Andoru's Kendo Blog

Saturday, May 21, 2005

The show continues...

I was relieved when the Han Rim Won competition ended last Saturday. In truth, I didn't prepare for it. All these times since the nationals, my focus has been on overall improvement. Vivian has already written a post about the competition so I won't add much except a brief commentary about my matches.

I was quite shocked to see the draw - I'd drawn Jackson from UNSWKC, a tall and solidly built guy who is also a good friend of mine. He's senior than me, about 2.5 months shy of testing for shodan. Really nice guy and an absolte joker. We've trained together, have jigeiko-ed a few times and one impression that really stayed on my mind when I first jigeiko-ed him was that he could hit my men from toma. Yup he's that tall. I've never played him before in a shiai and deep inside I sorta knew that it was going to be a tough fight. I was determined to try my best and to show good kendo anyway. When the match started I sensed that alot of people were watching our match. A giant versus a 5"5' almost-midget shiai must be an interesting spectacle. I was very calm in the match, much to my surprise. I tasted first blood (kote) which kicked him into gear. As he initiated a men cut I struck debana-kote before his men cut just to see the flags go up in his favour.. 2 of the shimpan came to explain after my match that they thought my kote lacked zanshin, so they let his men carried through to score. Fair enough. I reckon I played well and didn't lose my composure, but things were really rough at tsubazeriai making it very hard for me to wriggle out of tight corners. I ended up losing ippon to him by jogai - I think that's one of the worst way to lose. T_T. I beat the next guy 2-0 next but couldn't make it out my pool because of my loss to Jackson. Interestingly, at one point in our match, I saw him rolling his ankles which seemed like he might have hurt it. I pulled away from tsubazeriai and verbally asked if he was alright!! LOL! Well no more such compassion next time.

I haven't trained since the competition thanks to an array of work and deadlines. Today's training was good - I learned alot. Sano sensei explained to us about the action that is required for nuki waza. He said that we should wait for the downswing before initiating nuki action. Easier said than done!! It's a good point though. He asked us to think of nihonme and how kote-nuki-kote is performed.

I played Isaac next because I really wanted to play tall people and I really wanted to work on men cuts against a much taller opponent. He pushed me hard and it was so difficult to hit his men since he moved back when I initiated cuts. Yet I tried really hard not to hit kote coz today's focus was men. I tried seme to see if he flinches (not!) and ended up compromising maai and opening up my men for easy taking. He asked me to "switch on" - I really like that term. I did try my best though. I felt really confused afterwards but I have faith that whatever happened was good for me in the long run. I picked Payne sensei next and it's always fun to jigeiko him. He's on fire today! Then off to practise against my sempai Catherine for a few minutes and that's the end of the training! I was disappointed because I wanted to train more. My heel is still not 100% and that limited my training somewhat but the heel pads from Chibabogu should arrive soon.

I asked Payne sensei later on for advice about playing against tall people. He said that I should focus more on waza, waza and waza. He said (and showed me) that "big attracts small, and small attracts big" which was a lightbulb moment for me. When an opponent initiates a big cut, you can counter with a small one, and vice versa. Never let them intimidate you, sensei said - you control them! Never give up and just keep working at it, he added. Thanks sensei!

And guess who came to my dojo this morning? Kanyi from Kendo World Forum!! He called me on Thursday to confirm the dojo location etc but I was under the impression that he'd be coming in June or July. I was very surprised (pleasantly of course) to see him! Too bad I couldn't drag him to Sydney Uni dojo for the afternoon training - apparently there is no training today. He'll be flying to Brisbane on Tuesday so I'm going to pull him to the Pyrmont dojo for about 30 mins of non-stop jigeiko then drag him to UNSW dojo for more jigeiko straight after that.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Goodwill shiai and shimpan practice

Yesterday was a pretty packed day: the inaugural goodwill shiai and shimpan practice between Sydney Kendo Club and University of New South Wales Kendo Club, yum cha with the kendo gang, trip to the cinemas with the kendo gang to watch Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

The shimpan practice was quite well organised I reckon. As president, I tried to turn up early to set up the shiaijo, but right when I was about to leave, Jackson called me up asking for a lift from Chatswood station. As there was no alternative, I obliged and turned up at the dojo later than usual (you owe me a big one Jackson!). Kinda embarassing really, because the shiaijo was already half done when I got there. Payne sensei didn't look particularly impressed about my lateness too. Anyway, I'm glad that many SKC members helped out.

