Thursday, December 13, 2007

End of an Era

Don't worry, I'm not talking about my quitting Kendo. The situation is actually quite the opposite. I have already talked about how I felt about everything in my facebook profile, so I thought I'd use this time to talk specifically about my Kendo thoughts.

When I'm talking about the end of an era, I am talking about the end of life as a college student. I have two great pieces of information to tell the world though. After 4.5 years of being stuck in the college grind, I am happy to report that all of my requirements have been accomplished so I will be graduating in a few days. On top of that, I recently got a job doing Heat Transfer analysis in Cincinnati, OH. I start Monday, January 28.

In Kendo terms, this also means that I will be leaving the club that I started with after being there for the same length of time. All the friends I made and the experiences I've had will be remembered for a long time to come.

I never really knew how much I was going to like Kendo when I started back in August of 2003. I went to the callout and started off with the first practice. But unlike everyone else that I started with that semester, I decided to stick with it. I came back from practice complaining of sore arms and feet, but still opted to go back as many times as I was able. Then the armor stuff came along and things really began to get fun.

I'm really glad that I decided to stick with Kendo though. It is very hard for someone to start something and stick with it in the end. Originally, I really wanted to start Aikido, but Kendo's calling was stronger. I guess it meshed with my character well and everything. Plus, all the friends and rivals I have made over the years helped things along. No matter the path, all I can say is I am truely happy to have found something and stuck with it to the point of having a strong desire to continue after college.

One of the great things about my situation is that there are several Kendo dojos in the area where I will be staying. As far as which one I will attend, it depends on where exactly I will be staying in relation to my place of employment. I have several weeks before I make the final decision though, so I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

Another thing that I have wanted to do was start Iaido. I have been wanting to start for years but the only place in the area that has it is Indianapolis. Due to time and money constraints, I couldn't attend. I did get to see a class and it seems like a fun thing to do to augment my Kendo. Of course, I won't really see the benefits until I actually do it myself. There is at least one place that does Iaido in the area to my knowledge. I wish that they trained on more than one day though. But I know who to ask to get decent answers.

So, while it's an end of an era for me, it's also the beginning of a new one. As I think about all of the things I leave behind, I am also thinking about the new challenges and pleasures I face in the future.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Role of Jigeiko

This is something that was actually thought up of after Sunday's practice while I was helping a friend compile information for the Kendo club next semester. He was asking me about how I felt the club would be better run since I was in the club for longer than he was. Well, the subject of practing waza came up briefly, which set some sort of internal dialogue.

This is mostly a reflection of my own Kendo in that I have always felt that my actions have been a bit on the stale side. In the beginning, it's okay to just simply go for the men, kote, do and kote-men strikes but I feel that it's about time that I branch out to other techniques to round out my own style of Kendo.

Once one gets into armor, a bit part of the practice is Jigeiko, which gives us an opportunity to practice anything that we've learned in class that day in sparring matches at the end of the day. While this is great and all, I feel that I haven't been using Jigeiko as effectively as I could. When I am sparring, even when it's just practicing, I get into the mode that I should try my best to get that hit before the other person does and get the "point."

As a result of this thought process, I have decided to do my best in changing the focus of my Jigeiko matches by focusing more on trying different waza to start advancing my Kendo skills. In this way, I can have a better indication of what works for me and what doesn't.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Endurance Training and Thanksgiving

Sunday's practice went a little better than on Thursday. If you read the previous entry, you already know of the problems associated with that so I won't go into detail.

The main thing that was special about this practice was that there were several tests of endurance for the beginners (and the armored people as well to an extent). I didn't get to indulge in the extra 100-200 haya suburi that everyone else did for some reason. I think it's mostly because a lot of the things being done with the club are for the people that will be continuing it and I will be graduating next month (YAY!!!).

Anyways, the purpose was to do as many haya suburi as possible in one session. The beginners were allowed to stop whenever they felt too tired to go on, but us advanced people needed to go up to 10 more than the final beginner. Well, the results were pretty nice. After about 100 people slowly dropped out, though there were people that lasted to the 200s or so. Then there were a couple that lasted all the way to 400 where everyone just stopped at that point. Two things about that. First, I've never done anything like that before so it was a nice achievement on my part. Second, I was really impressed with the beginners that tried so hard to stay in as much as possible. I've never seen such a dedicated group of beginners before so I was happy about that.

There were two more endurance rounds for the beginners later on with the practice, but to a lesser extent. This one was the continuous men exercises for as long as they could within a certain time frame. They were all pretty tired, but hanged in there for the most part.

I feel that endurance is something that should be tested more often. One thing that I have noticed coming back to school in August is that the practices can sometimes be a bit too easy at times compared to where I practiced over the summer. You can get the best mens possible, but if you haven't trained enough in spending your energy and increasing your reserves, then all attempts will be for naught. In the context of beginners, it will only make getting into armor easier since they'll have the strength, for the most part, to go on longer. This feeling pretty much stems from my last shiai where all my matches went into encho with me having a hard time impressing the judges with my attacks because I was getting VERY weak. I really suffered in the end since I nearly passed out after I lost that last match.

On a completely different note, this was the last practice before Thanksgiving break. That means that there will be a week's time before I can practice Kendo again. I most likely could bring my stuff home with me and practice at GKA, but that is too much to carry with me on the airplane at this point in time. If there is any consolation, I do have an extra shinai sitting at home so I can do suburi and footwork at the most. I really need to work on the basics some more to solidify my balance and technique so this can be a good thing for this case.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dehydration Issues

Something happened at practice on Thursday that has never happened to me before. When I got home, I started feeling very weak, had dizzyness spells, pounding headache, fever (100.4 F), shivers and had a hard time moving. At the time, I had no clue what was going on. But, after a talk with a friend of mine, I learned that it was dehydration.

What's really weird is that there wasn't anything wrong with me until the moment I walked into my dorm room. There was the general kendo exhaustion, but that was pretty much it. In retrospect, I should have noticed the problems earlier. For one, I didn't sweat as much as I usually would for the intensity of the practice. There was sweat, but it's generally dripping down my back, whether or not there is ample ventilation (which this room had great ventilation). What made it hard to notice was that I was going through practice just fine.

