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<< 8 / 2012 10 / 2012 >>

Just hanging around

2012-09-29 16:02:00

A keikogi hanging in a tree

Today's been great. Class was good exercise, we had a nice lunch and now I'm just hanging around a bit with Dana. Reading, writing, cleaning a bit. The weather's glorious too :) And now it's time for a bath with Dana! 


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Tournament prep in Almere

2012-09-29 13:32:00

I don't know why, but our group was a bit smaller today. Six in bogu, five or six without. I guess a lot of folks are off sick. After kata and warming up we proceeded with footwork practice. 

As part of balance exercises we did lunges. 

In all of these exercises, if you feel imbalanced and tend to wobble or keel over, then your footwork is too narrow. When lunging, keep your feet at kamae-width and sink deep. Hold a straight back.

After this followed laps of suriashi around the hall.

Loyer-sensei and Kris-fukushou inform us that the problems are twofold. For one, most of us aren't properly launching themselves with the left foot. Either we're not kicking hard enough, or we're kicking backwards after launching. Many of us also lift the right foot way too high when lunging forward. Not only does this clearly signal your intentions to your opponent, but it also slows you down. As Kris pointed out, many of us don't stomp their right foot for forward speed but we come to a full stop because we kick downward or even forward. 

While the beginners renewed their focus on kirikaeshi and kihon, we practiced a few waza.

When attacking, imagine your goal to be two meters behind your opponent! Don't strike and immediately dash aside. Worse yet, don't immediately turn towards him! Rush through them and if they get in the way, go into taiatari. Don't hold your hands too high, as they'll simply topple you. "Tsuba into the mouth", as they say.

Finally, because tomorrow is a tournament day: the practice shiai! I joined Nick and Hudaifa, against Charel, Jeroen and Sander. After each round, both kenshi quickly received some pointers on their own kendo from Kris and Loyer-sensei. In my case:

Because we don't have much experience with tourneys we also went over the basic etiquette. Both teams decide the order of kenshi, one through five (or three as is the case tomorrow). Only the first kenshi will be wearing his men from the start. The teams greet each other, then retreat to their side of the court. Everyone except the first sits down and pays attention to the fights. Numbers two and three will start putting on their men. Four and five will follow later. Then, each participant will continue as follows.

  1. Step into the shiaijo. Step to a position from which you can reach your starting line with three paces. 
  2. Bow to your opponent.
  3. Three steps to your line, right foot on the line. Not over, not in front, on the line. In your steps, draw your shinai and go into sonkyo
  4. Do not rise until the shinpan provide the command to "Hajime!".
  5. Return to your line when a point has been made.
  6. If something is wrong, raise your hand. Both kenshi return to their line, while the shinpan find out what is up. If you need to disrobe, both kenshi step back and the other waits in sonkyo while you fix whatever is wrong. 
  7. When the match has been won return to your line. Sonkyo and put your shinai away.
  8. Five steps back. Bow. Step out of the shiaijo backwards and take your seat. 

The Nanseikan kendo dojo has a more complete article on the subject of shiai etiquette.


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On the importance of upkeep

2012-09-27 20:23:00

After last week's lecture on the importance of shinai maintenance you would think that people would actually take note. But no, sadly they don't. Last saturday I spent a good ten minutes inspecting and fixing one of our youngest members' shinai, despite having shown him how to do it and providing him with a printed booklet with instructions. He has two shinai at his disposal, the first one was in shreds and the latter was only a little bit splintered. So I took that one outside with my toolkit, also forbidding him to use the other one until it was fixed.

Sadly, many of the other members show only little more interest in maintenance. I have tried a number of ways to get them more involved, but without wanting to overstep my station I haven't had much success. The biggest "win" so far was when four of us had a great evening, doing maintenance on all of our equipment :) I'd love to repeat that sometime soon. 

For now I'll do upkeep tonight, because I've got a tournament coming up! ( ^_^)

Sunday I'll be joining five other guys from Renshinjuku at the Fumetsu Cup tournament. I won't be in a team with them, as the Fumetsu Cup pits randomly selected teams against eachother. Who knows who'll be your teammate?! :D Of course, if I want to compete my shinai need to be in tiptop condition. 

