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<< 9 / 2012 11 / 2012 >>

Kendo lexicon: seiretsu and dojo

2012-10-28 22:08:00

For many of our new members, all the Japanese terms used in class can be confusing. From my own experience I know it’s taken me months to get to know most of the common terms. Of course students can find help in the glossary compiled by our teachers, but at times a bit of extra explanation may be helpful.

We continue our series of explanatory articles with commands from the line-up. We will also provide an explanation of dojo layout.

As noisy and violent kendo class may be, there are two moments that form a stark contrast: at the beginning and end of class all students line up to thank their classmates and teachers and to meditate. The dojo is plunged into quiet, while students prepare their armor and ready themselves. Usually it’s the highest ranking student (not the sensei themselves) who call out the following commands.

The preceding paragraphs have already mentioned a lot of terms describing parts of the dojo. Below is a drawing of the Amstelveen dojo, with the most important terms shown in the right location. Both the drawing and the lexicon below could only have been made because of Dillon Lin’s excellent article on dojo layout.

The following list is ordered from the entrance, towards the highest and most important position in the room.
A few other elements often seen in dojo, but not ours are:

Our Amstelveen dojo may have neither of these two, but one could argue that the flag replaces the kamidana. Our flag is there to remind us of the dojo motto and to act as a reminder of the required frame of mind.

As always, I would like to thank Zicarlo for reviewing this article. tags: , ,

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Kendo class and 'career' planning

2012-10-28 08:45:00

Lately the teachers at Renshinjuku kendo dojo have been pushing the students to challenge themselves. They're getting as many students as possible to enroll in the dutch national champioships and they also want students to prepare for their exams. Sadly I can't join the NK (due to planning) and I don't feel I'm ready to take the exams either. Kris-fukushou confirmed this to marli, when they were having a chat while I was dressing: if I were to go for ikkyu now I'd definitely not make the grade, but if I work hard I can definitely give it a good shot next winter. And I will!

I'll discuss the matter with Heeren-sensei, Loyer-sensei and both Hillen and Kris, to see what they think I need to work on the most.

Saturday's class got off to a slow start. People came in a bit too late, so we only got things on the road by 0925. In the end, turnup was not bad with eight guys in bogu and about a dozen beginners without armor. We started with the usual warming-up, after which we quickly went into seiretsu. While Loyer-sensei took the utmost beginners aside, the novices joined the more advanced group for kihon practice. The guys in bogu acted as motodachi, while the novices practiced oki-men and oki-kote-men

Then, waza practice! We started with basic kirikaeshimen and kote-men drills, then quickly moving onto more advanced materials: double hiki-men, hiki-kote-men and hiki-men-kote-do. As Kris and Hillen explained, the object is to push the envelope on our grasp of distance and footwork. In these drills it's no use to over-think your actions as a lot of it comes down to feeling what you're doing. You do an exercise, then you very quickly analyse your actions and then go on with another drill. The basics come down to:

  1. Start in taiatari.
  2. Your left foot moves backwards while your shinai moves back just enough to get a clear shot.
  3. You fumikomi when striking and land about a foot behind where you started.
  4. The second strike is made with fumikomi in the exact same spot.
  5. The third strike is made in the same spot, with the fumikomi launching you backwards.

As was said, if you overthink this then you'll just get stuck as I did. I tried to do the exercises in slow motion, but then everything fell apart. Instead, try it at 0.8 or really just 1.0 of the desired speed. 

The latter part of practice was spent on reacting to motodachi's men and kote attacks. We were free to try any techniques we like, so I focused on debana-kote, ai-kote-men and kaeshi-men. For those people joining the NK next week, we did short practice shiai. I fought Tiamat-sempai

Individual pointers I received from my teachers:

Class was closed with some reminders from the teachers. tags: , ,

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Kendo lexicon: warmup and suburi

2012-10-24 22:09:00

For many of our new members, all the Japanese terms used in class can be confusing. From my own experience I know it’s taken me months to get to know most of the common terms. Of course students can find help in the glossary compiled by our teachers, but at times a bit of extra explanation may be helpful.

