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<< 12 / 2012 2 / 2013 >>

New kendo goodies! Thanks honey

2013-01-30 21:53:00

kendo uniforms and spare parts

In light of my planned ikkyu exam later this year, we'd been talking about buying me a new uniform set: one to keep neat and tidy, only to be used at tournaments and gradings. I'd been putting that off for months, until Marli last week decided to surprise me ( ^_^)

Originally she'd wanted to place the order by herself, but she had no idea what to order. So instead, one evening she grabbed and said "Let's shop!" :D Because I've been very satisfied with the service and products provided by Kendo24, we returned to them. And again they came through! My darling wife ordered me:

As I've grown accustomed from them, Bernd and Katrin provided excelent service. They provided quick and clear email feedback on my questions and shipping was very fast. They even threw in a free pair of chichikawa to attach the men himo, because I couldn't find those on their webshop. 

So, now I have two gi and a hakama for practice and a separate gi and hakama for special occasions. And I finally have a bit bucket of my own, for shinai maintenance.

A few interesting things about the clothes:

 

In closing: Thanks honey! I really appreciate the cool gift and your continued support in my training!


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A new motto for this year: katsubou

2013-01-29 21:20:00

katsubou

Well! It's not every day that I get a mention on a 7th dan sensei's blog :D

My motto for 2012 was enryo (遠慮): "restraint". 

The motto has served me well and I will continue to be inspired by it. It still adorns my desk and it is on the inside of my dou. At the office I have become better at communicating and at sticking to boundaries and in kendo I have become less apt to rush in foolishly. 

For 2013 I will be adding a new motto, katsubou (渇望): "hunger, craving".

This motto comes through inspiration by four people whom I've come to respect very much. Donatella-sensei and Vitalis-sensei, after their instructions at the last Centrale Training. And Kris and Hillen-fukushou, based on their feedback to our recent kyu exams. Summarizing it: without stupidly rushing in (see above), I need to crave achieving yuko datotsu on my opponent. I need to hunger for "kills" and to show eagerness in all my undertakings. Only then will I be properly training and will I be able to show my current skill level in a shinsa.

Interestingly, this motto is also applicable professionaly insofar that I'm working to retain my CISSP certification. I'd slacked off over the past two years, but now I'm working hard to make up for that. In order to achieve this plan fully, I need to be "hungry". I need to keep at it, working on each successive goal in order to reach the final destination. 

It'll be an interesting year :)


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Kendo kyu exams in Almere

2013-01-26 16:51:00

Photo gallery of the morning.

This morning were the (semi-)annual kyu grade exams at Renshinjuku kendo dojo. I'm told that we're the only dojo in the Netherlands that actually do intermediate kyu exams, but personally I think they're a good thing. These exams help prepare our students for the actual exam, making the real thing a lot less scary.

Today, thirteen students were testing: five for 5th, one for 4h, two for 3rd and five for 2nd. The way we test 2nd kyu is actually identical to the official 1st kyu exam, meaning that we're getting a full prep for ikkyu

The good news is that everyone testing up to 3rd kyu passed their grade. So congratulations to Ainar, Lukas, Dennis, vincenzo, Herman, Ramon, Aaron and Hugo! Good work eveyrone!

The group testing for 2nd kyu wasn't as successful. Only Jeroen was deemed to be ready to take and pass the ikkyu exam, so many congrulations to him: you've worked hard for this Jeroen!

Bobby, Martijn, Tiamat and myself were all given valuable pointers on what we need to improve to be ready for the 1st kyu exam. Two pieces of advice were applicable to all of us:

  1. In jitsugi, you need to be hungry! You need to really want to make those ippon! Don't be passive and don't do shiai kendo. Instead, have at it!
  2. Stick to kihon. There's no need for über-special techniques, because if you -do- try those they'd better be done right!

At this level you're trying to prove that you fully understand and control the basics.

I had already set a number of goals for myself to work on, in order to attain ikkyu rank: get a decent hayai-men, control my breathing, and less cueing before a strike. Also: make for a neat and tidy kirikaeshi, because a few weeks ago I was still all over the place. Added to this comes the feedback from Kris and Hillen:

After the exams, Aaron said his farewells to me. I'm sad to see him go because he shows a lot of promise. Maybe he'll be back in a few years. 

