Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Inversely Proportional

So I woke up and get to that far-far-away venue with only 3 hours of sleep. Work has been insanely busy before Xmas.

I got into the stadium right on time, but had a bad stomach ache by then, and ended up missing the first part of the group warm-up for Team HK at 8am.

When I joined in, I randomly grabbed a male partner and did waza-keiko with him. He's more junior than me, and can see a lot of my men-uchi coming in. But for kote oji-waza, he completely missed as I was always sharp. This is the best I can do with the injury, so my strategy for the day was to finish the matches as soon as possible, and use de-gote whenever possible.

My teammates are Pik (senpo) and Agnes (chuken) on HK Team B.

As usual, Ladies event started first. 6 teams on 2 pools.

Match 1 vs Macau A
[Leng, my friend in the UK, was on this team and I was a little bit worried - but then I found out she's not the one I fight...]

KK - 0 in 5 seconds.

Match 2 vs Dailin
[The other 2 girls are from Dailin, but taisho is Anna(?) on holiday originally from Australia, and she knows what to do in shiai]

0 - 0

[Progressing to the semi-finals was against another mixed team - Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai]
Match 3 vs Mixed Team

KM - 0 in 12 seconds.

It felt a bit longer than the 1st match because I didn't want to hit kote all the time... Anyway.

On to the Final. Ever sense the lack of visiting kenshi this year?

Match 4 vs HK Team A
Amy 1 - 0 Pik
Jane 0 - 2 Agnes

So we are already one point ahead.

me vs Jay

... To my dojo mate Noyori-san, this was like another rematch of the final from a few months ago.

It did! But then I lost in the middle of the match, when I, very predictably, went in for de-gote, missed, and got a debana-men instead.

The game carried on. We spent a lot of time in tsuba-zeriai. I can't remember what I was thinking (probably nothing then!) when I got this chance of hiki-men.

Flags up. Massive cheering. 1 to 1.

Someone sitting at the other court told me that the hit was so spot on and load. Now I really want to see the rerun of this. Apparently, there was a bit of PR and the local cable channel filmed my last 2 matches. Thing is that I don't remember it being a very difficult cut.

So this made my team the Champion, hurray!!

[ The rest of the day I spent sitting at a corner working, napping, and cheering for the boys - I only stayed there because we need to take medal pics...]

There's also not as many teams as the previous year on the Men's event, and the level difference is obvious. Well of course there are a number of good players, like Yu Ding, the current president of one of the Beijing's clubs, but they didn't fill a ninja team this time.

I went home and worked till 3am.

So you can see that it's not like I don't want to shiai or kendo. But seriously I am overloaded with work, having a broken wrist (feels A LOT better now, thanks everyone), and simply not practicing often enough. It's very odd that the result can be so inversely proportional to the "effort" I put in the past 2 months.

Let's see how the wrist's going later this month. I'm only going to jog and resist the suburi temptation!!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

In 5 Days

...I will again fight for Team HK. This time is the annual Chinese Taikai - kenshi from all around Mainland China will travel to grade/ fight in the coming weekend. (They have to be "Chinese" to fight.)

There was this call from my Sensei earlier last week, literally pushed me to be in the team. I was very reluctant because A) I am supposed to rest my wrist; B) I am seriously busy at "work" (with tons of freelance work sucking up all my non-work hours) and C) I haven't been in bogu for the entire Nov. The only thing that kept me "fit" was the 25-min jog along the river twice a week.

Last weekend they had Chiba sensei visiting with I missed. The remaining keiko time will be tonight (Tues) at squad training. So I have to go.

"How's your wrist?" has replaced "hello" as a greeting when I met up with the sensei, coach and fellow team members. Gossips spread really fast!!

We had some light, "normal" warm-up, short kihon and shiai keiko - all done in an hour and I left after the first jikeiko with Eda-sensei.

