Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rhythm and Men Strike Size

Two things I want to record:


Practice involved moving forwards and backwards to cause the opponent to follow your rhythm.
Then at the right moment, if opponent advances in response to following your retreat, strike the opponent's men. If on the otherhand, the opponent retreats in response to your advance, strike kote or kote-men.

Size of Men Strike:

Ordinarily one is encouraged to strike small men by aiming first for the tsuki, and then in the last moment, raise the shinai as small as possible just above the opponent's men and then strike their men. This is what we have been always taught. In examining higher ranking kendoists as well as videos, it seems in practice a small men looks weak over a men with a larger swing. I was advised that since I often use a small men, I should compensate with strong fumikomi. Also I was told that when striking a larger men using one's wrists, use the right hand as the pivot, not the left hand.

In my next blog entry I will start to update my kendo algorithm again....

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Nidan Kendo Exam

Passed my nidan (MWKF) exam today. There were 14 who tested for nidan and I was the oldest.

The day before, I took time out to practice against a dummy and using a video camera to see how I was hitting. One thing I noticed was if I swing slightly larger using my wrists, the motion comes off looking more like the higher ranking dans. This is rather contrary to what I have been instructed to do thus far. Basically, for example, when striking small-men, the idea is to aim for the tsuki and in the last moment, raise the shinai just above the opponent's men and strike. I have done this on the video tape and the movement just looks weak. Whereas instead, if I apply more wrist movement to bring the shinai higher the movement seems more correct. This extra movement of the wrist of course makes the strike slower and tended to break my strike into 2 separate movements. So then I re-watched my videos of Umeki sensei and how he was able to do it so quickly. The "secret" was to time the upward movement of the shinai at the same time as the raising of one's foot. Truth be told, I recall Sakamoto sensei saying this to me a couple of years ago while I was still ikkyu. Anyway, I find that this also tends to cause one to raise the shinai while still relatively near the body making it less difficult (perhaps) for the opponent to strike an open kote. This might explain why my kote has been rather open during past practices.

Anyway, just before it was my turn at the bout my heart was racing- in some sense that was a good thing. I suppose with ones heart rate elevated blood is moving more rapidly thru one's body in anticipation of elevated activity.

First bout I think I did well, managed to hit men several times cleanly without allowing opponent to strike. I was also able to use men-uchi with the larger wrist swing that I had practiced the day before. This is somewhat risky, but I figured if it failed, I'd go back to my regular men strikes. Also changed it up a little with harai men and debana kote. The opponent wasn't maintaining zanshin so it was easy to pick him off right when he turned around.

Second bout was more challenging- generally difficult to hit men against the taller opponent. The larger wrist swing was not fast enough to get to my opponent's men. In the end I figured my odds were better against him with a debana kote- and it worked. Landed a kote just in time for the bout to end.

Kata involved 4 paired opponents simultaneously. It went smoothly for the most part. I glitched a little on kata # 3 on the shidachi side when receiving the strike- but recovered quickly. Judges did not ask me to repeat. Though they asked me to repeat ipponme, which was somewhat odd.

Next exam, November 2011!

In case this is useful to anyone, this is my answer to the written test:

Describe Three Types of Ma-ai

Ma-ai refers to the distance between the kendoka and his/her opponent.

Issoku itto-no-maai (middle distance)

This refers to the distance whereby a kendoka can strike his/her opponent with one step. When two kendoka are standing in chudan-no-kamae this is often indicated by having the shinais crossing within the region of the mono-uchi. This is considered the optimum distance for a strike.

Toma (long distance)

This refers to the situation whereby the kendokas are at a distance beyond issoku itto-no-maai- often marked by the kendokas’ shinais being at or beyond tip-to-tip when the opponents are standing in chudan-no-kamae. While a successful strike is still possible, the opponent is given an extra measure of time to react to the strike. Sometimes strikes from toma can catch an opponent off-guard as he/she may not expect a strike at this distance.

Chikama (short distance)

This refers to when the kendokas are at a distance closer than issoku itto-no-maai. This is often indicated by the kendokas’ shinais crossing closer than the region of the mono-uchi. This short distance gives both kendoka very little time to react to strikes. However at this distance it is easy for an observant opponent to deflect an oncoming strike by simply turning the shinai counter-clockwise at the instant the opponent’s strike is initiated.

Furthermore, because of the smaller distance between opponents, the footwork needed to execute the strike tends to be shorter and therefore the overall form of the strike may appear to be smaller. To compensate for this the strike should be performed with additional emphasis on fumikomi and kiai. Note also however that if the kendokas are too close to one another when a strike is attempted it may not be possible to execute a proper strike using the mono-uchi region of the shinai.

Transitions between Ma-ai

Often in shiai ma-ai begins at toma. If toma is very far (requiring many footsteps,) then ayumi-ashi can be used to bridge the distance. However once the shinai are close to tip-to-tip, okuri-ashi footsteps should be assumed. The kendoka can then cautiously approach issoku itto-no-maai with small okuri-ashi while seeking opportunities to strike. The kendoka can also gradually approach chikama as a means to apply pressure to one’s opponent. At this point tension will grow as time margins for reacting to strikes decreases.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Moving my Blog to this new site

June 2004 - June 2009


Last chance to put in an update before the year ends. Been to busy to write into the blog.
One thing I wanted to record was some insight I received almost 6 months ago. And that is: waza is not something you apply arbitrarily in the hopes that it will result in a successful strike. It is something you use when you see an opportunity for its use.

Gradually my men-uchi improves but I can tell just how far off I am when I simultaneously strike men against the more experienced kendokas. Their men lands, mine does not. This is truly frustrating. My only salvation is that when I strike men against a less experienced kendoka I notice that my men lands and theirs do not. So I must assume the efficiency with which I am able to execute a men is gradually (glacially) improving.


I've been struggling with a problem for some time: when I strike men against a more senior opponent almost always the opponent's strike connects but mine does not. It's as if by the time the opponent has reached out, their arm has pushed my arm out of the way so I can't strike their men.

So for the past several months I've been trying to figure this out. What I found is that there are several things I have to do to ensure that I am either able to hit the opponent's men or at least our shinai crash when we both attempt to strike men.

1. When you strike you have to have better center than your opponent. Even up to the point when the shinai is about to reach the opponent's men you have to consciously focus on maintaining center.

2. To help maintain center when you are in the midst of a strike, you really need to put a lot of strength in your left arm, and almost as if you are trying to make your arm and your abdomen (your body's center of gravity) one solid mass. This seems to make you more immovable.

3. In order to achieve 2 your small men strikes tend to be more like tsuki strikes except at the last fraction of a second when you reach up to strike men.

4. Part of achieving 1 is you really have to convince yourself you are striking and then running through the opponent, not to his/her side. Ultimately it is the shortest path.

Of course ironically all this is just saying you have to do your fundamentals really really well. On many occassions I've heard sempai and sensei say: "use the strength from your stomach, not your arms", "strike with your left hand, not your right hand" without fully understanding why. After all, how do you strike someone from your stomach?!?!? Well item 2 was the first time I think I finally connected a strike from the stomach with a strike with the left hand.

So moral of the story is: Even though you believe you are doing a fundamental strike correctly, there are likely to be subtle nuances you are still missing.... I suppose this is why Kendo places so much emphasis on fundamentals.


Some notes about Kata:

  • In kata # 1 and 5 when acting as Shidachi: at the point where shidachi needs to raise his bokken above his head to avoid the uchidachi's strike, footwork should be like hiyasuburi- ie both feet must move backwards and then when delivering the response it is as if you are gathering all that energy and unleashing it.
  • In kata # 4 when shidachi and uchidachi's bokken are locked, both should apply strong pressure while bringing bokken towards chudan. When uchidachi lunges the bokken is turned counter clockwise as if to insert the blade between the rib cages. Shidachi reacts by releasing the pressure to cause uchidachi to lurch forward so that shidachi can counter with a strike to men.
  • When bowing out bokken are placed tip to tip. When executing the kata the bokken should be in issoku-itto-no-maai.
  • In Kata # 4 when bringing bokken back to waki-no-kamae the bokken should be brought back so that the tsuba is brought about level with the mouth before it is lowered to below the knee level.


From now on I'm going to express what I understand about Kendo technique in terms of an algorithm, and revise the algorithm over time as my understanding evolves. Will be interesting to track those changes over time...

Kendo Algorithm
Version 5/12/2008

repeat {


if distance >= to-ma {
if opponent becomes off center genuinely (hard part is knowing if it is genuine) then attempt strike.
if opponent appears to be not expecting a strike from to-ma, then attempt strike.
Create an apparent opening for opponent and prepare to counter

if distance ~ issoku {
- wave shinai up and down to minimize chance of opponent attempting harai on you.
- ApplySeme() to try to get opponent off center

if distance ~ chicka due to your own movement{
retreat to issoku

if distance ~ chicka due to opponents movement {
- prepare to counter an attack
- force opponent off center and strike- using small footwork
- retreat to issoku if the threat of going out of bounds is low
if taiatari {
- step back quickly to issoku
- search for opening and strike
- attempt to create opening- via harai and strike
- attempt to fake a strike to a target to create an opening and then strike new opening.

// overall goal is to apply pressure to maximize degree of off-center of opponent relative to distance (ie if opponent is far try to get him/her as maximally off center as possible to give you more time to strike. The shorter the distance the smaller that off-center separation may need to be.)
- Harai
- Suggest an attack through fast approaching footwork, stop to create a lull in the opponent’s concentration


  • In my continuing quest to decipher Kendo....
  • I was noticing today that I got tsukied a couple of times. Usually that means my opponent still has center. So the question is, how do you move an advanced kendoka off center?
  • From issoku the conventional wisdom is to use harai waza but I have rarely seen a successful harai waza executed since most of the time the opponent is usually fast enough to recenter- unless it's something very quick like a harai-kote.
  • And certainly when a men is attempted from issoku or to-ma and advanced kendoka can easily see it coming and block it- even if off center unless they are extremely distracted- which is usually unlikely to happen since wild distractions would probably be ineffective against someone with more experience.
  • So I started thinking about what 2 kendoka are doing when they are trying to create seme. It would seem since most advanced kendoka make only small movements most of the time, and that a threat decreases with greater distance from an opponent, then seme is most important when inching closer and closer toward chika-ma.
  • So lets say you are within issoku and now pressuring closer, it's clear both opponents now know that the smallest movement is necessary for a successful strike. It would seem this is where the struggle for the center is most crucial because the amount of time that one can react to a strike has diminished so dramatically. So it's likely the most subtle of movements can cause someone to move off center...
  • Assignment for next week: inch from issoku toward to-ma and experience what happens.
  • These days I seem to be spending a lot of my time refocusing on the fundamentals.
  • Another thing I am starting to understand more about is the notion of seme. I am trying all sorts of different things to see what kind of response I can elicity from an opponent.
  • One of the things I find interesting that comes out of my own research in human-computer-interaction is that humans are really good at finding patterns and so unpredictability is something everyone has the most trouble with. So I started a series of "unpredictability" experiments during kendo practice to see how the senior students react and to see which might create an opening. Of course this is highly dependent on the level of experience of the opponent. But one thing I've come to realize is that once the opening is found, the only way a successful strike can occur is through sound fundamentals- hence my interest in refocusing on my fundamentals.
  • A couple of things that I found that tends to elicit a response are:
    • Attempt a slower men strike but end up hitting kote. Most people will raise their arm to block the men leaving their kote open. Of course after you've done it once then the hat's out of the bag. Also there is a chance that when you strike kote your opponent may strike men. I have found this oddly enough more effective against advanced students rather than beginning students. Probably because for beginners a reaction to any strike is an equal and opposing strike.
    • Right after taiatari, as you are separating from your opponent, you can sometimes throw them off guard with a harai men. The hard part is having the right distance to make a proper strike.
    • If you take a quick small step forward while bringing your shinai up as if to strike a men, it sometimes causes a hesitation in the opponent. Sometimes if you begin the action, then stop it abruptly and then strike men, the opponent is distracted enough to let his guard down for an opening to appear.
  • If I were to try and gauge level of attention of an opponent during a jigeiko, I'd imagine it would start out at some level A, and then in a moment of excitement (perhaps due to an incoming threat) your attention level goes to level B (where B > A). If the threat was not an actual threat it drops to C where C <= A. It's at the point where C

  • MWKF tournament and testing came and went.
  • Tested for Shodan, and fortunately passed.
  • Test consisted of 2 bouts for about a minute each, followed at the end by group kata.
  • I was told by a hachi-dan during one of the summer camps that the judges typically look for ki-ken-tai-ichi (which I suppose makes sense since it is the topic of the written essay).
  • Turns out they wanted a bit more.
  • While they wanted to make sure everyone had mastered the fundamentals, they also wanted to see more mindful kendo- ie the application of appropriate waza in the right situation; and the application of seme. Ie they didn't just want to see people clubbing each other on the head. In general they recommend that from now on, as shodan, that our kendo should evolve into something that is more mindful rather than purely physical.
  • As for kata everyone was told to take greater care in maintaining correct maai so that, for example, we are not swinging at thin air when striking.
  • The judges also recommended that everyone reflect on the meaning of kata rather than just a sequence of motions. I understand how many of the movements translate to movements applicable to kendo. What I am not clear about is whether they were talking about a deeper philosophical meaning behind kata. I originally thought they were refering to the latter but their explanation seemed to suggest the former.
  • Also as it turns out, if you goof up on a kata, the proper protocol is to raise your hand and ask for a second attempt- otherwise the assumption is that you have accepted what you have performed.
  • Lastly they told everyone that a shodan was more than just another rank. That you are now a representative of the dojo, in terms of ones kendo, behavior, dress etc...
  • In case anyone is interested in my answer to the written exam:
    • Ki-Ken-Tai-Ichi (Spirit/Mind-Sword-Body as one) along with Zanshin are the
      fundamental components of a strike in Kendo.
    • Ki, means spirit and the drive during the moment of strike, and is represented most
      commonly by the "kiai".
    • Ken is the sword and the proper execution of the strike of the shinai with its target.
    • Tai is the body or physical execution and commitment beyond the point of return during
      the strike as represented by fumikomi.
    • Ki-Ken-Tai-Ichi therefore means the synchronization of the spirit/mind, the sword, and
      the body as one movement.
    • The concept of Ki-Ken-Tai-Ichi also carries over to everyday life beyond the practice of
      Kendo- and many have argued that the way one performs ones Kendo is a direct
      reflection of the way one performs tasks in everyday life. In everyday life, Ki would
      represent the spirit, the thought, the utterance or promise to carry out a task. Ken would
      represent the skill at wielding the tool to enable completion of the task. Tai would
      represent the physical commitment to carry out ones intentions or promise.
  • This week I wanted to refocus on kihon especially after what I had seen in Kyoto.
  • An interesting exercise to practice debana waza:
    • Motodachi moves forwards and backwards while shidachi moves with him/her.
    • Then at random motodachi raises shinai as if to strike men; but shidachi on sensing this strikes men first.
    • Same exercise variant is done with shidachi striking kote instead.
    • Then the exercise is repeated where motodachi, rather than just raising shinai, will attempt to strike men, and shidachi must sense and strike ahead.
  • In sparring with Lan, this was the first time I "sensed" he was off guard and managed to hit him with a men.
  • So begins the 4th year of kendo...
  • Visited the Kyoto Budo Center near the Heian Shrine to watch their 7pm practice.
  • Essentially a free for all where everyone and anyone showed up (at all levels) to practice.
  • No formal bowing, everyone just walked in, put on bugu, warmed up and started- either kirikaeshi, kihon, or just jigeiko.
  • Watching some of the kihon inspired me to re-examine my own.

