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!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Taiwan 4: Travelling with Senseis

The next few days after coming back to Taiwan, I travelled with Ozawa Sensei (who came with me on the same flight), Hara Sensei (flying from Miyazaki), and Mr. Chou in several cities to practise kendo and some sight-seeing. I joined them on the second day to Shin-Ju, on the 3rd day to Tao-Yuan, and the 4th to Jia-Yi.

In a Taoist temple in Shin-Ju

From what I have seen and heard, the kendo styles in Taiwan is diverse to say at best, chaotic at worse. I have been very impressed by many young kendoka in their 20s doing strong kendo with good postures and basics, but have seen also high grade Sensei with loose centre and basics. The people here attribute the differences to the differences in "style". But I think (or educated to think) that kendo without a strong centre is simply bad kendo. So this is one aspect of Taiwanese kendo for me hard to accept. Another aspect is the ugly politics in kendo here. Uhh.. I don't even want to get into to it.

Shin-Ju Kendokan

A feast from the host in Shin-Ju

In Jia-Yi, I practised with Chia-An Liu Sensei, 8th Dan Kyoshi. His kendo is indeed very strong and I tried very hard to break his centre. Once I fell onto the floor backwards due to his pushing and my loss of balance during taiatari. Bloody hurt, but I went on.

His young students are very well trained indeed - fast with correct movements - which made me believe that he is a good Sensei. This reflects how important it is for a student to do his best in order to bring a good reputation to his teacher. Before I went on this trip with Ozawa Sensei I knew I had this responsibility. It was a heavy one, but I felt I had to do it and do it with dedication. Especially not to shame his name and the name of Kobukan. Fortunately, the feedbacks from the others were mostly positive.

Liu Sensei's Dojo in Jia-Yi

Oh, I forgot to mention that another thing I dislike in Taiwan is the drinking culture.. They make you down glasses (about 10 cl, two shots) of whisky or other kinds of strong liquor, as a gesture of friendliness... This happened with us at almost every dinner after the training.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Japan 2008 - 4: Nittaidai and Rikkadai

Kabuki Theatre in Ginza. From Japan 2008

In the 2 weeks I spent in Tokyo, I went to Nittaidai twice and Rikkadai 3 times. In Rikkadai, Ozawa Sensei taught me Kihon apart from training with the (few) students there. In Nittaidai, the class was huge, filled with a pool of about 60 students majoring in kendo. Ozawa Sensei told me they are the top level kendo students in Japan. Certainly their kendo foundation and speed are above me, especially the 3rd/4th year students. What impresses me is that they have what Senseis would describe as "正しい" (proper; righteous) kendo: strong centre, good posture and straight kendo. The students in 1st/2nd year are however less so. One can thus see how the kendo of the students progresses in time.


In Rikkadai, first Sensei taught me one way to strike men that I have seen but never tried before myself. It's between the usual small-men and big-men cut, so he used "medium"-men to describe it. When raising the shinai to strike, the left hand lifts until the nose-level, and the right one is in front of the forehead. The kensen points about 30-45 degrees backwards. When striking, simply strengthen the elbows and snap out the wrist to apply tenouchi. I think this way of striking is good for practising the wrist snap and tenouchi.

Yamanaka Sensei also was present in one of the trainings. After a couple of minutes of jigeiko, he made me strike men continuously to practise my footwork. I was very tired in the end, along with my cold, and still couldn't get it right :(.. He told me to move my lower abdomen forward instead of up and down.

I practised some kihon with Suzuki Aki Sensei while Ozawa Sensei was teaching. This is truly a rare chance to get some feedback from a high grade sensei, since she can sense the mistake from the opponent's point of view. On the kote-strike, she told me that I should push my hip forwards more and use my left hand, both during the strike and the zanshin afterwards.

The students in Rikkadai, of course, are not as strong compared to the Nittaidai kendo-major students. This was only good for me, since I could be more determined to win (In principle I shouldn't think differently I know..). I enjoyed very much practising with the 4th Dan students, Ishizu-san and Shimizu-san.


In Nittaidai I could sense a strong solidarity amongst the students. When doing kihon and waza-geiko, the students waiting in line shout out kiai to encourage the other students. The senior students give genuine advices to the junior students after the keiko. I think solidarity is very important for people from the same dojo. One can be mentally stronger and more determined knowing there are a bunch of people supporting you regardless.

With the more junoir students I could get points, but my posture was no way as beautiful as when they make points on me. They gave me the examples of how to be a strong kendoka doing proper straight kendo.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Japan 2008 - 3: Kihon 基本

From Japan 2008

Since coming back from Kyushu I have been training everyday apart from the weekend. The training time in Kobukan is temporarily shortened to just more than 1 hr due to neighbours' complaints. Hopefully after putting on sound-proof walls the training time can be extended to normal length. For this reason, training in Kobukan is not enough, I feel. Fortunately, I have also been to Nittaidai (Nippon Sport Science University) and Rikkadai (Tokyo University of Science) about once a week.

When striking...

Up to now I have received much more advices and instruction from Ozawa Sensei and other Senseis on Kihon and Waza than last year. Footwork is the most urgent thing I have to improve. He told me that one should attack from the lower abdomen. One should tense up the muscle when striking and stomping. He made me feel his lower abdomen when he struck. Indeed, the muscle tensed up rock-hard momentarily and relaxed.


On kirikaeshi, I practised with Kaji Sensei in every training when he was present. First time he told me to swing the shinai up and down along the centerline. And to extend the right wrist more when striking sayu-men. On the second time, he asked me to relax me shoulder more. On the third time, my strikes slid off sometimes. It's hard to be perfect indeed, but I'm on my way...


On our way back from Rikkadai Chiba Campus to Tokyo, Suzuki Sensei looked at my left and right palms to inspect the calluses. The right one should not have any callus, as for the left one she said the following. "The sides of the thumb and index fingers that touch the shinai grip should not have calluses," she said, "because they are not used to exert force. The important part is the muscle below the thumb. This part is used to grip the shinai when doing tenouchi. " "When gripping, the thumb wraps the shinai in the direction of the middle/ring finger, and not the index finger, which is a common beginners' mistake."

Are you making this mistake?

I will write about my trainings in Nittaidai and Rikkadai in the next entry.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Japan 2008 - 2: Kamae 構え

In the first few days, some conversations popped up between Hara Sensei, Ryuzo and me (on the listening side) about the importance of Kamae.

The literal meaning of Kamae says already a lot of things. The word Kama "構“ means structure. It is the foundation for all things. Needless to say that a good Kamae is what every one should achieve. But what is the importance of Kamae? What is a good Kamae? What is a bad Kamae? Moreoever, there is a mindset that prevents having a good Kamae. I'm going to summarise what was mentioned in the conversations in the following. 

