Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Training Mind

Because of the Labor Day weekend, the Miami Valley dojo and Northern KY Dojo was closed. But that fact didn't matter because I am in Atlanta right now. Despite me being away, I still got to practice Kendo at Georgia Kendo Alliance.

Today's practice was okay. It was pretty difficult to navigate the floor because my feet would slide. Because of the differences in footwork, it kinda threw off everything else a bit as well.

I attended both the intermediate and advanced practices for the night. The intermediate practice went over the principles of kirikaeshi. It was a pretty nice breakdown of the major components of it such as good fumikomi, good swings and proper distance. I put those explanations together with the ones that people in Ohio tell me to really give everything my all.

After that, the advanced practice began where we started off with waza and ended with free geiko. There were two new things that I learned from training yesterday:

  • For the kaeshi waza, the foot must move as you are warding your opponent's shinai out of the center. This should allow you to more quickly get in before the opponent has a chance to react

  • Another point for the kaeshi waza. Whenever I do it, I tend to just try to knock the shinai out of the center. What I should be doing is just letting it slide out of the way before I counter attack to take over the center

The free gieko was pretty nice. I tried to fight against one guy doing nitou but he put his other shinai down when fighting the lower ranked people (I was hoping to get the chance to do it). I also got to fight an old friend of mine who pretty much dominated me as usual.

I did say earlier that one of the things that was holding me back was the floor. Normally, I would have eventually adjusted by the end of practice, but there is another thing that was bothering me at the back of my mind. Gustav is heading towards the Gulf Coast as we speak. I know that most of my family is okay, but just the thought of possibly going back and seeing the city destroyed yet again really sucks. Of course, only time will tell when the storm actually makes landfall where ever it's going. Now I know how it feels to have personal connections to various disaster areas.

This brings up a point about training while something is constantly on your mind. Before every practice, you meditate (command is Mokusou (黙想)) to bring your mind to the kendo tasks at hand and away from the outside world. But, even if something is a bit more difficult to shake than a few seconds of meditation, should you continue practice?

Sometimes it can help to do something completely unrelated to the problem to make you feel better. There were times during practice where I did concentrate all on Kendo to let go of what's been going through my mind. I did what I could to put my all into practice but overall was about 95%.

The difference between most activities and Kendo is that practice depends as much on yourself as the other person you're training with. If you don't do your part, then the other person doesn't get anything out of it and that part of the session just remains empty. Anyone who has done Kendo will probably know what I'm talking about to some extent on this.

But should you continue to practice? I would say that it depends on the situation at hand and how it's affecting you. In most cases, the Kendo can be therapeutic to keep your mind off the issues at home and allow you to deal with them with a vigorous activity.

But there are times where you can't really shake the feelings you have which can negatively affect your abilities. If it's just a practice and you have been finding yourself crying or doing things negatively in your main life, then it's probably best to skip one practice to not add to the guilt of being a bad partner and not doing so well.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Kendo Police?

What I want to write about today is something that has sort of getting under my skin for a while now. And since I want to actually do something with my blog, now's the time to do it. Keep in mind that this can be extrapolated to other aspects of life, but since this is a Kendo blog, I will be specifically talking about Kendo.

People on the Kendo World forums should already be familiar with this sort of thing. We see a video on Youtube that showcases some random yahoo doing what they think is Kendo and some people decide to get up in arms about it. In most cases, it's posted for people to laugh at. But in its most extreme case, some will go to the source of the video and pick it apart and pretty much flame the person to the point where the video is taken down. You may also see cases where someone will get on the forum and post something that shows that they don't really know what Kendo is, but they feel they do. As a result, the Kendo hounds sniff it out and pile on the person.

It is understandable to do this sort of thing. Everyone that does Kendo knows that it isn't easy. First you have to find the nearest dojo which, for most people, is not just around the corner. Then there is the long period of trial and error that people go through for the rest of their Kendo career which takes a lot of effort to keep up with and improve on. So to have one person come up and just say that they are doing what we are doing can understandably get under someone's skin.

Despite this going on, is this really justified? To be a little miffed, that is understandable. But I do think that there are better ways in which we can handle this.

A lot of times, we tend to make assumptions about the person, where they practice and why they do what they do. The majority of videos on Youtube and the like have people just dicking around, not really thinking much about what they are doing. Then you have the cases where people might be misguided, thinking that they are doing what they are doing is the right thing. What we may not know is that the person may not know about those intricacies of Kendo techniques, where a dojo may be, or how to find a dojo.

Making assumptions and immediately flaming people from the get go can only cause harm to the Kendo community. Ever since I have been involved in Kendo, I have only met kind and accepting people with the bastards being a very small minimum. This would be a huge contrast to what others may think if they thought all we do is go around finding bad Kendo videos and immediately chastising the person for what they are doing. While we know that everyone is an individual, we still represent the Kendo community as a whole wherever we go, whether or not the general public knows that we do it. It's hard enough to get people to stick with Kendo, but we would only be making it harder to spread if people think we're total bitches who can't allow people to enjoy themselves.

How can we better handle the situation when we encounter these kinds of people? If we see a video online, then don't immediately angerly flame the person. First see what the intent is and take appropriate action. If they are just screwing around, then just leave them alone and let them go about their business. We may be worried that they will hurt each other, but Darwin works in mysterious ways. If they are misguided and providing erroneous information, then you can correct them, but don't expect to have a new convert who is hurrying to the nearest Kendo dojo. If they start spouting out random samurai phrases to prove they are on the higher path...then run away, lol.

Really, the best way to combat this is information. If you happen to be in a conversation with a misguided person, you should be able to answer any questions they have. If you don't have the answer, then you should know where to seek it and get back to the other person.