  • One of the most confusing part about Kendo is you receive so many seamingly conflicting feedback from the various sensei & senpai. From what I can determine much of the advice is contextual. That is, it is largely relevant during a particular phase of your training. And as you improve the rules begin to change slightly. Unfortunately what's constantly missing in most of these cases is an explanation of the context under which that advice was given. The following are examples of those situations.
  • For example as a beginner you are often told to swing big. Then some time later you're told not to swing so big. Presumably as a beginner they are trying to encourage you to make your kendo look big so that it maximizes the display of correct form. Then once you are able to do so then in order to practically make a successful strike one has to swing much smaller.
  • Or for example, you are told to just concentrate on men strikes. And another sensei will tell you not to just hit men and to use other waza that you've been taught. I suspect the former advice was to focus you to ensure you have good fundamentals before trying fancy "tricks" which beginners often pick up from watching more advanced students. The latter advice one usually gets when a sensei/senpai has determined that you have developed good enough fundamentals to do something else. I think it would probably be helpful to beginners if the sensei tell them that the waza they are about to learn is something they will eventually use and they are learning them now to become familiar with them. However during jigeiko they should focus on their fundamentals until they are "perfected".
  • Yet another example: when you are beginner you are told to always keep attacking. Invariably another sensei will tell you to not treat jigeiko like kikari geiko. When one is sparring with a better opponent your odds of landing a strike are better if you keep trying to strike. By doing this you are more actively watching for openings; and if you wait you will very likely be hit. However to fight like kikari geiko will only drive you to exhaustion and the repetitive sequence of strikes will likely be too predictable. From watching the 3rd-dan+ students, they seem to keep their shinai very still during kamae and gradually inch toward their opponent waiting to see if the opponent is responding to their approach and watching for the moment when their focus dwindles, to attempt a strike. Anything else seems to be a waste of energy. So often you will not see advanced students use things like harai waza.
  • Heard some suggestions from Hachidan sensei:
    • If you loop the shinai string twice around it will never come loose.
    • Fumikomi wastes energy, hurts your knees and feet. Better to not fumikomi or use minimal fumikomi to transfer all your energy towards moving forwards. Using less energy lets you keep going for longer, obviously.
  • Kaeshi men was tricky since you have to switch footwork like taisabaki to strike the men.
  • Long time no blog updated...
  • Since January I have been focusing just on basics. Trying essentially to strike men with sufficient conviction as if I am actually going to slice through them. I think I have been told this in a number of different ways and many times by different people. But December was the first time I actually think I understood what was intended. It all started when Okawara sensei had us practice by launching a men strike directly into a tsuki and yet providing sufficient force to push the motodachi backwards. He did this to me on a number of occassions to remind me that I wasn't cutting with my full conviction. I have a tendency to back off the moment I realize that a strike will not succeed. What this tends to do is to make my successful strikes look hesitant and slow because I am waiting to find out if the strike was successful. Instead I should have sliced the opponent down the middle and run through him. Kevin mentioned that at Condon's dojo, after a men strike, they have the students practically run through the opponent.
  • So essentially what I am going to focus on for the next few months is: strike as spontaneously as possible (ie without some kind of noticeable build up to a strike) and strike through and well past the opponent for every attempt I make regardless of whether it will succeed or not.
  • Another problem I seem to have is that after an unsuccessful strike in which I am in taiatari, I don't immediately do a hiki waza and get out of the way. I think in part I am not taking the jigeiko seriously like a shiai. I recall during the tournament, I was really serious about doing the hiki waza quickly or risk getting hit immediately. One tends to relax a bit too much during jigeiko. I need to intensify my jigeko and treat it more like shiai.
  • Of course I am still faced with the problem of finding a way to succeed in a strike.
  • Other technical issues:
    • We practiced a 2 step men from to-maai by taking a small inch-sized step to close to issoku and then quickly striking men. I was also instructed that after the first micro step, to quickly brush the opponent's shinai to the left and then follow through with a strike.
    • Condon reminded me to keep my eyes on the opponent after I strke doh and follow through.
    • We practiced suriage waza. Timing was difficult. When a opponent is coming at you with full stride, after you suriage and strike either kote or men, you don't have much space to follow through.
  • I was instructed today that after striking men I should keep my arms out straight more rather than bend them as if going into taiatari- this tends to make one look less confident of the strike.
  • Also I was told to "run" thru as fast as possible after striking men, and then turn around as quickly as possible. Seems I tend to strike men and then slow down. This helps add to the sense of determinism in the strike and also gets you far out of the way when you turn around so you are not in reach to be counter-struck.
  • Last week Okawara sensei had us practice striking men while motodachi would hold at kamae so that we would run into the tip of the shinai. The goal was to strike men and move forward with enough force to push the motodachi all the way back. The point was to build confidence in striking men with every ounce of determinism. I find I tend to relax my men strike if I see that it is about to get deflected. The logic being that if it is going to get deflected then it would make sense to conserve energy. It seems the goal ultimately is to always strike men with full determinism, but to know or create the best opportunities to strike men, so that energy is not wasted in strikes that will likely fail. The challenge is to learn to find or create those opportunities. Paradoxically it seems the only way to overcome this is to expend energy to do more attempts at men strikes to see which ones succeed- essentially increasing the sampling rate of possibiliities.
  • Another thing that was taught was to take okuri-ashi steps forward and back from to-maai and issoku, and then when the opponent is not expecting it, take a fast ocuri ashi step from to-maai into isokku and then quickly strike men.
  • I was also told that when I strike Doh and follow through, I should keep my eyes on the opponent- ie maintain zanshin/awareness even after the strike.
  • Also for a long time I find that when I strike men simultaneously against an opponent that is also striking men, I tend to miss. I've been told by others that it's because I don't have center. That may have been the case so I have tried to watch that carefully. In the past few months I think I have finally found the root of the problem. It seems when I strike men I tend to strike as when I conduct men-uchi practice (ie the opponent is at issoku). The problem is when 2 opponents are both striking men at the same time, the distance becomes much shorter. So that means one has to bring the shinai down sooner to achieve the strike. I have been watching more closely at my strike targeting and it appears to have helped a lot.
  • Iaido:
    • learned 5th Kata.
  • Trying to focus largely on the basics again- especially trying to keep my head level so that all my energy is transfered forward from feet to arm. Also trying to not gradually increase speed towards a strike but to spontaneously strike.
  • Still trying to strike and follow through more.
  • Iaido:
    • Learned 4th kata.
    • Need to remember to wear a bandade over the right hand knuckle next time to minimize wear from tsuba.
    • I am always surprised at how sore my right arm and legs are the day after Iaido. It is clearly a good leg workout. Morishige sensei mentioned that in Oct a hachi-dan will be lecturing. I am curious what are the requirements for hachi dan in Iaido.
  • Participated in kendo demo at Ravenswood church. Approximately 30 people in the audience- most of whom were middle-aged and up.
  • Demo consisted of:
    • Demo of Kata.
    • Intro to the uniform.
    • Demo of basic strikes.
    • Kirikaeshi followed by diuchikomi.
    • Lastly jigeiko.
  • Tommy said I should not gradually lean forward before a strike, it gives me away. Just attack.
  • Les told me I should commit more to my strikes. He was really throwing me for a loop with his odd array of blocks. It was really hard to try and just stick to the main kendo strikes. I was resisting the urge to just instinctively whip my shinai around to hit him since it wouldn't have been a valid strike anyway. Still it was an altogether confusing experience.
  • Also I noticed something interesting in Les' men-uchi. He appears to have his waist slightly twisted so that his right arm can extend forward a few more inches than normal. I am not sure if this is considered good posture but it does appear to gain a few inches on me when we both strike men at the same time... I have seen this same thing with Umeki sensei while reviewing one of the prior videos.
  • Want to see if it is possible to take the 1st Kyu test in October. May have to go to practice on Wednesdays too.
  • Trying to focus exclusively on keeping good center and striking good men all the way through.
  • Okawara sensei told me to avoid bobbing forwards and back. I didn't fully understand what Andrew meant at first. It seems I am not taking the full okuriashi steps forward and back as Okawara sensei was trying to have us do to gauge the opponent's maai. And as a result I appear to be bobbing.
  • I notice that when I am tired, that is when I seem to miss seeing and responding to the openings. Keeping concentration all the time is hard especially when your body is on the verge of collapse :)
  • Midwest Kendo Federation annual camp. U Wisconsin, Madison.
  • There must have been about 80 people in total. The Yudansha practiced separately from the Mudansha (ie the ones who suck). But both groups were taught by 8th-Dan sensei, and the Mudansha had Subarara sensei as translator. We were taught by Yamanaka sensei- the 8th Dan that visited Chicago about a year ago.
    Watching the way he does the basics is a huge eye opener. His fumikomi glides across the floor. He is perfectly level, he never bobs! There is so much energy in his movement, or at least the appearance of it, and yet it appears he is transfering his energy almost like a whip, from feet to body to shoulder to arms to wrist to shinai.
  • We spent most of the morning and afternoon on basics- men, kote, doh, kote-men, kote-doh, tsubazeria, and a bit of more advanced stuff like suriage men, nuki doh, kaesi men- none of these we did a lot of since he was trying to discourage us from spending too much time on these at an early stage. Even the people not in bogu got to do all of these. I noticed my doh hits had improved dramatically by the end of the day.
  • I pulled my back muscle in the morning practice- ... and so was in pain till lunch where I ducked into a Walgreens and grabbed some aspirin. I don't think I could have survived the rest of the day without it. So next year, I'll be bringing aspirin.
  • Afternoon was quite interesting. We "stormed" the Yudansha's "dojo" and got to practice and eventually spar a little with them.
  • The last thing we did was we could choose a sensei we wanted to spar with. I got to spar with Yamanaka... He pointed out one of my bad habits- I tended to cross my feet after following thru in uchikomi.
  • They were concerned about the heat since there was no air-conditioning in the gym. I could feel sweat from my keikogi dripping down into my glove.... So they were not so strict on not allowing people to drink water during practice, and warned people on multiple occassions not to overexert themselves. So every hour we got a 10 minute break. Gatorade was our friend.
  • As the day progressed more and more people started bandaging their feet. The blister frequency was increasing.. I finally got my 2 grand blisters at the end of the day sparring with the sensei.
  • Anyway, in summary, a thoroughly worthwhile experience, and will definitely go again next year, and will bring aspirin, bandages, and gatorade.

  • UIC practice.
  • Practiced Kata 1-4. In Kata 3 I need to move my body more both when parrying the thrust from uchidachi and then countering.
  • Les said I should not think so much during jigeiko
  • Uddin said I should just focus on striking men with full conviction.
  • Sakamoto said I am falling into the mistake of raising my arms too high after men.
  • Also my arms are too high after a strike in kirikaeshi.
  • katsugi waza seemed to have some success today in throwing people off during jigeiko. Problem sometimes though is that I get hit on the head as well as hitting my opponent.
  • I tried on a number of occassions to do kaeshi waza - most of them were too late. I may be focusing too much as oppose to letting my peripheral vision stimulate the block. Or I may not be raising my shinai sufficiently to receive the block. The occassions when I was successful was when Okawara sensei was practicing in Jodan. I had a bit more time to react in that situation. Also it occurred to me that this is essentially kata # 5 so there seems to have been some transfer of training from having done it enough times... that would suggest that repeating motions even at slow motion results in learning even though the action would normally be carried out at higher speeds.
  • Was luck enough to do a nuki-men. I am starting to see the value of big men.
  • Still need to try and focus on keeping my senses open to any incoming attacks- still too many mens coming through.... i am guessing that my kamae is off center without my knowing when that happens....
  • kikari geiko
    • Watching Okawara sensei reminded me that I should do large movements, not the small ones.
    • Need to practice these more to get used to seeing and then sponaneously attacking an opening.
  • Iaido practice
    • When bringing right arm out to begin the wet umbrella I need to have my sword more at 90 degrees from arm so that when I raise it to my head level to flick off the "blood" there is more of a flick.
    • I am surprised at how sore my legs are the day after Iaido.
  • UIC practice
  • Andrew commented that I should not bob back and forth since reversing leaves me open. Moving backward and forward was something Okawara sensei recommended everyone do to practice judging maai. I guess I was doing it wrong- I was pretty sure I was trying to do quick okuri-ashi to minimize the opening...
  • I often wondered why being exhausted improved your Kendo. Today while sparring with Les my right arm was pretty much dead but Les was still going strong. This required me to switch over to using more of my left arm (literally using it to press downward at the end of the swing), which helped a lot. Les commented that being exhausted teaches you to balance the amount of effort throughout your body. It seems in Kendo a lot of time is really spent in figuring out what the right subtle balance of forces are for each movement ie left arm vs right arm vs left wrist vs right wrist, and what the result is, in terms of speed and energy spent.
  • Practiced doh considerably today.
    • To do a nuki-doh you wait for the opponent to begin swinging. Then you step to the side and strike a small fast doh. Stepping to the side is usually enough for them to miss your men, when you strike doh. Avoid tilting your head sideways when striking. The longer you can wait for them to commit to the strike, the better the chances of them missing you. But it also shortens the time you can strike your doh.
    • To do a kaeshi-doh fast enough you have to wait as long as possible to where the opponent has fully committed his swing, and then in the last second block and strike doh. The block and strike must be instantaneous and a small using wrist motion, since there is not enough time to do a large swing. Also a slight angular step helps with distance.
  • While practicing kote today I noticed something interesting. I can pretty much hit kote by using my left hand and thrusting forward as if to do tsuki (using the natural length of my left arm to draw an arc that will raise my shinai tip just above the opponent's shinai) and having my right hand barely holding the shinai. Then as I am about to fumikomi, I gently tap downward with my right hand. This is something I have to re-examine this weekend when in bogu.
07/01/2006, 07/02/2006
  • Practiced at both desplaines & uic.
  • Today I tried to focus on 2 things:
    • Remembering to follow through after the strike.
    • Keeping my kamae in the center, following Les' advice two weeks ago. This seemed to help. Instead of getting bonked in the head as always, I was at least crashing with my opponent's shinai perfectly in the center.
  • UIC:
    • Spent a good deal of time learning kote-uchi fundamentals (with tremedous help from Sakamoto sensei and Les):
      • When in issoku itto no maai I should take a smaller faster step and strike kote. Body speed is generally what determines a fast kote (since you can always move your arm faster than your feet) so try to strike with a sudden fast step. Do not lean into the motion- ie do not give the opponent any subtle cues of an impending attack.
      • When striking kote, use the left arm mainly and push it forward and up just enough to clear over the opponent's shinai (my error seems to be in pivoting my shinai at too sharp and angle and hovering in mid-air), then again mainly using the left hand, lower it to strike kote. This should be done in 1 continuous fast up-down motion. Right hand should do little more than guide the strike. Right arm should be fully extended on the strike for maximum reach. Strike does not have to be hard. The force of your fumikomi will create the seamingly strong downward force. After kote strike the shinai should be at a position to tsuki the opponent. Do not bounce the shinai up after the kote strike, instead relax your arms while you follow through. Because you are taking a smaller fast step for the kote strike there is a tendency for your body to stop moving after the strike so you have to remind yourself to keep moving forward.
    • When in jigeiko relax your arms- keep them slightly bent so that your shinai remains loose. This is so that when someone tries to push your shinai aside, it has the flexibility to move around your opponent's shinai and to remain back in the center. If your arms are straight and rigid, your opponent could push your opponent off center.
    • When sparring with Andrew, I noticed he was watching my feet most of the time....
    • Leg cramp again. Seems a problem after long practice especially when hyper-contracting left calf. Andrew hit me on the kote several times when I attacked with men. Though I hit his men, he hit my kote first- I think. I am wondering if my men is suffering similar problems as my kote-uchi- my guess is because I am holding the shinai up for too long before striking downwards.
  • On travel to Japan this week. Stopped by at the Shobudo store in Tokyo.
  • Practiced at UIC today. Lots of interesting things learned:
    • Katsugi waza- Katsugi is an action to raise the shinai on your left shoulder. As the opponent takes a step back or a defensive position, you jump into his/her men, kote, or even do. When striking men, aim your fist at his throat so that the shinai tip will eventually find its mark on the men. In general your raise your shinai to your left shoulder rapidly as a means to create a response from your opponent. But you do not swing rightaway. Sometimes the opponent will raise their shinai in anticipation of a strike. Use this advantage to launch forward to strike kote. Or if the opponent does not react to your movement, then strike men.
    • Katsugi should be used with care since it leaves your men open. Although katsugi does result in you protecting your kote, this should not be used as a defensive move since ones spirit should always be offensive.
    • Sakamoto sensei remarked about how to improve my kote. It seems when I attempt kote-uchi I am raising my shinai tip too much and then pausing before striking. He recommended I should raise my arm like when I strike men-uchi and then point the shinai tip downward during the strike so that the tip can hit over the opponent's tsuba if necessary.
    • Sakamoto sensei recommended I keep my shinai down after striking men or I will get knocked over. This is a bad habit. He also said that when I strike men I should strike it like men-uchi practice, ie, strike and follow through and crash with the opponent if necessary. I seem to be stopping right after the men. I had realized this from last the last few weeks. This just makes it more explicit.
    • Les suggested that the reason my men strikes do not reach their target whereas his does is because I do not control the center and do not have good zanshin. In otherwords when I strike men I have to do so with a full burst and committment that exceeds my opponents. In the worst case our shinai will perfectly crash. In the best case, it will land a hit.
    • Les said my right arm is too rigid during kamae and should bend it and relax it. This is what is causing him to move my arm when he flips his shinai over mine.
    • When sparring with Tommy Ferguson, Sakamoto sensei asked if I saw tommy's opening. I didn't. Evidently Tommy had moved sideways and in doing so his legs were apart which meant that if one were ready, they could take advantage of that situation to land a men strike. This is the first time I have been given more explicit example of what to look at in an opponent's footwork. The previous mentions were probably too subtle for me to have appreciated then...
  • Year 3 begins....
  • Practice shiai today
    • Okawara sensei recommended I attack more- and to keep the pressure on.
    • Lance said I seemed to have improved since the last tournament- always difficult to tell without being able to see oneself.
    • During jigeiko with Okawara sensei he was giving me feedback on my men-uchi. It seems the one that was my best was when I launched with full extension of my calf- ie it was an all out launch. Unfortunately I got a cramp afterwards from hyper-extending it....
    • Also noticed that when I brought my shinai under and then over and instead of striking kote, which is normal, I strike men, in many cases it seemed to throw people off.
    • I am wondering if it is possible, after taiatari, when someone backs off and tries to strike your men and you deflect it, to immediately launch to strike their men. It would require good zanshin...
  • There appears to be a couple of things worth experimenting with in regards to striking men:
    • Move in close, extend arm to narrow distance further and then do a quick burst, and strike small men- the theory being that perhaps by narrowing the distance and by minimizing the movement of the shinai to execute a strike it will give the opponent less time to react.
    • Do almost the opposite. Ie pivot shinai about wrist and then launch into a strike. This perhaps delays the committment to a particular target giving you an opportunity to choose either between men and kote in the last minute. I have noticed that Umeki sensei tends to do this. This is also similar in concept to Nuki Waza where the opponent attempts a strike and misses you because you have brought your shinai up and out of the way of the incoming strike, making the opponent open for a strike. But it seems many times people do not intend to do a nuki waza, it seems to happen because either the opponent misjudged maai and so was short of a men, or the receiver attempted a suriage waza but missed the deflection.