We are all told to make sure that we drink enough water before and during practice to make sure that dehydration is avoided. But sometimes, it takes an incident like this one to really know the severity of it. It's not to say that this was something that I never paid attention to. It was quite the contrary. This particular time, there have been some issues with meeting deadlines for classes which have put me under more stress than usual, so I tended to forget to do the basic things of showering and eating right.

So, I really implore everyone to drink lots of water before practice, and during practice if possible. Being in my position is NOT fun. While I'm feeling much better compared to 24 hours ago, I am still having issues with the headache from time to time as I replenish my water supply.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Musashi No Ken Anime

This was an anime series that I have wanted to see for quite some time. After being barred from purchasing it due to it's prohibitively expensive $500 price tag for the whole series for several years, I finally was giving the opportunity to get it at 94% of the previous price at $30 for the entire series. Well, was it worth the wait? Should I have paid the original $500 for the series? Read below to find out.

For the uninitiated, Musashi no Ken is a Kendo-themed anime about a boy, named Musashi (a play on kanji for his birthday of June, 3rd at 4pm), who is involved with Kendo from birth to adolescence. The series is divided into two parts, the first being from birth to the end of elementary school and the second being his high school years. In each part, Musashi is faced with the ordinary challenges of school life, as well as the challenges brought forth by the martial art of Kendo.

I believe the first part was the best part. There was a lot of character development involved with the main character as he grows from an arrogant kid and learns what Kendo really is about. It really kept the story moving along nicely for the 43 episodes or so that the series lasts. The second part gets a bit more philosophical and outlandish at the same time. While kenshi (people who practice Kendo) might get some appreciation out of this aspect, at the same time, some of the outlandish practices kind of ruin the feeling at times (training on cliffs, for example).

The animation is your standard 80s anime fare, which most definately improved from the first few episodes. But if you're expecting very crisp animation ala the Gundam series that was out at about the same time, you will be dissappointed. It's not terrible, but it does its job.

Overall, this is pretty much as true of a representation of Kendo that one can get in an anime. There is a lot of the philosophy behing kendo in here along with the action sequences with the shiai (fights) and drama between the characters and what they believe Kendo should be.

So who is this anime for? Well, the most important thing to say is that it's only available in Japanese. At most, you can get Chinese subtitles, but if you know neither language, then you are out of luck. I would say that it's worth a look if you practice Kendo or are interested in it, since these kinds of people would be the ones that understand the most out of it. One thing to note is that the anime follows very closely to the manga, so if you already read it (which I believe is the better version), then you are only missing the motions that are going on in between the slides. Judging from the anime itself, it's a pretty decent one to watch, but it's not the end-all-be-all of Kendo anime. If you want other options to see some Kendo action, there is always Bamboo Blade that's out now which is a more light-hearted fare.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Kendo Tournament and Testing Results

It's been a while since the tournament, but I shall talk about it anyways. A few weeks ago was the MWKF Tournament in Chicago and I must say that it went really well this time around. I did my best to make sure I was prepared by doing suburi whenever I had the chance and arriving to practice early to get in some suburi that I otherwise wouldn't have a chance to do due to not having the head room.

I made sure that there was enough time for us to get there and not have to rush about getting there on time. Because of that, we ended up arriving about an hour early and virtually nobody was there. After waiting around for a bit, people started arriving and we got dressed and waited around for the ceremonies to start.

We found out later that the mudansha division started later in the day, so there was time for a lot of us to relax and stretch out a bit. Most of us used that time to warm up a bit and fool around a bit until our turn came up.

My goal for the tournament was to just make sure I made it past my first match. In the end, I made it to the third, but it wasn't without its problems. Each match had to go into encho, so that made it more than 10 minutes worth of fighting for me. The long fighting times plus the poor ventilation of the gym equaled a bad time after my match. I lost due to going out of bounds twice during encho. By that time, my hits felt weak as they kept getting deflected by my opponent. I tried my best to make every hit count which didn't amount to much. In the end, I don't know if my body gave up so I subconsiously went out or I just lost awareness of my surroundings. I bet on the latter scenario though as I know I was trying despite my complete exhaustion.

After the match, I felt dizzy and overheated. I took my men off and quickly walked out the gym searching for cold water and any way for me to cool down. I couldn't stop walking cause I needed that small breeze. I was going for water like it was going out of style by drinking it and wiping some on my forehead (which felt very good by the way). After a while, Ryan found me and we chatted for a while until my body cooled down and team matches began.

The team matches were short lived. The team I was on lost on the first round since the people we fought against were so good. The person I fought used jodan. I did my best to try to hit open targets, but I usually don't know how to handle myself when someone does jodan. I really need to practice fighting those people more to get a better handle on fighting different styles. Either way, all of his hits were hard and solid. It made for an interesting match.

After the tournament, I hung out with Milo and his friends and watched the massacre of a Football game and played some Smash Brothers. A few hours later, we went to his house to practice kata for a bit and go to bed.

The next day was the day of the exam. Naturally, I was pretty nervous after failing the test twice before. I wanted to make sure I followed directions to the T and that all my equipment was in order. But I ended up forgetting to replace my men himo since it's almost about to break into two and my shinai wasn't loose enough. They didn't say anything about my men himo, but they did tell me about my shinai.

After the test in appearance, it was time to do Kirikaeshi and sparring. I tried to make sure that my form was in tip-top shape, but the floor wasn't treating me well since I was falling all over the place (or at least appearing to do so). After that, we had to wait until they told us who gets to move on to the kata. After calling out random numbers telling who goes where and what kata we will be doing, we figured out that everyone passed that segment. The kata portion was more strightforward. I was the shidachi so I had the easier steps for kata #3. That went over pretty well, save for the floor problems.

Once everyone was done, they gave us the whole speech about what to improve on. For the most part, we needed better kiai and better use of the waza we learned while learning kendo and, of course, paying more attention to how we look. They were going down the line with their speeches, they gave the appearance we all passed. Then someone said that it's not the final result so that increased the nervous factor. After everyone was done, we all bowed out with no indication that we passed until I confirmed it with someone there. As a result, I am now an Ikkyu!!!