We continue our series of explanatory articles with words and phrases from warming up.

We will start with a list of common stretching positions, which you will hear every week when training in Amstelveen as large parts of class are conducted in Japanese. Funnily enough, in Japanese “stretching” is a loanword from english: ã‚¹ãƒˆãƒ¬ãƒƒãƒ (su-to-re-chi).

After stretching, we proceed to suburi (素振り), lit. “practice swing“, from ç´  (plain, natural) and 振り (swing). You will often also hear this called “empty strikes” as we are performing strikes without hitting any target. There are many kinds of suburi,where the following are the ones most often performed in our dojo.

As part of the instructions for suburi you will often hear additional commands.
  • Kamae to (構えと) Stand in chudan no kamae.
  • Mae & ushiromae (前 & 後ろ前) Respectively forwards and backwards. You will hear these in exercises like the square/box or cross.
  • Hidari & migi (å·¦ & 右) Respectively left and right. You will hear these in exercises that incorporate sayu men strike, like the aforementioned square/box/cross.
  • Ni-ju pon, san-ju pon, yon-ju pon etc. Literally “20 count”, “30 count”, “40 count”. Basically, the amount of suburi you are expected to do. It is suggested that you learn to count to at least 100 in Japanese.

With many thanks to Kiwa-sempai for providing the list of stretching commands and to Zicarlo for providing more help on kanji on missing terms. tags: , ,

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There's something you don't see every day

2012-10-18 15:54:00

A molten sakigomu

I'd invited some of my classmates over for kendo equipment maintance and last night Sander joined me. I enjoy these evenings, not just because I like fixing equipment, but they're also a great chance to just shoot the breeze with people I normally only talk to in the dressing room. Well, that or we're bashing each others' heads in ;)

Before Sander's arrival I'd already sorted through Ton-sensei's bit bucket to see what's available. I had to get rid of a bunch of tsukagawa (handle covers) because they were covered in mold. Ditto for some of the sakigawa (tip cover). I quickly put everything into their own bags, to keep things tidy.

We got started on our own shinai, after which we moved on to a bunch of loaner shinai from our dojo. My own shinai had a broken take, after last tuesday's horrible night. Luckily the take was recoverable after getting rid of the split-off piece. Obviously I'll let the guys at the dojo check it over first, to make sure I'm not putting anyone in danger. Sander's shinai were still in good condition, so he was done pretty quickly.

Then! On to the loaners! While Sander worked on one of the adult's versions, I patched up the two kids' shinai. The first one went pretty quickly, but the second one provided a surprise! See the picture above: the sakigomu (a plastic or rubber stopper in the tip) had melted! I've never seen that before! The molten rubber had cemented the take together and the sakigawa was also hard to remove. In the picture above I've outlined what was left of the rubber in white. The part that sticks out on top was completely gone! :D I guess someone left that thing lying right next to a heater or something. I managed to clean everything up nicely with some turpentine, but now I need to dig through the bit bucket to find another sakigawa in the right size. 

I'm very happy for Sander, who completed his very first complete tear-down and build-up last night! He completely disassembled the loaner shinai, replaced one of the take (too worn down) and he even re-tied the sakigawa to a new tsuru. Great job! That knot is a bit of a challenge! I know I'm keeping one of the worn, cut-off sakigawa for reference ;) tags: ,

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That didn't go too well (some good stuff as well)

2012-10-17 07:44:00

All of yesterday I'd been feeling crappy, so I wasn't altogether too confident going to kendo. It was nice going together with Herman and Charl though :)

As I'd feared I had to bow out during kihon practice, because I was soo tense and out of breath that I'd keel over if I didn't. I don't know what was up yesterday, but all my muscles are/were tight as heck and my breathing patterns were a complete mess. Meh. So I quickly joined Roelof-sensei and Herman at the beginners' side. There I practiced oki-men, sayu-men and the semete-men movements we've been working on for the past weeks.

