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!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goals for the coming year..

Happy New Year!
Ich wuensch Ihnen ein guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr!

It's the last day of year 2009 - a time to look back on the year and set goals for the next.

Until this December, I had just done 4 years of kendo, and a 2nd Dan holder. What new skills have I obtained in the past year? Let's see:
  • My hip can now follow up when I strike and during zanshin, which means that my legs are used to the movement, and are perhaps stronger!
  • Opportunity for oji-waza seems clearer to me than before.
  • Suriage-wazas are better.
New goals:
  • Stronger cuts using the left wrist.
  • Improve on oji-waza.
  • Better performance in competitions. To achieve that I cannot be relaxed during jigeikos. I need to look for every opportunity to strike, and use the wazas.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ozawa Sensei's Visit 2009

As promised last year, Ozawa Sensei came again this winter, and brought Tanemichi Chiba Sensei 8th Dan Kyoshi (Kendo lecturer in the Japanese Imperial Guard), Takano Sensei 7th Dan Kyoshi (Kobukan) and Fukui Sensei 7th Dan Kyoshi (Noma Dojo).

[First dinner in Taiwan.]

They came for 5 days, three of which had kendo practices in the evening. The first one was at the Taipei Kendokan. I've wanted to invite Ozawa Sensei to come here because I feel it's one of the dojos that play the kendo style most similar to Japan, or international kendo, instead of some simple whacking-on-the-head activity. And the members here are dedicated to improving their kendo, and strong kenshis. Of course, certain aspects are still missing compared to what is considered "beautiful kendo" in Japan, but I so far I really haven't seen much that outside Japan.

I went to the airport to pick up the Senseis. When I saw Ozawa Sensei coming out from the arrival gate, I had the feeling of seeing an old friend again after a long while! Indeed it has been percisely a year since I saw him last time, during which I've moved from Germany to Taiwan, changed a new job, and moved from Taipei to Hsin-Chu, having lots of changes. It felt like a much longer time!

The next two days I took days off at work and accompanied with the senseis to travel.

Monday, 7th Dec

[Visiting the Hakka Cultural Heritage Center.]

[Presents for the Senseis.]

[Senseis had never tasted the dragon fruits.]

[The old lady spoke fluent Japanese and chatted to the Senseis.]

[Hakka traditional grinding tea.]

On Monday we went to the Taipei Kendokan. The turn out was good - about 20+ kenshis. I think everyone enjoyed practising with the 4 Japanese sensei. I was very glad about that.

Chiba Sensei gave us some feedbacks at the end of the training:
  • In kihon geiko, some people's men-strikes were too small. Kihon is very important, and one should try to strike properly.

  • One has to break the opponent's kamae before striking. This is achieved by applying pressure, or seme, and occupy the centerline. The most effective way to apply pressure is to direct the tip of the sword towards anypoint between the throat and the middle of his chest, and move in. This is the most uncomfortable place a person feels when something is approaching.
[At Taipei Kendokan]

[Listening to advices from Chiba Sensei.]

Tuesday, 8th Dec

On the next day, after some sight-seeing on the Yang-Ming Mountain, we went to the China University of Technology, where a shot seminar is to be held.

[Yang-Ming Mountain]

I assisted Takano Sensei in teaching the beginners without the bogu, about kendo etiquette (reiho) and kamae. The most challanging thing was to translate what Takano Sensei was saying from Japanese into Chinese. I could manage most of it, since I knew roughly what he was saying. However, to tranlsate word by word would still be difficult. I need to study Japanese harder!

Ozawa Sensei and Fukui Sensei demonstrated the Mizoguchi-ha Itto-ryu kenjutsu. (click to view the full size)

Ozawa Sensei and Chiba Sensei demonstrated Kirikaeshi.

Wednesday, 9th Dec

On the Wednesday I had to go back to work, and only joined them in the evening practice at the Hsin-Chu Kendokan.

Ozawa Sensei and Fukui Sensei demonstrated again the Muzogushi-ha Itto-ryu kenjutsu. I feel I can appreciate more and more of its beauty every time I see it.

After the practice, I asked Ozawa Sensei how my jigeiko was. He said that I should relaxe my body more. I think I wanted so much to do my best in front of him that I tensed up my muscles too much. He then invited me come to the Thank-you Dinner from him and the other senseis.

Thursday, 10th Dec

The whole was filled with meetings after meetings at work. Fortunately, the last meeting didn't drag on, so I could take the High Speed Railway to Taipei and take the dinner in time. We had good food and drink. At the end, when Chou-san took the senseis to the nearby night market for sight-seeing, Ozawa-Sensei invited me to stay and have some drink at the hotel bar.

We talked for 2 hours, which passed by very quickly, about kendo, travel, friends and life. He said one day he wants me to travel to England and Czech together. I said, "then I have to become very good in kendo!"

About kendo:

  • One has to learn the correct kendo forms and develop good seme techniques, instead of relying one's kendo on the stamina, like many players nowadays in All Japan Kendo Championship, and some of other competitions. So kihon is very important as well as waza-practices. It is not good to let winning in competition as one's main goal in kendo.

  • To strike small men, one should hold the shinai in chu-dan, and moving in with the hip without the shinai moving. At the correct distance (only towards the end), strike immediately. He said it is incorrect, like some people say, to extend the arms forwards from the begining when the body moves forwards.

