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...