Thursday, April 02, 2015

Cross Training

For a while now, I've been wondering what I could do to make my tournament performance better.  I attend multiple ones throughout the Midwest, but for the most part, I tend to get knocked out in the first or second round.  I look around at the people that tend to do well and I wish I was able to get a piece of that pie.  And when I talk about getting better at tournaments, it's not necessarily to win all the time, but I want to at least not falter when going up.

I realize that there are some people out there that are just good at competing.  I've realized a long time ago that I'm not one of those people and that I needed to put something extra into my training to at least set me on the path to where I want to go.  About a month ago, I decided to put a plan in action.

This is the current cross-training regimen that I've set out for myself:
  • Daily:  Do 100 katate-suburi with my suburito with each arm.  So I don't kill my wrists like I've done recently, I hold it closer to where the tsuba would be if I had one.  I do add 30 more suburi with each hand while holding it at the end of the tsuka, but it's done slowly so I don't injure myself.  I try my best to make sure I don't just do the swings for the sake of it by paying attention to the muscles I'm using and working on my tenouchi.
  • Monday, Wednesday, Friday:  Do a set of pull-ups or push-ups, something upper body at the very least.  I haven't made any specific goals as to how many of each I want to be able to do, but I want to try to make it a work-out
  • Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday:  Take a jog around the neighborhood for about 3 - 6 miles
  • In addition to that, I still go to practice five days per week
I've only been doing this for almost a month now, so the only thing I can say for certain is that I've become physically stronger in my daily life.  I have noticed some improvements in how my attacks are performed, but since there hasn't been too much time that passed, I can't say if it's due to the training or if I'm experiencing some sort of a good streak.  My fumikiri-ashi has improved, I've improved the use of my left hand when executing techniques and I've been able to perform better when it comes to sparring with others...most of the time.  There is one interesting thing that I noticed about two weeks ago.  While I have improved on my physical abilities, there is some lag time with any improvements in my Kendo technique.  It's obvious that I'll only get better at doing Kendo, but it's an interesting development to actually experience.

While I'm more physically able to do the techniques I desire during practice, there is one thing that's missing from my additional training which I believe is the most important part, and that is the mental training.  I could train my body to do complicated Kendo techniques and use certain muscles to get to where I need to go, but if I'm mentally flustered, I won't get so far during tournaments and promotion exams.  Right now, I go between being easily flustered to being too relaxed with not enough attentiveness to what's going on.  Maybe all I need is to just train my body more and exhaust myself enough so that I'm forced to get more spiritual in my practice.  Maybe blocking out some time for meditation is something I need to consider doing.  I don't really know the answer at this point, but the end goal is to have more fudoshin (immovable mind) so I can have more concentration about what's in front of me instead of worrying about potential results to hypothetical situations I think of.

I've had some hiccups with following the training regimen as regularly as I want to, but I've been able to guilt myself into getting back into it as soon as I can.  So far, the results seem good, but there are a lot of things about myself that I need to improve before I reach the goals I want to achieve.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Obligitory Kendo/Iaido Self-Reflection...2014 Edition

Overall, I felt that 2014 was a satisfying one for my growth, understanding and participation of Kendo and Iaido, despite some pretty interesting ups and downs.  I've been able to continue practicing between 3 - 5 days per week depending on the University of Cincinnati being in session.  I've also been able to make some new friends while vacationing in Hawaii and, of course, taking the opportunity to practice there and I've been able to catch up with some old ones by visiting Atlanta and practicing there.  There was one event that happened which will really test my ability to lead and organize though.

Earlier this year, I was given the keys to the Northern Kentucky Kendo Club because the previous leader had to move away for a job opportunity.  I've spent the past few years growing as a person by leading practices here in Cincinnati and offering advice where applicable, and I've been an officer for a few clubs in the past and with our regional Kendo federation, but I've never had the responsibility for running a club.