  • It is bad to strike too small. He explicitly said that right wrist should also flex up and down as well as the left. Some people might say this creates debana moment for the opponent. For this he replied:

  • One should use seme and strike at the right moment, so that the opponent will not be able to execute debana kote.

  • To have good and strong seme, one relies on having confidence with one's own techniques, or WAZA. So we should improve our waza.

He also said, to learn men-strikes, there are three stages:

  1. First raise the shinai above head, and then strike with the body moving fowards at the same time.

  2. First raise the shinai above head, then move the body forwards, and lastly strike.

  3. Keep the shinai in chu-dan while moving the body forwards, and strike.

This is a good reference for all the instructors when teaching the beginners.

Monday, December 14, 2009

National Chung-Cheng Cup 2009

Last weekend probably the biggest kendo competition took place in Hsin-Chu. I participated both in the team and the individual category. The total number of participants were massive. My feeling at the end of the two-days event was, "Gosh, I'm tired". It was hard to imagine the level of stamina a kendoka needs to fight until the finals. Ones really needs to be strong mentally and physically.

I didn't perform too bad, but I didn't bring any suprises either. I fought with Taipei Kendokan in the team shiai. So Sempai (蘇耿賢) said my performance was good, though I didn't win anything. I think he didn't put very much expectation on me. My expectation for myself was not to be nervous. I think I managed that. However, Ho Sensei told me I fought too conservatively. Indeed, I didn't take the initiative to step in and "provoke" my opponent. Instead, what happened was that I took one step in, my opponent took one back, and I took another step in, so on. In the end, what my opponent was doing was waiting for me to strike first, and use oji-waza against me. (Damn the number of men-nuki-men that I received!!)

I lost my first individual's match against a student from Taiwan Sports University. I didn't have enough confidence with myself, and didn't apply enough pressure. A kohai who watch aside told me my performace was very different from that in the jigeiko. Quite right. I think there's something I need to adjust with my attitude either when I fight in a competition or in the jigeiko, in order to connect to two.

Another big issue is that I am not confidence enough with my men cut. I need to work on that. So now is time to be back with more kihon...

Monday, November 30, 2009

More seme techniques

Yesterday there was an invitaional Jigeiko session in Hsin-Chu, at the Tsing-Hua University. About 50-60 people from Taipei, Hsin-Chu and Taichung joined the practice, including one 8th Dan, three 7th Dan, and a couple of national team members.

The practice lasted for about 1.5 hours with a small break in-between. I had about 6 jigeiko, some of which were difficult for me. My techniques for seme are still too few, and I didn't how to go in sometimes when fighting with more experienced kendoka.

Wen-Chie Chang Sensei from Hsin-Chu Kendokan pointed out to me that my men-strike is not straight enough. It tends to come in from my right side. It's probably because I tried to seme from this side so that the shinai came in from that direction. However, I need to take more care.

I also need to push my body forwards faster when striking. It's always faster to somewhat first jump forwards and then move the hands to strike in the last minute.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sticky right foot is no good

  • When stomping the right foot while doing kote-men, make sure the foot is not sticking to the floor. It should be agile enough to bounce up again quickly to take another step.
  • When doing hiki-men, stomp the floor with the right foot while striking to gain the initial momentum backwards, and then use the sole of the feet to sprint back.
  • When doing hiki-do, make sure the shinai hits on the side of the do sharply. And it's ok to go a little towards the left-back.
  • when doing hiki-kote, make sure the distance is enough when striking.
  • I ask Chang Sempai about how to execute small men-strike correctly. He said to push the left hand forwards, and make the left elbow straight. The right hand naturally becomes straight as well. The tsuba will be slightly below the shoulder if striking someone of the same height.
  • Ho-Sensei told me to use my eyes more to observe my opponent and react accordingly. Also, I shouldn't let my emotion overcomes by senses, striking when there's no chance. (Hmm... I was thinking, there's no chance for me to hit him anyways...)
I'm sometimes wondering how much have I improved since I came back to Taiwan. Sensei and Sempais told me every now and then the same things on which I should improve.

Ho-Sensei asked a few people including me if we want to participate in team competition in the National Chung-Cheng Cup on 12-13th Dec. (Don't ask me why there're all called Chung-Cheng, the other name of the former president Chiang Kei-Shek. Anyways, this is the whole country whereas, the one I just participated was for Taipei and mostly northern counties.) I said yes right away, which was unlike me who always has to "think about it". And later he asked me if I want to fight also in the individuals. To that, I also answered quickly, "Maybe not." Thinking, "Jeez, this is the national tai-kai. What a mountain to climb!" But now I'm reconsidering, since I need to get as much shiai-experience as possible while I still could.

Ozawa Sensei is visiting Taiwan in December. He will come with one 8th Dan and 2 other 7th Dan teachers. I'm glad that I can take them to Taipei Kendokan to see good kendo in Taiwan. I'm looking forward to it!

Monday, November 09, 2009

2009 Taipei Chung-Cheng Cup

Yesterday, perhaps the biggest yearly kendo competition in Taipei took place in the Taipei Sports Hall. We (Taipei Kendokan) have two men teams, one above 30 years-old and the other under, and two female teams. This was the second time I fought in the competition in Taiwan, which was also the second time I represented the Taipei Kendokan. I feel privileged, of course, because there are full of strong players in my dojo, and still Ho-Sensei and Sempais asked me every time if I want to participate in the competition.

