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, 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.