The previous point brings up something else. We all know that there is a lack of information out there about Kendo compared to some of the more common arts like Karate or Tae Kwon Do. Let's face it. Most of the information that is really out there for people to easily see is found in anime and movies. Not to mention that there's the erroneous information about kendo and living the samurai way and stuff.

That means that we need to take charge and get this info out there ourselves. If you happen to be HTML proficient, you can make webpages about what Kendo is, what it means to you, the dojos you go to, things to look for in a Kendo dojo, journaling your own training process and other things of the such. If not, there are various blogging sites like Myspace, Facebook, Blogger and Live Journal where you can do similar things minus all the HTML work. You shouldn't have to be a 5th Dan sensei to do stuff like this either. In fact, it would be nice to have views of Kendo from people who may not be so proficient in Kendo to have that realistic view of what it's like to be a beginner out there. Plus, it's a very nice way to get to know more about the art you're doing with a little bit of research beyond the Wikipedia article.

I would say that the main point of the article is that we should concentrate less on the others and more on ourselves. We may be able to take one video down through flaming, but with the capabilities of Web 2.0, five more videos may show up within minutes. We know what Kendo really is so we should be able to stand up and take charge and be the forefathers (and mothers) of using the internet to our advantage.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Five Years And Counting...

The month of August marks the 5th anniversary of when I started Kendo. It's hard to believe that I've been with this for all that time, considering the big changes that have happened in my life during the time span.

As many of us know, it's hard for one to keep interested in one activity for so long and Kendo is definitely no exception. The plethora of options for things to do, work and school are the biggest killers of prospective college Kenshi, but I fought it. For those that can dedicate the time, sometimes people realize that Kendo is not really what one expected it to be or took too much commitment, but I fought that too.

I pretty much started Kendo because I wanted something to do when I was in college to break the monotony of studying and slaving. To be honest, I originally wanted to do Aikido. But I found out about Kendo and considered trying to do both. But when school started, the Kendo callout came first so I went with that one first. I would have done Aikido as well, but the classes clashed with the advanced classes that I wanted to eventually attend at the time. In short, I only had room for Kendo.

It seems like only yesterday that I walked into the Stewart center as a wide-eyed, timid freshman spending two hours a week going back and forth on the floor before moving on to spending those same two hours a week making our arms fall off.

What made me stick with Kendo? At first, it got me out of my dorm so it was pretty much something to do and something to pad my resume with. But despite the difficulty of coming back with sore feet and arms every week, I still had some mysterious force calling me back. What really made me stick with it was when I saw my first tournament in Chicago. Seeing people in the mysterious armor and uniform whacking away at each other gave me a preview of what we were going to do if we stick with things long enough. It probably helps that I had no expectations of Kendo whatsoever. Sure, I went to the callout the week before the first practice, but I was going into it pretty much blind at this point.

Fast forward five years and I'm still doing it with abilities that I never thought possible. I've visited various dojo across the country and participated in my fair share of tournaments with no signs of stopping any time soon.

Where do I see myself in the future? I want to be able to continue Kendo for as long as my body is able to allow me. In the present time frame, I want to do my best to develop my own style and improve on the skill set that I have now. I also want to increase my Kendo competency enough to be able to do my best by spreading the knowledge of Kendo by teaching those that are willing to learn.

Well, I got 5 years down. Now lets hope for 5+ more!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Some thoughts on my Kendo and Iaido

In my latest attempt to get more self-practice in for Kendo and Iaido on those no practice days, I've been having some thoughts about my progress in Kendo and Iaido.

For those not in the know, I participated in the AUSKF tournament in Las Vegas last month. I was knocked out of the first round, unfortunately, but it allowed me to really think about Kendo in a different kind of light.

One of the major problems that I have been having with Kendo is the fact that I'm most definitely not the strongest person out there. Sizing up at 5'7" and 125 lbs (170.18 cm, 56.7 kg for those that don't follow our system), I tend to get pushed around quite easily by a good number of people out there that I face. Due to this, I am trying to find a way around it by using my size and go the more agile and tactical route. This means taking advantage of moving around swiftly and taking command of various waza, such as hiki, nuki and kaeshi. In some ways, that sort of thing seems to be working, but there is still a LOT to do before I can really say that this kind of tactic is working.

On an somewhat related note, since this is August now, it marks the 5th anniversary of me starting Kendo. Can't believe it's already been that long. I'm very proud of myself that I started something and able to keep up with it for that amount of time, given the large amount of distractions in college. This is something that I really want to keep going with for the next 50+ years, provided my body is able to keep up with it. Maybe I'll do another entry about the future of Kendo in my own personal life and my thoughts on the growth of it in the western world.

BTW, for those that are interested, here's my match video from the torunament.

On the iaido front, I've only started in February so I'm still very green about the art. Lately, I've been doing things to get myself more familiar with the art by looking up information and making sure I actually remember the names of the seitei kata (the ones I'm working on right now). To help out with that, I'm looking at youtube videos for reference of the necessary movements and intent. I also bought a book called Iaido Sword: Kamimoto-Ha Techniques for Musou Shinden Ryu. According to reviews, it's supposed to be a pretty complete guide book for Musou Shinden Ryu. I haven't gotten it yet so I really can't say much about it.

Oh yeah, I ordered my Iaito from Aoi Budogu back in April...and I'm still looking for it. I emailed the people and they told me that the swordsmith was backed up so it might take another 6-8 weeks for my iaito to come in. I'm glad to know that at least it's able to come in. The way I see it, it gives me a bit more time to be "ready" for the iaito when it comes in. I have my bokken and saya right now, so that will have to do until it finally comes in. But I still come up to my door, anticipating the view of the slip of paper saying I can grab it from the main office of my apartment complex.

That's it for now!
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