For the whole time I was just sucking up the pain, and especially in shiai it was very frustrating to fight against my own wrist!! I lost all my shiai 0-2 (or should I blame the ref not focusing on our court?) My cuts are seriously lacking the snap and power all coming from right hand. Totally awful experience.

I found it a bit unfair that all these guys can join the competition on free will, but injured girls had to be on "reserved".

This wrist has traumatized a great part of my spirit already. I am not even sure whether this is just an excuse of escaping responsibility or what. I am already blaming it for failing my driving exam - and that's not a good sign.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Seme Ashi

This is the first practice after a month's break from kendo, including a week of holiday in Cambodia. My left wrist seems to never recover 100%. Eda-sensei recommanded the old-school treatment of, well, just keep carry on with the practice. It's meaningless if I only watch and never try.

So this Sun afternoon I was back in the dojo in full bogu, and fortunately there were plenty of time spent without bogu (less stress on my wrist). Again, Minejima-san had taken over the senior teaching part. Facing the mirrors, we practice seme-ashi. Key points:-

1. Upper body without any movement
2. Constant eye level
3. Left foot slides on the floor until the very last moment
4. Hand movement only at the very last moment

We also had rounds of kirikaeshi, 1-min jikeiko and ai-men. It's really great to feel that I'm getting on with the seme part well, as I can see how some juniors didn't show much of the seme (with reference to the key points). Against Minejime, who I knew he's being easy, I messed up with the distance. My lack of power from the legs were mostly due to an hour of motorbike ride in the morning - it's exhausting.

The month has been busy at work, but I really hope I can show up more. The dojo is filled with more serious training atmosphere, and everyone is showing some improvement. Too bad I can't commit to the squad anymore, but I wish them the very best at next month's Chinese Taikai.

One day after I am feeling a bit of swelling pain on my wrist. If it's not getting worse, I think I'll just have to withstand it and keep going.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Need a Break

The clock said 15 minutes left of the night's practice, but I couldn't stand the wrist pain and had to drop out after only a round of jikeiko.

...I could have stopped on the first thing we did in full bogu - kirikaeshi. The rebouncing shinai sent tears in my eyes. For the rest of the practice I spent all my energy trying to hit without the pain. The path of my swing went very wavy as I observed. Ended up using excessive right hand power, or not enough power, or letting go of the shinai...

It's been really "itchy" just watching at the side for the past two weeks. That's why I wanted to get back to training this Thurs, but obviously my healing rate is not fast enough.

Should I be reminded that, a break will be all I need for the next few weeks until my wrist feels perfect doing suburi? For the rest of the month I should focus on getting my club jacket done... Grrrr

Sunday, September 09, 2007


Key Points:-

To Start: Keep proper tsuba-zeriai to protect yourself as in chudan
Step 1: Hit hard on the same spot with right foot stamping
Step 2: Escape as fast as you could
Step 3: Strong kiai

Our latest ninja senpai, Minejima-san, volunteers to spend a few training session on Hiki-waza.

...I was unable to train for the second week running because of a wrist injury from motorbiking (I should say I was not at all talented at that). Probably I should be spending the whole Sep resting my wrist, and get some mitori-keiko after work. I hate the feeling of not being able to do anything.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


That's right - I'm now a Sandan, after 6 years of kendo!

It was a lot easier than I thought. Partly thanks to Pik and Amy, similar age as mine and both girls from my dojo, were my lucky grading partner. It's relieving enough to know before hand who I was going to have my tachiai with - at least all 3 of us do great kendo, and can put up a good show in front of the grading panel.

As far as I can remember, I "scored" at least a de-gote and a few good ai-men (debana-men). Someone said I did my exam like a shiai. That might be right too, as the same mindset had got the best out of me. But then I notice that whenever I got the ai-men, my body is going off to the right side. Obviously my body is still not going straight and forward enough, even that my speed gave an advantage. Besides, my failed attempts of de-gote has rewarded my partners with kote-men opportunities, and that's probably because I was not cutting forward enough on those occasions.