I've been also eager to accumulate competition experiences, since it's always been my problem bringing out anything resembles the level of my kendo in practices. Nervousness had always made my muscles tense.

This time though I proved to myself that I can do it, thanks to my teammates who encouraged me to fight in the final. They could have sent the best five, all at the 3rd/4th Dan level. "Do you want to give it a shot?" Our captain asked me. With a slight hesitation, I nodded. What went across my mind was, "What if I lose? Or worse, what if I can't even put up a good fight and make a fool out of myself and the team?" I don't know. But what I knew was that if I didn't try, I'd never know and never cross that barrier.

I was assigned the senpo position (the first fighter), meaning that my job was to either win or draw. Because it matters to the overall spirit of the team. Up from sonkyo, I immediately applied pressure and striked men. My opponent blocked it, and pushed me to the floor. It was only seconds into the match. I bet my teammates were speechless. They told me from the outside that I should jump a little to loosen up my body, which also refocus my mind. I did as told, which you can see from the video. :) My moment came as my opponent missed a strike and, immediately after turning back, he wanted to strike. I took his kote. What a sensation! Especially from the cheering of my teammates! Though I lost in the end, my teammates were very happy about my performance and gave a lot of encouragement. They went on to recover and finally win the whole match. Wow!

To be honest, I think he wasn't much stronger than I was, but he certainly had more competition experiences than I did. I was pleased with myself that I didn't let my nerve took over, which had been my biggest problem so far. If I can achieve this every time in the future, it will be much easier for me to learn and gain the experiences I need.

(I was the red)

Some thoughts:
  • If the opponent is large and keeps pushing, step sideways so that his momentum doesn't come directly at me.
  • Execute hikki-waza immediately when the strike was invalid and we end up in tsubazeiai.
  • Observe the habits of the opponent and react accordingly. For example, how he blocks strikes.
  • When separating from tsubazeriai, becareful of strikes from mid-distances. For example, the second men point he got in the match.
  • Eat more and put up some weight!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Concentrate with your eyes

Tomorrow is the Taipei Chung-Cheng Cup where I'll be fighting as a member of the under-30 team from Taipei Kendokan. In the past two weeks, due to my busy schedule I could only stay in Hsin-Chu and train with the university students. The downside is that it's hard to find a competative opponent to fight against especially in terms of speed and putting pressure. So that, everytime when I go back to Taipei Kendokan, it feels like I hadn't trained for a while.

Chang Sempai gave me some advices during waza-geiko:

  • focus on using your eyes and not the feet nor the hands, to observe the opponent's movement and find the right moment to strike.
  • stronger forward motion.

I found also that I tend to lean back a little when striking men. My cut is not strong enough and is easy to loose an ai-men facing a strong fighter. I should correct this mistake.

I hope tomorrow I will be in a good condition for the matches!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Improve little by little

Thank goodness. The weather has cooled down considerably, and the trainings has become less suffering than before. In the past phew weeks I trained at Taipei Kendokan when I could, or otherwise at National Chiao-Tung University (NCTU). At NCTU, the lead trainer Chen Sensei (陳泰成) put a lot of emphasis on correct kendo and kihon practices, therefore I can gain anyways something even though the members of the kendo club are more junior than me.

During jigeiko I also try to use wazas on every opportunity. I feel like my opponent is doing kakari-geiko on me, while I use oji-waza. There is generally a lack of seme-ing. Perhaps I'll take an opportunity to suggest them exercises to improve on that.

Here are somethings I should improve, some of which had been mentioned several times, but every now and then the same problems pop up again:
  • Sometimes I still use too much right hand.
  • I need to launch men strike fast with my hip pushing the body, and not just the hands flying forwards.
  • Kill the opponent's shinai with shikake-wazas.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Hsin-Chu Cup 2009

Last Sunday I participated in the Hsin-Chu Cup which celebrated also the 10th anniversary of the Hsin-Chu Kendokan. The competition consisted of many catagories - team and north-against-south. The team is made up of 7 people, 2 female fighting first and the rest male. I fought along with the Taipei Kendokan friends and you know what? We were the Winner!!

Although I didn't fight in the final match, since I didn't perfom well enough on the day and I thought the opponents might be too strong for me, I didn't loose the earlier matches, and had two wins and a draw.

The north-south competition featured 39 kenshis from the northertn half of Taiwan and 39 kenshis from the southern half. Much like the Tozai (East-West) Competition in Japan. Being a mere Nidan I was placed as the second person to fight, or aka the jiho. I didn't know I had to go up so early, therefore it was a little shock to me. Anyhow, I won 2-1 with two kote points.

My performance on the day was unsatisfactory because my body was too tense, and at the same time my mind wasn't calm enough. It's only when there were large gaps between our kills could I perform clean cuts.

Some thoughts from the day:
  • Learn to analyse my opponent and adjust fighting strategy accordingly.
  • When facing an aggressive and young opponent, be calm and use oji-waza.
  • Need more shiai experience!!

Here are some videos from the final match, the red side is Taipei Kendokan, and the white is Hsin-Chu Kendokan.








Tuesday, September 15, 2009

First training in Tsing-Hua University

Yesterday I practised at the Tsing-Hua University for the first time. The main reasons to go there are that I need to practise 3 times a week, and that the students from this university whom I've met in the dojoes are passionate about improving their kendo. Therefore, even though they're not stronger than me, training with them would be a pleasure because a person with a good attitude makes a good training partner.

