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, 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. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Back at training

Last night I resumed my training after almost two months of absence due to injury. I practised again with the Quebecans here in Quebec City. It was good to see the friends here again, and as the last time, I had a good training.

My task last night was to let my body get used to the kendo movement and intensity. There wasn't anything that I haven't tried before. I was just trying to pickup my kendo two months ago.

Despite wearing the foot support on my injured foot, it still felt sore even this morning. During the training I almost had cramps on my lower legs, but fortunately it wasn't too bad.

I'm going back to Germany in a few days. My next training will be at the seminar in Czech Republic this weekend from Friday, held by Ozawa Sensei. I'm very looking forward to see him and the other accompanying Senseis whom I had met in Tokyo. After the seminar, they will come to visit in Dresden. This will perhaps be the highest profile kendo visit ever in Dresden!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Kite Ski

Something different:-

Next Monday I'll start the first training after more than a month's rest due to foot injury. Hope it'll be a good one!