The format of the shiai and shimpan practice is pretty straightforward: dan grades take turn doing shimpan duties while the "test subjects" i.e. us took turns fighting 3 min rounds in the shiaijo. Afterwards, the goodwill team shiai started with the kyu and dan teams.

I played 3 rounds of shiai. First 2 as "test subject" against Dino and Johnny, then in the team shiai as taisho for the SKC kyu team against Dino (taisho for UNSWKC). In total, I scored 5 kote (I think the majority is debana-kote) and conceded 1 de-kote. While I'm glad that I didn't lose, I realised that I really need to improve my men cut. My opponents were all much taller than me, making their men much harder to strike. Still, I should have tried harder to cut men anyway. Also, my zanshin after kote cut needs massive improvement too. In the team shiai, my sempai Ben Ng is the team coordinator and he assigned me as taisho. T_T Sigh....never played that position before. So much responsibility and all that. Worse still, after the fukusho match, we were drawn at 2-all, which means that the taisho match is the decider. I tried not to think too much and proceeded to win with just 1 debana-kote - was quite relieved after that. In case I forget, my team was: Johnny Kuo (senpo), Rick Farquharson (jiho), Ben Ng (chuken), Igor (fukusho) and myself as taisho.

The dan team matches were really well fought. In particular, the taisho match between Kirby and Takeshi was electric and a pure delight to watch. Takeshi tasted first blood through a hiki-kote, which Kirby later responded with a tobikomi-kote from jodan. The match ended up in hikiwake. Chuken match between Vivian and Jackson was nice to watch too - Vivian scored a beautiful men cut on him eventhough he's so much taller! Simply superb. After the dan team, the senseis formed a team and played against the senior students. The senseis in the team were Itakura, Onodera, Yano, Fukuda and Kim, against Yoshiyuki Usami, Isaac Bober, Kirby Smith, Kim (from Sydney Uni) and Yoshiki Ohtsuka.

While the sensei's matches were on, I took a photo with my camera phone:

Dino (partly hidden), yours truly and Jackson Posted by Hello

Afterwards, it was lunch at Kum Fook in Chatswood ($27.50 each thanks to the gluttons at my table), then off to the city for the movie. A fun and activity-filled day that's for sure.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Vertigo, kendo and getting tsuki-ed

Saturday's training was the first training I've had in 7 days. I was prepared to do about 3 trainings last week, starting from Wednesday, but something really freaky happened to me 30 mins before Wed's training. I was lying down reading a Dan Brown novel, trying to kill some time when suddenly, while looking at the lights on the ceiling, things started to spin. It took at least a few seconds for my eyes to re-focus. Nausea sets in afterwards and I was feeling too woozy and freaked out to train. I took sick leave the next 2 days and went to see a doctor about this. Doctor didn't make any specific diagnosis, suggesting that perhaps it's viral. Was given prescriptions for steroids and SERC to help alleviate the symptoms. I did more research about balance disorder and came across a page which provides some insights into this topic. My symptoms are akin to Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo which is described as:

"A brief, intense sensation of vertigo that occurs because of a specific positional change of the head. An individual may experience BPPV when rolling over to the left or right upon getting out of bed in the morning, or when looking up for an object on a high shelf. The cause of BPPV is not known, although it may be caused by an inner ear infection, head injury, or aging."

When I'm on my back, I'd experience vertigo when my head is tilted to the left and in that position only. I have no idea what's the cause - it appeared so suddenly. Dr Roosevelt - what do you think?

Anyway, I turned up for training on Sat, filled with steroids and SERC. The training was okay, though I felt a wee bit woozy if I spinned around alot, like after cuts. Highlight of the day: got totally owned by Australian champion Kirby Smith (tsuki-ed 4 times too!). I tried not to let that disturb me too much. ;) I was glad to be able to do kendo.

I spoke to Takashi afterwards and asked for his comments. He pointed out 3 things to me:

  1. Avoid bobbing the head when coming in for the cut. I like to apply seme before executing the cut, which is good according to him. However, right before executing the cut, I have this bad habit of sinking down a little bit through the knees, thus giving my intentions away.
  2. Use the wrists more to execute stronger cuts.
  3. Avoid "playing" with the shinai to much. Like Vivian said in her post, the psychological way of breaking center is more desirable than using force. I suspect that I'm too low level to attempt that way against the seniors - not going to work I think. I'll try it anyway and see how I go.