A few days ago Miyako Kendogu (an international colab between Andy Fisher and Tozando Co.) announced their newly introduced "Tsubasa" bogu set. I've never heard anything but good reviews of Miyako supplies and have been considering buying a bogu from them. The only thing that's kept me back is their rather high price point. Where a starter bogu from Kendo24 would set me back roughly 350 euros (or one form Nine Circles is roughly 300), the stuff from Miyako usually starts at 500 euros and easily goes above 800.
The introduction offer for the Tsubasa set is awesome though: 50% off! Meaning that the set would set you back 419 euros, instead of 840. Holy crap! And because international shipping is free, it's a steal! What's even better is that Andy assures me that Miyako adjusts men for kendoka who wear glasses for free. Wow.
That's a good enough offer to make me seriously consider it!
Holy shit! Holy crap! OMG!... Marli just OKed and ordered the set to my measurements!!!! I'm still doubting between panic and sheer overjoyment! *panic* *joy*
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Yesterday's kendo practice was both great and a letdown at the same time.
It was absolutely awesome to have so many kendoka turn up! No less than twenty people were present, divided 10:10 between people with and without bogu. And the practice that we did was wonderful, with many techniques I'd never done before! But I was also confronted heavily with a lacking in my stamina.
During class I gave up no less than three times ( =_=;)
With the first, my arms just couldn't keep up with the pace. During the second I felt exhausted. During the third I felt like a tube of toothpaste, squeezed completely empty. It's no excuse and it's not a consolation either, but I wasn't the only one. Which led to a rather stern (and deservedly so!) lecture at the end of class. Sensei and fukushou were rather displeased with the lack of endurance shown during class. Especially during something as early and basic as warmup!
It's rather shameful that so many of us have these issues. Would you imagine how awful it'd make the Renshinjuku Almere dojo look during seminars or national events, if our students show fatigue so quickly?! It's come to the point that we're going to use bootcamp style warming up: if anyone drops out during an exercise, the whole group will need to redo the whole exercise. Kris-fukushou repeatedly refered to his speech from last week: our whole team needs to work towards a higher level! We shouldn't be happy puttering about at our current entry-level kendo!
Now. i'm not going to let this put a damper on my mood or my perseverance. On the contrary! Martijn and I started running practice and Sander and I have decided that we need to push eachother. We need to friggin' keep going! FIGHT! For such a philosophical martial art, kendo really is damn demanding on your physique.
With that aside... Waza practice had us doing all manner of stuff that's new and advanced to me! Hiki-men, hiki-men-kote, hiki-men-kote-do, all of which taught me that my initial steps/stomps backwards are too large. After my first strike I'm already out of range, so I can't make any follow-ups. The followed strings of kote, kote-men, kote-men-do and hiki-men back and forth across the gym. Jigeiko was a big letdown for me. I took on Nick, followed by Martijn and that was that. I couldn't go on anymore.
At the end of class there was one small extra that made me feel better though! Ton-sensei asked me how I thought I was doing, to which I replied that I'm not going to be proud of myself as my stamina is horrible and because I'm still making the same mistakes I was in my first month of kendo a year ago. Sensei indicated that he was actually quite pleased with my progress in bogu. For someone on his third week in armor I was apparently adjusting quite well. Nice to hear :)
Speaking of working towards a new level: I've volunteered to teach Aaron-sempai how to do shinai maintenance. At roughly eleven years he may be my junior by a factor two, but at kendo he is my senior. He's been doing it longer than I have and I can honestly say that I admire him for the potential he shows! He's got good fighting spirit, right now it's just his age that gets in his way. By teaching him the basics of maintenance I hope to help him along just a little bit.
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Over the past week Marli's Macbook had been performing worse than usual. Time Machine kept on hanging, Spotlight kept on using 100% CPU on one core and Safari and iPhoto were very slow. What with TM and SL being hard drive intensive software I reckoned I'd better check out the hard drive using Disk Utility (which does an fsck). Bingo: plenty of problems detected! To a point where DU informed me I needed to boot from another drive, because the laptop's drive was too broken. :(
Booting from the recovery partition using CMD-R quickly quickly gave me access to DU again, which after a while of running puked the following error: "Disk Utility can't repair this disk. Back up as many of your files as possible, reformat the disk, and restore your backed-up files.". Basically it's telling me to grab what you can and run to the hills! Oy vey!
