Friday, February 25, 2005


After the normal 7.30-9pm tonight, Eda-sensei asked us to "practice more kata"... So despite having a totally empty stomach, I choose to do it with them. I could have escaped but ended up staying... until 10pm!

Tanaka sensei made the class into mock Shinsa, showing them how the correct reigi is, and everyone had a few brief fights for 1 min... and we went on and do 1-min mawari keiko for a few more rounds. I heard there are 100+ taking that grading in 2 days...

Points to note are mainly about not losing mentally. Not feeling losing at least. A shinsa Men has to cut 100% with zanshin - not floppy here and there and footwork went everywhere (I know he's talking about me)...

Sensei doesn't want people taking grading having an injury 2 days before.. So we switched to kata practice for 1/2 hr. I got grabbed by a girl taking shodan, a women taking nidan, and a senpai taking sandan (!!). My self-comment is that, I lost half of my nanahome already. Oh well...

After class we got stuck outside the gym (still in the building of the sports centre) where Eda-sensei asked us to do kata ON OUR OWN... Empty air with imaginary opponents... For a moment I think that'll be good for my Iaido, so I stayed and went through #1-7 for both sides.

-- No I am not taking Shinsa again!! Not now!! AAaaaaaah---!!

When I finish and say bye to sensei, she told me to keep the next grading in mind (1.5 years to go... that soon?) Because there is no competition to go to, right now, for me, so I can work on more basics. I must admit that is what is lack in London - with less than half of the sessions I went every week is purely about basics.

There are 100+ foreigners coming for Godou keiko tomorrow, and sensei particularly reminds me to "go get the Japanese university girls" - because there aren't many here, as in any other place outside Japan. Much like endangered species that everyone has to pay extra attention to.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

"Education is endless"

This afternoon I used 3 hrs just to make a return journey from home to the dojo on the island side of HK. It was a "helpers' seminar" aiming to prepare people to do time-keeping, scoreboarding and other bits for the HK Asian Invitational Tournament coming the next weekend.

Initially I find it is a waste of time as I have LOADS of experience helping out at the courts, especially I had been doing 3 ful days of ribbon-tying (including doing role-calls for upcoming players) at the 12th WKC.

Those few sensei there and other seniors have indeed made things ever so complicated. In the UK you only need to sit there and do it. Are HK people more retarded??

Though there are a few things I learnt today:-

1) Eda-sensei has made me a Cantonese-English translator... I haven't made a decent conversation in English for a month, and yet she dragged me to sit next to a foreigner/beginner to explain what is going on.

2) At the shinai check, there are some dodgy people who would wet the tsukagawa and therefore making their shinai slightly heavier!! Be careful for those who do shinai-checks...!

Yeah, so I did learn something today.

Belly Button

Today's vigourous warm-up has been tuned down to less than 10 mins before going into bogu.

However at that shomen-suburi+fumikomi exercise, which I completely suck at today, Eda-sensei reminds everyone to keep on breathing. Breathing means moving the tare up and down. (and I wonder if that'll show your opponent that you are coming...?)

Kihon and waza with bogu was done: kirikaeshi, men with various maai, kote, men-kaeshi-dou. IMHO the kote cuts have brought my tokui-waza to another level. Kensen has to slightly press for the centre, and when you raise your kensen, cut when your opponent tries to bounce their kensen back. So it's not just jumping into the cut anymore... because you have to make sure you are in control first.

When there is a clock on the wall, it is just a force of habit that I check it every minute. I wonder what's coming next after the first hour into the practice. And then it came mawari-keiko... For another hour???

Thank god it was only 30 mins, but it was rather tiring as Tanaka-sensei shouts "mawaru" after very short intervals. I think it was only 1 min or so, as I was only able to do less than 10 cuts in a single keiko. The point being "not to think or wait for too long... when you get up from sonkyo you have to be ready to go". Urgh. I wasn't paying enough attention to improve my kendo in the middle rounds, until there is a short break when Tanaka complains. When I heard he said about our keiko doesn't look like shinsa (because 6-7 people are going for it) or shiai or anything, it wakes me up a bit. I shift my focus into cutting Men from Toi-maai, which helps me moving my right foot. Also I am quite aware of that "left hand OUT for upward swing, not just up" to build up my seme. Tho for the moment it only works for lower grades or slow people...