Last tuesday we had mandatory inspection at Renshinjuku Amstelveen and one of my shinai was sent back because of a tiny, beginning splinter. A quick repair later it was accepted, but I'll definitely go over both shinai with a fine toothed comb :) Ironically the shinai I loaned to Jeroen-sempai had no issues in QA. 


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A session dedicated to seme-to-men

2012-09-26 20:43:00

Seme to men

Last night's class was envigorating and I went home feeling energized and ready for two more rounds of keiko! ( ^_^) Jeroen-sempai, who joined me for the first time, came away with similar feelings.

Class was started in the usual fashion, with stretching, running and suburi. In hayasuburi, Heeren-sensei admonished some of the kenshi (definitely me!) for not bringing the shinai back against the buttocks in every single suburi round, as it is a helping hand in figuring if your swings are going down the center line. So thirty more hayasuburi it was! :D

The first ten to fifteen minutes of the day's lesson were fully spent on explanation. The crowd gathered around Heeren-sensei and Kiwa-sempai who demonstrated a number of things.

They also took a lot of time explaining the physical aspects of seme to men ("pressure and men"). An excellent read on seme would be Stephen Quinlan's "The fundamental theorem of kendo?". Funny how mr Quinlan's writings keep popping up in my studies!

In this particular exercise we would be stepping in deep, so deep as to almost pierce our opponents navel. While stepping in, our shinai would go through the center (do not push your opponent's shinai aside), thus sliding on top or over the opponent's shinai. Our kensen will be held low, as to disappear from our op's view. From this position, we would proceed to strike oki-men. The rough sketches above show this: step in deep, not just a little bit and keep the kensen low, not high. 

After the theoretical part of class we proceeded with practice. We did nothing but kirikaeshioki-men and seme to men. Oh yes, a few rounds of uchikomi geiko as well. A very interesting class indeed! And because we were using the system where 2-3 students match up against one motodachi I was able to regulate my breathing well enough to make it 100% through class, including three rounds of keiko. In jigeiko I was matched up against mr. Mast (visiting), Kiwa-sempai and Lennart-sempai. In none of these fights did I have the feeling I was doing particularly well, but I did my best to keep in mind the day's lessons as well as Kris' recent lecture about my standard keiko mistakes. 

It was pointed out that the seme movements we had been practicing do not only serve a big role in shiai and jigeiko, but that they are also very useful in uchikomi keiko. This was demonstrated by Kiwa-sempai who repeatedly got very close to Heeren-sensei before striking the designated targets. 

My seniors also pointed out flaws in my kendo.

I'm sure there was more, but it's hard to recall everthing :)


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Kendo in Almere: also adjusting our regimen

2012-09-22 21:37:00

Starting this season, Loyer-sensei and Kris-fukushou have indicated that they would like to start using a regimen similar to that used at Museido kendo dojo (which is where Kris originally hails from). Among others, this means that:

One of the advanced waza that we practiced was maki-tsuki-men, using the spinning shinai from maki waza to open the road for a tsuki. The stab at the throat is not the goal for ippon, but used to push into a strike on men. While we went through our practice, the beginners were led by Bob-sempai in learning kirikaeshi, which we then later practiced with them. I was very impressed by Herman-kouhai's performance, whose kirikaeshi was better than mine! His strikes were very precise!

Loyer-sensei took me aside for two pointers:


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Upping the game at training

2012-09-15 16:38:00

So far, I'm loving this season!

This morning both Ton-sensei and Kris-fukushou returned to teach class. Kris joined the in-bogu group, while Ton-sensei trained the beginners. Kris, knowing that two or three of us want to actively participate in more tournaments this year, decided to start pushing us more. And what a great class it was!

We started on a bit of an embarassing down-note though. A show of hands by Kris proved that roughly five out of the nineteen kendoka present have actually performed shinai maintenance over the summer holiday. We were all warned to do our upkeep as it's for everybody's safety!

First up, our usual warming-up routine was followed by more men suburi. Every single kendoka was told to sound off ten strikes, meaning that we were to do 190 men strikes in a row! Wow! Sadly, I was the only one who couldn't keep up. I had to stop for a very short breather after 60, 100 and 150 strikes. It's awesome that the rest of the group managed to finish the exercise!

