Andoru's Kendo Blog

Monday, January 31, 2005

Happy 1st Anniversary!

Today I celebrate my first year anniversary in kendo. ^_^

It seems like yesterday when I first stepped into the dojo of Sydney Kendo Club. 31st Jan 2004....such a memorable day for me. I was the only raw beginner then, and my first instructor was Sano sensei. So it's fitting that I visited UNSW tonight for keiko under him again. Tonight's training was meant to farewell Futoshi too.

Though it seems like yesterday when I first started kendo...2004 has been a very long kendo year. Loads and loads of things have happened.

I really enjoy kendo. Out of karate and aikido, I like kendo the best. The ideology behind kendo fits me very well indeed. Besides, I get to make lots of new friends!

My only regret is not to have started kendo sooner. In high school, I remember reading this japanese manga about kendo but I didn't know about kendo at that time. In 2000, I watched the National Geographics documentary on the hachidan grading which piqued my interest but unfortunately I didn't enquire further. Better late than never I suppose.'s to many more years of kendo! Gambate kudasai!! ^_^

Saturday, January 29, 2005

We are family!

Ahh it's been a week since my last training. I opted to spend more time with my girlfriend after doing 10 trainings in 14 days prior. The change has been good - I was definitely more relaxed and had more energy.

The dojo was packed out today! Loads of people! Quite a few from UNSWKC too! It's great to be practising with so many people as I get to watch and learn from them. With so many people, I only get to jigeiko 3 times. Oh least I get to jigeiko our new Japanese visitor and sensei who will be here for 2 more months.

Lately I've paid alot of attention in footwork. I found that it's more efficient if the forward movement is as horizontal i.e. parralel to the floor as possible. My right foot tended to go upward as I moved and that might have caused me some speed as well as stride distance. To rectify that I've been doing heaps of footwork in my apartment, with fumikomi too. Thank goodness our neighbour below us haven't made a complaint. ^_^

I think that my men-kaeshi-doh is coming along okayish. The first part of the movement, blocking the men cut is quite natural now. The problem is with the doh cut afterwards - I use too much right hand. Must learn to use more left hand. Must learn from Eiga Naoki!

Lunch afterwards at Black Cow was packed out! They couldn't handle so many of us!

Oh yeah - my sempai Vivian has her own kendo blog too. I learn alot by watching her play. Her blog is at

Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Power of Gatorade

10 training sessions in 14 days - I'm buggered! Time for some well earned recovery time I think.

Morning's training at Willoughby was so-so. I wasn't able to cut men straight, which was frustrating. Nevertheless, there were plenty of encouragements from Sano, Itakura and Payne senseis, all of whom I had the opportunity to jigeiko. Even so, I couldn't help but to feel dejected a wee bit. I wore the double-layer keikogi so that I could reserve the single-layer keikogi for the afternoon squad training. By wearing the double-layer keikogi, my body temperature soared at one stage which caused me some degree of physical hardship. In fact, I noticed that the hotter it gets, the higher my resting heartbeat. I wonder how my sempai Vivian does it day in and out.

The first 30 minutes or so of the squad training was the hardest. Perhaps my body hasn't had the time to absorb the food and drinks that I'd consumed earlier. I felt exhausted but I pushed myself anyway. Midway through the training, when shiai-geiko was about to start, I started to feel stronger. I attribute that to the Power of the Gatorade! All of us kyu grades lined up against the dan grades - Toshio, Vivian, Mike and Doug - for shiai-geiko. I played Toshio and Doug and felt confident, a nice change from how I felt in the morning. Payne sensei then selected 6 other kyu grades to join the dan grades for team shiai-geiko. I was in Vivian's team and played the 3rd position, which is known as chuken. My opponent was Mike. Though deep down inside I did expect to lose, I was determined to try my best regardless. Anyway, I gave my best but wasn't able to beat the current national kyu champion, losing to his famous semete-men twice. Good thing is that I noticed I wasn't as tired this time around as compared to my shiai-geiko against Chris. Mike gave some good pointers after training so it's all good.