My (or our) kata sucked. But hey, nobody is perfect! Again I'm in the first pair in front of the panel. It's not easy to spot that my pair's bad sense of maai, adding to my rather obvious mistake at #2. Oh well, they let us through this time, and perhaps getting a more regular kata practice could be a better option...uhmm..

Overall the whole grading has relatively high level of kendo - I rarely spot those I thought would fail, and indeed in the end in every grade only 1-2 people didn't get through the tachiai part. Some of them were, comparatively, too negative about the match, lacking energy and spirit, and failed show successful or even attempt attack.

It's been the best grading experience so far (after [UK] Sumi's seminar grading, Glascow WKC grading and London [Mumeishi] Autumn grading), and let's forget about 4th Dan before I feel like it. This exam is enjoyable, and I was confident in passing, despite that everyone has to arrive at 8am and we are not allow to practice kata or anything but "watch"... If people pass, they probably deserve it - especially when they worked hard for it!

Our sensei seems to be the person most excited and overjoyed, after spending the pass few months getting the 7 of us ready for this grading, and seeing our surprising performance on the day. Other sensei on the grading panel had only said positive comments about our dojo members. Someone even pointed out that now our dojo has the highest 3rd Dan population in Hong Kong!

The next step is probably to find out what's next. After a few months at full-time work, I notice how kendo helps clearing my mind in the week, and in general regulates my life. I no longer see it as a waste-of-time-better-do-something-more-constructive activity. Hope that my schedule with work and upcoming classes, I can manage to get the practice I need, and enjoy the training along the way.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Slight Concern

2 days before sandan shinsa. Still not too confident about the whole thing - not been practising regular enough, and only had about 1 hour of kata practice... From my dojo there are 5 of us heading for the same grade, and I practise the least.

Last night, however, had been a good practice. Good, in a sense that the kakari-keiko and jigeiko let me attack in the way I wanted. I am winning most of my ai-men, including some taller guys.

Minejima-san's suggestion about pushing from the left leg DURING a cut has significantly improved my cutting speed. I'm starting to cut people's men and kote before they realized they've been cut...! (at least that's what I've been told).

Let me sit back and relax a little bit more over the weekend. Work here is boring as hell, and I found myself preparing for the written part of the sandan shinsa at the studio!

Now I am not sure what I'm going to do after sandan. Will going back to the squad an option? Worth considering, but I'll need to get a pass first.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Excitement, and Not Training-related

It's 1.45am. Apart from having a few glasses of beer ^n during the simple farewell keiko dinner with Naganawa-san, and being battered by yondan ninja Minejima-san during demo shinsa tachiai, I am more excited to present you with:-

This week's Metropop. Metropop is a weekly magazine published every Thursday from Metro (same newspaper on underground/ subway trains globally). Hong Kong is the experimental city to lanuch such a weekly mag, and according to published statistics, it has a local circulation of 118,462.

There you see my work. Not the most brilliant, but probably most read, so far:-

Just an ad for a concert of a local orchestra, alongside with many other ads in the mag. Not sure I'm so willing to show it off... Their whole campaign is driving me nuts - as I've been typesetting for 101 music pieces' listing for the entire week - reason why I was late fro kendo today!!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Doing Things Properly

We had a Sumi-sensei weekend again, and he dropped by our dojo today.

They were doing stretching when I got there, and I pretty much fall asleep lying comfortably on the dojo floor...

Had a torn-off blister under my little finger after a good round of suburi-keiko, again lasted for 30 mins. Obvious sign of not training regular enough.

Then 4 rounds of 3-string kirikaeshi as warm-up, followed by an endless amount of uchikomi-keiko (men-hiki-men/kote/do x3), when totally wore every kakarite out.