All in all it was a very educational morning! I am confident that I showed my best kendo:

While my kendo was not up to par to pass our 2nd kyu exam, I am confident that I gave it my best. I simply need to keep on getting better! :)

EDIT: Woohoo! I've spoken to Ton-sensei and he indicates that I defaulted to 3rd kyu, meaning that I have at least improved my kendo since last year. So when it comes to the line-up in class, the only thing that changes is that I have now hopped at least six spots to the right :)


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Learning a new skill: seme to tame to butsu

2013-01-22 20:09:00

Tonight’s class was guided by Fukuyama-sensei, in the absence of Heeren-sensei, with Kiwa-sempai providing translations for those not familiar with the Japanese language. After the usual warming-up routine (no kata practice tonight), we moved on to two separate but entwined subjects:

  1. Seme to tame to butsu
  2. Hiki waza

In kendo we are often taught to “build pressure”, to “feel tension” before launching an attack. This pressure is described with the word seme (攻め) and it is something that is learned through long practice. The Glossary related to budo and kobudo by Guy Buyens offers the following:

SEME (攻め) in BUDO (武道) is usually used to indicate the initiative to close the distance and maintain the pressure when launching an attack. This can be part of a very decisive and even explosive technique or in combination with TAME (溜め), where pressure is build in a more gradual way and where the final target depends on the reaction of that opponent.

Tame, from the verb tameru, meaning “to ammass” or “to accumulate”. In this case we are creating seme and then gathering more and more tension. For this particular session, Fukuyama-sensei described our exercise as follows:

  1. Assume issoku itto kamae.
  2. Generate seme.
  3. Inhale deeply and kakegoe (*) strongly.
  4. Do NOT inhale, do NOT exhale further.
  5. Hold your breath for five seconds.
  6. Attack at your fiercest, with a very strong kiai.

Fukuyama-sensei explained that, in this exercise, holding your breath will help you retain focus on your opponent and on seme. This way you are deeply invested in your attack, almost guaranteeing a beautiful strike. He compared it to a story he once heard about olympic sprinters, who would finish their 100m dash without breathing to retain 100% focus.

We practice seme to tame to butsu with different kihon and waza: first with chisai men, kote and dou, then in oji waza where motodachi would attack with chisai men. As usual we were told to do our very best attack, because otherwise the exercise would be useless.

Before moving on to jigeiko, we practiced the various hiki waza: men, kote and dou. These exercises were combined with the previous tame exercises. When it came to hiki dou, Fukuyama-sensei explained that moving backwards can be done in three backwards directions.

  1. To the left is sub-optimal, as it makes it hard to properly strike and follow through.
  2. Straight, where you remain on the center line of your opponent.
  3. To the right, making for an easier strike while also putting you off the opponent’s center.

For showing zanshin after hiki dou, Fukuyama-sensei said that you should relax after striking. Your arms should not be tense and your shinai should not be immovable. Instead, follow through downwards in the natural arc of your strike and relax your arms (so you are also ready for a counter attack).

*: For extensive information on kakegoe, what you could call the “kiai in kamae”, please refer to chapter 13 of Noma Hisashi-sensei’s ‘Kendo Reader.


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Preparing for my exams

2013-01-20 09:37:00

2013 will be a year of exam preparation for me. Not only at work (ITILv3, RHCSA, maintaining my CISSP), but also in kendo. 

Last year I decided that I want to take my ikkyu exam this summer, ikkyu being the first grade that is tested on a national level. I wrote the shinsa prep guide for the RSJ website and based on my research, I will need to do the following for my ikkyu exam:

In the first three tests, kiai is highly important at the ikkyu level, so I'll definitely give that my best!

The NKR exam is still a few months away, so I'm very happy that I'll be getting an extra exam in between. A month ago Ton-sensei announced that Renshinjuku Almere would be holding their local kyu-grade shinsa on 25/01, which is next week. I've asked Ton-sensei and Hillen- and Kris-fukushou to keep in mind my aspiration of testing for ikkyu. For our own exams this means that I'm asking them to allow me to skip a grade and to test for nikyu instead of sankyu, while at the same time asking them to judge me at ikkyu level. That's a bit of a leap (I last tested for yonkyu a year ago), but they appear very willing to help me out for which I am very grateful. 

To do list before next week:


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Taught kendo for the first time

2013-01-20 08:43:00

Ahhh, life :) I've just gone over the last weeks worth of blogposts from when I was still in college, working on getting my teaching degree. On the one hand I love reading about that time, on the other it makes me a bit sad because it's all done and gone. There's that 'mono no aware' again: the beauty of passing/fading. One thing that has never left me though, is the fact that I love to teach. 

That's why I was thrilled when Ton-sensei asked me to teach the beginners group for a part of class. :)

After warming up and doing footwork practice (laps of okuri ashi, lunges and fumikomi), my sempai suited up for kihon and waza practice (suriage-men, ai-men etc) and I took the group of a dozen newbies. Because I hadn't prepared anything beforehand and because Ton-sensei didn't have any specifics he wanted me to teach, I went through the following thought process.

Putting all of that together, I decided to work on ki-ken-tai-ichi: the unity of mind, sword and body during a strike. This builds upon what we've done so far and is something that the group could use in kihon practice with Jeroen. These are the drills I went through with them:

In each of these practices, I first let the group do them a number of times without me saying anything. Five men strikes, twenty haya-suburi, two laps of okuri-ashi, etc. I only observed them, trying to see what everyone is doing. After the initial round, I would provide general feedback without singling anyone out. Then I'd let them repeat the exercise again, doubling the amount of strikes/laps. During this second round I would provide the students with personal feedback.

