Friday, December 31, 2004

Top Ten New Year's Resolutions from Mingshi

There is a list I made elsewhere about getting a job and learning how to cook... but this one is for kendo so I put it up here:-

Do 1,000 suburi daily. Well it's not hard to do 1,000 suburi. Just that you have to find a spot that you are comfortable with, and play Rammstein for 45 minutes or so. Meaning spend less time watching TV. But the weather has to be warmer to begin with....Ergh... I know this is just a joke.

Read about Japanese History - from ancient to modern.

Learn Japanese (properly, not just from manga and anime this time, please). At least some grammar.

Get a female kohai that I am really proud of.

Get into Hong Kong National Team and increase my chances to fight at 13th WKC in 2006. But the weekly team training is on a Sunday morning (family day for me) and it's a 1.5-hour bus-ride one-way. Gggrrr.

Be nice and tolerant to new people I am going to meet and practice with in kendo in Hong Kong. Afterall I am new to them not the other way round.

Keep doing Iaido, even if the sensei isnt all that brilliant as what I had in London/Brighton. A wasted talent wasted all the previous sensei's time.

Stop hopping around or use too much right hand to punch the shinai forward. Improve footwork. Try not to get pushed around or fall down to the floor. Etc. etc. etc... Just don't do things all the senpai has told me not to all the time.

Do more Tsuki.

Visit Japan. Two friends invited me already - one in Tokyo and one Yokohama, so finding keiko should be easier.

Rainen mo ishou ni Ganbatte ne!!!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Mukae Tsuki...

That was on Saturday, the end of year practice for Wakaba.

My Iaido session went shite as I was not focusing at all after a 2-week break. I am starting to worry about what my Iai will be like after I move back to Hong Kong. Apparently, there isn't a high-grade sensei there either, and practice is much like self-indulgence... uhmm

After the Iai went the children/beginner's practice. End-of-year practice in Wakaba means balloon fights! I was not fighting there of course (but was taking pics - will upload to my site later). Balloon fights reminds me of the first time I saw kendo LIVE at Hyde Park, London. Somehow it brings back nice memory with me being a beginner.

Their practice time finished earlier than usual and we escaped to the "party area" for food! Those kendo mothers made really good Japanese food. It was 3pm and I hadn't eaten anything since 9am...! I couldn't resist and consumed a lot of the nice food there - rice buns...

Just when I started to feel a full stomach - we were called back to the dojo for mawari-keiko..!

Especially when you are not paying full attention on what you should be working on during jikeiko, chances of showing your worst habit is v v v v v high.

I joked to Paul that when I am *that* full, all I will do in the dojo is stand there and Tsuki people.

... God knows why he actually use that against me!!!

That was the first Mukae Tsuki I took.

"It was your fault. You said you are only going to Tsuki people!" Paul replied.

And then the next person I was up against was Scotty..! The fight went ok actually, but suddenly one of the kote he got went straight underneath my tsuki-dare. Because of that I bite on my mouth. Yikes.

After a bit of rest I went in to the rotation again. Not very long did I get my 3rd Mukae Tsuki from Jones. Well I won the first THREE cuts first. Men, Hiki-Men, De-kote!!! But after a few more clashes he aimed for Tsuki but missed to underneath my Tsuki-dare (again).

I suppose it's because of my bad posture that leads to my opponent(s) shinai all went underneath and not on the Tsuki-dare.

**By the way, Mukae Tsuki is the term to describe you run into your opponent's kensen. Most of the time it's when your Men cut has no Seme. Anyway, lesson learnt.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Don't Give Up!

This Friday is the last 2004 practice in my home dojo. Attendance is "average", nevertheless it has been a great session.

I completely skipped the warm-up... Was writing more email and completely lost the time. I knew on Sat and Sun I won't be at home so email gets the priority.

When I went in it was already mawari-keiko time. Getting in when my hands and feet are all cold is not helping. Many of the fights are sub standard, especially the one against Wright - that was even worse than the unexpected keiko yesterday (lost an elbow-do but at least I got one Tsuki there!!).

The second half of the practice was mainly jikeiko. One good thing about Nenriki is that the space is pretty open and you pick whoever you want (unlike Wakaba where it's on rotation all the time, or at Mumeishi where you spend most of your time queuing for sensei). I was queuing for Matsuoka when he was fighting Takizawa.

People said you can have an advantage by height. To a certain extend I agree. Apart from the obvious "reach" factor, somehow, I reckon it is about confident. Most of the time in Wakaba, against someone shorter (mainly kids) I can cut big men, either fast or slow.

Watching the two Japanese senpai from the side makes me analyise why some people have so much worry about everything, and some feels so happy about anything...

Matsuoka's funny laughter after cutting Takizawa's men - several well-timed ones. Sometimes the pracice stopped for a while when Matsuoka wants to explain. I don't have that privilage since he can't seem to communicate well enough in English (my guess).

Actually, fighting Matsuoka is a lesson by itself. Things in Kendo are most of the time best described by hitting/getting hit. Especially from someone who is already used to teaching in his local dojo in Japan. Some other Japanese senpai, even though their kendo is great, do not have the same teaching experience. Therefore by fighting those, you get beaten up, but not inspired.

With regards to the "Ashi-sabaki wa zenzen ni dameda" comment (Footwork is absolutely no good...), I focused on my left foot a lot more, and as a result my renzoku waza are so much faster. Still, Matsuoka beats me up. On many occations there were clashing sound of shinai ten times or so - followed by one sharp ippon from Matsuoka. He likes picking openings. Say, if you pause in the middle he gets his favourite moment to cut you back. Despite my random kote-men/ kote-do cuts, I clearly lost 10+ men, 2 katate-tsuki and one katate-han-men! #%^$@!! Very frustrating to go on.

"Don't give up!" Matsuoka said in English. The only other things he said were, "Onegaishimas", "Ippon" and "Arigadogozaimas" - excluding countless laughing kiai.

My low-level Ippon was won after 3 Men of his - a kote-men that come in accidentally straight.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Cutting Edge

This Japanese sword exhibition at the British Museum has been there for a while. And this day I finally get a chance to pay a visit there.

As someone who practices Iaido, sometimes I feel embrassed not being able to talk about different parts of swords, names of fittings, etc. etc. To me those are the tools and gadgets - and using the cheapest-of-all sword in the division still get me a First at the Nationals.

Nevertheless this is an exhibition in the museum and not some display of currently available sword models. For everything modern there must be a historical background. There I learnt about different period and schools of sword making - and all those poetic ways they used to describe hamon (wavy lines of folding at the edge). They even have one of the "demon sword" Muramasa on display. Previously I've only heard of it on computer games. Got to see the real thing is a completely amazing experience.

This exhibition is curated by my own kendo sensei Victor Harris. He is now retired but had been a keeper of the Japanese Antiquities Dept for a long while, probably since he was active at the IKF. Also he was the first person to translate "Book of 5 Rings" into English. To gain my respect a sensei isn't like a teacher standing there lecturing people. Harris talks little but undoubtably his knowledge, experience and devotion in kendo, Japanese culture, history had impressed anyone in the world, both inside and outside of Japan, and inside and outside of kendo.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Last Dance

Although not in shape, I was in the mood for my last squad training at Rickmansworth (NW London). That flu virus has been in my body for the pass 4 weeks, stopping me doing work-related stuff and also regular kendo. But because I have a bad feeling about not being able to attend the squad next month, or probably any month after because I have to leave the country... That's why I choose to get there for the entire weekend.

Adding to that was the "shiai league" practice format. Everyone in attendance fights against each other in 4 min matches. I missed the last kendo competition for my iaido grading - so I have the need to build up my shiai technique. Not just the fighting part, but also observation. I also like the atmosphere and pressure of watching/being watched. Sometimes you need to balance between "dueling" with another person, and performing in front of referees, etc.

A slightly disappointing turn-out of girls... grrr... But we tried our best to fight each other first. A handicapped system was used - a girl will be one point up against a guy. So in order to win a guy HAVE TO score 2 ippon. It went funny when I thought I drew but the flag went up for me. Haha.

The first day I spend a good 40 mins just to do timekeeping. Also that I was having a fever and only be managed 2 fights and have to blow my nose after fight every partner. Not completely enjoyable. But the next day, despite losing A LOT of my match really quickly, I focus more on my posture and footwork.

As far as I can remember, here's my scoreboard. I didn't even fight 12+ matches to make myself into the league (d'oh!).:-

Day 1

Win 1:0 - Halls. First match and 4-min draw, then one point up by handicapped. Not v happy.
Lose 0:1 - Vinelott. Lost a Men. I suddenly became really really aware of my "head tilting" bad habit because more than 3 times I was almost pushed on the floor after cutting Men. I am not going to let that happen to me again!!! Also I was dramatically ducking ... not good impression at all.

