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!
In yesterday's training we did 30+ mins jigeiko and then shiai-geiko with two teams. No kihon as for the first time in a long while we didn't have beginners.
In shiai-geiko, we We split into an all female team and an all male team. We had only four in our team so Patrick had to fight twice. The lineup in our team was: Patrick-me-Georg-Patrick-Stephan; and in the other team: Anna-Lilli-Liv-Christin-Elisa. We won all the matches. But they gave pretty impressive performances. Elisa was especially strong, who showed a lot of fighting spirit.
I won my match 1-0 with a harai-men. Most of the time when I attacked men, Lilli blocked it. So I tried some feinting techniques and a do-strike. But the do-strike was not strong enough. A feint-men-kote landed sharp, but was not called out. (We had only one shimpan.) I guess it's because the view was blocked. Anyhow, I should be more efficient, and cleaner, otherwise exhaustion can reduce my performance.
Advices from Georg:
Don't let the left foot fall behind
When someone raises shinai to defend men, it's the chance to strike kote.
At the moment I really need to increase the speed of kote-men.
This week I had plenty chances for shiai-geiko. On Tuesday towards the end of the training we had shiai-geiko. I fought with Martin, Georg, and Erik, who just got into bogu not so long ago. I won two matches and lost to Georg on twice being outside and a men-strike while turning around for Zanshin - a pretty shit way of loosing. I got a ippon with kote-men in the match against Martin, which I was happy about. In fact, I felt rather relaxed and more in shape on Tuesday than on Friday.
On Friday was the monthly Dresden kendo league, which I don't usually participate. But since I want to participate again in the Leipzig Kendo Championship again this year (see last year's event), I wanted to see how I have progressed, and correct on my mistakes, so that hopefully I can do better this year.
I won two matches and drew two. Though I didn't loose, I wasn't very happy about my performance, because my hands were far too tense to execute sharp cuts. My reaction was also slow. Here are some thoughts after watching the videos someone took for me:
Feet were often too far apart. As a result I was often short by a couple of inches to reach the men.
Cuts were not sharp enough. My hands were too tense, especially the right one. And I couldn't use tenouchi properly to bring that sharpness. This came from nervousness, I think. In jigeiko or even the Tuesday's shiai-geiko, they were fine. But I have to be more consistent.
Apply more techniques (especially oji-waza). Apart from an attempt on kaeshi-do, and some debana-kote, I just did straight men- or kote-strikes.
While launching the strike, put the weight a bit lower so that the hip can be brought forwards, and my body would go faster forward without unnecessary upward movement.
Good posture. My back was up-right.
My body did not bob up and down while inching forwards.
Now the videos:
1. Me (white) against Mathias (red). I won 1-0 on a harai-men, which unfortunately was not on the video.
2. Me (red) against Sebastian (white). I won 1-0 on a cheeky men-strike, while he was turning around for Zanshin. It was funny that I got pinned to the wall, despite my attempt to stay inside by wrapping my leg around Seb.
3. Me (red) against Martin (white). It was a draw. It was a real fun as Martin has about the same physique as mine, and does very strong men-cuts. Stephan realised at about 30 seconds into the match that we both had white bands on. He therefore said, "Martin would have had double the chance to win (!)" ;D
Got up this morning at 8am having slept for only 6 hours. The training started a little after 9 with some warm ups. Then the squad trainer Tomonari (Tomo) Miwa sensei (6th Dan Renshi, see also the entry on Dresden seminar) took over. As usual we started with a few rounds of kirikaeshi, until my arms started to feel soar. But then, more, more and more.
This is of course not the first time in kendo training, but every time it somehow reminds me of my dad who I used to go out hiking with when I was little. He used to say to me that there are only 100 meters left until we get to the top. But of course where were somehow always 100 meters left. By the time we got to the top, phew, you think it's over, well no, there's still the way down.
After some more kihon-geiko, Tomo divided us into woman and men. We started an intensive series of exercises involving tsuki. First, from toma (far distance), take three steps and fence without kiai and fumikomi. Then, two steps and fence. Then, fence with kiai.
We then did ai-tsuki. This is extremely difficult and it seemed never happen that both people land on targets. I got quite big neck pain from people who landed their kensen on my side flaps of my men, causing my whole head to twist sideways.