First I will mention the story that Ryuzo kun told me. He started kendo at a very young age, 6/7 years old, training at the police dojo in Miyazaki. Of course, as almost all kendoka in Japan know that Miyazaki has very strong kendo, the training is tough and the style is orientated towards competition and winning.  Over the years, he developed very strong kendo and had always been in the school and university team to represent in the competitions. However, he said only from 3 years ago, when he changed his view about kendo, it has become more interesting, and he thinks it's what kendo should be. "Between 19 years to 28 years old," he said, "my kendo performance depends on how much I trained during that time, and my kendo level stayed roughly the same. There was not much playing with mind." His kendo at that time consisted of much blocking, and dodging. His kensen was also flying every where. However, influenced by Yoshimura Sensei, 8th Dan, from Paris, he started to understand kendo from a new perspective, one that grows with time after each practice instead of solely on physical condition.

"The first and the most important thing is Kamae." He said. "A good Kamae is the perfect defense, and is also the best preparation for an attack. One should learn first Kamae, then learn seme, and finally the use of Oji-waza."

During the conversation with Hara Sensei, Hara Sensei talked also about the importance of Kamae, and what kendo is. "A good attack must have a story," and he asked me, "why did Liu-san hit my kote?" I could not answer it. "If the Kamae is not broken before attacking, there is no story, and no communication." I will always remember this. He continued, "To become Hachidan, the story needs to be apparent to not just the two fighiting kendoka but also the audience."

From Japan 2008

[Hara Sensei and Ryuzo kun reflecting on the essence of kendo over some sake and food.]

Monday, December 01, 2008

Japan 2008 - 1: Miyazaki

Arriving in Japan

On the first day I arrived Tokyo, I was too late for the kendo practice. I only had 5 minutes of kirikaeshi and uchi-gumigeiko with Kuroda-san. I was quite touch because he had been very busy for a few months due to work, and the new working place is too far from Kobukan, so he had only been there five times in the past 4 months. He went especially because he knew I would be there. As soon as I put on the bogu, I heard him shouting: "Liu-san! Come here!" Then I had my only practice.

From Japan 2008

A snap shot of the members practising on the first night just after arriving in Kobukan.

From Japan 2008

In the next morning, I flew to Miyazaki, Kyushu, to visit my friend Ryuzo and his wife Eriko. The whole trip was filled with good food, beautiful scenery, friendly people and nice hot spring baths. Eriko san's family also embraced me whole heartedly, and I was very grateful for that.

Training with the members of the police riot squad

On the third day, Ryuko kun took me to the police dojo of Miyazaki City, where the Miyazaki Riot Squad trains. The members play very strong and competitive kendo, one of whom is the member of Japanese national team.

The dojo is lead by Oshie Sensei, 7th Dan Kyoshi. Ryuzo told me how much he is still scared of him because Oshie Sensei used to be very harsh when they were children and they used to cry, because of his difficult training. He introduced me to the Sensei and also the other members. I started to be a little scared because of the level of caution put into the etiquette. "This is a very traditional place," I thought, "and the first thing I need to do is not to make any mistake in the etiquette."

From Japan 2008

This dojo, according to Ryuzo kun, is one of the 4-5 kendojos survived the war. Since Miyazaki is the origin of kendo, this dojo has a very significant kendo history.

From Japan 2008

Members of the riot police.

The practice is only jigeiko for one hour. I first practised with Oshie Sensei. I think because he knew I was Shodan so he did not put much difficulty. There is also not so much story I can say about it.

My second and third opponents were fast and strong. When they struck kote-men, is was as though the two strikes were one. I really had no time to react. I tried men-nuki-kote several times but my backward footwork was not fast enough to make a good kote-strike.

Hara Sensei, who was in Dresden earlier this year, came towards the end of the training especially to practise with me. Practising with him was a total pleasure. His kamae is very strong and has very strong kisei. He made me work to open a striking opportunity. There were a couple of moments when I felt connected to his thoughts, but unfortunately I made too premature kote-strikes which were not able to overcome his strong kamae.

From Japan 2008
Hara Sensei, Me and Ryuzo.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Excursion to Japan

This Friday I will be in Tokyo staying for one day, and on the next day I will fly to Miyazaki in Kyushu to visit Ryuzo kun (who won the Mumeishi 3 this year in London!), before going back to Tokyo on next Tuesday. Then I will be wiping the floor of Kobukan until the 16th Dec.

Can't wait!

The winner's smile! Congratulations!!

28th Nov 2008 - 16th Dec 2008
Tokyo and Miyazaki (Kyushu)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Taiwan 3: Tao-Yuan Kendokan 桃園劍道館

From Taiwan 2008

From Taiwan 2008

From Taiwan 2008

So I came back last night alive from the Tao-Yuan Kendokan in Tao-Yuan Tao-Yuan County, which is about 1.5 hours far from where I live by driving. Fortunately, Mr. Chou a Sempai affiliated to Tokyo Kobukan drove me there.

The keiko consisted of only jigeiko and mawari-geiko at the end, for about two hours. There were about 20 kendoka in total, all yudansha coming from not only Tao-Yuan, but Taipei and nearby places.

Most of the national team members come from this place because they had much resources to develop their kendo from very early since the Japanese occupational period, combing with the effort of Hsu Sensei, 7th Dan Kyoshi, currently the national team coach, to train his talented students.

Atmosphere is very relaxed there, much like a social club. People arrived gradually at different time and started keiko on their own in pairs. Some sat on the side and chatted for a long time before putting on men and practise. It didn't appear to me that they take it seriously, but somehow they do strong kendo. So much so that they won 22 times in a row in the national championship. I fought with Mr. Chou and Huang Sensei first, then the rest of the national squad members. Because of the mawari-geiko at the end of the training. I had the opportunity to fight with most of the squad members.

The style here in this dojo is much sportive I felt. Young, fast, a lot of techniques and the distance between the opponents is short, usally at chikma. It's not my favourite type of kendo, but I can still learn from them, and people can do very well with it in competitions. Their techniques are however very good, and because they started at a young age, they have solid foundations.

I didn't do so badly, and was able to put pressure and use waza to score points. However, I know pretty well that I was pushing myself to the limit to match some of them.

I was again told that I should improve my basics, like pushing with the left leg, using more left hand, and move forwards instead of right when striking kote. Then I will be very powerful.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Taiwan 2: Taipei Kendokan 台北劍道館

From Taiwan 2008

From Taiwan 2008

From Taiwan 2008

From Taiwan 2008

Today I visited the Taipei Kendokan, led by Ming-Hwa Ho, 7th Dan Kyoshi, who also represents Taiwan to fight in the individual division in the world championships. The 1.5 hours training is only for yudansha, starting with kirikaeshi, followed by men-uchi, kote-men uchi, oji-wazas and then jigeiko. Hsu Sensei commented pointed out that when striking men or kote, one should always win at the seme stage first. "Striking without having the centre is like suicide," he said, "you'd get killed certainly."

I fought 4 jigeikos, first with a 3rd/4th Dan, and then with Ho Sensei, Hsu Sensei and finally Mr. Do who is 4th Dan. The overall level is very high and the average age of the kendoka is relatively young, perhaps 28 years old. Most of them fights very competitively, however with also good postures, which is an impressive thing.

It was rather impossible with Ho Sensei. When he sees the moment he just went for it like a blitz. With Hsu Sensei I could manage some ippons, but he commented afterwards that my Kamae was not good. Perhaps I moved my kensen away from the centre too much.