Day 2

Win 2:0 - Hanson. At last, this is the first real 2-0 match for me since March!! I was mainly relaxing my shoulder and timing her cuts. First one was kote-nuki-men. Second one was my fav jump-in kote. The one I used to finish my match in 1o sec in Hong Kong last Jan. Now I got it back. Yoshi!
Lose 2:0 - Bishop. Just when you are really happy about a 2-0, you lose out a 2-0. Again, against Bishop my rival, who did exactly the same Ai-men that I lost against her at the Nationals in Sept (thats how I came join-3rd)!! And then another one where I just stand there looking like an idiot!! Nooooooooo -- I want to commit seppuku..
Draw 0:0 - Holt. Both me and Kim was equall sick at that time. Kinda timed some cool Doh cuts which I didn't score.
Lose 1:2 - Watkinson. Last time I fought him was in Aug 03 before he get to Japan for study. Did challenge him the night before, but can't believe I lose out so quickly. Yikes. A kote, and another one that landed on my tsuba... Uhmm... revenge next time...
Win 1:0 - Fisher. He came 3rd in the end, so I was quite pleased that I drew him. Wanted to do more, especially gyaku-doh, but wasn't sharp enough.
Lose 1:2 - Hayes. Lost 2 men. I can see it coming. I realise I have a fear of Ai-men...
Lose 1:2 - Scott. Lost hiki-men and hiki-kote (?)... I don't remember!! Because he is good at hiki-waza I was quite keen on getting him there... but... at the last point I also did a hiki-waza and crushed onto the bars at the back of the gym. Doesn't help :p
Lose 1:2 Gibson. With this 1:0 handicap point, I was developing some kind of "tactical thinking" that I should hold his point as long as possible. But 4 mins is a long way, besides Gibbo is not an idiot. I blocked 5 of his Men but then turned into a blocking mode, leaving my kote wide open.. Lost kote in 2 consecutive occations - one ura, one omote (because I waved around my shinai on both sides....)

That went my 10 fights.


Honda-sensei came to my dojo last Friday. But still I didn't get to fence him this weekend. I just think that I didn't improve much since last time I fought him (Sept). Escaped from the embrassment... I look onto other people at keiko time....

Tajima from Nagamitsu. He is so straight :( He taught me about holding the center against a "stiff" opponent. Of course the easiest way to do it is knocking shinai out of the way, eg. Harai waza. But also I can move to the side WITHOUT MOVING THE KENSEN. Because I am quick-ish but not strong with hands, perhaps I should try more of this.

Kishigami from Cheltenham. Kinda annoyed by me attacking too often - but ineffectively. He said I am moving whenever the opponent moves. But the whole idea is to make the opponent move and then pick them off. In terms of "ri-ai" (reasoning?), if the opponent is disturbed by my movement, I won already.

Bishop (not my rival, but her husband!) at Edinburgh. I think I got him after he fought Tajima... As the old saying goes, "always pick on a man when his is down". Hahha. An enjoyable fight so to speak, as comparing to the last one (July). I was faster to do a few kote-nuki-men on him, in which he responded when we were at tsuba-zeriai: Stop hitting me! :D

Wake from Lancaster (?). He is "tall" so I get over there and say onegaishimas. Different in height is not a particular advantage, I suddenly realised. It only matters if you are able to manipulate it, and extend your advantage as much as possible.

Day 2:
Budden. I enjoy the moment of slience when we get up from sonkyo, followed by my kiai which went in echo in the entire gym (as no one was ready yet). A long while not fighting him, but he still got a lot of soft but quick kote on me (my arms are a bit stiff..)

Bell at Nagamitsu. Not enjoyable... I think I lack the acceleration with my legs on the downward cut. As a result Bell did 3 consecutive times of suriage-hiki-men on me. Grrr. But I a few times I got him hiki-kote. One more thing is that he was in Chudan. Last month he fought the last minute with me in Jodan. But this month I was too crap to get him fight me with Jodan.. :(

Honda was saying they are going to organize a trip to Paris next Spring. I *really* want to go because it's the Paris Taikai with koryu and all that. But the chance for me to stay after Jan is closest to zero. Even if I got a job I will have my passport stuck at the immigration office, probably... A bit too far ahead to think of right now, but I really enjoy carrying my bogu traveling, fighting people I don't know. Like this weekend.

This weekend was probably the last time I see everyone from all over the country. The next kendo event will be in Feb (?). I'll be disappeared by then.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Step in

Tonight Honda-sensei (British Team Coach) came to my dojo for a visit. He didn't lead the class, but instead he became part of it, like, joining in the mawari-keiko and also uchikomi-keiko. Sadly I was *coughing* all the way and have to take off my Men for twice - and in the end completely fed up with that. So I missed the first few rounds of kirikaeshi and also the Enjin shiai (or what is it called - shiai in a circle).

What I find quite interesting (my word: you have to be there!) was about uchikomi-keiko. Honda always emphasize on 100% posture at squad practices before. Uchikomi-keiko is not about speed but correctness. Therefore the focus should be of proper form, straightness, etc.

One thing is that after each cut at uchikomi-keiko, you need to turn back and do another cut. But before heading for the second one, you need to take ONE MORE STEP first. If you turn and cut immediately, you lost the distance and posture. Also there is no pause when you turn for the next cut - you can do it slowly but not stopping in the middle. Everything should be done as a smooth flow.


Besides the flu I am having, everything was alright. I remember last night at UCL Gibson was telling the beginners not to perform fumikomi underneath their whole body - but more forward. Light bulbs came up when he said that. Like today, I can cut so much further just because I step OUT and not on the spot.

I got Matsuoka and Inuzuka-senpai SHODACHI!! HAHAHHAHAAAA. Takizawa-san (aka Ai, who attends Hizen/Wakaba) started to join in every week at Nenriki and trains with me every single practice. It was good today with 3 girls in the dojo, at last!! Anyway, Takizawa was complaining that the other two Japanese senpai were not fighting her seriously. NOW that I got both of them SHODACHI as a warning to them!! Usually I can focus very well in Jikeiko for 10 sec and do very strong cuts - but after that time limit I just ran out. Lost a lot of Ai-men or Debana waza. Especially to Takizawa... because she is actually much shorter than me...

Yooooshi----!! Squad training this weekend. Probably my last dance.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Sick leave...

It's been most unfortunate time of the year that I am sick - for like, 4 weeks or something!?! I haven't fully recovered still, especially last week there were 2 nights that I actually came home after 2am in the morning, shivering at the night bus stop, waiting in the dark...

Because I don't have 100% of my energy (maybe not even 60%... grrr), I can't enjoy a practice much. Every other keiko I have to reluctantly take off my Men to blow my nose. What a waste of time...

Adding to that, my footwork is still crap, although I have been focusing on it now. Also I sooo frequently lost my Ai-men, because I have a tendancy to tilt my head backwards before launching forward. Bad habits are hard to get rid of - especially when you don't really practice often enough!!!

I want to be stronger. Because I get sick all the time...

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

A Waste of Time

It's getting more difficult to keep up with everything now... and I am not even working!! Life runs in snail speed here. Now I devote more time in front of the computer designing stuff - which is why I have little updates over here...

Anyway... It is already mid-Nov. I was graded 2nd Dan last month. But I don't think I am doing very well at that.

I used to be the first person arriving at the dojo, cleaning the floor and all that. But now I just made it in time, such as, when they are already doing warm-up. I used to be the one leading warm-ups... Sigh. I keep blaming the traffic, but I should work on my scheduling as well.

Last weekend I persuaded Matsuoka and Inuzuka senpai to get to squad training with me. It's a long journey to the NW of London. I invited them in the pub (which wasnt the ideal place to do that) and they actually turned up!! Sometimes it's a bit sad to have to go to kendo on a Sunday morning - while I could have done something else better. So I really appreciated my senpai to go with me. Ok even though they came not because of me...

That Sunday was fun. At least I fought Honda sensei and also Bell in Jodan. And then my left ankle was not going too well - so I dropped out at the last 30 mins or so. Missed the kakari-keiko round. Damn.


While being on a few pints again the next week, me and Matsuoka senpai was chatting in the pub again. He is struggling with his English - just like me struggling with my kendo as well.

At one point he was saying in Japanese (someone translated that for me - which annoyed Matsuoka a bit), "Jenny is not doing anything but kendo. So much time.."

But it was after another pint that we got to talk about the matches at Shiai practice the night before. It started as a conversation of "what do you think about my shiai last night?"

"Jenny you need to improve your footwork. Even you are going to Wakaba, squad training and even helping in UCL, you are not working on your ashi-sabaki. I think it is a waste of time. Understand?"

Even taking 1,000 men cuts on the head will not wake me up - but this honest advice from a half-drunk senpai did what I need. There are of course, other senpai who will just encourage me by saying "Jenny you are going really good." But in fact for me to improve I'd like an honest senpai who can pinpoint what I should be focusing on.

It's no good being too nice to me. I always don't get the message if the statement is not just a random response.

Friday, October 29, 2004

The Dance of Kendo

Earlier in the week Blake asked us "seniors" to invent a way to teach beginners about "ki-ken-tai-icchi". IMHO they should have been working more in their feet rather than their hands. But anyway its quite hard for me to convey the idea of NOT using muscular strength. Practically nobody seems to understand.

At Thursday's UCL practice - technically a new university club filled entirely by student membership - Matsuda-sensei-in-charge (since Gibson is away) taught about ki-ken-tai-icchi as well. The few of us from Nenriki was assisting, as in "run around correcting little mistakes". They did a bit of fumikomi. Then without shinai in their hands, Matsuda taught them to clap and stamp with their foot together.

