Andoru's Kendo Blog

Monday, February 28, 2005

I Survived!

Ahh Monday training at Pyrmont. Used to be scared thinking about it. You see, my past experiences at that place had not been, for the lack of a better word, memorable. It's advanced class after all, and I suppose I wasn't advanced enough then.

The training structure at Pyrmont is highly rigid. No warm-ups, no bullshit. It's 100% jigeiko mawari-geiko style, with senseis at one end. No rest too, unless of course there is an odd one out.

With the impending Nationals only 3 weeks away, I thought that perhaps it's time for me to return to Pyrmont for a good keiko. My last visit was like September, and I was 6th kyu then. Eventhough I'm now 3rd kyu, I wasn't so sure if I was really good enough to go. So I asked Taek about it, and he reckoned that I should have been training there ages ago. That made me feel more mentally prepared. I managed to convince Rick to go with me.

It was good training and we both survived the 1 hour jigeiko (with a 5 min break as the odd one out). For my first jigeiko I was up against Itakura sensei, then it was Payne sensei. I tried to conserve strength for good ippons rather than simply whacking around. I was able to handle the aerobic strain well as I tried to relax as much as possible. Certain parts of my body began to ache after about 30 mins though. The gluteaus and to a small extent the lower back began to show some strain. However, I'm comforted by the thought that they will strengthen overtime.

I believe that I was able to hold my own in there, though Nishimoto with his jodan whacked me silly. And I had to face him....twice. I wasn't able to try many different things with him due to space limitation, but I did try to katate-tsuki him. :D

Anyway, I will make Pyrmont a regular training from now on.

Saturday, February 26, 2005


Ahhh what a muggy Sat morning! Humid as hell...sweated buckets even before keiko started. -_-" Ben Sheppard sensei visited us at SKC - he was my motodachi and I learned heaps from him.

At the kyu squad training, we practised reigi - how to step into the shiai-jo, how to bow and sonkyo with SPIRIT. It's important to project kigurai even before the shai starts.

No back ache whatsoever...was able to do shiai-geiko without any physical issue. I actually felt strong!

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Power of an Osteo/Chiro

Since wearing bogu almost a year ago, I've been plagued by mid and lower back pains and aches from time to time.

It worsened 2 weeks ago. At the kyu squad training jigeiko, I wasn't able to hold kamae properly due to the pain.

So I decided to pay my first visit to A Body Of Work, which treated my sempai Catherine, Taek and of course my friend Natalia. Since they've had experience treating kendoka, it made sense that I ought go to the same place.

I've never been treated by an osteo or a chiro before, and must admit that I wasn't sure if it was going to mitigate my ailments. Apparently the practitioners are well versed in both osteo and chiro - I did feel like I would be in good hands. And good hands indeed - I absolutely love the session! Apparently my spine had been out of line, and maybe pinching on some nerves. She cracked my vertebrae one by one and I felt instant relief! In fact, I felt an improvement in lung capacity right away! Breathing was so much smoother!

Money well spent indeed!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

30 Days to go!

30 days until the Australian National Kendo Championships. I must train even harder and with more diligence over the coming weeks. It's a privilege to represent the state of New South Wales in the individuals, and I want to play well so I stand a chance to be selected for the NSW Kyu Team. I will try my best no matter what.


Monday, February 21, 2005


A quick post to remind myself on what I should focus on:

(1) Footwork - not "heavy" kendo for goodness's sake
(2) BAM! All cuts should be like that.
(3) Don't overplay the shinai as opponent may take advantage.
(4) Tsubazeriai. Do something dammit!
(5) Oji waza. Not just men-kaeshi-doh you know.
(6) Kigurai. Where's your "presence"?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Art of Breaking Center

Saturday 12th Feb 2005 - NSW Kyu Squad Training

Today's focus was about working on those techniques to break opponent's center. Payne sensei got us working on many different types of waza, some quite unusual to boot. In terms of positive physical actions to break opponent's center, I can think of the following:

(1) Harai (omote and ura)
(2) Uchi-otoshi (omote and ura)
(3) Harai-n-uchiotoshi [2 movement waza] (omote and ura)
(4) Whisk (omote and ura)
(5) Whisk-n-Press (omote and ura) -> my favourite
(6) Press (omote and ura)
(7) Maki-gome (the "circular" waza)

Depending on where opponent's shinai is relative to you, certain waza works better. For example, if opponent's shinai is pointing low, then uchi-otoshi or press techniques (omote side is easier) work better then say harai waza. The converse is true if opponent's shinai is pointing higher than usual.

Master Kim also taught us to move left/right to capitalise on opponent's improperly positioned shinai as well. Example: move left then execute harai-kote (ura).