I'm very glad that the group paid full attention! At no point in time did they start drifting away or were they slacking off which, I hope, was caused by my demeanor and posture: stern and polite, speaking clearly and loudly and giving precise instructions. Once again my strong lungs came in handy, as I was able to address the group as they lined up (no huddle needed) and still being heard over the loud group in bogu

I certainly hope to teach again sometime soon :)


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ITILv3: bone dry material

2013-01-13 20:31:00

Dry dry dry

*cough**hack* Someone get me a glass of water! 

After getting some quick credits out of the way for my CISSP certification, I'm now moving on to ITILv3 Foundations, all according to plan. But boy, oh boy, is that some dry reading material! When I first took my ITILv2 exam in 2001, it took some slugging and then I made the certification in one go. So technically you would expect me to get through this renewal easily. Well, I'm working through this particular book and it's drrryyyyyyyyaaaaihhh. A veritable deluge... no, that implies "wet"... A veritable landslide of management terms and words, rammed into short definitions, makes for something I have trouble getting through. 

Maybe I'd better get another book :)

Pictures not mine, sources A and B.


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Coaching: better than I expected

2013-01-12 13:45:00

Quite a while ago my dear friend Menno started a career in personal coaching. He's still a civil engineer, but as a side business he runs Rockover Coaching which is based on the co-active coaching formula. It took a lot of hard work, but he's now ready to start working with clients. As part of his startup year, he asked me whether I'd like to be a 'victim' and I gladly accepted. I may have an ingrained mistrust of coaches, but I know I can trust the guy who's been my best friend for 27 years ;)

Over the past few weeks we've used a lot of different techniques to explore various topics, such as:

So... After almost three months of weekly coaching I have to say it's a lot more fun and interesting than I thought before starting with Menno. I had a few other touch-feely courses (through work) before this, but none of those were as comfortable as this.


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Not much to say: it was good

2013-01-12 13:33:00

There's not much to say about today's training as it simply was a good, solid training. 

1.5 years ago I wrote about a kendo dummy that I would love to build. Lo and behold! Ton-sensei has built two for the dojo: one child-sized and one adult-sized. They look cool and after tweaking them a bit, many of our beginners were very happy to use them in training. 

After inspecting the dojo shinai I proceeded to go through kata #1-#4 with Hugo. Since he told me he was pretty rusty (he's often absent because of school) I took a firm lead and escorted him through the first three, correcting where needed. When we got to #4 I'm glad that Ton-sensei corrected a number of things I was doing wrong (most importantly, stab too high and at a wrong angle).

During footwork practice I was reminded yet again that I have trouble combinining okuri ashi with fumikomi: whenever I need to jump while going forward, I always overstep with the left foot before the jump. The timing is completely off: instead of jumping right after pulling the left leg in, my body tries to jump after the right foot has gone forward again. It's crappy.

Kihon and waza practice went pretty well, but it was jigeiko that stood out for me today :)


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A great session in Amstelveen

2013-01-09 08:50:00

I'm not entirely sure what happened, but last sunday's Central Training did wonders for my confidence. Last night was the first time I can recall that I went to Amstelveen without feeling nervous. I was aching to practice with my sempai and I'd prepared to answer any questions I might get about what we learned during the CT.

I reckon that attending the CT was a good step in my continued 'exposure', trying to alleviate my anxiety issues. The CT was outside my comfort zone and because it went so well, it seems my boundaries have shifted a bit. Nice!

Class was started, as has become custom, with half an hour of kata training. I again partnered with Nienke and we did many repeats of kata #1 (and a bit of #2 and #3). Why focus so much on kata #1? Because of some contention we ran into! I'd been taught by Ton-sensei and Kris-fukushou that after being struck by shidachi (and after letting the bokken sink to eye level), uchidachi would be "pushed back" by shidachi. Shidachi would "threaten you away". Instead, Kiwa-sempai and Ran-sempai informed us that "uchidachi always moves first", so the new analogy would be that uchidachi attempts to flee, with shidachi preventing this by assuming a threatening pose. Interesting!

After kata a shinai check was performed, which has also become customary. I heard that last Saturday ~70% of the students' shinai were rejected during the check, leading to an impromptu lesson in maintenance. Hence Renshinjuku kendo dojo have instated the rule that, if your shinai is rejected, you will now spend the training repairing the big collection of dojo-shinai. Both of my shinai were in an "okay" state, though not very good. After tightening the tsuru of my second one, I was allowed to join class. So, time for another evening filled with maintenance!