To me it looks like a dance studio with teams of dancers clapping and tap-dancing (in a violent way). But we do find that clapping helps a lot with the speed, because we are getting to be more "on the beat" now!

Monday, October 25, 2004

Feels like Ikkyu

Yes I passed Nidan last weekend.

That day was long and boring. When I got home at 6.30pm I went straight to bed.

I woke up a few hours later and loaded the photos I took into the harddrive. That included the video of my grading fights.

My kamae looked absolutely horrible. I knew it looks bad. But now I know it was THAT bad.

... and I keep wondering why I passed...? Yeah I passed. But not happy at all.

Last Sat at Wakaba I queued for Fujisawa sensei. When we got up from sonkyo, I did my kiai to keep me in focus. But Fujisawa sensei walked over to me and said, "oh congratulations!" Apart from saying thank you, I was lost. I don't even remember I am Nidan.

My men cut sucks so much. I had my Shodan shinsa on video as well. God I cut so much better last year in front of Miyazaki Masahiro at the 12th WKC grading. What happened???

There isn't a proper taikai I am going for in a few months. I have been working on my job-hunting a lot lately, so there isn't much to think about in kendo. Now I need to work back my Men!!!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


This week is a bit too busy to write things down. When you have more important stuff to deal with in your life, such as job hunting... You don't want to sit in front of the computer typing stuff about kendo!!!



Just when you think you can get away with 7 months not training regularly, and go for your Nidan after 15 months of Shodan--- you realize the most important waza of Nidan, a Kote-men, is not working properly!!

The more you do it, the worse it gets!!!

Adding to that is a blister developing between my left thumb and index finger. Sign of a bad grip -- I have been having a bad grip for 3 months without realizing!!

I am still fighting too far as well. Last weekend at the Squad training, my uchikomi keiko and kakari keiko were sh!t. I still hit with the very tip of the shinai, instead of the pat closer to the nakayui. Thats why it doesnt give the pop. Thats why I was vvvvv frustrated!!

At the squad we did funny waza-keiko. Select a type of cut for your motodachi, and then you do your counter attack. We pair up, go on for sonkyo, stand up and walk to the middle, saying, "Hello, what do you want?" Even more interesting is, everyone wears a big smile in their face (despites being tired and out of breath)

"Big, slow men please." We did that 4 times and swap around. Sounds like hungry customers ordering food from waiters.

My de-kote went great. But my kote-men sucks. Really sucks... Especially when I paired up with Fisher, who I KNOW will be fighting me at the grading next weekend!!! God... why am I doing this?!?!

One great thing I did was to fight all the girls!! It was much better than I expected, with 6 other female kendoka around.

The most stupid thing has to be the public transportation. One section of the Underground wasnt running and we have to take replacement buses. That made a journey of 2 hours going out and 3 hours returning. The squad training was only 3 hours... How should I weight that?

Monday, September 27, 2004

An Inch Short (2)

There was this TV crew from Sky Sports (cable sports channel) filming everywhere and everything. They had me and Leng talking about kendo on a few minutes --and then they dragged her for an interview.

They dragged all the winners for an interview. I managed to spy on half of what they said. Not many chance do you hear people talk about "why do you like kendo?".

McLauglin who was refereeing some of my matches fed me with some comments. He said my ki-ken-tai-icchi is bad. And at one point I was so tired waving around that I lean forward too much. Not that I disagree, I just don't get it when he said it...

Earlier on when I entered the gym, I put my bogu bag next to Hayes, who is in the current British squad from this home dojo. He looked at my zekken, and said "Oh, Hi Jenny. I want to fight you today." I didn't expect that so all I said was "alright".

At lunch break the empty gym was at first occupied by the TV crew, trying to film some pre-choregraphed kendo moves. I stayed for a while but decided to feed my empty noisy stomach first. When I got back the cameraman was gone, and so a few of us started putting on our Men.

Usually all the taikai overrun. If you want to practice with an old friend from far away, you'd have to sacrifice the lunch break. At first I thought only pathetic kendo maniacs like myself and some others will do such a thing, but when I pulled my men himo together, Honda (British Squad Coach) was already up in the middle of the gym (later, Yanai-sensei joined in as well). Last time at the Ladies Seminar I missed the chance to practice with him, so immediately I get into his queue (when no one else is around).

When I looked at other people around, Hayes showed up and said, " you can practice with him afterwards." So off we went.

Recalling the night before my fight with Matsuoka. I finally get used to fight until I got the Ippon. There can be a lot of crazy but fun sword-crossing opportunities in chika-maai. Like that hiki-gyaku-doh I got from Hayes... just totally sent him in shock. But today with a slight improvement, I got some Men Ippon, as well as some de-gote. Although I repeatedly piked on his Men-gane, I see the opening.

I wished I was fighting like that at the Shiai. But I was too bothered with winning/loosing points that my "real kendo" is not there...

Exhausted I called for final Ippon, to which I lost a Men as my de-gote came a sec too slow. After that I was back in Honda's queue again. (I still don't know why Hayes wants to fight me... did I do something wrong??!)

I feel like showing my best. My focus was 120% when we get up from Sonkyo. I start having this mentality against all the sensei after I get that super cool kote Ippon from Sahla during the summer. This time I touched Honda's Men (somehow I think he knows I am going for kote, so I went for men). To my excitement that I won that Sho-dachi, I went all the way through, shouting "Waaaa----" at the top of my lungs. (Sorry but my current kiai is "waaa" - I find shouting out target names too confusing)

... Suddenly I realized something. I TOUCHED the men, not cutting it. A few more times Honda went for de-gote and nuki-doh as well. The second thing I realized was: he fights from really close. Not at the shinai tips touching, but at the nakayui touching.


The night before I had that fun fight with Matsuoka. Bored with the long keiko, we stopped and checked our shinai.. He gave me his 39 to hold, and its balance was so great that it feels lighter than my 38 (hmm I hope he didn't do anything to it)!! When I hold his shinai he was holding mine in Chudan. So immediately we went back into keiko mode, in which I did a brilliant Men cut. I told Matsuoka, "hey this is longer!!"

Before the opening ceremony we were on the same queue for shinai check. I was telling Matsuoka that, if my shinai breaks I'll borrow his 39. But using a longer shinai isn't the reason. I should have fought an inch closer...

To my surprise I won the Best Fighting Spirit award for my division. Hayes got his as well, incidentally.

3 weeks to go for my Nidan. I hope I have the time to readjust my messed-up distance!!

For full results check the BKA site:-

An Inch Short (1)

Apparently, too much travelling is bad for your health. It was cold during the journey from the south of England to the Midlands, to attend the British Nationals last Sat. Today I spend all day sleeping, blowing my nose, and reflecting upon what I did/didn't do yesterday. You know you are too obsessed when you dream about the points you lost...

Maybe I shouldn't be too worried about being late. Last week at that small Iaido competition I forget about all my Iai because on my way I was thinking about being late too much... This week it wasn't any better... 4 of us from Nenriki Dojo arrived 5 mins late. But the whole event was delayed for another 1/2 hr, so I still had time to chat to people and warm-up fully.

This Nationals has been suffering from low attendance as well, just as the Iaido thingy last week. There were again, 7 competitors in my division (Ladies open grade). Last year there were 10, and the year before there were also 10... Is that just me who is really bothered by the number of female presence?

Anyhow the day was with Ladies and Men (1kyu-3Dan) first. I missed a lot of the actions at the Mens as the Ladies went on for too long... Because no one is scoring anything, and that everyone drew. The Ladies fought in 2 pools, with the top 2 getting through at the semi-finals. I fought Isabelle (a 16 yr old local) and Riddoch (4Dan British team captain who won Kantosho at the last WKC) in mine. My only "threat of the day" is probably Leng (who is MY kendo brother :), who wasn't in my pool luckily, because in 2 previous time I ended up fighting her...grrr. No other British squad entered, nor any Japanese girl...

My initial plan is to smash Isabelle as fast as possible and use the rest of my energy on Riddoch.

Bishop's wife Lindsey (Bishop is one of my fav. senpai from Edinburgh) went against Leng at the beginning match. It went 1-0 with Leng losing out (as usual, the points are dodgy). There were times I get nervious so most time I spend was jumping up-and-down at the side, watching both courts.

At the other court I watched my senpai Matsuoka fighting (accidentally, against Leng's boyfriend, Mason). My senpai lost.

It does not feel right when the day starts with people who you expect to win losing.

My turn.

I want to recreate the scene I made in HK with 2 kote in 10 seconds. It was at the team match when I was the Taisho. It's great if you know the flag are up for you BEFORE you hit the point.

Not this time. I repeat another spot-on kote, but there were no flags. I panicked -- where is my killer waza???

It's like the AK-47 you are holding on is suddenly jammed. You are left with the bayonet.

My men or kote-men isn't working either. I keep hitting on the Men gane. I tried leaning forward (waaay too much) but that just makes things worse.

Then I started worrying about, if they don't give points to me, they'll start looking at the other girl and give her points. So I have to cut whenever she does something... which isn't any good cut either. That match finishes as a draw fighting in 3 minutes (with me non-stop attacking). There is no time to think about anything, except running to the opposite side of the court and continue with the next match.

