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, 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?