Luckily we regularly make full hard drive images of our laptops, using asr (the command line access to Disk Utility). Booting from Marli's drive image was a cinch, as was making an extra copy of her home directory from the laptop. Sure, Time Machine makes hourly backups, but it never hurts to have an extra copy! The course of action was:
Making the extra backup took the most time because Marli's 42GB was turned into 120GB because the "cp -rp" made symlinks into actual files; took four hours in all! The restoration was a snap: 1.5 hours for the drive image, 2 hours for the OS upgrade and software updates, 1 hour for the homedir restore. And most of that time was spent waiting, not actually doing anything.
While waiting for Marli's laptop to do her thing I took it upon myself to give our NAS a once-over as well. The file systems had some minor problems which were fixed easily. I then performed maintenance on the iPhoto database using the built-in tools and by doing a sqlite vacuum. That made a huge difference! Finally, because our iPhoto resides on an AFP share on our NAS I tweaked the AFP kernel settings on both our laptops.
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I don't know why, but today's class was a rather small group! Ton-sensei and Kris-fukushou led the training. Hugo and two newbies were doing basics and there were six of us in full armor: Tiamat, Aaron, Sander, Houdaifa, Charl and me. I guess we owe it to the smaller group that our rhythm.
0900-0930 was filled with kata as usual. Warming up included the stretching and the usual suburi, but then we switched to pairs to do contact haya-suburi. No running or footwork this time, we immediately got into armor. We practice kirikaeshi, men-uchi and kote-men as a group and then split up. Don't know what the armor-less folks were doing, but Kris took us through many interesting techniques, including suriage waza (parry on kote, then hit men) and maki waza (spiral the opponent's shinai to open a strike).
For fun and learning, the kendoka in bogu then all lined up for shiai with Charl (our only 1-dan student) who beat every single one of them. Class was then closed with uchikomi geiko, where all students had passes at Ton-sensei, Kris and Charl. During our debriefing Kris did impress upon us that he wasn't very pleased with the progress we're making... or actually, the lack thereof. All of us really need to step up to the challenge and push ourselves harder if we want to reach the next level as a group!
Notable flaws in my work today:
In closing, let me just say that I enjoy the hell out of participating in full! I'm so glad that I finally get to do real fights! I'm so grateful to Martijn, for lending me his helmet! _/-o_
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I was pretty happy when I got my hands on iTunes Match. Still am by the way. But Marli? Not so much! You see, when at least one of the people using the account actually care about things like play counts and star ratings, you need to take a really good approach in switching to Match. Case in point, the rather pissed off voice mail left during kendo practice this morning ^_^;
What'd happened? Thursday I'd immediately set my Mac to syncing with iCloud and yesterday morning it was done. It all works swimmingly and I was playing music from the cloud all day at the office. Great stuff! So in the afternoon I told Marli to enable it on her Macbook as well. Clickety-click and you're done. Until this morning when she was rather unpleasantly surprised to find that all of her playlists and her meticulously kept database had been fscked up. Because my Macbook was the first to sync, iCloud assumed that it was also -my- ratings and playcounts that mattered most. She also had now gone from a library listing of ~3300 songs, to ~9000 songs. And she really doesn't want to see all my music :D
So! Here's my tips when sharing an iTunes Match account between two people, hoping that one of them (like me) does not care about play count and star ratings.
The main library of the caring user will still show -all- of the music in iCloud, but at least the ratings and such will be retained.
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I love putting design on clothes in vinyl or print. I've made festival shirts for Dana, anime/japan shirts for my sister and Arrow Emblem clothing for myself. Recently I asked permission from Heeren-sensei, the founder of Renshinjuku kendo dojo, to use the Renshinjuku logo on some sports gear. I am very grateful that he allows me to do so.
The group of people at our Almere dojo has been very welcoming and friendly to newbies. They're very supporting and I'm very proud to have become part of this team! I'd love to have a sweater or jacket with our dojo logo on it, to wear when I'm out running. That way I'll be reminded of my classmates and their support. I'll remember exactly why I'm trying to build more stamina :)
The picture above shows a few mockups I've put together at SpreadShirt.nl. I've always been very pleased with the quality of their work; their vinyl prints are very sharp!
Right, already I'm on the second revision. Dropped the big surname off the shirt and am just using Almere on it. The jacket and sweater will still have a surname on it (so I don't "lose" it), but much smaller on the front. Here is v1.