It was indeed a good idea to go there, and I did manage to train myself. Some of them are quite good given that they're beginners. However, the common problem is that they're way too silent when doing kendo. Kiai is not enough, which is in fact one of the most important things in Kendo, and the first thing one has to learn to do well. It seems that this is not emphasized enough in many places I've visited.

Nonetheless, their potential is great given there are several sempais in the club who are passionate about kendo. With the right instruction, they can become strong quickly, at least I mean winning in competitions. Dresden is exactly one of the examples..

Anyhow, I'm glad to find a bunch of hot-blooded young guns to train with!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Goodbye Adam!!

My young Czech friend Adam Urban had his last training in Taipei last Wednesday. He spent 2 months here and came to training regularly. I was very grateful that Ho Sensei took him in as one of his students and gave him a lot of advices. It was a pleasure also to see him improve. Keep it up Adam, and make us PROUD!!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Grow up, grow

Yesterday at Taipei Kendokan we had a shiai-geiko. I fought two matches and lost all... The first against Chung-Li Lin (林正立) (0-1) and the second against a visitor Wong (翁) (0-2) from San-Shin (三星) Kendokan in Yi-Lan.

In my first match, we held equal for a long while until I attempted a men strike at close distance, and Chung-Li was able to make a kaeshi-do. When I think back, I should have just striked with my foot at the same spot instead of making a step forward, because I could reach his men already and moving forwards only slowed me down, and also sent a signal to my opponent.

Feedback from Ho Sensei:
  • strikes and postures all looked good, but timing wasn't right, because I haven't trained for a while.
  • find every possibility to strike.
This a good occasion to think about how to improve the competitiveness of my kendo. In training I should:
  • observe the weaknesses of my opponents.
  • use their weaknesses.
  • use more continuous strikes.
Though I haven't lost so badly for a while, and maybe I should feel more ashamed than I did. But actually I'm more motivated to build up more shiai experiences and become strong.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Back from the camp

Many friends aboard wrote me about the aftermath caused by the typhoon. I want to tell everyone that my family and I are very fine, since we live far away from the most affected area. Watching the news reports on the lives and homes that have been lost, I feel very fortunate to live unaffected.. If you can please donate for those whose homes have been lost..

Today was my first training in a month, and I went to the Hsinchu Kendokan. My goal was to do good basics and let my body recall the movements. I didn't disappoint myself, though my speed wasn't fast. It was the first time I fought as the motodachi during the jigeiko until the end without break. Obviously in this climate, my head felt so much cooked towards the end of the training.

Most of my opponents were less experienced than I am, so I got to practise some wazas, and some uchikomi-geiko towards the end of each jigeiko. The foot-stomp of my hiki waza is still too light, so the overall sharpness of the technique is lacking.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A short break

No training since the start of this month.. and there's nothing I can do about it - because I'm in the 3-weeks compulsory military training! Next week will be the last one. Finally! It's like a prison in the base. Extremely boring and full of nonesenses. Really bad for the brain..

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hiki-waza with the soles

In the past two weeks, I made sure I gave my best during the trainings. Afterall, training twice a week is about what I can manage at the moment. Once Ho Sensei called me over after the training and said to me, "Because you now train seldom, you should practise with me twice every time you come. I will now fight with you like you're 4th Dan not 2nd Dan. And you should try your very best." After listening to this, I was very grateful for the mind he put into bringing up the level of my kendo. Immediately afterwards I told myself that I will try my best to live up to his expectation and not disappoint him.

  • In one of the trainings, we practised Hiki waza. Ho Sensei told us to move fast away from the opponent, one has to use the soles of the feet.
  • make cuts as though the shinai is a real sword and don't just tap the men of the oppoent but cut solid down with the left hand.
A friend, Adam Urban, a young kenshi from the Czech Republic is staying in Taipei for two months, and I brought him to the dojo. Ho Sensei instructed him as though he is his own student, and I believe this is very valuable for him, because in most of the other dojoes I've visited, including Japan, the head Sensei usually don't say much especially to the novices. I hope he can pick up a lot of things by the time he leaves here.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Keep the body weight low

Training in this warm and humid climate, reactions and responses to opponents do become much slower. Sometimes, underneath the helmet I just try to stay sane...

My current immediate goal is clear: To keep my body weight low while propelling forwards during strike, and thereby making solid fumigomi.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Moving to Hsinchu

Due to my new job, I moved here to Hsinchu City, 1.5 hours away from Taipei by car or 30 mins by the High Speed Railway. So my plan is to practise 1-2 times from Monday until Friday in Hsinchu, and go to Taipei Kendokan on Fridays.

This evening was the first time I went to Hsinchu Kendokan since I moved here. However, I came once here with Ozawa Sensei and Hara Sensei. Hsiao-Du-Sempai (who also practises regularly in Taipei Kendokan and a local) led the training. The session was simple, starting with kihon-geiko and then jigeiko. Four jigeikos was about enough today for me in this temperature. Anyhow, it was good that I have a place to practise here in Hsincu with many nice people.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I am Nidan

Yesterday I passed the nidan test. My forgetfulness didn't want to give me an easy pass and decided to act up the night before. After the training in Friday evening, I left my bogu at the dojo which is 1.5 hr away from home and the examination venue. So I had to rush there to get it in the morning. Fortunately the exam was in the afternoon....

Despite the long wait, the exam went smoothly, and I got another good bashing session!