All in all, I was really pleased with the results. I passed the test so I have a rank. Getting to the third match was also pretty pleasing too. Maybe, if I work hard enough, I can make it to the fourth match or later. I just need to find a way to do Kendo once I get a job. If things go well, I might be moving to Patuxent River, MD which makes the closest Kendo dojo about 1.5 hours away. I know that I will do my best to make sure I make it out there at some point or another. Another good side to it is that there are also iaido dojos in that same area, so I can try to learn it while I'm there.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Practice Problems

Today's practice was okay. I was put in the intermediate section for a bit for some reason for a while. While there, I just made the best of my time there by concentrating on my basics and making clear strikes and not bending forward. After a while, I was able to join the advanced section but it didn't make the experience that much better. There were a lot of bad habits that surfaced today, such as gravitating towards the other person after each strike instead of going through. Then, there's the issue of waza usage...

I sometimes feel like I am a one-trick pony when it comes to sparring only doing men and kote. There are other techniques that I can use to make openings like harai-waza, suriage-waza and nuki-waza that I don't take enough advantage of. During shiai, I always go for the men, kote and kote men and sometimes dou, but it's usually executed the same way. I feel like I need to begin moving away from just whacking away and using other Kendo elements to subdue and win against the opponent. I guess, just like all the men strikes I've been doing to get that down, I need to just do more of these to get used to the movements to learn the timing and everything.

As far as the gravitating towards the opponent issue, looks like I have something else to concentrate on for the next practice or two!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Kendo Update and New Anime

Okay, it's been a while since I posted something so I apologize for that. So here's a quick rundown of what's happened since the last posting (which really isn't much).

- I took the ikkyu test, but I failed it again. Quite naturally, I was pretty disappointed in myself since I thought that I did a pretty good job this time around. I asked some of the judges what I did wrong, but they ended up being the ones that passed me, but I did get some useful advice. The most important advice given to me was that I needed to control the situation better. If the person you are fighting doesn't do well, then you need to react accordingly. So while you might not be doing anything wrong, if you can't adapt, then the other person could aid in your failing as well.

- Just the general Kendo stuff. I had to skip last week due to having a sore throat late in the week. The latest practice was nice since the purpose of the class was to concentrate on the footwork as something to improve on. The main tip of the day was to improve quickly by setting a goal to improve something and try to carry it out throughout the practice. It's easy to get caught up in the swings and the movement and sort of forget what your body is doing, so it's a nice way to gain some perspective on your body's movement.

- There has been this anime series that I have been looking for for quite a while. But this isn't just any normal anime, it's an anime based on Kendo. And this isn't one of those that they just have it for a few episodes as a club activity for the characters. The whole anime is based on one's journey to become the best Kenshi in Japan. The name of it is Musashi no Ken. The manga was made in the early 70s to early 80s with the anime to follow around '85 or so.

The anime was never hard to obtain. It was just prohibitively expensive. For some reason, it costs over US$500 to obtain the Japanese version. Just days after finding the first seven episodes on BitTorrent, I found the Taiwanese version for US$30 for the whole series, which apparently has been available since this March. Naturally, I decided to swipe the series up, and it has been in my hands for about two days. Here are my first impressions.

This is the first and only series that I have where I have read the manga in its entirety and have the opportunity to see the anime and their differences. The amazing thing is that the voices that I have running in my head while reading the manga is almost spot on with the voices used in the Anime. Not really sure how that happened, but oh well.

As before, I did say that it is the Taiwanese version. But for those Japanophiles out there, the packaging, DVD menus and subtitles are in Chinese. The show seems virtually untouched from the Japanese version as the language is, of course, in Japanese. Of course, if you know chinese, you have the leg up since you'd be able to understand what they are saying. For us English speakers out there, we are out of luck. Though, even if you know Japanese, you might still have a hard time understanding it since regional dialects are used here. Unfortunately, there are very few resources available for learning specific dialects, so everything has to be taken from context.

Right now, I'm only on episode 11 or so, but I am seeing that this series is definately spot on with the manga. Even so, it's nice to have a different representation since literature and TV can express things differently. If you like the manga, I am pretty sure you will like the series though.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

AUSKF Kendo Kamp: Day 2

Today ends the second day of the summer camp. I must say that it was an extremely fulfilling experience as I learned a lot today about myself and my performance of the basics. What I did realize was that it is easy to just do the basic stuff any old way in lieu of the more advanced things and forget to think about doing them. It was a nice way to look at things in a whole new perspective. Below are some specific notes that I mentally made throughout the day. After the group suburi practice, we were divided into groups based on rank. Since I was in the Kyu group, we touched on many basics from the importance of presenting yourself correctly to holing the shinai to some fumikomi.

  • While swinging the shinai, it is important to remember to keep the sword alive. When the suburi is finished, don't just let it rest in position. Keep it strong and moving (only a little) to put some spirit into the shinai.
  • For seiza, pay special attention that the back remains straight, no matter how tired you are. It is important that you don't show others how tired you are as it shows a sign of weakness. This is done by taking a half step back and lowering yourself down on your left knee followed by the right. That is when you flatten the top of your feet and sit down on top of them.
  • When bowing after mokuso, keep the back and neck straight but also don't raise your butt in the process. The difference between bowing to the shomen and your opponent is in the deepness of the bow. The bow to the shomen is about 35 degrees while the bow to your opponent is about 15 degrees. Also, keep your eyes on your opponent at all times.
  • In hayasuburi, the focus should be fast swings. You don't necessarily have to do shomen while doing hayasuburi. But don't forget that each swing should be strong.
  • The wrists should be turned in while in kamae. This makes it easier to extend the left arm when swinging. Also, one way to gauge the distance between hands on the tsuka is to put the tip of the tsuka on the inside of your elbow and grab the tsuka with your hand. The position of the hand is where the right hand should be.

There was much more to be remembered, but it's getting late and I must rest for day three of the seminar. Besides, there was way too many points to remember that whole day so it's unrealistic to catch them all long enough to write them down.

Friday, June 29, 2007

AUSKF Kendo Seminar: Day One

Today was the first day of the Kendo Seminar. Today was just a godo-geiko with the Sensei from Japan.