Things I've learned today:

  1. When cutting men, make sure that it's one step one cut when I intended it. I noticed that my footwork hasn't been doing that today. Instead, it's like a mini nidan-waza. My left leg seems to shuffle twice before the cut. Bah!
  2. Put more oomph into the cut. Move that hip!
  3. Use less right hand!
  4. When cutting kote, try to cut straight down instead of cutting it at an angle.
  5. Don't delay when executing hiki waza, as corretly pointed out by Vivian.
I'm blessed by good senseis and sempais. ^_^

Thursday, January 20, 2005

I need more power, Scotty!

I died many many times at training at UNSWKC tonight. The lack of physical fitness continues to plaque me. I have to, in fact, I need to believe that my fitness will only get better each time I died like that.

Monday, January 17, 2005

The Benefits of being a Kendo Slut

Kendo slut:
  • a kendo freak who trains everywhere
UNSWKC (Monday 17 Jan 2005):

Was feeling restless so I decided to go for training at Uni of New South Wales Kendo Club, much to my girlfriend's chagrin.

Training was fantastic! The main component of it was focused on executing proper migi and hidari men cuts in kiri-kaeshi. Sano sensei slowed the class right down so that we could take the time to execute each cut properly. We did doh kiri-kaeshi as well in this fashion. Payne sensei has often said that one can easily tell a person's kendo abilities just by watching that person's kiri-kaeshi. Therefore, it is excellent training indeed to slow it right down so we could work on improving the cuts. Last night's training complements the training I received from Strenger sensei in December 2004 t the Hornsby dojo when we learned how to execute and receive tai-atari in kiri-kaeshi. Ah the benefits of a kendo slut!!

In jigeiko, I experimented with footwork a lot more. The bouts that I remember the most are between Dino (club president) and Hashimoto snr. Dino and I basically focused on keeping centre and trying to create opportunities via seme - the bout was mentally challenging indeed. It also gave me the opportunity to train with a taller person coz that allows me to experiment with maai as it's harder to reach their men! Hashimoto snr taught me not to flinch at tsubazeriai by creative use of timing (ouch my men!). My opponents scored more ippons against me than I against them. Nevertheless, I feel very much enriched by these experiences. After all, it has been said many times that we must be cut so that we can learn to cut.

A very enriching keiko indeed!

Sunday, January 16, 2005

The Essence of Jigeiko

Saturday (15th January 2005):

2 trainings today - regular training in the morning at Willoughby and state kyu squad training in the afternoon at Broadway.

Kirby Smith (current NSW, ACT and Australian kendo champion) honoured us with a rare visit to Sydney Kendo Club in the morning. Naturally, I selected him to be my motodachi as it's a rare opportunity. Waza training with him was excellent! He tried to simulate the realities of a kendo shiai/jigeiko and got us all fired up! In jodan, his cuts are so quick! Outside kendo, he is such a supportive and approachable person. We're so lucky to have him in Australia.

I also took the opportunity to jigeiko Sano sensei, determined to push myself hard. That must have been the longest jigeiko of my life! I tried to relax as much as I can, but exhaustion sets in nonetheless and I found myself breathing hard and gasping for breath at certain stage. I suppose the breathing part was quite okay, but my arms were definitely buggered. He did not let me finish until I've scored a proper ippon on him. My body was so broken down by then that it took me almost 10 mins to recover sufficiently for another jigeiko. I remember removing my men to wipe the stinging sweat from my eyes, and found that my arms were so exhausted that I found it quite a challenge to re-tie the men himo. Nevertheless, I am very glad to have been instructed by Sano sensei and happy in a way because I survived. Now I find myself yearning for more....because I know it's good for me. I even lined up to jigeiko Payne sensei, but didn't get to eventually because he decided that he's had enough before my turn - I should have accepted Vivian's invitation to jigeiko her (someone I will never say no to coz I learn heaps each time) .

