Friday, September 30, 2005

"Don't Run Away"

This 14-day break from kendo is probably the longest in the past 14 months. Still not very much recovered from a heavy flu last week and also a painful right wrist (injured again last monday... someone please tell me not to run in the rain and fall over...), I was swing my shinai again at the dojo with the rest of the class tonight.

About every other day I did my 1000-times rope-jumps, and if not a couple hundreds of sit-ups alternating with katate-suburi. So fitness-wise I can catch up with no problemo. Just that the level of my kendo isn't going anywhere due to the very irregular practices I've been to in recent weeks. I haven't been to either a Tues/ Sun squad for 2 months, got to think about it.

Everyone is rather attentive tonight as Tanaka-sensei announced (as we did the kihon without bogu) that this is the last practice with him and his wife. My 3-step/1-step kihon went alright, until it gets to the rensoku waza series. My right wrist does not allow me to cut dou on either kote-men-dou or kote-men-do-men. Recalling what Eda-sensei said about "No one is at their 100% in every shiai, so find a way to adapt to your whatever condition as quick as you can", I just happened to temporary cheat a bit by not rotating my right wrist. Since the shinai handle isn't oval-shaped like a katana, it looks alright. Just maybe not scoring in a real shinai.

It wasn't a busy night at all with only 8 people (!?) in the rotation, so comparatively kendo gets slightly more intense. Very rarely that we stayed for paired bogu practice for 45 mins non-stop. And we actually did some waza here. Like men-kaeshi-dou which kills my wrist again. Also other alternative renzoku waza combinations: kote-kote-men, kote-men-men, men(blocked)-dou, etc.

The ending 15 min of jikeiko time was pretty enough for the few who were in armour. I had a good bash with Mrs Tanaka. Eda-sensei at the side comment on my men-uchi being too small. At this kind of keiko with a significant level gap, just expect a couple of ending men-uchi. I was very tired and confused when I heard Mrs Tanaka said, "___...migi___... hidari___..." I always assume this is one of those "too much right hand" expression so I had to completely use my left hand and forget about the right. Only the last 2 men-uchi scored me a "very good" comment, and then we sunk in sonkyo, and finished the keiko.

After class Mrs Tanaka further explained about what she was about to tell me, in action. It turned out to be that I was literally running to the right after cutting (and not what I thought about too much right hand...) I should be going straight and slamming into the opponent. "Nikeja Dame" - don't run away. That's some Japanese I know, and the idea finally came across quite well.

I tried queuing for Tanaka-sensei but obviously we ran out of time. Little Utsunomiya Takumi-kun got the "special farewell treatment", you know, that kind of uchikomi that last forever ever ever ever ever ever... got told that it would be the last ippon, got pushed and fell over, got up and the rest of the people just kept on shouting "GANBATTE"... Oh what a scene. The 9-year-old was 200% exhausted when we gave him the round of applause (probably because we'll never last that long). His eyes were still in tears when we waited for the seiza call. I just turned around and gave him my 2 thumbs up.

Tanaka-sensei gave his 10-min farewell speech while we were in seiza (awww). Basically it's about how he enjoys teaching in a dojo that worked a lot on kihon, correctness of posture and such. And he went on and said the importance of listening, lasting a practice, and always get one more ippon. "It's that "one last Ippon" that build you up little by little every single time you go for it. If you give that one up then you'll never improve. Japan is a militaristic (?) society in which everyone has to discipline themselves. For those who just hang around not pushing themselves, their sensei had already given up on them... Hope you can make use of this concept both in and outside of the dojo." That was translated by David and he did his job well. For some reason, I found the last few lines apply to my current situation really well (...wonder why all the sensei is picking on me yeah?)

"Take care, Sensei." My last line to Mr Tanaka.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Last This Hour

Today - after rushing home from the centre of town (new version of Photoshop + Illustrator + InDesign seminar... Great!) and going back to the opposite side of the harbour - adding to the heavy traffic jam 2 bus stops away from where I should get off and walk to the dojo, by the time I entered the dojo, people were already putting on their men and I completely missed the suburi/kihon parts.

[I also happened to left my shirt and trousers in the changing room one floor below the gym for 1 hour. Some adviced me to play the lottery because I managed to find it after the class - with my $$ all still there...!!]

Anyway, the bogu session started off with a line of people in bogu as motodachi, and standing opposite, the intermediates who got to hit the targets with suri-ashi. There's one odd person out, so I took that time and did some warming up. Was pretty stiff there - I haven't touched my shinai for a week.

Moving on to bogu-ed people only, we went thru the usual kirikaeshi, kihon - with suriashi and then fumikomi... The more exhausting one will be kote-men-do-men. Seem to find myself more balanced, but not fast enough (god, how the hell can I catch up with the Hokkaido boys...)

Tanaka-sensei had a sudden "surprise" for this session, and before moving on to jikeiko, we had about 6 rounds of 5-times-ai-men. We were told that it will let us understand more about our -utsu-maai. Also we'll use more of our waist-power to turn 180-degree, and run through much faster.

I told myself not to take a break today. It was only an hour for me already, and if I can't even last that, it means I am not enjoying kendo (and not just the situation). Now I know I didn't really dropped out, but I am just as borderline dangerous as the rest of the losers. Especially yesterday I had the worst 1000-rope-jumps in ages. I haven't done even once 100-non-stop, and I felt tired before reaching the 500th. I was so out of practice, and pretty much out of shape recently...