I was really exhausted towards the end. My left leg just could not follow up quickly anymore, which is a shame. But there's not point complaining if I'm not putting in enough time to strengthen my leg muscles.

Next Monday hopefully I will visit the dojo where most of the Taiwanese national team members train. I hope that I will come out alive.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Taiwan 1: I-Shin Kendojo 一心劍道館

From Taiwan 2008

From Taiwan 2008

From Taiwan 2008

On the third day of being in Taipei, I had my first ever kendo training with the Taiwanese kendo community at the I-Shin Kendojo. The dojo is led by Tsai Sensei, 6th Dan Renshi, who is also a good friend of Ryuzo kun. And Ryuzo's wife contacted him a couple of weeks ago from Paris that I will be visiting his dojo, so Tsai Sensei very kindly drove me to his dojo in case I didn't know the way. The dojo is unfortunately 1.5 hours away from where I live by public transportation, but that's life...

I attended two sessions on the day. The first two hours was for beginners alike, from no grades to about sho-dan level. There were about 25 kids, 10 high school students and 7-8 adults (me being one of them). It was surprising to see the kids doing good and proper cuts, and having such a level of energy!

After suburi, we did a lot of renzoku-waza practice - combinations of men, dou, and kote cuts as well as taiatari-hiki-men/dou/kote. Though my level exceed most of them who attended this beginner's session, it was good to recap the basics, like what people do in kendo seminars.

The feed back I had from Tsai Sensei is that my wrist snap at the end of the strike is not enough.

The second session of the evening is for yudansha. About 15 people attended the class. Tsai Sensei wife Mihara san, 5th Dan, also joined the training as well as I-Chung Lin, 4th Dan, whom I have contacted previously by email. There were also I think 2 other 4th Dan and a handful of 3-2 Dan kendoka.

Not suprisingly, they have solid basics - cuts and foot works. Their taiatari was also solid. One can see these by simply recognising their movement after the strikes. People who have good body posture and footwork moves almost like a bullet before and after the strike - the whole body (especially the hip) moves as one gaint bullet.

We started with small men and kote strikes, and then Waza geiko in teams. Tsai Sensei emphasized that in waza-geiko, the one who executes the oji-waza must apply seme. This doesn't mean simply "stepping in'' but with pressure.

He commented on my debana-kote, and said that I should step in after the kote-cut instead of turning immediately sideways.

We had about 10 mins of mawari-geiko during which I fought with I-Chung and Tong-Fung Li, who I think is 3-4th Dan. I could got hit mostly but could also score a few kote or men cuts.

In the final jigeiko with Tsai Sensei, I didn't feel I was doing my best, because I hesitated too much before striking, which is really a beginner's mistake. I couldn't land any strike on him, and received coutlessly many straight men-cuts from him. He has practised kendo for 30 years, and had truely the level of kendo to match the 6th Dan grade, which I'm very cetrain of.

Feed backs:

  • Tsai Sensei: Think but don't think too much during jigeiko.
  • The left side of my body (left hand and foot) needs to be strengthened.
  • The left foot must follow up quickly while executing tsuki.
  • I-Chung: Good timing with the kote strike.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Long-awaited trip home

12th Nov 2008 - 11th Jan 2009

I will be writing my kendo experiences in in Taiwan in the following weeks. Stay tuned!!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

New chapter in life..

From My PhD Defense 03/11/2008

My academic hat. There is no graduation ceremony in German universities. So the tradition in our group is that the members will make one for him. 

From My PhD Defense 03/11/2008

Finally the long battle was over. Though I pretty much crewed up the exams, but I managed to pass it somehow, and the defense (or viva) was not too bad.

The day after my defense my dojo mates gave the best present they could have given me - kakari-geiko!! After the training I almost puked... for not having enough sleep lately and weak body. I need to recover somehow. Yes! Holidays!

Next Tuesday I will be flying to Taiwan, and will stay there until mid January. In Dec, I will make a visit to Tokyo for 2 weeks  to do kendo, and Miyazaki for a few days to visit Ryuzo kun a very good friend of my whom I met in Paris.

This will also be the first time that I do kendo in Taiwan. I hope it will be good!

In this trip I hope to, at the same time, sort out some doubts as to what to do next in life... Not a easy one..

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Von nichts wird nichts

What a f-*beep* shit day I had at work yesterday! However, the usual Friday bashing helped a lot to get my center back.

We had about half-an-hour of devilish kirikaeshi (courtesy of Georg), consisting of normal, 30-sayu-men, 50-sayu-men, and moving on to finally 100-sayuman. My shoulder and forearm muscles were cramped up after the exercise, which was good since I used the right parts of my body. The last 30 minutes we had shiai-geiko and then jigeiko. Out of the 4 matches in the shiai-geiko (ippon shobu), I drew one and won 3, with 2 men-strikes and 1 kote, which was a good ratio.

After the training, as usual I teased myself about how useless my body was and how quickly I got tired. Georg said to me, "Von nicht wird nichts." Which is an equivalent to "no pain no gain" in English. Bang on!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Squad Training 3

I joined the afternoon session of the squad training yesterday. There was a long jigeiko session which was a good chance to work on seme. However, before that we practised about one hour of more advanced techniques:

  • From issoku-itto-no-maai, seme with the shinai on the right side of the opponent's shinai, until the kensen reaches about the nakayuki (the leather tie) then drop the shinai and immediately raise up to strike men. Because the opponent's shinai would tilt momentarily to the left, an opening is created. The important thing to remember is that the shinai should lower straight down and raised straight up to attack, without swirling in the course.
  • Hiki-dou with stepping to the left-back to avoid possible men attack. If done correctly the oppoent's shinai would fall on the right shoulder.

Miwa-Sensei also encouraged us to try different techniques for opening the target during kote-strike.

The jieiko session was good. My timing for oji-waza has improved which was encouraging.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Use the pressure

At the end of yesterday's training, we had a team shiai practise, I was the oldest of the team so became the taisho and was up against Stephan. It's been a while since I fought in a shiai-situtation, therefore it was a good opportunity to see how well I cope with it. We had a draw and no one got a point. I think I applied good pressure and often forced him to step backwards, but I didn't use the pressure well. I had this same feeling a while ago. It was as if I was afraid if I missed I would have gotten a hit. This prevented me from striking when where was opportunity. I need to practise applying pressure and scoring as a whole complete routine in every training from now on.  

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Clumsy legs

Yesterday I lead the training. It's a routine training with 4 x kirikeishi, 2 x dou-kirikeishi, men and kote-men uchi, oji-waza against men, uchigomi-geiko and finally jigeiko, ending with kirikeishi.

  • My legs were still clumsy sometimes especially when I got tired. This prevented me from doing good zanshin. I need to improve that..

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Strike more

The two trainings this week went went well. After a weekend of kendo, my stamina is getting back to a couple of months ago when I trained more often. My fighting spirit has also been raised up. In jigeiko, I tried to put more pressure and strike more. I think striking more (with good posture and centre) helps to develop oji-waza skills because every now and then suriage- or keishi-wazas just come out subconsciously. It also trains the eyes and reaction speed.

