Friday, October 27, 2006

The Samurai Trilogy

Hi folks, if you're Miyamoto Musashi fans then you might want to pick up the 3 DVD box set called: The Samurai Trilogy. I'd say it's something more for film buffs or fans as the 3 films were made between 1954 and 1956, but can I also say that the first episode won Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards and Toshiro Mifuni plays Miyamoto-san, he is arguably the biggest star of Japanese cinema and played other great roles as samurai in films like; The Seven Samurai, Yojimbo and Sugata Sanshiro.

It's more about his life journey and transformation from volatile tempestuous rogue to mature and philosophical craftsman, rather than a collection of fight scenes - although there are fight scenes of course - but I enjoyed it very much.

The one thing I did find a little unbelievable was that there were two women totally besotted by him. From what little I have read about Musashi apparently he didn't like to wash and rarely changed his clothes so I'm not sure that the ladies would have found him that appealing!

Anyway, I picked up a copy at JB Hi-Fi so if any of you are interested then check it out...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Don't get Left Behind!

Hi folks,
I got some great inspiration from Jaysons last few posts (this isn't nepotism is it?) and felt like sharing one little extra experience that I have gained over the past few weeks in relation to what Jayson said about men cuts...

Since my injury I haven't been able to lift my right hand above shoulder height. This makes pretty much every cut impossible in a kihon sense but what I have been able to do is still practice the footwork and movements using only my left hand without a shinai. The amazing thing about this is that it really brings home how important this side of the body is to doing a good solid cut. As an exercise I totally recommend it. It has made me so much more aware of the power needed from the back leg, keeping the body square as you follow through and pushing forward with the left hand. In concentrating on the 'whole' cut I think we can neglect what each side of the body is doing but by simply dropping the right hand I have discovered so much to work on with my left side that I'm confident will improve my cuts all round.

Give it a go and let me know what you think.

Happy kendo playing,


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

All is good...really!

I think this will have to be the last of this sort of posting I write cos' you're all going to think I'm a hypochondriac! ...Anyway, my physio treatment is going well, I've got this yellow rubber band that I have to do stretching exercises with and it seems to be working - just a little too slowly for my liking. The hard part has been trying to supplement my exercise to keep some degree of fitness happening. I've been jogging and trying to do footwork at home, doing cuts without a shinai and without lifting my arm above my shoulder but it's not quite the same. On saturday I came crashing down with the flu so that has stopped everything for a short while. Some would say it happened because of the changing season - I did have some pretty bad hayfever on friday - but I think it's simply the combination of not getting enough exercise at the moment and feeling a bit depressed about the whole lack of getting to do any kendo.

Don't get me wrong, most of the time I'm accepting of the situation and feel positive that all will come good again in the future, it's just that my regular kendo training was a great stabilizer in my life. It was a great way to escape the daily grind, sweat out a few frustrations, challenge myself, hopefully see a little improvement in myself and enjoy the camaraderie of being with like-minded souls sharing the challenges of kendo.

Now I spend too much time thinking about it and not doing it but I'm trying to channel my frustration into healing and am hopeful that I will get a clean bill of health from the physio soon and you can be guaranteed there will a smile on my face when I next step in the dojo that no amount of heavy men cuts or miss placed hiki do's will be able to erase!


Tips for Men cuts Part 1.

Well its time to get more active on this blog.

I have only just discovered Vivian’s blog...which is fantastic! Not to mention all the other great kendo blogs out there. We will be putting up links to them all very soon.

A lot of people have commented on my men in the past. So i thought it might be useful to post up a few training tips for men, i.e. the things i did when I first started.

The best way to improve your men cut is to practice Kihon men at home (if you have space). Pretend you are striking your opponent from a distance. Meaning you need to take a step in 1st, then cut men. Just to break it down, 1st slide your right foot forward then bring your left leg up and then immediately launch off for a kihon men cut as soon as you bring your left foot up. Move your feet as quickly as possible (start off slow if you are a beginner) to get your body moving as fast as it can. The key to a good men cut is getting the body moving. If none of this makes sense please grab me at training to explain further.

The following are a few details to muse over when practising this men cut from distance at home.

Body movement: A great men cut comes from tremendously strong body momentum. If you can get your 'whole' body moving from 0 to 100km (figuratively speaking!) in a split second you are half way there. However you need to train your body to do this. You want to feel like your body is part of the cut...not just your hands and Shinai.

Posture: You need to keep your body upright and straight throughout the entire men cut. This ensures your hips are travelling as fast as everything else, which translates into your whole body is moving forward, meaning you have a lot of power behind your cut and you will be more stable 'in flight'

Smooth Action: Make sure your men cut is smooth. This means raising and lowering your shinai at the same speed. A lot of people raise their shinai slower then they cut. You need to lift and lower your shinai in one sweeping quick movement.

Keep Kamae: When moving forward, keep your kamae for as long as possible to the point where you think 'If I don't cut now I’m going fumikomi without cutting men'. Doing this will make your men cut scarier and force your arms to move faster.

I'll be posting a few more tips on men cuts...stay tuned...

Also if anyone has tips on building a great Kote cut, I would love to hear them!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

How jayson got started and why he is still 1st kyu after 9 years

I started playing kendo when I was just 16 years old at the University of Newcastle. There I met Don Miller (later I was told he was a renegade kendoka...but that is a story for someone else to tell) the sensei of the club.

We had the most magnificent dojo, Don had some friends at the university and had this dojo/dance hall especially built in conjunction with the multi million dollar sports and aquatic centre being built at the time for the university...we had wall to wall mirrors, springy smooth wooden floor boards and proper Japanese bogu room.

Sadly Don Miller left to Japan to teach English permanently when I was 17 and the club fell apart after only 6 months as the older students finished their degrees and moved on to find jobs. As the numbers dropped from about 25 reguler attendees to 5 or less, we got moved out of our fantastic purpose built dojo to the squash courts. I temporarily quit.

About 18 months later (now 18-19 years) returning to university as a 'proper' student, i noticed some kendo flyers on the uni notice board. So I went along to the new training session and Naohiki Shimada a third Dan uni student from Japan. He was a fantastically strong player with the best Men cut i have ever seen till this day. I wish he could have played with Okazaki or Kirby. I trained with Naohiki for about 24 months before he finished his business course and left back to Japan. Another sad loss for the Newcastle club.

I then played Kendo on and off for the next two years at the struggling University of Newcastle kendo club (many very un-important things happened during this time which are not worth mentioning here) and I was still grade less. I finished uni at 23 and made the move to Sydney to find a job.

When I came to Sydney...i was excited about finding a Kendo club to join. I was originally going to join the Macquarie University Club...but found the Sydney Kendo Club website more appealing. I called Doug and he gave me the training times. I don't really remember my first training at Willoughby (I have a bad memory), but I do remember Doug telling me that I played pretty good for someone who had never graded. It soon became apparent to me that grading is important.

So all in all...I have been exposed to kendo much longer than my grade suggests...however it has not all been quality time. I do thank Don Miller for teaching me the fundamentals of kendo and I thank Naohiki Shimada for teaching me how to cut men. However I can honestly say my greatest progression has been at the Sydney Kendo Club under the guidance of Payne sensei and Itakura sensei.

On this note I would just like to remind everyone to keep playing Kendo, don't give up (its much harder to get back into than you think) and make sure the training you do during the week counts.