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.
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