The good news is that the club is very small at the moment so there really isn't a lot of stuff to handle at the moment.  My goal right now is to try to structure the club a little better, gain more students and make the club more sustainable.  I know it's not going to be easy but I'm willing to stand in the face of this challenge.

One problem with the old club leader moving away is that now I'm without a sensei to teach me Iaido here in Cincinnati.  Of course, that doesn't mean that I will stop practicing.  I've still been able to work with my knowledge through practicing with him and attending seminars when I am able to.  My plan is to try to attend more seminars, gain rank and knowledge and try to grow Iaido membership.  Marketability is tough since Iaido doesn't have the screaming, hitting and stomping that Kendo has so it will be tough.  At least I've been able to do demos at our regional tournaments, so I guess that's a start.

There are two major events that I have to look forward to in 2015 that's Kendo related.

  • I get to see the World Kendo Championship in Tokyo in May.  I've always thought about going for years because it would be a great opportunity to see some of the best Kendo that the world has to offer.  I will be going with a friend of mine who stayed over there for a few months a while back, so she has connections to a few of the dojos she practiced at.  Not only do I get to watch some good Kendo, I have a few opportunities to get some practice in for myself!
  • I will be eligible to test for my 4th Dan in November.  I have been preparing for this moment ever since I passed my 3rd Dan, but I can't help but feel the pressure from the time crunch.  There's still a lot that I need to work on before the test date, but I feel optimistic that I will be able to use my short time to the fullest to prepare.
Other than that, all I can expect is to develop myself through more Kendo and Iaido practices while meeting new people and catching up with old ones.  

明けましておめでとうございます (Happy New Year)!

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Shundou (蠢動) review (International Title: Bushido)

I happened to find out about this movie on the internet through one of my random searches.  Since I have a thing for samurai period films, I really wanted to know more about the video and if there were any reviews available.  After looking at the trailers, I tried to see if there was any information available in English, other than a synopsis of the movie, but came up empty handed.  I've even tried to ask people on Kendo World and Facebook, but nobody was able to provide any useful information about the quality of the film.  I even tried to preview the movie by downloading it, but the only options were shady websites where I could subscribe to a free trial, provided I supply my credit card information.  Since I care about retaining my financial status and I think it's wrong to potentially give money to a website that illegally streams movies.

In the end, I decided to just take the plunge and buy the movie.  The price tag was initially off-putting, but I justified the overall package and relative price of new collector's edition versions of movies in general.  I ended up getting the movie in the mail on Friday which, coincidentally, I happened to have to take off of work that day due to having a cold.

When I mentioned that I would go on ahead and buy the movie, I did get a request to tell someone how well I thought the movie was.  I felt that, instead of giving a short blurb about the movie on the Kendo Baka Facebook group, I could try my hand at making a detailed review of the movie and the packaging.  Also, there really isn't much in the way of an English-written review of the movie, so I thought I could provide something out there for this movie.  To be honest though, I don't write reviews that often, so I hope that what I write is useful enough in your decision to give this movie a shot.

 You can see more trailers on the official Youtube page here

Movie Title: 蠢動 (Shundou) --International title: Bushido
Director:  Yasuo Mikami
Format:  Blu-Ray (region-free)
Price Paid: 8,751 yen (including shipping to the USA)
Place Purchased From:  Amazon Japan
Official Website (Japanese)
**The most important thing about buying this movie is that, while there is a DVD version that is much cheaper than the Blu-Ray version, the DVD is only for Region 2 DVD players.  If you want to save a little money and purchase this movie, you will need to have a Region 2 player (Region map here) or a region free player.  The Blu-Ray version is region free, so you should be able to watch it on any player.

The collector's edition comes with two Blu-Ray disks, a book with some background information about an earlier version of this movie (released in 1982) and a promotional card which, I think, advertises that you get to meat the cast in November of this year in Tokyo and Osaka (my Japanese is a little rusty, so correct me if I'm mistaken).

