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RHCE exams, here I come

2014-07-29 21:32:00

Yes, this blog has been quiet for quite a while. In part this is because I've put most of my private stuff behind logins, but also because I've had my professional development on a backburner due to my book translation. 

But now I've started studying for my RHCE certification. A year ago (has it been that long?!) I achieved my RHCSA, which I'll now follow up with the Engineer's degree. Red Hat will still offer the RHEL6 exams until the 19th of december, so I'd better get my ass in gear :)


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F.Lux on Linux: oh happy day!

2014-07-29 21:27:00

Oh happy day! I've been using F.Lux on my Macs for years now and my eyes thank me for it. This great piece of software will automatically adjust the color temperature of your computer's screen, based on your location and light in your surroundings. 

During the day your screen's white will be white, but in the evenings it'll slowly turn much more orange. During this change you won't even notice it's happening, but the end result is awesome. You'll still be seeing "white" but with much less eyestrain. Even better: supposedly the smaller amount of blue light will help in falling asleep later on. 

Now that I've started studying for my RHCE exams, I'm working extensively on CentOS again. Hellooooo bright light! 

But not anymore. Turns out that xflux is a thing! It's a Linux daemon that quite literally is F.Lux, for Linux. No more burnt out corneas! 


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Dutch kendo kata book (Nederlandstalig kendo kata boek)

2014-05-21 14:53:00

Historically, the western kendoka has had a tough time finding books and materials to study in his native language. It is only natural that most texts on the subject of kendo and kendo kata are published in the Japanese language.

The Netherlands and Belgium could be considered a very small market for kendo-related books. Thus, the only kendo books in the dutch language that I am aware of are Louis Vitalis-sensei‘s book and the translation of Jeff Broderick’s book.

 

A dutch kendo kata book

It is with great pleasure that we announce the publication of a brand new, dutch kendo book.

Nihon Kendo no Kata & Kihon Bokuto Waza” is a translation of Stephen Quinlan-sensei‘s essay on both the traditional kendo kata and on the modern set of waza practices with bokuto. Thomas Sluyter translated the book into the dutch language, in cooperation with Quinlan-sensei.

 

 

 

Availability

The book is available both in print and as a free ebook.

The original, english version can be obtained here.

 

Contents

The following subjects are covered:

 

About the book

As teachers at the Kingston Kendo Club in Canada, Stephen and Christina Quinlan have written many study materials for their students. One of their largest bodies of work is this particular book, “Nihon Kendo no Kata & Kihon Bokuto Waza“. The book combines literal, technical descriptions of each kata with deep backgrounds on the history, and the philosophy behind the kata. Many books by esteemed teachers were referenced to build this comprehensive body of knowledge.

Thomas Sluyter is a relatively new student of kendo at Renshinjuku Kendo in Amstelveen, the Netherlands. As an avid reader of kendo books, he felt that this particular book should be read by as many Dutch kendoka as possible.


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Info on the knee injury

2013-10-19 19:37:00

Good news about my sports injury: I went to see a physio therapist and he agrees with the previous assessment that nothing's actually damaged in my knee. The theory remains as before: I twisted my knee "in a bad way" during kendo and something got pinched. That something is probably my meniscus, a cartilege-like layer that's in between the knee joint. 

In knee injuries you'll often see tearing of the meniscus, which will result in permanent pain and will need to be operated on. That's not the case with me and the doctors think it merely got pinched or hurt. Now, whenever I get pains, that's because the meniscus is being stressed in that same spot. Doc says the pain could go away completely with a few months, or that it could be permanent. It's not dangerous, just annoying. The best way to avoid the pains is to take a good, hard look at my technique in kendo. 


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Kendo practice: intense and awesome

2013-09-11 07:25:00

 

The past few weeks have been pretty intensive! Aside from the fact that I need to take a few days off from kendo these weeks (birthdays and such), it's been hard work. Awesome, hard work. They're working us hard in both Almere and in Amstelveen.