At the end of the practice Tanaka-sensei said we should focus on 2 things - more left hand and more hara. For the "hara" part he described the movement as a "pushing up from the belly button". Imagining that will help our footwork. Fumikomi has a slight skimming on the right foot before the actual stamping, then the left foot is immediately drawn forward. If hara is not enough our movement after the cut will be very unstable and off-balance. Time to build up beer-belly... uhmm

The last 1/2 hour was devoted to kata where I get to brush up my rokuhonme and nanahonme with a kohai going for nidan. But most of the time was spend pairing with another female kohai and a Japanese guy going for Shodan. I was surprise their first grading isn't Ikkyu but Shodan...

It was when Tanaka-sensei swap with Eda-sensei at the mawari-keiko session that I notice just how many girls (non-kids) in my dojo!! Over at the kid's group there are 3 motodachi: Eda, Mrs Tanaka, Mrs Horibe. In my group today was: Noroi-san, Takase-san, Lisa, Jane, Lo and me. What an amazing scene - 9 women out of 20 guys!

Friday, February 18, 2005


I come 10 mins earlier for tonight's 7.30pm practice and found 2/3 of the kendo group (around 10+ people) already there. When I was doing suburi at the side, Eda-sensei signed me up to help out the 2005 Asian Tournament next weekend...

Tonight's warm-up session (without shinai) lasted for a total of 30 mins..! I am starting to slightly get used to the push-ups and pull-ups.. but then a few shuttle-runs around the dojo (dance studio size) is a little bit too vigorous.! The entire bogu-ed group also get to do the fumikomi+run thru exercise: men, kote-men with empty-hand swinging. The more my kendo being broken down into the basic of the basics, the more my mistakes and bad habits are showing... My main focus is to kick more of my right foot out on fumikomi.

With shinai there is an exercise with only lifting the shinai up by using danten.

My shomen-suburi+fumikomi is awful tonight. Tanaka-sensei at one point really stopped me and told me I am dragging my left foot because the left side of my waist isn't there... Also that my right foot HAS TO move as soon as I start lifting my shinai up.

Because on this shomen-suburi+fumikomi exercise we stop at Men level and have to check our kamae, Eda-sensei asked us to pair up and cut each other (!!)... Also we should treat all types of exercise as if it was a shiai, or shinsa, or keiko, and not like it is part of the warm-up. "There is only 1 hour left - why do you want to save up your energy?"

Then only kote was put on for kote-uchi. Using more left hand to lift up will help avoiding opponent's tsuba.

There were more time for kaeshi-do. Blocking should be out and the block should knock opponent's shinai out of your center (their shinai therefore would not be able to stop above your head).

Men is now on. Yakusoku-keiko was in the format of: motodachi cuts men, kakarite has 3 options: de-kote, kaeshi-do, nuki-do. I tried doing everything, but the timing for kote is different when I expect they are hitting first (unlike my tokui-waza, which is just a straight cut)... Also I find it v v v v hard to adjust the distance for going kaeshi/nuki-do when the opponent is going soooo forward. Now I think back -- I was only expecting a cut, and not mentally preparing for my waza..

Then there was some Ai-men time. Lost count: zero... Whoops, hold on.... maybe it's a bias opinion... But my shinai always lands in the center and on top of their men.

Tanaka-sensei joined our group at keiko time after leading the beginners group. It was in mawari-keiko format until a few rounds later, people start to take a rest. Tanaka said facing him we'll have to do the proper reigi from bowing outside court to sonkyo, because it is important to treat every keiko as if it was shinsa. But when fighting Tanaka, he really stops me for ten times when my ki-ken-tai-icchi isn't there. On the upward swing for men-uchi, now I notice that, it shouldn't be an "upward" motion after all. Tanaka demonstrated by pulling my left kote OUT to the front. It feels so different (and so correct).

Immediately following Tanaka was Mrs Tanaka - I was knackered and started to lose all of my ai-men. The staminer of this older lady (well, below 50?) is impressive. It was this feeling of "I don't wanna lose to an older woman just because I am so out of breath" that kept me going. Tho I can only shout HAI--! when she tells me to use "more left hand.." Aww..

After class there was non-alcoholic conversation about kendo outside the gym... Mainly it was Tanaka sensei picking on everyone's little mistakes, using closer-to-none Cantonese/ English. Mine being not able to keep kensen in the center when I lift up, and also my eye+head follows how my kensen moves (!!)...

In the changing room Eda-sensei mentioned after the Asian Tournament, the Sunday squad training will resume to normal and I should join. She (sentimentally) said I should keep on training as regular as possible... Because "when I get older I cannot do the same type of speedy shiai kendo as I am doing it now"... She also understands how people coming back from foreign countries usually have better stamina and such, as we all jump straight into jikeiko, but our basics are to be worked on. Sometimes if you focus too much on speed you'll lose your form, or if you work too hard on your form you can't have the same speed for everything. "The compensation of having the lack of..." - so to speak.

