Friday, December 30, 2005

Banging Against the Wall

Oops. Forgot to blog - but I did go to the Xmas Eve keiko last Sat. We got a relatively good turn-up (12 in bogu plus a few newbies), which made it look less like a "Lonely Hearts Club". Us girls got another group on rotation (Noroi, Takase, Jane, Lisa, Jacquna (sp?). Even though they were all my junior, I got quite excited winning all the yakusoku keiko rounds (be it ai-men or ippon-shobu). In turn, that did give me the thought of showing up for the squad-training...

But then, I missed the Tuesday night one doing something stupid (playing with cats underneath the dining table - and injured the muscles along my back... argh)

So this is now Thurs, the last keiko of the year 2005.

As usual, I missed the first 15 mins, but I joined in when they started picking up the shinai.

A few rounds of suri-ashi men up and down the dojo, then some men-uchi and kote-men against empty air. The leading senpai said something funny about Tenouchi towards the end of the cut: "when some sensei said 'squeeze like a towel', that's actually a handkechef and not a bath towel, so you don't have to try too hard!" Indeed. Since I got this comment about over-twisting my forearms, I am working on squeezing with the fingers/ hands instead... Do feel relaxing around the elbows now.

Eda-sensei came in at 8pm, who tell us "men-tsuke".

Now using the full-length of the dojo, we did a few more suri-ashi men men men men men men men. Wong-san dropped by the gym and watched us for a bit. For some reason we all try to look good and serious.

Then for a change we all found a line on the floor and did fumikomi-men-with-no-running-through (i.e. Sumi style). Eda-sensei told us to just stop where we stomp on and measure how far we jumped. Something like this:-

To my surprise, my couple of fumikomi that came in with men-uchi straight and stable, were as far as my shinai+ one kote fist... (4 feet!!!) So, really, no more excuses of fighting any closer, and I should be more aware of how far I can actually reach.

Another exercise we did was to band against the wall... Well uhmm "one-step taiatari"... and it was actually against the spongy ones. This was to let us feel the force to give+receive in correct taiatari (by ourselves!), and with the right footwork (since you can't possibly end up with your left foot in front). So the 12 of us all lined up against the wall and start running into it like mental patients...

At paired practice I was with the "women and children group" (Jane, Lo, Takumi, Aka - Ng's son). The time was short, and with just a few rounds of kirikaeshi and men-uchi, we quickly got into jikeiko.

It was after class that Ng (kohai at squad) told me that this is his son's first keiko in bogu. Well, I wasn't that hard. Not being a kid's motodachi for a while, I only remembered to kiai louder when there is no kiai, and keep walking forward when he's all backing up not hitting... It's probably quite hard for Aka as he wasn't showing too much interest when I saw him on a Tues before the squad. Ng hopes he can have more fun with some kids over this dojo.

Takumi (Utsunomiya) was always the hard one, as he was most of the time the only 9-year-old on a Thurs, and with his mom watching from the side. He also won 2005's HK individuals at his age group... Anyway, I really like to forget cutting men to take his kote and do as he thought no one could!

Against Lo, I guess she's improving as well, that we struggled quite a while until I got the first de-gote. But that waza isn't working too well now as she's learning kote-nuki-men... So the lesson is to really work on one waza against a certain type of person, because "tokui-waza" doesn't always work!!

After that we can queue for anyone, so I got to wait for Kwok, a visitor from Silicon Valley who was here on holiday and was only practising today. Strange thing happened - he and a senpai were fighting and then backing to my side, which ran me to the wooden bars at this wall of the dojo... Suddenly blood was on the floor... I twisted my right foot around, and saw some splinters from the wooden bars piked in there. Just when I thought I should last this keiko without sitting down, I just had to. Mrs Utsunomiya offered me a wound plaster, and I just took off my men and kote and pressured my foot for ...until when Yame was shouted. Funny enough I just found out yesterday that I passed my first-aid certificate from St. John, and today I find it being "very useful"

Here's a semi-gross picture - end-of-year shock!! ...Well the wound was not big but it gets a bit swollen now (and sorry that's a copy of Communication Arts on my bed...):-

I hope that doesn't affect my plan going to the New Year's keiko/ squad the coming Sunday. We already got a special invite from Eda-sensei:-

"Dear squad members,

Please note we may plan our last overseas training trip (financial year before 31st march 2006) to Chinese Taipei. [snip]

We have talked to government officials recently in a general meeting once a year to review on our performance. It is very important all squad members to participate in the overseas trip and to achieve good results in the shiai...[snip] Our performance may affect the amount of fundings for the next financial year.