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The day got off to a slow start. I was achy and dull and slow and had trouble waking up. First thing I did was to take my shaving gear downstairs to make myself look presentable for kendo practice. That's one of the many things I've learned about kendo: make sure that you are clean, look neat and that you have your stuff together. It's one of the many psychological aspects of the sport. It's a reassurance to yourself and it also signals to your classmates and opponents that you are ready and that you take things seriously.
A trim and a shave later I double checked my bags and got Dana downstairs for breakfast. As expected, Martijn showed up at 0830 after which we piled into my Honda and drove to the dojo. We were running a little bit late. Class started as usual: get dressed, get your gear setup in the dojo and then warm up and practice kata. Martijn and I went through kata 1 through 4 twice and I got a rather important pointer from Raoul-sempai: my judgement of the maai is completely off! Martijn doesn't even have to step back in kata 1 in order to avoid my strike. I need to be more confident and closer.
Warming up was the usual: stretching, suburi and footwork training. Extra attention was paid to the fumikomi aspect, which is my goal for 2012. With regards to fumikomi I'm doing plenty of things wrong!
The last point was also noticed during jigeiko, where Ton-sensei kept shoving me in my back after I struck him. Basically: "why the heck are you slowing down, while you should be speeding up?!" He's right of course ^_^
After warming up we all got geared up. I wasn't the slowest (huzzah!) but I did need to redo my men at least once afterwards. The chin pad I was wearing kept the men from sitting right, so I'll replace that with the pillow I made. The better part of the hour was spent on waza practice: debana-men, men/suriage-men, men/suriage-kote, kote/do, men/hiki-men. I might've forgotten some, or gotten names wrong though :D Maybe Hillen or Kris can name them all again.
And the jigeiko! Because I was redoing my men I came late to the party and four pairs had already formed. So when Martijn bowed out I quickly grabbed the chance to 'dance' with Yann. Yann then was asked to sparr by Ton-sensei, but I followed quickly thereafter. And then class was already over! We officially closed the session in our traditional sense, after which Kris, Martijn, Charel and I quickly donned our men again! In preparation of the february 19th kyu tournament, Kris quickly walked me through the basics and etiquette of shiai. And finally ten minutes of jigeiko, which were interspersed with helpful comments and analysis. He was going easy on me ;)
Because I was late in going home I got dressed as quickly as I could. Mercifully my hakama cooperated perfectly when I folded it! :D Back home all my sweat drenched gear (it's never been this wet before!) was dispatched to the laundry and my bogu was set out to airdry. Speaking of "back home": Marli and Dana had gone out to Bij Honing for sandwhiches! Fillet Americain and salmon salad make a great lunch! :9
To finish it all off, simply because we could, all three of us took a bath together. So now we're all relaxed, comfortable and squaky clean! I'll probably do a little bit of cleaning around the house this afternoon, take a short nap and fiddle around with Shadow Era.
What a great day!
Something else important that Kris taught me during our private jigeiko: "Don't let them see that you're tired". Sure, you're tired! But instead mask it by changing your pace. I'm not eightteen anymore and I can't go head to head using my younger opponents' styles. I can only keep up a flurry of blows for so long, so I'll need to be smart about it. When do I unleash a torrent of strikes? And when do I bide my time, using other techniques?
The Sankei kendo glasses worked a treat by the way! They steamed up a little bit later on during class, but once I got moving again that was quickly resolved. At the start of class they were uncomfortably tight, but after getting really into the swing of things I didn't even notice anymore. The pressure of the men himo on my temples was worse, as was the sting of the strikes to my head ^_^
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o WOOHOO! /o/
Last saturday we discovered that the uchiwa in my borrowed men from Ton-sensei wasn't wearable with my glasses. Despiriting and all. But then Martijn gave me an awesome offer! He's willing to lend me -his- brand new men, so I can practice in the dojo and even take part in the dutch kyu tournaments in february!
Domo arigatou Martijn!
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Today was the first class of 2012. It wasn't very busy, but it was a nice class nonetheless! We even had two newbies. Martijn also taught me the basics of kata number 4 (picture above), which really is a pretty cool one!
Sensei and fukushou asked us to pick one or two goals for this new year, which we were to attain by the end of the year. I picked fumikomi: by the end of 2012 I want to be able to pull of decent and consistent fumikomi.
