About this blog..

This is a blog that I started in April 2006, just after I first put on my bogu (kendo armour). It collects the advices given by more experienced kendo practitioners as well as those from my own experiences. Both technical and the mental aspects of kendo are written in the blog. I hope someone will find them useful or interesting at least!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Merry X'mas and Happy New Year!

Thanks to everyone who comes on regularly to read my kendo journal in the past 8 months.

I'm back to Newcastle for X'mas. So there'll be no kendo for about two weeks. As in the previous years, my X'mas and New Year activities involves mainly eating. Occasionally we go for a walk in the hills of northern England, burning all that hearty food in the stomach.

The photos below are from our walk on the christmas day, a tradition we've kept since 5 years ago.

Monday, December 18, 2006

stomp and turn

I found that to execute debana-kote cleanly and accurately, one has to take only one small step forwards because the opponent usually runs in and the distance is shortened. After the cut is executed, use the right foot as a pivot and turn.

Today Tino let the session. It was a good training despite we started too lated again. Lots of kihon, and then men-kaeshi-do, kote-nuki-men and men-debana-kote. At the end we had about 30mins for jigeiko, which allowed us to practice with 4 people. At the ippon-shobu I won against all of them, two by debana-kote and two by men.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

International Berlin Kyu Tournament

In the International Berlin Kyu Tournament, I got to the top 16 in the knock-out round. The total number of participants were about 90, so it's not a bad performance, even though I hope I had done better. Lost to Baris Goek from Berlin EDKG dojo, who then lost in the quater final.

In the pool I came out the top again two other players, including Max from Dresden and Beel from somewhere in Germany. In my first match, against Beel, I won 1-0 by a kote. I drew my next match with Max. They however both drew one and lost one, so they had to fight on to decide. I however was not supposed to fight, but because the person keeping the score made a mistake (which was only realised later), I fought again with Max. And the drama started here.

Max and I went into extension for almost 20 mins, both feeling extremely exhausted, and were unable to score any points. He started to wobble and clearly was at his physical limit. While in tsubazeriai he started to pant, which became heavier and heavier. At this point I realised there was something wrong so I just stood there without the intention of doing hiki-waza, thinking what's happening with him. He then went face down on the floor. So I won. And we weren't supposed to fight this match, which made me quite angry of the scorekeepers. Max recovered very quickly though, after some rest, and was able to fight again in the knock-out round.

In the knock-out I had my first match free, and the second match against Tino, also from Dresden, whom I won by 2-0 with men-strikes. Then I lost to Baris in the next match. Here is the video:

It turned out that someone else also uploaded this match to youtube, so here is another version of it.

After analyzing it, I think the main reason why I lost was the speed and the attack. I wasn't fast enough, even though I know I could do better. My attack was too weak, not enough going forwards. In the first video at about 1:09 mins I lauched a men-strike after some good seme, but hit only the mengane. If I had extended my left arm more forwards I would have been able to reach further. At 0:25 there was also a good seme, but I launched from too far. I lost 0-2 by men and kote. I have to admit though, that he is stronger than I am. At least for now :)

So Baris lost in the quarter-final, and all the prizes were won by Polish and Czech players. Notably there was a female Czech kenshi who played very nice kendo. Her speed was fast and even her kiai was loud and strong. She rightfully got the fighting spirit award.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Cut too light

After a week of absence in the dojo due to work I attended the training on Friday. The session was short and started late due to the late arrival of the people who did Iaido. It's a bit of waste of my time to be honest. Coming on time and just sitting there and wait. But, that's how life goes sometimes.

After the kihon, we did debana-waza, hiki-waza, kakarigeiko, and finally jigeiko.

  • My sashi-men is not strong enough. I hit too lightly.
  • I realised afterwards that at jigeiko my performance was too monotonic, which made it predictable for more experienced players. Especially, it made me prone to debana-waza.
  • need to work on hiki-men.
Next Saturday is the International Berlin Kyu-level Tournament, which Stephan tried to persuade me to attend. I'm tempted, but also unsure about whether I should give so much time to kendo at the moment when I'm trying to finish my thesis. But I'm going to try. This means that I'll have to train at least 3 times next week.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Training alone

On Friday after I changed into the gi and hakama, two people came to tell me that the training had been canceled because of the rehearsal for the demonstration tomorrow. I however continued to practise on my own. (Can't put down my pumped-up expectation for a hard work-out.) So after warming up I did suburis, including 600+ men-suburi with two shinais. I concentrated on my wrist action just after my arms have brought the shinai down, trying to snap it sharply.

Then about 20 mins footwork. Sliding footwork forwards and backwards. Trying to make the second foot follow up quickly, at the same time maintain the upper body as up-right as possible.

The next was about 10 mins of renkozu-waza: kote-men, and kote-men-men. Finally, hiki-men, against the column in the sports hall.

I didn't kiai as being alone I felt strange to do so (?!). Nonetheless, I think I sweat just as much as a normal training.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


It was a valueable training session today. I received many useful advices from the sempais. First we did a lot of exercises on foot work, then kihon and jigeiko. Marco, sandan, from Leipzig was also there because there will be a kendo demonstration in Halle, which he needed to discuss with the people from Dresden. This will be big one which includes other martial arts such as shaolin kung-fu, judo, and aikido etc, where the audience will have to pay at least 18 euro to get in! Unfortunately, the conference taking place next week will be my first priority. Otherwise, it would have been fun to meet the shaolin monks.

Feedback from Georg:

  • When I do men-men or kote-men, don't pull back at the first strike. Go forwards to execute the second cut.
Feed back from Stephan:

  • quickly turn back after striking.
Feedback from Marco:

  • put more variations in jigeiko instead of using harai-waza all the time. More seasoned player would notice and anticipate that I first sweep to test the opponent's reaction or strike afterwards, which puts me into danger.
Feedback from Rochus:

  • be careful of the distance. My feet were sometimes too far apart from each other, ie. the left foot didn't follow up.
Overall, I need to improve my seme. Really work on creating an opening.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Go to bed early!

Tuesday 14th Nov

To be fair I didn't train so hard today. My body wasn't as exhausted like I would normally push it to be.

We did the debana-kote. I still need to improve on the speed. During the jigeiko I could score quite easily with most people, so I didn't feel very motivated. But I should really turn it on myself, otherwise the training is not so useful for me.

Thursday 16th Nov morning practise

The practise started at 7-ish am. I didn't go to bed very early the previous night, so getting up was a reeeeal struggle. When I arrived at the dojo I realised that my contact lenses were still in bed. I mean I was still in bed, no.. well, errr. So I squeezed my glasses into the men. Throughout the keiko it wobbled a lot and so did the vision. As a result I missed the targets often, and it was hard to concentrate. On top of these, my left forearm still hurt. Subconciously I used more my right hand which resulted in bad centre and bad hit. I might take a few days break to let it recover.

In any case, it was a good exercise in the morning before going to work. There were only four today. Stephan was fast and powerful as usual, who totally nailed me. We had the chance to perform jigeiko twice with everyone, ending each with ippon-shobu. I lost once and won once by harai-kote to Stephan, and drew the other matches.

I wasn't very pleased with my performance, and the main way to improve is to go to bed early.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

More tsuki!

Today we practised tsuki. The method from what I understood is the following:

first as though going for the men, then lower the shinai to fence the tsuki-tare. Keep the upper body straight.Left foot follows in the right foot.

We practised also do- and kaeshi-do strikes. The strength of my do-strike has improved a lot since a month ago.

At the end we did jigeiko for about 20 mins. Here the things I learned from it:

  • Don't turn before striking the kote. Step straight in.
  • Try to use oji-waza more instead of using the defensive tsuki when the opponent comes.
  • Don't be discouraged by men-strike being blocked. I should do more and improve the speed of my men-strike.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Distance is important

The training today was intense. Very little time was wasted - the way I like it. After kihon we practised debana-kote and kote-nuki-men.

  • the kensen needs only to be raised slightly in order to be as quick as possible. Usually in the debana situation the opponent would have raised his kensen as well, so to switch to the other side to hit (assume starting from your right side) kote, one doesn't need to raise it very much.
  • the upper-body should stay up-right after hit.
  • when avoiding the kote-strike, draw the hands slightly inwards while raising it for the men-strike. Drawing the shinai straight up is too dangerous.
At the end we line up with one person as the motodachi. The motodachi will have jigeiko with the kakarite for 20 secs, in which they both have to try to score as many points as possible. The motodachi would stay until a full rotation of the kakarite is complete. Good exercise for reaction speed and physical condition.

Some afterthoughts:
  • Overall speaking my tenouchi still needs to be improved.
  • When striking kote-men, very often the opponent would come forward so the men strike could be too close. Try to keep the right distance.

