Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Goodbye 2008

It's been a great year for Sydney Kendo Club.

We have proven ourselves to be one of the strongest clubs in NSW by winning most of the competitions in the Kyu, Womens and Dan events.

We have seen our membership grow, thanks to new beginners joining and sticking with us.

We have even started a new kids class (our future champions!)

We have had two fantastic teachers join us (Jonathon Cross and Hong Cross)

However, most importantly, our club spirit has improved. There is a good feeling to the club and we have the smiles to prove it.

But we are not just stopping there, we have exciting things planned for 2009! Look out for the following:
- A new competition: SKC 3's - Friendship Cup
- A new look website
- A new high school class
- An official club constitution to vote on
- Dedicated shimpan training (possibly once a month)

I'm very excited about next year and look forward to working with everyone to make the club and even better place to train, learn and develop friendships!

Merry xmas and all the best for 2009!


Thursday, September 18, 2008

12th ZNKR Photo Contest

This year's winners of the ZNKR Photo competition have been announced.

There are some really good photos in the selection and a couple of not so good ones!
As usual, photos of kids feature a lot but there is a bit of variety too.

I think the 5th Photo (the guys doing Nanahonme) is nice - If only it was straight.
The last photo looks great too.

Check them all out.

Here is a link to last year's post.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More Teramoto Goodness

Unfortunately it's in German, but the footage is excellent

And here's the original NHK broadcast (Japanese only)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Founders' Cup Photos

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What Jayson learnt in Japan about Kendo

I recently went on a backpacking tour through Asia for three months and some great life experiences. The greatest benefit of travelling by yourself and having no real plans is that you learn more about yourself. But enough of the philosophy I’m here to talk about Kendo.

I was very fortunate and managed to spend a month living, drinking and playing Kendo in Japan. I would like to share a few of the insights I gained over there.

George McCall was my guide and friend for the whole month while I was in Osaka and on my second day in Japan I was lucky enough to watch the Osaka prefecture trails for the 2008 All Japan Championships. It was held at the Shudokan next to the Osaka castle and started early in the morning. George pointed out all the famous Kendoka there but I was ignorant to the Kendo hall of fame. The tournament started off with the normal folks and salary men. Their kendo is crisp and clean but nothing amazing. But when the police boys come on it’s a different ball game. They are all big guys over six foot. They play strong simple kendo, but their timing and presence is incredible. Teramoto (2007 All Japan Championship winner) plays and his kendo style is truly unique. He is calculating with subtle wrists and seems to vary the size and speed of his cuts more than anyone else. I think this is the secret to his success. He does not drop a point and secures his position in the Osaka team.

Early in the month I get some useful advise. I’m told I’m fast and my timing is good but I’m tapping more than I’m cutting. Also told I’m not cutting straight. I’m told that my spirit should feel like it’s at the tip of my shinai when I cut. Basically translate it to mean I need to lift my spirit in my cuts a lot more.

More advice, the tone and the pitch of my Kiai is wrong. I have a Kiai yelling session with one of the Sensei and eventually it improves. In hindsight a good kiai should sound like an optimistic battle cry during the cut and continue on like you have a smile on your face afterwards. In other words you feel great during and after the cut and should sound like it in your kiai. Interestingly my Kendo improved as my Kiai improved because I felt positive before I even cut.

A revelation comes to me when I’m playing in Japan. If I think about cutting from my hips and let muscle memory do the rest with my arms, my cuts become stronger and straighter. It works by concentrating on the trunk of your body when cutting and imagining it being perfectly straight, linear and super robust when cutting. The tangible result is that when you cut men at the same time with someone else, you are so balanced and strong, the split second after the simultaneous cut your opponent will just bounce off you. It’s a fantastic feeling as there is physical evidence you have totally dominated your opponent.

During my training at Yoseikai (George's club) I did extra Kiri-kaeshi training after normal training (Note: In addition to the 6 sets at the start of training). You would not believe how much my kendo improved learning how to do Kiri-kaeshi properly. 1st point is that you need to lift your left hand well above your head to really work out your shoulders. 2nd point is that you must endeavour to raise and lower your arms and wrists through the centre of your body and let your wrists do the work to hit the side of your opponents men, 3rd point is to not bob your body up and down when you cut, try and stay linear and straight. I think it all adds up to learning how to cut straight and using your wrists to cut at angles rather than your arms. From a physical point of the exercise itself increases your cutting power ten fold. No other training exercise compares in my mind.