My first keiko partner was Takumi-kun (who is 9 and ...half my height...). Tanaka-sensei came over and wacked him over the head because he missed a couple of really good opportunities, and was dodging too much. But I also got nagged about "Jenny you should beat him up" in Japanese - or something similar. Well, Takumi really did a few sharp do-uchi which I was really impressed. I was trying to work on more of my kote-men and kote-dou, but still these waza weren't working as good in jikeiko. uHmm

...And then I had Mimura-san who is a teenager-beginner. I haven't had a keiko with people at that level for quite a while now, so it's been a refreshing feeling. (Since I am no longer responsible to teach beginners here, and loads of people were still at the non-bogu stage - only this month "Iris" bought her bogu, and she started at the beginning of the year...!!) As usual I wanted to be more encouraging, and I hoped the boy appreciates it.

The ending few minutes I had a short one with David, our dojo Japanese-Cantonese interpretor. He is a fresh nidan. Somehow I found the same problem of mine in him. Like, after hitting kote (and missed), both of us just stood there like idiots. That happened twice and I started to be more aware of my left foot and did a couple of spot-on kote-men. But seemingly my kote-men only worked on people who has no intention to go forward. Thats definately something I should investigate into more...

It's just a strange day today anyway. When I packed my bogu I pulled out my current shiai tenugui from Matsuoka senpai "Possiblity is endless (not sure how to translate)" in London. And then at the end of the class Eda-sensei, who came back from Singapore last weekend, told me that "Miss Matsuda said hello to you". When I bin my keikogi into the laundry basket, my name flashes into my eyes on the keikogi those Iaido people at Wakaba gave me as farewell present. They just all of a sudden gave me little warm treats, and reminds me I should try harder and enjoy the practice more. Thanks for all that, whoever is reading.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Tonight at 8pm I switched off my laptop, stood up, grabbed my bogu from near the window... and immediately decided to put them down. Instead, I went into the dining room, sat down and had dinner.

Last Thursday saw the visit from Inoue-sensei (3rd time this year!) who was going to accompany a HK team and visit Singapore. He came with 2 other men around his age, Yamane-sensei of Osaka, and Nozaki-sensei from Nara.

We jumped straight into free practice, which means 30+ people queuing for the 3 of them. I was second on the queue for Yamane.

The keiko was okay with me smashing 3-4 de-gote and got bored of this waza, but I couldn't really switch to other waza. Apart from the lack of practice, his timing was so different... It was just quite weird, but in the end we found out Yamane-sensei started kendo at the age of 40. Still, having 30+ years of experience, I won't have any other comments.

Nozaki-sensei is the tough-to-deal-with type. He did that "running in from to-maai and cut men" thing which was pretty impressive (age-wise). At one point I was like a beginner backing out so much that I stepped into people queuing at the side. They were shouting things like, "check your breathing. Kiai! kiai--!" which only pressured me more. I have no idea why I was so afraid at that time. After that, The keiko evolved into the usual uchikomi, and the advice was about using too much right hand. Guess it's the wirst injury that got me overcompensating for it.

Later on, more local sensei got to stand as motodachi, and so, the queue at Inoue-sensei was slightly shorter. But there is nothing special about that keiko. Basically I stood up from sonkyu, held for 5 seconds, cut men, got battered, and did a few rounds of men-uchi. Finished in 30 seconds in total. Not too enjoyable.

So yeah, that's last Thursday with 3 jikeiko and nothing else.

I think I'll go this Thursday. But from next week on to late Nov the practice hours will clash with my short course at the Art School (Illustration for Advertising). Need to re-schedule everything if I am going to continue to have regular kendo.


I said that because I was thinking of dropping kendo and pick up something else closer instead. Last Monday at the St John's First Aid course, I was quite attracted to volunteer for their brigade. Since I can't go for the Police anymore, St John might have been an option just for fun. Then I don't have to struggle on a Sunday morning to see if I'll get tortured in the dojo - and then do something that contribute to the society a little bit.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Far Far Away...

Sitting here for too long without any exercise at all hurts my a$$. My only entertainment in recent hours is this:-

Distribution of Dojo in Relation to Where I Live

Hong Kong (QEII is the place for my dojo and squad training)


Well... Location/ transportation-wise my current dojo isn't *that* far... I dunno why mentally I am feeling this way.

Monday, September 05, 2005

[I wrote a longer entry but it came back with a system error. Oh what the heck...]

Although encouraging, it is also a rather disturbing idea... Now that Tanaka-sensei has spoken during the round-the-table-comments-to-everyone session at the farewell dinner last Sat.

I should fight with a relaxed body and a strong spirit - not tensing up and displaying my thinking-too-much mentality on my face during keiko.

My state of mind should be like a big but calm, quiet lake without ripples.

I have got the timings, opportunities, speed and stamina right, which much qualifies me as a national team member in international championships. What I need to work on, is how I should approach each fight. The Kimochi, so to speak.

... Slowly and steadily I am being pressured to train for the world championships. It's more than a year away and I am not sure why everyone is so serious about it already. It takes away a lot of the fun and enjoyment I can have, sucking up a huge chunk of my energy and time (while not having a decent income) ... Maybe I just can't handle that kind of pressure and responsiblity. I wish I can just play and enjoy.

My wrist is 99.9% recovered, but I am not sure about the squad training tomorrow. I get quite scared about going 250+ hayasuburi this month, being out of practice for so long...