It is every squad member's responsibility to practice hard and to achieve good results, as you are no longer treated as one of the ordinary members.

See you all on the New Year day keiko!


P.S. the 2009 WKC will be held in Brazil. "

She's thinking so far ahead... Argh.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Snap, Snap & More Snaps

1. I've put up some pics of the 1st Regional Kendo Championships in Nov, and also some of the anti-WTO protest 2 weeks ago (irrelevent) in my photojournal site:-

2. In case anyone wonders - YES I took this photo at "Ken Mado"(monthly mag for AJKF). The president actually has more to say about kendo in China and the forementioned taikai:-

Merry Xmas to you all!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Next Year?

This is Friday and we got this email telling us Nemoto Sensei is visiting tonight. In the end I decided to get to this 9-10.30pm keiko after my Nihongo class. Dragging my bogu along the busiest district in town was definately not the nicest thing to...

A bit of info: Nemoto Michiyo (sp?) sensei from Osaka was a former AJWKC winner and is now 7th Dan. Hence the internal email actually said: "Squad members especially ladies must join." We were told that she comes around every Xmas, and was good friend with Horibe sensei's sister (Horibe Akemi - also 7thDan...)

We did some kihon for warm-up and then the remaining 45 mins for keiko.

I came 5th in the line with Wong-san being first, followed by Eda-sensei. After that it just turned into kakari keiko. I told Amy who was just behind me, "yeah, it's usually like this with visiting sensei who doesn't know you well."

Indeed. It happened to me as well after losing one ai-men, missing a kote-men, and hitting a hiki-men in empty air. Argh. My kakari-keiko must have been aaaaawful to watch. Literally I did not control my breath well enough to cut back whenever sensei gave an opening, and it seems like she *always* open when I was about to breath in. As usual, my kiai was a mess too.

Definitely not my shape with the flu /fever still in me... Had to take off men and blow my nose. Felt like having muscle cramps too.

After that I fought Yu- sensei. He had this odd kamae with shinai slightly off centre and slightly protecting his own kote. Some of my kote-men worked quite well. But he's men-uchi ended up coming in at an angle. I blocked a few, did some kaeshi-dou, but sucked up a few. Not that I complain about his kamae... Recalling what Sumi-sensei said last week about seme from any position (the question was about some sensei dropped their shinai tip before coming in - i.e. gedan seme)... So basically if you let someone did an ippon on you from an odd kamae, you lost to that second of doubt in your mind. (sorry... can't explain something highly conceptual...)

Comment to me was about my lack of power in koshi (uhmm)...

Then I had A. Lam (wearing Australian zekken... alphabets too small to read tho). We paired for once at kihon and I quite like his "foreign" kendo. Proven to be a very enjoyable keiko as we both landed some good cuts on each other. But I think I was the one lacking initiative - I'll blame the flu for now.

At the end of the session while everyone was packing their stuff heading home. Eda-sensei gave "a small lecture" to me, Amy and Fanny. Problem was that the sempai (Agnes + Jay) are all recovering from serious injuries at the moment, and that the 3 of us need to be ready for the coming Asian Tournament and the 13th WKC next year (and that's according to Kishikawa sensei...) Basically without the ladies getting some ranking at Taikai, it's quite hard to get funding/ subsidies from the government.

It totally confuses me again as it's quite hard to tell them about my situation. Honestly I cannot take that kind of responsiblity while I cannot even feed myself. (It's like if I say no they are going to ban me for ever...) But it comes to my mind that, IF I last one more month or so at the squad, I might get at least once, the experience to fight as a squad. Question is, I've been escaping from the torture for 4 months already, and I can hardly keep up with the kihon keiko - how the hell will I be of any help?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Budo Stamps

The other day I was trying to find Jan-06's issue of Kendo Nippon (with special AJKC DVD included)... It has proven to be a popular buy among fellow kenshi - I declared my defeat after asking at 4 different honya.

Anyway, there's always something else I ended up buying... like old issues of whatever mags that came in sight. Last time I bought this "Japanese Postage Stamp Catalogue 1999" with HK$10 (i.e. really cheap).