One step in and strike immediately

After 2 weeks of absence from the dojo due to health reasons, I went to last Friday's training. Still a little apprehensive about stressing my body too much, I gave my best anyhow. There was an extensive practice of kihon- and waza-geiko, and Ho Sensei gave me a lot of useful feedbacks!

  • To use kote-men as oji-waza to counter opponent's kote-strike, stomp the right foot almost at the same spot, while the following men-strike moves forwards. This makes the waza fast at the same time, with the correct distance.
  • When striking kote, step the right foot forwards in the direction of the opponent's right foot. This brings the shinai naturally to the appropriate position to strike kote.
  • When striking men, jump forwards instead of upwards.
  • He said I struck a couple of good men-strikes while doing jigeiko with him. The whole time I was thinking of what he always said about striking men: "Make one step and immediately 'make the action' (meaning launching the attack)".
After the training we went to celebrate Du-Senpai's birthday. Lots of fun moments, of course!

Monday, June 08, 2009

2009 Asian City Cup, Kaohsiung

Last weekend was full of excitement and fun. About 10 of us from Taipei Kendokan traveled south to Kaohsiung to participate in this year's Asian City Cup Kendo Taikai, held at the historical Butokuden built during the Japanese occupation period. Renovated in recent years, it is a beautiful architectual work with nice atmospheric surroundings. It's also interesting to note that, the manager of the Butokuden and the organiser of this competition, Kin Chin (陳信寰), is one of the three 11th generation Soke (Headmaster) of the Hyoho-Niten-Ichi-Ryu, which is the school created by the lengendary samurai Miyamoto Musashi.

After arriving in Kaohsiung and dropping off our luggage, we headed for some food and drink - Taiwanese style. The video explains it.

Fortunately, I got up in the morning without headache. There was keiko before the competition instead of after, which was a little strange I thought.

The competition started after an hour. The system is 3 against 3 with winning by Ippon-Shobu. My first match took place after a long wait. I fought as senpo, and was in a team with a 3rd Dan and a 5th Dan senpais. Our opponent was one from the local teams, who seemed relatively unexperienced. I was, nonetheless, still a little nervous and didn't take every opportunity to strike. A point should have given to me much earlier in the match, but instead I won the match with a men-strike, which shouldn't have counted. A rather funny situation.. Anyhow, after looking at the video afterwards I was please to see improvement in my posture during men-strikes, that my upper body was kept up-right. See the men-strike at 0:26 seconds in the video (which should have counted). I was the red.

We came out of the pool, but unfortunately lost to the Korean team B. They are extremely good at attacks in close range, and my kote was hit just after we separated from tsubazeriai.

Another team from our dojo beat the Korean Team B, and advanced to the final. Here is the semi-final match. We won with 2-1. (We were red.)



Taisho (Gun-Hsien So Senpai who is in the national team and will be fighting in Brazil this year)

The tension was built-up so high after the first two matches, with a tie. In the Taisho match, So Senpai won with a blitzing kote strike. Look at how everyone cheered!!

The final against Korean Team A was another dramatic event. We lost the senpo, but won the chuken match. The taisho match was a draw, so it's down to the representative match. Unfortunately, they won it with a men-strike. Though we lost, we were not disappointed at all. Everyone tried their best and showed good kendo. 

Final - Representative match Taipei Kendokan (white) So senpai vs Korean Team B (red)

Here are some clips from other matches:

Leung senpai (梁文曲) (red) fighting. He has a very good form combined with agility and power.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


Oh my god... Everyone was so strong. I could hardly make a men-strike. Ho Sensei even just had to open up for me to strike, cuz he was winning every point.

After a few thundering debana-men, with me hopelessly on the receiving side,

he asked me: "HOW DID I STRIKE??"

I answered: "Sending the shinai forwards as though reaching the tsuki and then men."

he answered back: "That's right."

Phew.. said easier than done. But I'll try my best. And also I think I didn't take every opportunity to strike.

蘇耿賢 (Gung-Hsien Su) sensei who is in the Taiwanese National Team led the training this evening. It was my first time seeing his kendo. Very very strong.. I'm just in an utter awe by the level of kendo I saw today. I'm trying not to feel too discouraged when I wonder: When can I be as good as these people?

No correct answer. Just do it.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Competition ahead

In every training I've been to since coming back to Taiwan, the senpais have helped me a lot to correct some of my bad habits. Apart from extending my arms farther, relaxing my right arm more, and yesterday Chang senpai pointed out my upper body leaned a little backwards when striking, while I should keep it up-straight. On the good side, my hip is coming forward, on the downside, the range of my reach is shortened.

This Sunday I will take the new High Speed Railway to Kaohsiung City and participate in the Asian City Cup. This is an invitational competition with teams from Taiwan, Japan, Korea and other nearby cities. So, many strong players will take part. There will be about 10 guys from my dojo going. I will try my best!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The 24th All Taiwan University Championship Invitational

Last Sunday I went to see the 24th All Taiwan University Championship International, which took place just 15 minutes away from my house. About 15-20 universities took part, mainly from the northern part of Taiwan. The level seemed very mixed, with the highest up to about 2nd-3rd Dan. For me, it was a great opportunity to see what the level of student kendo is like here. Though it's far below the Japanese university students, the large number of participants is very encouraging, and they all seemed to enjoy the event very much.

Friday, May 22, 2009

First shiai-geiko at Taipei Kendokan

The heat and humidity were unbearable at this time in Taiwan. And it will get worse in July and August. I started sweating already just after wearing the gi and hakama. Twenty minutes into the training, my head felt cooked...

