Monday, December 12, 2011

Mind Over Matter!



The past few months have turned out to be the most stressful that I’ve been under in recent memory.  I won’t go into the boring details, but the short of it is that tight deadlines, coupled with a tough project, hasn’t made things easy on me.  Heck, things got to the point where my heart would race as I approach the doors of the building in anticipation for what would go wrong.  However, things seemed to calm down a bit, so I’m able to sort out some things and catch up to some stuff that was on hiatus when I had little time for anything.

Other than the times where I had to stay extremely late, or if I had such a long day that I was just physically and mentally exhausted, I would still go to the Kendo and Iaido practices that I could.  Being able to go home and sleep for a few hours was somewhat decent, but it was even better when I had that form of healthy escapism from the stresses of the real world.

The thing is, this isn’t the first time in my life where I’ve encountered levels of stress that bleed over into other parts of my life.  Heck, to remain more Kendo related, I’ve heard situations from friends where stressful situations cause them to not be able to attend practice for a few days, weeks or even months.  In short, situations like this happen all the time and we all have to deal with them in our own special way.  One thing that I’m sure we all can agree on, is that being able to go to practice to break the monotony can really help in calming one’s nerves, even for a little while.

As much as I would like to be able to attend all practices, regardless of the situation, there are times where the stress can become too much to the point where the practice is unproductive to oneself, and those that you’re practicing with.  That’s something that we all know and have felt before, but it’s ultimately up to us to decide when we get to that point.

When we’re in practice, we have a responsibility to ourselves to make each practice as productive as we can make it for our own development.  However, one element that should also be considered is that, due to the cooperative nature of Kendo practice and development, we also should be able to make sure that we do our part to make the practice productive for others.  For instance, when doing kirikaeshi, the attacker needs to do what they can to hit from the right distance with the best technique that they are able to in order to improve their abilities.  But then, the receiver should also have a hand in making that happen by trying to keep that distance, deciding to block or not block and just simply having their head in the game.  If we’re at the point where it’s difficult to separate our outside lives to our Kendo lives in a way to facilitate that sort of practice, then it becomes a question as to whether or not we should attend practice, or better yet, decide how we must approach the day’s practice to still make it productive.

How we deal with situations like that is very much a matter of personal taste.  There are some that need some time to decompress on their own and then they come back after a little while once things are sorted out.  That is okay to do.  Then, there are some people that fight through it and somehow succeed in their own way through practice, and that’s okay too.  Personally, I think that it helps that I’m also teaching practices here in the area so I’m able to easily get my mind off of things due to more stuff occupying my mind.  Even if I’m not teaching practice, I would still do things like focusing on some sort of goal for that night or just taking myself into the culture and temporarily erase the crap from my life.  From the inside looking out, it seems to work out pretty well.  I haven’t heard any complaints so either I’m doing as well as I think I’m doing, or they’re just too afraid to tell me Smile with tongue out.

Through these last few months, I think I’ve learned a bit more about myself in hindsight.  It isn’t so much whether or not I feel I can attend practice as that’s a relatively easy decision to make.  It’s the fact that I can develop a coping mechanism that allows me to still attend practice, be productive to myself and others, and provide some sort of normalcy in my life.  In the end, I think that’s what’s important here.  When the chips are down, it’s nice to be able to grasp onto that one thing that’s consistent in your life, whether it’s family, friends, your favorite TV show…or even Kendo.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

American Kendo Leadership Seminar


I know I’m pretty late with making a post about this, but better late than never, I guess.

Over the Labor Day weekend, I attended the American Kendo Leadership Seminar in Seattle, Washington, led by Jeff Marsten Sensei and Robert Stroud Sensei from the Pacific Northwest Kendo Federation.  The purpose of the seminar was to present materials and resources to build the leadership ranks of Kendo throughout the US.  Here is a quick rundown of some of the material covered:

  • Tips on structuring Kendo classes to benefit the students and the instructors
  • Advice on building and running a dojo
  • Explaining the requirements of shinsa and shiai
  • Learn how to deal with the Japanese cultural aspects of Kendo within the American mindset
  • Provide a network of resources for future reference

For most of us, the trip was very expensive.  The seminar fee was actually very low, but when you factor in the plane tickets, hotel fees, rental cars and food, the prices added up very quickly.  Naturally, I had some concerns as to how much I would get out of the seminar since this is something unprecedented, as far as I know.