My intention was to see the stamps as design/ illustration references, but it happens that a lot of them are budo-related. Below are the one listed:-

1953 - Judo

1956 - Judo

1960 - Kendo

1962 - Kendo (at Ryukyu - it's only been Okinawa Prefecture since 15 May 1975)

1963 - Sumo

1964 - Karate (Naihanchi, Makiwara, Kumite)

1972 - Kendo (background: Aso Volcano, Kumamoto-ken)

1973 - Kyudo (commemorating Okinawa's reversion - Okinawa Special National Athletic Meet)

1983 - Naginata (background: Myogi Yama, Gunma-ken)

1995 - Judo

1999 - Karate

Well, I did collect stamps at primary school. But not much of a collection since email came into my life at secondary school...

Monday, December 19, 2005


[Korean farmers giving and receiving backrub. Victoria Park, HK. 4pm 15 Dec 2005]

For the last 2 weeks I spent my time volunteering at HK People's Alliance on WTO. It's been tough, especially the past 6 days we all had to sit in open air (12-15 deg.) at Victoria Park. As my job was to answer queries at the Info Desk (in English, Cantonese + Mandarin), and talking too much hurt my voice. I walked straight to kendo on Thurs and Eda-sensei kept saying "Jenny, more kiai!!!" Argh.

On Thursday I walked straight from the park to keiko, with a fellow volunteer who was interest to watch the class. As usual this made me be very aware of my posture and everything during kihon.

We progressed to kirikaeshi at full length of the dojo. Then a few rounds of keiko with Oda-san and David as motodachi while everyone else queued. Oda-san still said I start cutting without much seme (although my men-uchi is straight enough). With David I smacked a few good de-gote, but somehow I think it's because he was too tired to be sharper.

We spent the last 10 mins or so doing enjin keiko - all 10 of us in a circle with one in the middle, fighting everybody.


Accumulating all the stress and sickness I collasped on Sat. Keiko was supposed to be at 4.30-7.30pm with SUMI SENSEI. But I was so dead that I can't really do anything about it, when I wake up at 4.30pm after a decent nap. At 5pm violence broke out with the Korean farmers around the WTO protesting area, which is not more than 500m from where the dojo is. As no buses was going direct, I just thought it doesn't worth going, and I stayed home for more rest.


Sunday morning at 7.45am I watched the traffic update and there was still no direct bus... 900 protestors got arrested but there is still one major rally in the afternoon.

In the end I arrived at 9.30am with everyone doing kendo kata sanbonme. I was probably the last person to arrive, but was surprised that there were only 30 people at most in the dojo. You simply can't believe how few people (especially from other dojo) turned up whenever there is sensei visiting and doing a lecture.

The whole kata session lasted until 10.30am going thru to nanahonme. General commends were made. I can only recall as far as "there are 3 points of seme in ropponme"... Everyone had already paired up and I had to deal with "imaginary opponent" if I wasn't watching the others.

10.30am to 12pm was a practice session in bogu. We started off with 3 string of kirikaeshi in pairs before doing 5 sets of bokuto kihon #1 each. Apart from the initial suri-ashi cutting, there were other specifications like fumikomi but not running thru, fumikomi + running thru, starting from toi-maai then step in before cutting, etc. etc. Me at the 3 Dan & below group (which only took up 1/2 of the dojo) got about 8 rotations.

Next up was tachi-ai keiko, i.e. mock shinsa, and sensei at the side will commend afterwards. While Sumi sensei looked after the 4Dan & above group, the few of us juniors got Koyanagi and Kashiwagi-sensei (7Dan also from Fukuoka). Everybody got 2 90-sec fights, and I got Naganawa-san and Vinx, both were challenging as they all did quite well in previous taikai. Adding to that, the flu I was having was giving me nose-blocks. Literally I messed up with breathing and kiai because I had to use my mouth to breath at all times.

Comments to me: should take more initiative. Yeah I know... I should really sort this out before going for the real Sandan shinsa. Sickness is not an excuse, really.

We finished earlier than the senior group and so we moved to watch them. Sumi sensei was talking about how the tension should build up during the keiko, and not losing it after a cut (whether successful or not) has landed. Also it was interesting for him to say "kiai from both sides at the same time is like nidan level"...

The last 30 mins was left for jikeiko, which I had to take off my men and watched at the side for the entire time. It feels terrible to be so ill while there were visitors worth queuing for. I notice how Sumi-sensei did quite a lot of cuts using one-step fumikomi, just like kihon keiko. But apart from him getting a few good de-gote on Kishikawa-sensei, and then turn him into kakari-keiko mode... I was about to faint at the opposite end of the dojo... It's rarely that I felt I should be at home rather than in there.