The first Blu-Ray contains the feature film and 30 minutes worth of promotional trailers.  The movie includes English subtitles, which didn't have any glaring grammatical errors that would make the dialogue unintelligible.  The second Blu-Ray contains the 1982, non-subtitled version of this movie, made by the same director, filmed on a 16 mm camera, along with a three-hour "making of" extra that goes over the entire movie creation process from cast selection to choreography training to the filming of certain scenes.  I personally just skimmed over that segment, but what I saw was pretty interesting.  Whether or not you enjoy the extras depends on how much of a moviephile you are and how familiar you are with the pedigree of the movie and the producer, but it's nice to at least skim thorough them.

The quality of the main feature film is what I would expect from a Blu-Ray movie.  The video itself was very crisp and the audio made some decent use of the 5.1 surround sound.  The 16mm version of the film on the second disk had some funky frame rate issues throughout, but I'm willing to give that a pass since I'm sure that just going from an archaic, analog format to a digital Blu-Ray disk is hard enough.  It doesn't take away from the movie though, which is the most important.

The story, as described by the official Youtube page, is as follows:
In 1735, three years after the great famine of Kyoho, the feudal domain of Inaba in the San'in Region seemed to have regained a semblance of stability. However, Lord Deputy Minayoshi Araki (Go Wakabayashi) receives a report that Juzo Matsumiya (Yuuki Meguro) was dispatched from the shogunate to Inaba as an instructor of swordsmanship. Sensing something is wrong, Araki orders his right-hand man, Taigo Funase (Takeo Nakahara), to keep an eye on Matsumiya.
Also residing in the Inaba domain is a swordmastr named Daihachiro Harada (Takehiro Hira), a young samurai called Hiroki Kagawa (Tomohito Wakizaki) and his older sister Yuki (Tamao Sato). They lost their beloved father when they were young, but Harada strives to facilitate his young charge Kagawa's lifelong dream to train in swordsmanship in a neighboring domain. Funase reports to Araki that he has acquired a secret letter by Matsumiya to the shogunate. The letter cryptically states, "I have discovered all about the Inaba domain." Araki also hears that the shogun's envoy, Takamine Nishizaki (Asahi Kurizuka), is fast approaching the domain. If Nishizaki is able to liaise with Matsumiya, the Inaba domain will surely be eradicated by the shogunate. Araki must quickly make a fateful decision. What will this mean for Harada, Funase, Kagawa and Yuki...?

I was happy with the overall story.  You have a domain that's doing what they can to survive and a man whose life-long dream is to train in swordsmanship and carry along the traditions of Bushido.  While the movie is short on the action sequences, I was pleased with the choreography of the sword fights that was on display.  You might be disappointed if you're looking for fights every few minutes, but the overall package comes together nicely, which made the movie enjoyable for its 1:41 minute run time.

You can find Shundou on a variety of websites like Yes-Asia, eBay and Amazon.  After spending days looking at the movie on various websites, I found that the cheapest option was Amazon Japan for the Blu-Ray.  If you wanted to go cheaper and have the means to play the movie, you could buy the DVD, but I can't be certain if there are subtitles available for that copy.  If you also happen to be looking for an iaito, you could buy the premium package from Tozando, which includes the Blu-Ray collector's edition and the iaito that was featured in the movie.

Overall, while the movie is a bit pricey considering the movie and producer isn't that well known outside of Japan, I still recommend a purchase.  There is a chance the the movie could drop in price over time, as most things do, but since the Shundou was only released a month ago to home video, it could be a while.  There is quite a bit packed in the whole package which, to me, justifies the price tag.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Kendo Klub Duties