12th Dresden Seminar Part II

This morning I arrived at the sports hall with Georg at about 8:30am as yesterday. From 9am onwards was the Kyu examination time. All passed. Just before we started the seminar, while the newly donned Kyusha were enjoying their new status, Kumpf-Sensei walked towards me, and asked me where I train and how long have I been doing kendo. He seemed very suprised to hear that I've only done it for a year. Well, strictly speaking less. He went on to say lots of complimentary things which I would rather not repeat here ha ha ha. ^_^;

I used this chance and asked him for advice from yesterday's jigeiko with him, he said basically

  • The sweeping should be small and sharp, after which the shinai should be brought straight forwards.
He led the morning and the last session for the bogu wearers. Apart from Kihon, we did some exercise on: hiki-men, hiki-men-suriage-men, hiki-do-uchiotoshi-men. In genergal I did well, but sometimes my men-strike slid off on the side. More tenouchi and accuracy are needed.


I first faught with Miwa-Sensei. This time I tried to use more hiki-waza as he told me yesterday, in order to gain enough distance. I was also able to create openings myself by using quick and small footwork and maintaining a strong centre while doing seme. One particular moment I landed a kote-men on him after some seme action which felt good, and he said "Super!"

The jigeiko with Kumpf-Sensei was slightly embarrassing. My shinai flew off twice. Both happened when I was really tired, and while running through after striking my grip was probably too loose plus I lifted shinai upwards instead of forwards, plus I was too slow... He struck my shinai from behind. It was funny seeing it flying forwards out of my hand. Well, until I remembered that many people were watching...

I kept the same spirit when fighting with Kumpf-Sensei. Again like yesterday, he used a lot of men-suriage-men. But I added an extra stwist by doing harai-do. Namely, I swept the shinai first, and when he lifted his shinai up to perform suriage, I struck do. This worked, and earned some appause from the "audience". But he pushed me when I passed him, and I must say that I was too tired to run any faster, which I should have done.

At one point, I tried kote-men, with the men-strike landed on target, but I wasn't committed to it. I stood at the same place. Why did I do that? It doesn't make sense to hit kote-men without committing to the men-strike, i.e. running pass and showing Zanshin.

  • Fast footwork after every strike
  • The shinai should point forwards when runing pass the opponent instead of upwards, the worst is if it points backwards.
  • Commit to the strikes, especially the last one in a renzoku-waza.
All in all, it was a good seminar. Lots of practise on the kihon, hiki-waza, and counter hiki-waza. The jigeiko with the senseis were in particularly useful, who gave very useful feedbacks afterwards.

The seminar ended at about 1pm. We ate some light beverages in the sportshall (bread, sausage, etc) for lunch, and then we spent all the afternoon make some samurai film for the Kendo Verband Ost website. I had a special part in it, so I'm quite curious to find out how it will turn out to be haha.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

12th Dresden Seminar Part I

Morning session

Today was the first day of the 12th Dresden Seminar, led by Uwe Kumpf and Tomonari Miwa, both 6th Dan Renshi. There were in total about 40 people, all from Germany, of whom roughly a quarter didn't have bogu.

First morning session was divided into three groups, people without the bogus, people with bogus who are going to the German National Single Championship, and the rest. Needless to say, the majority was the third group. I the beginning I thought, "ok, if I train with the people who are going to the Championship I could be trained harder and improve more." But when I stepped to that side, Stephan said to me that we need to train more. Well, it was a bit embarrassing and disappointing, but what followed changed my mind.

We start with maybe 5 rounds of kirikaeshi, men-uchi, kote-men-uchi, kote-do-uchi, and kote-men-do-uchi, while the other group of armoured kenshi practise tsuki and some other wazas, which seemed less physical, but more advanced techniques. However, as I always think that the kihon (basics) is more important, I was more than happy to have the whole morning devoted to kihon, and practised my cuts with correct posture and tenouchi.

The morning session finished with Kakarigeiko whereby all the kenshi attending the Championship were the motodachi. Because each motodachi had only two kakarites, and the kakarite goes to the next motodachi when s/he finished, sometimes the kakarite didn't get the chance to take a breath. After about 15 rounds each we stopped, and then the motodachi did kakarigeiko themselves. I was completely exhausted, but that's what I like. Therefore I was glad I didn't attend the other group. Well, at least for now.

At lunch we went to an Asian resturaunt nearby, and I had some fried rice. I sat next to Martin, at the same table with another two kenshis from Hesse, with whom I had very interesting conversations. The meal took a bit long to arrive, as a result the afternoon session started a little later than scheduled.

Afternoon session

The afternoon started with the beginner's shiai. They were matched in pairs and had to execute kirikaeshi and uchi-gomi. It was for me a pleasure to see that the beginners from Dresden were the best, and a few in particular had a nice "ki-ken-tai-ichi". The winner was Erik from our university kendo club. Congratulations to him!

Then the armoured kenshi all trained together, this time led by Miwa-Sensei. He emphasised in particular the tenouchi and how it looks and feels like. From his strikes, one could really see his hands twisting inwards, and the hands moving forwards after striking, almost looked like pressing the shinai with his hands at the moment of the contact. He also said that the fumikomi should not be lifting your right foot up but bringing it forwards, by extending the right thigh. Another thing he pointed out was the footwork of kote-men-uchi. It should be small and fast, the right foot stomping and the left foot tapping the floor to follow. I also noticed earlier that Marco from Leipzip had the similar footwork, as a result he is very agile. I tried to used this foot work for the rest of the day and I felt I could indeed move faster.

We then practised hiki-waza. Miwa-Sensei showed that the hit should be small and sharp, without lifting the shinai too high.


Finally we did mawari-geiko and free jigeiko. In the mawari-geiko I cleverly positioned myself so that I could train with both Senseis. So I got two jigeikoes from each Sensei at the end of the day. With Miwa-Sensei the most difficult thing for me was to obtain a good distance. He always walk towards me before I can obtain enough distance to strike. With Kumpf-Sensei I tried to use a lot of harai-men but they all ended up with a countering suriage-men. He made the opening sometimes to let me strike. During the bowing he said, "good reaction".

I wasn't particular happy with my performance during the jigeiko because I couldn't make the openings myself.

Comments from Miwa-sensei:
  • Good kihon.
  • Always go in, instead of going around your opponent after the strike.
  • If taiatari happens then always use hiki-waza and gain the distance back.
Unfortunately, Kumpf-Sensei left before I could go to him, so I didn't get any advices from him.

The party started at 7:30pm with food contribution from seminar participants, mainly from the Dresdeners. They were pretty good food in fact (particularly those made by the girlfriends of the participants), and my stomach was very happy about it. yum.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Tight situation

I haven't been to the Wednesday's training for a long time. But since I didn't go to the monday's training this week due to the pain on my left hand, and Tuesdays' training was canceled due to public holiday, I thought I would go today. There were three people without the bogus and three with, so the tempo was somewhat slow. However, Georg made us do 600+ men-suburi with two shinais. Which was perhaps the most tiring part of the training.

Again kihon-geiko with the usuals, I requested do-kirikaeshi which we don't do very often. However, after watching a few clips of trainings at other dojoes, which have do-kirikaeshi in every training, and seeing everyone being able to do it so well, I thought I have to get good at it too. Well, ha, I still sucked at it.

For bogu wearers we practised briefly harai-waza. My sweeping movement needs to be sharper. This still comes down to having a good tenouchi.

The jigeiko afterwards was fun, although short and therefore not very exhausting. Won both ippon-shobu against Thomas and Georg, the latter of whom was the first time I think. However, on incident during the jigeiko with Georg left me thinking for a bit. He put pressure (seme) on me and I moved backwards until I almost touched the bench behind leaning against the wall. Then I paused and was worried about hitting the bench and falling over. At this moment my men was hit. So what kept me thinking? At that moment I thought, "ok, wait, I'm hitting the bench. Let's move away to some other place." But in fact I let myself trapped in this tight situation. The only right thing to do is not to loose my composure and fight back. It wasn't good enough to blame it on the bench behind.

Besides the training, yesterday I called Ozawa-Sensei to greet him and thank him for letting me stay at his dojo when I go there next year, after Yasuko informed him that I was to come. At the beginning of the conversation there was a bit of confusion because I spoke in Japanese "moshi moshi? Ozawa-sensei desuga? Wadashiwa Liu desu!" then I changed to English because I couldn't say anything more in Japanese, so for moment he didn't know I was speaking English. Haha maybe my Japanese was just too convincing. Now the only uncertainty for me is to finish my thesis before the end of March, and I need to buy the tickets latest in Dec I think.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

After prague

Yesterday's training was fun. We had quite sometime at the end for jigeiko. Lots of people were late in fact at the begining, and three of us thought the other weren't going to come. So we started warming up and doing suburi until the others showed up almost at the same time. Strange.

When Georg took over the training, he asked us to use two shinais to do 500+ suburis. Very, very tiring.