The footwork underlying these techniques are crucial of course. We used either 1 step or 2 step footwork according to situation.

We practised quite many of those techniques - excellent training indeed. Too bad you missed out, Anna. :D

Payne sensei taught us this waza that was weird (at first) but really cool. At issoku-itto-no-maai, step forward using the *left* foot, and at the same time whisk-n-press from the left side (ura), then step forward with the right foot and cut men. This waza enables the user to close the distance much much faster. It's a must-try I reckon.

Payne sensei reminded us that in terms of keeping center, every opponent has a weak point. He encouraged us to use whatever techniques to discern which side the opponent is weaker in, so that we can use the appropriate waza to exploit that weakness.Must keep that in mind during jigeiko.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Float like a Butterfly, Sting like a Bee!

Well we had an excellent training at Master Kim's dojo on Monday night. For an excellent write-up and summary, have a look at Vivian's post here. ^_^

Can't really think of anything else to add in addition to what she's written. I suppose I'll add by saying that Master Kim has again asked us to focus using our backs and hips to drive forward. The exercise he introduced to us is a great training tool indeed!

On a side note, Happy Chinese New Year!

Picton 2005

Alternative title: Dude, where's my pork pie?

Ahh Picton, a tiny yet historical town about 90km south-west of Sydney, is where the annual February kendo seminar and grading is held at. I'm not new to Picton, having had the priviledge of participating in the seminar in 2004 (that was my 3rd kendo training and my first experience of hitting a motodachi). The thing about this town is that, though from the outlook it may look dry, it actually contains many interesting features, 3 of which are: (1) George IV pub, (2) its local brew, and (3) its pork pies. I looked forward to the pork pies the most, but as can be seen from the alternative title in this post, something terribly wrong happened, which I will explain below.

We (Vivian, Jackson, Anna and myself, plus Yvonne's bogu) left Artarmon at about 7.15am and arrived at Picton with plenty of time to spare. Jackson was the joker as usual.

Saturday 5th Feb 2005:

Training today was divided into 2 parts. Morning's session was NSW kyu squad training, in which I was a motodachi. In my line was Malcolm Schultz, who got his shodan on Sunday, as well as my friend Robert Lee from Moo Doo Kwan and an unknown kendoka. Training was really interesting as a number of waza were practised. Even as motodachi, I was able to learn by observing the execution of techniques. In this regard, I was given an excellent show by Malcolm on uchi-otoshi techniques. They were simply superb and I was left in awe. With such clean waza execution I was convinced at that time that he would pass his shodan shinsa, which he did the next day of course as mentioned earlier. About this time I started to pay more focus on doh cuts and I used Jackson as meat shield for a while. Too bad I didn't miss his doh. ;)

Afternoon's session was focussed on grading. I was in the 6th and 5th kyu group (Becki was in there too) under Ted Rixon sensei. We received excellent guidance on what's expected from us etc. I wished that I'd been taught this way before my first shinsa last August. By the end of the session, my feet were hurting from the ashi-sabaki exercises. Also, my nose bled for the first time in kendo - must be the heat. Rick Pedley-Smith was quick to point out that it's normal in such conditions. So no panic at all.

I wondered how I was going to manage jigeiko scheduled after the afternoon session coz I thought that it'd be really really hard to move my feet at that point. Nevertheless, I tried anyway and jigeiko-ed Nathan from Wollongong and Adam Lee from UNSW. My feet hurt really bad when I stopped jigeiko and I limped my way back to my car.

Anna, Vivian and I stayed over at Min's place that night. We had an excellent (and memorable) Thai dinner at Jasmine Rice in Wollongong. The meal was superb and we were all relaxed by it. :)

Sunday 6th Feb 2005:

Ahh grading day! I dreaded this day in one sense as my first shinsa went horribly wrong, but I also looked forward to rectifying the mistakes that I'd made then in this shinsa. I was totally relaxed in the morning when we arrived. Ron Bennett sensei, Becki and I practised forming a wedding arch for Cath's wedding reception before the registration and warm-up. It was totally fun and ultimately relaxing.

In this shinsa I'd be going for 5th kyu. I knew what to do this time, but most importantly, I knew that staying relaxed is the key. There were 4 of us in my category. I was very relaxed at the grading and my kiai was strong and I was filled with tons of confidence. It was like a normal practice session. Soon enough, the shinsa steward, Dave Bunder, motioned me (#5-3) to put my men on - this meant that I'd been invited to test for 4th kyu. I remember not feeling excited or anything like that at all - it was like another training for me. I was the only one invited from my group. As I watched the 6th kyu wannabes testing for their 4th kyu, the thought that my would-be partner may not do a proper job as motodachi worried me a bit. Fortunately, Martino Ellero, a nidan from the ANU Kendo Club, became my motodachi, putting any worries in this regard to rest. Overall, I was very happy with my performance in the 4th kyu grading. My men cuts weren't hitting the motodachi's mengane but landed straight and on top of the men, giving the solid "thud" sound that was so satisfying. Kote cuts were okay too, with some minor problems with doh cuts. I kiai-ed loudly, wanting to show alot of spirit. No physical issues, but I remember feeling very tired afterwards.

