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, June 30, 2007

Rising star

In the past two week I have been training three times a week. Not all of them went as well as I wanted, but I have improved on my men-strike to a point where I don't hesitate. But my strike is still too slow, and I need to push my body farther, or otherwise at the end of the day I would be packing home with a bagful of debana-kote.

Sometimes it did happen though, that my strike was further enough. Today Georg praised my men-strike during the jigeiko with him, which he did not expect to reach given the distance in between.

After some jigeiko we had some team shiai practise. Three teams were formed, with a girls team, a Budoclub's team, and a university team. I was on the university as well as Martin, Tino (the beginner), Lino(?), and Stephan, as the taisho. We played the system like the Gyokuryuki competition in Japan, whereby the winner stays on until he either looses or draws.

The star this evening was undoubtedly Lilli, who served as the senpo. She single-handedly eliminated the first three opponents of both the other teams (including me), almost all won on men/kote-nuki-men.

Yes, so here we go, what you guys have been waiting for...
Lilli defeated me with 2-1
(honestly it was 2-0, because my kote was on the tsuba)

Well, deserved Lilli, I have to say. Now it's your time to make a speech here...

We also gave Georg his birthday kakari-geiko. I especially took care to give him that extra push during the taiatari, hee hee.

Lilli (far right) smelt blood..

Georg explaining distance

Tino, I and Stephan's hands

Stephan measuring the depth of Patrick's nose.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Reviews on kendo books

I wrote some reviews and critics on the several kendo books that I have, in case someone needs them before making a decision on which one to go for. This was originally motivated by a thread in the kendo world forum.

The books I review here are, in order:
  1. Kendo: The Definitive Guide by Hiroshi Ozawa
  2. Kendo: Elements, Rules and Philosophy by Jinichi Tokeshi
  3. Looking at a Far Mountain: A Study of Kendo Kata by Paul Budden
  4. The Heart of Kendo by Darrell Max Craig
  5. The Way of Kendo and Kenjitsu by Darrel Max Craig
I will maybe add some more information when I have more time, or when ideas come into my mind.

Kendo: The Definitive Guide
by Hiroshi Ozawa

Written by Prof. Ozawa, a professor a the Tokyo University of Science, and the head sensei of Kobukan kendojo. It is a well structured book aimed on beginner and intermediate kendo players. I imagine advanced kendo players can also benefit from having an instructive book for teaching, as well as the sections on refereeing and correct training mentalities.

It contains a brief history of kendo, maintenance of the equipments, the fundamentals of kendo (inc. Kata), and a comprehensive well-structured description of the wazas. The author, being a 7th Dan Kyoshi and an experienced kendo instructor, included an unique section on the best mindset for improving kendo. He travels regularly overseas to hold international seminars.

This book is a very comprehensive kendo handbook that any kendo enthusiast alike would find it helpful to have on the shelf.

I personally look into it when something didn't work out in the training, and I cannot get an useful advice from the instructor.

Kendo: Elements, Rules, and Philosophy (Latitude 20 Book)
by Jinichi Tokeshi

This book is written in clear language, and explains the basic concepts well, but the weakness is that, the techniques are sometimes too abstract. The footworks in waza (or techniques) are not explained. For this purpose, I recommend "The definitive quide".

This book however contains some (6 pages) on nitto-ryu. But it's mostly for curiosity as for beginners, it's not so useful. Another unique section is the personages of some kendo masters. It's good if you want to know about more the historical development of kendo. It contains a chapter on kendo philosophies and concepts, with the Japanese idioms explained. It is good for your kendo as well as personal development.

Looking at a Far Mountain: A Study of Kendo Kata (Tuttle Martial Arts)
by Paul Budden

Though I haven't read in detail this book, since I don't spend much time on Kata. But in my opinion, this is a good book focused on Kata, which can compliment any general kendo textbook. It contain the historical evolution of the kendo Kata (with nice old photos). The Kata are explained in good detail, with breathing methods, and illustrated with nice photos.