One thing that can become apparent when leading practices is that, once the initial awkwardness of telling people what to do for two hours per day, leading practices becomes very easy.  As long as you know how much time you have and a list of techniques you want people to perform during practice, it’s easy to make it through class after class.  However, there is another layer called effectiveness.  Anyone can lead people through practice by taking the previously mentioned situations into account.  But being able to convey the material in a way that everyone can learn from it is a totally different matter.  From dojo building, to shiai, to shinsa, there are many facets of Kendo that are available for all that want to practice it, and it’s up to the dojo leaders to know what goes on to be able to lead others through the process.  This seminar went over a lot of that information to serve as a jumping off point to be able to perform those tasks.

The overall tone of the seminar was very light-hearted but serious.  I had a lot of fun doing jigeiko against people from different regions of the country, and it provided a nice fresh look at my fighting style and how to steal some of their techniques for my own use later Smile with tongue out.  It wasn’t all business though because after practice, we went out to eat at a few places and attended a wonderful barbecue at Marsten Sensei’s house.  Each moment provided a chance for all of us to bond under the common goals to improve our own Kendo, the Kendo of the students, and Kendo in the US as well as provided us ways to network with each other for future needs.

The seminar has been over for almost a month now, and I’m still trying to compile the information I learned together, which is due to how much was shared, trying to find the best way to share the information, and partly my own laziness with getting things done as of late.  Whether or not I will be able to attend future events (I most certainly would love to provided I have the money and the time to do so), I hope that both Stroud and Marsten Sensei can continue providing the seminar for those that are interested.  If they do, then I can totally recommend anyone with even a remote interest to attend.  The trip itself was very expensive, but the information I received and the bonds that were formed made it worth more than the price of admission.

P.S.:  While none of the pictures are Kendo, or seminar related, I took the extra time I had after practice to take a few pictures around town.  Please feel free to take a look at them here.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

2011 AUSKF National Tournament Thoughts

This past weekend, I participated in the US National Kendo Tournament in Atlanta, GA.  I might have elaborated on this in previous posts but, in short, it’s a Kendo tournament held once every three years in which each of the 15 regional federations in the United States send people to fight in various divisions (Youth, Senior, Men’s, Women’s Teams, etc.) on the national stage.  How you get on the team will vary from federation to federation, but the overall goal is the same.

Ever since I found out that I got one of the positions on the team back in April, I have been trying very hard to improve my skills.  Whether I am instructing a class or just learning, or if I am fighting against a more advanced person or a complete beginner, I was learning about myself and where I needed to go from each experience. 

Based on the how I felt about my performance at the time and what I saw on video, I thought that the hard work paid off.  I must thank everyone that helped me, whether they were doing it actively or passively, and regardless of relative experience.  While I didn’t score anything from any of my fights, it wasn’t an all-out domination as I was able to hold my own for an appreciable amount of time.  The odds were most certainly against me since the people that I happened to get paired with undoubtedly have more Kendo experience that I did.  Despite that, I did my best to shed my worries about that and just did what I could to perform the best I could in my capacity.