Now I didn't expect to jump any grades at all. I came to the grading with zero expectation, and would have been happy with 5th kyu. Anything above is icing on the cake. I came to realise sometime after my first shinsa that kendo is a lifelong pursuit. Rank is not, and should not, be a motivational factor. We don't train so that we could become hachidans. If we could think of kendo as an activity that we'll do for the rest of our lives, then the rank will take care of itself. After doing the 4th kyu test, I of course did not expect to be invited to test for 3rd kyu. So I was quite surprised when Dave came over and motioned me to put my men on again. I didn't feel physically ready to be honest, still feeling slightly drained from the last one.

3rd kyu test was exactly the same as the 4th kyu test, except that it also involved sandan waza (kote-men-doh). The sequence was as follows, and we were suppose to cut until "yame" is called (about 5 to 6 cuts each):

  • Kihon men
  • Kihon kote
  • Kihon doh
  • Nidan waza (kote-men)
  • Sandan waza (kote-men-doh)
  • Kirikaeshi
  • Uchikomi-geiko

My partner was Jayson Chaplin, a brilliant kendoka who'd been invited to test for 3rd kyu also (he went for 4th earlier). Overall I thought my performance wasn't really up to scratch according to my standard. I was physically tired, and I reckoned that that limited my performance somewhat. I spent so much energy doing kiai. I attempted to motivate myself many times in that grading. No point giving up now right? I thought to myself at that time that, no matter what, I must show my ki. I actually thought that my kirikaeshi was crap. Anyway, I was extremely relieved that it was over. I knew that I'd not be invited to test for 2nd kyu as I have already reached the limit of 2 grades jump. I found out from Cath the next day that grade jump from 3rd kyu onwards is unheard of because they are all critical stages. From 3rd kyu to 1st kyu is exactly 1 year, and from 1st kyu to shodan is exactly 1 year too.

Min later told me that the more tired I became, the more natural I became too. I suppose that's a good thing. Master Kim didn't find any major fault at my kirikaeshi as well. Isn't that strange? I really believed that I didn't do as well as I could. Cath related to me about her experience grading for sandan. She thought that her first jigeiko was not so good and that the second one was better only to be told the reverse by the grading panel! I suppose the moral of the story is to try our best no matter what and let the grading panel decide!

Taek passed his nidan grading with flying colours. Who could forget that tsuki? After the grading was over, the results were announced almost immediately after a short story ("The Man With the Monkey") from Payne sensei. When the President of the NSW Kendo Assoc, Andrew Van Hammond, read my name followed by "sankyu", Payne sensei then jokingly asked "what's on the menu?". My response was instantaneous: "PORK PIES!!". I was very relieved indeed, and of course happy. My first instinct tells me to train even harder, and that I will do.

Ron Bennett sensei promised me a jigeiko on Saturday, but he wasn't able to do it due to his medical condition. I took turn going up against Adam Lee, Min, Malcolm and Martino. Bennett sensei offered some choice advice when I was doing jigeiko with Min.'s back to pork pies now. I was sooooooooooooo looking forward to it after kendo. I had this premonition as Vivian and I was about to leave that the pub would run out of pork pie. I told Malcolm about it and he said that he would offer me my share if it was true. Well it did happened! THEY RAN OUT OF PORK PIE!! Can you believe it?!!! Fortunately, Chris Barbe offered me a quarter of his pork pie, so all was not lost.

On an endnote, I just had a look at the other kendokas who were also awarded sankyu:

  • Christophe Barbe (Sydney)
  • Jayson Chaplin (Sydney)
  • Adam Lee (UNSW)
  • Rebecca Marshall (ANU)
  • Simon Tat-Yeung Ni (Sydney)
  • Anna Wong (UNSW)
  • Kostadino Zafirakos (UNSW)

Gavin Yeoh and Nick Sordon, members of my dojo, are currently sankyu also. That makes 6 sankyus in SKC and 3 in UNSW. I look forward to training with all of them and progressing together. ^_^

Gambatte kudasai!

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Doh? Doh!

Great training at Willoughby dojo on Wednesday night. Picked Vivian as my motodachi - always an excellent choice!

I need to work on my doh cuts, especially the footwork leading to the cut. I tend to bend my waist. Also, I need to use more left hand.

Tsubazeriai still haunts me.....but I'll try my best.