After a few rounds of long kirikaeshi down the hall and normal kirkikaeshi, men-uchi, and sashi-kote-men, we started jigeiko. We had chance to practise with everyone, 6 people in totoal. For ippon-shobu I drew two, won two, and lost one to Georg.

  • I found that keeping the upper body straight during kirikaeshi actually helps the beathing, and therefore makes it easier.
  • I repeated the same thing to Wei as I did to Misha on Tuesdays training. I kept hitting his kote until he didn't raise the shinai.
  • My hiki-men is still not sharp enough, so my opponent can block it.
After the trainig I asked Georg for his advice:
  • don't let the kensen drift too far away from the centre otherwise it'd take a long time or more effort to make the strike (I tend to reverse the shinai and draw a big circle to strike)
  • good strong kote. He very kindly said that he hasn't been (or not for a long time ) hit by such a strong debana-kote.
  • becareful of the zanshin after kote. Dont raise the shinai backwards.
  • He stressed to everyone how useful and important kote-men is.
He said after I came back from the Prague seminar my level shot up, and he now has real fun do jigeiko with me, which is very flattering! He said now I have to try to practise other waza's apart from debana-kote.
  • more tenouchi.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Pop that kote, yo

Thursday morning training. It was hard to get up both this week and last week. But somehow I managed. I set my mind to give it all before each fight as though I will only meet the person once. (Ichigo ichie, in Japanese) This week the number of people coming to the morning training has reduced from 9 to 5.

Some notes from the jigeiko:
  • A few nice kote "pop's".
  • Sanbon Shobu: 1-2 Lost to Stephan. Got a kote. He got two men's. Becareful of the distance!
  • Make better use of hiki-waza (and more often), i.e. the right moment and the right distance. If a men-uchi doesn't work, then can follow it by a hiki-waza from tsubazeriai.
  • Posture after debana-kote need to remain well.
  • Harai needs to be sharp. and start the motion not too early. Ideally just after propelling with the left leg. (need to experiment)
  • Advice from Stephan: when applying seme, keep the centre and make contact with the opponent's shinai.

Yasuko and Kuroda-san (see Prague seminar) both have written me very nice emails. I'm glad to have kept the friendships!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Today we warmed up with some games. Girls and boys were divided into two teams, and we had to pick up a ball from one end of the hall and put it down at the other end, where the person had to rope-jump 10 times and take the ball back. The girls acually did better on this!

After the suburi, we practise doh. My left forearm was still hurting at this time, and I really did feel the pain.

One noteable thing from the kihon-geiko was that we practised Tsuki, the first time since I wore the bogu. We practised first from distance Chikma, then from Issoku-itto-no-maai. At Chikma I hit on target if done slowly, but missed completely at issoku.

A few notes from the Jigeiko:
  • Tried seme with more waza (techniques): harai, feinting, kaeshi.
  • Landed a doh on Lillie, when she raised her shinai to block.
  • Landed a couple of popping kote on Misha, by feinting men first. I repeated doing this technique until he realised that it wasn't a good idea, so he stopped raising his arms like that. I already anticipated this change, so I immediately went for his men after feinting and seeing that his posture was broken. But unfortunately I missed the target. Need to improve on accuracy.
  • I also noticed that when feinting, it's the best the keep the kensen within the body of the opponent, so that it wouldn't take long to strike on target.
  • Hiki-men improved slightly.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Turn, turn, and turn

We had a training yesterday with a somewhat different feel. First we started with rope-skipping to warm up, which I haven't done for more than ten years.. But I was thinking of doing it at home anyways. In fact, in a few minutes I 'll go and buy it. It's especially good to strenthen the muscles on the legs and the calfs at home since there's usually limited space for doing the footwork.

Practising do was essential and inevitable - 20 do-strike (left and right) standing, another 20 with one step forwards while striking left-do and backwards while right do-strike, 20 kaeshi-do, and 30 do haya-suburi. I tried this time to hit on target firm and strong, and it was better than the last time. However, trying to do the same with kaeshi-do was more difficult. I tried to keep the blocking and strike on the same beat. A good drill, but still unnatural to me. However, I think I would improve the fluency a lot with two or three more times of this exercise.

Footwork. With chudan no kamae we practised moving forwards and backwards across the hall. One variation was moving backwards with zanshin (shinai over the forehead), and when Stephan whistled, we have to strike men. Again a good drill!

After a few rounds of kirikaeshi, we did the following combo:
  • (1) men-strike, and pass the opponent; (2) immediately hiki-men (3) from issoko-itto-no-maai stike men immediately. This was essentially the application of the drills we did earlier.
Another exercise was that, the two would do the (1) and (2) from the above one after the other until the end of the hall and back.

Then kakari-geiko and more kirikaeshi.

  • kirikaeshi is more natural now.
  • Do-strike is stronger.
To be improved:
  • Kaeshi-do. Practise blocking and striking on the same beat.
  • After turning around there was a long halt, and I couldn't strike immediately. Must be something to do with how I position myself and my stance.
  • Push the hip forwards, during kakari-geiko or similar all-out practise. It's hard to do it fast with perfect posture, but one should always try.
  • Becareful of the feet not being parallel to each other.
This week the muscle on the inner-side of my left forearm has been hurting, after I started to use mainly the left hand and wrist to strike (since the training at the beginning of this month) While I think I'm accustomed to use my left hand now, I hope the pain will go away soon.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

First morning keiko

I made the first morning Keiko today, between 7:30-8:30am just before my working hour starts. It's not so easy for me considering I usually get up at about 8:30-9:00am. So when I woke up seeing the dark outside the window, I was wondering if my alarm clock was broken. And the first reaction was, "Oh, bloody hell.."

We decided to have this extra session for Bogu-wearers only, doing only jigeiko in mawari-geiko format (rotating partners). Which is a great idea. Nine people turned up, and I had in total eight jigeikoes.


  • Landed a few popping kote.

To be improved:

  • Keep a good distance. Chikama is too dangerous. At this distance wazas are perhaps useless.
  • Stronger doh-strike.
I was originally apprehensive about training before going to work, whether I'd be too tired, but it turned out to be the opposite. It felt like a morning work-out, like many people going to the gym before work. Well, I guess. Not that I know anything about working-out in the gym. After a shower at my institute (yes, we even have a shower) I felt very refreshed and ready to start the day.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Exhaustion brings essential kendo

Just got back from the training in the Uni. The training was very intense. After the warm-up and the suburi we began with kirikaeshi, twice 3x men-uchi and twice 3x kote-uchi, 10x men-only ai-kakarigeiko four times, and finally jigeiko.

I enjoyed ai-kakaigeiko as usual. The most difficult opponents were Martin and Lili, who held their centres very strong. For some reason, maybe she move slightly off centre the last minute, very often Lili hit my men but I missed, even though I aimed and went straight in. The jigeiko with Stephan was very.. well, inspiring should I say, which made me work harder. But of course I should fight with equally high energy with everyone. At the end of the training session I was totally exhausted, hardly able to keep my posture. Good training.

To be improved:

  • Still more centre!
  • Faster strikes
  • Do-strike hit on target.

Stephan spoke of the idea of having an extra training session in the Thurday mornings from 7:30am - 8:30am, doing just mawari-geiko. In principle, it's a good idea. But I must also see if I can actually work afterwards.

Starving.. will cook myself a nice meal, and ... wash the hakama!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

New semseter

On Monday Tino lead the training. We did some Kihon and Hiki-waza before finishing with Jigeiko. I still lost to Patrick for the Ippon-Shobu. My fighting spirit wasn't strong enough to put pressure and create openings. With the others I either win or draw.

General thing to improve:
  • Seme, or more explicitly, the building-up to a strike is as important as, if not more than, the strike itself. With a seasoned kendoka a simple strike very likely leads to a crossed sword and eventually can be countered by an oji-waza.

Yesterday I arrived a little earlier for the university's training, at the end of the beginner's session. Since it was the first session of the semester, there was a flood of 50+ curious students - the largest number of people in the history of Dresden kendo! We'll see how many will stay at the end of the semester.

We did lots of Kihon (great!) and Hiki-waza. My breathing has improved for Kirikaeshi. For the Hiki-waza, we did 2 rounds of 3 x Hiki-men/kote/do. I always did the first two slowly to make sure my footwork and body coordinate well together. This for me was a good way to learn.

Then we did kakari-geiko, and ai-kakarigeiko, which I like the most. Because they're very good for building-up the stamina and the fighting spirit. The ai-kakarigeiko helps especially to attack with a strong centre, since most of the time both people would strike men, and if the centre is not strong enough one gets hit, otherwise the swords cross each other.

No time for jigeiko. But was still a good training. It also seems like with the training on the coming Friday, this week I will have trained three times, which makes me a happy kenshi!