Riddoch was on Jodan and that just makes things worse. Not that her Jodan is too scary (not!)... but that fighting someone in Jodan I have to re-adopt everything. I didn't score in my last match, and with someone in Jodan it'll be even crappier. And I am afraid she'll score on me. A lot of action, but no points.

Riddoch then fights Isabelle in the pool and scored a kote. It's all over now...


I went and took off my men, ran over to talk to Matsuoka, who has already changed to his casual clothings, sitting miserably at the back of the gym... Just then someone came over and told me, the TOP TWO person of the pool will come through, and I have another match with Isabelle again.

It's a golden goal situation, and I really get focused -- My mind was all about getting through to the Semis. I'll commit seppuku if I don't score even ONE point against this girl... Then I did a fairly strong harai-waza, knocking her shinai out of my way. She was wide open when I cut her Men. They have to score my Men cut this time, and indeed they did.

My next fight will be against Bishop. She is taller, and she scored against Leng just now... I am worried.

Leng got Riddoch's right de-gote. It would be great if I can fight Leng at the finals.

At my fight with Bishop, although I am faster, I am way too far from cutting distance. Fighting taller people I am always bothered with them from far away. Even if I launch myself forward, the men is still too hard for me to reach, and I just keep piking on it!! I was out of control -- too bad that I was caught in the middle of a breath by her Men cut. My debana-waza is a sec slower. Flags went up for Bishop again.

At this point I think of getting a 1-1. But I wasn't doing anything to make that happen. When you think about you may lose, you will. I ducked down for another Bishop's Men, and realising this is "bad form", I paused half-way. She continued with her attack, and the match was over. So as my day.

At the side when we took off our Men, all I can say to Mrs Bishop was, "that's a really good match". I can't even look at Mr Bishop when I escape to the back of the gym. Last year in Mumeishi's 3, Bishop said something that makes me smashed thru 2 rounds. This time, I doubt he would be giving me any advice at all - as my opponent is his wife.

Matsuoka senpai was still sitting there with an emotionless face. He said he has never lost on the first round.


Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Strong last cut

Yesterday at Nenriki was the first time in Kendo from a 3-week break. I don't feel like going but the moment I enter the dojo, smell the smell, I am back in the mood again!

The practice was leaded by Matsuoka. He was "forced" to teach a class as if he was teaching in Japan. And indeed, we turn into a class of very fundamental kendo, starting with footwork:-

Ayumi-ashi (the point is to get to a complete stop after 3 steps)
Suri-ashi (doing one step by one step)
Fumikomi (body must come up straight after the stamping)
Fumikomi backward (just like hiki-waza - stamping on the spot and then slide 3 steps)
Fumikomi + 3 suri-ashi (body must come to complete pause after the 3rd step)

I think the 8 of us all went up and down the gym for 4 rounds in each type of the above footwork. It reminds me of the practice I had in my home dojo in Hong Kong. No matter what grade you are at, you have to practice footwork at the beginning of the class. It's not as interesting as getting in armour and bash. But it certainly helps your kendo.

Then it was some light suburi. Joge, shomen, sayu x30 each. The instruction "Arm is straight" is mentioned, and I keep that in mind for the rest of the practice.

Bogu kihon:
Kote-men (I struggle this one)
Tsuki (normally I score 3 spot on out of 5 --time to sort out my accuracy!!)
Gyaku-do (my fav!!)

Then there is a short session of Kakari-keiko (why am I on the mototachi side now..!?!)

After that, Blake shoved everyone to the receiving end but me. I have to go thru 12 people's kote-men. The idea is to get the STRONG LAST CUT. At the kihon practice, I did kote well enough, but my Men turns weak for no apparent reason...

It took sometime to realise the problem -- that usually when I cut Men after the kote it will be too close already, and I ended up hitting men-gane, hence the weak cut. If when I cut kote hitting on the spot (and not doing a big step-in), then I can leave a lot of room for the Men cut.

In the jikeiko I experiment on this further... like faking a kote cut by moving shinai a bit only (but with a strong fumikomi), or cutting kote to my left and go for men to the right (not very straight but my shinai get through). Sometimes, I don't even have to do anything and I can go for debana-men. I see the opening of some juniors, without needing to create the opening with my shinai.

There were 2 visitors from Portsmouth dojo. I chat a little with the Malaysian women, who did express some sadness because she is the only girl in her dojo. She knows Terashima, who once visited my Brighton dojo (when I was the only person there on that day!! argh). Anyway, it's good to here they've sort out their BKA registration in Portsmonth.

33 days towards Nidan!!

Monday, September 20, 2004

No, no, no, no, no!

My gloriest days are over. The medals I get is getting duller and duller.

Of course the goal of training is not about how many or which medal you get. But if you have been getting them, and the other day you ended up with nothing, then that is going to indicate something to you...

Yes, I am saying I did not practice hard enough for the last couple of months.

There is nothing else I can blame. Recently I was never really focused in the dojo. Maybe it's just the pressure of the academics, or that I have some emotional problems. That makes me reconsider how much energy (both physical and psychological) I should devote into my training.

Last Saturday I went to the long-waited Iaido Taikai. This is one of the only 2 Iaido competition in the UK that I can attend.

Though not many people keep that in mind. It seems like I am the only one who bothers... When I arrived there wasn't a lot of people. Actually, there wasn't a lot of people throughout the whole day.

If the night before I wasn't in Brighton sorting out my graduation exhibition, doing some end-of-term drinking and getting home well pass midnight, waking up late and rushing into the venue 5 mins before starting... I would have felt better now.

There was only 1 kendo senpai from other dojo, and another Iaido senpai from a different dojo. I don't know the rest of the people -- I am not even sure whether I have seen half of them at the Nationals back in June. In total, there were around 20-25 competitors. So I'd say it's a small-scale taikai.

In the Yon-Godan division, there were only 3 people fighting. This is the first time I see a Japanese "import" (i.e. not a Japanese started in the UK, but in Japan) doing Iaido at THAT level. Oonishi is truly amazing with his sharp, precise cuts and upright posture. Later I found out he was the All-Japan University Student Champion in 2002, and in 2003 he came 2nd.
You can impress other people if your Iaido is great AND you are young. Just like Sahla, who is below 40 and trying on 7Dan next year. Normally people at that age in this country are around 4 Dan. But with Oonishi one can only say, "Whoa." He must be around my age.

My Mudan division fighting chart: (Out of 6-8 people... I don't even know how many there were!!!)

1-2 (lost to the guy who came 1st)
2-1 (win against a 14-yr-old boy)

1-2 (lost to the guy who came 2nd)

3rd place fight-off
3-0 (win aginst a 12-yr-old girl)

You see, there is nothing to be proud of for this kind of result. I wasn't even physically or mentally prepared for the first match - my whole body was unbalanced doing all those kata. When I mess up with one probably my face shows. Sometimes I even pause in the middle of the kata and wonder which foot I should be moving with (!!!). This is such unacceptable mentality...

Then I was at the side again, taking random snaps from my camera. My brain was only thinking about... if only I warmed up properly, if only I didn't drink last night, if only I have gone through the kata in my head when I was on the train... etc. etc. etc.

But it was too late.


It was only 2.30pm when the award ceremony finishes, leaving plently of time and space for free practice with a few of the seniors correcting mistakes of the remaining people. I was hoping the referees would spare sometime coming over to tell me what exactly have I done wrong - so wrong that I lost twice in a day...

The mistakes turn out to be:-

- I raise before I draw.
[I did not get this point at all when Buxton points that out to be. He just said, do Ipponme. I did, but he kept saying No, no, no, no, no -- do it again... And I was really bothered with that. ]
- I lean forward for my downward cut.

- The opponent is standing, so the metsuke should be looking UP not horizontal.
- The foot position of the diagonal cut at the end should be in one line, i.e. back foot directly behind body, not out.

- The first cut is diagonal, so the blade should be at an angle and not straight

The above 3 kata were the ones that was used in the taikai. But I also get corrected on the forms:-

- On the backward stab, the sword has to be balanced by the thumb and small finger of the right hand. The stabbing action is performed with the whole arm, so the elbow should not be collapsing.
- After yoko-chiburi the right foot should come back to the centre first. Also it should returns to next to the left foot, not in front...

- Look before moving, especially on the last cut to the front enemy -- look before moving the sword from the side.

- Hips should be square on at the first strike.
- Metsuke should ALWAYS focus on where the enemy is. Don't look around (Doh!)
- At the final cut, the left hand grips the sword by moving in front of the face, and not from the side.

Usually I enjoy practicing alone with a senpai/ sensei passing by, pointing out a mistake, and I'll spend the rest of the day correcting that point. But this is a bit too much. Especially Buxton was flooding me with attention - and at more than one point he grabs Oonishi to perform and demonstrate his points - how embarassing...

I haven't been seeing the Iaido of other senior people for a long time. For the pass 3 months or so I was stuck at a dojo with a lot of beginners and only one sensei. Maybe this is the wake-up call telling me that I still have a long way to go... Especially I got home with a bronze, i.e. 3rd out of 6 people. That was only average. I used to be better... way better...

