Andoru's Kendo Blog

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

PhD and Kendo

I submitted my PhD thesis yesterday:

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I've been feeling really blank ever since, though slightly nervous of the examination process. Hopefully the results will be out by Christmas.

Now that I've got some free time...

Three Similarities between Writing a PhD Dissertation and Practising Kendo:

  1. You keep doing the same things over and over and over and over again!
  2. You get really anal with the details;
  3. You are constantly concerned about doing the right things;
My next focus: The Uni Games in late this Month. Will be representing Sydney Uni in the Kyu Individual and Kyu Team events.

While I'll be eligible to grade for shodan in one year's time, I'm actually interested in doing it at the WKC in Taiper next year (a la Mingshi). Well we'll have to see about that.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

I've got good senseis and sempais

Yesterday's training was great! I tried my best to "live up to the grade" and was encouraged with loads of useful advice which I have no hesitation in writing them down for my benefit:

  • Isaac: "Relax the shoulders". I didn't realise that I have this bad habit of tensing my trapezius muscle. Following Isaac's comments early on in practice, I made sure to focus on relaxing my shoulders/traps and it worked wonders! I was less tired, and I could feel a bit more "oomph" in my cuts during jigeiko.
  • Itakura sensei: "Cut with horizontal BAM!! Like this [hand gestures of right fist slamming into left palm]! Everyone has to work on this aspect of their kendo". Choice words sensei!
  • Payne sensei: "If you're graded ikkyu last weekend, it's time to start working on kendo at the shodan level." Too right!
Highlight of the day was the jigeiko between Kirby and I. Kirby did an excellent morote tsuki which landed on target as I was moving back, thus fuelling the backward momentum. I struggled to regain balance only to be tripped by Anna who was sitting at seiza behind me. Tsuki-owned! Even as my butt was on its way down to kiss floor, I remember thinking in my head that that was a truly remarkable tsuki. It was indeed my pleasure to receive it!

I also enjoyed being cut by my senseis and sempais as there is a lesson in each of them. I especially like the final cut by Itakura sensei during ippon shobu. As I moved in, he applied loads of seme and created doubt and confusion in me, then he finished me off with a determined men cut with plenty of spirit and zanshin. It was almost embarassing at first, but the value of the lesson hits me straight after. I bowed, sonkyo-ed, and left the jigeiko with sensei a very satisfied kenshi.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Playing Tall Opponents - learning from Takeshi

After registering to participate in the Australian Uni Games - which will be held in late Sept in Brisbane - I swung by the Sydney Uni dojo to show the guys and gals the photos I took at Founders' Cup.

I didn't plan to stay long, until I noticed that Takeshi was there, and Mike Henstock turned up not long after. Perfect! Now I get to watch them both in action and observe how Takeshi takes on a taller opponent.

The jigeiko between them lasted almost 15 mins. Mitori-geiko was first-rate as I got front-row seat. As expected, Takeshi applied loads of seme. He often made sure that he's within striking distance, which means that he often appeared closer than issoku ito no maai. He tried to control Mike with his seme so that his men didn't seem to be exposed. His kensen at his maai was very close to Mike's kote, closer to Mike's kensen to Takeshi's men. That's a very interesting observation. I noticed that Takeshi constantly used footwork to move his body in and out of maai. His footwork is fluid and he's got explosive power.

Learning from these observations, I'll try to project a more "threatening" image using seme and determined strikes. I'll take any openings available and not just a select area (like men) to complete the offensive arsenal. Also, I need to be prepared to do oji waza. I'll try that against all opponents, but will adjust maai appropriately against taller opponents.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Playing Tall Opponents, Part 1

I've managed to ask for comments about my ikkyu grading performance from every one from the grading panel and now I have some solid ideas about the things I want to work on leading up to shodan.

The comments are mostly related to the way I play tall players, as both my opponents in the ikkyu test are tall. I'm 164cm, the typical Asian height, so many of my opponents tend to be taller than me. Itakura sensei made 2 key observations:

  1. My cuts weren't determined enough. He's right - my opponents were both quite twitchy and took my advances as a cue to initiate their cuts, thus foling my attempts at executing cuts. Still, I should make determined strikes regardless.
  2. More focus on shikake waza. Same point as above. should I play taller opponents? Some points for considerations:

  • Taller opponents have superior reach, especially men;
  • To cut their men, I'd have to move in to close the maai. But that means "exposing" my men even more;
  • Taller opponents' kote/doh are more accessible;
  • Taller opponents can be in some way forced to cut men only.
These are some of the points I could think of right now which I should consider when doing jigeiko against them.

I've been watching Takeshi's jigeiko and shiai with great interest since he's shorter than me but is yet able to hit any opponent's men with relative ease. The key is seme. With strong seme, he is able to control the opponents, making them take the defensive posture and force them into creating suki. Since the opponents are forced to be defensive, they are not in a position to attack. This works against ALL opponents, not just the tall ones.