Fortunately the ventilation system was good, with 10+ electric fans, otherwise it would be hazardous to train in this summer climate..

My waza ability was obviously not quick enough, partly because the guys were fast. So I need to catch up.

At the end of the training, we had a shiai-geiko. I fought with 4 people, two 5th Dan, one 4th Dan and one 2nd Dan. Believe or not, I won 2-0 against the 5th Dan's, 2-1 against the 2nd Dan, and lost 1-2 to the 4th Dan. I can honestly say in normal geiko, one of the 5th Dan and the 4th Dan are obviously stronger than me. But this time in shiai, my will-power was strong enough to compensate the difference in the technical level.

Feedback from Ho Sensei:
  • I have to identify better whether my strikes are valid or not. If not valid, then return quickly to chudan. Otherwise I would waste too much energy on doing zanshin.
  • Identity better the good moments to attack, instead of making lots of invalid strikes. 
  • He said that I have advantage in shiai since my fighting-will is strong. I hope to keep this up!
Of course I'm rather happy about the results. Afterall this gives me some confidence practising in this dojo. However, I know I still have too much to learn from these guys.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Weak tenouchi

From Tainan, Taiwan 19th May 2009

The temperature in Taiwan these days are getting warmer and warmer. Humidity, is the main problem. Luckily Taipei Kendokan has a good ventilation system, but even so the floor feels especially sticky, and needs some getting-used-to.

The training routine here is roughly as the following:

Men-strike from issoku-itto-no-maai (large strike).
Men-strike from to-maai with seme (small strike).
Kote-strike from issoku-itto-no-maai (large strike).
Kote-strike from to-maai with seme (small strike).
Dou-strike from to-maai with seme (small strike).
(Sometimes tsuki)

During jigeiko people are free to take a break and drink some water, though some would carry on without any break, who in my opinion have unbelievably strong stamina.. Because the training routines before then are very intense, plus in this kind of temperature.

There were many notable instances in the training yesterday.
  • While doing the ai-kote-men with Ho Sensei, my men-strikes could never win his, which were faster and stronger.
  • Mr. Shu-Hsin Du (杜時鑫), 4th Dan, does blitzing men-strikes, which caught me many times when doing jigeiko with him.

Advices from Ho Sensei:
  • Make sure the left hand is struck-down solid and forwards when striking. Raising the shinai too much makes the kote prone to debana-strikes.
  • Do not hold back when doing tsuki.
From the training in the past few weeks, I think my body-posture during men-strike has greatly improved. My left foot can also follow-up easily now. However, my tenouchi is still way too weak. Need to improve on that.. 

Kendo aside, I took some pictures from my trip to Tainan, a southern city in Taiwan, an old town full of cultural history.

Here I bumped into a Taoist ceremony for the thousand-year birth of a god.
From Tainan, Taiwan 19th May 2009

Offerings to the gods.
From Tainan, Taiwan 19th May 2009

Big feast after the hard work..

Thursday, May 14, 2009

About ambition and alertness in training

The other day I was talking to Yi-Chung (益誠) after the training while digging into a huge pile of Taiwanese shaved-ice with fresh fruits on top (hm...), and we spoke of something which was quite interesting. Namely, when you visit another dojo from the one you train at everyday, you tend to be more concentrated, more alert, and more ambitious in giving your all. This alertness or "amibtion" usually makes one perform better than usual. This is why, from time to time, it is good to visit another dojo and refresh the mind.

But why can't we retain the same amount of alertness and be ambitous EVERYTIME when we train?

We should... but it's difficult indeed...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Never attack without seme

There are just so much catching-up to do here at Taipei Kendokan. The Senseis and Sempais has been telling me very sharp advices every time. It does make me feel disappointed in myself sometimes, because what they said were the truth. But it also encouraged me to hard even harder.

  • To practise nuki-dou, I have to step in and seme in order to make the other person strike men.
  • Faster kote-men.
  • Ho Sensei reminded everyone that one should never attack without doing seme.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Much to improve

Yesterday was my second training at Taipei Kendokan. As expected, many people turned up on the Friday's session, and the good thing about this dojo is that, there are enough space and enough people to practise the whole evening without rest. After two hours of solid training, I could hardly walk straight.

I expressed my wish to the leading teacher Ming-Hua Ho Sensei (7th Dan who had been on the national team many times until 2006 WKC despite being almost 50 years old) that I would like to join the dojo. After the training I went to have some food and drink with him and other sempais. I felt much welcomed there.

There were plenty of advices from sempais and sensei:
  • The left foot should not raise upwards during the men-strike. It should follow quickly up with the right foot.
  • When striking kote, extend the arms forwards more, instead of making the kensen pointing vertically upwards.
  • Got the same advice from another sempai to relax my right arm when striking men, so that I can extend the kensen forwards more. So it must be an obvious mistake..
  • For doing small men-cuts, raise the hands until the right one is roughly at the level of the oppoent's tsuki tare, then flex the wrist to strike.
  • Ho Sensei said my kendo became worst compared to last time when I was here !!! He said I had much stronger seme before (a few months ag0), but this time it was gone... It sounded like a sharp knife carving from my forehead straight-down to my testicles. But I know what he meant and it was true. It was partly because I was too tired already when fighting with him and I just wanted to do men-uchigomigeiko. However, on the positive side, he thinks I HAD seme. ;-) I need to work hard now.
Two Sempais, a male (Mr. Su) and a female (Ms. Hsieh), kendokas from the dojo who happened to be a married couple are selected to represent Taiwan in the World Kendo Championship this year. I was told that for the selection of the men's team, there were 63 candidates, all 3rd Dan above (which was a minimum requirement), and they must fight with each other until the final 7 or so winners. Imagine the number of matches they had to go through ... Anyways, I wish them luck!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

First training after coming back in TW

From Taiwan 2008

Yesterday evening was my first training after arriving in Taiwan, at the Taipei Kendokan. Not so many people turned up, because it was a Monday, however, I had a good practice, and recieved very valuable advices from Mr. Dai-Lin Chang (張代林), 5th Dan.

