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!

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.