  • One of the sensei was leaving so we spent the entire class reviewing Kata. It was quite impressive to watch. There's a certain elegance in his movements that made look like dance.
  • Did a lot of kata with Gerhard Nuffer from U Wisconsin Milwaukee, another prof, who was very good. He had to remind me how to do ropponme :)
  • Anyway somethings to remember:
    • nihonme - as shidachi, when dodging kote and then striking kote, keep eyes on opponent's eyes, not the opponent's kote.
    • sanbonme - remember that when starting out in gedan and slowly raising it towards chudan, that you are fighting for the center.
    • ipponme - when shidachi strikes men, make sure to strike with the mono-uchi (first third of the bokken), not the tip of the bokken.


  • got tsukied a couple of times.
    • I wish I knew the sensei's name. He had strong kamae and kept reminding me that I wasn't keeping my center by tsuki-ing me every time I tried to strike men. But of course everytime I kept center and attempted a men, he'd just block it.
    • i tried a downward and then upward kote and he knew that was coming and turned his shinai to his right for an easy counter
    • i tried harai men and he turned his shinai left for an easy counter
    • then when i was centered, I lost a moment of focus and he hit me on the head with blinding speed
    • i tried leaning in slowly to gain closer maai before hitting but that didn't work- he seemed to be aware of what i was doing
    • what I find interesting now in all this process is that now when I encounter a tough opponent, I find it an interesting puzzle to solve rather than something that just made me nervous in the past. It took me a while to realize that while some instructors like to vocalize things to help you, others prefer to say nothing and just keep stabbing you or hitting you on the kote until you learn by osmosis.
    • i think he presented many openings which i didn't take advantage of due to my hesitation. i notice i tend to notice many openings after the fact... rather than acting immediately on instinct. perhaps more kikarigeko will be beneficial.
  • iaido practice:
    • a solid tsuba wears less on the thumb
    • iaito feels heavier than bokken
    • the feel of handling a iaito is different from the bokken- the bokken is smooth all over. iaito has a sharp tip- glad it wasn't a real sword.
    • doing hidari and migi seemed easier this time / more natural involving just a pivoting turn.


  • Everyone lined up behind a dan-level motodachi and did the usual exercises: kirikaeshi, men-uchi, kote-men-uchi, men-taiatari-hiki-doh-men. Doing this against dan-level motodachi was useful to get feedback. Then the motodachi practiced against each other while the remainder of the class watched- useful to be able to observe how dan-level folks do their exercises.
  • Some reminders from today's practice: remember to strike big during kirikaeshi- got a little sloppy today.
  • Kevin: When striking kote-men, kiai should be a continuous kote-men, not 2 separate utterances.
  • During jigeiko sometimes I seem to be fixated on a target and so when the motodachi purposely opens up a target, I tend to not see it until I've already launched a men. Not good.
  • 2 things I wanted to focus on today: keeping right hand more stationary and relaxed while I use the left hand to do the cutting; and trying the forward-backward maai exercise during jigeiko.
  • One thing I am noticing that my men strikes are getting crisper. I think when I was striking men in the past I didn't feel as though I was committing to a cut. I think I am getting into the mode of thinking of a men strike as a crisp deep cut. As a result my men strikes seem to be getting through more, whereas before they would always fall short if someone else struck men at the same time. Perhaps I am striking men "better", but it just strikes me as odd that "determination" plays such a big factor in making a convincing men strike.
  • I started trying to apply some small pressure on the left of my shinai to center it against the opponents. During jigeiko I noticed that the opponent started to move toward my left to try and re-establish the center. This went on for longer than I expected and we both ended up turning around each other in a slow circle. So this would suggest that this is having some effect on my more experienced opponent. I wasn't entirely successful in "pushing" my opponent's shinai out of the way so I could obtain a men strike. Perhaps next week I should try and engage a strike before the opponent can readjust for the center, and at the same time move a little closer to facilitate it. While watching Okawara sensei spar today, I noticed he keeps his shinai steady for the most part and advances forward just past the point of issoku-ito-no-maai before striking.
  • For kata practice I need to remember in Ipponme to strike the opponent with the first third of the bokken, not the tip. I guess you get sloppy after a while. I think this is why doing kata with an opponent is so important.


  • Visited the Sword show. Show mainly consisted of real antique cutting swords. Learned how to handle/inspect a real sword. Sword collectors seem to be like any other antique collecting bunch, except perhaps they tend to focus largely on the blade so it is far more esoteric than other forms of collecting. Since the swords range anywhere between $5K to $50K I am rather surprised that these shows aren't run more as auctions.
  • During practice okawara sensei introduced a new exercise to encourage us to focus on maai. Essentially the uchidachi and motodachi stand at issoku ito no mai and synchronously move forward and backward 3 times. Then on the third time when the motodachi expects to the uchidachi to step forward, the uchidachi strkes Men.


  • Really getting rusty with dai uchikomi. Need to review more often.
  • In Iaido practice we did 2 new ippon me kata: Seiza Migi and Seiza Hidari as well as review Seiza Mai (front). Next day my thighs were really sore from all the kneeling and rising. I am quite surprised at just how much Iaido exercises your thighs.


  • Okawara Sensei said that in beginner's class we focus on ki-ken-tai-ichi, and in advanced class the focus should be kiai, maai (distance), re-ai (opportunity). A google on re-ai didn't seem to turn up anything so I may be spelling it wrong.
  • Okawara Sensei recommended everyone learn to know their own maai. Once you know your maai well you will always know when you are within striking range.
  • When jigeiko-ing with someone try to determine the other person's maai. Move in and out to try and determine their maai so you always know if they are likely to strike. Staying in toi-maai doesn't necessarily mean that you are beyond striking range, especially for someone with long strides.
  • Okawara Sensei recommended that I ignore harai waza and just focus on maai and men-uchi. He suggested that one should just keep attempting men no matter how good your opponent is. Once you can figure a way to get through your opponent's men, nothing can stop you.


  • All the senseis were away today so Kevin led advanced class. It was actually rather helpful:
    • spent a lot of time focusing on taiatari to try and keep it low- what was most useful was taiatari hiki men/doh and then motodachi would follow up to chase shidachi and strike either men or kote. it took a bit of getting used to but it was practice for something we seldom had a chance to do.
    • also did variations with tsubazeria where 1. you slowly backed off to kamae; 2. backed off quickly and attacked men; 3. backed off slowly and then attacked men. This was done initially with motodachi not striking back; and then later with motodachi striking. In general this staged progression of skills was very useful.
    • Since there were no sensei there were too few advanced members to spar against during open jigeiko. So after about 15 mins of that kevin had all the shodan+ stand in a diagonal line across the gym. He then had everyone else line up and do ippon-sho against the members on the diagonal. This was a useful way to get a lot of people a chance to spar with the advanced members.
    • For 7th kata, when shidachi does the horizontal belly slash, make sure to move the left lag far and wide to the right before pivoting and swinging around otherwise you will not have enough distance between you and uchidachi.


  • I sparred with Oshida today. I tried a suriage waza where I would do a quick deflection of his shinai when he struck and then I would immediately counter. To my surprise as I countered, he immediately deflected and countered and hit my men. Wow!!!
  • For 5th kata when uchidachi strikes downwards, do a small strike to about chest level then go to gedan as your bokken is deflected by shidachi's strike.
  • For 6th kata when uchidachi steps back and goes to jodan for the first time and then to chudan, do this in one continuous step. Not jodan, pause, chudan.


  • Too much travel / grant writing lately on top of getting sick
  • Last week I sat out of practice and video taped it from the side lines instead. On comparing Okawara sensei and Umeki Sensei I noticed Okawara sensei tends to use smaller shinai movements when striking so resulting in seamingly quicker strikes. For example, for cutting small men, his shinai rarely reaches a vertical position before coming back down. Whereas for most of Umeki sensei's strikes they almost always reach vertical. I am wondering if this helps delay a committment to strike to the last possible moment to make it difficult for the opponent to deflect. On the otherhand it would seem a smaller movement would give an opponent less time to react to a strike.
  • Stuart Card's Model Human Processor estimates that the time needed for a human to see a stimulus and react to it is between 105 - 470ms. This means that if a kendoka can execute a Men strike faster than 105 ms an opponent will never have enough time to react to it. In stepping thru Umeki sensei's video, it takes him 11 frames of animation to execute a men strike. Okawara takes about 8 frames (both Kote and Men). At 24 frames per second 11 frames translates to 458ms, and 8 frames means 333ms. These are all well within the reaction time of the model human processor. This would suggest that while speed helps, it isn't the determining factor. Both kendoka move slow enough for average humans to be able to react to the movements. This would suggest that something that results in a momentary loss of focus is what causes an opponent to get hit.
  • Another thing I noticed is that umeki sensei tends to take very small quick steps that eventually lead to a sudden strike.
  • Morishige Sensei from the Buddhist Temple of Chicago (BTC) began offering Iaido classes- once very 3rd week of the month. First class covered Rei and Ippon-me.
  • It is interesting how my footing seemed to get stuck in Kendo mode during Iaido practice.


  • Reminders from Kevin:
    • after taiatari, don't just stand there. Back up in kamae or strike and retreat.
    • after striking, following thru and turning around, don't take steps backwards. Stand still. Remember to go far enough thru so you don't need to take steps backwards.
    • On the otherhand Okawara Sensei always bonks me on the back of my head when I do continue thru. I assume that's an indication that I have gone too far.
    • If you strike and can't go thru the opponent, rather than take lots of little steps hopping around the opponent. Stop, taiatari and do something else. Hopping around puts you in an unstable position.
  • Okawara Sensei demonstrated small kote today. It was interesting because he expressly told us to keep our righthand practically motionless, while moving only the lefthand to initiate the strike. There may be a correlation to what I was thinking on 1/7/2006. It was also interesting to note that when he was doing a kote-men with me, how close he was before initiating the kote. He was literally approaching like he was going to do a tsuki, and then in the last minute he snapped a kote.
  • I need some idea of what I am "supposed" to do when in kamae. Like perhaps trying to tap the opponent's shinai off center so I can attack. I sometimes find myself in a daze in front of an opponent, usually out of fatigue, and before I know it, I've been bonked on the head. I think it shows a certain lack of focus on my part.


  • Biggest problem with going on vacation for almost two weeks is that you are always concerned that you'll be severally out of shape for Kendo when you return. So I've been noticing for the past month that if I did heavy squats Friday night before going to Kendo on Saturday that I feel less winded. I have found this to be more effective than going running for 20 minutes. So I decided to put this theory to the test after having engaged in no physically strenuous activity for 2 weeks by doing 2 sessions of squats (once on Tuesday and once on Friday) of the week before Saturday kendo practice. I am quite astonished by the results. I actually felt more exhilirated than I have ever felt during jigeiko. At this point I figured it was time to consult the "oracle" ie Google and see if there has been any mention of squats as a means to improve stamina. The claim is, there is a correlation. (see reference on Hindu Squats).