Dojo leaders helping their students prepare for the Cleveland Kendo Tournament

Through my final days of attending Purdue six years ago (heck, even WAY before then, in a sense), I knew that I wanted to move to a location that had Kendo available (my potential locations were the Patuxent River Naval Base in Maryland and Cincinnati, OH).  In the back of my mind, I knew that I wanted to take on some sort of a leadership position with whatever club I would belong to, but I felt that it would be a few years before I would be able to do something like that.  When I think about it, part of it had something to do with me not really having the confidence to take the leadership roles in anything in my childhood.  The other part had to do with a sort of naivete when it comes to what is really necessary to be a good leader in the Kendo world.  My expectation was that I would be required to have X rank or X amount of experience to be able to contribute anything meaningful to the day to day running of local Kendo organizations.  Regardless of what I was thinking at the time, I quickly found out that what I believed, and what reality is, are two completely different things.

Not long after I moved to Cincinnati, I became a member of the University of Cincinnati Kendo Club (UCKC(.  Since I had the extra time on my hands, the desire to get better, and had more relative experience than most of my peers at the time, I ended up leading the practices at that club, and the nearby Northern Kentucky Kendo Club (NKKC), of which I was also a frequent attendee.  Little did I know that, from there, my responsibilities would only increase.  Due to the sudden absence of the secretary of the East Central United States Kendo Federation (ECUSKF), I ended up becoming the new secretary--well, more like drafted :).  After that, I started running the warm-ups for the Miami Valley Kendo Club and then became an officer for the promotion exams that are given semi-annually.

Of course, I had no problem with taking on these responsibilities.  Being a single person in my 20s with a 9-5, Monday through Friday job, I had the extra time on my hands to take on these additional roles.  I also like to be able to help out whenever and wherever I'm able to.  In the end, I think being responsible for these things has turned out to be quite beneficial to me.  I've learned some things about what it takes to be a leader in various aspects in my life, and I've learned a lot about what it takes to bring the Kendo that people know, expect and love.  It's certainly a lot of work, but I'm glad to be a part of it.  What I didn't know was that, years down the line, I would be given a responsibility that I really would never expect.

A few months ago, the previous leader of the Northern Kentucky Kendo Club told me that he has been too busy in recent months to effectively run the club and was seeing if anyone was willing to take over for him.  The other person in the club wasn't able to do it so, instead of just letting the club die off, I decided that I would take over as the leader.  Little did anyone know that he would eventually get a new job in another location in the US.  On top of the responsibilities that I have been given over the years, now I am running a Kendo club.  The good news is that, due to my past experiences, I'm more familiar with how to run a club and I have some ideas on how to keep this particular club going.

One problem with NKKC is that the club is very small.  At the moment, there is only one person that's officially signed up and a paying member of the club.  The first thing I need to do is try to increase the visibility of the club.  There are some web pages and a Facebook group I can take advantage of and some avenues of advertisement at the moment, but I still need to get everything set up.  Overall, the goal is to try to make the club more self-sustaining and be able to pass off the responsibilities to those that are willing and, at best, take a more advisory role in how the club is run.  There are some other things that I know is getting in my way, but that's better left for a different, and more controversial, article.

I'm also involved with Muso Shinden Ryu Iaido which, due to the previous leader moving, I am the only member practicing.  On top of the problems with bringing in more Kendo people, the nature of Iaido, and the fact that I'm the only person doing it, makes it a difficult thing to sell to the masses.  The good news is that there are people that are currently practicing Kendo in the area that's interested.  The problem is finding the time and place to be able to get a group going and perhaps have Iaido knowledge grow that way.

In the end, I'm very grateful to have the opportunities to do what I have been able to do thus far.  I've been able to learn a lot about what I am capable of and I've been very fortunate to have the ability to allow my ideas to be heard, as meek as I have been in the past.  With all of this, I think one of the most important lessons of my adult life has been imparted on me.  There are some people that really work hard to get into leadership positions in life, and others that are comfortable just hiding in the background.  Whatever the case,  you could never know when those leadership responsibilities will be thrown at you and there's nothing that can be done other than dealing with it in the best way possible.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The More You Know

Gotta love those NBC public service announcements!The Iaido practice last Wednesday night was another lonely one.  Jim had some other commitments, so he wasn’t able to make it to practice.  There are only two people that attend Iaido practice on Wednesday nights, this is actually quite a common occurrence (man, we should really get more people!).

