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!

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.