[Photos now at ]

Friday, September 17, 2004


Now with all the university projects done I finally have more time to think and plan about training. I have missed 2 weeks of no practice, until --

For the last couple of days I have been swinging weapons around the corner of my block. It's a carpark next to a main road, only that it's 3 meters higher than the road outside due to the slope... anyway, no one really saw me there, so it's pretty safe.

Finally I have the chance to wield my naginata again (after a few months break!! -- I haven't touched it since I moved). With my MP3 player on my hip I can do at least 20 mins of suburi a day, straight after coming home from a 1.5-hr long train journey from Brighton.

Maybe I should do a week of Kendo Marathon starting on Sunday. There is British Open coming up next Sat (and Iaido Taikai this Sat..) and I feel super bad not touching my shinai for so long. Despite I have done 20 mins suburi with the bokuto...


...In the 2003 summer I did a lot of suburi-in-the-park at around 9am every morning. Hey I was just waiting for the new academic term to start. Really, this sort of activities are only for people with nothing better to do!! Even in Brighton where there isn't a dojo for me to train in, I still did suburi at the side of my dorm building (there is a balcony kind of thing at the ground level over looking the valley... anyway, no one saw me).

Usually the sequence is like:
Joge-suburi x200
shomen-suburi x200
sayu-men-suburi x200
left hand only: shomen-suburi x100
haya-suburi x100
kirikaeshi x10

Yeah I have a lot of time...
I take breaks, like drinking water, or just stretch my muscles. At that hour only dog walkers or kids will be in the park. Sometimes they come close to ask stupid questions, but most of the time I can ignore them -- because I don't want to be interrupted..

Sometimes in between these sets, if I bring my naginata, I would have fit in something with a naginata. Say, 40 Men-ate, or 40 furikaeshi, etc. It helps using the hips A LOT MORE.

The downside is that I need to wear shoes on the grass, can't stamp on the ground and there is no kiai. But that'll save me a lot of energy as well :D

Sad thing is, I don't have that amount of time anymore. Yesterday I last 20 mins - must have been about 400 suburi only. Maybe I should build it up against to the same level I used to have. Or am I just getting old?

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Noh Theatre

This is a busy week for university... and I ended up skipping the only kendo practice on the week!!! -- But I did go for Iaido. Again, first hour free practice then more free practice in the next hour, but with senpai's instructions. Sahla wasn't there, but another senpai, Al, took over the class, which is cool because his comment is quite technical (and not abstract).

The class was divided into Junior/Senior, with 4 of us at the Senior end. It was Seitei all the way (I am losing my Koryu!!). We started with Ipponme in greater detail, and then "free practice - Do whatever you want"...

A common beginner problem is that, people try to grab their sword and cut as fast as possible. The idea behind Iaido is NOT to draw the sword. There should be moments where you communicate between you and your opponent, and "I want to kill everyone in sight" is not the correct mentality for that. There is a term for this kind of timing: Jo-ha-kyu (??)... I find this article from EJMAS that would explain this idea better:-

Other points:-

On the last downward swing, the right hand should rise up a little bit... to avoid the sword hitting the head..!

Draw closer towards the body

Tsuka ate
Don't lean too forward. (Same as in #1, where the opponent is close enough. So don't over-reach)

For shorter people (like me..), better turn the saya earlier before drawing the sword.
...This one I figure out myself... I have problem syncrinizing the chiburi with the left hand on the koiguchi. The solution is to drop the left hand 0.01 second before dropping the sword.

Ganmen Ate
After stabbing the opponent behind, the right hand should not be waving (because the sword is inside the body). Instead the right hand should be pulled slightly closer to the body, keeping the sowrd point more stable.

Next week there is another Iaido Taikai. I HAVE TO relax my face!

Monday, September 06, 2004

The "It"

(The last entry was incomplete!! I should be more focused even when I am putting in an entry!! -- "Go for it" was the comment I got from Sahla after the Gyaku-do I did on him at the second bout...)

This week I just finished 99% of the academic stuff, and so I expect the Wakaba practice to be as good as it can be...

Actually on Thursday night a few girls started a mini practice with Sahla at the squash court. I joined last week. Although Sahla was busy and didn't turn up, I filled 2-hr straight of Iaido, with significant improvement in Seitei #3 and #5.

Sat's Iaido was a big class of beginners. Of course the "seniors" including myself was spilt to the other half to get through all Seitei... Turns out to be that the 4 of us on the Senior side are ALL GIRLS. I have no idea since when did I become so sensitive about other female presence in the dojo. However, the more the better, even if they are all my kohai, so to speak... Women in the dojo used to be sitting at the side watching, as they are only the mother/wife/girlfriend. So it's good that some of them are actually IN there.

I did get corrected for a few more things:-

#11 - The first cut is on the opponent's left forehead, same as the first sayu-men we do in kirikaeshi in Kendo. I always just do a block and then straight cut.. without noticing I was wrong all the time, arrrgghh.

#12 - At the draw, the right arm pulls up the sword (straight and from the side, not above head) and the left hand pulls down the saya to facilicate the draw. Notice at the end of the Yoko-chiburi when we step back with the right foot, body balance should still be forward and not sloppy. Maybe try pushing the right foot slightly out to the side will help balancing.

We also did MSR Inyo-shotai, Gyakuto and ____(forget name.. where you sit to the left, turn back raising up, and cut 45-degree upwards, holding the sword like lightening)

Sahla is (as usual) annoyed by my excessive wrinkling... He actually paused the 4 of us once and say, "Jenny is the Hugh Grant of Iaido. She can have ten million facial expression during one kata!" Deeply embarassed, this time I tried really hard to keep a poker face. The key to keeping one is simply just relax. After the class Sahla says when I was more relax, my sharp cuts come back.

(I escaped from the beginner's class as Matsuoka and Inutsuka took over part of the moodachi... hehehe)


Sequence of people I fought in Jikeiko as follow:-
Matsuoka - Emmanuel - Gibson - Y Miyamura - Ota - Rafel - S Lee
Okada (tall boy) - Ali - Fujisawa
Schmidt - Ishido (boy)

Today I lost it to cut properly. Seemingly with the academics close to finish is not going to help. My de-kote has such a low success rate, always finishing in a bendy position. Needless to say all my Men went without seme... uhmm

My comments of each fight:-

Matsuoka - as I said, I lost it since the start of the whole 1 hour. Seems like at tsubazeriai I was so vulnerable to attack. Especially his hiki-kote was always so on the spot. He went to jodan and his katate waza hit my men like drumming... argh

Emmanuel - slightly more fun as he isn't that good. I mean that literally, since last week he said my kendo was not proper and he "beat you up completely". When I asked what he meant by improper, he said I hit Do on the wrong side. Well, that's called GYAKUDO, dude. I wonder when is the last time he check out the Rules & Regulations... At tsubazeriai he ALWAYS leave me a space for gykudo-cracking. Either that or he fancy banging the lower part of his shinai on my men-gane at tsubazeriai. And you call that proper kendo huh? Today I learn to escape from that by super sliding back - apparently, he can't really do a good hiki-men.

Gibson - it's always good to have a good person to fight with in between a bad one... Though this time he went into Jodan right from the start! I didn't recover from the last fight, and lost the initial couple of katate men and kote (yeah, I lost it!!) Sometimes I think getting into Jodan myself will give me "equal groundings" - yes, slightly more successful hits... at least they are cleaner. I did spend more time in seigan though, as I discover vs Jodan the shinai can't possibly be straight. Though I like moving my shinai to the left rather than to the right (as in kata #5)... and wait for a block (which isn't good)

Y Miyamura - It's difficult to train with another girl now so I was rather relaxed. By that I don't mean my concentration all went away. She is a senior, and her posture is far less shiai than myself. But when I relax my men cut came back!! I did a few good ones against her.

Ota - "Too much right hand..." Maybe thats the other reason why everyone can counter attack my men!! As demonstrated, I always pull my right hand on my upward swing. It went slightly better when I concentrate on my left hand more, and that I keep my right fist in front of my face at all times..

Rafel - he is tall and fights in a non-serious manner... the "he is just taller" thought came to my mind quite often, as after most of his men (which pops) my shinai is still pointing to his throat. I should have just step in more and perform a few good tsuki... now that I have think about it...hmm

S Lee - I started to realize how crap my men was today, and decided to go for men men men men men... against a junior like him. I give out a few opportunities to him, but my debana-men was ok...

Okada - He didn't fight seriously to me either. At one point I realize he didn't even bother to kiai. What the heck, the fight only lasts 30sec or so. No big deal.

Ali - I did more seme-men attempts on this junior. But I am far more impress by the kote-men he does at the final cut - so straight and poped so well.

Fujisawa - now he fought much faster to me than usual (to me), and deserves my full attention. But standing to his left was Sahla (and I decided to go on full with Fujisawa and leave Sahla for next week... just to escape from another death match), which reminds me of the "if you relax your sharp cuts will come back" comment earlier in the Iaido class... Maybe Fujisawa was just tired and got caught off-guard by me, once I tried restricting my head not to tilt up and did a SPOT ON men --- Gave me such confidence for 3 second. At least I am not as crappy as I could have thought.