Accordingly, I must apply myself consistently into training my seme. This means improving my footwork, center, kigurai and other elements to produce effective seme. I hope that with more hard practices I can improve on this aspect, and will be able to make determined and spirited strikes with sutemi.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Finally! It's over!

Founders' Cup 2005 that is - a weekend filled with AGM, state grading and team competition. My club was the host this year, and as its president, I was running around like crazy getting final arrangements in place.

Actually, there is alot to say though I don't know where to start. I'll keep the organisation part out of the blog as it's not useful for my future reference.

The only part which I participated in was the grading. I was attempting for 2nd kyu on Saturday. Even then, my confidence was a wee bit down due to my training inconsistency for the past 2 months or so. I think my sensei wasn't very pleased that I elected to grade. Anyway, my confidence got better after the practice run in the morning. I had a minor scare during the morning practice when I sorta twisted something in my left foot but luckily it got better.

Afternoon arrived and grading started. I wasn't even feeling nervous. Not worried about passing at all. If I failed, I'd get to grade next time with my fellow sankyus who couldn't grade this time because of work commitments. In my mind, I had nothing to lose. Besides, I've already accepted the fact that kendo is going to be a life-long pursuit for me. Menkyo is just a piece of paper anyway, it's the real kendo that counts. What I expected was feedbacks about my kendo.

Grading was separated into 2 groups. Ikkyu and dan grade applicants in one group, while 6th kyu to nikyu applicants in the next group. So I was in the later group, together with my only dojo-mate Chris Barbe and my mates from the other clubs, including Dino and Adam from UNSWKC. Grading started and it was the 6th kyu applicants first and there were heaps! It's like that each grading so it's not unexpected. Most of us 2nd kyu applicants were looking at the ikkyu and dan grade applicants going through the motion so we didn't really notice the lower kyu gradings. 6th kyu grading took very long though. By the time the ikkyu and dan grades were completed (including kata), we were just up to yonkyu grading! The weather was cool so we tried ways to warm ourselves up.

Finally! It's our turn! My number was 2-5 so I got paired up with Chris, who was 2-6. Went through kiri-kaeshi, uchikomi-geiko, kakari-geiko then 2 rounds of jigeiko. I remember playing Chris in my second round of jigeiko and Nathan (from ANUKC) in my first round. Things could have been better but it was acceptable on my part. It was over pretty quickly and we were relieved.

It was over - or so we thought. I popped into the kitchen to refill the water bottle and went to chat with some of the fellow nikyu applicants. Then the steward (Dave Bunder) came to announce that applicants 2-2 and 2-5 were to put their men on. 2-5 was me, and 2-2 was Dino. Dino was upstairs chatting with his friends so I called for him and he came down looking dazed. I told him that we'd been instructed to put our men on and he thought that a bunch of us had set him up! You see, it's not common for nikyu applicants to be asked to attempt for ikkyu, and we were told to prepare to do kata if we passed the ikkyu test. The entire hall was quiet - it 's just him, myself, and the grading panel. I could feel all eyes on us as we went through the test. Since there were just 2 of us, a motodachi was selected. Turned out to be Adam McNeil, the Australian kyu champion, who attempted his ikkyu earlier in the other court. After kakari-geiko it was straight into jigeiko with Dino first then Adam second. Both of them are tall, and I was the only short guy. I didn't do that well but I tried to keep my composure and my attacks spirited and was very glad when it's over.

Dino and I were both called for kata. Again the hall fell silent as we began. Apparently I was meant to be shidachi but I heard uchidachi instead. So I started being the uchidachi in ippon-me. Dino went into hidari jodan just to see me doing the same but luckily he corrected into migi jodan. We did ippon-me to sanbon-me with me as uchidachi. When we finished, people started clapping and Itakura sensei wasn't happy as there was a mistake. He said that he's going to give us one more chance, and announced very clearly and Dino was to be the uchidachi this time. Again, we went through the 3 kata again and I finally got nervous. My body was practically shaking! I was very happy with the kata. We had done as best as we possibly could with plenty of emphasis on zanshin. One thing I should have done better was to lower the kensen more during chiburi. I noticed Dave nodding as we completed our kata and we were confident that we'd pass. Again, the crowd started clapping. Dino and I were totally exhausted. Our results were later confirmed by Vivian, the NSWKA secretary, as she reads out the results before we went home.

I don't disagree with the grading panel, but I do feel that I don't deserve the grade. I will train harder!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Using the hips

Today's feedback from my sempai Isaac is to focus on cutting using the hips more, similar to what Master Kim said but 6 months later. With more trainings under my belt, I could certainly understand Isaac's comments better, which means that having a kendo blog will prove useful as I re-read instructions from my sensei and sempai in the future.

Alot of my kendo friends are down in Melbourne this weeked for the seminar with Chiba sensei (hanshi hachidan) and 2 female sensei. Chiba sensei was 3-times All Japan champion using the jodan technique. Wish I was there.

Anyway, 1 more week to shinsa...