I was (un)fortunate enough to be standing opposite Sumi-sensei when he needs a uchikomi-keiko demo, and was forced to repeatedly correct my leaning-forward posture during hitting, and also moving to the side in between the set. These 2 bad habits will be what I should work up on before my sandan grading (hopefully). I was not *that* aware of these before, simply because only in demos against an 8th-dan sensei that I felt like putting up a better show when so many people are watching. Pressure is definitely good for me.

Five points to recap:-
1) Shinai tip shouldn't drop when raising up during suburi
2) Hit and receive on monouchi part of shinai - both motodachi and kakarite needs tobe aware
3) Seme-ashi first before every hit
4) Keeping back straight when hitting
5) Keeping a tsubazeriai kamae smoothly after hitting - should keep shinai at the same level after the hit, until tsuba almost touching opponent's men-gane, then drop hands

Sunday, June 17, 2007











Sunday, May 13, 2007

Out of the Blue

me with HKKA president Mr Wong

Sorry for the lack of updates, as I've been struggling with the new job, evening Nihongo classes, and the freelance projects that never seem to be finishing... I'd say I am lucky enough to still be catching once a week of kendo in the past month or so.

Yet, very much out of the blue, I won the ladies open grade individuals at the last local taikai---!!

Round 1
Ai-men at encho, 1-0 vs Lei from Macau

Round 2
De-gote, 1-0 vs Pek from my dojo

Round 3
Tobikomi men, Nuki-do, 2-0 vs Couk from Macau

Round 4 (Final)
De-gote, 1-0 vs Jay from HKKA

My half of the tree isn't as competitive, as we are all roughly at the 0-2 dan level. Squad sempai and the newly Godan, Jay and Agnes, together with Horiguchi-san (3 dan) who just picked up kendo after 10 blank years, had rather exciting fights. In total there were only 15 girls.

Adding to that, I wasn't thinking about winning or even scoring! In the morning I switched off the alarm clock and had thought of staying in bed instead... Looking back for the pass 2 weeks I've only went to kendo ONCE, and perhaps jogged twice, plus some stretching and suburi etc. light exercise at home... Which, on the other hand, made me feel very relaxed. I was there to play my own game.

I am quite suprised that just by relaxing alone is better than thinking about what I should score, how I should prepare for my fight, etc. etc. (and to a certain point, why I am able to win against those who practice a lot more regularly, and am more experienced then me...) Take the finals for example, when I took on de-gote, despite what the crowd had been cheering and clapping for, I really turned my head left and right to check the flag, and told myself, "Gee, I am getting Gold!"

It's a mystery. This is the first time I've got placed in Hong Kong, and the first time I get first for my kendo (I've only won once for Iaido mudan division in the UK). I am so under-prepared that I forgot about bringing my own camera... So I'll add a medal pic when I get hold of any one of them.

Still, if I am going to get graded Sandan this year, I'd better get to train more often!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Yoku Dekimashita--!

Now that this has been done, all I need is to finish the remaining few months of my 3rd kyu course, send out the form and claim back my $$$$!!!

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Pay Off

So, the Asian Tournament - it has been renamed to Hong Kong Asian Open Kendo Championships.

There's some last minute changes to the local team arrangements, and I ended up being the taisho, with Noyori-san and Lo on the 3-person ladies HK Team C. The ladies were on a completely separate division this year - meaning we cannot be on the 2nd Dan below teams, but the good thing is there is no longer scenes of giant bear pushing little girl beginners all over the place.

My team gets the lucky pool - we can still get through if we placed 2nd in our group.

First, we trashed the Guangzhou team. Afterwards people kept reminding how sharp my hiki-men and tobikomi-men were (actually I think the hit landed on men-gane...), and I'm very eager to watch it in video!!

We get Asian Kendo Club B next. I don't know what exactly is this club about, but heard that they're a group of asia expats who've returned to Japan. We've watched them fight against Guangzhou previously, and I thought, while they're good (and with Japanese last name anyway), they are not as bright as the other 2 university teams.

