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!

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.