Monday, October 02, 2006

More centre!

Today trained with only Georg and Michael. No one else came for some reason. Again I have been trying to have a better centre, for which I'm slowly improving. But now I have to make it more natural, instead of just holding the centre and not attacking.

A few tips from Georg:
  • Hiki-waza: use the forward movement of the shinai and the arms to propel the body backwards in order to gain the optimal distance.
  • Men strike: my sashi-(small) men is too light. Use the left wrist more and hit stronger.

Other notes:
  • When turning around and maintain zanshin, quickly come back to chudan and hold the centre. Try not to raise the shinai immediately or while turning.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Simple and Beautiful

The scenary on my way back to Dresden

Ok, so I wrote so much. What have I learned? This is to write a short summay about the things I've learned.

  • Use the shoulders to lift the shinai when doing men-strike.
  • Breathing of Kirikaeshi, and men-uchi.
  • Posture. Back straight. Ki-ken-tai-ichi.
  • Reiho. Especially for sonkyo.
  • Keep kensen in the centre.
  • Becareful of oji-waza, like suriage-men.
  • Keep the pressure on the opponent. Do not fear.

One week after the seminar the memory is still vivid in my head. The people: the Senseis, and the friends I made; the kendo: the points I made, and the points I lost. The tournament was a great experience for me. My performance was much better than in the Leipzig Championship, and I clearly knew when I was in control. How I lost showed what I should work hard on. This is the best of kendo. One doesn't just improve on ones own, through the others one learns about his or her weaknesses. The new barrier therefore appears; a higher mountain therefore rises. One should always be pateint and determined, at the same time be humble, always anticipating an even greater challange.

Of all I miss the most is Ozawa-Sensei. I hope I will be able to make the trip to Japan next year and train at Kobukan (his dojo). Meanwhile, I have to improve my kendo and build on what I have learned from him and from the other senseis.

Meguro-Sensei, me and Ozawa-Sensei

Ozawa-Sensei's Autograph. It means: all except me are my teachers.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Last day jigeiko

I got to the sports hall an hour early as in the previous few days. But I was the first and only one there, even before all the organizers. The jigeiko started 9am-somthing, after I put my men on a girl, Satoh, from Vienna invited me for jigeiko so we practised for a while, before ending it with an Ippon-Shobu. She didn't seem very experienced so it wasn't very difficult for me. I tried to hold my centre more, something I will work on in the coming months.

Next Kei came to train with me. Of course I was delighted. She has a stong centre that was hard to break, and did very well suriage. During our Ippon-Shobu, however, she didn't use it, which suggested that she's not very confident with it. It was a tough one with occationally one of us landed the shinai on target but denied a point by oneself. At the end she got a straight men-cut, because my, also men, strike could not hold the centerline. Good match!

Then a Czech girl Denise (I think it's her name) wanted to geiko with me. I feel important now having people queuing up for me! She is a strong kenshi, and I used this opportunity to practise holding my centre. It was therefore a nice match for me. In the Ippon-Shobu, I landed a harai-men to claim the point.

More people waiting. Misha from Berlin whom I promised to do jigeiko with yesterday came. He had a blitzing attack but I didn't feel very pressured because I think he didn't bring he whole body forwards. It might be due to that he is tall. However, he ducked very fast so my men-strikes missed because of that. I should have tried to do nidan waza, but it didn't come across my mind at the time. Finally I won the Ippon with kote.

I then jigeiko'ed with Kamemoto-Sensei from Austria. Very interestingly he used jodan-no-kamae with switching hands. He would suddenly swap the upper hand and the lower hand. I guess his opponent must be confused by that. But to me who is really no match to him, he used Chudan. There wasn't too much to note from this geiko, in fact except a good work out.

My last opponent was Kenji. I was keen to see what he thinks of me today compared to yesterday. Feed back from him was:

  • Improved. My kensen is now more in the centre.
  • Have no fear. Don't always walk back. Keep the pressure on.

After training
The organizers brought us with the Senseis to the Italian resturaunt where we were yesterday. As soon as I walked in and said hi to the people who had already arrived, I saw Meguro Sensei waving at me and pointed at the seat next to him. So I sat next to him and chatted with him during the lunch. He went to Taiwan some years ago for tourism and like it very much. I told him that his suriage just kills me and my harai-waza didn't work at all. He said the best is to just go straight in with seme and strike men, and that from 6th Kyu to 8th Dan one should always try to acheive this. "Kendo," he said, "should be simple, and beautiful. Simple and Beautiful."

I'd be forever grateful for this advice.

After the lunch we said farewell in front of the resturaunt. When I said goodbye to Ozawa-Sensei I looked firmly into his eyes and said "See you." He responded with the same firmness and a nod, "See you."

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Toru Giga Cup 2006

Today is the big day. I selpt much better last night. It was a disaster going home, though. My head was aching; my muscles were killing me, too. But fortunately I found something soft for putting on the floor to sleep on.

When I saw Kuroda in the sports hall, he looked tired. He said he had a bit of hang-over, from 5 or 6 beers. Geez, he probably had forgotten completely that today is the tournament. Oh, by the way, so he and Yasuko are both competing despite they were in the seminar the "Senseis". Kuroda told me, "Here people call was Senseis, but in Japan only 7th/8th Dan holders are called senseis." But I guess it still doesn't change the fact that some poeple would be horrified if they had to fight one of these two in the tournament

The opening speech took place as usual in a kendo tournament with the kendoka standing in lines. There were a few new faces among the officials. One was Kawamoto-san who I met last night, and the other was Kamemoto, 6th Dan, from Austria.

The participants of the tournament were divided into 36 groups, with 3 in each group, and the top two enter into the knock-out round. One person was absent in my group, so that means I need to only fight once and automaticaly enter into the KO round. Nonetheless, I won the match against Strnadek with one men . He was much taller and bigger than me, and it took me some time to adapt. At the begining I got constantly pushed around, and got a hansuku for being outside. Then when we're at the issoku itto no maai, I leaped forwards and striked men. Men-ari!

So I advanced into the knock-out round. The first match, against Janecek, was perhaps my favourite one of all my matches in the past. I landed a harai-men, with only one step forwards, which happened so smoothly that it's all most like a textbook example. Second point I got was, to put it in a glorious way, a san-dan waza, namely, men-men-men. When we were in the Chikama distance parrying each other's shinai, I suddenly reversed mine and attempted a men-stike, but he blocked it, however, with a bad posture. So I pursue with another one, and another one, with him going backfowards. At this moment I saw an opening on his men, and somehow I had plenty of time to draw my left foot close to me again, so I lauched a men-strike, being almost certain that I could hit it. Bang! Another point.

I lost my next match, against a member of Czech national team, Fritz. His kendo is very beautiful - fast and clean. He first scored a kote-men. At the moment when the shinai touched my kote (it was the wrong one as well) I just froze for a moment, and the men-strike landed rightafter. He won the second point with a do-strike. When I tried to block his attack, he spotted the opening - a lesson to be learned!

Some highlights of the day were, the two Japanese Sensei Kuroda and Yasuko were both knocked-out. Kuroda by Koss, and Yasuko by Walkiewicz. It was tough for Yasuko because Walkiewicz is a very big guy, who took it to his advantage and used a lot of body-check technique, or taiatari. She lost 0-1. But many people were very suprised to see that Kuroda lost. Afterall he trained all of us, and somehow had the "aura" beyond him, since he came with Ozawa-Sensei, and from the land of samurai. However, I'm sure he would've done better if he didn't have the hang-over. The funny thing was, when Kuroda lost, Ozawa-sensei passed by in front of me and Kei, he did the gesture of wiping his sweat of his forehead. Another example of his humour.

The match between Sugino and Mraz were a good one too. Sugino is an ex-Wasada University kendoka, and currently studying in Berlin. Mraz, a past winner of the same tournament, comes from Vienna, who fights in jodan and is very tall. I captured the match on video, so I'll let it do the talking.

Quartar-final: Sugino (white) vs Mraz (red)

Sugino eventually won the title, and in the second place was Yearwood from Poland.

Final: Sugino (white) vs. Yearwood (red)

Just before the final, Ozawa-Sensei and Meguro-Sensei performed the Itto-Ryu Mizoguchi-Ha kata. Kuroda explained to me that it's a kata which is not very well known even within Japan, and Ozawa-Sensei learned it directly from the Soke (宗家) (head master of the Ryu-Ha). It could be performed with many people at the same time, even up to ten. The kata looked like iaido and kenjutsu, with a lot of slicing motion.

There was half-an-hour time for free-jigeiko. I practised with Kenji, whose suriage was again my killer. I realised that to prevent the opponent from a successful suriage, I can first use the harai technique, and then just as I reach for men, if the opponent has a strong centre and raises his shinai to perform suriage, I can, instead of continuing the men-strike, press my shinai against his. If I continue the men-strike, the opponent would definitely brush off my shinai and hit men.