Pointers that I was given during class:

During class I noticed that I'd cracked one of the take on my newer shinai. ( ;_;) I guess Roelof-sensei sure had a point when he said I was hitting too hard. I'll see if I can fix that tonight, otherwise I'll find another solution.

When it comes to good stuff (it's not all bad), I've been writing a lot for the new Renshinjuku kendo dojo website. Aside from summaries of the classes I attend and some news posts about kendo events, I have also started a series of lexicographical articles. I know from experience that all the Japanese terms and phrases can be confusing for beginners, which is why I want to take the time to explain them. Of course there's the dictionary list compiled by our teachers, but that only provides translations and little explanation.

First up in the series is an explanation of the various types of geiko ("training"). Next up, to be published on sunday, is an explanation of all the commands used during warming-up and the various types of suburi. In the near future I'll also write about the commands in seiretsu (plus some background on dojo layout) and about our equipment. tags: , , ,

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Kendo lexicon: keiko

2012-10-14 22:10:00

For many of our new members, all the Japanese terms used in class can be confusing. From my own experience I know it’s taken me months to get to know most of the common terms. Of course students can find help in the glossary compiled by our teachers, but at times a bit of extra explanation may be helpful.

We’ll start off this series of lexicon posts with the types of keiko.

The word keiko itself means “practice”, “study” or “training” and consists of two kanji, ç¨½ (kei, to think/consider) 古 (ko, old). One could say that everything we do in the dojo is keiko.

With many thanks to Zicarlo for advising on the additional meaning of various kanji. tags: , ,

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Hillen is back!

2012-10-13 12:51:00

Today started with a pleasant surprise: Hillen has returned to join Loyer-sensei and Kris-fukushou in teaching us. We also had a lovely, large group of 21 today with two fresh faces and four guys still working their way to wearing a uniform. With eight or nine guys in bogu it might not be much, but for Almere that's a decent show :)

After kata practice and warming up we quickly proceeded with kihon practice. Loyer-sensei took the newbies aside for the basics, while the beginners practiced men, kote-men and kote-men-do on motodachi in bogu. It gives me great pleasure to see that, in mawari geiko, the fundamentals of reiho are now falling into place. Beginners and advanced folks alike take the apropriate approach: bow (onegai shimasu), step into kamae, do your exercise, back into kamae, sheathe your shinai and step back, bow, then bow again when everybody's done (arigatou gozaimashita) and kotai towards the next partner.

The beginners then joined Ton-sensei with the newbies for further kihon training, while those in bogu proceeded with waza. Chiisai kote-men, kote kote-men, men debana-kote, men hiki-men ai-men and men kaeshi-do. Each of these exercises was performed two or three times and in between were one-minute rounds of jigeiko to further practice.

In all these exercises, Kris-fukushou reminded us of the importance of building tension, of proper footwork and of feeling the proper distance and chance to make your strike. Try to use different approaches in stepping in: sometimes edge your way in sneakily, sometimes boldly step and strike. In debana-kote don't simply step aside, but first step in when striking; then move aside. In both debana-kote and hiki-men keep your movements tiny, else you are simply too slow. With all these exercises it is imperative that motodachi give his best attack! Without a proper chiisai-men, you cannot practice a proper kaeshi-do! So don't just try and whack something, make it your best strike!

Class was closed with three rounds of uchikomi geiko (third round was kakari geiko for those in bogu). Everyone was pitted against Kris-fukushou, Hillen-sensei, Raoul-sempai and Charl-sempai

At the end of class all three teachers had some closing remarks.