I spoke to Sano sensei after keiko about the physical challenges in kendo and he gave me some really good advice. He said that one does one's best kendo when one's tired. It's easy to whack around with gusto when energetic, but what happens when you get tired, he asked? We must try to jigeiko to the point where we're completely exhausted, and then we'll have to endeavour to push ourselves to execute proper cuts. That's the essence of jigeiko, he added. I didn't really understand at first, I must admit. I thought about it quite often and I believe that I finally understand what he means. Kendo is about developing one's character through the applications of the katana. When we get tired in jigeiko, we try and try to push ourselves - that's character building because we have to overcome physical and mental challenges in order to do so. We become stronger not only physically but also in ki as a result. We can then apply what we have developed in everyday life. This is singularly the most important lesson I've learnt on Saturday.

I found myself pushing hard during the state kyu squad training in the afternoon as a result of Sano sensei's influence. I enjoyed every bit of it. My legs (especially ankles) were heavily stained by the indigo dye of the hakama - proof that I've worked my butt off. In the second half of the training, we were separated into 2 teams led separately by Vivian Yung and Mike Henstock (both are shodan and ex-members of the NSW Kyu Team) - Taisho (team captain) for both team. I was assigned position #1, which I later discovered from this thread to be Senpo. This position is important as the quality of play sets the tone for the shiai - play good and team morale is lifted, and vice versa. Anyway, Vivian picked Chris Barbe (my dojo-mate) to be the senpo of her team. Chris is taller and bigger than me, competing against him has always been hard due to his tai-atari. I tried my best and scored 2 debana-kote (thanks to Master Kim's instructions) while Chris scored a doh on me. Wasted heaps of energy trying to get away from Chris's tai-atari. Anyway, I was relieved that I won that match.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Willougby Dojo (Wed, 12 Jan 2005):

Ah the first training of 2005 in this dojo! Boy do I miss it! I can sense the joy jolting through the masses that kendo is finally back on the menu after 3 weeks absence! Training was great! I was glad to be back there! Got Vivian as my motodachi which was a real plus as well!

SBS Radio turned up at the training for interviews too. Payne sensei was teaching, so he couldn't do an interview, and Doug passed it on to me. So I missed kata practice and talked kendo for about 15 mins. Standard questions: what is kendo? where does kendo originate and how? what are the target areas etc. The interview was recorded so I hope I don't get misquoted. The interview continued after training for about 10 mins as well. The interviewer also interviewed Payne sensei and some of the other guys after training. He actually stayed for the entire training, recording sounds, interviewing people, taking photos etc. Luckily no UNSWKC people were there to "contaminate" the pictures! :D

Will post a link once it's up on the SBS website.

UNSW Dojo (Thurs, 13 Jan 2005):

I woke up with a bad headache that continued to the evening. Besides making me less productive during the day, I also feel quite lethargic. I took panadol, neurofen, had a couple of naps with 0% success. That totally cheesed me off!

And so I entered UNSW dojo with trepidation (and 30 mins late) not knowing what to expect. You see, the dojo is really well suited for stamina training. There is hardly any airflow, and humid as hell. Perfect conditions for a workout. Reminds me of how chinese olympic swimmers train for competition - by swimming upstream against strong current in the river.

With my conditions, I was disappointed with the training outcome. The instructions were excellent, it's just that during jigeiko I was tired after 3 rounds or so. I can feel the sweat trickling down my legs as I struggle to maintain kamae. To add salt to the wound, I had to jigeiko Sano sensei and I feel that I have disappointed him because I wasn't able to do my best. My footwork was messy as hell and I didn't even attempt to create openings as much as I'd wanted. the saying goes...the spirit is willing but the body is weak.