The main things that I was working on for these past few months lied in both the physical and mental realm.  On the physical side of things, I needed to work on my posture to be able to reduce my acceleration time when I wanted to do something.  The solution to this was to play around with my center of gravity to unstabalize myself so that there was little to no prep time when the moment came that I wanted to move.  Also, I needed to gain the center, and keep that center when I begin to do something.  The problem wasn’t so much that my tip would always be to the side.  The problem was that my tip would move up too early which can give an opponent the opportunity to take advantage of the distancing and any openings that occurred.  Unfortunately, it’s something that I’m still trying to work on until it becomes habit.  Mentally, I would say the issues lie on being affected by doubt in my own skills relative to the person I’m going against.  Whenever I want to do an attack, there would be doubt in my mind as to whether or not my attempts would work which would only serve to slow me down as my head wasn’t in the game.  The solution is to just not think about it.  But the more complicated solution is to create situations in which I don’t have to think about it.  Particularly, I need to do what I can to read the opponent to see whatever openings there might be.  If there aren’t any openings for me to see, then I can create them through manipulation of my shinai, posture and movement.  This is something that I have just only started to understand myself.  While I was able to put it to use to some extent during my fights at the tournament, I’ll need much more time to be able to use it more effectively based on my own skills and the skills of the opponent.

Despite the results of my own performance, I was able to walk away with some very valuable lessons.  The most important one was that the skill of those that I was fighting and the caliber of the tournament at hand had helped change my perceptions of those that I fight in tournaments and during normal practice.  The high skill of those that I was fighting, and my own performance during the tournament, makes the various situations that I have faced and will face not seem as dire as they used to.  Confidence issues such as this has always been a thorn at my side ever since I started to have to think about more things during jigeiko, so a lesson like that should really help me.

After tournaments and promotional exams, I tend to take some time to reflect on my past experiences and try to formulate a plan for how I want to proceed.  In most cases, I’m usually concrete in where I want to go and what I should do with whatever acquired skills I gain.  This time, however, I might know where I want to go, but how I want to achieve that goal has become much more complicated.  Usually, it’s enough to say that I want to improve my tournament performance and that improvement would be through getting faster or hitting harder.  While those sorts of sentiments remain true, the mental improvement that I feel is necessary throws a whole wrench into the thought process, which might require some meditation on my part to sort out to an acceptable level. 

The tournament has provided me with such a great experience.  While I participated in the nationals three years ago in the mudansha division, the caliber of the tournament, the divisions that I was fighting in, and the necessity of making sure I helped represent the ECUSKF well provided me with all new thoughts and perceptions that I plan on taking with me into my future Kendo career.  I was given the opportunity to fight against people that are considered the best in their region.  Since I knew that they would be giving it their all—as opposed to regular practice when the goal is to teach people and possibly hold back—I was able to give it my all, and take home very valuable lessons and thoughts on Kendo.  I was able to gather a lot of material for myself, which I am still trying to sort through, though.

P.S.:  Please take a look at my Flickr gallery for some of the pictures I took.

Monday, August 08, 2011

What Is a Hobby?

There was a thread started on the Kendo World forums not too long ago that was discussing whether or not Kendo should be considered a hobby.  One thing that everyone can agree on is that there are various elements of Kendo that personally makes it enjoyable enough for use to continue.  However, the fact that it’s easy for Kendo to go from just an activity done outside of the home to something that affects just about every aspect of our lives made the discussion all the more pertinent.

Over the past few years, I’ve been able to involve myself in many Kendo events in the area and sometimes around the country.  I usually attend between three and five practice every week, attend tournaments and seminars and I try to help out the Kendo community as I am able to spread knowledge of the activity that I hold so near and dear to my heart and hopefully transform knowledge into interest, and ultimately into attendance.  In that regard, it’s easy to see how Kendo has become something more than just something I do on the side.

First, we can look at the dictionary definition of what Kendo is.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary states that the word hobby means, “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation.”  In other words, it’s considered any extracurricular activity or any activity that is done outside of working hours.  For some reason, the term hobby has turned into being perceived as something that’s fun, but doesn’t take much effort such as things like video games or sewing.  While the word hobby states that it’s something that we do for fun outside of school or jobs, it doesn’t mention anything as to how involved we are in these hobbies.

For instance, video games, sewing, and even stamp collecting can be considered activities that don’t take much effort.  However, a little searching can show how much dedication that people put into putting themselves on the tops of the leaderboards with video games, making the fanciest sweaters with sewing and trying to find the oldest and rarest stamps to add to their scrapbooks.  Kendo is not much different than that.  There are people that just go to practice and go with the flow, and there are others where they let Kendo permeate to other aspects of their  lives to reach their highest potential, whether it be rank, tournament performance or just technical prowess.