After that, footwork! Suriashi, variable suriashi, suriashi with hiki-fumikomi and finally "snaking" along the lines on the floor, practicing forward and sideways suriashi. It's during the snaking that I slightly twisted my ankle :)

Then, onwards to the rest of practice! Kirikaeshi, oki-men, oki-kote-men, hayai-kote-men, ai-men, maki-waza, maki-tsuki, hayai-kote with sidestep, debana-kote, all interspersed with five bouts of jigeiko. Afterwards, three rounds of uchikomi-geiko. So while last class in Amstelveen allowed for some breathers, today's class in Almere was killer. 

One important thing that Kris pointed out to both Martijn and myself: in keiko, we tend to "dance" around each other after strikes, instead of striking and rushing through the opponent. That's really bad and shows zero zanshin.

Unfortunately I had to bow out from one jigeiko and halfway through another one, but still I'm pretty happy with how things turned out. Onwards to the Fumetsu Cup in two weeks' time!


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Back in bogu, a great class!

2012-09-12 08:16:00

Last night was my return to the Amstelveen dojo, after missing this season's first class due to standby duties. It really was an awesome class!

After putting myself back into the beginners' group in June, I'd been putting off getting back into bogu. Kendo class in Amstelveen is hard work and after my experiences from last season I was fearing another collapse. So instead I just dawdled in the beginners' section. I actually DID want to get back to real fighting though! So I weaseled around my anxieties!! Knowing beforehand that he would approve, I asked Roelof-sensei if he'd allow me back into bogu. It was also a great help that Mischa-sempai indicated that he thought I was being scared of bogu and that I should get back in :) So I did.

At the beginning of the season, Heeren-sensei informed all Renshinjuku kendoka that he would be demanding a higher level of performance from everyone. This would include an emphasis on proper etiquette, on perseverance and on attendance. It would also involve a more traditional training method which, let me tell you, was very helpful to me last night!

In the previous season, we would line up all kendoka against eachother, making a big line of duos. After each practice we'd all move up one slot, thus facing another partner. What this does is ensure diversity, but it's also pretty harsh: there are zero breathers and you also often pit beginner-against-beginner. The more traditional approach that we used yesterday is the motodachi system: seven of our higher dan-graded members and teachers line up and everyone is divided into small groups being pitted against them. This ensures that everyone only fights high level teachers, that people get the chance for a short breather and that you get plenty of mitori geiko (learning by watching). Without this system I would've dropped 'dead' halfway through class, instead of nearly making it to the end :) Hence I made sure to let Heeren-sensei know that I really enjoyed this schedule.

Practice, and some of the pointers I received, were:

Ten minutes before the end of class, after my last round of kihon with Bert-sempai, I caved. I wasn't breathing properly anymore and knew that if I pushed on I'd collapse. I asked permission from Heeren-sensei to bow out, which he gave. While the rest of class finished their kirikaeshi, I did breathing exercises to both regain my breath and to prevent a panic attack. Everything turned out well and I was feeling good again after dressing.

What a great class! I'm looking forward to Saturday and next Tuesday!


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First class of the season, no sensei

2012-09-08 14:03:00

Last tuesday the new kendo season started and today was the first scheduled class in Almere. We got off to an odd start, what with all three of our sensei being absent: holiday, holiday and holiday(?). So instead, Charel-sempai and Mischa-sempai (who is 2nd dan) took charge of our group. All in all they fared pretty well! Our group usually is (too) low on discipline and so a lot of people are chatty, but they managed to reel them in (with a little occasional support from Nick-sempai and myself).

In the absence of our usual teachers, we focused on basics. Charel and Mischa had both attended the recent summer seminar and were eager to transfer a few of the things they learned. 

An interesting class indeed and I'm very grateful for the help of Charel and Mischa.


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Kendo season 2012/13

2012-09-04 22:00:00

Ten scratches on the wall

Tonight marks the start of the 2012/13 kendo season. Unfortunately I'm on standby shift for $CLIENT, so I couldn't make it to the first class in Amstelveen. 

Instead I did my detention work, given to me a few weeks ago by Heeren-sensei for posting a Japanese balad to Facebook :) I can't help it, I just love "Kogarashi ni dakarete". In turn, he told me to do thirty minutes of kirikaeshi (video). It's a bit late, but it was a good start for the season. I did ten repetitions of three minutes, which is ten times four kirikaeshi. The last two repeats were hard, but it was worth it. 

Onward into the new season! /o/

I'm considering enroling for the Fumetsu Cup, which is on the 30th of september.


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