1/7/2006 & 1/14/2006

  • I am still kind of puzzled: when two people strike men at the same time, why does one get thru and not the other. I seem to be constantly in a situation where when I start to launch a men strike, I always seem to get hit first- but then I would expect that even if I got hit I should be able to at least hit the opponent too. Odd.. wish I could video tape what's going on.
  • I noticed last week that keeping perfectly still before initiating a strike may not be particularly useful since any movement would give away the fact that I was about to strike. So today I tried both during a single jigeiko session to see how my opponent responded. It does appear to help.
  • For the most part I think my fumikomi is connecting with the strikes but it is difficult to tell. Another instance where video taping would be helpful.
  • Starting to get the feel for breathing thru ones stomach- ie stomach out when breathing in and vice versa. This seems to help with recovery after kikari geiko or jigeiko.
  • Several months ago Kevin commented that when I hit small men I am using my right hand too much. I was examining my shinai today for splinters and something occured to me while pivoting it about my righthand. Comparing the amount of exertion it would take to use my right arm to do a small strike vs doing the same with the right hand held still while the lefthand moved up, seemed to require much less exertion and result in greater speed. This seems like something useful for striking kote- but it seems like really bad kendo technique...
  • I am constantly amazed, even after a long practice, how Okawara-sensei can do a session of kirikaeshi with such speed and grace. My arms feel like lead. Something else to deconstruct....
  • In sparring with umeki-sensei I am really impressed at how fast he is. But more than that, his strikes always seem so crisp. In reviewing the videos I took at the MWKF tournament I can see just how completely "uncrisp" my strikes are.
  • I was watching Maeda sensei and other students jigeiko. It is interesting that with the smallest amount of arm movement he can intercept an oncoming shinai- kind of like he knows the final trajectory of the shinai and so sticks his shinai in an "optimum" spot to draw your shinai downwards to open your men to be bonked. So as one ages the rate at which your visual system can detect change decreases. This would suggest a need to understand the trajectory of the shinai in order to intercept it even when one's reaction times begin to decrease. Finding the shortest path should theoretically provide you with more time to react. Seems if one could create a constrained inverse kinematic model of a kendoka doing men-uchi (or a large enough sampling of kendoka), and based on the assumption that you are in regular kamae, you could backsolve to find the region that can be reached by the shortest path. Could be a fun Master's project for a student :)


  • Stuff I learned:
    • Okada: I seem to be dropping my kamae when i am exhausted. He recommended I brace my arm against the side of the doh for support so that the kamae is always firm rather than flapping.
    • Uodin: really need to concentrate on a hit and proper follow thru, not just a hit.
    • Tommy: I seem to be pausing or pulling back when I raise my shinai to hit men-uchi. Need to push shinai forward more with left hand, and in general to keep the strikes as 1 single movement, not 2.
    • Jonathan: after I hit men-uchi, my arms are raised too high which could result in getting toppled over. Should just strike men-uchi and keep arms forward as they are. He said that although many of the more advanced kenshi raise their arms after a hit it's only because they were certain of a clean strike.


  • Practiced at the Broadway Armory for the first time. It is smaller than Desplaines and the floors are a bit slippery.
  • Sakamoto sensei reminded me to raise and lower shinai during kote-uchi in one motion, rather than pause at the top of the motion.
  • Sparring with Les: I think Les is trying to remind me to maintain proper kamae every time he tries to flip my shinae out my hand. Also I seem to keep forgeting to out of reach from getting hit. Les recommended either backing out slowly with ones shinai pointing forward, or springing backwards with a strike as in right after taiatari.
  • Sparring with Sakamoto: Need to avoid taking an extra step when striking. He indicated that I can reach 3.5 ft with a single fumikomi and that once I can break thru this psychological barrier I won't feel the need to take the extra step or lean forward when striking.
  • I think today was the first day I felt I could do jigeiko "indefinitely". Ie I didn't feel totally winded or exhausted.


  • Last practice of the year at Desplaines- exhausting.
  • I think my men-uchi is improving thanks to Umeki sensei's tip last week.
  • Wasn't particularly happy how I fought Andrew today. Waited too long and he just mowed me over. Too tired after jigeiko with Okawara sensei.
  • Will probably try and make practice this Tuesday. Hear that Armory guys? Dr. Pinata might be visiting :)


  • Sakamoto sensei mentioned today that the armory buddies have been reading my blog :)
  • He also explained the dichotomy between being told to swing big vs all the advanced students swinging small. Basically beginners don't have the experience and the wrist strength to execute small strikes with good form.
  • He also said that one of the problems with practicing once a week is that by the time you get around to it the next week, you spend most of the time warming back up to a prior level of competence. Then there is little time left to add new improvements. I think he's right. The summer sessions at UIC really made a huge difference.
  • Sparred with Umeki sensei who bonked me on the head about half a dozen times in a row while crossing small men-uchis. He said the reason I am slow in getting the hit in is because I seem to be pulling my hands back in before I raise it to strike. Instead he recommended I thrust outward.


  • When doing men uchi as motodachi, Okawara Sensei suggested that after receiving the hit, I should step to my right, and that I should step to the left for kote. So far in practicing with Ken he asked me to step to my left after receiving a men, as well as a kote.
  • When doing men-taiatari-hiki-men, after men strike, quickly move hands down to waist and crash into opponent. On immediate rebound strike men. Do not pause after taiatari, use the momentum from the bounce to reverse and strike men.
  • Kevin suggests: When striking and following thru, follow thru far enough so that you can immediately turn (and without backing up due to momentum) and be in firm kamae. If you find you did not follow thru far enough, rather than back up to gain proper maai, do the best you can with some kind of attack. Essentially I am often attacking when too close and as a result using my right hand to tip shinai to strike- not good form.
  • Practiced 7th kata form.
  • Also in the 6th form, you do not start with bokken slightly lower than chudan any more. You just assume chudan, take 3 steps and then lower bokken to mid level. Also when in chudan your bokken should be slightly twisted to the right (ie clockwise).
  • When doing hasso remember to show zanshin.


  • Wore a heal pad for my right foot for the first time today. I can see why so many people wear them. They are extremely good at dissappating the force during fumikomi making it much easier to get a solid stomp. One concern is that after practice my heal was starting to feel a small amount of pain which suggests that I am in reality stomping quite hard. This could be bad if I were ever to practice without the pad...
  • Practice was slightly different today. Basically we did kirikaeshi against an opponent for the full length of the dojo and then back. Then Men-uchi, kikari geiko and then jigeiko. The latter two was a bit chaotic. The exercise was good in that you got to do a series of the same things in one continous set. However the rotation out and then waiting for the other groups to get their turn meant that practice was less intense than usual.
  • Jigeiko against Okada
    • Okada tended to keep his shinai firmly in the center- I could feel the force against my shinai. By trying to push against it I got distracted and he managed to get several men cuts thru. Also when force is applied to his shinai, he could sense when I was about to attack because there would be a movement in the shinai. I notice his son tried to flick his shinai out of the way.
    • When doing men cuts toe to toe neither of us would score a hit. So Okada isn't faster than I am, he is just able to anticipate my movements better and distract me more easily.
    • Attempts at harai men were pretty much useless since he knew I was going for men after each harai.
    • There is again this strange dicotomy between beginners being told to constantly attack whereas in reality the more advanced person is simply waiting for the opportunity. I suppose as a beginner waiting for the opportunity isn't useful because the advanced person can always out wit you with experience- so I am guessing that the theory is that if you keep attacking (as a beginner), at least you delay the inevitable.

11/05/06 - 11/06/2005

  • Participated in the Midwest Kendo Federation tournament. Had an HD camera on hand to capture some of the action- in particular the final match between Okawara sensei and ....
  • Also captured video of my shiai and kyu test- so will be looking forward to evaluating those.
  • Got knocked out in the second round of the mudansha competition. I didn't get to fight in the 1st level of the tree - my guess was that there were too many attendees. In the bout I think I hesitated too much rather than spontaneously and aggressively attacked as if it were ippon-sho.
  • I won my 1st bout in the Team competition- basically forcing my opponent out of bounds twice.
  • Lost on my second bout. The second bout I was up against Inoue from Chicago Kendo dojo- no hope there but it was fun to just get a chance to fight him. It ended very quickly with 1 men strike.
  • One thing I learned from watching them was that to get a men strike and a good follow thru you will sometimes need to raise your hands over your head so that there is room to follow thru before you collide into your opponent. If you have your arms straight in front of you, there will not be enough room.
  • Also it seems all the best kendoka do a very quick and crisp strikes followed by a very fast okuriashi- ie there is a sudden burst of speed associated with the attack. There is no gradual build up, it is sudden and fast. When I watch the videos of my own fighting I notice I do not perform my strikes with the same spontaneous burst of speed...
  • Second day I took and passed the 2nd Kyu test. Normally the 2nd kyu test would have jigeiko but I think they ran out of time. Things tested: Rei, putting on/taking off men, kirikaeshi, men-uchi, kote-uch, kote-men, doh-uchi, men-taiatari-nuke-doh-men.
  • Something I have to examine in my video is how high by left heel is off the ground. From what the sensei mentioned, many of us had it too high. I need to rexamine mine and try to keep it low- just above the ground to minimize damange to achilles.
  • I also got a chance to watch the 1st-kyu test. I was surprised at how bad some of them were... There was definitely too much aggressive jigeiko rather than artful jigeiko.
  • It was wonderful experience, I had a great time and saw some amazing kendo. I remember a year ago when I first saw a tournament I never imagined I would have the capacity to participate in one myself. It's yet another one of those cases where anything's possible if you try.


  • Okawara Sensei says when striking kote go straight for the opponent, not at an angle. Otherwise they will know you are going for Kote.
  • I still need to work on my men-uchi, need more downward motion directly on top of the head rather than hitting the metal face frame.
  • I noticed in practice last week that Les always seems to be able to hit my men, but my attempts always seem to fall short. At one point I thought I noticed that he was actually striking to the right side of my men which tended to make it impossible for me to land me strike. So I tried this against Okawara Sensei and although I didn't hit him, he also didn't hit me since our shinais clashed. I think ordinarily I would have gotten hit.
  • Won another shiai - 2 kote strikes- probably lucky.
  • Kote appear to be easier than men since the distance that one needs to traverse is shorter. So basically I disguise my approach till the last minute and then either do a men or kote strike.
  • After doing kote must remember to follow thru with zanshin. I must have scored at least 4 good kote strikes but 2 of them had poor zanshin so I was not given the point. I remember Les mentioning that you get the point if you have good form after your strike.
  • Need to remember to remain on guard after turning around for opponent's attack.
  • Need to practice Doh-uchi some more- feeling rusty during practice for some reason.
  • After following thru, remember to raise left foot before executing a turn to minimize left knee injury.

10/22/2005 & 10/23/2005

  • Kata
    • When in waki no kamae my bokken tip is a little high.
    • Need to also focus on maintaining tip - to - tip with bokkens
    • My pacing is too quick - especially when walking backwards.
    • My jodan needs to be more angled at 45- it is a bit flat at the moment.
  • Need to remember what the referee calls are during shiai.
  • Won another shiai - strike to kote.
  • Practiced men-kaeshi-do.
  • If after striking for men you miss, do not follow thru. Prepare for followup attack or retreat.
  • After striking target I need to follow through more before turning - the following thru is necessary for judges to register zanshin.
  • During kirikaeshi, even though you are doing it slowly to achieve correct form for judges, when striking, remember you are still striking with a knife so snap the shinai at the end of the movement.
  • In general when I strike men I should focus on snapping the shinai downward over the men.

10/15/2005 & 10/16/2005

  • The second practice does feel easier than the first- mainly I think because you get your second wind from the day before.
  • Kata
    • For 4th kata, the thrust should be like 3rd kata- ie sword is turned sideways
    • I am better off standing too close to begin kata rather than too far. If I am too close, I can always take 3 small steps. I appear to be way too far.
    • So when backing off, take a smaller step.
    • Watch out for when swinging up in 1st kata, 2nd kata, and 5th kata not to swing above the head too much.
  • For 2nd kyu testing
    • slow down ALOT for kirikaeshi. Remember the keep shinai straight above the head before striking the side of the men. The angle should be kept small so shinai does not glance off the sides of head.
    • after 5th strike going backwards, move far enough back so that it is a little farther apart than tip to tip. Then take 1 small step in to issoku ittto no maai and then proceed with men.
    • When kiaing hold 1 breath until AFTER you strike the second men. Then breathe. So it's Men, 4-men-forwards, 5-men-backwards-with continuing men, then 1 men, then BREATHE.
    • When hitting last men and following thru, maintain men until you are all the way through and have turned around.
    • Need to relax shoulders when striking in kirikaeshi
    • When doing jigeiko for testing, do all strikes cleanly. No need to go wild. Judges will not be impressed. Just do good men, kote, kote-men, taiatari doh, etc... Small kote and small men are ok- just do good kendo- ki-ken-tai-ichi. No need for harai waza or anything fancy. Good kiai and follow through. Take your time between attacks to change up the pacing. Keep attacking and maintain confident kamae.
  • For kote men, do not use so much wrist. Think of it as thrusting your left arm forward and up slightly and then down to tap the kote with arm and wrist down at the same time- just like when you do small men.
  • Remember to keep right arm well relaxed so that you are flexible at all times.
  • Other things learned today: debana waza:
    • debana kote: just as you begin to sense the opponent about to attack, reach for kote strike.
    • debana men: same for men- attack with small men the moment you sense attacker is about to strike.
    • suriage doh: when raising shinai up to block and then striking doh, do not raise shinai above the chin. When striking doh, strike the opponent's right side with both arms so that judges see this as a complete cut before you release your left hand and follow through. There is no need to fumikomi for the doh strike. Also you can sneak a step before the doh strike by moving your right food a small bit out to the right-forward. And then as soon as the opponent attacks, you swing at doh.


  • My attempt to go to practice today was a complete waste of time. The Chicago marathon blocked off most of the roads making it impossible to get thru no matter which direction I turned! GAH!!!!! Talk about a GTA flashback moment!
  • Now in searching the web for the path of the marathon I did come across an interesting web site:


  • Need to focus on better fumikomi. When I get tired is when my fumikomi falls to pieces.
  • Also I was instructed that during men-uchi I thrust my left hand forward and up to eye level and then bring both my left and right hand downward with my shinai horizontal (requiring a flick downward of the shinai tip) to hit the top of the opponent's men. This seems to go against everything we have learned. But on reviewing a number of video clips from high ranking competitors, this does appear to be the correct strategy. Now that I reflect on how I am hitting small men and in general hitting the frame of the men, it makes sense that I should be hitting the top of the men.
  • Also for kote uchi, I was told to extend my arm further when striking.
  • Watching a couple of video clips of high ranking competitors I noticed the following (which all seem like folks are "cheating"):
    • When hitting men and retreating backwards (nuki-men), you literally hit the men and fumikomi in place; and then retreat.
    • Also I was surprised at how far apart the feet are in some cases. They seem to be as far apart as when one springs for fumikomi. With the feet that far apart, then all there is to do is to strike men and quickly fumikomi in place.