  • Stephan pointed out that I tend to jump up when doing hiki and kote strikes. Need to work on that...
  • My wrist power is still too weak.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Czech beer..

.. taste wonderful!! as every time I personally experienced. Friday evening, still fighting with physics equations in Dresden. Saturday morning, threw my pillow over the alarm clock and thereby missed the original train I wanted to get on, but I still managed to arrive at noon. Orientating myself has become much easier now that I have been there for 6-7 times. It's also the second time for the Toru Giga Cup.

As I explained earlier I wasn't participating in the tournament and seminar, which turned out to be a very good idea considering how busy I am at work. Though I wish I could.. This year's event featured Shigeki Yamanaka sensei, 8th Dan Kyoshi, Hiroshi Ozawa Sensei, 7th Dan Kyoshi, and 6 other 7th Dan Senseis. Fortunately, there were jigeikos on both Saturday and Sunday, after the tournament and the examination.

When I arrived the sports hall, the first person I recognised in sight was Thomas Berger. Great to see him again in Czech after last time he came to Dresden with Jindra. Then farther down the hall were Ozawa Sensei and Yamanaka Sensei. Then I saw Aki Suzuki Sensei, 6th Dan, for the first time outside Japan. I still remember how I was astonished by her agility when I fought with her in Kobukan, and seeing her practise with Hakamada Sensei in Nittaidai. I used my somewhat improved Japanese to greet her, which from my point of view was a success, but I might have just been ignorant of my own mistakes.

The tournament had already started. The lady's matches were finished. The mens' were on-going. Some memorable moments were the polish team member Jastaks' matches (who placed 2nd), the match between Fritz and Cliek, and Hackl's matches. The large strides of Jastak during seme immediately sent out signals to the spectators that this guy is a seasoned kendoka. Large strides of the right foot during seme, while keeping the left foot still, requires physical balance as well as the mental confidence. I already saw Martin (Fritz)  fighting with Cliek last time in  Hradec Kralove. Last time was a tight match, this time, however, Martin looked tired and Cliek was able to score with two fast kote-men's. I met Danny Hackl at the training at Imperial College London  earlier this year. It's funny to see him here again, who is a jolly nice chap. (I'll never forget about the Champaign joke.) His applied good pressure to his opponents while keeping his kensen in the centre. The built-up tension was subtle and exciting.

Saturday Jigeiko

After the match (with Cliek the first and Jastak placed second) we had free jigeiko (luuucky!) I fought (in order) with Martin, Denisa, Suzuki Sensei, Veronika, and Zawano san. Martin plays an active style of kendo, with lots of kote mens. It would be nice if I was fast enough to do oji-wazas, but I realised later that I mostly struck men and tried to hold my centre the best I could. I have met also Denisa on several occasions and liked her straight kendo. It is nice to fight with such opponent because the essence of kendo is simple and straight in nature. So, no matter one wins or looses he/she would still be on the right track to good kendo. 

Fighting with Suzuki Sensei was of course the best of all, in fact, just watching her fight put me complete in awe. Her kendo reminds me of Yoshimura Sensei, 8th Dan, form Paris, because they have very similar physique, small and yet agile. Their most impressive skill is the footwork. Both before and after the strike, they seem to be floating in air - smooth and fluid movement of the body. Suzuki Sensei attacks very viciously, and in fact, I wouldn't be able to tell that she's a female kendoka in the mid 30's from the way she fights. Vivian wrote very accurate descriptions of her kendo on her blog. She got me a few debana-mens. I think I didn't give her any pressure at all.. shame..

I was the first to arrive at the party venue by at least half-an-hour. No time was wasted. I immediately ordered a beer and enjoyed it quietly at the bar, before some jolly Austrian participants joined the fun.

Had very pleasant chats with Thomas Berger, Martin and Ozawa Sensei. And I even tried with my limited Japanese to talk to Takano Sensei. Sigh.. where were the words when you need them the most?

Ozawa Sensei told me there is no point to raise the shinai to block. One should attack the center. I told him that when my opponents comes, I can still hold the center, therefore, resulting in tsuki. But even though I want to do Oji-waza, most of the time I'm too slow. He said, no problem, I'm only Shodan, I just need more practice. 

From 17th Toru Giga Cup 15/09/2008


Morning is the examination from 1st Kyu to 3rd Dan. Afterwards we had an hour of jigeiko. My first one was Ozawa Sensei, and then Takano Sensei.

There were a lot of time spend on waiting. But watching the Senseis doing jigeiko was equally exhilarating. I saw Yamanaka Sensei fighting with Ozawa Sensei and Suzuki Sensei. They fought like young people with continuous strikes often at close distances. However, there was no simple blocking but all blocking were part of oji-waza. I think this is an important thing to remember when doing jigeiko.

My jigeiko with Ozawa Sensei was invaluable. This time I knew what I was doing. He also put more pressure instead of making obvious openings for me. The most memorable was two men-strikes I received from him. One when I wanted to fake a men-strike to make him loose centre and then strike men. What a DUM idea!! As soon as I rose the shinai in front of my face, my men got a solid strike. #$^&#$%&*...  The other one was a debana-men, except it was "so debana" that I probably looked like I was sleepy. In fact I wanted to also strike men, but got hit before I did any obvious movement. I wonder how our match look like to the on-lookers.

Fighting with Takano Sensei was easier because I think he was tired and also he played a more quiet kendo. My main objective is to keep a good body balance when doing seme and attack. I think I made a few good strikes.

Then finally when I was just the next to fight with Suzuki Sensei the jigeiko was over.... pity...

All in all...

  • This time I saw the fighting spirit and the competitiveness of the Senseis.
  • I found that if I keep my body posture straight and a good body balance, I do well and can enjoy anyway regardless of loosing or winning.
  • I think my body balance is pretty good now for striking men (gliding forward with my right foot and strike men etc). One thing to improve is the footwork after the strike. I want to do it like Suzuki Sensei, with smooth and fluid movements.
  • I need to be more active in applying pressure through the centre.
  • I had lots of fun. Thanks to Denisa and Thomas B.!

Monday, September 08, 2008


This morning before I went to work I told my dad, who happens to be here for a visit, "Okay, I'm going to the battle field!" Gosh, how long had I fought from the morning at work until the end of the evening kendo training!

My body was drained out with energy after the second round of kirikaeshi; and my mind was drained out in the second hiki-waza-keiko.

This is however a good bridge to the training in Prague!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Two trainings

This week managed two trainings, yesterday and today, after two weeks of absence. And guess what the emphasis of this month is? The condition. Grrreat...

Honestly no new inspirations in these two trainings. I was concentrating on doing strikes correctly, but it's difficult when I got too tired during the training. My body leaned forward when striking kote, which is a serious problem.

Anyhow, I'm happy that I could still make it to two trainings this week!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Going to Prague

On one email that contains just a few lines of warm greeting from Ozawa Sensei, I changed my mind and decided to go to Prague for the Toru Giga Cup afterall, though without participating in the tournament, because that's the bottom line that makes myself stay focused for my upcoming PhD examination -- probably the most important one of my life.