After lunch I got 1/2 of napping time before another lecture - but no more keiko and we all changed back to casual wear. Sumi sensei talked about the very "confucious" concepts about kendo, and how these can be translated into our daily lives. I got myself 3 pages of notes.

Attendance was rather low with most of the juniors gone (!?) - so at the Q&A session the questions (from local sensei/ seniors) are more to do with teaching/ learning. For example, ways to encourage beginners, ways to explain technical points, how to be good motodachi, etc. Apart from being able to listen to most of the simple, yet entertaining Japanese Sumi-sensei used, I also realized how these sensei showed their concerns about the way they teach - and I hope that what was discussed will be put into practice.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Making the Right Decision

I skipped Thursday to sit my first-aid exam. The multiple-choice questions were pretty easy, but I pressed a little bit too fast on CPR, and missed the second trianglar bandage around the chest for someone with a broken wrist. Result will be out at the end of the month, and I am still not sure whether those mistakes are enough to make me fail...

As of today (Sat) - I was late for 15 mins for today's keiko. Loast (and found) my mobile while watching a movie iwth my grandma (Perhaps Love - Oscar nominee - Best foreign film - and is actually quite decent, in terms of a musical in Mandarin with cast and crew from China, Hong Kong, S. Korea and Japan).

Eda-sensei is in Taiwan for an IKF meeting this weekend. The practice today is leaded by an average senior.

After a couple of suburi, we did 20 and then 30 haya-suburi. I realize how I cannot really keep up with the last 10. My stamina is not there any more. Leo attached that green-ish shinai weight the whole time during warm-up. When I looked at him, I noticed how I am so behind from the squad who have been training hard.

Again, it's mainly the same sets of suri-ashi kihon cutting: men, kote-men, kote-men-dou, kote-men-dou-men, tsuki. We also did some waza like kote-nuki-men, kote-kaeshi-men, men-suriage-men, men-degote... There isn't a routine of practicing waza for more than a few months now - so in the end I still suck at all these waza...

Jikeiko round: girls first - Noroi-san, Lisa, then Nigata-san, and finally Leo. I actually got the first hiki-men from him (but it's the same getting hiki-men from everyone else - no sense of that "i got you ippon" - not sure why). He did a few nice tobikomi-men which I could barely counter with a very twisted de-gote (i.e. no good ones). At the very end of the keiko, at one point we were at tsuba-zeriai and I wanted to turn to a side for hiki-men... But I used a turned right ankle to push off and somehow I am still feeling the pain from there.

The keiko finishes with 2 rounds of men-uchi. It's killing me whenever I wanted to turn around and cut again...

Usually the last 30 mins is for kata, but I, as usual, is trying to escape from that. Socializing with fellow dojo mates is quite important too. I kinda express my concern to Leo (only he and Amy is from my dojo and at the squad), about my extended absence. Clearly if I am not getting any work now, I'll still be jobless by the time of the 13th WKC (BTW - about 365 days later...). Kendo for me right now, is more a routine exercise than some sort of training as a national squad member. Simply I am unable to commit, and it'll be more disappointing for the team and the coach(es) if I cannot fight in Taiwan a year later because I cannot afford it.

But then, I am still practicing in a way, just not that hardcore anymore. Next weekend Sumi (Masatake) sensei is coming from Fukuoka, and hopefully I'll get some inspiration out of his visit.

Starting tomorrow and for the next week, I'll be a volunteer helping out at the WTO conference protesting area. That's some time to chill for me, before another round of job-hunting...

Friday, December 02, 2005

Should be in There

Last Sat I went to the keiko before the "Regional Kendo Tournament" - which is an invitational thing for dojos in Mainland China. Apart from the neighbouring team Macau, there were teams from Guangdong, Shanghai and Beijing. One thing different from the last Asian Tournament is that, this taikai is aim for Chinese and not Japanese. So it's good to see Chinese at my generation intereseted in Japanese traditional culture finally, besides the hatred and whatever indifference they had before.

As I just got off work, I only managed the last 30 mins or so. Yip told me to practice with Sueno Eiji-Sensei (8Dan Kyoshi from Kagoshima, winner of '79 AJKC, winner of All-Japan 8thDan taikai '02), but then that was a massive queue of 10+ people. I might end up not having ANY keiko, so I just said onegaishimas to some visitors - at least, I got some exercise to make my 2-hour return journey worthwhile.