After warming up, we moved to waza practice. A few rounds of kirikaeshi variations, followed by oki-men, oki-kote, hiki-waza from tsubazeriai and men-oji-waza. There wasn't any explanation of techniques, just the chance to practice a lot.

I had jigeiko with Onno-sempai, (I think) Tsuyuguchi-sensei and with Raoul-sempai.


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Intensive kendo training: "central training"

2013-01-06 19:08:00

Almost a year ago I visited the Landstede sport center in Zwolle, to participate in the NK kyu-graded kendo. Today, we made the trek to attend the first 'central training' of the year. It's "central" insofar that it's a large kendo training, for all dojo in the Netherlands. Marli took Dana for a fun-filled morning at Ballorig in Hattem, while Jeroen-sempai, Nienke and myself went to the training. Marli 'sacrificed' her usual day off, so I could have a great training day.

And great it was! Today's practice pulled in about 50 people (est. 15 beginners, 15 kyu-graded and 20 dan-graded), with four high-placed sensei and our honored chairman Odinot taking the lead. Today's agenda was as follows:

  1. 25 minutes of joint kihon practice of hayai-techniques. Also, ki-ken-tai-ichi exercises.
  2. 80 minutes of waza practice under Vitalis-sensei, while Wouters-sempai instructed the beginners.
  3. 20 minutes break/lunch.
  4. 60 minutes of jigeiko.

Under Vitalis-sensei, the group was split into mudansha and kodansha so everyone got from practice what they needed. We practiced the following techniques, some of which were new for many of us. Each technique was practiced 2x2 times, after which shugou was called in order to learn the next one. 

 

I got a chance to have jigeiko with three of the leading sensei

  1. I didn't receive any specific feedback from Barbier-sensei. I tried to use a few of the techniques we learned, combined with some of the stuff Heeren-sensei taught us. After a few minutes, Barbier-sensei asked me to do a round of kirikaeshi.
  2. I very much enjoyed my round with Castelli-sensei, who has a very enthousiastic and energizing personality. She let me try a few techniques, then took me aside to tell me (paraphrased): "You need to want your target. I see you hitting air, making a lot of movement, but never getting to where you want to go. I see you go for men, but you don't get to my men. I see you go for kote, then don't hit kote. You need to WANT to hit. You need to WANT to put your shinai on my head! Be hungry! You need to be like an animal of prey". And yeah, that was a very interesting realization for me! I hadn't thought of it like that, but she's right! The next few attacks I was a lot more focused, after which she took me aside again. "The Japanese say: ichi gan, the eyes are first. I see you very often not looking at your target. You strike my kote, but look somewhere completely else! Don't! Eyes on the target!".
  3. Right before the closing kirikaeshi, I had a very short round with Vitalis-sensei. At first I had offered to cede my position to mrs De Jong who outranks me, but Vitalis-sensei said I shouldn't do that. "I don't care if they're 10th dan! In kendo you need to be hungry and egotistical to get the training you want. You need to be fast in dressing, first in line and scramble for practice with the teachers you want!" Based on the few strikes I made for him, he also warned me that right now I shouldn't yet be trying "patient"/"waiting" kendo. "Make attacks! Make plenty of attacks! Right now you still have plenty of time to make plenty of mistakes. If two out of ten strikes land relatively close, that's great!" Which certainly sounds a lot like what Kris-fukushou keeps telling me: I wait too much.

During closing, Vitalis-sensei shared the following remarks.

After the training we quickly visited Kaijuu and Natalie and then headed home. Nienke and Jeroen were dropped off at the station again, after which the three of us went for dinner at Tang Dynastie. Great food, as always. All of us exhausted, Dana quickly fell asleep at 1900 and now it's off to bed for us as well :)


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Well, that wasn't good

2013-01-05 15:02:00

Wow, I can tell that I haven't done any kendo the past three weeks :(

Today's practice went pretty badly for me, because I'm -already- out of shape! Three weeks of no sports is killer, after a few months of only two kendo practices each week. I really need that third session at home to keep up. I'm sad to say I had to bow out from the bogu-group twenty minutes before the end of class.

I got some very important feedback from Ton-sensei: my hayai-men is still almost as bad as a year ago. I still make the same damn mistakes as before, where I pull back large and only stretch forward when striking instead of stretching forward and then striking with a tiny movement. 1.5 years later I am still making the wrong movements. 

Also, whatever progress I had made with my breathing is now gone again. It was crap today and was the biggest cause of my early drop-out.

The second pointer I got from Ton-sensei is that I'm cueing my attacks. We already knew that, but I didn't know -this- particular cue! The Miyaharas and Zicarlo-sempai all told me about my footwork issues, right before launching an attack. But Ton-sensei also pointed out that I dip my shinai before swinging upwards. 

So, my training goals for this year: get a decent hayai-men, control my breathing, and less cueing before a strike.


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