I do admit that it has been about two weeks since I did anything Iaido related, other than watching Youtube videos.  I injured my left leg and foot during Kendo practice by using it harder than I really should have.  I think all I need to do is get massages more often on my leg to loosen up my muscles since I feel a lot of knots that tie up quite a few things.  Then, since Thanksgiving was last week, I had my parents over so I was using my time entertaining them.

It’s great to have someone more experienced to help fix various problems with my kata performance, but it’s just as nice to be able to take some time to have some uninterrupted time to work on some personal issues that I want to work on.  Lately, I’ve been performing kata two ways.  First, I would just work on the technical stuff, such as making sure my hasuji was good and performing enough saya-biki.  After doing that a few times, I would switch to performing the kata with more mental feeling behind the movements to not only apply the technical stuff to the kata, but to put more feeling behind each individual movement.  I did a mix of Seitei and Shoden kata with little rhyme or reason for performing each one.

The great thing about an art like Iaido is that the overall basic techniques are the same, but just applied differently.  For instance, doing nukitsuke for “mae” is performed differently than the nukitsuke for “San-po Giri,” but the overall concepts of saya-biki, hasuji (blade angle), and body posture are the same.  This allows me to approach the same technique from different angles and better understand the backgrounds behind each technique.

This makes me think about a post I recently read on the Budo Bum blog.  In this particular post, the author was talking about his thoughts on being able to do many techniques and being able to do a few techniques well.  There is a certain allure to being able to move on to the next step, which is commonly learning about the newest technique but, after doing a Judo for a while (or even just growing older), he started to appreciate the inner workings of the techniques he does know.  There’s a lot more to the physical aspects like angles, heights and necessary force, but adding the mental aspects to everything literally adds a whole new world to what he knew.  At that point, he began to take more value in learning more about the things he already knew than just learning more techniques on top of what he already knows.

I consider myself to be mostly in the category of being enamored by being taught the latest Iaido kata.  It could be easy to just say that it’s due to my age and/or experience level, but I think it runs a little deeper than that.  Learning a new technique seems to be the easiest way to feel that I’m progressing in Iaido.  When I’m introduced to a new kata, I feel like Jim has said that I performed the previous technique well enough to move on to the next kata.  With that thought in mind, I can really see why people advertise and emphasize the amount of techniques one can learn in their marital art style and how it can be beneficial to attendance and retention rates.  It’s easy to sell something that’s so tangible and easily understandable to the public at large.  I could go deeper into this subject, but it’s not really the point of this post, and I feel that I should do more research and introspection on the subject to even begin to understand what I want to say.

At the same time, I can understand the value that I get from being able to perform the stuff I already know better than I did before class started.  The source of this sentiment is likely from the fact that I also do Kendo, have been doing Kendo for five years longer than I have done Iaido, and that simply, Kendo has fewer techniques, so I’ve been forced to be able to better my performance of the few techniques that are available in physical and mental ways.  I feel like that this is where the real magic of martial arts comes from.  It’s one thing to say that I am X-rank, so that means that I know #-techniques, but it’s another thing to say that I was able to learn more about Seitei “mae” and be able to examine and perform the kata better than when I walked into the dojo.  Since Iaido is mostly done with imaginary opponents, that measure for me is feeling more comfortable with each technique I do and be able to perform it more effortlessly than before.  There are actually sets of kenjustu kata, but I don’t really know much about those, but I certainly would love to know more about them!