Feedback from Kenji:
  • when doing seme, hold the centre. Don't let the kensen wander around.

After everyone finished, Kenji did jigeiko with Takita and Kamemoto-Sensei. I admire Kenji's powerful kendo. First was his kiai. Very deep and strong, like a big wave directing at his opponent. And secondly was his explosion of men-strike.

After training
I went for dinner with the Berliners in a nearby Italian resturaunt. My body and my mind were both dying for some good food, so once I stepped into the resturaunt I smiled from within! There wasn't a big enough table for all of us so we broke into two tables, with me sitting at the same one with Kei and Saskia. Ho ho lucky me to dine with two hot kendo chicks. We kinda spoke a mixture of German and English since I still express more freely with English. We discussed about the seminar, tournament and the senseis as well as the other general things. Both of them were suprised that I've only been in Bogu for six months after seeing my matches.

After dinner some people wanted to go back to rest, but I wanted to go to the city centre, to enjoy my last night in Prague. Kei and Saskia joined. We went to the New Town and the Charles Bridge (again!), just walking around not having to worry too much about preserving energy for the hard training the next day.

This night I slept super sound.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Ozawa-Sensei's Seminar 3

Last day of the seminar. Got up in the morning feeling still tired.. Yesterday someone took away the gym mat that I slept on, so I had to sleep on the hard surface and didn't sleep well at all. When the morning session started I was feeling sick and a little stomach pain.

Unfortunately I didn't recall much from the kihon-geiko in the morning session. But I do remember I felt gradually better.


I was determined to do jigeiko with Ozawa-Sensei because the two previous times I could only do uchikomi-geiko. So I put on my men very quickly and was the third one in Sensei's line. I landed a couple of harai-men, with him nodding, but of course it was clear that he wasn't trying to fight me but to motivate me.

After another jigeiko with Kuroda-san, I was physically exhausted. So I took a early break.

  • Ozawa-Sensei: More keiko!
  • Kuroda: Bring shinai forwards, and don't raise it backwards because it takes too long to strike.

Jigeiko with Meguro-Sensei

During the lunch break I asked Ozawa-Sensei to sign the autograph for my copy of "the Definitive Guide". I thanked him and told him that I benefit a lot from this book. He said, he too.

Afternoon session
Kata. We didn't have time to go over everything ourselves, so we only practised Kata 1-5, with the rest demonstrated by Ozawa-Sensei and Potrafski-Sensei.

Afterwards was again the group training, during which we did more kirikaeshi and men-uchi. Very few people this time in my group because people were tired. I was exhausted too. But I wanted to hold until the end. However, I did have the nauseous feeling that I was about to throw up..

Takita, a Japanese 5th Dan sensei from Romania was leading our group exercise. He stressed the importance of raising the shinai with the shoulders. Since I couldn't move very fast at this point, I did very slowly and make sure my posture was good and the strike was firm and steady.

At the end of the kihon-geiko, I was so exhausted that I couldn't make the jigeiko. So I sat aside and observed.

Iinuma, Kuroda, me, and Takita

Party - talking with Sensei
There was the "Thany you" party in the lounge of a nearby hotel, which took about 20 mins walking. I was at the end of the crowd on my own enjoying a moment of silence and the evening air outside the sports hall when someone called me, "Mr. Liu." I turned around, and it was Ozawa-Sensei. We then started talking about various things: travelling in different countries, and what I do etc. It turns out that he has spent a month in Newcastle teaching kendo, and was at Imperial College London for a visit as well. (I lived in Newcastle for some time, and studied at Imperial College). It was very nice to talk to him as he's very friendly and talkative. He's English is also not bad, even though during the seminar he spoke only Japanese. I told him about my plan to visit Tokyo after my PhD study next year, and he told me that I'm very welcomed to come to his dojo. He gave me his card, and wrote his moblile phone no. on it. "Call me. Please don't loose it", he said, "If you loose then you can ask the Czech Kendo Federation for my contact." I received the card with both of my hands, very grateful and very suprised.

It turned out that we were enjoying ourselves and walking so slowly that all the others have arrived at the venue.

At the party I met another yondan Japanese working temporarily in Poland, Kenji Kawamoto. He is a very friendly and approachable person. Always smiling. We partnered up to participate in the "table football tournament", but unfortunately I had to leave before we could play because I was very tired and had headache.

I chatted to Yasuko (Iinuma) and Kuroda as well. They're both very fun people to talk to. Especially Kuroda has a funny sense of humour.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Ozawa-Sensei's Seminar 1

Wed 20th Sep
The train arrived at 16:30 in Prague. Thinking that the first evening would be an informal keiko, I walked through the old town square before taking the subway and bus to the dojo, in order to feel the vibe of Prague once more (this is my 4th time being there). By the time I arrived the sensei's and organizers were already giving the opening speech, with the participants sitting in two rows in seiza postion. So I changed very quickly and joined the crowd who were warming up. At this moment I started to regret being late, because I'd like to know more about Ozawa-Sensei's personal background etc.

The Old Town Square

I saw that Ozawa-Sensei and Meguro-Sensei (both 7th Dan Kyoshi) were in the middle, to the left of Ozawa-Sensei were Demski-Sensei (7th Dan Kyoshi) and Potrafski-Sensei (7th Dan) from Germany, Ducarme-Sensei (7th Dan) from Belgium; to the right of Meguro-Sensei were Kustosz (5th Dan) from Poland, Kuroda and Iinuma (both 4th Dan) from Ozawa-Sensei's dojo.

During the suburi-drill Ozawa-Sensei reminded everyone the key-points of doing suburi: back straight, eyes looking forward, and big swings etc. After that, he called the yudansha out as motodachi, with whom all the others performed kirikaeshi and uchikomigeiko. After that the yudansha did the same exercise with each other.

Important points of the Kihon-geiko: one thing that was stressed repeatedly was the breathing,

  • Kirikaeshi: (1) men-strike, (2) breath, then 4 sayu-men forwards and 5 backwards, then men-strike, (3) pause and breath again (4) repeat (2) and (3).
  • Men-uchi: (1) Kiai and let the air out of the chest (2) breath, followed by three men-uchi with one breathe, (3) pause and breath (4) single men-uchi.

Waiting at the end was of course the jigeiko. I stuck to the advice that Stephan told me, first Japanese Senseis, then European Senseis, and forget the rest. But I screw up my himo (strings) as I was tying my Men, since I was trying to rush too much in order to be at the front of the queue. The queue for Ozawa-Sensei was already too long so I queued for Meguro-Sensei. He had an extremely strong centre that none of my shikake-waza works. For example, after my harai and going for men, he could always perform suriage-waza, like my harai wasn't there at all. The next I jigeikoed with Ozawa-Sensei. I found, in fact, less people queued up for the two Japanese 7th dan Sensei. Persumably because many were too shy to keiko with such high profile senseis.

I began all my jigeiko with a men-uchi, since in Ozawa-Sensei's book I read that sometimes it is appropriate to do this, so that the motodachi knows your level, and can stimulate you accordingly. During our jigeiko, I blocked too much that when he striked my kote I tried to defend it (too late) then he went for men and I defended men (too late), so this funny panicing situation continued for more than I'd like. We finished off with kakari-geiko, which was mind-blowing. When we received my taiatari he pushed me off with the shinai on my shoulder, as a result my balance was totally lost when going backwards, which meant that during my hiki-waza the opponent is still dictating. I must instead find a way to take controll instead. This was the end of the jigeiko. I went up to both senseis for advices but they gave none to anyone except saying arigatogosaimasu.

After training
After taking a shower I stood at the entrance of the sports hall while Ozawa-sensei was also there. We nodded and exchanged smiles. I might have said thank you for the training or something, he then told me: "I would like to see more of you." And I said "Hye!" Not sure why he said that, but that felt GOOD! He sat down on the bench, at which point no one was talking to him, so I took the opportunaty to initiate a conversation. So, I went: "Ano.. sensei, do you know someone called Vivian Yung? She says hi to Sensei"-- Yes, Vivian, thanks for providing me with a "chat-up line". He tilted his head while I explained more, and remembered. He then said that he might see her in Taipei during the WKC. I told him that I'm originally from Taipei, and the conversation continued from there until he felt with the organizers and other senseis for dinner.


A group of people consists of Czech and German kenshi went out for a drink. The first two pubs didn't have enough space so we had to keep on walking, until at some point the guys from Leipzig decided that's enough, and since I stayed overnight at the dojo (not the one where the event took place) with them, I left with them and went to one of the previous pubs and had a drink, which was very relaxing. Czech beer is good!

