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!

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.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Left wrist inwards

Hm... sometimes I still forget to turn my my left wrist inwards when doing tenouchi. More men-strikes and suburis are needed....

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Importance of the wrist

One of the things that I have concentrated on since last year training in Tokyo is to increase my wrist strength. And fortunately, I have been making steady improvement. 

It is told by almost any teacher that the wrist strength is important for making the strikes sharp, and hence validating a point. However, its significance is much further beyond the mere sound effect. The following is a list of the other benefits:

  • It keeps the upper body up-straight. A lot of young kenshis (for example high school students) and beginners whose sole interest is winning tend to let the upper body lean forwards when striking men, in order to add an extra speed and strength to the strike. If this can be achieved by the wrist movement along, the leaning of the body can be avoid. This of course looks better, and is also essential if one were to make continuous strikes.
  • Better ki-ken-tai-ichi and more explosiveness. These are direct consequence of the previous point. Because if one keeps the body up-straight during seme or at the initial stage of the strike, it is very difficult for the opponent to detect when the strike will come. 
  • Shikake-wazas rely heavily on wrist strength, as elucidated by Ozawa Sensei when I was in Tokyo. They include harai, maki, osae, and of course kote-men, etc.

How to increase wrist strength? 

Many ways. In fact, I have seen many people telling each other special exercises on how to increase wrist power, but I think the most effective exercises are the OLD SCHOOL STUFFS: kirikaeshi, renzoku-waza and continuous men-strikes raising the shinai to the "medium" position (see here for explanation). While doing them, make sure the arms and the wrists are fully extended. Especially the right index finger, if straightened, should point downwards as much as possible, instead of pointing horizontally (with the right arm being horizontal). 

Monday, March 09, 2009

Surprise path

As an update to my life, I will be going back to Taiwan in May for good. This of course will have a significant impact on my kendo life as well! I'm looking forward to the much bigger kendo population and practising with people from different kendo schools with different styles (see this post and this post for some accounts on the Taiwanese kendo). And you'll be sure to have updates from me there!

It's of course very exciting for me that I'm returning and will actually be LIVING in my home country again. There are just so much things there that I'd like to do, and places I'd like to visit and see. I had never thought that I would go back so soon. However, as people always say, life is full of surprises.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

More fighting spirit

In the past few months, I've focused more on the correctness of strikes, and it's been a while since I spoke of fighting spirit and the controlled aggression towards my opponent. I think it's about time that I bring more of that element into my kendo again.

It seems that the improvement in kendo is a perpetual process of proving ki (fighting spirit), ken (sword) and tai (body). The meaning of fighting spirit is self-explanatory. The sword is, for example, the sharpness of the strike. The body means, of course, good posture, brining the hip forwards and good footwork. 

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The 200th blog entry and still going

Today I was practising my footwork after the men-strikes using the mindset I mentioned in the last entry, which helped a lot still. But one more problem was that my strikes weren't sharp enough after I became tired. I almost "gave up" at the moment when I launched forwards with my feet.

I should commit to every men-strike whole-heartedly and execute proper movements in jigeiko, instead of making half-way and mediocre strikes.