  • Need to focus on fumikomi
  • would not be bad idea to take video snaps on how my men-uchi is looking
  • need to focus on good footwork for kirikaeshi for kyu test
  • maintaining strong kamae seemed to work in preventing tommy from crashing into me like before- also helps to kiai after turning around / reseting.
  • Still need to figure out why when I do men-uchi before Tommy, he still hits me first...
  • Does this have something to do with the fact that when he swings later his shinai deflects mine with sufficient force that he strikes thru?
  • Does that mean I need to strike straigher and with more momentum?
  • Ken recommended i focus on offense rather than defensive attack
  • with men-uchi need to not take tiny step(s) before launching- these are dead giveaways
  • ie show good ki-ken-tai-ichi
  • Another thought was perhaps my arms are tired because I am raising them too high after men-uchi


  • Kikuchi and Sakamoto Senseis practiced with us today.
  • Only able to spar with Okawara Sensei and Kikuchi sensei.
  • Kikuchi was very helpful- provided lots of feedback- especially on my small men uchi. He recommended that I focus on good fumikomi and use that to create the momentum for a strike, rather than using my arms. He said that with good fumikomi toward your opponent, your shinai will naturally find its mark. Also with long fumikomi you can keep your back straight and will not need to hyper extend your arms. This will help reduce arm fatigue too.
  • For small men he also recommended that I use less wrist motion. Instead he suggested that at the last instant I raise and throw my shinai forward.


  • Today we formed groups of 3 and rotated amongst each other as motodachi. Evidently this was something that the hachi-dan recommended. This tends to get everyone thru the exercises faster, but the problem is if beginners are grouped with beginners we risk not receiving adequate feedback from more experienced students, sempai and sensei.
  • I think I need to learn to calm down when beginning jigeiko. Basically keep my mind detached and just treat it as regular practice- so just do a good men-uchi and follow through. Ie find an opening and take it with good form- back straight, good fumikomi and ki ken tai ichi.
  • Kevin suggested that I was not following through far enough so when I turn around, I am too close to my opponent. Also he noted that my turns are too slow, leaving me open. Lastly he suggested that after turning, I should not back up (to try and establish correct maai). Instead I should just follow through far enough so that when I turn, I am far enough away to not require backing up.
  • One of the more experienced sensei/sempai recommended that for men I focus on large men rather than attempt small men (until I am more experienced) - since small men requires good wrist action to execute well.
  • Also I need to learn to breathe like I breathe when I do jogging- ie deep slow breaths from the stomach. Perhaps one way to do this is to practice doing men-uchi for 15 minutes straight.


  • Practiced Tsuki for the first time today. Goal is to step into it with the body in kamae position. Can also do a small lunge to extend the reach. But in general the goal is to take 1 okuri-ashi step and stop about 2 inches into the throat. Got some nice bruises to show for it.
  • Also practiced suriage doh. Basically block to your left, and then shift body to the left sideways and then strike doh while your opponent is attacking men.
  • Jason demonstrated another exercise where you have someone strike your men repeatedly and you practice blocking to left, striking to left doh, then blocking to the right and striking to the right repeatedly to get used to the rhythm.
  • Les reminded me to attack more aggressively, rather than wait. Also told me not to shift side to side unless I planned to follow with an immediate attack.
  • I got tsukied several times by Uodin while trying to strike Men. He suggested I had my shinai raised up for too long making me open to the tsuki. Next time, I'll try aiming for the tsuki but hitting small men.
  • Andrew said I had a bad habit of slowly winding up before attacking. Attacks should be instantaneous.
  • Uodin reminded me that after each pass of men-uchi, I need to stop. Then strike. Not keep moving.


It occurred to me today that the reason why I feel as though my men strikes are not reaching the opponent's men is that I am not striking thru the opponent in a straight line- but attacking at an angle subconsciously to avoid crashing into him. I think this is what Okawara sensei was trying to point out to me during men-uchi.


  • When striking kote, start at toi-maai (ie tip to tip) so you have sufficient distance.
  • Today I felt the least tired. Managed to spar with Okawara Sensei, Maeda, Andrew, Les and Kwon. Things I seemed to remember to do today: relax; footwork; kamae; fumikomi. My kiai also felt more "intuitive." Ie I was kiaing more than before and it felt natural. But If I remember one thing I forget another. Need to remember to strike straight thru the opponent and to concentrate on men-uchi. Les reminded me that instead of doing 3 consecuitive men strikes, it's better to do 1 well done strike. Remember the point is to kill opponent with 1 strike.
  • So to summarize on things to remember to do KRAFKOM:
    • KIAI: Remember to kiai often.
    • RELAX: Relax upperbody.
    • ATTACK: Attack, attack, attack- both forwards and backwards.
    • FORM: Form - always strike with good kendo form. Maintain back straight, keep fumikomi low and spring with left foot, cut straight thru opponent - don't go around them.
    • KAMAE: Always return quickly to kamae. After following thru and turning around, be on guard for possible attack.
    • ONE MOTION: When striking, e.g. kote, up and down is 1 quick motion.
    • MEN: Focus on Men-uchi.


  • An interesting thing that Les said today about tournament judging - when fighting, always try to display your best kendo- strike and follow through. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for the judges to give you the point - ie like in grant writing :) He notes that beginners, after following through thinking they scored a hit, forget to remain on guard afterwards so leave themselves open for a men strike.
  • Learned an exercise to encourage the use of the belly/waist to propel you forward. Essentially you stand in kamae while some one stands in front of you and buts his hands around your tummy to push against you to prevent you from moving forward. You then try to push forward with your left leg but leading with your tummy. It seems a slight tensing of the tummy helps in this exercise.
  • Second thing that was practiced that is related to this first exercise was to try and keep the right foot low during fumikomi so that the energy in the stomp doesn't result in slowing you for forward momentum. Essentially one stands at kamae and apply tension to the left leg while the right leg is preventing you from launching forward. Correct fumikomi is experienced when you release the right leg so that the left leg can launch you forward. So it is really more of a shuffle when done well- where there is no energy wasted in moving your right leg up and then stomping downwards.
  • When doing small men, need to remember to not lean forward during the motion so as not to give the opponent a clue. Also when snapping the shinai up and down for the hit, use enough force so that it registers as as strike, not an accidental brush.
  • During strikes I appear to be raising my shinai, pausing and then striking. Try to do this in one motion. The hard part is to do this when your arms feel like lead during jigeiko.
  • For harai men need to remember to strike the opponent's shinai as if you are hitting a kote except with more force so that you can push their shinai out of the way. Keeping the motion small and fast like a kote hit gives the opponent less time to move the shinai out of the way.
  • For harai kote, remember you are just brushing the shinai out of the way, not deflecting it. It is a subtle movement.
  • Tommy recommended that we all just focus on doing good men strikes- ignoring kote, doh etc.. until we can get a good men strike.
  • When doing tai-atari, keep it short. Get out of it quickly and respond with a strike. Pushing against an opponent, especially a larger one is hopeless.
  • At the end of practice, to bow to sempai: while on ones knees, everyone simultaneously picks up their shinai, turns to face the sempai, put the shinai down, then bow. Then pick up the shinai, turn back to the left and put the shinai back to its original position.


  • Had another epiphone about holding the shinai with my left hand. I am always told that you want to try and hold the shinai with the last 2 fingers on your left hand as far back as possible. Now I think I understand. In fact you might want to perhaps have half of the smallest finger extend beyond the length of the shinai's end. This starts to make sense when you are trying to raise your shinai as quickly as possible. By having the little finger almost touching the bottom of the shinai, it gives you additional leverage when raising the shinai- allowing you to use less effort on your left hand. By having less tension on your left hand during the raise, the speed of the raise can be increased because your shoulders do the work.
  • Still need to make my kote strike steps smaller and to keep back straight.
  • For kote-men make sure men is bigger. The point of kote men is that your kote doesn't score you the point which is why you are following with a men.
  • Need to improve footwork- stay on balls of feet- off the heals.
  • When striking, adjust body direction so it is straight before attacking.
  • After taiatari keep arms some distance in front of you, not up against your chest otherwise you have few options to respond.
  • When colliding during taiatari try to collide fist to fist so you don't hurt your hand. Crash with your body so you can stop their advance.
  • When doing small men, aim for the throat and at the last minute raise shinai up a little and strike men.
  • Kendo is not really about battling it out between opponents. It is more like ballet. At every movement you must be precise, not sloppy - due to laziness or fatigue. Even when fatigued do not show it. Act relaxed and fluid. Return to kamae and be ready to defend an attack or launch an attack.


  • Getting better in Kirikaeshi- able to move faster now.
  • I need to lower my arms more for kirikaeshi and apply much more forward momentum especially against larger opponents.
  • Reviewed kote suriage men, and kote nuke men. For kote nuke men to work you really need to move fast- ie the moment you notice someone is doing kote. This is really difficult to do in real jigeiko. The alternative is to take a step back and then strike men so you have more distance. Problem is you have to fight against your own reverse momentum. Have to try doing nuke to the rear left some more next week.
  • Have to be very careful with my turns especially with my left leg. This is the second time I have slightly strained the collateral ligament in my left knee.
  • When doing sonkyo, do not go all the way down to rest on the heals. This will help you stop toppling over.


  • Went to Chicago Kendo Dojo to watch Yamanaka Sensei- a Hachi-Dan, practice.
  • Yamanaka looked to be about 50-ish years old and he moved so amazingly fast that it really changed my perception of how age affects performance in Kendo. He fought like he was 30.
  • I only saw the first 3 jigeiko but in that short period of time I was able to see how fluid his movements were because he was able to anticipate his opponent and execute his movements with the least amount of energy. He had to, because I heard that in the end, he went through 20 people without a rest!
  • One other amazing thing I saw, which I will never forget, was: there was a brief moment when his opponent had his arms raised, exposing his Doh. In a split second, Yamanaka sensei had slashed BOTH sides of the Doh- first left then right. The opponent had no idea what hit him.
  • It was amazing to see how quickly he saw openings in everyone's kamae and use the element of surprise to take advantage of them.


  • Okawara sensei went into a shoving match with me during jigeiko. I think it is his subtle way of telling me to follow through more. Next time that happens, I am going to leap back, and do men-uchi and follow through.
  • Need to strike a bit larger so that the cut will cut through the opponent's men-uchi so that the shinai reaches the men.
  • Towards the end, after sparing with Lan, and doing the last kirikaeshi, I was exhausted. I don't know where Lan gets his energy from- he was zipping thru.
  • A couple of things we did during practice:
    • Suriage Doh
    • We did the sequence that I learned from the other dojo: ie men, kote, kote-men, harai men, harai kote, men-doh-men.
    • Also kote-doh
    • Also I managed to confirm that when you do a doh it is ok to bring left hand up to right hand. This isn't absolutely necessary but does make it easier.
  • Sparred with Michael. Tried shifting to the left out of the way when he attempted to strike. It appears to work. But it made him too close to return a strike. So next time I need to step back diagonally and then quickly strike before he finishes his strike.
  • Learned kata # 6 from Kevin. Need to review this before next time.
  • Okawara Sensei managed to thwart my kote-uchi pretty easily by moving his shinai to his right.


  • Practiced Kata for the entire class (led by Sakamoto sensei): from 1-7. Then those with experience with kodachi practiced the 3 kodachi kata.
  • Then we practiced an alternate form of kata intended to be more practical for shinai kendo. The new kata (of which there are 9) is relatively recent (introduced in 2003) and is called Kihon Kendo Kata or: Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon-waza (Bokuto Application for Kendo Fundamental Technique Practice) Keiko-ho.
  • The kata resembles many shinai waza form except performed with bokken (and with no fumikomi). There is only 1 kamae position for this kata, namely chudan. Many of the moves contain oji waza (ie nuki-, suriage-, kaeshi- waza).
  • A quick refresher on waza:
  • Altogether, there are 9 fundamental kendo wazas (techniques) that can be used. Here's the list:
    • Shikake-waza - Offensive waza. Shikake means "challenge". Shikake-waza include the Harai, Debane and Hiki wazas.
    • Oji-waza - Defensive waza. Oji means "respond". Oji-waza is the name given to defensive and counterattacking techniques such as Nuki, Suriage and Kaeshi wazas.

      1. Ippon Uchi No Waza (single hit): Men, Kote, Do, Tsuki
      2. Nidan No Waza (double hit): Kote-Men, Kote-Do
      3. Harai Waza (deflecting): Offensive waza where a strike is made after deflecting an opponent's shinai, thus breaking the opponent's kamae.
      4. Hiki Waza (reversing): Men-Tsubazeriai-Hiki Do
      5. Nuki Waza (avoiding): A waza where you avoid your opponent's attack causing them to swing through the air then counterattack when your opponent's waza has ended.
      6. Suriage Waza (brushing up): Kote, Suriage Men
      7. Debana Waza (thwarting): A waza that is performed just as an opponent intends to deliver a strike.
      8. Kaeshi Waza (turning over): Men, Kaeshi Do
      9. Uchiotoshi Waza (striking down): Do, Uchiotoshi Men

07/23/2005 & 07/24/2005

  • Glutton for punishment- attended both days of practice...
  • The foot taping method seemed to help cushion my sore feet and the sports tape stayed on perfectly throughout the whole practice. I could not get a hold of the moleskin material so I got the bandaid blister block bandage which is a pad with a gel-like bandage around it. This is not recommended over the moleskin since the gel seems to melt a bit and gums up against your skin, making it a bit painful to pull off- especially if you already have a big callus under your foot. Also the moleskin is much cheaper.
  • Stuff learned:
    • Again- need to keep back straight during kote uchi
    • Strike bigger to men after kote-men
    • During jigeiko my feet are crossing- maintain proper ashi-sabaki at all times so you are always ready to attack.
    • When in taiatari and opponent's hands are high, push low to destabalise them. Also could turn a small angle and strike while moving backwards.
    • When striking kote, strike deeper- ie not just the tip (kensen) on the wrist- but the whole mono-uchi.
    • When launching Men-uchi, raise left arm forward to where it is practically parallel to the floor then extend forth your right arm to get the strike. Need to strike deep so that it will cut thru to their ear. Hitting the face grill does not count as a point.
    • When in kirikaeshi start out by raising shinai to the eyes straight up then swing at a small angle. Do not raise shinai at an angle and then strike. Also do not BOB while striking.
    • Must return to kamae all the time to maintain guard. After a crash, always be on the guard for an attack.


  • More learned:
    • Try to minimize the need to use force on the right arm and use your body to push the shinai into the opponent during men strike. This allows you to use less energy on your right arm- which is what tires first.
    • According to Sakamoto sensei, when doing fumikomi raise the shinai at the same time as one raises ones leg so that both are in complete synchrony. Avoid the temptation to raise the shinai first as we had learned in desplaines. You have to do this in synchrony if you want to be able to do kote-men fast enough and if you are to be able to progress beyond 2nd Dan.
    • Also when doing fumikomi minimize the raising of the right leg and use your left leg to try and push so that you land the distance of your shinai. (while keeping back straight).
    • When doing kote, raise and lower the shinai in one fast continuous up-down strike rather than a slow raise and a fast strike.
    • After striking men and following through, maintain kamae as fast as possible to guard against attacks.
    • After striking men follow through with some distance beyond your partner raise shinai to vertical position, turn and assume kamae.
    • Also when in issoku-ito-no-maai, DO NOT take one small step before striking. Avoid this bad habit.
    • Only take a step if you are in toi-maai.
    • After folding away bogu for sensei, carry it with doh cupping the men, and take it to the sensei's bag.