Yesterday's class in Amstelveen again put focus on te-no-uchi training and the left hand. After the usual suburi and warming-up, we were again instructed to practice men strikes with motodachi. Five repetitions of fifty shomen, followed by two repetitions of thirty double shomen. Heeren-sensei reminded us that it's not just an exercise to make our arms tired, but that we're really here to practice our left hand. Like before:

When it comes to breathing, don't try to stick to a rhythm of in-and-out breathing that attempts to match your striking pattern. Instead, take a deep breath and keep on breathing out until there's no more. Then breathe in again. Heeren-sensei always tries to get in as many strikes with one breath as possible. 

We were all reminded that breathing should not be done "high" in the lungs, but "low" and from the "hara". In both Japanese and Chinese arts, the "hara" (or the "lower dantian", 下丹田) is said to be the seat of your energy and to be the physical center of gravity of your body. (more here) By breathing from the hara one ensures at least two things:

  1. #mce_temp_url#You are regulating your breathing and getting enough oxygen without hyperventilating.
  2. You are building force in both your body and your kiai/kakegoe.

A way to check that you're breathing right, is to tie your hakama himo pretty tightly around the hara, which ensures that you feel your hakama tightening when breathing in. A very clear difference was presented, between a "high" and a "low" kakegoe. The one produced from the hara was louder, solid and rolls over your opponent.

Our left-hand training continued after seiza, with kirikaeshi interval training and normal kirikaeshi after jigeiko. In both exercises we were told to pay close attention to aite's left hand. It should not be going sideways or wide, but through the center line. "Helicoptering" should be avoided at all costs. Even in kirikaeshi, strikes will be straight for the most part only swerving left or right close to the end. If you feel that aite's left hand is straying, drop your shinai so he will hit your men thus alerting him of the problem.

Twenty minutes of jigeiko were had. Heeren-sensei impressed upon us the importance of practicing the lessons from kihon keiko in jigeiko.

In my case I fought three people and I am happy to see my stamina returning. I did not need to sit down between bouts, but only took a short one minute breather. I feel confident about all three rounds, against Miyahara-sensei, Zicarlo-sempai and Raoul-sempai. With Raoul I took on a student role, letting him coach and warn me extensively regarding my posture and about tension in my muscles. With Machi and Zicarlo, I took a more competitive approach which turned out very well. I tried to maintain a strong kamae and looked them both squarely in the eyes (attempting enzan no metsuke). Whenever I attacked, I tried to stick to the basics: kote-men, oki-men and hayai-men. I also did many hiki-men against Zicarlo. I'm very happy that he congratulated me on my jigeiko, remarking "You don't attack often, but when you do it's good and tidy!" I'm glad that my men strikes often hit the datotsubui.

Recently, Marli has been pressing me to attempt my shodan grading. I've been holding off on that, mostly because of insecurity. I think that, as shodan, one has an exemplary role and I feel that I cannot set a proper example if I have to keep bowing out due to exhaustion. Then again, both Heeren-sensei and Jeroen-sempai reminded me that everyone can tell I'm putting in my best effort and that I keep going despite my exhaustion. Combining all of that with Marli's continued super support and yesterday's class, I now feel more confident about attempting the December grading. I'll have a chat with the NKR people to see if I've met the conditions.

 


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Start of the new kendo season

2013-08-28 06:12:00

Last week saw the start of the 2013/14 kendo season at Renshinjuku dojo. I'm very happy that Heeren-sensei is joining us again after his prolonged absence. On the other hand, I still haven't seen any of the other teachers including Tsuyuguchi-sensei. As per yesterday we moved to our new training hall at Jane Addamslaan, now that the Westend hall is getting decomissioned. 

The first two classes of the season were spent on rebuilding our physical condition after a few weeks of slacking off* and on improving tenouchi (手の内, lit. "the inside of your hand"). Tenouchi is the term used to describe a specific kind of grip or movement, made using your hands and wrists at the moment when a strike connects. Geoff Salmon-sensei has written a lot about it

Heeren-sensei reminded us of the importance of training at home. Once or twice a week in the dojo isn't enough if you want to make real progress! Doing suburi will keep you agile and will help with tenouchi. And making a striking dummy will even let you do basic kihon practice! You can even do suburi inside, but making a suburito from old shinai parts.

