I need lots and lots of rice before my competition to keep me energised throughout the competition. I actually brought two boxes of fried rice from Sydney to Adelaide for breakfast and lunch on my first day of competition, and this takeaway would be for my Sunday morning breakfast.

Oh, and I also had an almond bubble tea. Oh so yummy. And everything is so cheap in Adelaide. It was just great!

Rice Rice Baby! Now, I am all set!

Sat, 11 April 2009 - Women's Individuals

The NSW Team

The Championships kicked off with the Kyu Individuals immediately after the Opening Ceremony. There were some really fantastic matches, with two NSW players advancing to the later stages of the competition. Walter Chung handled his matches well and calmly, and scored some beautiful points, especially a semete-debana kote in one of his matches. Luke Lee from my club started off slowly, but improving game by game, showing the strong attacks that we all knew he was capable of doing. His match with Yehuda from WA was a joy to watch. Yehuda's strong and fluid footworks really impressed me. It was a pleasure to see such nice kendo from our kyu players in Australia. Luke eventually overcame all obstacles and clinched the national kyu title. Well done, Luke, for defending the national title!

The women's individuals began following the conclusion of the kyu individuals event. I was in the last pool on my court and didn't have to put my men on for quite some time. While the first few pool matches were going on, Greg from Qld came over and said they have prepared a secret weapon, which would not be easy for me. He was referring to Shizuka from Qld. I have never played against Shizuka before, but I have seen her observing the national squad training from time to time, and I knew she was a good player.

In any case, in response to Greg's secret weapon revelation, I told him that I was a weapon of mass destruction. =P

I was feeling very happy throughout the morning, and really ready to take on anyone who came up to fight me. Maybe it was a combination of good weather, good venue, yummy fried rice for breakfast, and my nice teammates or even people from other states who supported and reassured me that I could do it. But one thing that definitely helped me feeling light and energised was when I was trying to find ways to lift Luke up from feeling slow and heavy in his earlier pool-matches. I suddenly came up with this idea of feeling like a boxer - light on the foot yet powerful with the punches. That idea just clicked perfectly with me. The moment I thought about it, I could feel my whole body so powerful and ready. So, I told that idea to Luke and it seemed to work magic on him too!

Waiting for my first women's individual pool match
(photo taken by Ray Kato)

My first pool match was against Stibbe from SA. I was fortunate to score two quick men cuts to conserve some energy for my next match. And lucky I did, because Greg was right, the secret weapon from Qld was a really tough one.

Both Shizuka and myself were attacking and defending very cautiously. However, I made a serious mistake in mis-judging the court boundary, and wrongly presumed that the basketball shooting ring was the centre of the court. This misjudgement caused me to make two jogai hansoku well into the half-way point of the match. When I was walking back to the starting line after making the second hansoku, the terrible thought of 'could this be how my championships campaign end?' came to me.

With one point against me, I realised that I must quickly do something to score a point as there were not much time left on the clock. And thankfully, I scored a hiki-men just moments later to equalise. Phew!!! Not long after, encho was called, and our cautious game continued.

With the earlier jogai hansoku mistakes, I have learnt to use the court boundary to my full advantage. I was able to inch Shizuka step by step out of the court by closing in the gap every time she voluntarily stepped back. So hansoku #1 to my favour. Although it wasn't my plan to win with two hansoku, Shizuka subsequently stepped out of the court again which converted a point to me. So I narrowly got out of my pool. Although it was not the most beautiful way, I was glad I made it through.

In the quater-final, I was able to score an early tobikomi-men against Sharyn of ACT, and managed to hold that point all the way to the final whistle to advance to the semi-final, where I faced Daseul, who won her super long encho pool match against Susan from WA earlier in the day.

Daseul and I have played against each other so many times that we knew each other's kendo almost intimately. So I was expecting a very tough and long fight, possibly going into long encho. However, I knew I was full of energy (thanks to the rice), my mind was all set and ready for a tough fight no matter how long it would turn out to be. Luckily, I was able to score an early break with a hiki-men, which later proved to be the winning point to advance me into my first ever national individual final.

It was great to play my first individual final match against Kate the Bulldog - my long-time friend of great rivalry. However, it didn't start off as smoothly as I would have expected... In all final matches, all the shinpan and competitors on court must turn to bow to the shomen at the beginning of the match. So, when the chief shinpan called "Shomen ni... rei", I turned and bowed. But after I bowed, I didn't quite understand why Kassandra, who was behind the row of video-cameras on the audience side, was jumping up and down, and her finger pointing across the hall... it must have been a few seconds until someone yelled, "Vivian, the other way"!