  • Practiced again at UIC. Sensei Ken Sakamoto led practice.
  • Learned a lot:
    • When receiving strike to Men as motodachi, point shinai a little to the left just as the attacker is raising his arm so you don't stab him. Then just take a small casual diagonal step back to the left to get out of the way as he cuts through. Do not raise your shinai and turn. Just remain with small movements so that you are in near kamae most of the time.
    • In kirikaeshi, when motodachi, step in after receiving men strike so as to create some force during taiatari. This applies also to men-hiki-do-men.
    • Not a bad idea to do both small (fast) kote-men-uchi as well as large. When doing small kotes use fumikomi to create the momentum of the cut. When receiving a fast kote-men-uchi after receiving strike to kote, step back diagonally left so that uchidachi can strike men and follow through. When receiving slow kote-men-uchi take small step back after kote strike, then the diagonal back step after the men strike. Practice this footwork for next week.
    • Also it would be good to remember the kakari-geiko sequence: men, kote, kote-men, harai-men, harai-kote, men-hiki-do-men, men. This sequence is done twice in succession. Need to practice the motodachi side to give the uchidachi a good practice session. In men-hiki-do-men, after raising shinai to receive do, return shinai to kamae immediately so that uchidachi can establish correct maai.
    • Raising left arm too much during men-uchi.
    • Les recommended that at my level to just cut big, even if it slower so that form is good. You will get hit on the head hundreds of times- but what's important is to just keep good form rather than speed. And to keep attacking kote and men with good form over and over.
    • Les recommended I keep my head up during men-uchi strike so that my back isn't hunched.
    • Ken recommended that even when you are exhausted, do not let your kamae fall. Remain in chudan and do not let your opponent know you are tired. He is just as tired as you. Pretend you are fighting a battle and you don't want to give the opponent any sign of weakness.


  • Need to pay better attention to fumikomi during men-uchi.
  • I am curious as to at what point one's speed/subtlety is sufficient to get past Kevin's blocks.
  • When Kevin was pounding away at me today I should have tried suriage waza.
  • There seems to be this dichotomy between striving to "strike big" vs achieving sufficient speed and subtlety to score a hit. I have noticed that most of the advanced students strike very small yet we are encouraged to strike big. Does one just accept the exercise in futility? Is there a method to this training?
  • For now I am going to just focus on good form and treat jigeiko like kikari-geiko.
  • This week I may try using the weight to help improve speed.
  • Another thought on timing of fumikomi. As a beginner we are taught to swing the shinai up before we begin fumikomi footwork so that the strike and the stomp are in synch. This is needed because the beginning large swings are slow. I am noticing that the advanced students will begin fumikomi footwork first and then strike- and this necessitates a smaller strike. This also disguises your intent for longer. That would also imply that faster footwork is needed.


  • Advantage of Desplaines practice is that it reviews the fundamentals. Advantage of the UIC practice is that you get to go one on one with individual attention with more Dan members.
  • Still need to remember to keep back straight during kote-uchi. Kote-uchi only requires a small step so there is no need to reach down low and bend ones back. Must remember....
  • Still need to remember to cut and run through the opponent.
  • Practice felt quite good today- wasn't overly exhausted.
  • We helped the Choyokan team going to the All US tournament practice by forming a circle and doing non-stop kikari-geiko with each tournament team member. I can't imagine how exhausting it must have been for them.


  • Practiced back at Desplaines....
  • Kote-men-doh: as receiver, after accepting kote hit, need to step back to take men, and then step back one more to take doh hit.
  • Jigeko was interesting today. All members stood in a circle with one member challenging each member in cyclic fashion until the match was a tie or the member lost.
  • I lost a bit of focus during jigeiko. Need to practice more on ippon-sho to men/kote with minimal movement. But do not disregard use of suriage waza. Also need to focus on pushing forward with strong zanshin.


  • Second practice at UIC.
  • Lots learned:
    • For kamae my left hand should be 1.5-2 fists away from waist (rather than 1). This cuts down on the time to swing. I am getting hit on kote everytime I attempt men strike.
    • Take smaller fumikomi steps for Men-uchi and Kote-uchi so that you are mainly striking with the tip of the shinai. In general maintain as far a maai as possible while still being able to strike. Suggestion was standing as far back as toi maai- especially for kote. Taking smaller steps also allows you to be more subtle in your attack. It is better to strike short and miss (so you can try again immediately) than to strike long and miss (where you have no opportunity to strike again).
    • Bring shoulders back so that body is not leaning forward during strikes. This will also help make the strikes less right arm dominant.
    • Try to avoid harai waza and concentrate on 1 strike kills (ippon-sho) to men & kote.
    • Andrew still thinks I need to turn my left kote inwards more despite the fact that my hands really are but my glove isn't. Perhaps try stretching the glove.
    • Kirikaeshi seems to be improving.
    • Remember to sit aligned with next senior student even if the senior student is not properly aligned.
    • After 3rd rei at end of practice, ask Maeda sensei if you can put away bogu for him. This is only done at Broadway and UIC. Not at Desplaines since Okawara sensei was taught never to touch anyone's bogu.
    • When striking men and following through. If can't go through, go to taiatari by bringing wrists down toward waist level. Do not just try and push the opponent through. Only follow through if you get a clean strike.


  • Year 2 of Kendo begins....
  • Summer practice began at UIC (Sports and Fitness Center on the west side of campus).
  • Les Wilson is the lead sempai. Maeda sensei was the only sensei.
  • There were about 10 of us which made practice significantly more productive with careful corrections made by all the sempai.
  • Notable differences between Armory dojo practice and Desplaines:
    • Practice is more intense at Armory but thoroughly satisfying at the end (albeit painful and tiring):
      • Warmups did not include suburi
      • When in seiza shinai is placed on the righthand side and tenegui is placed over men.
      • When rotating between partners you do not start with shinai in right hand and then assume kamae. You start in gedan, go to kamae, conduct exercise, return to gedan, bow lightly, step back and wait for all others to finish. Then you bow and thank opponent, and then rotate.
      • Practice consisted of:
        • kirikaeshi with all sempai
        • men-uchi, kote-uchi, kote-men-uchi
        • kikarigeiko consisted of a sequence: men-uchi, kote-uchi, kote-men-uchi, harai men-uchi, harai kote-uchi, men-do-men uchi, men-uchi
        • "beginners" practiced with available sempai sharpening specific techniques. I spend most of my time on harai waza.
        • In harai men, make sure to strike downward (with fumikomi) to a point where you knock opponent's shinai out of the way and puts your shinai back into kamae position. Then fumikomi to strike men. Note that knocking shinai out of the way does not mean knocking it sideways. Try to strike it crisply downwards.
        • In harai kote, you slip the kensen under the opponent's shinai (clockwise) and then strike kote. This is just done with 1 small fumikomi step since kote is closer. This was at the suggestion of Maeda sensei. Although Tommy Ferguson suggested knocking the shinai sideways.
        • Andrew corrected me on shinai grip - especially since the stiffness of the kote made it difficult to assume proper hand grip- have to try and loosen the kote before next week.
        • Les reminded me not to lean forward so much during kote uchi.
        • Rounding up the practice was final kikari geiko with all the sempai followed by kirikaeshi. This was extremely tough and was when I developed a cramp in my right calf.
      • Other notes:
        • major bruising on right kote- need to wear wrist band next week.
        • blistered left foot and big toe.
        • thin head band was very helpful in keeping sweat away from eyes.
        • Tommy told me that I should never practice against someone my rank and should always practice against a higher rank.
        • Also no sitting to rest. Stand to rest


Missed practice due to illness.


  • Remember tor relax shoulders during oki-suburi.
  • New: Men Taiatari Do Men. Strike Men and collide into Taiatari. Then strike Do on retreat. Then strike Men and follow through.
  • When doing Kote-Men uchi, remember to keep the kote swing small and the men swing big.
  • Second Shiai - match was a draw. Tried a whole slew of things: Harai Waza to kote as well as to Men. Tried suriage waza. Was able to deflect the strike and issue an immediate strike, but opponent blocked it in time. May have to try a suriage doh next time since the opponents arms were raised after deflection. Tried sayumen strike.
  • Need to remember not to retreat too much even though I am doing this to establish correct Maai. Ie force the opponent to move instead. Ie after strike just follow through and then turn, as in practice.


  • Reminder for when receiving Do-uchi, strike your opponent on men so that he can strike your do.
  • My theory of Kiai seemed to have held up again this week. Kiaing seemed to be the solution to the dizziness problem.
  • Had my first Shiai - I was really surprised I won- by a kote-ari. Everything was pretty much a blur. I was hit on the head a few times but I guess the opponent didn't get a point for them. Mid-way through I started kiaing really loud to get air into my lungs- that seemed to give me second wind and I felt much more aware. It's as if the first half was just each of us striking to test each other. Then the second half when we were both tired, was when we started "thinking."
  • After the Kyu-ranked members finished, we watched the Dan-ranked members Shiai.


  • Practice was the same as last week. Only difference was we also did Kote-Do-uchi.
  • Felt very good during kakari and ji geiko apart from minor back and leg cramps. I seem to have gotten my second wind. I suspect the difference this time was I really tried to Kiai through everything. It was exhausting on the longs and throat but it completely stopped the feeling of dizziness.
  • I lost a bit of concentration during Kata practice. I think I have been just going through the motions during the week rather than really focusing.
  • Received the 3rd Kyu certificate from the Midwest Kendo Federation- and of course like everything else in Kendo we had to learn the proper etiquette for receiving the certificate from Maeda sensei. Ie. Bow, step forward to receive, step back and bow again.


  • After warmups, practiced kakari geiko and ji geiko
  • Okawara sensei reminded me to cut thru him (again- doh!)
  • One of the other Japanese sensei- whom I do not know the name, told me to hit doh before stepping around him.
  • Sparred with Maeda sensei who managed to twitch his shinai out of the way everytime I tried harai waza.
  • Felt a little light headed between bouts- managed to get over it by keeping myself moving and raising my arms above my head to bring blood back to my brain.
  • My kirikaeshi appears to be improving. I am starting to get the timing correct- I think.
  • I seem to be getting better at judging distance when doing men strike after taiatari. A couple of weeks ago I used to step too far back and miss every attempt.
  • Next week I'll see if I can maintain longer duration kiai during warmup and kakari geiko.
  • Okawara sensei asked me to look into UIC as a possible venue for summer training for the Chicago Kendo dojo.


  • Seem to be getting used to the pace- not as tired as before.
  • Kirikaeshi
    • Still need to remember to strike deeper.
    • Also do not do men-uchi-komi from toi-maai. Take 1 step forward to reach issoku itto no maai.
  • When practicing do uchi, start at toi-maai, do not raise your arm to let opponent strike yet. Wait for opponent to reach issoku itto no maai and is raising his shinai to strike. Then raise your shinai to let him strike the do.
  • New stuff (Surage waza):
    • Kote suriage men
    • Kote suriage kote
    • Men suriage do
  • Ji-Geiko
    • Sparred with both Okawara sensei and Lin. Okawara sensei reminded me to cut and run thru the opponent, not to the side. Lin reminded me to keep back straight when doing shomen uchi and instead take a bigger step rather than have to bend my back to reach.
  • Ordered zekken from eguchi.


  • Hey the blisters are back! Ouch! Not as tired as last time, but still feel a little light headed after intense bout. Found out on the web it's because the sudden stop causes a drop in blood pressure because your heart has slowed down while your blood vessels have still dilated.
  • Kirikaeshi:
    • Need to strike deeper. I tend to strike the grill of the men rather than thru the head.
  • 5 times each as shidachi and motodachi: Men uchi, Kote uchi, Do uchi, Kote Men uchi
  • New stuff (Nuki Waza- a subclass of Oji Waza):
    • Nuki involves avoiding the strike just as the attacker swings down, and then returning attack.
    • Men nuki Men - attacker strikes with men uchi. Receiver takes one okuri-ashi step back quickly to avoid hit and then strikes Men in return
    • Kote nuki Men - attacker strikes kote from a step back from issoku itto no maai. receiver moves out of the way and strikes men
    • Men nuki Do - attacker strikes with men uchi. Receiver takes a step diagonnaly to right and strikes doh.
  • Ji-Geiko
    • This time we sparred and rotated between partners. Then we went onto free sparring with the advanced folks.
    • I sparred against a little squirt (probably about 12 years old) who kicked my ass thoroughly.
    • Sparring with Nguyen was very helpful. Remember to just attack attack attack.
    • Noticed that often most people ignore their doh when they attack your men. I scored a couple of hits that way by striking doh in the last minute rather than men.
    • Remember remember remember to follow thru after the strike!!!!
  • Kata
    • Yohonme
      • remember when parrying to keep the edge of sword pressed against the attacker's sword even as your feet moves to new position, and then finally do sayumen strike
      • Also after shidachi strikes and yells Toh, count 2 seconds to give Shidachi time to "confirm" the win.
      • When thrusting as uchidachi remember to aim for sternum and to keep left hand below right hand.


Missed practice due to illness.


  • Moved over to the advanced class today. I don't think I have been more tired in my entire life. Class lasted 1.5 hrs with an additional half an hour for Kata practice.
  • Class consisted of :
    • The usual running/warmup but included additional fumikomi exercises
    • Suburi
      • oki suburi 30
      • shomen uchi 30
      • sayumen 30
      • katate 30
      • squatting & cutting to kote suburi 30
      • haya suburi 50
      • shin ko kyu
    • Then Rei
    • Donning Bogu
    • Geiko
      • Kirikaeshi with several partners
      • 5 times each as shidachi and motodachi: Men uchi, Kote uchi, Do uchi (remember to bring the hands together on the shinai when striking do), Kote Men uchi (remember to take one step back as the receiver after getting hit on kote), harai-otoshi-men (omote), harai-kote (ura)
      • harai-otoshi-men (omote): omote means left. raise shinai tip toward your right shoulder and smack down on the thick part of your opponent's shinai near the tsuba with the left side of your shinai, then strike men with fumikomi
      • harai-kote (ura): ura means right. lower shinai in a clockwise arc under your opponent's shinai. When your shinai is now on the left of your opponent's shinai, knock it out of the way (to your right) using the right side of your shinai, then follow with a swift and short strike to the kote. When striking kote, do not raise your arm all the way up and then down as you normally do when striking. Just do a quick and short up/down striking motion along with fumikomi.
    • 1 minute rest to check shinai and himo
    • Ji-Geiko
      • Choose some one arbitrary to spar against
      • Andrew's tips: RELAX! Don't expend so much energy. Use your body to do the cutting and you will be less tired.
    • Final Rei
    • At the end of Rei, run up to each of the sensei and bow. (There were 3 sensei).
    • Half hour of Kata.


  • 3rd Kyo test today consisted of:
    • Judges: sakamoto, maeda, andrew, and 2 other senseis
    • Usually bow in
    • 9 were tested (arranged in order of height)
    • Putting on men and inspection - have to re-examine how to tie doh himo correctly.
    • young kids went first
    • kirikaeshi in groups of 3 rotating in so that everyone went twice as shidachi and motodachi
    • shomen uchi, kote uchi, kote-men uchi, 3 times each
    • end session with usual bows
    • senseis gave us final tips for improvement


  • Kata:
    • Yonhonme.
  • Suburi:
    • ashi sabaki
    • oki suburi
    • shomen ichi
    • haya suburi
  • Practice:
    • shomen uchi between partners
    • kote uchi
    • doh uchi
    • doh uchi plus follow through
      • need to remember to keep back straight
      • strike doh before following thru to the right
    • tai atari
      • Keep the hands at about waist height- you are pushing with your body, not your arms.
      • Do not remain too long in tai atari
      • When taking on the tai atari position, do not step backwards so as not to be pushed out of bounds- which is a possible tactic during ji geiko.
    • striking men from tai atari
    • ji geiko
      • When I first took Kendo I was a bit doubtful whether one could actually call a hit before making one. I was rather surprised today that it is indeed possible- and without too much thought. It seems the months of practice did drill something into being an automatic response.


