Saturday, May 30, 2009

Kendo, by Tim O'Shei

Book Title: Kendo

Author: Tim O'Shei

ISBN 13: 978-1-4296-1964-6

ISBN 10: 1-4296-1964-3

Description as shown on the back of the book

The sword skills of the samurai come to life as kendo fighters execute fast-acting blocks and strikes to win competitions. Learn how fighters practice their skills and see if you have what it takes to be a kendo champion.


As many of you may already know, there aren’t very many resources for Kendo for the English-speaking crowd. The ones that are available have varying degrees of usefulness, but one demographic that seems to be missing is material for the younger crowd. The book that I am reviewing here is supposed to be one such book that caters to that demographic.

My first review is a book titled, “Kendo,” by Tim O’Shei. To be honest, I was thinking the book would be a bit more on the meaty side after seeing it at the online library catalog, but I decided to take a look anyways and give it a chance.

The book itself is only 32 pages long with a few sentences gracing each page, explaining some very basic information about what kenshi wear during practice, the equipment that they use and some information about kata, testing and general practice structure. There are color photos included on each page and, along with the short description on some kendo material, they have some "fun facts" that may or may not be interesting. The author consulted David Christman Sensei, founder of Battle Creek Kendo Kai for the information contained in the book.

The book would really only cater to young children who are totally unfamiliar with Kendo. The ones of that age group that already do Kendo would already be familiar with the material in the book. Other than that, I do appreciate the extra information out there that gives everything in a simple manner to expand knowledge to a younger age group. I also like the various color pictures that show the equipment and people practicing.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Using a Real Sword

It's been a minute since I typed something here, but I was on vacation over the past few days, which also gave me the time to think of something to type here upon my return.

I'll admit it here that I did not get to use a shinken, but at Iaido practice last Wednesday, I was told to try to constantly imagine that I am using one in order to fix my noto. Upon doing so, my sensei told me that my noto immediately improved upon doing so.

I was trying to use that mindset before, but it really wasn't as strong as I applied it here. At first, it was just something that I kept at the back of my mind and just made note when my hand would have gotten cut. This time, I tried to apply it as a preventative measure which caused my noto to feel more controled.

This is something that I should really try to keep doing because, while I am definately several years off with getting to the level of using a shinken, I will get to that point eventually and it's imperative to have some practice to avoid bad accidents in the future.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Increasing Speed and Accuracy

After a pretty crazy week with work last week, I was able to find the time to get some action on with Kendo and Iaido.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to do Iaido for long this week since I was stuck in traffic on my way there. All we did this week was spend some time over nukitsuke and noto. The problem with my nukitsuke is that I tend to try to cut before the iaito is out of the saya. For the noto, it's all about the hand positioning to increase accuracy of getting the iaito back in the saya while making sure I'm in the position to strike again at a moment's notice.

On something kinda unrelated, there has been an increase in beginners at practice which really makes me happy. I can only hope that they find out that Kendo is something that they really like and end up sticking with it. Of course, all we can do is instruct and give advice when needed and let everyone decide for themselves. No matter the end result, I like the additional people.

Tuesday's practice was pretty standard fare with Takano sensei with the general hard work. Thursday's practice was more exciting since Morikawa sensei came down from Dayton to train with us. He led the practice in typical Dayton fare which involved nearly constant movement that can have just about anyone writhing in exhaustion near the end.

Over the past week, there were two things that I have learned about my Kendo based on the advice given by Takano sensei and Morikawa sensei.

The first piece of advice from Takano sensei is that I need to learn to keep my foot down when doing Fumikomi. When I am striking, I have a tendancy to lift my foot up a little high. The rationale behind this is that, the longer your foot is in the air, the slower your strike if your timing is correct. This isn't the first time I've heard of this sort of advice, but I do notice how hard it is to really get down, especially after not giving it much thought before.

The second piece of advice came from Morikawa sensei. He told me that I seem to hit while not fully having the center or coming off to the side when I strike, like katsugi-waza. So I need to take the center and strike from the center. I'm thinking that a lot of this is coming from me trying to do more with fighting the center which, ironically, puts me off center sometimes. I'm really trying to see how to get this right while getting the opponent to do what I want them to do.