There were a lot of people there so it was a great opportunity to adjust to different styles of fighting. We were seperated by rank and put into groups and did mawari-geiko with sparring for about 20 minutes. It really took a lot out of me after the first few matches, but I made sure to not give up as my arms were getting more and more tired. In actuality, I was more concerned with the sweat getting in my eyes since I was sweating pretty profusely during the whole practice.

I got a chance to have a bout with Kobayashi Sensei and Ohta Sensei during the practice. I've never been with a hachidan before so it was great to have the opportunity to practice with both for the short time we were sparring. After the five minute break, we proceded to do some jigeiko with some of the higher ranking people. In that time, I was able to go against three people. I already had the opportunity to practice with the hachidans so that freed me up to go with the others in the shorter lines.

As far as personal issues, it would have to be that I need to pay more attention to my arm as I'm not extending it enough. It really helped when I was told to bring in my wrists more to help with the extension as it was pretty effective.

Well, tomorrow's another day and the official start of the seminar. There were a lot of people there today with more arriving tomorrow, so I wonder how packed it will be. I just know that I should just show up in my gear as I didn't realize the bathrooms were so small there.

Well, time to go for now. I'll post some notes about what I learned at the seminar after I get back.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


With the seminar and test coming up in the next week, I am doing whatever I can to mentally prepare for this monumental event. Of course, things are going a little slow as my life has been getting busier lately. To top it all off, I pulled a muscle on my back so I have been in pain for the past couple of days. While Kendo is very important to me, it's even more important to take care of myself so I can do it for as long as possible.

Because I want to take as much time to recover as I possibly can, I had to skip out on the advanced practice today. But, I was able to do the kata since it's easier on the body. I knew that I needed some more practice with Kata since it's been forever since I even did them but it wasn't until I was doing it until I really knew how out of touch I am.

I could blame some of my problems on the floor as it didn't allow the sliding to make things easier, but that would be the easy way out. As I was doing the kata, I felt a bit shaky doing it at first with some botched and confused moments. I eventually got the hang of things after some practice and a clarification to kata #3.

In the third kata, what I learned from a sempai is that the thrust the uchidachi makes should rotate the bokken while thrusting. Meanwhile, the shidachi meets with the uchidachi's advance before pulling back and moving the bokken out of the way. With this particular kata being the hardest one that I have practiced, I will take any sort of tip I can get.

Another thing I learned was about putting more Ki into my movements. For those not in the know, Ki (also called Chi) is the life force that keeps things alive and gives all living things the ability to function in life. It is said that those that learn to manipulate it correctly can achieve some superhuman feats. With Dragonball Z being one of the most popular Anime out there, the Ki that they use is referred to as Spirit Energy which gives them the ability to shoot stuff out of their hands. Anyways, back to the kata. Whether or not you believe in Ki, one can take the tip as putting more feeling into the moves you are doing by telegraphing your intent to your opponent. Of course, I don't have the credentials to go that much further about that subject. Even if I did, I would have to make another entry just for Ki. Once I took this tip into mind, I felt that my moves were a bit more solid, though I still have some work to do. In the end, this tip is a reminder to not get caught up in just performing the movements as opposed to giving them the meaning that they were intended to have when they were created.

What was really nice is that Robinson and I went through EVERYTHING in the kata including the bowing in and out. He made a good point in saying that people concentrate on the actual kata but for get the formalities. While it's nice to be able to effectively do the moves, it's better to have the opening and closing formalities correct to give the proper respect to your opponent and judges.

After the practice, I realize how much more work I have on the Kata. I have enough confidence to perform decently for the exam but, of course, I get those doubts people get before any exam. At this point, I just need to perform some more practice and keep everything I learned today in mind and I should do okay. Right now, I'm concetrating on recovering fast so I can get back in the game by Thursday's practice by taking Tylenol (I'm alergic to Aspirin and Ibuprofen which rules out OTC anti-inflammatories).

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Seminar and Tournament Time!

I was able to negotiate with my superiors at Walmart, so not only am I able to working at Walmart, I am able to continue Kendo AND enjoy the seminar in its entirety!

Well, I just got a letter in the mail saying that they have my testing application and that I need to answer the question about either the elements of Kirikaeshi or the types of footwork. So now, all that there is left to do is to look at the testing criteria and make sure I know what I need to know to get ikkyu. When I finish the essay, I'll see about posting what I typed on here if there aren't any problems with that.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

What the hell did I do to deserve this?

When I was hired by Walmart, I thought that it was the happiest day of the summer. I finally had a chance to make some extra money so I could have some freedom to spend. Later, after I had accepted the job and worked for a little bit, did I realize the mistake I made.

This is the process of the snowballing effect that occured:

1) When I filled out the application, I fixed my availability so that I could still attend Kendo practice while working. It was my assumption that they would either have me work on that day with the availability in mind, or just not schedule me for that day. BUT, because the available times are fixed, that was thrown out the window.

2) There are several days that I wanted off for the Kendo seminar, sister's graduation and family reunion. Unfortunately, because of the way they give out vacation days, I wouldn't be able to attend ANY of them. If I wanted the days off, then my only option is to switch with people, and even then, I don't think that's much of an option.

3) The general treatment of the employees is all but acceptable. When you first start, you can't even clock in on your own for the first few weeks which is a pretty annoying thing to go through. I feel like a robot in an assembly line with my "owners" not treating me, or the other coworkers, like human beings. It's bad enough that I'm working 5 days in a row (8 hour days).

Really, Walmart may think they "own" me, but they got another thing coming. I put in my 2 weeks to tell them that I'm hitting the highway. I'll take the money and just go home. The only way I can see it being possible to work there is if you need the money. If other opportunities come along, then you need to leave ASAP.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Kendo Notes 5/19/07

I have been having some trouble sleeping lately. I wouldn't go to sleep till about 3 AM and wake up at 7:30 or 8 AM. And due to the phone ringing and other goings on during the day, I tend to not get that much sleep for the daytime duration. Despite me being tired with a headache, I took a Tylenol and went to Kendo anyways. It ended up being a good decision because I learned a lot today about my Kendo.