Again, it could be age, or it could be my Iaido experience level, but I feel like I have a lot of years left before I really start to not care about the number of techniques I know.  Maybe it’s simply when I learn all of the kata available in Muso Shinden Ryu, or it could be after I reach a certain age or experience level to where I feel overwhelmed with improving on what I already know before I start to shift my thinking.  Maybe my sentiments will change years in the future after I get older and learn more about Iaido, but I feel like I’m within the range of having a decent enough thought process to these martial arts I’m doing.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

2012: A Year In Review

Happy New Year everyone!  Or, as they say in Japan, 開けましておめでとうございます皆さん!(Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu minna san!).  I thought that I would take some time to think about how my Kendo and Iaido training has gone this year.  Unfortunately, I am dealing with the flu right now.  But hey, the good news is that I get at least an extra day off from work!

The first big thing that happened with Kendo last year was that I got to organize the Spring and Fall promotion exams for the ECUSKF.  Since I was new to all of this, there were several mistakes that were made along the line for both of the exams, but I’m taking each mistake as a lesson for next time to make sure that everything runs smoother.  Actually, I’m in the throes of planning the next Spring exam as we speak.  Since the planning for the exam is starting earlier, I hope that everything goes much smoother than last time, when there was only a month to plan everything and get the application forms out.

The second big achievement last year was that I got my 3rd Dan after my 3rd attempt!  Unlike the first two times, I felt like I was in total control over my technique to make sure that each strike was clean and on target.  There was that sense of calm after finishing my bouts of jigeiko as opposed to the sense of dread and panic about my performance.  Now I get to spend the next three years improving myself for my 4th Dan test.

For now, I’ve been really working on my seme.  Of course, it’s much easier said than done because that’s when sparring becomes less about what you can do to the other person and more about what you can make the other person do.  This involves pressuring the opponent to give up their center for me to capitalize on either by flinching, or making them attack.  And then, it’s not enough to force them to attack you, but you must dictate where you want them to attack so you can counter-attack.  The good news is that, based on the comments that were given to me last Saturday, I’m well on my way to doing just that.  I just need to work on it more to see how I can make it part of my Kendo.

As for Iaido, I really don’t have too much to report on that.  I regularly go to practice and get corrected on things, but there really hasn’t been any big events that I attended last year.  The class size has remained small as it always has been, which has it’s good and bad points.  On one hand, I get ALL of the personal attention I could ever want since it’s mostly me and my sensei about 98% of the time.  On the other hand, having a larger group of people to practice with adds to the spirit of practice and makes things a little less lonely.  I sometimes do wonder how Iaido could be marketed to increase numbers.  Initial thoughts tell me that it’s nearly impossible to find such techniques (or we would have had larger classes a long time ago)

For the coming year, I’ll just continue practicing and improving on my technique.  On top of that, I need to work on putting some emphasis and meaning behind the strikes, which involves investigating what I am doing in the kata and thinking about the context of the situation at hand and how I would dispatch the enemy.  The good news is that, since most of it is left up to interpretation, there really isn’t a wrong answer to this.  But it does lead to some healthy discussions to how we feel each kata should be performed.  I would like to try and test again, but with travel expenses and room and board, it gets quite expensive to go across the country to get another kyu rank.  We’ll see, but I might have to sit out again and try to plan for next year or something.

A lot has gone in in the martial arts world for me last year.  While it was great and all, I think I will appreciate this relative break from the excitement.  There are the usual tournaments and practices, but I don’t have to worry about taking the promotion exam and I am starting to settle into my role as promotion exam organizer.  I could try to test again for Iaido sometime this year, but with travel being all expensive and me wanting to concentrate on the direction of my finances, it might be a little difficult to travel across the country to get another kyu rank.  Nothing is really set in stone, so anything can change.  There is the AUSKF nationals next year that I might try for, but all I need to do to prepare for that is train my mind and body like I always have and hope for the best.