So fast forward a little bit... I looked at the scoreboard and see that I have to win 2 points straight for my team to draw on points. When I stepped in there, I don't feel my opponent too overwhelmly strong or unbeatable, even though from what I watched earlier she is better than me... Suddenly I quite fancy winning the match. I went quite hyper after getting used to her timing. On ipponme I lost a kote, but nihonme I really made a 3-flag-up kote-nuki-men...!! Maybe if it wasn't of the last failed block I tried and the debana-elbow I lost to (got bruise to prove!), I might draw or even win that match!!

Now we are one step up the match tree, and our next match is against Asian KC Team A (first team of their pool) - so they might be even stronger. I jokingly told Lo and Noyori-san that if we win the next team, we can secure a medal (!).

When it's my turn to fight, my teammates had already lost and so, it doesn't really matter what I do in the court!! When I go all out, I find that spiritual-wise, it pulled my level closer to my stronger opponent. I made good attempts and so did she, but none worked. I lost 0-K, by one point, so it doesn't look too horrible.

The eventual winner is Fukuoka Edu Uni team. Kokugakuin came 2nd. Maybe they'll have a better chance with their original senpo - who injured her leg during keiko on friday night. Li from Macau was their replacement. She's actually quite a nice addition to their team - scoring a really fast debana-men shodachi within 3 seconds on her Fukuoka opponent.

The Guangzhou boys may have bad taste in their totally out-of-place Shinsengumi samurai cosplay team jacket (don't miss the red bulb accessory on their chest, a paper fan too), but their kendo is not bad at all. We always expect Japanese team has the best players, but overall I am more impressed with the performance of some kohai and also competitors from Mainland China. Some of them looked like total beginner last Nov at the Chinese Tournament, yet their current kendo level is on such a great leap. A guy from Guangzhou beat our local favourite Johnny (who won C. Yang in the individuals at the last WKC). Well, you'd never know who's been training harder while you weren't!

There are just too many cups and medals to be given out... Trophy cups + medals for the 1st-3rd place of each division, medals kantousho for one member of EACH team. I'm lucky to receive one of the more practical ones:-

"Shimpan-cho sho" it says, or Chief Referee's Award - 4 for each division. This is the first thing I won in Hong Kong, and therefore very encouraging little present to have.

Earlier we heard the good news about 3 of our ladies sempai has all passed their 5th Dan shinsa. Damn if only I've applied my sandan...! Perhaps I should save this new shinai bag with little sakura print when I receive my sandan menjo?

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Big Loop

Do you remember this lap on the map? (the blue one)

Yesterday at 7.30pm I tried running the full lap once more. I've been jogging along the riverside on the days I can't kendo. It's been a while since I time myself.

Stopwatch that shows my time, without stopping in the middle:-

Yes I made the full round - within half a year of running!!

I was accompanied by quite a lot of other runners going anti-clockwise: a group of 20 students from the nearby sports college, a group of 10 firemen from the nearby fire station, plus 5 people wearing the same "Standard Charter Marathon '06" t shirt!

The Asian Tournament shares the same date as the Standard Charter Marathon (much like the New York one, marathon around town), which is this weekend! Time to pump up!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Welcome to Year 2007


Within the first 2 weeks of my job hunt, I received an offer from a decent graphic design studio. I've also spent an afternoon chatting with the director of one of the top 3 studio in town. He gave me invaluable advice on surviving in the local design scene, adding to the positive thinking and confidence transferred from that conversation.

Anyway, after the Chinese New Year holiday in the coming weekend, and finishing the remaining mundane freelance projects, I'll be working in a design team that values my creative work.

...Which also means that I can go to regular training now. At the last minute, I signed myself up for the Asian Tournament. It seems like 99% membership of our dojo is going to take part in it, and there's no reason now for me to just stand there and watch!

Happy New Year everyone. Did you notice I've changed to yet? The 13th WKC special site is still under construction. I should get it done over the holiday really...