First time my LEFT ARM feels sore after I get home tonight. Maybe I am starting to do it right? :D

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Iai alone

Haven't done ANYTHING practically for my iaido practice lately. I did ask Eda-sensei about it, as she is the secretary of the HK association. She mentioned a name briefly but I didn't have a chance to get further info...

Last Sat I also heard a sempai saying, "Phew, I just came for a 2nd round.. I was with Kishigawa-sensei practising Iaido..." Just why the hell did I not ask him about it?!?!

The other night when I couldn't sleep, I tried to run thru the koryu Sahla-sensei taught me the day before I left. I found out my memory on the koryu kata is ...starting... to .. fade...

Therefore as a temporary solution I booked a squash court in a government-run gym one traffic light across where I live. For 1 hour off-peak it was only HK$36... which is around GBP 2.5!!! This afternoon at 2.58pm I got changed at home and walked over there in full hakama+keikogi.

For seitei #1-12 I ran through approximately 5 times each. Did some kihon exercise as well. But the koryu kata really bothers me. I didn't practice much in the UK already, and I can't recall the fine details now....... Guess it's time to order a book... urgh

And I do seriously need to find out about Kishigawa sensei's practice (and if he does a different koryu than Muso Shinden Ryu, I am doomed..)

My new profile pic was taken after 1-hr practice outside the gym in the park. That's my neighbourhood on the background.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Getting to know them

This week has been dominated by more local + traditonal family activities because it was the Chinese New Year, including a 3-day + weekend public holiday. Kendo only resumes on Sat. I have been back for 3 weeks and yet only started the second practice...! I am very ashamed..

Arriving slightly earlier on Sat, I wait for the adult class to start outside the gym with the rest of the people. Because people here are not used to go and have a drink after class, the only chance to get to chat is before the class, and before everyone head for the changing room when the class finishes.

As I warm myself up, there was a Japanese girl (who sometimes got the translator job) practising kata with a Japanese woman (dunno who). Tanaka-sensei was looking after them.

Seemingly in 2 week's time, there is grading coming up. Also that's the Asian Invitation Tournament weekend, with teams coming from Japan, Taiwan, Beijing, all the way to Thailand and Singapore fighting in friendship matches.

Oda-san talked to me a bit in English and then went on to investigate how to perform an effective kaeshi-do waza with the others. Tanaka-sensei came over and pointed out that our waist should turn and our right foot should step away as soon as the shinai lands on the dou. It's a regular cut down to waist level - only because when we turn to the right, distance changed and therefore we can hit opponent's dou.

During warm-up time, I get slightly more used to the timing of suburi+ fumikomi. Eda-sensei said it'll help us using more lower-body power if we practice this suburi with the weight distribution shifted to 80% left, 20% right. But then, it's harder to have strong fumikomi.

I am starting to think, that this type of exercise without going through after strike, was taught by Masatake Sumi Sensei last Dec when he came to HK for the Asian Zone Referee Seminar... I have done similar things last time at IKET Edinburgh.

For Kirikaeshi, those sayu-men cuts should be treated as individual cuts, i.e. every cut is an Ippon.

It was kihon as usual but with a twist --- Men-kaeshi-dou!! An additional point to note is that the men-block should be more forward and "out", rather than cramping down the hands. Giving yourself space means you are in control of the distance, and prepare for the next cut (dou).

At jikeiko time, both Tanaka and Eda-sensei were looking after the other half (kids) by being motodachi, and therefore we were left to fight against each other. I got the chance to REALLY pick up girls... I mean I walk over to all 3 of my female kohai and said onegaishimas. It was jikeiko a bit, then I made some comments (like my usual line, "don't hit men-gane.." ).

Jikeiko time was short as Tanaka-sensei wants to show people going for shinsa what to be aware. It'll be 2 years before I am going for mine, so I just sit there and do my mitori-keiko... To my surprise, more than 10 people are actually going to get graded from ikkyu to sandan.

There was 1/2 hr kendo kata time in the end. It was again, mainly for the people going for grading, nevertheless I got paired up with Johan (a foreigner shodan with American accent) and went thru kata 1-5 with the rest of the class... I can't do mine smooth as I haven't done any since my Nidan...!! Well, blame the wakaba people who are always doing that bokudo kihon thingy..urgh..