The Heart of Kendo: A Comprehensive Introduction to the Philosophy and Practice of the Art of the Sword
by Darrell Max Craig

Semi-biographic. Some sections. Having alread "The Definitive Guide" I sometimes do wonder why I got this book. (In fact this book was given as a gift). There is a chapter on his conversations with the author's late sensei. Sometimes it feels like a long ramble, when the author asks "But Sensei, why?" over and over again, and the sensei says "Well, this is simply so. Don't you think?"A such example is:

Graig: Sensei, I'd like to ask a question.
Sensei: I know.
Graig: I'm sorry.
Sensei: I know. What is your question?

Not terribly exciting is it? I much prefer a concise writing rather than that of a transcript type. The conversation was also somewhat stiff. The basic waza is not described as systematic and comprehensive as in "The Definitive Guide".

The Way of Kendo and Kenjitsu: Soul of the Samurai
by Darrell Max Craig

Some sections overlap with the earlier book "The Heart of Kendo". I do not see the point of having a book, which is aimed at advanced kendo players, that contains still the very basic parts such as etiquette, equipment, and basic exercises.

The most valuable parts of the book are on the advanced techniques, for example, tsuki, which the author explained with finer details. The techniques covered were not comprehensive, but with a bit of thinking, the reader can apply similar principles to the other techniques.

The rest of the book contains kenjutsu and kendo kata, as well as personal stories. The stories are readable, though not terribly exciting.

Not suitable for beginners and maybe not the best for intermediate players. But it is a nice book if one likes to expand his/her variety of "arsenals".

Apart from the sections on the advanced waza, I almost never read the other parts of the book.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Forward thrust

Yesterday, my men-strike somehow just clicked. I tried to thrust my hip forwards with the left leg, faster than before. The results is a faster and stronger men cut.

I arrived the dojo 40 mins before the session while the iaido had not finished. At the corner of the dojo I did 500+ suburi, and backwards - forwards footwork in chudan to practice seme.

Maybe because of the 30mins exercise, I was already a bit tired at the beginning of the kendo session. Nevertheless, my goal was still to give it all. And I did just that.

3 x kirikaeshi, 3 x men-hiki-men-men-hiki-kote-men-hiki-do, (then the same exercise but with kote-men), 2 x men-hiki-men-men (motodachi) - debana-kote, 2 x 5 techniques against men.

In the hiki-waza combo (I forgot the name for it), there should not be any pause between each strike. I also paid extra effort into the zanshin of the hiki-men, namely, holding the shinai high above my head with arms almost straight, to really show the spirit.

I didn't turn around fast enough for debana-kote as my men got hit most of the time.

I continued to give it all in the 15 mins of jigeiko, and kept on striking men with the epiphany I described at the beginning. It worked wonder. I thought also very little because I was tired. My body took over the control.

I tried also the osae-waza, which is the pressing technique. For me the best is pressing with the ura (right) side of the shinai. There are three main points:
  1. pressing at the middle of the opponent's shinai.
  2. pressing and striking is one movement.
  3. the arc drawn by the kensen should be as small as possible so that the strike can be make as quickly as possible.
In the last round of jigeiko I fought with Stephan, which was a very enjoyable fight even though I lost the ippon-shyobu. I struck men but at the same time he launched kote-men. Both the kote and the men hit the target. I was so tired that I didn't spend enough effort on seme. With a kote-men it's hard to defend, but if one apply seme (pressure) in the course leading to the strike, it is much hard for to opponent to be ready for striking. Perhaps one can also say that applying seme is a form of defence without explicitly covering one's open targets.

I was completely knackered after the training. What a good feeling!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

More men

Today at the end of training I had an Ippon-shobu with Georg, which didn't last that long. I wanted to do a kaeshi-do, but was too slow. I also noticed that I'm not confident with my men-strike enough. What I need is KNOWING (not just thinking) that when I launch the attack I can get a point. Then I can strike without hesitation.

Men-uchi, men-uchi, men-uchi...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Teaching the body

It's definitely not a good idea to eat doener kebab (a type of Turkish fast food, common in Germany) before the training. My body felt so heavy through out the training this evening.

In the previous couple of months, I had been working on seme, and, before then, strong-men cuts. I improved in each category separately, but it's still somehow unnatural to combine to both together, which is something I will have to work on. Especially, for kote-men, my men cut tends to be a bit too weak.