After the usual warmup routing, we proceeded to bogu-less exercises. Motodachi receives and counts men strikes on his shinai, which is held in front of his face. Each person needs to do fifty strikes, totaled up to 150 by rotating three times. Last week we also included two times fifty hayai suburi. Heeren-sensei asked us to do these exercises with three things in mind:

  1. The upswing reaches all the way back, tapping your rear.
  2. The upswing has your left hand passing right over your head, almost combing through your hair.
  3. The strike should be made strongly, focusing on the left hand.

These three factors combined help you train tenouchi.

For similar reason we then proceed to interval training, with each couple doing kirikaeshi all 'round the perimeter of the dojo floor. Each person needs to make a minimum of four rounds. Heeren-sensei pointed out the following:

Class is finished with 10-15 minutes of free jigeiko and kirikaeshi.

*: In my case that's three months due to my knee injury. After visiting my GP I stopped kendo a month early. Despite the doctor's expectations it took more than two weeks to get rid of all the pains. More like six to eight. After that the pain was gone, but reappeared after last week's class. I've now bought a knee brace, which appears to be helping a lot. I still need to have a checkup by a physio-therapist.


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Installing CentOS Linux as default OS on a Macbook

2013-08-12 16:46:00

While preparing for my RHCSA exams, I was in dire need of a Linux playground. At first I could make do with virtual machines running inside Parallels Workstation on my Macbook. But in order to use Michael Jang's practice exams I really needed to run Linux as the main OS (the tests require KVM virtualization). I tried and I tried and I tried but CentOS refused to boot, mostly ending up on the grey Tux / penguin screen of rEFIt

On my final attempt I managed to get it running. I started off with this set of instructions, which got me most of the way. After resyncing the partition table using rEFIt's menu, using the rEFIt boot menu would still send me to the grey penguin screen. But then I found this page! It turns out that rEFIt is only needed in order to tell EFI about the Linux boot partition! Booting is then done using the normal Apple boot loader!

Just hold down the ALT button after powerin up and then choose the disk labeled "Windows". And presto! It works, CentOS boots up just fine. You can simply set it to the default boot disk, provided that you left OS X on there as well (by using the Boot Disk Selector).


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RHCSA achieved

2013-08-12 16:23:00

Huzzah! As I'd hoped, I passed my RHCSA examination this morning. Not only is this a sign that I'm learning good things about Linux, but it also puts me 100% in the green for my continued CISSP-hood: 101 points in domain A and 62 in domain B: 163/120 required points.

I can't be very specific about the examination due to the NDAs, but I can tell a little bit about my personal experience. 

The testing center in Utrecht was pleasant. It's close to the highway and easily accessible because it's not in the middle of town. The amenities are modern and customer-friendly. The testing room itself is decent and the kiosk setup is exactly as shown in Red Hat videos. Personally, I am very happy that RH started with the kiosk exams because of the flexibility it offers. With this new method, you can sit for RHCSA/RHCE/etc almost every day, instead of being bound to a specifc date. 

The kiosk exam comes with continuous, online proctoring meaning that you're not stuck of something goes wrong. In a normal exam situation you'd be able to flag down a proctor and in this case you can simply type in the chatbox to get help. And I did need it on two occasions because something was broken on the RH-side. The online support crew was very helpful and quick to react! They helped me out wonderfully!

I prepared for the test by using two of Michael Jang's books: the RHCSA/RHCE study guide and the RHCSA/RHCE practice exams. If you decide to get those books, I suggest you do NOT go for the e-books because the physical books include DVDs with practice materials. Without going into details of the exams, I found that Jang's books provided me ample preparation for the test. However, it certainly helps to do further investigation on your own, for those subjects that you're not yet familiar with. 


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