Pointers that I received individually: tags: , ,

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Back to training

2012-10-10 08:24:00

In the absence of Heeren-sensei, class was led by Tsuyuguchi-sensei with Ran-sempai handling the translations. And with Kiwa-sempai gone for the day, Loek-sempai took care of the warming-up. After some initial confusion about the day's structure (no motodachi system, yes motodachi system, semi-motodachi system, beginners along with the bogu group) we got settled into some hard work! Who'd have thought? Even classes in Amstelveen can get a little disorganized :)

Emphasis was placed on basics: kirikaeshi, oki-men, hayai-men, hayai kote-men, men-hiki-men men-hiki-kote men-hiki-do. Tsuyuguchi-sensei impressed upon us the need for:

After a further twenty minutes of jigeiko, class was closed with parting remarks by Roelof-sensei.

During practice I also received some personal advice.

Class was hard work and I enjoyed it a lot. I brought along Herman and Charl from the Almere dojo, which was a nice change :) tags: , ,

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BoKS Users Group: an ending

2012-10-08 19:46:00

BoKS Users Group website

Almost two years ago I let go a volunteer project that I'd started, Open Coffee Almere. The project had out-grown me and in order to prosper needed someone else in charge. So I passed the project on and stepped back completely. 

Another project that was started at roughly the same time, but which never really took off is the BoKS Users Group. Meant to unite FoxT BoKS administrators across the globe in order to share knowledge, it was mostly me trying to push, pull and shove a cart of rocks. A lot of people said it was a great idea and they'd love to join, or to provide input or to benefit from it. But none of that ever really happened. 

And then even I stopped pushing updates to the website. Hence why I've decided to pull all the content back into my own website and to shutter the site. I'll probably also give admin rights of the LinkedIn group to FoxT and that's that. tags: , ,

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Fumetsu Cup 2012

2012-10-01 20:46:00

Thomas standing in line

Looking at the picture Peter-sempai shot of me, waiting in line for the shinai check, game me a sudden glimpse into my future. Will I look like Roelof-sensei in thirty years?

Yesterday I attended the 2012 Fumetsu Cup kendo tournament in Vlaardingen. A few weeks back I'd indicated that I would really like to compete and Marli was sweet enough to accomodate me. While I galivanted off to the Rotterdam area, she spent her sunday with our daughter. She's awesome <3

The Fumetsu Cup, as described by the NKR in the invitation: "The Fumetsu Cup is the yearly held surprise tournament in which all participants are randomly divided into teams of three persons. With their team they will compete for the cup. Teams will be captained by an experienced kendoka."

It's great fun because you get to meet people you normally might not and you're driven way out of your comfort zone. Instead of fighting with kendoka from Renshinjuku, my team was pitted against one of them. Unfortunately the last sentence of the description wasn't true for my team as all three of us were mudansha: combined we had about five to six years of experience and none of us even had our ikkyu. Hence why we were outed from the tournament after our three fights in the first round. Oh well :) I enjoyed teaming up with Kerstin (from Museido in Amsterdam) and Erik (from Shinbukan in Groningen); they were great people to meet and I learned from them in the short time we spent together.

In my three fights I matched up against Laurens from Suirankan, Ms Cha who at one point used to be with the UK Hizen dojo and Wim from Shinbukan. I really should have done a short practice round before the actual matches because I had the same problem that Kerstin had described: in the first fight I'm still "asleep", not properly alert. 

Afterwards I asked some of my sempai for their opinion on how I'd performed.

As I'd told Nick last saturday, my goal for the day was to at least show some proper kendo. I didn't want to make the same stupid mistakes like last time and I wanted to last at least a full, real match. Aside from the fight against Laurens I'm satisfied in that regard. Plenty to learn though! :) My thoughts were all over the place, I was focusing on too many things and yes I kept on dancing. Always dancing :(


I've had a chat with Wim and he remarked that I showed good kiai and that I was plenty greedy. I'll view the prior as a good thing, but the latter could swing either way. I could have been too greedy, like last time, or I could have shown proper assteriveness.

While walking to the office this morning I did have a realization: one of the worst things I was doing, was not stonewalling my opponents' attacks. Either I sidestepped and counter attacked, or I kept moving backwards to evade. Instead, I should receive their attacks in place and counter immediately. tags: , ,

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