22 Dec 2009

Nabeyama Sensei

This one happens to be one of the most useful practises I've ever attended. This was largely due to the fact that for an hour and a half, me and 3 other blokes had Nabeyama sensei all to ourselves, giving private instructions. It was rather embarassing as well ...

Starting off he's already corrected me on tying my Tare. It has to be loose at the top ... rather than tightly wrapped. Hard to explain, easier to show. Let's move on, loads more to cover.
Then apparently I've also been tying my Men incorrectly for the past 5-6 years. I've always wondered why it looked so much nicer when the Japanese wear them. I've been tying it too low, and need to tie it higher up on my head, about a quarter of the way down from the top. This gives the shoulder bit more room to sort of ... fan out and look big.
Next up is the warm up, my suburi; the next most basic thing after reigi. I wasn't doing that right either, actually it was more the case of laziness. Instead of going up and down by swinging down the tip, I bring it down first then go forward ... again, easier shown than explained. I was able to fix it pretty quickly though.

Then we did some kihon, little adjustments here and there, nothing major.
One of the highlight was the suriage waza. Kote suriage men, it is actually one of my favourite and the sensei was able to enhance it further for me. The fundamental is that it is supposed to be one forward movement, the blocking done in the middle of your Men-cutting flight. What he pointed out that was new, so simple, yet so effective was the block. It is meant to be in the centre, not off to one side (even though I normally move my left arm out and keep my right almost stationary anyways). Seems obvious enough after he said it, but I was never fully aware of it. Then from the block, where your shinai is still in the middle of the opponent's head, it is quite easy, and the distance becomes much smaller mind, to hit the Men. I can't wait to try it out.
The ji-keiko was much better, though I wouldn't call anything I landed ippon. Then Ikeda sensei, my regular, proceeded to run me to the ground and killed me off nicely. The pointer of the day was to keep my chin tucked in ... now honestly, I think this is due to the change in the tying of the Men. I've never ever had that problem before, so bloody annoying. Everytime I try to fix something in kendo, some other thing goes out of whack.
Anyways, for the time being, that's the last I saw of Nabeyama sensei ... I'm sure I'll run into him again at some point in time.

The first time I used the phrase 'sashin totemo iideska?' on a man

20 Dec 2009

Winter Break - Bangkok

My first practise back at the Japanese-association school in Bangkok for the Christmas break had quite a good turn out. All the familiar faces were present, and it was nice to see all the senseis again.

Little to my knowledge, the session had a special guest visitng. Lucky me! It was T. Nabeyama sensei (7dan) from Ibaraki, Japan. Everyone was understandably buzzing as he has competed many a times in the All Japans and Tozai-Taiko. Rumour has it he's even placed 2nd at the Zen Nippon before, al though I can't justify.

After watching him display incredible skills (which translates to whooping the the shit out of everybody) for an hour in the queue, it was finally my turn to have a go at embarassing myself. One ippon and I would consider the ji-keiko successful ... it didn't happen. The only achievement was making him move back with my seme in the beginning. It never happened before with any high ranking sensei, they normally just stand there, probably thinking this guy is absolutely harmless, there's no point ... when do I get my beer.
To be fair, I wasn't happy with my kendo on the day. After 2 weeks without practise, I was noticeably rusty. The Men cut didn't feel right, and the timing of everything was generally out of whack. So after the horrible display, the advice I got was to keep my kamae at all times, apparently I was waving the shinai about too much. Damn university kendo, too much blocking!

Naturally I was rather disappointed and frustrated, after all it's not often one gets such a opportunity. The upside is that ... the day after, I'll have another chance. Better shape up!