Schmidt - I wish I was more solid... really, literally... as I am always "bulldozed" by Schmidt's Men. I have to roll around him after doing a de-kote (even if it is really good). Also I was highly disturbed by having no seme on my men cuts. Later he advice me to practice Men/ seme more on people slightly above my level, as juniors are more likely to ignore the seme, leaving me developing bad habits. I should also try seme by stepping in...

Ishido - last week was a nightmare... he came at me and hit at random... I had to pause the practice and tell him "YOUR MUM IS STILL SITTING THERE... I DID NOT KILL HER!!" This week was more enjoyable as we are all having smiling faces back on. I like doing kote-do on kids that low. If it was me I could be more impressed if some senpai can cut men +kote +do +tsuki as he wish, other than just taking physical advantage of being taller and cut Men all the time.

...I need to get back to shape. I have been sitting in the chair 24/7 for the whole of last week. There is still the 1% I need to deal with this coming week in Brighton -- I probably have to skip a practice to cope with that... :(

Sunday, August 29, 2004

"Go for it"

It has been quite frustrating recently, that I am not able to practice more than once a week due to academics. The only chance I can get my medicine is the Wakaba practice from 12pm-430pm (Iaido+Kendo).

The tsuba of my Iaito has loosen up for no reason (maybe it's too cheap?!). Lukas spent a long while attempting to fix it - leaving no time for Iaido free practice before the regular class.

Sahla stopped the Jodo class and asked everyone to do some splinting across the dojo - keeping both heels off the floor at all times. Maybe it's the influence of the Olympics. But then I was never a good runner... Tales were told about some Japanese sensei putting drawing pins underneath people's heels (ouch!).

We progress into the Iaido class - the focus was more on improving the basics. Points for myself that I wasn't' too aware of includes:-
1. When in suburi, tip of the sword should not point to the back, but UP. (previously Sahla banged his sword against mine to "teach me a lesson", leaving me a loosen tsuba...)
2. Yoko chiburi - tip of sword and tsuba should be horizontal (I used to do it pointing downwards too much)
3. kiritsuki - should hold the sword out with tip in front of our face (not too wide)

We get more advice on Seitei kata #1-5... My main problem is "no relaxed enough" - I was told a couple of times to "do it again" because of tense facial expression (Argh!!). Also the concept of Metsuke is emphasized.

- When the left hand swings up to grip the sword, bring back saya to the centre.
- Bring right foot around before spinning. Toes under.
- Left heel should get right next to the right knee. Block AND rise up. On the downward cut, the right foot should go back straight and not at an angle... Otherwise you'll miss the opponent completely. Also, when cutting, think about cutting into the center. Because the sword is already at an angle up your shoulder, going for a diagonal cut will widen the angle too much.
- When sitting in tatehiza, the right knee should try to go lower... Forward strike should be higher to the solar plexis of the opponent, and the sword should go against the chest (either higher or lower) on the thrust to the rear. Look before cutting to the front again.
- Pull sword out 1/3 before turning the direction. Up+Down in one movement. Have kikentaiicchi in chiburi.

I don't like bokuto-kihon, but was forced to do it!!
I don't really want to be a motodachi for the beginners class, but I did it again...hmm I want to save up more energy for the adult practice.


Today I am starting to lose the accuracy + speed for my favorite de-kote waza. I was trying for kote-men combos, like faking kote first, before going for men. But the success rate is really low (frustrating). I don't know why. Maybe I wasn't focusing. Maybe I was tired. Maybe I am getting worse...

People I fought:-
Matsuoka - Maeda - Schmidt - Emmanel - Y Miyamura - Ishido - Alexander - Holt
A Scott
Schmidt (again)

Not too bad for a tiring day. My primary goal is to last as long as possible. Eventually I'll be able to last for the whole round!!

Pleeeeease stop banging my right heel on the floor on fumikomi!! This is horrible - I should have remember what I just learnt in the Iaido class!!!

I realize I bend too much over to the right on unsuccessful attempts to cut kote...

Saturday, August 21, 2004


Masagaki - When the opponent is overwhelming you he is like a balloon. But there must be a point where a tiny needle can break it. So when you are threatened, do not hesitate.

In Iaido Sahla taught Gyakuto of Omori Ryu today. Although I ran through all 12 Omori, I realize I don't remember much at all... Argh...

Yes Sahla still wants a revenge...

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Weekend Kendo Marathon (2)

While downloading some programs for my new laptop, let's continue with what happened last weekend...


Sunday at Mumeishi. We all went there for a bash with the visiting high school kendoka. By reputation, Kyushu Gakuin is a very strong team.

I arrived just in time (10am). I entered the venue with sleepy eyes, and saw some Japanese visitors coming down the stairs. One of the teachers exclaimed, "OOhh--! Girl!!"...

To my disappointment-- no girls came!! --Well I mean no girls from their side, although we still have 5 local presence, which is quite a good turn-out. There was only a 5-men team, plus 2 sensei vs the 30+ of us.

We started off with Team shiai. There's the club team "Mumeishi", consist of English kendoka; and there's a "BKA" team, with Wright, Yamazaki, Fitzgerald, Matsuoka & Gibson - what a strange mixture... The rest of us were just watching, which is not a bad thing.

There is a cameraman around - one-man TV crew. I guess that's way we have a pro interpreter, and they did a very formal introduction to all the students. One of the Sensei is with Niten Ichi Ryu, while the other one is from the Kumamoto Prefectural Kendo Committee. The kids (16-18 yr old) were all around 2-3 Dan in Kendo. Some of them had Iaido 2Dan, Jodo 1Dan, and is a deshi of Niten Ichi Ryu -- impressive.

Before the shiai they actually did their Niten Ichi Ryu Embu!!! I was expecting the sensei to do that... but actually it was the pair between the 2 older kids. I don't understand the 5 kata they did (watched it on tape at home, and it's just too obcured...argh), but it was done by high school students. I always wonder who in Japan does Iaido that young, and also that maybe people who practice Iaido (and a lot of other stuff) do not do too well in Shiai kendo. But they proved me wrong. At least now I am quite satisfied doing both Kendo and Iaido, even though my training schedule isn't as tight as their.

The BKA vs KyuGaku fight is much more interesting. The Kyugaku boys all looks tough and "big", have extra-solid fumikomi, and did very interesting waza - I like their Maki-otoshi and Hiki (feint Do) - Men, besides they are young and fast.

Then there is jikeiko session for 1.5 hr. Along with the local sensei, the 5 boys + Yoneda-sensei ended up in the motodachi side, with everybody else queuing for them (at least 4 people in one queue!!). I managed #3+4 of the boys, and 2 local sensei whom I haven't practiced with for a looong while since I moved to Brighton.

My attempt to get a keiko with Araki-sensei (who does Niten Ichi Ryu but uses Jodan in Kendo) failed, as he was responsible to fight the senior sensei / hosts. Both of the sensei's kendo are very interesting to watch... especially Yoneda-sensei (with 10+ people in his queue!!) who did amazing maki-otoshi waza -- like, I have heard shinai dropping on the floor 10 times, including once while I was fighting another sensei... and a shinai fly across the dojo...

The boys I fought has solid waza and precise cuts. I am not going to comment on their kendo... Both fought me after fighting 3 people in front of me. I came in fresh so it's understandable that they aren't at their best shape (and I always remember to take a man when he is down!!). They are fast, but I also see their openings - and sometimes I do managed to cut a few. Like when they miss my kote I can really go for kote-men. And I did one kote-gyka-dou that pops quite loud, which I am very pleased (so did he).

I'd be loading some photos up the BudoJournal site later. Not very good shots but it tells what happened.

...and who doesn't like High School Kendo?

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Weekend Kendo Marathon (1)

Last Thursday I finally handed in my project report for my Masters... Time to take a break from fixing computers (as my laptop broke down 2 days before the hand-in day...argh) Anyway I was back in Wakaba for 4 1/2 hrs of Iaido + Kendo, and on a Sunday we mass-crashed to Mumeishi, because there is a famous kendo high school from Japan visiting the country.


Usually the day start off by FLOOR-CLEANING --- the old wet-towel, hips-in-the-air method. I discovered the trick to go really fast like Formula 1, which is to put all your body weight forward to your arms. Proven to work and I can go for two return trips without resting. But this week I was too eager to "display my youth", probably, and ended up pulling my right thigh after cleaning 1/8 of a basketball court (which is really big!!)

For my first hour of Jikeiko I gave up Seitei competely, as I know now the pattern of the class is to have Seitei twice before getting anywhere near Koryu. After warming up with the 4 Kihon, I tried my best to recall the last 5 koryu Sahla taught 2 weeks ago... Well my conclusion is really - I need to practice more.

In the next hour of taught practice, Sahla switched us into Shiai mode after going through Seitei x 2. What I learnt was about the way of judging -- in my point of view it seems to be more about "how many mistakes" then "how good is the Iai"... Sahla points out that both Helena (my opponent) and me made the same amount/level of mistakes, but because Helena's cuts are a bit too soft, therefore I won my match. Sounds a bit funny... I was the first one up and I was really shaking...

