Friday, July 20, 2007

Photos from 2007 Australian Championships

Here are some photos from last month's Australian Kendo Championships

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Memoirs of a Gaijin

The members of the Hamamatsu Dojo

Last month I was lucky enough to be able to spend a week in Japan. Although the priority of this trip was to catch up with a good friend of mine, it also gave me an opportunity to train in Japan.

My plan was to train three times in Hamamatsu - a city situated approximately half way between Tokyo and Osaka and once in Osaka.

I arrived at the Hamamatsu Dojo early as I wanted to make sure I was nice and limber for what I knew would be a fairly intensive training (I trained in Hamamatsu last year when I visited Japan).
When I arrived I was met by Sensei. He welcomed me and pointed me towards the change rooms. Once changed I started my stretching as other members of the dojo arrived and began to do the same.

The first things that came to mind when entering the dojo were:
1. How nice the dojo was. It is a small community based dojo, purpose built for kendo, with a wonderfully sprung floor.
2. How hot and humid the temperature was. It had been about 32C that day and it didn't seem like it had cooled at all.

The warmup began with some stretching, with a focus on ballistic (bouncing stretches) especially to the knees and waist. This was followed by:
Jogeburi x30
Sayumen with Hiraki-ashi x30
Double time Men x30
And Haya-suburi x30 (although this was called choyaku-suburi).

The class, which by now was about 15 people (from about age 24 up), was split into two lines and the training consisted of the following:
1. Kiri Kaeshi, with an extra men cut added at the end to bring you back to the original starting position (rotating 3 times).
2. Kihon Men x4 - x2 rotations
3. Semete Men x4 - x2
4. Kihon Kote Men x4 - x2
5. Semete Kote Men x4 - x2
6. Men Do x4 - x3
7. Kote Do x4 - x3
8. Kote Men Do x4 - x3
9. Kote Kaeshi Men x4 - x3
10. Kote Kaeshi Kote x4 - x3
11. Men Kaeshi Do x4 - x3
12. Men Kaeshi Kote - x4 x3
13. Men Kaeshi Men - x2 Receiving on the left side of the shinai and x2 on the right side - x3
14. Your own Kote oji waza x4 - x2
15. Your own Men oji waza x4 - x2
16. Kote Men Taiatari Hiki-Men, Men x4 - x3
17. Jigeiko - 1-2 minute matches - x4
18. Kiri Kaeshi
19. Sei retsu, seiza, mokuso and rei.
20. Sensei addressed class on the training.

All this was done at an amazingly fast pace, with an intensity which was infectious. There was no stoppages at anytime, unless you were the odd person. The total training time would have been just over an hour.

I felt totally exhausted at the end, but I was on such a high. A very satisfying way to begin my holiday.

My second training session was on the Friday and the class was a lot smaller with just 5 people and unfortunately no sensei. The training regime was identical to the previous Wednesday.
One thing I do want to mention, there were two kids at this training, a girl who I guess would have been around 10 and a boy who was probably 1 or 2 years older. These two kids were amazing.
I have never seen anything like it, they had all the skills - I was in awe.

My third and final training session in Hamamatsu was on the Monday and it was a special one. Not only was it my last there but also because it was an opportunity for me to train with a friend who plays a very important role in my kendo.

The training was much the same as other nights with the following exceptions.
The Kaeshi wazas were replaced with:
Do Uchio-toshi Men x4 - x3
Kote Uchio-toshi Men x4 - x3
Men Uchio-toshi Men - Migi x2, Hidari x2 - x3

Also, when performing the Kote Men Taiatari Men, the Motodachi performs an oji waza of their choice against the final men cut.

After the jigeiko and kiri kaeshi, everybody lined up to do Uchikomi-geiko against Sensei, each one lasting about a minute and performed at a frantic pace - almost kakari-geiko like, but still maintaining kihon cuts.

Class then ended with seiza, mokuso, rei and again Sensei addressed the class on the training performed and there was also a photo opportunity. Finally, I approached Sensei and received some wonderful feedback (translated for me thankfully).

The next night I was in Osaka and thanks to Andrew I had been able to arrange a training session at the Yoseikai dojo. The dojo was immaculate but felt like a sauna (it was incredibly hot inside) and I knew this night was going to be something to remember. There were plenty of people there, probably 30 in total, maybe more.

Seiza and mokuso was very fast and the rei were all done standing.
Training started with Kiri kaeshi repeated about 6 times, then it was straight into Jigeiko.
I was fortunate enough to play all 4 Sensei and about 3 more people, including George, the contact Andrew gave me. Training lasted a bit over an hour and then seiza, mokuso and rei were performed. I also got to talk to all sensei who provided me with some very nice comments and excellent feedback.
It is hard for me to describe the feeling I had after the week in Japan - I don't know what superlatives I should use. It was a kendo utopia for me.
I will say that it took a few days for me to really digest everything I have learnt. The challenge for me is to somehow merge that knowledge into my kendo.

Inside the Osaka Dojo

Friday, July 06, 2007

Missing In Action

Some will have noticed that I have not been at training for the last couple of weeks. Basically I've been moving house and just starting a new job...which thus far appears to require very late hours.

I would just like to say its not an easy thing balancing, work, family, relationships and other life stuff around Kendo training. I can now see how people can get distracted and just move onto other things more important and let Kendo slide.

I think as a club we need to bond a little better and keep encouraging our mates that have a lot on to come back when they are less busy. At the end of the day we want people to come back so we have more people to play.