- There are quite a few bad habits that I need to break. The most important thing is that I need to pay more attention to what my body is doing. There are times where I wiggle the shinai too much or leave myself wide open after a hit. Sometimes, you concentrate so much on making the correct swing with the perfect hit that you forget the little things. I really need to change that.

- Jigeiko was great as I got some much appreciated one-on-one today. The one thing that I got some great practice in was with the hiki-waza. I tend to falter on that one since I tend to swing and not make the hit and overall falter on the footwork. I got some tips on how to better get the center and position myself to get a better chance in hitting by doing a little rotating and pushing to the side.

- Another thing that I need to work on is making sure that I actually have the center before I go forward. There have been times where I would go on ahead and strike but then get greeted with the kensen. I can get more points by waiting for a bit until I see an opening, or EFFECTIVELY move my shinai in a way that I gain control of the center. In short, I need to concentrate more on getting that one good hit instead of making 20 ineffective hits.

- To leave on a good note, I felt happy about my Kirikaeshi. My hits seemed to make their target as my main concern was to make sure that each strike is distinct and complete. Also, before I left, Arai Sensei pretty much ordered me to take the test at the seminar next month to get my ikkyu. I am planning on taking the test anyways, and I really want to pass.

Well, that ends this Kendo report. Ta ta for now!!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

5/17/07 update

There really isn't much going on in the Kendo front right now. A trip to UPS took longer than expected to I was about a half-hour late. This resulted in me losing out on doing a few drills so I had to go straight into jigeiko. Needless to say, I at least made the most out of the little time I had there. This should make the notes relatively quick this time.

- Kan Sensei from Detroit came to visit today. I didn't get to go against him very much, but I went up to him anyways after practice to see what he had to say about my performance. All he said was that I needed to be more agressive and not worry so much about hitting the targets.

- I also got to spar against a variety of people. This time, I made it a point to bump up my reaction time, which seems to be working for the time being. It's been a while since I have actually felt my hits going in at a decent speed, so it seems like there's a little improvement on the way for me. All in all, I didn't feel any big disappointments in myself.

On a side note, I should mention that, over the past few days, I have been having that sort of itch to pick up my shinai and do suburi before I go to bed. It's that sort of feeling where if you didn't do that desireable thing, then your body would explode. Not really seeing that as an issure, I just gave in to tempation and did a few suburi to satisfy my urges. Other than that, I'm trying to make sure I think of something Kendo related when I go to bed to get my mind running.

Well, that's enough for today!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Notes for 5/12/07

Here are some notes that I gathered from GKA today...

- I finally had the chance to practice some serious kata. I haven't done them in quite some time, so I was pretty rusty to start out. One thing that has been bothering me since I have been doing kata is that my body feels extremely stiff when I do them. I don't know why that happens or how to fix it, but it just happens. The end result is a lack of balance and awkward feeling movements. I don't really know if it's something that goes away with time, or if there is some other way that I can think about doing them.

- Before I move on, I would just like to say something about kata. For being as important as it is, Kata seems to be rarely practiced compared to everything else. I can definately understand why, since kata is generally only "needed" during testing verses waza being needed everytime we walk into the dojo. Even so, I would still prefer to practice it more as I can only see the complacency of the importance of kata biting me in the future once I get to higher ranks. The kata drills don't have to be more than an hour. Even 20 minutes would be nice to do some fine tuning.

- Now on to the regular practice. We did a lot of different drills that tested my endurance and drive for perfection. Without getting too specific about the lessons learned, I was told to extend my left arm more. It's another thing that I should keep in mind to make sure that I increase my speed and strenght without decreasing my style.

Friday, May 11, 2007

I really need to come up with better titles...Just some Kendo Progress Updates

I went to GKA last night and was allowed to practice with them. It was a really great experience because I actually felt like I was doing something with my life instead of surfing on the internet, watching TV, playing videogames and running family errands. My life is a little balanced now so I am able to move on. It was great meeting up with the people I haven't seen for a while and getting in some actual training.

In keeping with my promise of charting my Kendo progress, I will put down some things I noticed about my training.

- First of all, it has been about three weeks since I have done some very hard Kendo practice. In that respect, I felt a little rusty in the beginning, but quickly warmed up as practice began. I guess the small amounts of self practice really helped in at least keeping me in the swing (no pun intended) of things.

- During the free geiko, I noticed how I was able to react a bit better to someone's advancing attacks, or at least realize when I have an opening but not necessarily go for it.

- My hiki waza is okay when just practicing them one on one, but it's not so great when actually doing it while sparring. I either trip up going back or I don't have as much of the center as I thought I did and the person ends up blocking. The footwork is confusing enough as it is. Integrating the swing and the zanshin makes everything a bit harder to accomodate. Some ways of fixing that could be to be faster with movements and also not be concerned with missing. I also have the option of hiki-kote and hiki-do, which can also be useful for getting out of a jam.

- During the practice, I noticed that there were a few people that don't hit very hard. But the thing is, their hits were spot on and they showed zanshin. Of course, everyone's philosophy on what makes a point is different so I really can't say if one is better than the other. I'm not the strongest person in the world and I am continuously told that I need to hit harder and harder. While it is true that I could hit harder, maybe I can concentrate on getting effective hits in other areas. I can still use the suburito to do swings, but instead of specifically trying to whack the living daylights out of a person, I should work on using that strength to make my hits stronger in the form of being clear and crisp.

I am pretty sure that there are a few notes that I could be missing, but then I think I would be missing the point of charting my progress. I need to concentrate on the things I learned without being nitpicky about my Kendo so much. All it will do is cloud my mind as there are millions of things that I need to fix. I have years upon years to fix things so I just need to concentrate on a few at a time and move on to the next when I feel satisfied with how I'm doing them. Then I can go back to those techniques at a later date and do some more refinement when I gain some better insight to my techniques with increased Kendo knowledge and ability.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

What the hell is going on with me anyways

It's two weeks into Summer vacation, so how are things going on so far?

For the second time ever (how sad is this?), I got a 3.0 semester average on my report card. And I also didn't have any Ds on it either. There was one class, AAE 440 (Spacecraft Attitude Dynamics) that was giving me the most trouble with hard exams, long homework and a teacher who is too full of herself to be that helpful. In the end, I still ended up with a C, so I am very happy about it. I am happy now that I can go through a summer without worrying about my GPA. Keep this up and I can actually graduate next semester!