Some advices he gave me:
  • He asked me to extend my right arm farther forwards in order to gain an extra distance. It makes a lot of difference indeed.
  • He also encouraged me to push my hips more when doing kote-men.

There was a lady I-Chi Liao (廖依綺) who is probably 2-3rd Dan, whom I had a chance to do jigeiko with. I was surprised by how fast she was and the pressure she put forward.

Though only 6 people were at the training, it was a good starter for me, and I am already excited by how much I can learn in the forth-coming years.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Training in Newcastle

Last Sunday I trained at the Ojika kendo club based in Newcastle. Thanks to Silke from our Dresden dojo, who was there for a year and contacted them before my visit, I didn't feel as much as a stranger. It was lead by Graeme Dockwray, 5th Dan, and a good 1.5-hrs solid training. My body condition was better than it was in Nottingham. Nonetheless, I was totally "knackered" after the training. Why? Because of the surprise birthday kakarigeiko. How did they know? dear friend Stephan in Dresden had asked Silke to inform them, making sure I "had fun", even though I left Dresden one day before my birthday. When Graeme asked me to step forwards before everyone, I was completely unaware of the devilish plot, until he showed me an email print-out asking me how to pronounce the name of a person did I see "Stephan...". Then I thought, "ok.. I'm in trouble..".

There were (at least) 4x kirikaeshi, 20 x men and 4x kakarigeiko. Towards the end of it I just went numb. Pain and tiredness put behind, struck on.

A couple pints of beer in the pub always helped. Which was where we headed right after the training. Very nice people. I hope I'll be back some time!

Advice from Graeme:
  • when doing tsuki, aim at the eyes of the opponent, and then at some point lower the kensen to strike the tsuki tare.

Newcastle April 2009

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Training in Ollerton, Nottinghamshire, UK

Close to the Sherwood Forest (where Robin Hood resided, as the legend goes) is the small town of Ollerton. Last weekend I visited the dojo Kashi-no-Ki Kenyu Kai headed by Trevor Chapman Sensei (5th Dan), a very nice man whom I met 2 years ago in Tokyo, and finally I had the chance this time to visit him there.

I arrived in Newcastle where my father lives on Friday. On Saturday evening I stayed over at Ken Pepper's country house, whose son works in Sunderland. He is a member of KnK Kenyu Kai, and happened to be on a visit there which is much closer to Newcastle. So he very kindly allowed me to hop onto his car and drove me down to his lovely house.

Ken is a very interesting and kind man. He has a falconry, and has been breeding and training falcons for over 20 years. What a fascinating hobby! His son David is a former member of British kickboxing squad, and had won many titles, hoping one day to start kendo. I hope he succeeds on that.

In the evening, I learned that Trevor had told everyone about my visit, and asked everyone to show up. "Oops." I thought, and started to drink a lot of water in order to prevent dehydration from practising with zeal kendokas who want to squeeze every bit out of the poor visitor (rightly so!).

The training on the next day started at 10 am. About 15 people turned up for training. We spent the first half-an-hour on kata, which was good for me, since I haven't had enough practice and Trevor has a very good knowledge on kata.

The practice with bogu started as usual with a few rounds of kirikaeshi. There was a lot of kihon practice, all with large cuts. Even so, I could never had enough of kihon practice. But it had to stop at some point because, it's time for jigeiko! 

I first fought with Robert Wix, who visited Dresden last year, though I didn't have the chance to practise with him last time. My second partner was a young chap, who had lots of energy. So I got a good work out, and tried also to use more oji-wazas. Then I practised with Trevor, which was the first time because in Tokyo we didn't have the opportunity to do so. Since I knew very well his philosophy of kendo is not far away from mine and that of members from Kobukan, after standing up from sonkyo I started to work my way to fight for the centre. I succeeded in landing a couple of good straight men cuts, while also receiving a few good whacks on my head. A clear difference between Trevor and the other members of the dojo is that, I felt already a lot of pressure after bowing and during sonkyo. I see this as a sign of respect for the opponent, that he is being taken seriously. This also engaged me even more for the fighting that was to follow.

I had two more jigeikoes, one with Ken and the other with a younger member Akagi san. Ken's body condition didn't allow him to move his lower body fast, so he concentrated more on reacting to my movement. My job became trying to make him respond first and then respond in return, i.e. putting pressure by faking men or kote strikes and then strike.

After the keiko, Trevor took me to a Chinese restaurant and had much pleasant chat about kendo experiences as well as other things. 

Many thanks to Trevor, Ken and the members of Kashi-no-Ki Kenyu Kai. I hope we will meet again soon and practise kendo. I'm very curious and expecting a good kendo development in everyone here.