  • Kata:
    • Review ipponme, nihonme, sanbonme, yonhonme
  • Suburi:
    • ashi sabaki
    • oki suburi
    • shomen suburi
    • katate suburi
  • Practice:
    • Shomen uchi between partners, rotating between partners
    • Kote uchi
    • Doh uchi
    • Kirikaeshi
    • Ji geiko - free sparring.
      • Aim for 1 hit and then follow thru and turn around
      • In tsuba zarai push back and then shomen uchi while moving backwards
      • Attempted harai waza on my own as an experiment - seemed to work
      • I think I need to break this down into more scientific practice steps (this maybe too complex to do starting out):
        • just practice blocking random attacks
        • practice blocking random attacks and immediately responding
        • switch roles and practice attacking
          • Practice shomen uchi while reversing after tsuba zerai
          • Practice harai waza deflecting in different directions and attempting to hit different parts- like men or kote
          • Maybe debana waza to try and slip in a hit at the moment someone is striking...
        • then full sparing


  • Kata:
    • Review ipponme, nihonme, sanbonme
    • Need to watch more carefully (at corner of eye) for when Uchidachi submits to Shidachi during Sanbonme. That is when to draw back.
    • Practice yonhonme especially as shidachi.
    • Remember to wait for uchidachi to thrust deep enough so that you can parry before you follow thru with strike.
  • Remember to tie Men himos so that bows are horizontal, just as with Doh and Keiko Gi.
  • Kirikaeshi practice with Andrew - should relax shoulders and not strike so hard.
  • Kakari Geiko practice - need to watch more carefully for openings. Remember to keep back straight and follow through with right arm straight.


  • Kata:
    • Review ipponme, nihonme, sanbonme.
    • Opening of yonhonme.
    • Need to learn gohonme by end of March.
    • Advanced class learn kata at end of class.
  • Suburi
    • ashi sabaki
    • shomen uchi
    • sayumen uchi
    • hidari katate suburi- keep rigtht hand on hip in exercise.
    • hiya suburi
    • shin ko kyu
  • Shomen uchi to opponent's men and return to kamae
  • Shomen uchi with fumikomi to sensei 5 times
  • kirikaeshi
  • kirikaeshi + 5xshomen uchi w/ fumikomi
  • 3rd kyu exam will also include ji-geiko and kakari geiko [example video]


  • Kata:
    • Review ipponme, nihonme - in ipponme need to take a slight pause after approaching shidachi in jodan. Also right hand needs to hold bokken more tightly.
    • Sanbonme
      • As shidachi: when parrying uchidachi's thrust, keep back of bokken in the center and turn tip of bokken slightly outward.
      • When taking the 2 steps back to return to chudan, do so slowly, followed by 3 slightly quicker steps back. Uchidachi should follow you tip to tip.
  • Kevin led entire class today- interesting strategy for teaching the entire class:
    • Lined everyone up along the width of the gym in 3 lines (beginners first, then people in hakama, then people in bogu).
    • Practiced:
      • okuri-ashi across the length of the room. Beginners just did ayumi-ashi
      • backwards okuri-ashi. Then everything slightly faster.
      • kiai (yah) across the room
      • kiai yah on half of the room then kiai men to other half of room
      • Kiai with shomen uchi when reach the middle of the room. Then backwards okuri-ashi
      • Kiai with 2 shomen uchis; then kote uchi + men uchi.
      • Repeat except have to do this twice along the length of the room and back.
      • Everyone lined up against the people with bogu. Non bogu people practiced shomen uchi.
      • Bogu people practiced shomen uchi amongst themselves. 3 shomen uchi's then switch. Then 5 shomen uchis and then switch.
      • Need to be careful when turning after getting hit on head so as not to strain left knee.
      • Also need to practice randomly alternating between turn to the left or right when letting striker pass by.
      • When doing shomen uchi I am not sure if I was turning in the right direction all the time in response to the person receiving the strike... need to pay attention to this next time.


  • Kata:
    • Review ipponme, nihonme
    • Practiced Sanbonme as both uchidachi and shidachi.
    • Remember when shidachi retreats because he has beaten uchidach, take 2 ayumi-ashi steps back beginning with left foot. While doing this lower bokken to chudan. Then take 3 ayumi-ashi steps back to return to mid-meeting point.
  • Paid dues for MidWest and All American Kendo Fed.
  • When handing shinai to sempai for inspection string should be facing him, not the blade.
  • Things to remember when putting on bogu:
    • bow on bottom himo of do needs to be horizontally oriented.
  • When taking off mengani bring string ends to the front and pull to losen. Then wrap string around left hand, and with the left hand on the grill pull men off face. Do not use right hand to hold the throat guard. Place himo inside men. Fold tenegui and place inside men as well.
  • When putting on kote, left hand first (push from hand part of the glove to fit the glove on, do not pull on the upper arm guard). When taking off kote, right hand first (pull from the upper part of arm guard).
  • When carrying men and kote, place kote inside men. Wrap men under right arm with the back opening of men facing forward (so stuff doesn't fall out the back.)
  • When swinging in kirikaeshi remember to extend arms out.
  • End of March- testing for 3rd kyu. Need to know Kirikaeshi, Uchikomi, how to put on equipment. After which in April we move to Advanced class.


  • Kata: Sanbonme beginning of Uchidachi and Shidachi. Uchidach stabs and steps back. Shidachi parrys with okuri-ashi backwards, thrusts with okuri-ashi forward, step with left foot forward, then 3 ayumi-ashi steps starting with right foot raising tip of bokken to eyes of uchidachi.
  • Remember when tying lower strings on Doh that the bow should go horizontally.
  • Suburi
    • okii suburi
    • shomen uchi suburi
    • sayu men suburi
    • hidari katate suburi
    • hiya suburi
  • First day wearing full bogu including Men and Kote, performing kirikaeshi. Bogu did not seem as restrictive as I thought it would. Strikes to men didn't seem to ring too loudly.
  • Membership dues for Midwest Kendo Federation and All United States Kendo Federation are due next week.


  • Practice cancelled due to snow storm.


  • Kata
    • As Uchidachi don't take too big a step when swinging bokken in Ipponme.
    • For Sanbonme:
      • As uchidachi - when rotating bokken 90 anti-clockwise, thrust bokken towards the opponent's upper knot on his keikogi. Angle of bokken should be very slightly upwards- certainly not downwards.
  • Learned to put on tare and do
  • Suburi
    • ashi-sabaki : okuri-ashi 3 forward, 3 back.
    • Jogeiburi / okii suburi
    • Shomen suburi
    • Rensoku Sayu men/Naname Suburi - alternate cuts to left and right men
    • Hidari Katate suburi
    • Hiya suburi
    • Shin Ko Kyu
  • Learned to put away tare and do:
    • wrap tare cords (waki himo) around front odare (flap) of tare
    • wrap tare upside down around do with the back of tare facing outwards..
    • Use do himo to tie tare to do.
      • Wrap top do string across tare, interleaving between the 2 side odare (flaps of the tare) and tying it with the bottom do string on the other side. Repeat for each side.


  • Learned the opening gedan steps for third kata: sanbonme
    • When bringing bokken up from geddan to near chudan, bring it up very slowly and keep eyes on opponent, not on bokken
    • You don't bring it all the way up to chudan since you will be performing a thrust next
    • Thrust will consist of turning bokken anti-clockwise slightly during the thrust.
  • Warmup exercises included fumikomi with 1, 2, 3, and 4 men strikes
  • Suburi
    • okuri-ashi 3 forward & 3 back
    • Jogeiburi - large swing to touch back and front.
    • Shomen Uchi - strike to front of men
    • Sayu Men Uchi - left/right cut to men - remember to cut the men, not the opponents shinai
    • Sonkyo suburi
    • hiya suburi - need to improve speed on this
    • Shin Ko Kyu - stretch legs apart, strike men and shout men - deep breathing exercise at the end of warmup/practice
  • When doing Kote-uchi need to keep head up facing opponent, not staring at kote.
  • When doing Men-uchi need to strike as if the blade is going to slice opponent in two, not just tap him on the head.


  • Received Bogu from ebogu (2mm topquality titanium set) and extra set of gi and hakama for practice at the school.
  • For future reference: learn to put on Tare first, then do, then men. Do's himo (strings) comes in 3. 1 short one and 2 long ones. Short one goes horizontally across the back. Long ones go diagonally across the back to shoulders.
  • References for how to put on all this are all very poor- both on the Internet and in textbooks. It is worthwhile to document all this in a really good set of web pages.
  • Also for Gi there is no good reference on how to tie the front square knot. Best reference seems to come from the Karate web pages.


  • Wore Gi for first time
    • If bow in gi does not remain horizontal, tie the knot in the opposite direction
    • Remember to tuck final front square knot just below the himo from the front part of hakama
    • Still need to figure out how to tie the front square not.
    • After use of gi, hang up to air out.
  • Kata
    • Ipponme review - remember to strike top of head
    • Nihonme - need to bring arms down in one stroke, I appear to be bending my left arm excessively so the stroke appears to occur in 2 moves. Also when shidachi brings bokken down to avoid uchidachi, bring it as low as gedan.
    • On down swing need to do a crisp cut by tightening right hand and left hand together
    • Need to remember to not raise the bokken and shinai too high during a strike. Seems everyone has a problem with this.
  • warmup - led by Andrew
    • okuri-ashi 3 forward/back
    • Jogeburi
    • Hidari katate suburi
    • Shomen uchi
    • haya suburi
  • Keiko
    • individual components of kirikaeshi
    • on 5th sayu men strike backwards, end the last one with Kiai that lasts till you step back to return to chudan
    • After men strike past opponent, opponent should follow so that when you turn around he is ready to continue next iteration of kirikaeshi


  • Kata- nihonme
  • warmup
    • okuri-ashi 3 forward & 3 back
    • okuri-ashi 2 steps forward, 2 steps back, 2 steps left, 2 steps right
    • Jogeiburi - large swing to touch back and front. Remember to swing shinai with snap at the end.
    • Hidari katate suburi - left hand only striking
    • Shomen Uchi - strike to front of men
    • Sayu Men Uchi - left/right cut to men - remember to cut the men, not the opponents shinai
    • hiya suburi - need to improve speed on this
    • Shin Ko Kyu - stretch legs apart, strike men and shout men - deep breathing exercise at the end of warmup/practice
  • Keiko (practice)
    • fast okuri-ashi forward and back across the room
    • repeat faster with change in direction on command
    • beginners paired up with Motodachi across the room
      • bow, sonkyo and then one of the following exercises (if there are several beginners to a single motodachi, all beginners move up to sonkyo too)
        • shomen uchi - strike to front of men and follow through 6 times to return to start position
        • kote-uchi - remember NOT to lean forward when striking kote- keep arms extended, head back to face kendoka
        • sayu men unchi - strike to left/right side of men 5 forward, 4 backwards (6 times)
        • kiri kaeshi
      • retract shinai, 5 steps back and rei. Next person begins.
    • both beginners rei
  • Mike (the nice russian gentlemen received 2nd Kyu last April)
  • Took digitial video of advanced class


  • kata
    • in kata try to match the uchidachi's steps and stepsize so that the entire exercise between the 2 kendoka looks fluid
  • warmup
    • okuri-ashi forward and back
    • big front swing, big back swing suburi
    • sonkyo suburi
    • left arm only suburi
    • hiya suburi - need to keep my right arm extended when striking
    • faster hiya suburi
    • okuri-suburi
  • practice:
    • okuri-ashi forward across the dojo and then back across the dojo
    • repeat okuri-ashi faster
    • forwards and backwards fast okuri-ashi on sensei's command- this was the most exhausting exercise- started to feel a little faint.
    • kiri kaeshi broken into several parts
      • just the men strike
      • kote strike
      • kote + men one after another
      • men strike, 5 strikes forward, 4 strikes back
      • full kiri kaeshi
  • time to order gi and hakama
    • From what I can tell from the research on the web, the recommendation is to start with a single layer cotton kendogi and either a high quality cotton hakama (#5000-#7000) or a tetron hakama. Tetron hakama are made of polyester and rayon and so are lighter and cooler. Also folds better and the pleats are easier to maintain. I noticed however that the ebogu cotton hakama have stitched pleats - perhaps this is easier to fold.
    • Perhaps with more experience upgrade to the Super Keikogi with the HiDriTex material lining that is supposed to pull sweat away from the body.

Muscle cramping in the right pectoral muscle. Also a bit exhausted- started to feel a little faint. Kiaing seemed to help a lot.


  • okuri-ashi forward back
  • okuri-ashi forward, back, left, right
  • 3 step men
  • 2 step men
  • 1 step men
  • When striking men, If right hand grip is tighter in the last 2 fingers (in the same way the last 2 fingers of the left hand are used to mainly grip the shinai) and the first 3 fingers are looser, one can achieve a more crisp strike- where the tip of the shinai appears to snap at the end of the stroke.


  • Dojo hosted the Midwest Kendo Federation Tournament. See pictures!
  • Approximately 200 participants in 4 courts.
  • Learned how to keep score.
  • Interesting how "low tech" scoring is still. Also interesting how scoring is still so much based on human perception of the judges.


  • Warmup
  • Training session for tournament volunteers
    • Tournament is at: The Kathy Lane gym is off Western Avenue (8800 Kathy Lane). If you go east on Golf Road from where we are (Dee Park Golf Maine Park District), around two stop lights, then turn south (right), the park district facility will be on your right after just a few blocks (maybe 3).
    • Reference for tournament scoring:
    • Terms:
      • Begin - "Hajime"
        Stop - "Yame"
        Men point - "MEN ARI"
        Kote point - "KOTE ARI"
        Do point - "DO ARI"
        Tsuki point - "TSUKI ARI"
        2nd point - "Nihon me"
        final point - "Shobu"
        Foul - "Honsoku"
        1st foul - "Honsoku Ikkai"
        2nd foul - "Honsoku Nikai"


  • Kata ipponme
  • Warmups
    • big strike to gedan position
    • 3-step men
    • 2-step men
    • sonkyo suburi
    • hiya suburi - figured out today why my footwork is not correct. Need to keep left leg straight as if doing regular okuri-ashi
    • okuri-suburi- stretch legs apart as wide as possible in an exagerated kamae position. Then do men strike and shout and hold men........
  • Took apart Shinai to check for splinters
    • considering rotating slats of bamboo to even out wear and tear especially to the bottom of shinai where it receives the most impact.
    • shinai string should be tight
    • shave off splinters


  • Kata ipponme
  • okuri-ashi
  • suburi of various kinds
    • 2-step men forwards and backwards
    • big front swing, big back swing suburi
    • for sonkyo suburi you want to go from the standing position to the bent position then rise quickly. when in bent position you need to be always on guard in case someone attacks you.
    • fast hiya suburi
    • hiya suburi while someone is holding shinai horizontally
    • hiya suburi while someone is holding shinai vertiacally on the floor with tip facing up- goal is to hit the tip.
    • doh strike. just before you begin the swing down bring the left hand up against the bottom of the right hand, and then strike.
  • fast okuri-ashi (shout yah!) up to shinai held at men height; take one-step men with kiai- follow thru and then take second men strike
  • repeat above with first strike at kote and shouting kote on the strike


  • Kata practice Ipponme
    • I appear to be taking too large an initial step.
  • Okuri-ashi in kamae with kiai
  • One-step Men strike with kiai


  • Practiced at UIC dance studio - CCC's floor is very bad. Will try PEB next week.
  • Having mirrors helps make it easier to check form.