Sano sensei jokingly said to me after keiko that UNSWKC members never get tired. I have to acknowledge that that statement actually contains a good deal of truth. Physical conditioning remains a major challenge for me, and I reckon that it'd be a major stumbling block in my kendo journey unless I do something about it. I'm getting tired of the fact that it's often the physical side of things which have let me down. I have come to realise that, in order for me to improve myself physically, I'd have to go to UNSWKC every Thursday, when the advanced class is held. There is a scheduling problem though - it'd be unfair for my gf if I go to trainings on 3 consecutive nights i.e. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, plus of course the Saturday training at Willoughby. Sigh I have to do some serious thinking about this.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Kendo and Mortality

Master Kim session #3:

Master Kim announced to the class before the start that the teacher who drowned in this article was the guy we all knew. In fact, when I first visited that dojo 2 mondays ago, that guy was my training partner. Yet I don't know his name and now he's dead.

Master Kim told us that he's one of his close students, and that he was a buddhist sensei in life and teached at his own temple. It's so fitting that he would die this way - by selfless sacrifice to save another. After all, in buddhism, death is just one path. Then there's reincarnation.

Whatever it is, it has affected me not by a small degree. Some people said that death is as natural as birth, though I don't think I'll ever understand it. Sigh.

Training was good as usual. Not physically hard, but tough mentally. I had to rethink alot of my movements, which is a good thing as I've been shown ways to improve. Mike, from UNSW Kendo Club, joined us for keiko. This training's emphasis is on focussing the back and hip to drive ourselves forward. We did this exercise in which we would bend our body backwards first so that the hips is more forward than the upper torse then drive forward for a men cut. That way, we'd get to appreciate hip and back movements. I didn't understand it at first, but it's getting clearer now. I suppose that many kendoka push themselves forward with their upper torsos more than their hips, thus compromising posture. Morever, as Master Kim explained, cuts can be executed quicker and more powerful if the drive is proper and strong, and also minimises counter-attacks from opponents as we'd be much quicker in closing the maai.

We practised both forms of debana kote again and I sucked. I overanalysed things when I should be relaxed. Master Kim used Mohammed Ali as an example: float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!! He said that we have to try to stay relaxed, yet focused at the same time. Better execution of techniques can only be achieved from a body which is relaxed rather than one which is stiff. I must remember that.

In other news, Taek, Master Kim, Mike and myself are buying a kaku obi to help us breathe better and also to emphasize the seika-tanden.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Kendo at last!

Master Kim session #1:

After a kendo hiatus of 13 days (not by choice mind you as the dojos were closed), I visited Master Kim's dojang in Artarmon (1 street from my apartment) last Tuesday for the first training of the new year. There were 2 beginners there, plus Master Kim and Jimmy Kim, as well as members of the SKC Doug, Johnny and Taek.

The focus that night was kote, debana kote more specifically. He taught us the technique in such fine details. The individual feedbacks from Master Kim were fabulous too! He reminded us to drive ourselves using our back and hip. We sweated buckets. It was a good start to the kendo year.

Master Kim emphasises the 2 critical elements of kendo i.e. (1) Maai, (2) Center. He said that we must strive to make our own distance, otherwise we wouldn't be in the right maai to execute a proper cut. We must also be quick to adapt to maai changes, he added.

NSW kendokas are very lucky indeed. We get to train anywhere regardless of whether it's a kendo or a kumdo dojo. We get to benefit from the advice of different senseis.

Master Kim session #2:

I like to write about training at Master Kim's dojo because of the amount of stuff we learned at each training. Of course I was back there again last night along with the usual people less Doug (wife commitments).

There were no jigeiko this week - I can now understand that the 2 trainings I'd been to so far were targetted at perfecting a certain technique, which in this case is debana kote. Though it's the main focus, Master Kim got us to do other drills to improve our speed, especially in nidan waza. We started doing men cuts actually - but it's more uchikomi style. Basically, you cut in reaction to your opponent's movement, which in this case is simple one step forward movement, or a body dip commonly seen before an impending attack. Master Kim said that we must exploit moments when opponents least expect an attack from us, for example, when he/she is moving forward or in preparation to attack us. Also, it is a possible sign of a debana opening, especially the body dip commonly observed.