I found some guys from Guangzhou (captial city of Canton Provience, nearest to HK) and Shanghai. All of the visitors had their full names on their zekken which gave me a headache remembering who they were (imagine you can read everything - and it's just information overload)... Kendo-wise I had a good sweat. They have good kendo, and probably just did shinsa an hour before... their level is below me. But then I m not in shape, forgot when's the last serious practice I had, and extremely tired after 5.5-day of work... Recalling what Honda-sensei said about "fighting someone junior half a grade above them" - I tried but in the end, I could only make it to the same level of kendo. For some of the cuts I could have countered or aggressively attacked, I simply stood there and did nothing. The rate of errors made in debana and hiki waza is extremely high too.

Towards the final 2 mins when "last keiko" was shouted, and when Kishikawa-sensei was "resting" on the opposite side, I walked into his line and bow - and I had no idea why I was up for a keiko with him. Probably on one side I was trying to be sorry for not going to the squad, and on the other telling him I was still practising, for, welll, a little... What I got from that keiko was how "easy" for him to escape from my hiki-men: he just did the very proper type of nuki waza by stepping to one side. Simple. Other people didn't do that because, A) they were too concern to block, and B) they were of a lower level.

Everybody seemed to be rusihing off for food for some reason, and none of them said a word.


The following morning I had a hard time getting up at 8am again after missing a lot of sleep during the week... When I arrived "Lei Yu Mun Sports Centre" (Only managed to find out how to get there on the internet before I picked up my bogu from home) - they were doing the opening ceremony/ line-up thing.

Usually at this kind of situation (not fighting) I would volunteer as a helper, scoreboarding, ribbon-typing, whatever. But strangely there were more than enough for the day, and all I could do was to watch, support Team HK, and take photos. I also got the odd job of holding the camera(s) before lunch at their "photo call". Though I must mention that digital SLR of Takeyasu-sensei (President of AJKF) will be something worth saving up for, if my salary could ever afford that!

The two major cities in China, mainly Beijing and Shanghai, at least in my opinion has a relatively higher standard of kendo from the local Chinese. Not sure if that has anything to do with the presence of Japanese students (which HK has none) or businessmen (which HK have a lot). But out of the 10 teams from 5 cities (inc. Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Macau, besides HK) - HK Team A definitely had their advantage as it was made up of 2 yondan, 2 sandan with lower grades as subsitutes. Other teams had people from kyu to, at most, 3 dan, which made some of the fights not as exciting to watch because of the big gap in level.

... Or maybe I was just really tired. Also that the lighting was horrible for photo-taking. At one point (after lunch) I was napping right next to one corner of the court, despite the fact that there were loud kiai and strong fumikomi on the floor.

Actually one of the more exciting things I'd seen that day was some Iaido embu. Cheung was on one of those 8.30am sunday session when I happened to have the mood to pop-up months ago. But seeing his Iaido in an Embu context was a different feeling. He was in all white doing shoden to okuden Muso Shinden Ryu kata. I had that *flash* of Alex Sahla's face. Whoops.

I did chat Cheung up and found that he had participated in some All-Japan taikai under Niigata-ken's team. With the iaido conversation running again, I really think that I should fix my career crisis a.s.a.p. My interests are all suffering all because of it. Damn.

For most of the time I was sitting with HK Team B (Ng, Leo, Amy, Fanny, Agnes) when they weren't fighting. It's probably the team I would have made into *if* I attend the squad in the past 3 months. Overall they got from being nervous to overcoming the fear, and then too eager all of a sudden, which in the end made them to the semi-finals. Everyone gained a few points and then lost a few for the team. Too much getting drawn into the level of the opponent. You cut, I cut. You push, I push... that sort of thing. But if I was the one fighting, wouldn't I be making the same mistakes?

At Godou keiko I practiced with a girl from Guangzhou, a Portuguese woman from Macau, a guy from Guangzhou and another one from Shanghai, all supposedly my juniors, followed by Wan-sensei (Fanny's sensei). Now I felt kinda sorry for those coming a few hours by flight to fight with someone so tired and dead. I came to keiko as a matter of respect and appreciation of their willingness to travel, which is something I haven't done for quite a long time (almost a year.)