  • Kata practice for Ipponme
  • Back to basics: okuri-ashi in kamae-
    • gotta keep my fingers together on my right hand.
    • Keep right hand OVER shinai so that the palm pushes down on it, but not too far over that causes torque in the upper arm.
    • My right foot seems to be gliding rather than sliding- mainly because of the stick floor.
    • Remember always to lunge and stop.
    • Use counting to practice Kiai too
  • 25th anniversary dinner- had the opportunity to meet Mizaki Sensei
  • Eugene's the student who wants to join UIC's Psych department in Fall05


  • Joined with beginners for practice
  • Okuri-ash in kamae
  • 3 step suburi - legs apart arms raised; legs together strike; return back to kamae
  • 2 step suburi - put first 2 steps into 1 and then return to kamae
  • 1 step suburi - strike forwards and strike backwards
  • Men strike - strike to opponent's raised shinai while shouting men
  • Extend men utterance after each strike.
  • "There is no kendo without kiai" - Kevin


  • Kata practice - basic opening stances; initial 3 steps and closing 5 steps of Ipponme as Ochitachi and Shidachi.
  • Okuri-ashi forwards and back in kamae
  • Men strike with okuri-ashi back and forward
  • Practiced jumping part of kiri kaeshi
  • When shouting Men don't let the sound drop off at the end, keep it long and even all the way thru. Ie ME----------------- not ME------------NNNnnnnn........
  • No blister today- skin starting to toughen


  • Kata practice - basic opening stances plus opening for 5th kata gonhome where you are in chudan and you tilt your sword slightly to the right
  • Men strike with okuri ashi
  • Joge-suburi - vertical strike where shinai touches the back, all the way to the floor
  • Sonkyo suburi
  • Suburi while in sonkyo position
  • Men kiri kaeshi
  • Hiya suburi
  • Men suburi - remember the right foot always stays level and right lower leg remains vertical (ie it appears you are leading the leap with your knee)
  • I noticed that I am still swinging slightly off axis. Need to focus on straight strikes (and with a snap at the end- caused by wringing of towel-effect).
  • Also noticed my belly button is too high so when I hold my shinai in chudan it is too high. So need to lower to about where my left arm begins to extend.
  • Getting blister on left foot again. My guess it is due to some small rotation on the left foot some time during a men suburi. Will have to practice this more carefully.
  • Need to practice kiai more.


  • Kata practice - basic opening stances
  • Hiya-suburi
  • Sonkyo Suburi - kote strike from standing to crouching position
  • Men Suburi - leap forward and strike Men and okuri-ashi through; turn and repeat- REMEMBER after leap you need to follow through quickly- in the event that you may need to do multiple leaping strikes in succession.
  • Standing Sonkyo - sonkyo without crouching - used between switching partners during Men Suburi


Found: - Best Kendo page I've found so far - has really useful videos


  • No practice
  • Miyazaki sensei, founder of Choyokan will be visiting for 2 weeks.


  • Kata practice - Ipponme and Nihonme - need to learn to take bigger 3 steps
  • In warm up I noticed that it is hard to do a fast sideways okuri ashi - i have never practiced this before.
  • Kirikaeshi drill practice:
    • Full kirikaeshi
    • Shouting Kiai for initial men strike and then 5-10 steps beyond
    • Focus on the launch with left foot pushing and tummy out. Head should NOT lean forward. Remember the right foot should glide forward, not climb and drop in an arc. Also must land on right foot FLAT- not on heal or ball of foot. Follow through quickly with okuri ashi onward.
    • When okuri ashi backwards quickly head should lead the movement.
  • Still need to focus on using left arm more during swing


  • Ippome kata. Practiced as Uchidachi. When in Hidari Jodan do not let the sword sag horizontal
    • Uchidachi:
      • Regular Right foot Kamae
      • Left foot forward and a half step to Hidari Jodan
      • Ayumi ashi - 3 BIG steps starting with left foot. After 3rd big step take a half step with the right leg to bring it back to normal kamae positioning (except with left foot still forward).
      • Step big step forward with right leg and shout YAH bringing sword all the way down to below knees. Quickly take the left step a half step forward. Remember you are still doing a 1-2 Kendo step.
      • Shidachi will leap back one step to avoid your strike. Then strike forward.
      • Wait for Shidachi to do his strike to your head and shouting TOH.
      • Step back 1 small akuri ashi step (keep your sword at gedan)
      • Shidachi will lower the sword to your face.
      • Step back another step (keep your sword at gedan)
      • Shidachi will raise his arm to hidari jodan as if to give chase.
      • Raise your sword to jodan.
      • Shidachi will step back and raise sword to jodan.
      • Lower your sword to gedan and tilt sideways slightly.
      • 5 steps back.
      • Return to Jodan.
  • More Kirikaeshi practice except striking only men repeatedly - focused on forward leap and strike at the opening of the kirikaeshi men strike.
  • 3 Kendoka with Bogu stood to take the strikes to their Men.
  • Kirikaeshi drill performed as follows:
    • Bow, 3 steps forward, kamae (no Sonkyo)
    • Lunge Yaaaah Mennnnnn lunge strike. Stop. Kamae.
    • Left/Right Men (Sayu-Men) strike 4 times forward. Then 5 times backward. Each strike should be done in a fully controlled manner. No rushing thru it. Remember it is the striker's responsibility to establish correct distance, Not the receiver.
    • Then Repeat
    • Then Kamae, withdraw sword, 5 steps back and bow.
  • Yaaaah Mennnn strike practice:
    • Bow, 3 steps forward, kamae (no sonkyo)
    • Do Yaaaah Meeen lunge strike and okuri-ashi thru and turn to face the receiver. Repeat 5 times back and forth.
    • After 5th strike come back around to starting position, kamae, withdraw sword, 5 steps back and bow.


  • Basic Kata postures: (p.159 of Heart if Kendo):
    • Migi Jodan no kamae - Sword up - right foot forward
    • Hidari Jodan no Kamae - Sword up and tilted towards right - left foot forward
    • Gedan no Kamae - sword low at knee level - right foot forward
    • Hasso-no-kamae - butt of shinai at heart and tsuba at mouth level with shinai blade extending to right - right foot forward
    • Waki-no-kamae - shinai pulled back to the right and behind body (almost parallel)- blade horizontal - right foot BACK a spte
  • Learned Kirikaeshi (p. 63 of Complete Kendo book) - also focused on the left right striking of kirikaeshi (ie sayo men)


Missed class due to vacation.


  • This was the most tiring sessions so far
  • Learned the opening for several Kata - Ipponme (as shidachi and uchidachi), Nipponme
  • Practiced warmups with the main group - things of particular difficulty is men striking at sonkyo position
  • Learned that for bokken, left hand is placed 2 fingers width from the bottom of handle. Right hand index finger placed almost at tsuba. Thumb wraps around over the middle finger. Bokken in chodan is slightly higher than with shinai. The tip of the bokken draws a horizontal line towards the opponent's neck whereas the shinai's tip forms a vector towards the opponent's neck.
  • When lowering sword to geden position tip is lowered to opponent's knee height.
  • To signal passive geden, sword is turned 45deg to right with blade facing inwards
  • in sonkyo, the left arm should be bent as in regular chodan.
  • Learned very fast paced forward/back hopping suburi (this is called Hiya Suburi or jumping suburi- or at least one type of jumping suburi- there are others see after 50th count you follow thru with Mennnnnnnn; turn around and Mennnnn back to starting position. This suburi got me my first big blisters on my feet. Interesting thing is that as you do more of the suburi and count out loud, you count louder as if you are getting your second wind. The purpose of this particular suburi is to raise stamina/ki ; so when it comes time to shout Mennn, it is a loud long utterance.
This is the end of the beginner's class.


  • Learned the shidachi part of Ipponme Kata. Uchidachi leads the action. Shidachi follows.
  • Shidachi:
    • 3 big steps forward starting with left foot and with arm in straight (miji) jodan no kamae
    • Steps back to avoid uchidachi's swing
    • Counters with swing to Uchidachi's face and shouting Toh
    • Uchidachi steps back
    • Shidachi lowers tip of sword to uchidachi's nose
    • shidachi steps left foot forward and raises his sword to tilted (hidrai) jodan no kamae
    • step back and lower sword and arrive at chudan - tips of swords should be touching
    • lower to gedan no kamae
    • turn sword slightly to the right (ie blade pointing to left)
    • take 5 small steps back to beginning
    • raise back to chudan
  • Learned 3 step men strike - large step forward with right raise sword; 1 step forward with left bringing sword to strike at men; Back to chudan
  • Learned 2 step men strike- same as 3 strike except first 2 steps are compressed into quick single movement.
  • Learned 1 step men strike - strike forwards to men, strike backwards to the men
  • Cut to kote
  • Cut to doh
  • Learned to snap the wrist on the strike


New stuff learned:
- Cut to left and right side of the head with suburi style footing
- Okuri-ashi in a right circle and then in a left circle - difficult footing problem- must practice
- Step 45deg to right and strike, Step 45deg to the left and strike.When 45deg on left, left foot is in front of right foot unlike normal stance.
- Cutting to kote height
- Keeping left arm straight when striking is crucial - wrist should not be bent either
- Okuriashi review- left foot always straight, right foot bent slightly and sliding forward
- Last thing we learned was to strike a shinai placed Men height and horizontal, shouting Meeeeeeeeeen, and then follow thru several steps of okuriashi; turn around to face the opponent; return to chodan no kamae; and then bow. Turn is always in the angle of shortest turn to face your opponent.
Jogeburi is the suburi where the shinai is brought all the way back to touch your back.


Missed practice due to NSF Meeting


- ayumi-ashi - walk normally
- suri-ashi - the usual shuffle- stepping/sliding the right foot forward and pulling the left foot up to the level of the right heel.
- okuri-ashi - the 12-3 waltz shuffle -ie move right foot forward, then quickly left foot to follow
- Tsugi-ashi - used to close a long distance - rarely used in kendo <-- not learned in class

Practiced okuri-ashi with partner and tips of shinai touching and keeping in perfect distance. 3 moves forward, 3 moves back.

Practiced face cuts:

A. The cut then retreat to kamae- ie together in synch with okuri-ashi forward, raise shinai and strike to head level. Then in retreat move, okuri-ashi backwards to kamae pose. (there is a name for this but I can't remember- i think it is called Uchikomi)
B. Practice with just left arm - Katate suburi
C. Strike with forward-okuri-ashi; then strike with backward-okuri-ashi - this rhythmic sequence is called suburi

Issoku-no-maai is at a distance where the tips of the swords just cross

Arms should be fully extended at the end of the strike.

Other terms I am starting to decipher:

REISHIKI (Etiquette) at the start of a practice
SEIRETSU Line up ready to begin. SHINAI in SAGETO.
SEIZA Kneel down performing HAKAMA SABAKI. SHINAI raised to TAITO.
MOKUSO Relax the body and empty the mind to prepare for practice. Breathe deeply into the stomach. Don't totally close your eyes (bad zanshin).
JOSEKI JOSEKI NI REI. Bow to the DOJO regalia (DOJO NI REI should be used if there is no regalia). <--- we don't do this in our dojo
SENSEI SENSEI GATA NI REI. Bow to the teachers. <--- I think we just do SENSEI NI REI

REISHIKI at the end of a practice
SEIZA Kneel down performing HAKAMA SABAKI. SHINAI raised to TAITO.
MOKUSO Relax the body and empty the mind to prepare for leaving the dojo. Breathe deeply into the stomach.
SENSEI SENSEI GATA NI REI. Bow to the teachers.
JOSEKI JOSEKI NI REI. Bow to the DOJO regalia.

At some point we do SHOMEN NI REI - bow to the kamiza - flag/banner of dojo

Hajime - begin
Yame - stop
Seiza - sit (formally)
Rei - bow
Otagae ni rei - mutual bow to your partners
Sonkyo - crouch with sword facing your partner/opponent
Kamaete - take kamae (chundan no kamae)
Osame to - means to take sonkyo, retract your shinai, stand up, take five steps back and bow.


Revised starting and ending sequences
SPent most of the time doing okuri-ashi with shinai in hand- especially doing the 1,2-3 waltz step - keeping shinai and head perfectly level

mokuso is to sit in meditative pose with hands in cup and thumbs together


-Learned that the junior students offer to sweep the floor from senior students
- Learned how to hold the shinai
- string of shinai is up. Blade is on the otherside of string.
- In at-ease mode, Shinai is held at left hand side with blade up (ie string down)
-shinai etiquette- never walk over a shinai, never place the point of the shinai on floor, Never throw the shinai down on the floor
-When place shinai on floor next to you in seated position, point the blade inwards towards you.
- Learned how to hold the shinai and okuri-ashi at the same time- keeping shinai tip level and at throat height, also left grip should be 1 fist away from tummy.
- Learned how to raise the shinai and lower it to strike- use left hand to carry weight of shinai and right only to guide.
On downward slash wring both hands together tight.
- Learned how to sit and place shinai at side (with thumb on tsuba when lowering it in horizontal orientation to place at one's side)
- Learned how to start and end a shinai practice session
- bow
- place thumb on tsuba
- 3 normal steps forward beginning with right foot and begin to push tsuba with thumb as if to unshieve sword.
- on 2nd step take tsuka [handle] with right hand by turning left wrist anticlockwise so that
blade points away from body. Then grab handle with right hand.)
- on 3rd step start drawing shinai with shinai mostly drawn when left foot moves into place
- squat (sonkyu) with shinai pointed at opponent - feet should be at 45degrees 'V' shape centered about butt, lower body to sit on heels
- stand in chudan-no-kamae position with shinai pointed at opponent.
- To end shinai session
- in chudan-no-kamae position, squat to sonkyu with shinai
- return shinai to side with thumb on tsuba
- stand in kamae postion
- step back 5 small steps
- lower shinai to side further by removing thumb from tsuba
- bow


- Reviewed etiquette, warming up and movement.
- current new students are: Kaoru, akira, eliot, jim
- Kevin is the more cheerful assistant to the sensei
- learned today that when I move forward and backward I must keep my head level; and to move fast you do so with smaller steps. To move forward you thrust with your rear foot. To move back ward you thrust with the right foot.
- learned that wearing sweat pants helps with knees on hard floor!
- bowing- make sure your elbows are out and flat with ground. Do not lay your forehead all the way to the ground.
The idea is that if someone stomps you on your back you can brace yourself by your elbows and your face won';t go thru the floor.
- shinai are placed on the left in this dojo.
- Counting for warmup exercies:
Ichi, ni, san, shi go roku shichi hachi
Ni ni san shi go roku shichi hachi
San ni san shi go roku shichi hachi
Yun ni san shi go roku shichi hachi

To count to 10: Ichi, ni, san, shi go roku shichi hachi kyuu juu

Basic kendo foot work (shuffle forwards and back) - okuri-ashi (ashi means foot)
Walking-like foot work to cover larger distances - ayumi-ashi


Joined Choyokan Kendo Dogo: - Main Dojo Website

- Etiquette:
bowing to shrine on entry and exit (30 degrees, eyes down),
bowing between peple (15 degrees, eyes to eyes),
sitting - left leg first, hands never touch ground, men's legs are 2 fists apart,
when sitting, sit at read position, not butt on heals
rising - right leg first,
cowtowing - first finger and thumbs together
- Kamae - guard stance
- Yamae - stop
- Movement forward, backward and side to side
I think the other team mates names are: jim, ucowru, akira