As a side note, the floors in Japan are very springy. Nothing new. But what we are not told is how slippery and smooth they are! Basically you could almost ice skate on a great dojo floor. The purpose of the smooth floor is to ensure you are very upright and move in a linear fashion, otherwise you will simply slip all over place. Our floors in Australia are sticky and hard, which means we can’t move as smoothly and as linear as a Japanese player who has been playing on these specially designed floors all their life. I think this is ok, it just means we will always bob when we follow through, but as long as our cutting action is linear I cannot see a disadvantage.

The last insight I will add here is from Shimakawa Sensei (7th Dan at Yoseikai). On my departing night he mentioned how he felt about Kendo. These are not his words exactly, but paraphrasing is better than nothing. Basically the ultimate aim of Kendo is to be able to stand toe to toe with an opponent with real swords ready to die. This is a pretty hard core concept. But if you were able to imagine what it would be like playing with real swords, you would not go through the motions like many of us do in Jigeiko, you would not say ‘he is just a beginner I will take it easy on him’ or ‘he is too good I will never win’. No! If you faced off against anybody with a real sword trying to kill you, you would do you best to kill them 1st. Its this feeling of kill or be killed that makes kendo so wonderful, because we can experience the rush and excitement of a life and death battle without ever actually ever being killed or injured. My thought is that by imagining a life and death situation in Jigeiko our senses will naturally heighten, we become more alert and excited…and in the end all come away with a more rewarding kendo experience.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

My jodan journey - so far...

Well, it's been a while since I wrote on this blog - so much so that I forgot my log-in details!

My apologies but I thought it was too depressing to write about injuries again!

Anyway, I thought I'd write about how my jodan experiences have been going so far, and most especially, to thank everyone for their support. As most of you would know, the initial inspiration for practicing jodan-no-kamae was because of an injured right shoulder that put me out of kendo for almost a year. Being naturally left-handed I thought jodan might be a good way to get back in the dojo while my right shoulder continued to heal. More than this, I also really had a desire to try jodan-no-kamae and decided that I would dedicate myself seriously to its practice.

The first stumbling block I thought I would face would come in the form of being a "kyu grader who hasn't yet mastered chudan getting ahead of himself." However, contrary to my expectations of a lot of flack coming my way, instead, everyone was really supportive. Sure I got a few digs, but overall, I've had so much support from people at every level, offering helpful advice and genuine concern for my recovery. It has come as a welcome surprise and given me great motivation and joy at returning to the club and training with you all. Thank you my friends!

Jodan - the first few months...

1. Swapping sides - The first challenge was flipping the footwork to left foot forward. While I always felt my comfortable in this stance just trying it out at home once I actually started to train this way it proved to be much more difficult than it looks! Interestingly, the most difficult thing was convincing my body that I wanted it to flip the movements from the traditional right foot forward. Each time I moved it was like my body wanted to correct it and twist assume the position it was used to when playing chudan-no-kamae. In fact, I developed a lot of pain in my lower back and had to get an osteopath to fix it. It feels fine now but was surprising how much my body rebelled against my wishes!

2. Katate men - part 1 - As you can imagine, just holding the shinai over your head for so long is really tiring at first let alone swinging it down one handed with accuracy and strength of cut. I got some good pointers from Toshio about punching my left fist to the opponents throat, pulling my right hand into my side, and pressuring with the end of the tsukagawa but I was still lacking the arm and wrist strength to do this with much conviction and was still struggling with finding the kamae. I was leaning back and putting far too much weight on my back foot and then went from that to putting far too much weight on my front foot!

3. An amazing turn of fate - the Chiba Sensei visit - I don't know if many of you believe in fate but I really felt after my meeting with Chiba Sensei that it was a very eventful and fateful time for me. The first night of training with him was so fantastic and I left feeling truly inspired and motivated with my kendo practice. His chudan posture and cuts were so solid yet fluid, strong yet delicate in action and obviously the result of mastering his craft and technique over a lifetime.
That evening a bunch of us went out to dinner and - as fate would have it - I found myself sitting opposite Chiba Sensei. Now I want to take this opportunity to thank Matt Fisher because he not only got stuck being translator for the night but also happened to mention to Chiba Sensei that I was practicing jodan-no-kamae after injuring my shoulder. His response was immediate, "See me before training tomorrow night and I will give you some personal training." I was flabbergasted and somewhat embarrassed about the prospects but also super excited!
Sure enough and true to his word Chiba Sensei took me aside with the help of Vivian Yung and proceeded to give me my own personal jodan lesson! If only I could fully understand what he said on that fateful night but the gist of it was this:

  • the action of the left and right hands are like pulling back a bow-and-arrow;
  • the left fist aims for the opponents throat;
  • the left fist goes forward like you are throwing it away;
  • keep the fist centred;
  • keep a loose grip and allow the shinai to flick from the wrist.
  • (If I've left anything out Viv please let me know!)
Probably the one controversial thing here is that I asked Sensei "don't you flick the shinai with your right thumb?", and he said, "No. The action is like a bow-and-arrow." and he proceeded to do the motion several times until I understood.

