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!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

In shape again

Yesterday, I went to the training after my neck recovered from the shock last week. I led the training at the university's club, as both Georg and Stephan are away at the moment along with most of the more experienced kenshi, because of this, the event at the Baltic sea. Surprisingly, 7 people still came to the training, among which 5 had bogus. So we could do some decent training.

I emphasised at the beginning and the end of the training that the basic requirements for doing good kendo are perhaps the fighting spirit and body posture.

After some rounds of suburi, we started with 4-5 rounds of kirikaeshi. I stressed the breathing and its importance. This was pointed out by Ozawa sensei in last year's seminar in Prague. I repeat here again:
  • 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).
Like jogging, when one breathe systematically, he can run for longer.

Then we did more kihon. But this time I asked very one to start from toma, where they should kiai and move their feet, before taking one step forwards to take the centerline with the tip of the shinai, and strike. After the strike, they should push their body diagonally to the left of the opponent to go through.

Then we did like this for kote, kote-men (motodachi stay still), and kote-men-men (motodachi take one step backwards after each strike). I emphasised that distance and footwork are the key points in these exercises. At the kote-men it is a common mistake to take too large a step at the kote-strike, so that the men-strike is too close to the motodachi. At the kote-men-men, the point is that because the motodachi is going backwards, one must draw his left foot quickly forwards to prepare for the next strike, at the same time maintaining a good posture.

I'm glad to see they take kendo seriously with lots of intention to improve themselves. It's very important to train yourself as well as to think of exercises to do so. I'm glad to see two of them stayed after the training to do even more exercises themselves. They obviously care about their own kendo.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Neck pull

Today I twisted my neck during the training, and now I could hardly move it. The same injury occurred before, last year, in exactly the same way. My head tilted backwards too much when I launched the men-strikes, plus I didn't do enough warm-ups (I was late). It'll definitely take 3-4 days to recover. Hopefully not longer.

Good news is that my trip to Tokyo at the end of October has been set. Which means I will have to finish my thesis at the end of September (!). I have to work towards it!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Holy Schmoky! I was completely exhausted from tonight's training. I got up this morning having a sore throat. (Incredible isn't it.. getting a cold in the summer. I blame it on the weather. ) And wondered if I'd go to the training. Anyhow, I brought my armour to the office, and at the end still went to it.

The training was about an hour. But we got on with it very fast, spending relatively less time on kihon than usual, in order to have more time for waza and jigeiko. We did some men-uchi, kote-uchi, kote-men, and hiki-men. I'm quite pleased that I now don't forget the zanshin after the hiki-men strike, namely, arms straight up, loud kiai and quickly shooting backwards.

  • The men-strike of the kote-men is still too weak. The problem is the feet.
  • Stephan adviced that I should fight for the center instead of just moving my kensen around.
In the jigeiko I fought with 6 people, the last one being Georg. Four of them were new in the armours, so I had to take some care to motivate them instead of just trying defeating them. I was pleasantly surprised that most of them were making nice straight men- and kote-men strikes. The major problem is that they tend to be afraid of strike and also move back during the jigeiko. A common mistake when a beginner fights with a more senior person. How the sempai motivates the beginner is not always easy. A good kendo player doesn't mean that he is necessarily a good teacher. Which is kinda true for almost every other things. Teaching is itself an art.

The jigeiko with Georg was the climax of the training. I completely switched off my brain (especially the parts that respond to pain), and just gave everything. I made some good continuous strikes occasionally, though sometimes I was too tired to care about passing through the opponent from the side instead of running into him and be knocked out. This always happens to me if I fight with a much taller person. The solution is the fast footwork. FOOTWORK again!

One interesting moment to note is that, at one point when we were at the chikma distance, we both froze. I had my kensen upwards point to his men, and he had his off-centre point to my left side. We held for 5 seconds still. WHAM. He did a men-debana-kote. When thinking back I was not active at all. I was waiting to see what he wanted to do, and this slight hesitation was enough for him.

After the fight I could hardly keep my back straight, while we still had to do ai-kakarigeiko!

Well, time for bed! おやすみなさい!

I attached the photos of the Omamori (お守り), or the Japanese amulet, that my brother sent me, who lives in Taiwan and regularly visits Japan for business. He got it from the Astuta shrine in Nagoya. Now I tie it to the inside of my do for good luck and safety! It reminds me of my childhood when I'd take similar amulets from Taoist temples.