Due to my hectic schedule over the past week with turning in job applications and taking care of Grandma since her operation, I haven't gone to GKA yet. I have done some practice at night in the form of doing some waza and suburi to strengthen myself. I do plan on going tonight to ask for permission to hopefully join them today, and then I can definately start the hardcore practicing. I also need to get in contact with the head of the dojo that is closer to here to try to train with them in addition to GKA for some extra practice.

I have a position at some job agency that will put me in jobs that come up. But that means that I may only have to wait a few days, or a few weeks for something to come up. I am still job hunting for something a bit more stable. If I get this job, then I should be able to go to the Kendo seminar that's coming up next month. I have the money now, but I'm afraid of all the sudden expenses that are coming up now :(

Monday, May 07, 2007

Yet another Kendo update

As promised, I am posting an update to my training. So far, I haven't joined any dojos here since school didn't really end for me until Saturday due to a few projects that lingered on after my return home. But that hasn't kept me from doing some short practices by myself before I go to bed. Here are a few notes I've made.

- This may sound a bit crazy, but I found a way to increase my speed a bit. Ever since I started, I was always told to only use the left hand to do everything and the right only guides. It is true, but I found it to be an impediment to speed since I was only moving forward with my left arm. I can increase my speed by making my right arm a bit more active by using the force from it to move out faster than with just one arm.

- I've been doing whatever I can to strengthen my wrist and arm by doing katate suburi with the suburito and moving it up and down with the strength of my wrist. All I can say is that I really need work on that. We'll see what happens since it probably won't be until a few weeks when I know the results.

- As far as cross training is concerned, I have access to some free weights (no bench) a treadmill and one of those elastic band things. I'm really not sure how I can use the weights and elastic band to the best potential and the internet really isn't helping as there's too much information swimming around so it seems to be mostly on hold for now. On the treadmill side of things, I want to run like a mile and a half every day to keep my heart pumping and maybe give me any extra energy I need for fighting. I'm pretty sure I can do more with that, and I will increase it when I figure out that I can or should do more.

- For the remainder of the summer, I know I am going to have a lot of time on my hands. I tend to spend my days in front of the computer screen (like now), playing video games and watching TV. I might as well spend some of that time practicing Kendo for maybe an hour or two a day on my own time except for the days I go to practice. My goal is to go back to Purdue much better than when I left as well as get somewhere in the next tournament and I'll do just about anything to achieve that goal.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Kendo Frustration

In searching for different ways to procrastinate from my homework, I have decided to put in a new entry in my blog.

It's been over a week, but the Cleveland Kendo Tournament is over and I leave disappointed in my progress. I lost in the first match in the mudansha division just like at the previous tournament. This time, it wasn't because I got tired, it was because my hits were weak so I wasn't getting any points from my hits. There are other factors to my performance, including driving for a few hours and having little time to warm up as so many things were going on at once when I got there. The latter reasons feel like petty excuses to me as I sometimes feel like I was trying to run away from the real reasons of my loss. Either way, I feel that I didn't give my all to the match and that needs to change.

I faired a bit better in the team match, but there are still some improvements. I noticed in the video for my match that I had a bit too much movement with my shinai. The funny thing is that I didn't notice I was moving so much. It really gives my movements away and it does sap energy faster than just moving when necessary. That seems to be a problem that I need to get over as well. I need to pay more attention to my movements.

I really feel that my Kendo hasn't really progressed much since the summer. While I don't expect to be a Kendo master or anything after only three years, I would expect to be better at Kendo than I currently am. It's really frustrating that it seems like people are advancing faster than I am. While some others are full of energy and fast, I'm still slow and weak. Trust me, I have no plans on quitting Kendo. While I am frustrated, I see this as another hurdle to go through. This is an experience that I can tell others years down the road when they are saying the same thing. But for the here and now, there are some things that do need to change.

The semester is over and now the summer is fast approaching. More time will open up for me to spend more time practicing Kendo and doing any sort of supplemental training. Last year, my goal was to be able to last longer during my matches. While my endurance can always be higer, I think that I am at the point where only time will improve that. Now, there are other things that I can focus on during these long summer months.

- Improve speed
- Improve strength

These are the new goals that I have. While these are two different goals, I feel that they supplement each other as you need speed to have strength and strength for speed. But I guess that it's not enough to just do them, I need a method of approaching that goal.

In order to achieve these goals, I need a refined way of approaching things. At first, I was just doing suburi to do the first goal, but more needs to be done. While doing suburi is necessary for becoming better, a new thought process needs to be implemented. Instead of just doing the swings and practicing the waza, I need to think about what I am doing. Why am I doing this move? How can it be refined to achieve these goals? What EXACTLY is my body doing to move and how do I fix any problems? Basically, I should be asking questions of myself and my sensei/sempai to get a deeper perspective of my kendo. Also, I should be updating this blog more to chart my progress.

One thing is for certain, I plan on visiting a few dojos over the summer. Which ones I visit depends on one thing, and that is if I get an internship over the summer. I got a call a few days ago about an internship with United Launch Alliance in the Denver area. If I go there, I know of a few dojos that are in the area that I can attend depending on the work schedule and stuff. If I don't, I can always practice with the Georgia Kendo Alliance. There are also a few other Kendo dojos that opened up in the area, closer to home, so I can go there for the time being depending on how long I will remain at home. We'll see how things go as I'll find out my situation tomorrow.

Well, it's getting late and I should get to bed for class tomorrow morning. As for the match video, I'll add a link to my youtube page on the sidebar so you can see my Kendo videos and videos of my friends. Of course, comments and questions are always welcome.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Kendo Update

Currently, I am sitting in the airport after coming here EXTREMELY early to compensate for anticipated traffic. While I did have traffic, it wasn't bad enough for any considerable delays so I essentially came about two hours early. And since I have nothing better to do with my life for the time being, I think I will put in another entry into my blog. This one may be a long entry though. Just note that I will be home when this is posted as there is no such thing as free internet at the airports.

First of all, I would like to complain about Midway's lack of plugs for laptops and cell devices. It wouldn't be such a big deal if the travel wasn't to be long, but I would feel better having a plug for my laptop while I'm stuck here.