Tenouchi is the word here. At least at the moment my left forearm feels sore -- a good sign!

Today a few beginners wore the bogu for the first time. One of them (I'll insert the name later) had very nice posture, by that I mean back-straight, which something, for a lot of people, difficult to do (including me at the beginning). Another debutante, Mathies, who lately has been showing good fighting spirits consistently, did very well again on keeping the spirit up, even though it was obvious that he was at his physical limit. I hope he keeps it up!

Goals for the month:
  • Making the following things my natural instinct:
  • - seme;
  • - fast foot work;
  • - small sharp cut with left hand (wrist and fingers);
  • - push the hip forwards;
  • - and quickly draw up the left foot.
I hope to really rub these things deep into my joints, muscles and tendons.

The past weeks I often went for a 45 mins jog on Sunday, first along the river Elbe and then up the hill to complete a cycle back to my flat. It's amazing how significantly my stamina has improved since a year ago, by just doing kendo. Back then I could only jog continuously for half-an-hour.

Monday, June 18, 2007

32nd Australian Kendo Championship

Here is a clip found from the final of this year's Australian Championship, between N. Barlett (white) and K. Smith (red). A very nice fight.

Originally from this thread in the Kendo World forum

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Beginner again

Many people warmly congratulated me at the dojo yesterday for the win. It's a very nice little acheivement, afterall I have spent much time and effort, not just training but also thinking about kendo. (well, if you're reading this then you'd know it already.) At least it tells me that I'm going in the right direction. My training attitude however remained unchanged. Still thinking all the time, "Why didn't it work?", and, "How do I make it work?"

As for the training yesterday, there were too many beginners without bogu and the pace of the training was a bit too slow. But it's not too bad an idea to let the body slowly coming back to normal after the battle of Leipzig. My body felt rather heavy.

Some notes:
  • men-suriage-men: still didn't work.
  • kote-men: don't forget to keep the distance correct even when trying to go as fast as I can.

  • kote even though one can strike from afar, still one has to make contact with the kensen so that his knows what the opponent thinks.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

16th Leipzig Kendo Championship

Yesterday to my complete satisfaction I came back with a trophy from the 16th Leipzig Kendo Championship! I won the 1st place in the Kyu division, with that I got the chance to also compete in the Dan division. The levels are in fact quite mixed. Some in the Kyu division are definitely better than some from the Dan division. Part of it results from the strict and bureaucratic examination system of the German federation. One has to begin their official test from 6th Kyu, with each year no more than two exams. A shodan would require a minimum of 3.5 years experience.


Last week in fact I went to only two trainings due to large amount of work to do. When I showed up on Friday, some said that I lied on my blog! Well, in fact, you know, it was just a test to see who are reading my blog and trying to steal my secrets. Now I know wa ha ha ha... (Just kidding, of course.) So it takes a year for the others to find out that I'm blogging, that's interesting..

Hej du, schreib auch was. Make some noise here.

Anyways, let's get on to the main story..

Kyu Division

I finished my first two fights rather quickly with 2-0. In the first fight I faught with Moeller from Berlin: 2-0 (hiki-do, debana-kote). In my second match I couldn't remember what I did. But I was quite agitated. Stephan reminded me that I should keep cool. Then I gradually got better. In the third one I faught with Giessner from Leipzig, whom I won 1-0 with a debana-kote. From him I got plenty of tsuki marks. One of which was especially painful. Immediately afterwards, for a while, I had pain at the back of my head. The artillery must have been hit. It is very dangerous indeed if one does not take care and uses tsuki before he/she masters the technique.

I also think that in a competition, one is supposed to show his best and try to show the beauty of kendo, instead of just winning the competition. So, out of this principle, one should always show what he's best at instead of going through all the techniques he knows.

Quarter-final (Kyu): Me (red) - Giessner from Leipzig (white)

In the semi-final, I fought with Tino (also from Dresden). I won 1-0 on a kote-suriage-men. He was full of fighting spirit and did well on putting pressure, so it wasn't easy.