These are two very important aspects that could help with my overall speed and accuracy. My current goal is to become more competitive in the shodan-nidan division in the next kendo tournaments and get ready for the nidan exam which can happen in the next year.

Before I go, there are two notes I'd like to mention. It is kind of late, but I did post pictures of the Cleveland tournament on Flickr, which can be found either on the side bar or just by clicking the link here. Also, I would like to do some design and name changes to the blog to make it a bit more visually appealing and hopefully be able to type better notes and articles to the point where I'm happy with it. We'll see what happens with that since I'm not that much of a web designer, but would like to pretend that I am one.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Kendo Skill +1

I had to take a week off from Kendo to let my body heal and go through some hell at work. But I did my best to start up again as good as before. After Saturday practice in Dayton, I had a minor headache, experienced a small cramp in my left calf and some plantar fasciitis. Despite all that, I felt so alive after practice to where going through the pain during and after that was all worth it.

Ever since the tournament and after some suggestions by Ariga sensei, I have been trying my best to bring my Kendo to the next level by trying to do what I can to create openings on the opponent and getting them to move the way I want them too. This is easier said than done cause I also have to get over the personal demons that cause me to hold back and hesitate and correctly use the openings to my advantage.

I have also been trying out various other techniques to see how well they work. I seem to be belting out the Gyaku-Dou (dou strike on the left side) pretty often since after the tournament. It's nice to use, though I'd like to know the best way to score with it. I have also been trying to work with hiki-waza and all the elements that deal with that.

The main motivation for this was after participating and really paying attention to the shodan/nidan division at the Cleveland tournament. It's one thing to see people do well in certain divisions, but it's a different matter when you're trying to pay attention to everything to see what needs to be done to even have a chance at the top spots. I knew that my ikkyu kendo wouldn't be good enough, but it was great to get a perspective for what I need to do to do well.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Kendo Break

There was no Kendo for me this past weekend, though it wasn't really planned...

I would probably say that it happened a little over a week ago. The practices the week after the tournament were tougher than normal due to the desire for improvement through harder work for the next tournament. It pretty much hit a climax after Saturday's practice since it was actually kind of warm. It was in the mid 80s that day and we followed the policy of no air conditioning during training (the fans are on by the way for air circulation). There was that period of exhaustion, though I did feel a bit light-headed after practice, but nothing to get worried about.

The good news is that I was able to take it a bit easy on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday since I was mainly teaching beginners. I did do the tough jigeiko afterward though for these practices. It wasn't until Thursday that things started to crash down when I noticed a pain in my left arm (sort of felt like a small fracture or something that could possibly snap my arm), some planar ficiaitis and general exhaustion. I really wasn't sure what the issue was, but possibly thought that maybe my body had enough exercise from the previous week (probably didn't help with doing laser tag the previous Friday as well). I ended up having to stop with that practice and just use the rest of the time to give the beginners some words of encouragement to keep myself busy. Despite that, I really couldn't help but feel kinda bad for having to stop.

My plan for this weekend was to slow down a bit and just take a break. This had to be one of the hardest things to do since I had a huge desire to pick up my shinai and iaito and start swinging. No matter how hard I tried to keep myself busy, I kept thinking about kendo and iaido. The noises, the smell and the overall activity just really kept crossing my mind with video games and apartment cleaning that really kept me sane.

This whole weekend sort of made me have that inferior feeling because I had a huge desire to do Kendo, but I also realized that this is probably the best route to prevent further injury that could possibly put me out for several weeks or months as opposed to just a few days. I tend to have this stubborn attitude that keeps me going while fighting through the pain and then feel kind of less-than-worthy when I have to quit to prevent anything bad from happening. I know there's nothing wrong with stopping to fight another day and shouldn't let stuff like this bruise my ego, but it tends to happen anyways.

Well, let's hope that things go well on Tuesday. I do plan on making an appointment with the doctor sometime soon for an overall physical to see where I stack up on the health realm, but then I do have a few other questions as well about my body condition to see about those. It's more a curiosity than anything as I don't see too many problems with that situation.
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