As it was the 4th day of the Chinese New Year, "red pockets" were given out by Eda-sensei.
I have to skip the end-of-practice chatting and hop over to the other side of the harbour for another gathering dinner. This time, with those from the aikido dojo which both my father and younger brother belong to (and I very occationally showed up). Now with a few more married members giving out red pockets :D

This is the FIRST beer-keiko I had in Hong Kong after I've moved back. There was a poor guy who can't drink got forced to down half a glass of red wine and a glass of beer - and he ended up throwing up in the toilet 4 times in a roll, besides being made fun of. With 8 glasses of beer in me, I started to wonder whether my alcohol capatiblity will also go downhill because of lack of practice...

[note: A beer glass in HK is like a 1/2 pint glass..]

Earlier in the week I finally got to read in detail Honda-sensei's Tactics in Kendo II article online.

And I found out the vocab I need to learn is Tokui-waza...

"It is also assumed that practitioners at this level have some Tokui-waza (waza that they are good at and use with confidence to score). In addition to tactics with feint actions, what practitioners at this level are recommended to try is to develop their Ji-geiko with thoughts of when or in what situation they should use their Tokui-waza. Here I would like to ask you to stop reading for a while and think:
2 How long after the start of Ji-geiko or Shiai do you attempt your Tokui-waza?
3 What are the conditions of attempting your Tokui-waza? e.g. distance, timing
I would also like you to think about what type of opponent you think that you can / cannot score by your Tokui-waza. "

Good stuff. That's the reason why I am writing what I am writing now!!

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Hello Hong Kong

As I was slightly too busy and tired after moving country and applying for a job that I didn't get in the end... I took a 2-week break from all practices.

This Sat I went to my base dojo in Hong Kong - last time I was there was 13 months ago...

In the changing room I spotted 2 girls wearing their bogu. They were not in bogu last time I saw them, so it is nice too see them again, and I was looking forward to practising with my kohai (at last!!).

The only person I contacted before hand was Eda Chan-sensei, the female team captain for the last WKC, 5th Dan, and also secretary for the HK assocation.

When I went to greet her and pick up some registration forms, she adviced me to get to the weekly team training on Sun morning (yikes..! =_=" ) - mainly because there is not a lot of girls practising kendo..! Well, sounds familiar...

She went on to explain a little bit about the training. 9am-10.30am: jikeiko. 10.30am- 12pm: training. "... Sometimes it's quite tiring. We had done 100 times only kirikaeshi before. But it'll be good for your kendo..." Guess... It is inevitable to get to there eventually (1.5 hr away from home.. Sunday morning...zzzz), and especially when I want to get into the 13th WKC team..

The warm-up we had was much more interesting then the last time I done it in Hong Kong. I reckon that is because this year they've somehow changed the national team coach (or at least, the training method and routine). Nothing too hardcore, but everyone had to do a few sit-up, push-up, pull-up, etc. - with kiai. We were asked to re-do some just because kiai wasn't strong enough!

There were children's class before this adult session, but the level of my group of 12 has a range of kyu grades to 3rd Dan. The dojo was filled with half Japanese and half locals, with Eda-sensei overseeing, and also a visiting Tanaka-sensei. Funny enough, Eda-sensei teaches in Japanese + English + Cantonese.. Not confusing but just funny :D

We did some fumikomi exercises. The most difficult one being a one-step-one-cut shomen-suburi WITH FUMIKOMI, and you have to stop on the downward strike. It is very easy to be dragged forward or off-balance if you are not using enough of your hara. Also without hara the fumikomi gets weak.

Then goes fully armoured kihon. Men-uchi, kote-uchi, kote-men at various speed and distance. My kote-uchi pops so much and I am really happy about it (and kiai in ecstasy was heard)...

At the 2nd half of the practice was jikeiko. As Eda-sensei was leading the children's group doing other kihon, the most challenging person was Tanaka-sensei. His face, age and posture reminds me of Salmon-sensei from Mumeishi London ... Anyway, I was having this attitude of "showing my best" again, and it helps my concentration and spirit. Fighting him really makes me feel that I am not working hard enough. Everything he said, to me or the others, was too familar. Say, I have to go more forward, use more hara, and lift shinai forward first before raising it above head for seme. Or for everyone, too much right hand (esp on the upward swing, shinai went like hitari-jodan, which is a no-no). I completely lost all my ai-men... Well, not completely - I was only 0.01sec slower, and it's not like my cut doesn't even pop.

Once, only that once, I made that stupid fumikomi - he shaked, opening himself and taking my very-straight Men.

After taking off bogu the rest of them got to do kata but I escaped (erhmm just this once, as I was rushing to some end-of-year family gathering dinner). When we took off our bogu, the Japanese speaking Tanaka-sensei asked where I trained. I said London for 3.5 years. And he told me my timing is quite good.

Cool. For a moment I feel rather proud of my training.