Ozawa-Sensei's Seminar 2

Thu 21st Sep
The morning's session (9am-12am) started with the same exercises as yesterday. Except at the end, Ozawa-Sensei announced, "The next exercise is more difficult, but if any mudansha also likes to try please step forwards." I, without a second thought, went forwards.

The exercise was ai-kakarigeiko, and the format was such that, everyone kiai and seme onto each other until Sensei blows the whitsle, at which moment the two should try to strike men as fast as possible and turn around and strike again until the next whitsle blow. The exercise was repeated many times. There were only 5 seconds between each blow of the whitsle, which normally allowed 3-4 men strikes. I practised with Baris Goek, and, after the rotation, with Kei Udagawa, both from Berlin.


During the lunch break I chatted with Kei. She lived in Germany already since 1 year old, and is currently a member of the national team.

The afternoon sesseion started at 2pm. We were divided into groups according to our levels: Dan, Kyu, women, and beginners. Since I don't officially hold a grade, I wasn't sure where I should be. So I said that I was a 4th Kyu. Well..., it turned out that I might have just as well claimed to be a 6th Kyu since the Kyu group was further divided into 1-3th Kyu and 4-6 Kyu groups.

We started with Kirikaeshi, slowly with a clear pause after each strike. Then men-uchi, and kote-men-uchi, with the breathing controll as explained yesterday. I tried to achieve ki-ken-tai-ichi and good posture with every strike and to work towards a consistent performance.

The group practise was followed by a 10 mins break, and then the yudansha stepped forward again as the motodachi, and we did kakari-geiko a few rounds, each time for 15 seconds. The yudansha then practise with each other, first kakari-geiko, then ai-kakari-geiko.

Finally the jigeiko time. I queued up for Kuroda this time. Did a fairly long jigeiko with him. I couldn't get his kote so I mostly went for men. The feedback from him afterwards was: "Good match."

I then did jigeiko with Meguro-sensei, but I can't remember much detail from it. With Ozawa-Sensei I only got to do uchikomi-geiko, because it was getting late. Seeing that all the senseis were giving uchikomi-geiko, I invited Kei for a jigeiko. We had perhaps only 2 mins before the session was closed. She did straight men-cuts, and had extremely strong centre. So I didn't get any points. Anyhow, it was a short and enjoyable jigeiko.

After training
After the session finished I went to talk to Kuroda and introduced myself. He is a very approachable and relaxed person, which to some would be a suprise since senseis sitting on the other side of the dojo easily give people the impression of being serious. Speaking very slowly and choosing right words, we could communicate in English.

He teaches kendo and Mathematics at the girl's high school managed by Tokyo University of Science, the University where Ozawa-Sensei holds a professorship. I like his kendo very much, especially his posture, and the way he moves - very steady and yet mobile.

In the evening I joined the Berlin crowd to the city centre to have pizza and a drink. We spoke a mixture of German and English, and it was great fun. Kei after the dinner decided that we should go to the castle, which is situated at the top of the hill. Funnily, though I think most of the people would have prefered not to, no one objected. So, at 10pm, after a day of hard training, we climb up the hill to see the castle at night. We got there at the end though.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Off to Prague!

Just a quick note to say that I'm off to prague in a few hours to attend the seminar and Toru Giga Cup tournament lead by Hiroshi Ozawa-Sensei. Extremly looking forward to it! The schedule is as follows:

Wednesday Sep 20th:
17:00 – 21:00 evening practice

Thursday Sep 21st:
09:00 – 12:00 morning practice
12:00 – 14:00 lunch break
14:00 – 16:30 afternoon practice
18:00 – 19:00 Lecture "Essence of Training (Keiko) in Japanese Culture" by Hiroshi Ozawa

Friday Sep 22nd :
09:00 – 12:00 morning practice
12:00 – 14:00 lunch break
14:00 – 17:30 afternoon practice
19:00 – 24:00 "Thank you all" party

Saturday Sep 23rd:
09:00 – 18:00 15th Toru Giga Prague Kendo Cup
(Individual tournament with no sex /grade restriction, min age 15+)
19:00 – 22:00 free jigeiko

Sunday Sep 24th:
09:00 – 12:00 good-will jigeiko

Yesterday I had a warming-up training session. Not thing special to note. On Thursday Yanai Sensei, 7th Dan Kyoshi, who has lived in London for the past 8 years will come to Dresden to train with us. It's a pity that I'll miss out the opportunity to meet him, as I have heard of him before.

Aii~ wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Footwork of Hiki-waza

Today a couple of people came back from summer vacation, which was very nice. I was genuinely happy to see them.

This evening I had a very valueable training. Stephan gave me a lot of valueable feedbacks, including some things I was never sure about.

  • The footwork of Hiki-waza: (1) left leg back (2) raise the shinai and use the right foot to push the body backwards in order to gain distance (3) stomp the right foot and strike, at the same time the left foot can go a small step back if it helps to balance (4) maintain the posture (body up straight, shinai above the forehead) while going backwards.
  • Zanshin of debana should be so that the oppenent is within my sight, never face the back completely to the opponent.
At the end of the jigeiko I had a ippon-shobu with Stephan. The others had all finished, so everyone else was looking at us, who were applying seme onto each other.

And the moment came -- he attempted men while I raised my shinai with my mind set for a kaeshi-do.

Bang! Bang!

He got me. My block wasn't effective. Perhaps due to a combination of the slowness and the incorrect angle of the shinai.

Moreover, I wasn't active. I didn't force him to strike men, but just waiting for it.

My footwork after striking is improving. Found out that the trick is to take small and quick steps forward.

This Friday I might have to train alone with Anna again, like last Friday, since most people won't come after the kendo league which will run from 5pm-8pm that day. But there are so many things one can practise to fill one hour with drills, etc. And sometimes it is good to go back to the very basics, so I'm rather looking forward to it.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Posture first

Today had a very nice training. Which was maybe also to do with having been quite productive at work. However, I was late for the session because I mixed up the training venue. By the time I arrived at the correct one I had missed out the war-up.

We did 3 x kirikaeshi, seme-men, seme-kote, kote-men, hiki-men/do/kote, oji-waza against men and against kote, and finally jigeiko.

To be improved:
  • My reaction to kote strike is quite slow, which I have to watch out for.
  • Hiki-do too high.
  • Zanshin. I got hit a lot as soon as turning around.
  • Posture.
  • Seme and footwork.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Kendo is infinite

I'm currently reading the book "Kendo: The definitve guide" by Hiroshi Ozawa, which is a very well written book. The explanation of the waza is written step-by-step with clear pictures, as opposed to just being conceptual and abstract, a feeling I have from the book "Kendo: Elements, Rules and Philosophy" by J. Tokeshi.

One passage regarding the attitude towards practising kendo that stood out to me was this:

...Try not to be impatient to see improvement in your Kendo, and remember that the process is sometimes more important than the result. Too much concern with worldly goals and ambitions is likely to have an adverse effect on your Kendo. Further, it is a grave mistake to think that an understanding of technique will automatically enable you to grasp the essence; Kendo is infinite, so rather than focusing on winning or losing, think carefully about how to refine your skills.

Lately I felt I need to be more postive about myself after the training instead of being too self-critical -- a tendency I have whenever I want to see results too quickly.

Yes, kendo is infinite. While trying to make progress, I should not forget the reason that I do kendo, and that's just to enjoy doing it.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Congratulations Stephan!!!!

Congratulations to Stephan who just had his first child -- a daughter!

The training proceeded as normal with Georg as the trainer. Stephan only came briefly and left presumably because he has lots of things to do. We didn't spend that much time on Kihon at all, and went into jigeiko after 30 mins. I didn't feel that I've impressed myself today, but I guess that's just a normal training.

Things I felt lacking:
  • Ki ken tai ichi
  • Zanshin - real alertness, instead of just "showing it".
  • bringing forward my hip
Things I felt improved:
  • kote-nuki-kote
  • mobile footwork
Against taller dojo-mates I was too defensive. I was anticipating that men-strike, which lead to actually being struck, like I was lost even before the opponent initiated the attack. Deep, ain't it? I should not be afraid but seme in and strike.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Oops I did it again! (damn that de-kote!)

We did a lot of shiai-like training today. After the kihon-geiko, we paired up and in the first exercise, only one can attack (with shikake-waza) while the other can only defend or duck. In the second exercise, one can only defend and use Hiki-waza while the other uses shikake-waza.

In the first exercise, I started immediately with a do-strike which worked nicely: one step in to seme, raise the shinai at which moment the opponent thinks it's a men-strike and therefore blocks men or strike men, then the shinai strikes on do. Other points were not so notable.

In the second exercise, in which I was on the attacking side with Georg as the opponent, it wasn't so easy. He cleverly closed the distance so that I couldn't have a valid strike (I'm not allowed to use hiki-waza), and he could then use hiki-waza.