Well, Happy New Year folks and good luck with whatever goals you have set for yourself!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Kendo Ain’t Easy


Too bad I actually fail that men…

A friend of mine posted an article on Facebook titled, “5 Little-Known Secrets to Utterly Successful Karate-ka” which briefly talks about some of the things that some of the most successful Karate-ka go through to reach whatever level of success they want to achieve.  I think that the article itself touches on some very good points about what it takes to be the best in Karate.  What I got from it was that the great Karate-ka are willing to examine themselves and not too prideful to go back to the basics to improve on the advanced techniques and not rely on natural talent.  Quite naturally, I applied all of this to Kendo and even thought about how I approach what I feel is success in Kendo.

One thing that I can definitely understand is that, whatever we are seeking, we would love to find that small piece of information, that familiar grouping of words, that magically gives us all of the answers.  Of course, we all quickly realize that life just doesn’t' work that way.  I am most certainly guilty of that myself.  In the search of improving my quality of life, I would hope that there is an easy way to achieve my goals, despite that never really happening.  In terms of Kendo, I really want to be able to apply very effective seme and take advantage of those results.  I read books, read websites, watched videos and seeked advice from fellow Kendo-ka in the hopes that I would find that deus-ex-machina.  In the end, I just better understood what seme means, but it wasn’t information to directly apply to my everyday practice to quickly apply said information.Well, I most certainly got more acquainted with what seme is, but I was no closer to finding the answer to my question of HOW I should perform it.  At the same time, I knew that, in the back of my mind, that I would not be able to find that answer just by asking a few questions, watching a few videos and reading a few books.  In order to be more effective in seme, I need to put in years of trial and error to see what works and what doesn’t for my style of Kendo.  I can listen to and employ various forms of advice, but I would still need to see how that works and, if it does, spend lots of time working on it to even feel like its working.

As much as I want to improve on my applications of seme, I still need to be able to employ the basics well enough to be effective in it.  Unfortunately, it does involve lots of work with things as simple as working on my kamae.  Everything from the footwork to where most of our strength comes from provides that foundation that allows us to effectively employ those advanced waza that we love so much.  Even after I have done Kendo for 50 years, I can’t forget about the things that got me to where I will be at that point.  In our minds, we want to do all the fun stuff like harai-waza, suriage-waza, or even hiki-waza, but we can’t forget about doing simple things like holding a shinai to perform them correctly.

I did mention earlier that my quest for finding out how I can better employ stuff like seme only resulted in me finding out more about what seme is.  Regardless of that, we should be willing to search for the information that we seek.  It could be through books, videos or talking to sensei and sempai, but there is the difficult task of finding out more about what we are trying to do.  One thing that really helps is that, the people that we are getting advice from are either currently dealing with the struggle, or has at least learned how to deal with it.  Getting advice from people who have “been there” makes the advice seem more useful.  However, despite getting that information, the next thing is to be able to use the information in real-world applications.

I mentioned earlier that my quest for information about seme didn’t really answer any of my questions about how to perform seme well.  That doesn’t mean that my search was fruitless.  I was able to learn more information about what it is.  Another point that was brought up in the article is that we must be willing to seek out information and learn from the best.  Getting information from those that have gone through similar struggles can help get a grasp on what’s going one.

The most important thing that I got from the article is that we must really love what we are doing.  It seems obvious, but in the daily routine of our lives, it’s very simple to just go through the motions because it’s what we are used to.  However, if progress is to be made, we must really be able to examine ourselves and find out what’s REALLY important in our lives.  If Kendo is one of them, we must be able to learn from our victories and defeats and work through those moments that are so frustrating that we just want to quit (I’ll admit that I had that feeling once a few years back).  Working on Kendo can be very draining, painful and exhausting, but we must WANT to work through the troubles.

One very important fact is that, in the end, success is relative.  Everyone has their own opinions on what the goals of Kendo should be.  The most important thing is that we must be willing to do whatever we can to reach whatever goal we set out to achieve, whether it’s to get that next rank, get a gold medal at a tournament or just hit men better than you did last week.  One thing that I think we all can agree on is that, whatever path we choose, there really is no easy route to reach our destination.

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