I was on second heaven after this experience and it has been my motivator ever since.

One happy guy with his hero!

4. "Feeling Jodan" - Since Chiba Sensei's visit I have been trying to follow his guidance and the advice of others. I'm especially grateful to Toshio Nishimoto who has been very generous with his knowledge and also taken the time to watch me play and offer suggestions to correct my mistakes. While my mind takes on this advice it is often difficult to get my body to obey it!
I have since discovered that the jodan-no-kamae has a way of dictating to you how it wants you to approach the stance. Certainly for me, this is much more so than chudan. When I look at other jodan players I also see strong variations in their styles and approaches while still fulfilling the general ideas and concepts behind the jodan-no-kamae style.
In my own practice this has manifest itself in a few observations and approaches:
  • I initially started holding my shinai in quite a straight line to the centre because I wanted my cuts to be straight and felt that this would be easier if I wasn't having to bring the shinai into the centreline during the cut if I held the more traditional angled stance. I'm now experimenting more with my hand positions as I gain more control of the shinai and am starting to try different positions to see how they affect the cut;
  • at first I had a much tighter grip on the shinai using the bottom 3 fingers of my left hand affraid that the shinai would fly out if I didn't. As I gained confidence I now have almost dropped my little finger from the grip letting it sit below the curve of the tsukagawa as a support and barely grip the shinai with my ring finger. This has made the cuts far more fluid, accurate and faster without fear of losing the shinai. I still have a mountain to climb with cutting but this has made a huge difference;
  • as I mentioned, I started out leaning too far back and then overcompensated by putting too much weight on the front foot and standing too tall. This meant that every time I went to cut I had to bend my front knee to spring off the back leg, thus telegraphing the cut. As soon as I simply put a slight bend in the front leg it changed everything. I could now spring off directly (minus dip) and by lifting the front heel slightly the movement was much more in a forward thrust rather than an up-and-down arc. I'm sure this reads like common sense but it's taken me a while to get to this point!
  • As for seme, I tried standing tall (thus started the dipping), then moving around to try to take an 'active' stance (this only made it easier for my opponent than me!) and now I am trying to hold my ground while moving forward from a position of strength and alertness to seize any fleeting suki while feeling a spirit of "throw your best at me, I am ready." Of course, many are 'throwing their best at me' and I'm not always ready but the intention is there!
Well, this brings me up to date and as any of you who have played me recently know, I still have a long way to go but am happy with my progress and believe that most of it is due to the help and encouragement of you all. So please let me take one more opportunity to say "thank you all" and I hope you will maintain your patience with me as I progress slowly along this unique and exciting journey.



Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Australian Kendo Championship Photos

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Australian Kendo Championships

The Australian Championships were held over the Easter weekend.
Congratulations to all the SKC members who participated.

Here is a quick wrap up of SKC results:
Luke Lee - Champion
Nick Sordon - 3rd place

Vivian Yung - 3rd Place

Kyu Team
Luke Lee, Nick Sordon & David Banbury - Champions

Women's Team
Vivian Yung - Champion

Open Team
Takashi Itakura - Runner's Up

Kata Pairs
Takashi Itakura - Runner's Up

Full results can be found here:

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Shinai maintenance

Expanding more on Nick's post about equipment and also to act as a follow up to the shinai maintenance class we had a few weeks ago, here is something I found on youtube.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Wonderful world of Bogu Manufacture

Not sure if any of you have seen this, but I was browsing around youtube and saw these two vids.

I found it very interesting how the expert craftsman put together the essential pieces of equipment to minimise injury (unless you up against Taiatari Chris!). It actually made me stop and realise that I don't think enough about the hard work and dedication that goes into making our gear and thankful that a lot is still done by hand.

That being said, I know I've been in the "Risk Assessment" game too long when I watch a vid like this and immediately think "Where is their safety gear and why doesn't that saw have a guard rail with interlocker..."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Old School kendo

Including leg sweeps
Don't get any ideas......