See you there to all the people going!!

(ps. you can see from the first paragraph that I'm writing lots of articles at work. It's just one sentence!)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Take life as it is

How come while the others are enjoying the summer vacation, I'm working until after dinner time? Last weeks I trained on average once a week due to parents' and friends' visits, plus more research papers that I'm writing - great for work, but on the expense on my hobby.

Life is not as simple as the student life before the graduate school, when everything I had to worry about was the present. Now I have to worry about the future and work for it. Is it distraction? Or maybe the opposite - my hobby is the distraction?

Neither, I say. I just take my life when it comes and how it comes.

* * *

Last Friday in the training I explored different types of footworks for seme. Sometimes my opponents got distracted while I move sideways, which became a good moment for attacking.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Squad training 2

We had the KenVO (Eastern Germany Kendo Association) squad training with Miwa Tomomari, 6th Dan Renshi, in Dresden on Saturday 12th.

What can I say to summarise the squad training? My shoulders, legs, forearms are sore; my left hand looks like a mess; I could hardly walk properly.

Last squad training I attended was more than a year ago! Then I embarked on a coaster-ride with my study trying to finish the thesis. Two months before it was turned in, which was three weeks ago, I trained only once a week. Now resuming 3-times-a-week training is what I'm trying to do. More than that I can't manage either.


The morning session was devoted entirely to Kihon. We had N x kirikaeshi, N x men-uchi, N x kote-uchi, few rounds of kote-men and kote-do. For me, it was nice to have an extensive session on kihon, since that's the best way to get back to more frequent training. I also improved my men-nuki-dou. But I need to practise more to really say what's the best way. 

Miwa-sensei asked us to do a lot of big men-uchi, faster and with more wrist snap. Incidentally, it's something I'm currently working on. He also stressed to do fast cuts, fast footwork is also very important.

The morning session was finished with ooikomi-geiko and kirikaeshi. Half-an-hour before the end he said, "Now everyone is tired. It's when we really start trainng." I bet everyone was cursing. I certainly cursed, in my mind, almost every living beings between the sky and the ground. But at the end of the day, it's true.


In the afternoon we had extensive practice on hiki-waza. We practised not only going straight back but also going sideways.

There are much more variations one can try, but the below is a list of what we tried on the day:

  • In tsubazeriai, press downwards the opponent's tsuba using one's own tsuba. The reflex of the opponent is to lift his hand up. This opens up his right side of men. At this very moment strike his right-men, using yoko-men technique.
  • In tsubazeriai, step to the left and the right, etc, to confuse the opponent. Then step to the right quickly with a strike on the opponents left-men, and quickly draw your body in the backward-right direction. The footwork of the right foot when striking is like during the nanameburi, which is twisted inwards to that it is in the direction where the body will go after the strike.
  • When the opponent uses hiki-waza, one should follow on to keep the pressure on. Sometimes if he doesn't go further enough so that he can return to kamae, he would walk forward to return to tubazeriai. At this moment he is off-gaurd, and you can strike hiki-men.

We finished the day with kakarikeiko with Miwa-sensei. No jigeiko - a pity, but I was exhausted, fortunately there was the next day to rest!

Monday, July 07, 2008

More wrist snap

Today only a few people turned up, nonetheless the mawari-geiko was still good.

  • Georg pointed out my tenouchi was not sharp enough. I need to use more of my wrist-snap.
  • I made an almost perfect tsuki today, and I even remembered to do zanshin!!
  • Today I became quickly tired, so that my hip was not following in the second-half of the training. Probably due to my tired legs from yesterday's jogging.
  • I wanted to use more oji-waza but my reaction was not fast enough. At the same time, I need to make better seme in order to create opportunity for oji-wazas.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Weak left arm

Today's training started late and was short but it was well worth it. We did quite some katate-men suburi. My left arm and shoulder really needs to be strengthened more. It got tired too fast, though afterwards it was totally fine, and there was not muscle pain (let's wait and see until tomorrow, shall we?). Georg stressed the importance of bringing the left foot up quickly when striking.

After a few rounds of kirikaeshi, and kihon-geiko, we practised ai-kote-men. This means that the motodachi strikes kote while the kakarite strikes kote-men. The kakarite's kote wades off the attack of the motodachi, followed by the men-strike which makes the point. I felt the successful kote-men is to keep the kote at the centerline so that men-strike can follow very quickly. Usually this is already sufficient to wade of the kote-attack.

Some stuffs that I remembered from the mawari-geiko:

  • Lilli surprised me by a nice and straight men-strike with proper seme and good zanshin. 
  • The beginner Matthias impressed me with his effort to always go through no matter if he hit the target or not. 
  • Against much taller opponent like Eike, I have to launch my attack from a closer distance otherwise I cannot reach men. (Sad but true.)
  • I made a couple of nice men-suriage-men. I found it is necessary to go a little forwards while doing the suriage motion, so that the opponent's shinai can be deflected enough and the men is opened up.
Good training!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The end of a training is important

Last night I led the training, as the usual trainers have gone to the Tengu Cup in Frankfurt with many others. Normally one expect very few people and beginners, but there were, nonetheless, a few more experienced kenshi present. In total there were 9, so we could have a very decent training.

Before mokuzo I reminded everyone to have good etiquette, good body posture and the ability to learn by observation. We started with 4x kirikaeshi, 2x dou-kirikaeshi, followed by the usual men, kote-men, kote strikes. We did also 2 rounds of oji-waza against men-strikes. The first oji-waza to learn is perhaps debana-kote. With debana-kote, the most important thing is to have a clear strike without the upper body bending sideways due to wanting to avoid the men-strike. The strike has to be straight without an inclination. If the strike is not straight, very often the shinai hits the tsuba.

Before the 20 minutes mawari-geiko, we had 2 rounds of butsukari-geiko, and we finished the jigeiko with kirikaeshi (50 sayu-men). When everyone was exhausted, I asked them to make two last big men cuts. Reminding them that it was the last chance to make perfect men-cuts with good posture and ki-ken-tai-ichi. I think that helps psychologically so that everyone goes away with positive feelings regardless of whether they had won or lost in the fights.

I was quite pleased myself with the session as I didn't speak too much and I had a good training myself too. I hope everyone went away feeling the same.

Wish the others do well in the competition!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sunday, June 08, 2008

New blog on Taoism and Kendo

I created a new blog to discuss the connection between Kendo and Taoism. Follow this link: KendoAndTao.blogspot.com.

Saturday, June 07, 2008


The weather is getting warmer and warmer. After each training my whole body felt well-cooked from the steam. Perhaps if I can convince myself that it is a kendo + sauna, then it would have been doubly enjoyable. However, just kendo is enjoyable enough anyhow!

Yesterday we had a good solid training, with about 20 mins kihon and 40 mins mawari-keiko. I fought with Patrick, Georg, Stephan, Theo and Lilli. I think sometimes it is fun to change my style of fighting according to my opponent, even though it is not the style I prefer, which is useful for shiai when participants' levels are mixed. 