Two feedbacks from Trevor:
  • For the zanshin of Hiki-men the shinai should be about 45 degrees and the tip should not point too low. This is of course for a fast strike from jodan if the opponent chases up.
  • My left foot is sometime too far behind from the right in kamae. 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Farewell Germany

[ My farewell Kakarigeiko in Dresden. ]

Sad but true. It was my last training in Dresden on Friday evening. Next time when I'm here, I will just be a visitor, whether that is in 2 years' time or 10 years' time.

Some people had to leave for the national squad training this weekend, who therefore couldn't participate in the training. However, before they left, Stephan gathered everyone together so that we could take a picture. Of course.. the BAKKA photo - Dresden style.

I think it's been a long time since we have done that all together. There was a full load of nice memories...

From 2007

Thank you all Dresden kenshis. Starting kendo here 3.5 years ago was one of the best things I have done during my 6-years-stay in Germany. I remember the first time I met Stephan was at the presentation of Dresden-Budo-Club at the St. Benno Gymnasium. Patrick, Liv and Jasmin were there as well. I wonder what they went through their minds when they saw me.

!! Rambling Alert !!
Stop here if you don't want to read my lengthy rambles.

The Beginning

My first class was at the Dresden-Budo-Club. At the time, Rohus was still actively teaching. Then I combined my training at both DBC and the university (TU Dresden) club - 3 times a week.

It was not until four months had passed, I could get into the Bogu. A month later, I participated in the Leipzig Kendo Championship. I looked so dum, and had no idea what was going on, but somehow fought my way into the quater-finals.

[2006 Leipzig Kendo Championship]

Apart from my terrible kendo form, you also see many familiar faces in the background, some of whom are still active while the others not (what a shame! I miss them sometimes.). 

Meeting Ozawa Sensei

One of the most important events in my kendo life was the meeting with Hiroshi Ozawa Sensei, Kuroda-san and Iinuma-san in Prague during the Toru Giga Cup in 2006. And in 2007, I visited him in his dojo Kobukan in Tokyo for a month of training and leisure

First win in tournament - 16th Leipzig Kendo Championship 2007


At the end of 2007, I worked in Paris for 3 months. During this time I could train 3-4 times a week, at Bodu XI, where Yoshimura Sensei (8th Dan) teaches. I was surprised by the high level of kendo there, but only by the Japanese immigrants but also the local French kendoka. I think France has the highest overall standard in kendo of Europe, and it made me even more humble again.

Back to Dresden, off again to Tokyo and Taiwan

In 2008, one of the most important work in my life - PhD - was handed out, which took a tremendous weight off my shoulders. My training was kept as the second priority, and I was just glad that I still went to the training regularly. I think it is still important to go to the training once a week during busy times.

Fast-forwarding to now..

In all aspect, I'm looking forward to moving back to Taiwan, for both kendo and general life. There are countlessly many kendoka much stronger than I am, so obviously there will be many high mountains to climb. I hope I will be able to break these barriers and become strong.

I will for sure keep writing when I get to Taiwan.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

JP vs TW kendoka

I found this video clip from 2007 when a Japanese delegation visited I-Shin Kendojo in Taipei, led by Masanori Shiroishi Sensei (8th Dan Hanshi) including the winner of 54th All Japan Kendo Championship, Satoru Harada, and other Japanese national team members. The first section of the clip shows Harada (staring on the right) fighting with Mr. Liao (starting on the left), who told me to strike with kihon when I trained at the Taipei Kendokan (click). Here you can see what I meant when I praised his kendo. Just look at that sharpness when he strikes men! And that takes only ten years?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Don't back out at crucial moments

Today I realised in jigeiko that I backed out at some of the most crucial moments while doing seme. If I see the opponent's intention to strike, this is the tipping point where if I just apply slightly more pressure, he would launch the strike, which would allow me to use the oji-waza.

I should be more calm and focused.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Bad habits in jigeiko

Yesterday evening 7 people turned up for the training, and I led the session. As always an extensive package of kihon-geiko was on offer. After about 300+ suburi swings, we did 4 x kirikaeshi, 2 x do-kirikaeshi, and few rounds of big men and middle men strikes to practise the wrist snap. Then loads of kote-men and kote-men-men strikes. 

We also practised seme and men-strike starting from to-maai when the tips of shinais just touch each other. And by moving both feet inch by inch whiling maintaining a good kamae, the kakarite reaches the isso-ku-itto-no-maai at which point he strikes. Just before extending the arms to strike, the left foot is kept still while the right foot glides forwards. 

Some 15 minutes were left for jigeiko towards the end of the training, which is rather short. Next time hopefully I can control the time better so that we can do 25 minutes jigeiko.

One difficult thing for most people including both advanced kenshis or beginners is that, many bad habits show up in jigeiko: upper body leans forwards when striking, constantly moving backwards, blocking, jumping backwards/forwards or evening sideways (which is back footwork).

It seems that for most people, the motivation to win overcomes far more than to do good kendo in jigeiko. There is a very good article on the Attitude to Jigeiko by Sotaro Honda Sensei (click). There are plenty tricks that work when fighting against players of relative low grades (including me) but they are useless against higher grade kendoka. If we indulge ourselves into these temporary moments of victory, the road to obtaining a good kendo would only be made longer and more difficult. Because these habits will become harder and harder to correct, and after one has corrected them, he would realise that much time has been wasted. 

I constantly remind myself of this.