It's about a month until the tournament in Cleveland and that day is approaching fast. I've been doing my best to train as best as I can in whatever way I can to be prepared for it. There are some good things and bad things about what is going on.

If the tournament were to happen tomorrow, then I would definately say that I am not prepared. I don't think that I would ever be ready for a tournament if I trained 24 hours a day, but I definately feel that there are some things that could be worked over. I've been able to attend at least one practice a week so I haven't been completely sedintary. But I would definately love to have more sparring time so I can reflect on my skills and work on weak points. Unfortunately, things have been heating up academically, so there are some times where I have to skip practice and training due to academia or just being too tired after a long day of school. Optimally, I would be training about an hour a day doing the basics and stuff, but real life's a bitch sometimes, huh?

I finally was able to attend my first seminar a few weekends ago. Miyahara-sensei was teaching for the day at the University of Chicago. I could go into everything that he taught us, but then I might as well write a novel cause it was a lot that he told us. He talked about things ranging from basic shinai and bogu care to suburi and even taught us a few things about parrying effectively. The whole thing lasted about five hours and I ended up being very happy to attend. The trip would have been perfect if it wasn't for the freezing rain that plagued the whole trip back.

While not Kendo related, I did get to go to an Iaido practice to see what the training was like. Unfortunately, due to me going back and forth between Indiana and Georgia for breaks (they don't have Iaido as far as I know), not having time during school, money issues and concerns over training for a month and then having to leave, I wasn't able to join. I do know that I will be attending Iaido practices once I graduate if I get a job in a place that has Iaido somewhat close by. The dojo I visited was the Indianapolis Budokan that is run by Andrew Bryant. Everyone was very nice and eager to greet me which was nice. They did a few forms and stuff, but I was largely impressed as I was watching.

I guess I can add something in on this as well. I've had to stop with the Japanese classes since my advisor told me that I needed to take other classes, so now it's up to myself to continue my Japanese education. It really hasn't been going over too well since I have other aspects of my life to worry about, but I try to get in a little something every once in a while like watching stuff on the AZN network, reading manga (love the Musashi no Ken) and playing video games in Japanese.

My reading is pretty decent right now. I can read a few things, but my Kanji knowledge is holding me back. When it comes to learning Kanji, I don't like using lists and memorizing them. I feel better when I learn by usage, so I'm more apt to memorize them when I read them and see for myself how they are used. For that, I am reading manga, though I would like to read other material to have a more well-rounded view on them.

My listening could most definately use some work. When people talk slow, I can usually manage. But since they talk very fast on most TV shows, I have a hard time catching anything that they are saying. I don't really know how I can get around this other than just doing more listening stuff. Anime is a nice resource, but I think I should look for more real sources to listen to.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Spring Break Plans

It seems like it was just yesterday when the semester started. Everyone hates that period between MLK Day and spring break because it's six weeks straight of school with no breaks in between. But the weeks flew by with very little warning and now, Spring Break starts in just a matter of days.

What prompted me to write this was an interesting thread that I read on 1up last week. Someone thought of an idea to take the idea of spring cleaning and bring it in the realm of video games. I thought that it was more of an idea of getting rid of the extra fluff in your gaming collection, but it was a bit different than that.

I'm pretty sure that every gamer has a collection of games that they started playing but didn't finish. This happens for a variety of reasons such as lack of time, loss of interest or increasing interest in other games. Well, this person's idea was to use the month of March as a time to compile a list of games that you bought and never finished and make it a goal to complete the games on that list within the month.

I've thought about participating in this, but due to my hectic college schedule, it's something that is impossible for me to partake in--or at least it would be difficult to complete any sort of amount of games. So I felt that it would be better for me to wait until the summer to do that sort of thing when I have more time on my hands.

What does this have to do with Spring Break though? Well, I've decided to try this out while I am at home for Spring Break. Amid the homework that I must complete, there is a lot of free time that should be better spent in making my gaming collection worthwhile. There are a few games that I would like to try to beat before I come back, and below is a list of them:

- Gunstar Heroes
- Super Castlevania IV
- Super Star Soldier
- Sonic and the Secret Rings
- Starfox (SNES) - Hard course
- Super Mario RPG

Since I only have a week, I wanted to keep the list small. The good news is that most of these games can be beaten pretty shortly despite the difficulty being high in some of them. I added Super Mario RPG for good measure, but I don't even know if I will even get to start the game after playing the other ones. I just plan on taking the games down one by one and hopefully reaching my goal of beating them.

There are also some other things that I want to do over break. There are some games and accessories that I would like to sell over ebay to clean up my overstock on games.

I also have plans to do some Kendo training when I get back home. I won't be able to make it to GKA this time around, but I have a shinai that I can do suburi with and a treadmill to do some running with to train for the upcoming tournament. I hope to get the cardio in more during school, but I'll have to see about that.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Kendo Seminar

I finally went to my first Kendo seminar yesterday that was hosted by the University of Chicago Kendo club and taught by 8th dan hanshi, Miyahara sensei.

I must say that the experience was great and worth the two hour drive (and 5 back due to I-65 being an ice sheet) to get there. I learned a lot about kendo that day--maybe too much.

Miyahara sensei himself is a pretty cool guy. Everything that he said was straightforward and made sense as to why he did what he did. One thing that I really liked is that, despite him having the highest rank in the US, he wasn't completely hung up in formalities. There's some people that expect you to treat them all special like (not necessarily in Kendo since I haven't met anyone like that), but he seemed pretty relaxed. I hope to be like him when I'm at a high rank.

As for the lesson itself, we learned a lot about the basics from tips to take care of the shinai to footwork and suburi. One nice thing we learned was how to do various parry techniques depending on situation. More specifically, I learned about how it may not necessarily be necessary to stomp when doing strikes, a way to tie the dou so that it doesn't fall off and a way to tie the shinai so that you don't have to worry about pulling so much.

There were a lot more things I learned that day, but it would be enough to write a novel on it. Luckily, there was someone else from my dojo who showed up so he should be able to recall stuff that may be foggy to me and I can do the same with him. Hopefully we should be able to pass this on to the other dojo members to spread the knowledge.