We then did renkuso-waza like tsuki-men, and with other combined techniques, like, men-hiki-men, etc.
The main point with tsuki is not to stab with just the arms but with the whole body, especially the lower abdomen and the hipp.
We ended the morning session with ooikomi-geiko, suburis and haya-suburis. Which really exhausted me out. While doing it I thought to myself, can I actually continue into the afternoon? Then I told myself not to think.
Tomo told us that many of the exercises we did was just to build up our fighting spirit. Which is the most important when it comes down to squad training.
We learned much about techniques in the afternoon session.
kote-suriage-men: There are two ways, one with the kensen in the middle, in the other method the kensen moves slightly off centre with a snap and comes back to centre immediately. The tenouchi is important in both cases. The latter was taught during the training, but I asked Tomo afterwards if the former exists, he said yes and it's a matter of preference.
men-suriage-men: the footwork is very important in executing a successful men-suriage-men. One usually has to move sideways in order to strike the men. A swift footwork also ensures that the upper body would be straight.
We did also kote-kaeshi-men and men-kaeshi-men, and the similar principle applies.
After the suriage or kaeshi, if the opponent comes too near then do taiatari. Against a taller opponent - suriage. Against a shorter opponent - kaeshi.
I asked a question against Jodan: difficult to execute suriage or kaeshi. Most of the time aim at the opponent's left kote and simple strike. Move always to the right side to create an opening of the kote. Also one can feint the left kote and strikes the right one. I asked afterwards about do-strike. He said that apart from gyakudo, one can also strike the opponent's right side do, but better through from the opponents right to be safe.
Then we did a few rounds of one-minute fight, with one side defending and the other attacking. Though it was a squad training, there was still a big difference amongst the players. Some are not too difficult to score point the others are just impossible.
Following a 5 minutes break we started jigeiko. I was the first to fight with Tomo sensei. Very quickly, I got exhausted. During the jigeiko he launched two men strikes. One got me, and the other I avoided by doing suriage but couldn't continue with the countering men-strike.
Afterwards I fought three players from other cities, and won two ippon-shobu out of the three. I was particular happy with one of it because the score came after a proper seme, which has been what I have worked on lately. I lost against Marko from Leipzig who did a beautiful men-suriage-men.
The day finished with BBQ outside the sports hall, with some beer and hearty steaks -- very rewarding indeed! Now my body is aching all over..
This week so far I went twice to the training. I said "sofar" because there will be a KenVO squad training, and I am always confused as to whether Sunday is the beginning or the end of a week. Well, nevermind.
In both trainings I push myself hard. In general I tried to push my physical limitation. But in kihon-geiko and jigeiko I aimed to make every strike on target an ippon, meaning: loud kiai, nice posture and zanshin. A strong emphasis for me in the past few weeks has been seme. Namely, experimenting with different ways of breaking the composure of the opponent. I also found that kendo is much more interesting with applying seme before launching the strike, because you are not merely hitting a dummy but a human being, who can defend. Through the series of exchanging attack and defense, the two in many ways communicate and understand each other in a somewhat deep level.
Yesterday I had jigeiko with Lilli, Martin, Patrick, Un-Cheol, Antja and Daniel. Lilli has really improved a lot since she started training three times a week. Especially one feels her will to fight on, which is what drives us to improve. Quite naturally, as her opponent, I was driven to give all I had.This is perhaps the best opponent to have.
It was my first time fighting with Un-Cheol. He moves fast, and does very nice kote-men, with no hesitation between the kote and men. I think it's because his kote is higher than usual (or perhaps I should just call it harai-men), so that he can execute the men strike immediately afterwards.
Georg pointed out that my hands are slightly off-centre to the right in my kamae. I think this is because my left shoulder was slightly behind my right one.
Martin: surprise your opponent with minimum movement, or, let's say, redundant movements. This is for me something yet to be explored. At the moment I have try to see what works and then the next thing is to stop doing those that don't work.
Striking distance. During seme, for example, harai-waza or renzoko-waza, it is easy to get too close, therefore, renders the final strike invalid. I should watch out for the distance. If the opponent doesn't move backwards, I stomp my feet on the same spot, if they do, I move forward with the left foot quickly followed. Then launch the strike with the left thigh and hip pushing forward + LOUD KIAI!
I am very looking forward to the squad training tomorrow. But first I have to make sure I won't drink too much tonight!