22 Nov 2009

Mumeishi 3's 2009

This was a rather short competition. After doing miserably the year before when we had such a good chance and team, I was determined to do better. If you're familiar with this competition you'll know that you're allowed to enter a team of 3, composed of 2 dan grades and 1 kyu grade as members. We always try to field a 'super team', I wasn't on it this time around. I may have been sulking slightly inside, but as far as teams go I never have a problem as to which team I'm placed in. I just hope to get in, do my best for my team ... and that's that. Of course I'm not going to lie that everyone is definitely in it to earn some silverwares, but, I guess it wasn't meant to be that day. We were swiftly knocked out in the prelimenaries, al though I did win my Taisho match. So that's my consolation! Too bad I was quite pumped up too ... next time

Blooper from my opponent:


27 Jul 2009

Mitsubishi Dojo

Hello Tokyo!
Apart from the magnificent city, I also had the honour to practise at one of the biggest company dojo in Japan: the Mitsubishi Dojo. All thanks to Shohei's uncle. I'm telling you, a little contact goes a long way!

Anyhoo, there was nothing outstanding to point out about the practise. It was two hours full of ji-keiko, no kihon whatsoever. I spent most of the time in awe at the cheekiness and technique of the kendokas present. Though older, they all had something special up their sleeves. Most of the attendees were 7dan, a few 6dan, 8dan, and even one 9dan.
After some educational fights, I queued up for the hachi-dan. The name escapes me, trying to remember 20-30 foreign (to me) names in two hours whilst being constantly hit on the head wasn't exactly an easy task. In any case, after 2-3 men cuts, he just did a sankyo, signalling that he'd probably had enough of me. It was time for me to walk away with my head hanging in shame.
Fine! Next. How many people on Earth can say they've had a keiko with a 9dan? Yeah, that's right. Suck it up bitches. It wasn't really a ji-keiko though, more like uchikomi, but no matter, I still learned a bit about timing, keeping centre, and a word I don't think I'll ever cease to hear 'masugui!' The funny thing though, was that ... nobody was queuing up for him ... which I found rather puzzling. Afterwards, during dinner/beer Nakamura-san cured my curiosity by telling me that, everyone was afraid they'd be the one to kill the old man, and nobody wanted to do that! So there you have it. The reason nobody queued up for a 9dan.

18 Jul 2009

Fukyōdai - Gasshuku

There's probably soo much I can write about this! I don't even know where to start. All the drunken debauchery and banter provided by us in the Mokkeiso at Fukyodai will not be easily forgotten. Spearheaded by Joe, my sempai, the representation of UCL was in good hands ... however, what happens there (onsen, sumo wrestling, infestation of alien-sized insects, etc.) stays there! All you'll get is a bit of kendo.

Living in the Mokkeiso, more or less a halls of residence for the kendokas of the university, was truly an amazing experience. The yakinikku + sushi welcome party, inclusive of free-flowing amber liquid, was enough to win me over. As with most cases, alcohol became the international language, and it didn't take long for everyone to warm up to us despite the initial language barrier. To be fair, their English was way better than my Japanese. So there we go.
The duration of my stay proved to be one of the most demanding kendo training I've ever experienced, minus a couple of camps in Thailand. The Kyushu summer sun worked wonderfully well in helping the dojo feel like an oven. It was hot and humid. At least the dojo floor was magnificent.

The first thing anyone will ever tell you about the dojo at Fukuoka Univerisity of Education was the warm-up ... God, that was the shocking to say the least. Most of them won't tell you much about it though, as the effect might be dampened. You'll just have to experience it, but I assure you there's nothing like it. After that, it is loads of kirikaeshi, uchikomi, some free waza (for kihon), then finally ji-keiko.
The time of practise varies depending on the day of the week, the most dreaded one was probably the Asa-keiko, having to get up as early as 5am. The rice and miso in the morning sure is a life saver though.
Unfortunately I didn't have a chance to get much advice from M. Sumi sensei (8dan), except for his take on kakarikeiko. He'd rather us think of it as active kakarikeiko.
No matter, I still got loads of advice from good ol' Honda sensei. Tips on improving my Men cut, small and big, various ways to seme and keeping centre ... and as always he liked my kamae! So that's the positives, kendo wise, to takeaway from this Gasshuku. Of course, the memories and friends I've left there will've ensured that I'll head back there as soon as the next opportunity arises!

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