I took a break from Kendo beginning January 2012. It has been over a year and I haven't returned.
Kendo has been putting too much stress on my wrist, in particular the right wrist. Observing those at the dojo that practice more frequently, I started to notice that many of them were bandaged from one form of repetitive stress injury or another. For someone who relies on their hands for breadwinning, I figure the writing's on the wall and as a scientist, ignoring those signs would be stupid.
It has been a worthwhile experience while it lasted (for just about 5 to 6 years). It has shown me how to face my weaknesses, both physical and mental, and how to push beyond them. I will always hold the art form with the highest regard and uphold the expectations of my 2nd Dan ranking.
There are still many other things to learn and do in life. Time to explore them.... perhaps I may return to obtain my 3rd Dan someday...
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Today's kendo practice consisted of a 3.5 hour seminar by Koike sensei - a 7th Dan who was also couch for the US kendo team from 2000-2003.
Seminar consisted of having everyone sparring with an equally ranked partner and having him observe. Then he went on to provide some advice and some practice of the individual components of the advice.
Here are some tips:
- When attending kendo class bring a notebook to take notes. When at the kendo parties use the notebook to jot down things you learn from speaking with other kendoka.
- For testing make sure that when you bow in you bow in synch with your opponent- otherwise it is ground for failure- in any case it does not convey a good start.
- Make sure faded gear is dyed ahead of time.
- Do not wear very new hakama otherwise it will flair out.
- Make sure all uniform elements are perfect. Make sure the himos are lined up and at the correct length.
- When fighting:
- The overall goal is to convey strength / intensity- to begin to psych your opponent out the moment you approach each other for sonkyo.
- So when doing sonkyo, do not rest ones legs, i.e. the bottom of the thigh and calf should never touch, otherwise it will make you look weak/relaxed.
- When pulling out shinai for sonkyo, bring the shinai in such a way that immediately aims it at the opponent's throat.
- After standing up from sonkyo, take one small step forward, to convey confidence. Do not take a step back or sideways.
- Use every suburi as a means to practice for the one perfect strike. I.e. 1. apply same building up tension like a wound spring or a pent-up volcano, 2. then strike with one burst, perfectly synchronized strike and kiai, 3. complete follow through with zanshin.
- Use the initial part of keiko to conduct research of the opponent.
- When striking men, the shout should be a crisp burst, not a long trailing men sound- certainly the pitch of the men should not go up. It should go downward to convey that the men is being powered from the abdomen. Again the goal is to sound strong and confident.
- When sparring for testing, do not strike so often. Aim to build up toward one excellent strike. That is all that is needed to pass. Testing usually lasts 1.5 minutes per bout and in that time there is an opportunity to perform approximately 9 strikes. i.e. roughly 10 seconds per strike.
- In that 10 seconds apply strong seme and build up to the point that you are ready to release everything toward your strike.
- After a successful strike one can then conduct the remainder of the keiko by just maintaining strong seme to thwart the opponent's attack. Of course the assumption is that you know that the strike was seen as successful by the judges....
- Aim to achieve a successful strike before the opponent does. It is usually more difficult to "catch up" if you fail to achieve the first strike.
- After a strike, always remember to complete a strike by returning to kamae and displaying zanshin. So after kamae, it does not hurt to take one small step forward to suggest you are ready to attack again. Never take a step backwards. Again the point is to show you are strong and ready.
- Do not worry about displaying different wazas during testing. Just do whatever is most expedient to get 1 clean strike with full kikentai.
- When striking it is not necessary to always fumikomi. As long as the okuri-ashi is correctly synched with the strike, you are ok.
- One example of seme: gently apply pressure downward over the top of the opponent's shinai while moving forward slightly. Use this to touch of the shinai to sense your opponent- like antennae on an insect. If the opponent is still and is applying force against your downward press, when you release your shinai your opponent's shinai will tend to raise, giving you an opening.
- In general continue to apply seme till you reach a point where you feel you are able to strike successfully.
- Do not show the balls of your feet when walking backwards after osameto.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
In my blog on Men vs Men, I was told that the technique actually had a name: men-kiriotoshi-men. It is basically an Oji waza described as the most difficult.
You can see this at 4:02 into this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccLvwEcfCCs
Also Mr. Okada was kind enough to give me some tips on men-vs-men. It seems my problem is that when I launch into men I am not heading straight for the target- especially when I am late. I tend to angle around it. If I just strike directly at dead center of the opponent's men with all my intention the worst that can happen is we clash and no one gets a men across (or my opponent does a kiriotoshi to me :)
I also have a problem of still using my right arm too much as a result sometimes my men strikes are off center. I need to just do extra waza at home.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
The problem with the previous experiment was that it tends to cause you to over use your right arm. It also tends you to strike off center. I think the previous approach is useable if you know you are striking men late against an opponent. But to use it as a primary approach is too difficult during actual jigeko.
So I find myself reviewing the technique in 12/21/2008 of my blog. Ie. use more left hand.
Use right hand as the pivot point but keep it largely immobile so as to guide the shinai to its target. Then follow through all the way- probably the biggest problem I need to address.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
For as long as I can remember the following has always been a real challenge:
Anytime I simultaneously strike men against a more advanced opponent my strike never connects. The best answers I've been able to get from asking more senior kendoists are: strike quicker; strike on top of the opponent; reach center sooner than the opponent.
These are all likely to be true to a certain extent but try as I may to improve each one of these I have never been able to produce a more consistent means of overcoming this problem.
The problem seems to be that when the two men-uchi's clash one's arms tend to push the opponent's arms out off center making it difficult for the off-center opponent to strike. So in essence, yes the person that is more centered sooner is the one who will win.
So I thought, what if, I am unable to arrive at center first (which is most of the time when I encounter advanced kendoists)? Am I always going to lose the strike?
So I tried the following: instead of attempting to strike men, strike directly at the lower part of the opponent's shinai near the tsuba in order to deflect it enough to clear a path to that will enable your shinai to reach their men. This is kind of like suriage waza except that usually when we do suriage we brush our shinai against the opponents on the upward swing. I've tried doing this for suriage-men but it's always been difficult because it takes up a lot of time to bring your shinai up and then down. This is especially problematic when the opponent is rushing in with a men strike at full speed. So what I am suggesting is a downward suriage. Ie. deflect the opponent's shinai on the downward strike just before it is supposed to connect with the men.
Yesterday I gave this idea a go. During waza exercises involving simultaneous men strikes, I tried with and without this downward suriage technique. I was quite surprised at how consistently it seemed to work. Against more advanced opponents I was able to strike their men as well as them striking mine. For less advanced opponents I was able to overcome their strike very consistently.