A couple of thoughts:
  • When doing tsuki, it is important to keep the left hand in the centerline and use the hip to push the body and the body to push the left hand and the left hand to push the kensen forwards. Another problem is zanshin. I landed one tsuki spot-on, but didn't execute the zanshin (stepping backwards, etc).
  • In jigeiko, I was too tense to bring speed to my kote-men. Next time I should remind myself that.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

17th Leipzig Kendo Championship

Just came back from the 17th Leipzig Kendo Championship, which was a nice day out. I didn't prepare for it like I did last year, so I didn't have a particular goal and the pressure that came with it. It is important, however, that I attend Taikai occasionally, and I'm glad I did.

As a newly donned Yudansha I fought in the Dan division. I helped out with the refereeing, which was my first time in a championship. A valuable experience. It's very tiring to be a referee, because not only one needs to validate scores, there are so many things that can happen. If the binding of the armour is loose, for example. At the same time, the three referees need to maintain good relative positions as the kendoka move.

The whole day I fought only four matches, 1 in the Dan division and 3 in the team division. In the Dan division, I was very unfortunate to meet Tomowari Miwa Sensei (6th Dan Renshi) from Berlin, who is also the trainer of KenVO squad. I was overwhelmed by the pressure coming from him and myself, that when I watched the videos, I saw many passed debana moments. The fight was quickly over. I will let the video speak for itself.

In the team division, I was in the Dresden A team (with Stephan, Georg, Tino, and Partrick), fighting as Taisho. Normally Stephan fights in this position, but today we placed each person in order to win the Berlin team. And since Miwa Sensei is their Taisho, heh heh..., I'm the sacrifice (quite happily in fact, since how many people at my level have the chance to fight a 6th Dan sensei in Taikai?). We met them in the final match. And before that, I won my two matches against less experienced kendoka, so they weren't that difficult (no videos unfortunately). My match against Miwa Sensei was the last of the day. I changed my style from the first to the second fight.  I jumped too much in the last fight. Everyone told me afterwards that the first men should have counted (including one of the referees and Miwa-Sensei himself, which was comforting). Again I'll let the video speak for itself. (note: I lost to 1 kote-suriage-men and 2 Hanzoku :((.. )

In the end, our team won the second place. Our all-women team also won against all-men team, which was exciting to watch! In the other divisions, we also have good results. Lilli won the women's division and the third place in the Kyu division. She performed very nice and strong kendo today as well as all the other Dresden girls. Seeing the great performance by the Dresden kenshis inspired me to train harder. 

Here are some thoughts:

  • Overcome the nerve and be more stable. In the past I could bring at least 70% to competitions, but this time only 50%... 
  • Train the eyes.
  • Some of my men strikes were good but the rest so so.  I need to be consistent.
  • Train the eyes even more.

The other videos will follow shortly.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Don't leave the upper body behind

Only trained once a week in the past two weeks because the amount of stuff I needed to do at the moment. I'm happy that things outside the dojo are going in general quite well at the moment. This gives me a more positive feel when I come to the dojo as well. I remember last year during particularly stressful time, kendo was my meditation and my escape. Every time when I came to the dojo I felt like I was coming to take a massive dosage of paracetamol, and I took it willingly.

Stress brings good kendo. I think this was almost what Jindra told me last year as to why kendo in Japan is so beautiful. Because it is shaped by the stress in the society. Though it could be an exaggeration, there is however some sense in it. Apart from techniques, people search for the spirituality as well as the self-confidence in the dojo. These two elements naturally become the main emphasis in the adult kendo.

Yesterday's training was one of those in which I suddenly understand something. This time was to do with men-strike (how surprising..). I put my weight, especially my upper body, more towards the front at the instant of the striking. This make my strike faster and more explosive. Before I tried too much to bring my hip forward, and ha.. the result was that I brought only the hip. My upper body was behind. Of course, if the upper body is leaning too much forward, it's not good either. It's a very delicate tipping point. For me, I need to be more consistent. If I do it once, I need to do it the every next time. This is my goal.

Apart from the body, my left fist sometimes goes slightly over to the right of my centerline during men-strike. This is very bad, as my opponent can easily win during ai-men. 

On a completely different story, there have been over 10,000 visits to this blog! Thanks for continuing to come back. When I started writing this blog I never thought or worried if there'd be anyone viewing, as it's just like thinking out loud for me. It makes me happy that some people find it helpful, and over the past couple years I have got some nice emails from some of you. Thank you!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Hakamada Sensei 8th Dan

I just saw from the ZNKR website that Daizoh Hakamada Sensei, with whom I had the privilege to practise in Nittaidai last year passed the Hachidan test, at age 59. Congratulations to him! The most distinctive impression that I have of him is his kamae. His kensen is aimed at the opponent's left-eye. Which was the first time I noticed this style. (This is rarely heard of in Europe, but quite common in Japan, Taiwan and Korea. There are in fact five different chudan no kamae, aimed at throat, centre of face, left-eye, left-hand of jodanka, and right-hand of jodanka. I recommend everyone try them out.)

I hope the list of Senseis I know making to the hachidan will increase soon... 

Monday, April 28, 2008

Annoyed terribly

It really annoys me BIG TIME when my opponent simply raise his/her shinai to block my strike during practice. It's understandable if it's ippon-shobu or in shiai, but what's the point in normal practices? First, it looks bad, secondly, one never improves if he/she keeps doing that. Being hit makes one realise one's own mistakes, so he can improve faster.

Last Friday seeing almost everyone blocks half of the time in jigeiko, I went ballistic and charged like mad into my opponents. I really want to tell everyone, fight the centre, and not blocking. If you have the centre you do not need to block. Blocking should happen only if it's intended as part of a waza.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Breaking the wall

So how has it been since I came back to Dresden almost a month ago? It's interesting to come back having understood more about kendo, and practise with everyone. Obviously, Dresden kendo being so young, is it impossible to compare with the standards of some of the other dojos where there are many 6th Dan, 7th Dan or even 8th Dan kendoka. But I think we're doing amazingly well here. It only takes time. 

The most important thing is that we should never forget to be open-minded and take other people's advices. There is a Chinese idiom - "a frog at the bottom of a well (井底之蛙 [Jing-Di-Ju-Wa])". A frog at the bottom of a well only sees a small patch of the sky. It describes someone who lives in a small world and only sees what's going on within, not knowing what he or she sees is only a tip of an iceberg. 

A new delightful addition to Dresden kendo is Stephan Otto from Berlin Kokugikan. A nice guy with good kendo forms with whom I've enjoyed practising so far.

There are some main thoughts from the trainings in the past few times:

  • Interestingly when seme is good, it does not matter if one strikes small or big men. No wonder Senseis always make large cuts and still win against the younger kenshi who use small cuts.
  • Stephan pointed out that if I miss the target my upper body tend to lean forwards. I think there's something wrong with my balance during the strike, perhaps my hip wasn't following quickly enough. Have to correct...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Shodan exam questions

I put here the answers to the written exams I had to do for the Shodan test. Discussions welcomed.