At the end, we had shiai-geiko, and I was against Liv. The result was 1-1 with one hankosu to each. First, she got a hankosu for being outside. Then she got a point with a men-strike against my crappy debana-kote, the same reason as when I lost to Tino in the last shiai. See here. I got a hankosu for falling - not sure how that happened - I think I was too tense. I scored the point with a harai-kote, which was the first time that it worked for me in a shiai. So I was quite pleased with it.

Overall, it was a valueable session today, reminding myself again how things can be different in a shiai, namely, the tension affects the performance, and that it is not a good idea to use a waza that one is not sure of. Why didn't I use kaeshi-do? (Which worked well for me in jigeiko.) I kept wondering. I also forgot about keeping a mobile footwork in the first half. When I remembered it felt indeed much better, as it helps to relax my body.

Advices from Stephan:
  • debana-kote should be more snappy, with ki ken tai ichi. Otherwise, it's overcomed by men-strike.
  • My hip is not following when I strike kote. Use the left foot and leg to push it forward.
from Georg:
  • Incorrect distance (too close) leads to many invalid strikes.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Seme and footwork

The training today lead by Stephan was good. There were quite a few beginners, so the training was mainly kihon. I focused on my footwork, namely, the fumigomi, and the use of right foot while doing seme. I read from somewhere (will check later), that the use of right and left foot is quite a subtle technique. The right foot is used to advance forward with the body and the fighting spirit in order to scare the opponent or probe the opponent's mental state. The left foot should be ready at anytime to propell the body forwards, except the moment when it is drawn towards the right foot, either because the feet are too far apart or for whatever reason. It requires therefore a delicate timing as to when to bring the left foot forwards since the kenshi is vulnerable at this point.

Another point regarding the fumigomi is that, one should not lift the right foot high but forwards. The bottom of the foot should not be seen. If the body weight is properly distributed with 50-50 then if one foot lifts up, it will naturally fall down. The movement of the advancing foot should therefore look very natural.

In fact, I noticed Yoda does the above very well.

After trying the above during the kihon-keiko, I applied them in the jigeiko time. I can't master it completely, but I felt I'm improving. I aslo paid special attention on my body posture.
Comments from Stephan were:
  • Debana-kote: after the hit my left hand tend to be too low, which looked awkward I guess.
  • Footwork: I should try to stay relaxed. Move around a little bit, instead of standing and moving seldem. I think I was trying to hold my posture and my seme so much that I forgot about it. He however commented that my seme was good.
I also registered for the Toru Giga Cup and seminar, which will take place in Prague from 20th to the 24th Sept. Since the winners of recent years have all been national team members, I think I'll have a very tough time. So I have to train harder from now on.

I'm also extremely looking forward to the seminar, since it's going to be given by Hiroshi Ozawa, 7th Dan Kyoshi, who wrote the book "Kendo: the definitive guide." Deciding what type of accomodation to take wasn't such an easy task for me. There were two options: 1. shared room in hostel; 2. in the dojo with sleeping bag. I don't know how bad it is to sleep in the dojo, but since I'm trying to save the money, I've chosen to do that. Whereas sleeping in the hostel will cost 15 euro more in total, which is not too expensive at all. Ahhh... I don't know. Maybe I should change my accomodation choice. I'm still indecisive.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Debana-men drill

There is a good description of an exercise for debana-man, which I actually saw when I visited the Budo XI in Paris:

Click here

Thursday, August 24, 2006


A moment ago just as I was walking to the kitchen to get some tea, I remembered some moments of jigeiko on Tuesday before my foot injury. One popped up my mind, in particular, was the men-kaeshi-men, which nevered worked so nicely before. The footwork can be very easily analysed as the following:
  1. Opponent strikes men;
  2. the receiver raises his shinai (tip to the right);
  3. Take a step to the left with the left foot. (The left foot should land on the ground at the instant the two shinais meet);
  4. The right foot follows and at the same time , using the point of contact with the other shinai as the pivot (or the right hand), reverse the shinai to strike men.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Ai ya ya!

The callus on my left foot got torned off during jigeiko yesterday evening, which was the second time on the same spot within a week. So.. well it wasn't a pretty scene I tell ya. This means no kendo for a week. Can't even bloody walk properly. Come to think of it, it'd be funny to see someone limping so badly while thinking that he does kendo.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Listen to your body..

..or don't think at all.

ok, so on Sunday morning I woke up. A moment of epiphany, I started to do suburi. I think that was before my breakfast. (Maybe it's because I thought I had to take a shower afterwards anyway?) Anyway, must have had a bad dream.

I did the routine stuff, jogoburi, men-suburi, katate-men, and again men-suburi. Then sayo-men and left-right do-strike with footwork (front, back, right and left). In total about 800 strikes I think, with some weight lifting prior to that. Focused on my footwork, makeing sure they're both pointing forwards and are in parallel.

In the afternoon there was a shower, followed by a almost clear sky. What a perfect weather to go outside? So I walk towards the river with a book and the intention of reading it. (I live 2 mins walk from the river Elbe.) As I was strolling towards it I felt like running. Actually, "I" didn't, it was more like my legs did. So they started running and what can I do but to follow? What would be a walk turned out to be a 30-mins jogging - the maximum which I do.

It was a productive weekend. Off to the monday training in a few mins.

Training at Budo Club Dresden
Georg lead the training as usual. It was a good training. To be honest, one of the best I've had in the past few months, mainly because we did a lot more combined techniques, or maybe one can say "combo"s, namely:


It was like trying to put the result of my kihon training into use to acheive the fluency. The zanshin of my debana-kote still sucks though. The problem is how do I avoid the opponent's strike, if my mendebana-kote failed, given that I want to go though to the right side. Today I tried to practise the way that Yoda does it (see the previous entry Yoda's departure ), which is to duck downwards, but it felt awkward. Another way is to turn the head slightly right, which keeps the body posture better. But my previous experience is that usually I'm not able to avoid the men.

Suggestions, anyone?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Short training

Fuck Fuck Fuck.. Only trained an hour today, 'cuz we started late and the warming up basketball took another half-an-hour. I was extremely disappointed having expected all day long that I can stretch my muscles more. The kendo worm inside me sure has a big appitite.

On the good side, the hour we spent on training was intense, 2 x kirikaeshi, 2 x 5 men-uchi (large and small), 2 x 3 kote-tsubazeriari, 2 x 5 wazas against men-uchi, and the rest of the time jigeiko.

I still have to do better on my reaction time. Very often I saw an opening, which went away like a flash light, and my body wasn't able to response. On the other extreme, as Georg pointed out later, my arms naturally lifted too high - and too often - to block the strike. Once the opponent realises this habbit of mine he/she can lure me to raising my arms and strike do. Solution?
  1. Have a stronger centre.
  2. Don't care and strike, especially since it's jigeiko
I definitely have to do suburi this weekend to feed the worm..

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Teaching again

Yesterday evening I lead the training again at the uni training. I thought no one else would turn up , because Stephan and many of the senior guys have gone to the Baltic sea. So I emailed Wei earlier inviting him to join me for a small training session. Four other non-Bogu wearers turned up as well, perhaps not knowing that Stephan was away.

I tried two new exercise with them that I invented.
  1. Men-suburi, but the left foot stays at the same spot while the right one reaches as far as one can. The right lower leg should be perpendicular to the floor and, best, to the upper leg as well. Body posture should be maintained at all times, with the hip following every strike. This exercise is the promote a large leg movement while doing fumikomi and striking forwards, as well as a good posture.
  2. Footwork and reaction. I asked everyone to line up in a row at one end of the dojo, and do the following footwork: forwards, backwards, right and left. Do this continuosly until an appointed person strikes men, at which point everyone else should try to strike men as fast as one can to follow up. After the strike the footwork is resumed, and the process repeated. The person who initiates the strike is rotated, so everyone (including me haha) gets to practise. We did this from one end to the dojo and back. This exercise simulates the situation in shiai/jigeiko, where, during one's movement, if an opening appears on the opponent, one has to attack immediately.
I like explaining the ideas to the beginners, but the downside was that I didn't get to practise mouch. On the other hand, when I did get the chance to practise with Wei, who wore bogu, too, I had to concentrate and to make every strike perfect, because the others were all watching.

We did two hours of training, without playing basketball like we normally do to warm up, which was replaced instead by running around the dojo, which I prefer much much more, since it's equally intense for everyone, safer, and takes a shorter time. Considering also that the beginners usually train for 1.5 hours, they had a hell of a exercise yesterday!