Once the uchikomi-men drills were complete, we proceeded to do not just 1 but 3 types of kote-men. The first one is executed from the outside similar to the kihon kote-men, but we did super small cuts and it has to be super fast. The next one is executed from the inside, as in, we commenced the waza by seme before dipping the kensen of our shinai below the opponent's and lifting it up very slightly to cut kote, which is very swiftly followed by men. Master Kim explained that in this technique, our seme may confuse our opponent to expect an impending men cut, hence he/she may lift the shinai to protect the men, hence opening up his/her kote nicely. Once the opponent realised that it's a kote cut, he/she may try to block it, hence opening up men. Of course, as Master Kim explained, the choice of doing just the 1 cut or2 cuts as in nidan waza is entirely up to the situation. If the cut to kote is successful, don't have to worry about men. The third and final type of nidan waza is very similar to the second one. Nidan waza is executed from the outside, with a small pause between the kote and men cuts. If we strike kote and the opponent tries to block it, a tiny pause might confuse the opponent further and opens up the men even more. 45 mins of those drills. 10 times each. We received loads and loads of quality feedback. Master Kim reminded us that when we propel ourselves forward, we must use our hip and back, like a frog.

The rest of the training is debana kote type 1 (of which there are 2), which is executed from the outside. We formed 1 line and took turns executing debana kote against different opponents who cut men. Master Kim told us that all of us must master the essence of this technique in this keiko. *gulp* He was very helpful, showing us in slow motion etc and giving us very good tips. He explained that debana kote is not a reactive waza - by the time we react to an opponent's cut, we've already lost the debana moment. Instead, we must expect the opponent's cut to come so as to know precisely when to execute debana kote, he added. In fact, a good debana kote attack starts from the mind, he said. Also, don't be stiff, be a butterfly and use light footwork and wrist movements, but with strong tenouchi and good posture always. Only move after we've cut with proper zanshin and never be afraid. I think I got the hang of it after doing it so many times. Can't wait to give it a go in jigeiko.

The feelings afterwards..I suppose we were all in awe and very pleasantly shocked. I could feel that my debana kote cuts have improved markedly in just 2 trainings. I'm sure Taek, Johnny and the rest of the guys felt that way too. Next Tuesday, we practise debana kote type 2. Can't wait.

Last night also spelled my first attempt at "freedom kendo" i.e. nothing under the hakama. All I can say is....FREE WILLY!!! Last night was the night Andoru went commando in training and he hasn't look back since.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Fumikomi and length of stride

Got to try this:

Two things you can try: first, incorporate a lunge stretch into your warmups. Hold your shinai horizontally across the small of your back and stretch out with one foot forward and the other back. The forward leg should be bent at a right angle, shin vertical. The back leg can have the heel up, but the feet should be straight. Keep your back straight. Twist towards the front leg (to the right with right foot forward) and push into the small of your back with the shinai.

Second, from the same position stretched out, but this time with a target in front. Hold the shinai tip on the target as if you'd just hit it, arms straight (whoever is holding or being the target should help adjust distance). Make sure you're good and stretched out, thigh horizontal. Keeping your left foot in place, draw back into chudan kamae. Now attack the same target, and when you hit freeze into the stretched out position (no follow-through). Check yourself for straight back, straight feet, straight arms. Rinse, lather, repeat. After maybe 10 reps, hit the target and follow through.
Written by Neil Gendzwill sensei in this thread.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

2005 - Year of the Rooster

Happy New Year!

2004 has been a good kendo year. Things I want to focus in 2005:

  • kihon, kihon and more kihon;
  • strengthen kamae and posture;
  • don't let left hand wander from hara;
  • improve footwork! Hopefully with hard keiko it will be come more fluid and dynamic;
  • Tsubazeriai! Work on that;
  • work on waza and try to incorporate them into jigeiko as much as possible;
  • be more perceptive to opportunies and,
  • improve the mind so as to be able to capitalise on opportunies efficiently and quickly; shin-ki-ryoku-itchi!
  • always endeavour to do good kendo no matter what;
  • always try my best!
  • and of course: ki-ken-tai-no-itchi
Gambatte kudasai!