Monday, January 29, 2007

The 9th President Trophy Tournament

It's great to have a camera now with the function for colour correction - at least I can show some presentable shots from now on...

At the last minute I found out that I got into the all-girl team from my dojo. I wasn't really expecting anything from this tournament. I've only get back into twice-per-week training since Jan, and I've skipped Thursday's to work on a zzzz project overnight. Anyway, I don't have the "you have to win" pressure on me, which makes the day more enjoyable.

There's this trend in our little city that audience has to cheer out loud. Sorry but we're ignoring your concept of budo - and our act is even encouraged by our sensei. It holds the team and the dojo together, better than doing your kendo in 3 minutes and not having further business watching.

I fought as Jiho in the first matches of the day, after the kids competition and a mass warm-up. Strange but I think the recent extra shiai preparations helped, that I wasn't frozen in sonkyo etc. It must have been more than 8 months since the last time I fought in a formal shiai with 3 referees.

Even more suprising was that I scored first on my opponent with a BRILLIANT hiki-kote. The sort of hiki-kote that I really created the chance, committed on the cut, and caused 3 flags up instantly. Too bad I lost nihonme by a kote-nuki-men. I lost my focus after that, started cutting in messy mode and drew my match.

For the rest of the fights I advised on the girls to keep the points for decision match after taisho-sen. And as expected, the 5 fights went as 1-1, 1-1, 1-0, 0-1, 0-0 and we need to get that golden ippon. We pushed Takahashi-san to represent us (since no one else has the confidence), who lost eventually.

Our opponents was around 1-2 dan level from HKKA's dojo, which is quite similar to my team. If only I, or anyone kept a point up. Zannen desu.

We have 4 teams from our dojo, 3 went on to the 2nd round. My team went on to become a cheerleading team.

Our A team went the furtherest to the FINALS - Amy, Naganawa, Michael, Angus, Mark Stone - but lost 4-1 to the "fake-Korean" all-white Sekishinkan team. The fights has been exciting though, at least from a spectator point of view.

That hiki-kote I scored does fire me up a bit, especially there are people coming to me telling me how good it was. Yet I'm again in job-seeking mood, and have kindly declined committing to fight at the coming Asian Tournament in March. I've sent out a few letters last week, and if my life gets better next month with a stable job, I wouldn't mind. We'll see...

Monday, January 15, 2007


In 2 week's time we are going to have our local team tournament. Practice has been intense lately. For some reason everybody seems quite keen to fight, especially with the new practice arrangement - fitness on Thurs, waza on Sat, and an extra Sunday shiai keiko.

It was a nightmare at work and only early this month I'm the acceptable 2 practice a week of kendo. Life's like that and we try to make most of it. One of my dojomates, and a friend to many readers here, Mark Stone, had his 1-week-old baby daughter to look after with, struggled to show up for our shiai keiko.

The toughest part has to go with the fitness training on Thurs - it was a lot more fum with the kids around, but the level of tiredness stays for the next 4 days---!!! Apart from the suburi and such, we also got shuttle-run-with-push-ups and human-tunnel-crawl. All highly military. Perhaps Eda-sensei wants to see if bodybuilding like Team USA will pump us all up and ready for the taikai.

I haven't fought in shiai for quite a long while (or even in regular keiko...) - but got arrange into the "A" team everyone thinks, fighting taisho position. With all these responsiblity thoughts coming in, I should just stick with the kendo for this month, just to get back to it. In next month I'll be back in the jobhunt, and probably can't commit to anything at all.

Last Sun's shiai keiko was not too bad. M-M vs Nigata-san, 0-D vs Noyori-san, 0-0 vs Pik and Leo who's in Nito. I can feel that my cuts went ok. But Oda-san (senpai in charge) did comment about the "No seme" part. All I've been getting for the past few month is just some very kihon partnered exercise. It's very hard to create seme without actually doing a lot of jikeiko or shiai... Something I miss out on with my away periods for "work".

Saturday, January 06, 2007