What I would have like to do is to practise at least 5 waza against men-strikes at the end with Wei. So that I could get more out of the training. But well, next time.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Yoda's departure

Training yesterday at the uni was so so. My blistered feet was acting up at the beginning and I felt awkward with my foot work. This feeling continued through the rest of the session. I asked Catherine to take videos of my jigeiko, and it was obvious that my foot work needs some improvement:
  • Bring the whole body forwards. Use the left foot to push the hip.
  • My right foot can take a larger step with a more convincing fumigomi.
On my strikes:
  • Use the wrist more to achieve a more sudden and slappy strike.
  • Punch forward after the strike to reduce the chance of the opponent counter-striking men.
I pushed the beginners quite hard, from at the beginning emphasizing the correct techniques to, at the end, pushing their physical limitations. I was probably one of the most strict person to train with, because I personally benefitted a lot from my sempeis' advices, and also because sometimes seeing bogu wearers making fundamental mistakes makes me cry.

This training was Yoda's last training with us. He will leave for Japan on 28th of August. All the best to him!

A couple of video clips with Yoda:
(1) Yoda and I - finished with his brilliant debana-kote.

(2) Yoda and Stephan - Yoda used first a katsugi-waza and then a spot-on men-strike.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Leading session

Suprisingly, I lead the session at the advanced session of the Dresden Budo Club yesterday. We had at the begining only four, and Stephan came briefly to say that he didn't bring the Bogu and didn't have time to go back and come again.

In the changing room,
Stephan: "Du machst heute das Training." (Eng.: you do the training today.)
Me: (My mouth and eyes wide open.) (Eng.: huh?)
Stephan: "Musst ja machen." (Eng.: you have to)
Me: (My mouth and eyes wide open.) (Eng.: what the f...)

We did lots of Kihon. Men, kote, kote-men, kote-do with large movements first and then small. Then uchikomi-keiko with these techniques. Afterwards, for half-an-hour we did harai- and nuki-waza.
  • Harai-men, from upper-right to lower-left; harai-kote-men, from lower-left to upper-right. First, we broke up the harai and the strike, and took two steps. Afterwards, we sped up and took only one step while doing harai and the strike.
  • Hiki-men
In the last 15 mins we did jigeiko before finishing the session with kirikeishi.

I felt good sharing my thoughts and what I've learned and read with the others. In fact, I enjoy teaching. Most of the time I was just reminding myself what I have to do to perfect the technique - I was just thinking out loud. So if you ask me if I was nervous leading the session? Not at all.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Self-improvement with kendo

Yesterday we pushed quite hard on the beginners. At the end, seeing them panting like mad reminded me of how it used to be, which kept my spirit up for the jigeiko at the end of the training. Among the six Bogu wearers I have the least experience. But I was able to fight more or less on equal grounds with the others (except Stephan whom I didn't fight with). A reason was that I was able to shorten the time between my blocking and striking. I landed a few nice kote-men's on my opponents.

Someone on the Kendo World forum asked about doing kendo as a way of "self-improvement", here was my comment:
Self-improvement wasn't a goal for me before starting kendo. I started kendo because of my long-time fascination of it and, in general, martial arts. But to perfect my kendo I find it necessary to adjust many of my attitudes, those that you use to face daily events and people. It has strengthen my mind, helping me to deal with stress better. It also makes me aware of the importance of having a good basics when learning something new, and that means being humble and self-critical.

I view the unhappy experiences in the dojo as a teaching in itself too. Which happen very often in real life, which you can't turn yourself away. You just have to learn to deal with them.

All in all, on the road to achieve the perfect command of the sword and the body, one learns many things and adujsts oneself from outside and within. As a consequence, he/she adapts to difficult and unexpected situations much better, in dojo as well as in general life. I think this is the teaching of kendo, and the road towards that ultimate goal and what one learns therefore is the way of the sword.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Fresh talent

After the training today Stephan, Georg and I were talking about the beginners, who are more talented and who are less talented. During the conversation I suddenly started to wonder if I was once the subject the that discussion, haha.

After thoughts of today's training?
  • My waza still sucks, big time.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Empty stomach, empty mind

Went to the training at Budo Club Dresden today, where Georg lead the session. I didn't eat anything before, so after we finished warming up I felt my energy was draining very fast. We did some Kihon-keiko and then kote-suriage-men, which was nice to practise, before finally the Jigeiko. Well, couldn't really make any waza to work which was frustrating. But this, I guess, is something I have to keep practising and practising.
  • Hiki-waza: do not push the opponent too hard while trying to get the distance. Push sideways (or upwards for hiki-do) requires only little force. Agility is the key here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

No stop

I had a great fun at Kendo training today. Despite the othorpaedic surgeon saying that I should stop kendo for 3 weeks and start physiotherapy on my left little finger, where I have the trigger, I still practised. I hope I can relax my grip during my training so that it can slowing get better, at least not worst. Stoping kendo for at least another 3 weeks is just out of the question for me.. Unless if it's really getting worse and worse.

There are a lot of people training today, about 12 keshi with bogu and 12 without. We spent about 1 1/2 hours on the basics and half an hour on Jigeiko. Here are the tips I got today:
  • Debana-kote: when turning sidways going to the right, one should not have his back facing the opponent completely. Eyes should be still looking at the opponent during Zanshin.
  • Use shikake-waza more instead of simple uchi.
My kaeshi-men has improved. I can controll the shinai better so that it lands on target.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Loosing is part of the game

Today is again the Dresden league. I lost to Tino 1:2. He got Ippon first with a Hiki-men, followed by my Hiki-men. Then as I faked a men in order to hit his Kote, he striked a Men-Uchi while my strike missed the Kote. My Kote has to be faster and faster Zanshin. I turned sideways but didn't do it fast enough. Afterwards Stephan told me that he was impressed and suprised by my kaeshi-do which nearly got an Ippon.

The worst of all was that my Ki was very weak. Maybe due to the lack of sleep last night?? My muscle and my bones felt light and empty. My toe might also hindered my spirit. This is unfortunatly what I have to learn to overcome. When one fights one has to give it all no matter what happened to him/her earlier that day - be strong.

After the shiai we had free-jigeiko as usual. I fought with David, Stephan and Jan. Stephan gave me a few tips, namely:
  • For Harai-waza one has to do it at issoku itto no maai distance. From chikama it's too close to the opponent.
  • Touch the opponent's shinai to see what his/her response.
Jan told me:
  • not to drop the shinai after uchi. I didn't use to do that before. I think I still need to adjust myself a bit from the 3 weeks of absence.
  • have a stronger Ki. (for example the kaeshi-do during the shiai.)
This time I felt there is a gap between my kendo and Jan and Stephan's. I was much slower, and my centerline is not strong enough.

Uni Training

The session at Uni took place an hour after we finished training at the Dresden Budo Club. There were, however, only 4 people - 3 beginners and Yoda, a japanese Exchange student. So Yoda lead the session with me explaining and elaborate the techniques from time to time.

No Jigeiko. We practised some basic uchi's, and lots of time on Hiki-waza. Then we did Kakari-geiko. New things I learned included:
  • Zanshin for Hiki-do is similar to Chudan no kamae.
I felt disappointed of loosing to Tino, but it's also part of the game. I have to be strong mentally as well, and recover quickly. I really enjoyed the uni session, as I could make sure that I can do the basics.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Kendo, ich bin wieder! (I'm back)

Went to training this evening for the first time since my toe injury 3 weeks ago. It was good to see the kendo friends again. Fortunately no one stepped on my foot during the training, which would have been a total disaster..

It's nearly the end of the semester, and I was suprised to find out that about 7 beginners from the uni club stayed, two more than when we were beginners.

When I arrived in the middle of the beginners training they were learning how to disassemble and reassemble the shinais. So I just did some kihon myself with the column as target.

In the advanced session, we did kihon geiko and then practised waza's of one's choice to counter Men- and Kote- strikes. My repertoire were:
  • To counter Men-strike: suriage-men, debana-kote, and kaeshi-do.
  • To counter Kote-strike: suriage-men, kote-men.
After thoughts:
  • suriage-men: upward brushing and downard strike should be fluent and fast, otherwise the opponent gets too close. Therefore, one should also be careful about the distance when striking.
  • debena-kote: aim to get that nice popping sound. Watch the posture during the Zanshin. I have the tendency to quench my back when turning sideways. :((
  • kaeshi-do: from Miyazaki's shiai with Eiga (not sure which year, see below), whereby he finished with a kaeshi-do, I noticed that he stepped to the front-right and blocked, then without stepping further forwards he reversed and striked do. more practise, more practise...

During the jigeiko I fought with David, and Elisa, after which we did a shiai-like practise, where only one pair fights. If one gets Ippon within 30 seconds then he/she stays on, if no one then both people are replaced by two new people. I didn't get any Ippon, and was forced off by the time limit. While I think if more time is allowed then I can do it, it clearly reflects the efficiency of my strikes -- should work towards a perfect strike every time.

All in all, I feel great to be back in the dojo again. Clearly there're lots of things to improve, but at least I could pick up the level of my kendo where I left it, and the suburi's at home in the past 3 weeks improved my kirikaeshi.