Oh my goodness, I bowed to the wrong side of the hall. When I turned around, I was trying to search for the face expressions on the two 8 Dan Sensei. How embarrassing it was! I think the Sensei were more amused than anything else, while I was scratching my head through my kote and men... oh oh oh, this is probably the biggest oops moment in my kendo career.

When I turned to face Kate just before we did the mutual rei, I could see Kate was nodding up and down. I wasn't sure if Kate was trying to reassure me that it was okay, or if she was giggling behind her men. (Well, I was able to confirm with her later that evening that it was the later. hhhhhh) And you would have guessed, I got teased over and over throughout the championships for that.

After all the initial drama, I was finally able to play in my first individual final. From the very beginning, I could feel Kate was exerting a lot more attacking pressure than most before in both isoku-ito-no-maai or tsubazerai. When she unbalanced me momentarily in tsubazerai shortly after the start of the match, I knew I must stay on-guard every moment and played exceptionally well if I want to win. There were more attacks in this match, and it was also a cleaner match than my earlier matches so I really enjoyed every moment of this final. I was fortunate to score a nuki-men early in the match and was planning to hold on to this point safely to the final whistle. But then an opportunity came... we were both in isoku-ito-no-maai, and I could feel that we were building up for an all-out attack. And when that moment came, we both launched into aiuchi-men. I could hear the crowd roaring, and I looked at the chief judge's flag. It's my flag...

OHHHH! I have just won the national title!!! So many years of trying but falling over in the last hurdle, and now finally, finally, to win it.... It now tasted so sweet and beautiful.

Thank you to all of you who have always supported me, encouraged me and believed in me that I could do this in all these years. This win meant more to me than the ippons I scored in my matches on the day. The continuous support and warm feeling that I got from my friends to help me get through and clear all the hurdles, made this win especially sweet. Thank you to you all from the bottom of my heart.

With the conclusion of the women's individuals, I had the rest of the first day free to watch and support my teammates. NSW did very well by gaining 3 spots in the top 4. Ka-bi came second in an extremely electrifying match against Tani from WA. Jonathan Cross Sensei from my club and Michael Henstock from UNSW came equal thirds. And Jayson from my club played some really nice strong kendo which eventually earned him a fighting spirit award in the tournament. YAY for a great performance from NSW and my club on the first day of the competition.

Lining up to receive my first national individual title
(photo taken by Ray Kato)

Sun, 12 April 2009 - Women's Team
Apart from the veteran's individuals, which Toshio from my club won the final using nito, it was a full day of team competition.

The NSW women's team, consisted of Mrs. Cross, Daseul and myself with Shoko as our coach, had a good warm-up 30 mins before the scheduled start of the women's team event. Our first match was against WA. Mrs. Cross won the senpo match to give NSW a good start, and Daseul was able to hold on to the lead by forcing a draw against Susan in the chuken match. I was able to win the taisho match with a tobikomi-men and a kote-men to move the team into the final against Victoria.

Victoria has traditionally been 'the team to beat' when it came to the women's team event. And my team knew that if we wanted to win, we had got to play some really good kendo to stand a chance.

It was a tough start for our team when Mrs. Cross conceded a point early in her senpo match. But she kept fighting back with strong spirit and determination while her opponent was trying to protect the point. Her perseverance was eventually awarded when she landed a big strong men cut. After that, the whole game dynamic changed, and she was in control of the game and won her match with another men cut. And so, NSW took an early lead in the final.

In the chuken match, Daseul played an extremely impressive tactical game. She was utilising her strong seme to draw her opponent into attacks which she countered with a men cut to take the first ippon. In the second point, she did a very powerful uchiotoshi-men to give NSW an overall 2-0 lead, and sealed the team victory.

As the NSW team has already won regardless of the outcome of my taisho match, I was able to go into my taisho match without pressure, which ended up as a draw.

It was so good to be able to defend the team title once again, and especially that we have trained so hard together in the past few months. Thanks to Shoko, our coach who set up the training programs for the girls and made us a great team.

NSW Women Team with the Ron Bennett Team Victory Banner
(photo taken by Ray Kato)

At the end the championships, we had a goudou-geiko, and I had one keiko opportunity with Meguro Daisaku Sensei (目黒大作 範士) Hanshi 8 Dan. He gave me some really useful feedback about my attacks. He said that I launched my men cut as soon as I got into my attacking zone, so the timing was very predictable. However, if I could hold my cut and vary my attacking timing, it would make my game a whole lot more complex and unpredictable.