Other general comment is more about people messing up with the To-rei in the end. I only really start to learn mine 2 months ago. So it does help doing it correctly in Shiai/Shinsa.

For the Kendo Kata session, we were all forced into Bokuto Kihon (!!!). Spending 1/2 hour on Kihon 1 - Men, kote, Do, Tsuki... Sorry zzzzzzzz

Was up to be Motodachi for the beginners again. I suddenly enjoy pushing beginners through after their Men cut (because they are not going through!!). Maybe I did scare them away - my queue was always the shortest!!

While in the Mawari-keiko in Kendo, I wasn't as good as on last week due to the muscle pain on my thigh (yes I am getting old... I have some kind of injury every week!!) But I did run to Fujisawa Sensei at the beginning - like, this is the first time I have come up against him since I moved to Brighton 10 months ago!!

Then I fought Sahla before some skin on my left foot went...

For the above 2 practice, I wasn't as sharp - my Debana waza come a little bit too slow. A few times I had Fujusawa going for my kote, missed because I went for de-kote-men. But the other times he just got a lot of Men... In Sahla's case it's the same, apart from one of the kote I got wasn't deep enough (I just touched it with the tip). I think it's the problem about not twisting my left hip INTO the opponent. Besides, Sahla's tai-atari is really strong that sends me off balance a couple of times...

I fought my Senpai A Jones. What annoys me is he can time my kote so well, just dodging it, and then cut my Men (kote-nuki-men). HOWEVER, I really realize what they meant by "bendy kendo" now -- when I missed my kote I ducked down sooooo much that he is hitting the side/back of my Men. Ouccchhh.

Fought J Schmidt and he went into Jodan for a while. I counted similar # of cuts we get from each other. Although after one of his Men cut, his Do bounced against mine, sending me on the floor. My kamae must be crap... Totally off balance...

Ota came and we chat for a bit, didn't practice with him but always enjoy watching.


Saturday, August 07, 2004

First Cut

Today at Wakaba.

Sahla sensei + other senior at Wakaba weren't there, so there is no formal teaching... On the Second half of the Iaido/Jodo class, 5 of us just go for Seitei #1-12, with ME LEADING THE CLASS... what the hell...???

The day was HOT and by that I meant when I did To-rei at the beginning of the class I was already sweating crazily.

Kata was a bit--- hmmm --- The beginners are struggling with #4. Yes I wanted to do all the way to #7, but no good senpai around to do it with me. Argh.

Was "forced" to go with the beginners class doing footwork and suburi -- yes I feel like a beginner as Miyamura was leading the class, and I was just "part of the group".

Not much energy left but --- I still have the adult mawari-keiko to deal with!!!

My kendo went a bit too "bendy" recently. I blame it to my eye sight, which is getting worse day by day... Basically I always tilt my head to the left!! Hence all my cuts went a bit too much to the left side, or that I am using too much right arm power. I spend a lot of my focus twisting my head back to the right. So unnatural to me, but that is the right thing to do now.

There is a trick about cutting kote -- that your right foot stamp slightly to the middle-left, passing the shinai in the opponent's center. It worked n-th time today I GOT THE FIRST CUT (Sho-dachi).

Maybe I am just too paranoid to have a conspiracy theory about people not fighting serious against me. When they see me standing opposite them, they will just thing "Ah, Jenny, Whatever". So they relax and let ME cut them.

I tried a lot of things I wanted to improve today, like the plain kote, kote-men, harai-kote/men, and gyaku-dou. Only the Kote on the FIRST CUT works brilliantly, while everything else was so like random hitting. Sho-dachi is just plain and straight, and it feels great at the point of impact. But then after the class when I reflect on it, it's like I am only hitting them by suprise, not particularly great cut afterall...

Gibson and Ogawa told me not to go on the right side too much (I KNOW, goddamnit!) either too much right hand or my cuts are coming from the right side. Also my harai or nidan-waza should go a little bit more forward (mind the distance). So really. Nothing impressive, even though I did 2 cool kote-men agaisnt both of them.

Took 2 breaks during the mawari-keiko. I was really looking forward not to drop out in the middle of the rotation. But it was just too hot. Maybe if I wasn't doing Iaido before hand, then I'd stay longer. That or I am just making up my excuse. Arrrgh.

I really have to stop going bendy and keep my bacl straight, especially after the kote in kote-men.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

All Those Ippons...

Last week I was spend the Saturday resting my left ankle. I still have no idea what's the cause...

Anyhow, the Iaido practice was fine. Spending the first hour self-evaluating all the Seitei, spying on the Jodo class, plus doing the 4 kihon with Lukas (he fixed my moving tsuba!). The second hour was like, first half Seitei #1-12 (me leading... how strange). Then the second half Sahla came over from the beginner's half and teaches... FIVE MSR kata!! All so nuts... especially the 270-degree knee spin... and Sahla sensei does it waaay too fast... uhmm before I didn't know, but now I have to agree with the rest of the Iaido people that Sahla has such "flair"...

Yes I was back there teaching Kendo Kata #1 to a beginner again.
... and become a motodachi for the kendo beginners' session. I quite like it now, after Honda Sensei said being a good motodachi will help your kendo.

Then there goes the Wakaba mawari-geiko. It's difficult to fight people who don't cut clean and with poor zanshin... Sometimes it's beginners, but some are from the Nidan group... It's just less enjoyable fighting these people, nothing personal.

One round I had was with one of the Koyama brothers (aged 8-9!!). Wasn't going to destroy them, but when the keiko finished I did get to tell him, "5 of your Men I really like. Well done!"

Something strange is happening... because despite I hurt my other ankle (!), I scored a few of the Sho-dachi (the first cut), against a lot of the seniors!!! This is the second time I fought Sahla (the first time being last Sep at Imperial -- which my lungs was exhausted and I was made to run around...) Maybe this time he is tired or whatever. But my Sho-dachi was like, get up from sonkyo, kiai, KOTE-----!!! When I get to tai-atari he was still in complete shock!!

After the practice his comment was, "aaaah Jenny, maybe you don't realize it, but you can be very good ...blah blah blah." Uhmm nah I don't realize anything, apart from that I feel he is quite annoyed by that particular Ippon...

My left wrist was hurt yesterday. I can't grip properly... and my right ankle is in pain.. argh. When I fought Eddy I switched into JODAN -- just to change the force of power to the other side of my body. I find my katate-kote pops really well, when I do it in the way Chiba sensei taught at the last IKET. Although I attempt switching into left-foot-forward stance, it was proven to be a failure as the power is terribly imbalanced...

The last fight I fought Gibson, who feels like in Jodan. No one wins a clean sho-dachi (phew), but I find it difficult to block Men... probably forgot to take seigan... Miserably missed 4 tsuki, though one of the migi-kote-men I did was brilliant -- but tenouchi went a bit crap after the Men.... uhmm all those bad habits are showing when I am tired.

This is the day Ideguchi-san left. I missed his fight (too many people queuing anyway), but I saw him fighting the Koyama brothers -- 2 vs 1!! Just fun.

Just when I thought I am not going to stay in the pub after 10pm --- everybody went for a meal afterwards!!! Went home at 2am which isn't too bad as it wasn't as cold as the weeks before, and also my stomach is filled.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Last Summer Practice

Technically it's only my home dojo's last summer practice. I'd be traveling to other dojo like last year anyway.

This is one of the Friday practice, but the attendance is very good on the day. At least I was back to the center line again with half of the kohai on one end and half of the senpai at the other end.

Recently I quite like the new "rotation" format... We start off with 2 kirikaeshi and then 2 minutes of jikeiko with everyone else. When we went through one complete round, we can go and have a short breather, and go on practice with whoever we like (not rotating anymore). At least this rotation format keeps the beginners going. Since everybody is still standing, there is no way they want to drop out in the middle of the round just because they are "a little bit tired".

... After the freedom-to-choose-partner jikeiko, at the last 10 minutes of the day, we have the rotation going again! This time is 1 min each, and we were told to GIVE EVERYTHING. Because the practice was so short -- it wasn't hard to really give everything, surprisingly. I like the long mokuso afterwards... feels like going for another round!

When fighting against someone senior, I think know much better how to deal with the, as comparing to last year. They are the challenge that I really want to sort out! Before I was always worrying about being destroyed by seniors (it's a mental thing)... But now my concentration level raises dramatically when I faces any senpai. The reward will be that I can get an occational Ippon so clean that, the senpai will pause in the middle of the practice and nodd their heads! This feels really sweet.

With people of the same level (shodan), I also have to be very focused. Now by fighting them I'll know how much I have lost during the 7 months I missed the regular practice. By fighting them I also know how much they have improved. Some of my kohai are at the same grade as mine. It's a good thing seeing their kendo being so much neater after a long-time-no-fight. Besides, it's less energy-consuming that I don't need to teach them verbally anymore.

Fighting Harris is still difficult. His multple tsuki waza is very hard to counter. The fear of getting tsuki is sending my balance on my back leg again. Once again I need the GO FORWARD mentality. Although I did score some quick Ippons at the start, my endurance level isn't as good. And then there is his Kaeshi-do I really want to learn. Such classic Itto-ryu stuff that is... Kaeshi-do/gyaku-do looks great.

