Andoru's Kendo Blog

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A year on...

I can't believe it's almost a year since my last update. Despite my injuries, I did not stop doing kendo. Though I must say that there were periods in my life (last year and this year) when I kinda stopped enjoying kendo because of my injuries - they're never the same you know, but once one is cured a new ailment will come. Same old story. On the plus side, I'm more aware of the need to do better stretches, and to do post-keiko "maintenance" on the body (like gentle massage).

Anyway, enough with the injuries and let's focus on the kendo aspects.

What I've Been Up To:

I graded shodan in August last year, and will be attempting my nidan shinsa in August this year (less than 2 months to go!). Since my move to Kensington in May 2006, I've also trained almost exclusively at the University of New South Wales Kendo Club (or UNSWKC) under the teachings of Yuji Sano sensei and Kirby ("Ka-bi") Smith. Since March this year, I've also joined their club since I've stopped going to Sydney Kendo Club where I started due to location, which will be exacerbated when I move further south in late June this year. I was initially worried about possible implications arising from a shift in dojo (hence I delayed the decision til March), then I realised that it's the sensible thing to do. I try to keep weekend free from kendo these days, but will still go to SKC when possible.

One of the highlights last year was my visit to Bangkok/Taipei for the 13th WKC along with my friends from Sydney (or were from Sydney). We were in Taipei for a week and got to train at a dojo there. Additionally, we also managed to take photos with Miyazaki, Ishida, Eiga as well as the others (including the coach for Kyushu College the current winner of Gyokuryuki). We were there when history happened i.e. Japan lost the mens team semi-final match. I'll make a separate post with pictures soon.

Kendo Goals & Musings:

My goals in kendo remain the same from last year, that is Arms, Footwork & Kizeme, in no particular order. I call it AFK. :) Since last year's WKC where I get to watch so many excellent kenshi in action, I realised that one of the key ingredients to good seme and kizeme is footwork. Having relaxed arms (and shoulders) also make the execution of cuts more fluid and with good tenouchi, and that contribute to good seme too. That's kendo really - everything is inter-related. For now, I'm working on my footwork. My goal is to move like the Yang brothers since my physique is about the same as theirs.

Since October last year I've been suffering from muscle related strains in my left leg, and that has limited my capability to launch myself. After a few trips to physio and a massage session by my dojo-mate Ephragm, it's getting better. Because of this problem, I thought about learning jodan so I could give my left leg a rest. The best jodan player in Australia, Kirby Smith, trains at my dojo and he's kind enough to say yes when I asked him to teach me. I've never imagined myself doing jodan before, because I was under the impression that jodan is for tall(er) people. Why would a 1.64m tall midget like me do jodan right? Besides, with just 3 years 4 months of kendo experience under my belt, I felt that I was too inexperienced enough to try jodan. But try I must, if that allows me to train and to also rest my left leg. Kirby said I'm ready...and that's how I began jodan training in May 2007.

I've been doing alot of katate suburi at home to strengthen my left wrist. It's important to be able to wield the shinai well with one hand. On top of that, I do suburi from jodan. That is, assume jodan, go through the motion of doing a men cut, making sure that my right hand is doing the pushing and that it snaps to my right hip (or stomach) after that, and that my left hand is extended along the arm. I also practise my footwork (left foot forward). I have a shinai in my office as well so I get to do all that at work too. :) I also practise hidari-katate-kote-uchi cuts because it's different from the men cut. It's in fact alot more complicated.

Posters at Kendo World who do jodan have said that their chudan has also benefited from jodan. In particular, their aggression, seme, awareness of maai and suki have all improved by doing jodan and these can be translated to chudan. This fact is important to me because I don't know whether I''ll be sticking with jodan for the long haul, and since I'm not playing with it either I hope to be able to learn from it. It's comforting to know that I'm also improving my chudan when doing jodan.

When doing jodan in jigeiko or uchikomi-geiko I try to do correct strikes (or as correct as possible). I also work on my aggression. In chudan I work on AFK and be proactive about it. I've got my hands full in keiko as it is. :)

That's the current state of Andoru's kendo at the moment. Being aware of my kendo helps in identifying what I'd like to work on (besides obvious bad habits that sensei points out to me from time to time). I made sure to work on the things I want to improve each time I do jigeiko. There were plenty of frustrations, and plenty more to come, but it's so rewarding when something clicked once in a (long) while.