Championships Group Photo
(photo taken by Ray Kato)

Zoom-in of the Championships Group Photo
(photo taken by Ray Kato)

Mon & Tue, 13-14 April 2009 -National Seminar
Meguro Daisaku Hanshi and Mochizuki Teruo Sensei 8 Dan Kyoshi conducted the two-day national seminar. The aim of the seminar was to introduce various methods of teaching kendo, and to make kendo practice more interesting by being creative. And the two Sensei introduced us to several great ideas which I am so keen to try them out back in my club.

Here, I have picked out some of the more interesting points I got from the seminar:
  • Modified hayasuburi: the goal of this exercise is to bring the left foot up as quickly as possible during a strike. The starting position is with right foot a step in front of the left with weight on the right foot, and the arms in normal chudan-no-kamae. The exercise is to bring the left foot up while the arms make a kihon men cut. When doing this modified hayasuburi continuously, the left foot will move up and back quickly as one makes the kihon men cut. The right foot remains at the same spot throughout this exercise.
  • Debana-kote exercise with tenugui: the goal of this exercise is to teach the player how to strike debana-kote using a small and quick snap of the shinai. First, fold the tenugui into halves several times and then place it at the tip of the shinai. And then hold chudan-no-kamae. The exercise is to slightly flick the shinai up, and quickly strike the tenugui while it is still up in the air.
  • Tsubazerai exercise: the goal of this exercise is to get the players to experiment with the possible reactions that one can gain from his/her opponent by pushing or applying pressure on the opponent's kote in different direction. The exercise is done in a pair, and both sides practice the exercise at the same time. There is no need to actually make a strike, as the goal of this exercise is to appreciate the possible reactions gained in response to a pressure applied on the opponent's kote.
Kunio Shizawa Sensei Trophy on the left,
the individual trophy I get to keep on my right,
and the women's team championships medal


  • Fantastic result and congratulations again Vivian~

    Thank you for the very detailed breakdown of the event and the observations you made, along with the summation of the seminar also. I hope you don't mind but I will post a link to your blog on our club site because I found it to be so informative, especially the tenugui debana kote exercise.

    Wishing you all the best for your continued prep for the World Champs ^_^v

    By Blogger Don, at Thursday, April 16, 2009 8:21:00 AM  

  • Thank you for your kind messages and well wishes, Don. Please feel free to post the link, and also try the exercises that were taught by the Sensei at the seminar. I hope the descriptions make sense. If not, let me know, and I will try to describe in another way.

    By Blogger Vivian Yung, at Thursday, April 16, 2009 1:29:00 PM  

  • Hi Vivian,

    I get the debana kote and the tsubazeriai exercise, but I can't fully visualise/understand the modified hayasuburi exercise.

    Does it mean that your right foot doesn't even lift the ground? Or that the right foot jumps up and down but the left foot moves backwards and forwards as normal? The footwork is confusing me in the timing with making the cut.

    >_< sorry if I don't make sense.

    By Blogger Don, at Friday, April 17, 2009 4:14:00 PM  

  • In the modified hayasuburi exercise, the focus is on bringing the left foot swiftly during a strike. So, we simplified all other things, with the right foot maintaining its contact with the ground at all time (i.e. so no need to move / lift right foot off the ground).

    Starting position: left and right foot have a step gap in between. Hands in normal chudan-no-kamae.

    Exercise: bring the left foot up swiftly when the shinai strikes. Return to starting position, and repeat exercise again.

    By Blogger Vivian Yung, at Friday, April 17, 2009 5:55:00 PM  

  • Oh. So when you make the kihon swing, it should be men or kote or it doesn't matter?

    I found that I'm bobbing a little bit with my head position up and down as I bring the left foot forward and back, does that mean I am taking too big a step size? It sounds simple, but it's actually a little tricker lol. Your new explanation certainly was good ^_^

    By Blogger Don, at Saturday, April 18, 2009 1:26:00 AM  

  • It doesn't matter whether you strike men or kote in this exercise.

    The larger the step, the more demanding it is to bring the left foot up swiftly, as you need to cover more distance in the same amount of time.

    By Blogger Vivian Yung, at Saturday, April 18, 2009 8:43:00 AM  

  • Well well!! You're back to blogging! Some interesting stuff going on! But first...


    You've worked very hard for that national title. I could feel the thrill of the encounter even reading about it "oh! she got the aimen ippon!"

    And grats also on that great team play!

    The advice sensei told you was great..though a tough one to accomplish.

    See ya in Brazil!

    By Blogger Leon, at Tuesday, May 05, 2009 11:09:00 PM  

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