A couple of senpai is telling me to "shorten my stance". Uhmmm they said it's more mobile to stand with feet closer. My arguement was I need to feel more stable. Also I want to practice more of that seme-no-ashi thing... Though I discover I can stand wider (as in shoulder width) to maintain stability as well. Hmmm... and I wonder if this is the bad habit I get from Iaido (I was told my cuts in Iai is also a bit like karate stance... uhmm)

Didn't stay long in the pub as I have Iaido early tomorrow at Wakaba.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Watching Day

My left ankle isn't too well so I decided to give it a rest. Kendo-wise that is, as I still went for 2 hours of Iaido + the bloody kendo kata...

Sahla sensei was at the beginner's end (surprisingly, Matsuda-san is starting Iaido as well!!), so we the slightly more intermediate people quietly did Seitei under Hahn-Morris's supervision. Actually I spent the first hour (when the other side was at their Jodo class) running through Seitei #1-12 TWICE... So that day I did the whole Seitei for like, 4 times... Argh.

My body isn't that balanced doing o-chiburi from kneeling. I'd blame the bad ankle for now...

The 4th cut at #11 is a 180-degree horizontal cut. Should not attempt to drop the sword AND THEN pull it behind the body.


I missed yesterday's Nenriki, but they arranged a "massive attack" on Wakaba today. That's probably because they heard Ideguchi-sensei (nito) is leaving soon. Excluding me who is just watching at the side, there are 7 of us -- Blake-sensei came along as well, amazing!!

Holt-sensei and Gibson turned up in Nenriki yesterday. I totally missed the fun. Gee, I really hate not being able to train!!

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Ladies Seminar

Rathbone, my Brighton dojo comrade, is willing to drive the both of us all the way to Rickmansworth for a "Ladies Seminar". The journey was 2 hours (one way). Slightly better than the 2.5 hrs by train (and you have to change platform, wait, etc... such nightmare...)

We talked a lot about our training, especially her experience in Germany is quite unusual. In fact, everyone's kendo adventure is unusual!

"Any woman who does kendo in this country deserves my respect."

According to Rathbone, squad training used to be in Birmingham. God knows why she can survive 5 hrs of driving every month, in addition to all the travelling to competitions all over Europe... She must really like kendo before then.

The teacher of this Ladies Seminar was Honda. He brought his wife and daughter along. Looks like they are just a Japanese family having an outing here --

The gym belongs to a GIRLS SCHOOL. Facilities is too good, just like 5-star hotel.

Just when I want to complain about the travelling... Riddoch and Jeya from EDINBURGH enter the gym...


Jokes aside, lets get back to the technical stuff.

The seminar started with very kihon exercises. All types of footwork. A pair moving together while maintaining the correct distance, with a upright posture.

Suburi exercise: Honda demonstrates the various ways to "swing a stick". Like fishing, or baseball, after throwing action, the arms (especially the right one) remains extended. Then there is an exercise where your left index finger hooking up the small finger of the right -- just throw the hands in empty air.

Stamping/fumikomi: It is like kicking up the right leg. We did one exercise with the left foot in front after a few normal walking steps, and then push off with the left and kick + stamp with the right. "If you are really confident, you can perform fumikomi at every step without sliding steps." Yes - I tried that but that really pulls the left thigh muscle and it's painful to the right foot...

Metsuke: Look at the opponent between 6th & 7th bar of Men-gane. (Since a lot of people are looking upwards - including me..) Looking at a far mountain...

Kihon with wearing Men is still the basics, and no fancy waza. But the focus was on the Motodachi.

Points for Being Motodachi:
1) Don't close your eyes.
2) Give generous openings to the attacker, especially when he/she is a junior.
3) Be prepared to receive another cut. Especially after the opponent passes through, you should turn around sharply and be ready.
4) Don't use a posture that looks like you are escaping from the cut.

It's important to learn to be a good motodachi, because you can improve your Oji waza. Use body movements, the shinai and the footwork.

Then there is a mawari-keiko session. It was fantastic - especially I fought Rathbone and Vinelott (squad), although missing Honda (but then there are always chances later). We were saying that this will probably be the only practice where you can give everything without worrying about the bruises! There is a saying: girls vs boys is a fight, girls vs girls is a practice.

Yes. Back to our dojo we all have to fight our way through.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Kanto All-Star

The 1st week of each month is the British kendo squad training. What differ this one from the others is that, 20 from the Kanto Student Kendo Association came for a visit. That's why I went up to London again for a practice (after 3 weeks of nothing).

Kanto is the Eastern area around Tokyo, including the prefectures of Chiba, Saitama, Kanagawa, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma. Very strong kendo presence.

Good thing about the squad training is that, girls practices with girls, meaning 6 Japanese students versus 11 local females (that includes me, plus some Japanese girls happen to be in the country, either studying or work). Kendo, like any other martial arts, is dominated by male. So the other 2/3 of the gym was filled with the rest of the 15 or so boys against 30+ local guys.

Glanced on the boys for a bit. But no one looks particularly interesting. Ummmm.

After the 2 1/2 hr train ride, what I earned was 2 hours of basics, had a lunch break, and then 1 hour of matches and another hour of free practice.

I am the youngest girl at the BKA side - the next one up is probably 27. I was told that the British female squad has the oldest average among the world. (over 30). Simply because no young girls in the entire country is interested in Kendo...

On the other hand, the Kanto students - especially the 6 of them facing opposite us while we kneelled and bowed to each other on the wooden floor - where all 3rd years, i.e. ALL MY AGE.

To skip to the more interesting part, the first person I fought is Kikuchi-san. From what I observed she has the best built out of the other 5 girls, hence I spent most of the time "standing properly and pretend I am not crap". A day later I found out that she is one of those from Tsukuba University's sports department (as of many professional sportsmen/women in Japan). In additional to that, she was join-3rd at last year's All-Japan Uni Student Championship. [edit: later this year she WON the AJ Uni Student Championship, women's individuals, holy crap!!]

My teammates of the day, apart from a grey-hair British woman (beginner), were Yaguchi and Haraguchi. I took 90% of the chatting time to ask them to arrange fighting orders -- along the lines of:

Jenny: Who are we fighting now?
Yaguchi: Aaah....
Jenny: Urh, you can try saying in Japanese first.
Yaguchi: (holding out fingers) ________Team 1 to Team 2, ______Team 3 to Team 4________
Jenny: eeeeh.... so are we next?
Yaguchi: hmmm tsgi ______ eto_____
Jenny: Haaai (right, next one)

The hour went on with me getting one point at a 1:2 against a British squad (whom I should have destroyed if this wasn't the third time I trained since I came back from HK!!). The other matches against the Kanto students finishes with me bowing twice to them in the middle of the court. Their cuts are just so damn impressive. I knew I've lost those stupid points before they even start hitting. I had been slow enough to recognize that I was opened at a certain second, and then they just got me.

At the free practice session, I actually got the time to have a go with every Kanto girl... at one point I was resting at the side and one of them approached me:

Aoyama: Nihongo________
Jenny: Iya... Nihongo wa wakarimaseeeen (Do'h! Just because I was struggling with the other girl, Yaguchi earlier on, doesn't mean I can speak Japanese!!)
Aoyama: ...
Jenny: Ah, I am from Hong Kong.
Aoyama: ... I am from Soka University... Some students are from Hong Kong. They are quite good.
Jenny: ... but they don't do Kendo! haha.... (attempting to chat her up longer - but damn I can't smile with my mask on!!)
Jenny: ... so what kind of university is that? Is it a sports uni?
Aoyama: Erhm.....
Jenny: So what do you study?
Aoyama: Foreign Literiture
Jenny: Ooh. I study Design. I am a Daigakusei. (Uni student)
Aoyama: Ah Design...
Jenny: So what is your favourite book? (strange that I came up with this question!!)
Aoyama: Ah. I don't go to classes. I just do kendo every day.

* * * * * Riiiiiiight!! This line went like thunder into my eardrums. Then someone came at me to ask for a practice.

Jenny: eehhh I am tired.
Aoyama: Ya. You should fight more. You are still young.
Jenny: umm How old are you?
Aoyama: I am twenty-one.
Jenny: AArh. I am twenty-one.
Aoyama: Oh me too.
Jenny: Same, same! (the conversation gets so stupid that I have to pad her at the back when I say it)
Jenny: So, you know, I am not that young actually!

* * * * * Greeeeeeat... I must look like 16 or something!!!

They left fast to catch a coach. 2 days after they will go to France.

Jenny: So you will stay in France... In Paris?
Yaguchi: Um? Paris?
Jenny:... Pa-ri, Pa-ri
Yaguchi: Yes. Yes. Pari!
Jenny: For how long?
Yaguchi: Eeeto...
Jenny: How many days?
Yaguchi: (counting with fingers) .....eight days!
Jenny: Are you going to tour around Pari?
Yaguchi: ?
Jenny: Tour... tourist...sightseeing...
Yaguchi: (tilting her head at one side)?
Jenny: Kendo?
Yaguchi: Yes. More kendo.

Ouch.This is the second day since that day. Muscles on my left leg hurts like hell. I have difficulties walking -- even to the toilet 5 steps away from where I am sitting now!