1. What do you understand by the term ki-ken-tai-itchi?

In the context of kendo, ki means the fighting spirit, a necessary element to overcoming one's opponent. It is most easily demonstrated by Kiai, or the shouting, to convey one's will to fight. Ken is the sword, a successful strike requires, of course, the targets to be struck accurately with the top one-third of the shinai, and the contact has to be strong and sharp. Tai is the body, without bringing the body forward with the strike, one looses his own posture and is prone to counter-techniques and from the aesthetic point of view, it is also unacceptable. The correct way of bringing the body forward is to put one's center of gravity at the lower abdomen, and keep the upper body up-right during the strike, using the left leg to propel the hip forwards. The fumigomi-ashi, which is the stomping of the right foot, should accompany the strike.

A valid strike in kendo requires these three elements together, and hence the phrase ki-ken-tai-itchi, literally meaning the unification of these three elements. This means that the striker has to make strong Kiai at the same time of an accurate strike while bringing his body forwards, with the correct posture mentioned above. These three elements together demonstrates one's skill, body balance and fluency, and further more, the commitment to a strike, which are fundamental in kendo.

2. Describe your relationship to your Sempai

In the dojo, Sempais are like the second teachers to me. They accumulated the experience of kendo over the years from various Senseis, and through practising with them, I learn these essential skills from them. I tend to pick someone in the dojo who has a much superior skill and a personality that I aspire to, and imitate his movements and postures. The personality side is equally important, in my opinion, because I do believe that one's kendo is closely connected to his personality. Therefore, it is important to learn a style of kendo that suits my personality. 

I am always grateful for the constructive feedbacks given by my Sempais after the training. Then in the next training, I usually go to the same Sempai and practise with him, at the same time, making sure that I try my best to correct my previous mistakes. 

Monday, April 07, 2008

I am Shodan

On Friday I took a BA flight to London for the grading on Sunday. As in Autumn last year when I took my Ikkyu test, I practised with the Imperial College Kendo Club on Friday evening. Luckily this time, Matsumoto-Sensei (7th Dan Kyoshi, British National team coach), Yung-Sensei (6th Dan Renshi), and Yoshikawa-Sensei (5th Dan), plus the members of the Mumeishi club. It was a hard training, where at the end I could hardly breathe.

Some exercises like keeping the distance with a partner in Kamae while moving in four directions were nice to check the body balance in Kamae.

Yung-Sensei pointed out that my sayu-men in kirikaeshi is not strong enough. Need to improve..

This time when doing jigeiko with Yung-Sensei I could get a couple of points. So I think my kendo has improved a lot since last Autumn. There was a female member from the Mumeishi club with name Gill, who is really good and fast. I couldn't quite keep up with her at times.

On Sunday - first thing when I woke up - snow, and it was bloody freezing. I spent a while trying to get to the examination venue, Kodokan.  The sports hall is very modern and very well equipped. It must be nice practising there every time.

I met Trevor Chapman Sensei (5th Dan) again, whom I first met in Kobukan in Tokyo. It was a very good feeling to see him, who is a very good person. He was the on the judging panel for Ikkyu test.

I passed the exam without much trouble, though I was a bit nervous at the beginning while doing kirikaeshi, which I felt was not smooth enough. In the two jigeikos that I performed, I got many points, but I think too often I turned around to face the opponent immediately after the strike and jump backwards. It looks much nicer to run straight through first and then turn in an exam.

We did the first three forms of Kata, and I felt I did the best I could, which I was pleased about. 

But in fact, I think anyone who could wake up to this freezing weather and goes to the examination should be given the grade straight away :)

I also watched the exams for the 2nd and the 3rd Dan. Many of them do superb kirikaeshi compared to mine, I should really improve on that. Specifically, some of them have very nice snapping sound from the sayu-men strikes. In the 2nd Dan jigeiko, I saw them taking more time to seme, and some used wazas, though mostly unsuccessfully. For the 3rd Dan, people in general have very good kamaes, and really tried to open up striking opportunities.

My current goal is: applications of waza in jigeiko. 

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Team shiai-geiko

First week of training back in Dresden since last November. On Tuesday I lead the training at the university because Stephan and Georg both weren't there. Probably because I felt that many people here lack rigorous basics, I spent some time explaining just simple suburi, men-uchi and sayu-men uchi. Maybe spoke too much.. Leading practice session is quite fun, but in some sense it is also distracting because the leader has the responsibility to look after everyone. 

Yesterday's training was short but quite intersting. My left foot is now back in shape except minor soreness, but the left wrist is acting up. I couldn't do kirikaeshi properly because my left wrist couldn't rotate freely. Sucks... I hope the weekend-rest will do it good.

After some kihon we started jigeiko, and then team shiai-keiko, which was fun. I was the senpo in the 5-men team consisting (in fighting order) me, Patrick, Lilli, Tino and Stephan. The other team: Rico, Matthias, Daniel, Theo, Ralph and David, 6 people. The system is that the winner stays on the court and keeps fighting until he looses or draws. I won my first three matches but lost in the fourth from a "tsuba"-kote. Amazingly two flags were up. However, I couldn't get point because I was too tired and didn't put enough seme... more jigeiko needed.. I still need to work on my men-uchi as well. I wish that my matches were recorded on video so that I could see what I have to improve...

I found some photos of the Czech seminar taken by Czech photographer (please inform me so I can put your name here), here are picture of me in the shiai-geiko when I had just arrived.

Here I also found a video from the Paris Taikai this year, which is a big event that takes place every three years, each time involving many 8th Dan visitors. The video is the 36+ team shiai from Budo XI, the dojo I trained at. I know all the three Senpai and fought with them on at least one occasion. They are the red, Naito-san, Nori-san, and Labru Sensei. Very nice kendo. It's interesting to note that Nori-san has a distinctive kamae, namely, with wide feet separation.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Opening and closing Shinto Ceremony

Here are the clips I took for the opening and closing shinto ceremonies for the Czech National Championship 2008 on last Sudnay. It was performed by Hara Sensei.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Yamanaka Sensei in the Final 2005

The final match of 2005 All Japan 8th Dan Championship

Japanese delegation's visit to Dresden

Yesterday the Japanese Senseis from the Czech seminar came to Dresden for a one-day visit. Stephan and I took them first to the Swiss Saxony and then the historical part of Dresden for sight-seeing. It turned out better than I expected, and I think all of them enjoyed the tour.

In the evening we had 1.5 hours of practice. Ninomiya Sensei lead the training, in the Kobukan way. Jindra and I demonstrated the practice. It was a good turn-out from the Dresden club, joined by friends from Leipzig.

While practising kihon, Yamanaka Sensei pointed out that many people, when striking sayu-men and dou, are not gripping the shinai with the left hand correctly. They should not be let loose but kept tight, so that the strikes are solid.

I asked Ozawa Sensei earlier during the day how he thought about my men-uchi. He said I should tuck my chin in, and we would practise again in the evening. So after the kihon and waza-geiko, I queued up for him. I made a couple of solid men-strikes, and he smiled and said, "men-uchi, ok, ok". When we finished, he told me I have improved. He has a distinctive way of expressing it. He says, "up, up."

He said a few times that I should go again to Kobukan, so that my kendo can improve consistently. I hope this year I manage to do it again with the working schedule.