The most important thing that he stressed was that everything that he said isn't gospel. If something doesn't make sense, then we don't really have to do it. But his reasonings were so logical that you at least had to give it a try to see if it works. All I know is that I can now look at my kendo and see about adding a few things to my sparring skills. The seminar was invaluable.

Before I end this, I would like to extend my thanks to the University of Chicago Kendo Club for inviting us to join them for this. I would also like to extend thanks to Miyahara sensei for coming out to Chicago to teach for the day. This experience proved to be very interesting and I hope to train and meet with both of them agian.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Gaming Woes...sort of

I stopped at Game Crazy today and bought Final Fantasy III, Wii component cables and a system changer for $80. I'm happy that I got them, but I won't be totally happy until the balance is off my card.

After talking to the guy at the counter, it got me thinking about my situation. I have a lot of games that I haven't really played much of. I have thought about not buying any more games (except Guitar Hero 360) until I beat a few of the ones I already have. The way I want to go about it is to choose a game to play and then spend the majority of my gaming time playing that game until I beat it.

So far, I have thought about making Okami that game since I'm 10 hours into it and then move on to FF XII since I'm beginning that one. Since my roomate is TV whoring right now, I guess I can fill that void with FFIII and beat that one. Hopefully, this should help out in saving me money and making me feel better about my game collection.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Today's Practice

This morning, I finally decided to get off my lazy ass and start up the practicing. I had to miss this Thursday's practice because I wasn't feeling in tip top shape, unfortunately. This was something that I have wanted to do for a while, and the details are written below.

Right now, I'm living in a tiny apartment on Purdue's campus complete with low ceilings and cramped quarters. I could just sit in seiza and do suburi for a bit, but I felt that it wasn't enough. So I woke up this morning and went to breakfast and headed out to the corec for some Kendo fun.

I decided to do it in my uniform, sans bogu, since I just feel better about doing it that way. But I put the uniform on and did some stretches to start out. After feeling a bit more limber, I started out with the shinai for a set of 10 to get my body warmed up to moving. After that, I picked up my suburito (large bokken for weighted suburi practice) and did 50 each of zengou-sayumen, naname-suburi, zengou-shomen-uchi, suri-monogiri and haya-suburi. For the katate suburi, I just used the normal shinai. By the way, the shinai is a Bio one, which is noticably hevier than plain bamboo.

This is where the training got a little weird. I started off with footwork for a bit and moved on to various waza. The problem that I was having was that I wasn't focusing enough so I would do a few and move on to another one. That portion of the training was more of a waste of time since I didn't really get to focus on my mistakes.

After that, I went through the first 4 kata, doing my best to imagine an opponent in front of me. Sometimes, it worked out well and other times, it didn't work out the way I wanted it to. Sometimes, my mind moves around a bit and the focus gets lost yet again.

After that bit, I stretched out some more and left. I did talk to some people who were wondering what martial art I was doing which was nice. I doubt that they will be future members of the Kendo universe, but at least the knowledge of it existing is out there.

One thing that I would like to fix when I go out there the next time is to go with a plan. I was fine with the suburi and the kata since those are pretty much set in stone as to the accomplishments of that. But for the waza, I need to have a better plan as to what I feel I need to work on. That way, it becomes more productive. I really hope that I can make it out there tomorrow and the following weekends. If I can fill the rest of the week with just plain suburi in here, then I should be all set. I really need to increase my practice time so I can actually get better!

On an unrelated note, I finally got a Wii classic controller. I really wasn't looking for one though. I just went to the gaming section at walmart to look around like I always do and saw one there and just picked it up. I was mainly there to pick up my glasses and contacts though.

Well, later days!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Week in Review

Wow, it has already been a week since the semester started. There are several things that are going on in my life that I would like to report on over the past week.

After working for two years at Itap, I got a promotion to Senior Lab Assistant. There really isn't too much going for me as far as job experience goes, but it should at least look good on the resume for the job description and the fact that I got a promotion. Now that I am a Senior Lab Assistant, I finally have stuff to do while I am at work. I help out the Site Ops do their thing by handing out keys and clipboards to those that need them, check the classrooms to see if projectors are working and answer questions Lab Assistants may have. It's also a nice pay increase too. I'm working 12 hours instead of the normal 15 this semester, so I am essentially getting the same pay, but at least I work less to get the same amount of pay. My main gripe for now is the fact that I work for 4 hours on Tuesday and 8 hours on Wednesday.

My classes are going fine for now. The most interesting one has to be AAE 535 which is Propulsion: Design, Build, Test. It's a class that takes you through the designing process by designing something of your choice. Right now, I am working with some people to talk about making a plasma ignitor for a hypersonic (Mach greater than 5, I think) engine. I really don't know anything at all about this and I don't understand the papers the teacher gave, but things might come together as time goes on. Some of my other classes include Astronomy, Controls lab, Aerodynamics Lab and some class where I am learning the business side of the design world. These classes seem very interesting and I think I can expect a nice GPA boost provided I put a good amount of effort into class.

Kendo is also into full swing again. There was a practice on Thursday which really goes to show me that I got a little rusty over break and I still have stuff to work on. I am still able to last during Jigeiko (sparring) after reducing my movements a bit, but I still felt very slow with all of my hits. I shall one day beat someone in a match within the club, but I really need to work hard at it. One thing that really seems to be going against me is that a lot of the work I am doing this semester is based on group work. That means that there is no telling when we will meet outside of class, so my practice time could be extremely limited. With this in mind, I really need to just keep up with my practices so I don't falter too bad. I want to do better at the next tournament!

I've also been getting more into XBOX live. I still need to play at least one game of Rainbow Six: Vegas online, but I do enjoy the Burnout revenge online quite a bit. The people I have met are pretty nice and mature so far. I had a lot of fun cause it seemed more like several friends in a room having a good time instead of going for that all out competition to win. Of course, we all want to win but there was a bunch of nice discussions. I also got all the achievements in Ms. Pac Man which brings the total amount of games that I have all achievements for to two. Maybe I'll get into the games I already own some more and increase my score a bit. Well, if you want to get in contact with me to play some games, my gamertag is Black Kendoka.
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