Semi-final (Kyu): me (red) and Tino Lehmann from Dresden (white)

Then I realised that I was in the final, fighting against Martin (also from Dresden). I had much hesitation during the match because I knew that he is fast. The moments when I didn't hesitate I got points. First on a debana-kote. He followed up with a easy kote-nuki-men when I launched my strike from to far away - a lesson to remember! Finally, I finished the match 2-1 with a kote-men. Only afterwards from the video, I realised that at the first kote, with no intention of hitting on target, I used the normal footwork to step forwards. Then with the left foot slightly in front of my right one, I launched the men-strike with that extra acceleration and distance, which allowed me to take a large leap forwards. This combined with Martin's backward movement and low alertness, I was able to get a point.

Final (Kyu): Martin Petrasch from Dresden (red) and me (white)

First medal for any sport, at the age of 26 - a rather amusing fact.

Elisa took a lot of videos of my matches for me (Danke Elisa!). So today I let out the Narcissistic side of me, and enjoyed the recordings again and again.

Dan division

So the rule is that if you are in the top 4 of the Kyu division, you get to compete also in the Dan division. I had not much difficulty with my first opponent. He seemed also very nervous. The match ended 2-0 with my kote-men.

In the second round, I got knocked out by the eventual champion, Mesenholl from Wuppertal, who fought in Nitto. Though I lost, it was a pleasure to fight him because he is stable and powerful kendoka. It was my first time fighting a nitto player. I wasn't sure what I was doing except I kept a good mobile footwork. But only afterwards I thought of better strategies.

He dropped his shinai when I hit his kote, so that I missed it and hit on the tuba or shinai instead. I think a good idea would be to feint the kote and then switch to men, since the men is open when he drops his hand.

My second round (Dan): Mesenholl (red) and me (white)

There was also a moment of opening when he missed and had his men open. Only if I had reacted quickly enough...

The hiki-do would have been better if I move more backwards with my upper body straight

Eventually, Mesenholl won the 1st place, and the second and the third are Marco (Leipzig) and our His Majesty Stephan, respectively.

Third place play-off (Dan): C. Rohde from Berlin (red) and Stephan Hernschier from Dresden (white)

Stephan first gave a blitzing men-suriage-men, and then a straight men when Rohde seemed to have let his men completely open (hear that popping sound!)

Final (Dan): Mesenholl from Wuppertal (red) and Marco Schulze from Leipzig (white)

Team Events

In the team events, I played the Senpo in our A team, consisting of me, Martin, Georg, Jan and Stephan. Apart from another all male team, we had also an all female team.

We won the first match 4-0 against Halle, but lost 2-3 to Leipzig. I drew the first match, but lost 1-2 in the second. A little disappointing. But they eventually won the first place, successfully defended their title from last year.

Summary of results

1. Patrick Koko (Dresden)
2. Georg Schröter (Leipzig)
3. Jacob Mack (Leipzig)
4. Martin Streitz (Halle)

1. Eori Satoh (Berlin)
2. Fanni Fröhlich (Leipzig)
3. Lili Dombrowski (Dresden)
4. Jasmin Rodig (Dresden)

1. Ivan Liu (Dresden)
2. Martin Petrasch (Dresden)
3. Eori Satoh (Berlin)
4. Tino Lehmann (Dresden)

Dan (and top 4 from the kyu division):
1. Torsten Mesenholl (Wuppertal)
2. Marco Schulze (Leipzig)
3. Stephan Hernschier (Dresden)
4. Christian Rohde (Berlin)

A year ago..

I started wearing the bogu almost exactly a year ago. It's really interesting looking back at the videos last year, how much my kendo has improved (which is never enough). By the way, the motion in the last year's videos seem to have accelerated by YouTube. Don't think I was really that fast.

There are however still reflections to be made:
  • Keep calm and don't panic when the other launches a strike. Instead, think of oji-waza.
  • Do not hesitate when a moment comes. In fact better launch the attack before you realised that there is a chance.
  • Be more aggresive, and don't be afraid of moving into issoku-itto-no-maai, as long as the centre is maintained.
  • Do not launch strike from too far away.
For the last year's event, click here.

Some photos (more on my picasa web album):

Dresden style