Learning points from today's class:
Marli came to class to take photographs; that was great :) She was originally invited to make our 2012 groupshot, but then also stayed to shoot during the rest of class.
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*sigh* I'm feeling very, very awkward. I'm conflicted, I'm annoyed, I'm pissed off and I just don't know what to do.
My eyesight is awful, that's no secret. I am also a complete pansy, that's no secret either. I cannot force myself to wear contacts, so it's just glasses for me. Sadly, the kendo glasses I ordered recently just don't seem to be working with the standard helmets I've encoutered so far. Meaning that for the first time in my life my eyesight is going to prevent me from doing something I love: without good eyesight and without proper protection I'll never be able to take part in kendo.
This has made me rethink churgery. (EDIT: "churgery"?! Really! I must've been out of it yesterday!)
Laser correction however is not performed under general anasthesia meaning that it's not going to happen. If I can't put contacts in or even touch my own eyeball, then no way in hell is anybody going to put clamps on my eyeball and prod my eyes. No. I need to be out cold. Which leaves us with lens implants. Sounds good to me.
Only, it'll cost roughly 2000 euros per eyeball. And it requires that my eyes are stable, which they aren't. So I'm probably not a viable patient and it'll cost us quite some money out of our own pockets.
So many unanswered questions. So few options. But I do know this: I really, really want better eyes. And I really, really want to do kendo. I'll need to have a chat with my GP so she can refer me to an optometrist or eye doctor for a good talk.
Honestly. If there ever was anything I could magically change about my body, it'd be my eyesight. Muscles I can take care of myself and I don't care about the stereotypical male "Oooh, I wish I could change that!". My eyes. Come on, magic genie! Come on, Celestia!
In the mean time I'll just keep on looking for a way to fit glasses inside my kendo helmet. That's gonna cost a penny too :|
It might be "wrong" thinking, a broken thought process perhaps, but I feel it's ironic, despiriting and humbling that I'm letting me stop myself from practicing a martial art that is as much about spirit and mental force as it's about physical strength simply because "I can't do something". To the point that I feel unworthy even trying to be part of it. If I can't overcome my own fears and reflexes over touching my eyeballs, how the heck am I going to overcome my adversaries?!
Plenty of people have assured me that "it's easy to learn" and "you'll definitely get used to it". But then the frustrated voice in me yells, "Really?! Really? How are you going to teach an adult to overcome a reflex that's been burned into his mind twenty years ago? The same adult who gets violent to anybody going near his eyes?". It's not about getting me to physically touch my eye, it's about overcoming childhood traumas that have become deeply ingrained.
Maybe I have it the wrong way around. Maybe years of kendo will help me overcome this crap. Maybe I'll be able to try contacts in a few years -because- of kendo. And to think that I was this --> <-- close to saying "I'm not worthy of studying kendo".
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As I wrote a few days ago we have been using the year's end downtime at the dojo for maintenance of our equipment.
On the 30th Martijn came to visit, to theorize about our practice dummy and to check his shinai. He also was kind enough to put new lacing in my kote. Both tasks were easily done using the wonderful and free kendo equipment manual PDF. That book has taught me so much! That same evening I put a new belt on the tare and started thinking about sewing a zekken.
Which is exactly what I did! Employing a rather crude split stich I embroidered my name and our dojo's name, as per the standard for zekken. Let me tell you, a thirty-something guy doing embroidery on the train draws some weird looks ;) Now, the result might not be beautiful, but I'm happy nonetheless. And once my 'real' zekken comes in from kendo24 I can still use this one as a small bag to keep my valuables in the dojo.
Finally I put together a simple pillow to put inside the men I borrowed from Loyer-sensei. It's a bit too big for me and the pillow provides enough padding to keep it in place. That's fifteen euros saved right there!
I really enjoy how kendo (a very active and aggressive sport) has lead me to so many calming and relaxing manual activities! I get a lot of fulfilment from knowing that I can properly honor my equipment by providing it with the required maintenance myself. Some people might swing a shinai like a broomstick or muffle their hakama into a gym bag, but to me those things are more than simply tools. And by letting kendo engage my creative side it's become a bigger part of my life.
Now if only I could learn to apply the psychological and mental lessons in real life as well! ;)
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All content, with exception of "borrowed" blogpost images, or unless otherwise indicated, is copyright of Thomas Sluyter. The character Kilala the cat-demon is copyright of Rumiko Takahashi and used here without permission.