Just before we started jigeiko. We sat in seiza and watched Yamanaka-Sensei practising with Hara-Sensei. They started already while we were doing waza-geiko, so in total they probably continuously fought for 15 minutes. In the end Hara-Sensei was completely exhausted while Yamanaka-Sensei was still making continuous strikes, but he still kept going.

My second jigeiko was with Yamanaka Sensei. The time was just up and everyone else started kakari-keiko. However, he directed me to the side, and had about 3 minutes jigeiko with me. Of course, I was not able to do anything against him, but I just tried to do good strikes.

In closing, Yamanaka Sensei made a speech to us. He said that Kihon is the most important element of kendo, having a good posture and be able to do big cuts are fundamental for good kendo. "One - kote, two - men. If they are ok, then do kote-men and kote-dou. Progress step by step." "During one's kendo development, if one meets a wall that he can not pass, he must go back to the basics and start again."  I was truly grateful for his words which contained a lot of wisdom. This is how I feel in learning many things, not just kendo. He then said that he saw everyone's hard effort and hoped that one day we can practise again.

We farewelled with the Senseis with lots of hand shakes and picture-taking. After this meeting, and the Czech seminar, I felt I have a even tighter bond with Sensei, and kendo. I feel I get a lot of pleasure meeting new people that are from completely different backgrounds and cultures. More and more I realised that people are as important as the sword in kendo. Without partners to train, we would not improve. People who are generous and understanding are better training partners than those who just care about defeating the opponent. This is how kendo cultivates one's personality, and educates how one can overcome competition and pressure with a big heart and a gracious attitude.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Czech Seminar 14-16/3/2008


I arrived in Hradec Kralove without delay, fortunately, as this was by no means the easiest town to get to. A few minutes after I arrived the sports hall where the seminar was held, the Japanese delegation arrived, including Yamanaka Sensei (8th Dan Kyoshi), Ozawa Sensei (7th Dan Kyoshi), Ninomiya Sensei (7th Dan Kyoshi), Hara Sensei (7th Dan Kyoshi) and Fujida Sensei (5th Dan). I then immediately went up to greet Ozawa Sensei and Ninomiya Sensei. It was wonderful to see them again in Europe.
The seminar started at about 6pm with a shiai between the male Czech national team and a team with mixed nationality, and the female Czech national team and polish girls (with a couple of national team members). Somehow I was in the team fighting with the Czech. I fought as the Jiho and drew. My opponent scored a men first, and after I tried a few unsuccessful men- and kote- strikes, I scored with a nuki-do. I couldn't keep my fighting spirit high because of my foot injury, and the traveling. But I gradually picked it back up in the following days.
We then started the first day of seminar with kihon and then mawari-geiko. During Kihon-geiko Yamanaka Sensei emphasised that the left foot should not move when doing a men strike, otherwise the opponent can score debana-men or kote. This is exactly the same as what Kuroda-san told me in Tokyo. Ozawa Sensei pointed out that I should seme with the hip not just my upper body. I had the chance to do mawari-geiko with Ozawa Sensei. It frustrated me a little when he let an opening for men, but when I struck he could always do either suriage-men or keishi-dou.


In the morning we divided into three groups: yudansha, kyusha and beginners and children. With the permission of Ozawa Sensei, I joined the yudansha group, which was instructed by Hara-Sensei. 

We started with a few rounds of kirikeishi, and men-uchi. Hara Sensei then told us to put seme into our strikes, and take care of the distance. It is sometimes necessary to dynamically adjust the distance until one is ready to strike. The correct distance also depends on other factors, such as the height of the opponent. He mentioned that it's ok if it takes a little more time. Be patient.

We practised oji-waza against men, including debana-kote and men, nuki- and kaeshi-dou, followed by oji-waza against kote, such as nuki-men and suriage-men. Here are some fine points:
  • Nuki-dou: use diagonal footwork, namely the right foot goes the the front right while making the strike. First seme, and when the opponent just raise his shinai to strike men, this is the moment to strike dou. Otherwise it would be too late. The diagonal footwork in important to avoid the men-strike. The body or the hip need not twist sideways, in contrary to some other people say, however, Ozawa Sensei also says so, so I will try it this way.
  • Kaeshidou: basically the same as nuki-dou, just add the blocking. The blocking motion is the same as suriage.
  • Kote-nuki-men: the arms should raise quickly up and strike down without any hesitation.

In the jigeiko, I fought with Yamanaka Sensei, Hara Sensei and Ninomiya Sensei. I didn't do too badly with Yamanaka Sensei, so I was relieved. The practice with Ninomiya Sensei was perhaps the highlight as I felt could control my body to have a good posture, so I could put pressure. But I still lost the ippon shyobu by inches. We were locked in chikma (close distance) where one of us had to strike. I was putting even more pressure by tapping quickly his shinai with a very small motion. As expecting he launched men-strike and I went for kote. My shinai arrived first but only touches the edge of his kote which slipped off. And it was over. I wasn't fast and accurate enough. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the tension at the last moment. I had a short jigeiko just moments before the end of the session. It was hard, but I tried my best. Then I did uchigomi-geiko with him. I don't know where I had the energy from, but I just wanted to keep going and going, every strike with loud kiai and big swing. A couple of time he pushed me from the back that made me crash into the waiting queue, I just bounced myself back and continued. It was exhausting but fulfilling.

Evening party

In the party in the evening I sat opposite to Fujieda-Sensei, Ninomiya-Sensei and Hara-Sensei, and had a lot of fun conversations with them. Ninomiya Sensei said I had great improvements since last time he saw me in Kobukan in October. He was surprised that I could apply pressure to my opponent. Hara-Sensei said to me, "Liu-san, genki na~~", commenting on my uchigomi-geiko with him earlier.

The evening was fun with beer, bowling, and dancing. It was fun to see the Senseis having a go at the bowling lane, well, without too much success, might I say?


The morning was the Czech national championship. It was a very short one as not many people attended. The female winner was Veronika, who won with a beautiful kaeshi-dou. The male winner was Jan Cliek, and the runner-up Martin Fritz. Martin plays impressive kendo despite being only 20 years old.

After the championship was the good-will keiko and kata. In the good-will keiko I practised with Fujieda Sensei. He uses a lot of oji-waza, and is more dynamical than the other Senseis. Something one might indeed expect from a 5th Dan kendoka. I managed to hit a clear men-nuki-kote. 

In the Kata practice, again I joined the advanced group. I learned the 8th-10th form with kodachi from Czech Senpais. Yamanaka Sensei demonstrated many fine points. Especially he stressed that the blocking with kodachi in the 8th and 9th form requires much strength from the elbow instead of using the wrist alone. He further showed the different sounds from the two techniques despite their same appearance. The one with sharper elbow movement results in a more energetic and sharper sound than the one with just wrist and not enough elbow.


At the end Yamanaka Sensei said:

"Kendo is like communication. Every time when you practise, you have to train it in a way that the other person wants to do it again with you."

This, I feel, is the principle behind the keiko.

Things I learned from this seminar: seme, waza, and kata. The equally precious gifts I took away from this event were the new friendships with the participants.