Sashi-men 刺し面

The benefit of knowing Chinese is that I can read about 70-80 % Japanese text. Sashi-men, 刺し面 in Japanese, is what we normally refer to as the "small men cut". In Japanese Kanji, the first character "刺" means to fence. The phase, therefore, literally translates to "fencing the head". We can understand from it that, the motion should resemble fencing as opposed to swinging.

Friday, July 06, 2007

At the core

My graduate study is approaching towards the end, and, in order to ensure that I work hard enough to finish it on time, training will be kept at maximum twice a week. If every training goes well, this would not be too bad, though I can probably more or less only try to make my existing techniques more proficient. Not a bad situation. As there are still plenty of space for improvement.

Yesterday, about 14 kenshis with armours turned up. The kendo population in Dresden has really been climbing steadily in the past 1.5 years. When I started around that time, only a handful of people with bogu would turn up at each training. Once a few more beginners advanced enough to wear the bogu, a few with bogu would drop out. So the population had always somewhat maintained at an equilibrium.

So why has it grown so much in the past year? Well, I attribute it to the fact that we now have a handful of kendo fanatics, regular practitioners, whose will to improve their kendo is so strong that it surpasses the desire to engage in other activities. This tight circle of people makes up the core on which the Dresden kendo community builds. As they make effort to improve themselves, the rest feels the passion radiated from them, and sees a reason to learn more and to train hard.

Who belongs to this core of kenshi? Well, you know who you are.

So back to the training itself. Because all of us had bogus, we could concentrate on waza. After 10 mins of warm up, we did 30 mins of kihon and debana-kote. Then 30 mins of jigeiko.

When doing jigeiko with beginners, I practiced debana-men and uchiotoshi-men. With more advanced players I used more renzoku-waza. I still find it hard to make my left foot follow up quickly enough, especially when I am tired. But how fast the follow-on strikes can be executed depends largely on if the left foot is close enough to the right one. Other notes are:
  • remember when executing sashi-men, the initial motion resembles tsuki to secure the centerline, and at the same to prevent debana-kote.
  • keep the center of weight lower so that it's easy to launch forward to attack. But still need to try to maintain the posture.
Stephan's feedback from jigeiko:
  • In seme and kamae, keep the right arm relaxed while the left fist stays in the centerline. Do not push the shinai too hard.
  • For debana-kote don't think about avoiding the attack before the strike. Otherwise the posture would be broken.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Tying tenugui

Today I tried to used another way of binding tenugui or the head towel. Instead of the cap style, what normally kids use in Japan, I used this way - see here for a video demonstration. It's definitely for me the best one as it covers the ears (unlike another common method which leaves the ears exposed) and at the back it covers the lower part sufficiently so that the himo does not tangle up the hair. It also has the most of the material around the forehead, where the impact is the strongest, therefore offers a good protection. Moreover, it's fast, at least not slower.

Stay humble

First before the training started I helped Tina to improve on her fumikomi by first running across the dojo with okuri-ashi a few times with shinai locked behind the back under the arms, and then with fumikomi. After she managed that, we repeated the same exercise with shinai in kamae or men-uchi. It seemed to have worked.

Some notes from the kihon practice:
  • Kote: bring hip forwards. Don't take the shinai off the centre. Left hand should stay in the centre.
  • Kote-men: the tenouchi at the men-strike not sharp enough.
I should really work on both of them if I want to keep on improving.

We also practiced kote-uchiotoshi-men. The movement is very similar to kote-men, except because the opponent is moving forwards, the kakarite should not go too far forwards. The most difficult thing is perhaps to judge when the kote comes.

Jigeiko: I need more variation of waza. Should keep my posture while doing renzoku-waza, and quickly draw my left foot towards the right.

I did a nice men-nuki-kote on Jan with the kote really popped. At the end we had an ippon-shyobu. I wanted to do nuki-kote again but he didn't launch the strike after a few steps forwards, at which point my backward movement was slowing down and I got too close to him.

Bang! My men was hit.

Jan refused to call it a point because he thought it was a bit short. While some referees might think so, I felt I already lost because his kisei was much stronger, and coming towards me like a wall or a mountain. His self-criticism and humbleness are also why I respect him, not just for the physical kendo. It is very difficult sometimes to stay humble for kendo being primarily a competitive sport. But whoever manages to be confident, strong, but at the same time humble will improve faster and do good kendo. It is a long journey ahead.