I can understand that Kendo has become something so important to us that we can’t really define what it means to us in just a word or a sentence.  But, at the same time, we must remember that it is also something that we do in our free time.  The other issue I see with those that feel like calling it a hobby is a bad thing is that it also diminishes people who are just as involved in many other activities which can also take the same amount of dedication to become great at what they do.  That sort of thinking doesn’t exactly help anyone since, instead of seeing what we do as a wonderful activity that we would like to share with everyone, people might get the perception that we are an elitist crowd of people who put ourselves above others who might not necessarily like the same things that we do.  Ultimately, maybe we should just find solace in the fact that Kendo means many different things to many different people, and just get together, relax and simply just enjoy practice together.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

AUSKF Iaido Summer Camp 2011


First of all, I apologize for the long break in between posts.  It’s been a mix of lack of time, laziness and figuring out just what my next post would be about.  I’ll have to consider a better system for more frequent posting sometime.

I attended the 2011 AUSKF Iaido Summer Camp at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.  The entire seminar lasted four days which included a seminar for the first two days, a tournament on the third day and a promotional exam on the fourth day.  There was also a jodo seminar that occurred right after the exam, but I wasn’t able to attend that.

I signed myself to participate in everything the seminar had to offer.  My time in the tournament was short-lived since I was knocked out in the first round by the person that got second place in the mudansha division.  Despite that, I wasn’t all that disappointed since I was mainly there for the seminar and promotional exam, with the tournament being included in the seminar fee.  But that doesn’t mean that I went through the tournament with nothing to gain.  Seeing the nice Iaido that people performed to move up the brackets gives me ideas on what is expected for me to do the same the next time I get the opportunity.

The promotional exam went really well for everyone from my dojo that attended since everyone passed their exam.  My instructor got his 4th dan, a kohai got 4th kyu and I passed for 3rd kyu.  There was some confusion as to how the grades were handed out because I had signed up to go for 1st kyu, but only went up one level for the test.  Since this happened for everyone who was testing, this was some sort of institutional thing which is different from how most Kendo exams are handled, which allows you to test for 1st kyu after initially getting a lower kyu rank for the first time (Kendo and Iaido are under the same federation, which is why I thought that way).  In any case, all I can do is just improve myself the best I can and test when the opportunity comes and if my sensei allows me.  If anything, it should just make it that much easier for me to test for the higher ranks when the time comes Smile with tongue out.

For the seminar, we were broken up into smaller groups based on our present rank at the time and given Iaido information commensurate to our experience level.  In my group, each day started off with a discussion session before moving on to learning about the actual kata.  First, we would go step by step through a particular kata before trying it out on our own.  In some cases, we did those things and then moved on to another kata.  But then, what we did next proved to be the most enriching experience for me.

After doing some of the kata, we would break into groups of two or three people to do a set, and then critique each other on them.  At first, it would seem kind of odd that they would let us loose to let us give our thoughts on the kata to other people given our rank, but there really wasn’t much to worry about and it was handled quite well.  For one, other people are able to see some of the smaller twitches that I might not notice, like for instance, dropping my hands before swinging.  It also gave us a chance to examine how we were taught to do something and then provide suggestions to our partners based off of that and then compare notes.

The seminar itself was a lot of fun and very valuable.  I was able to learn a lot and bring the information back here to Cincinnati for the rest of the club to chew on.  I was told that the seminar next year will be in Washington.  It’s such a long way from here, but I would really like to go if time and finances go my way.

P.S.  The picture above was one of the photos that I took during the seminar.  If you want to see more, they’re on my flickr account here.  And comments are welcome.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Preparing for AUSKF Nationals


This coming August, I will be participating in the AUSKF Championship in Atlanta.  The tournament is a very big deal here in the United States.  Every three years, each regional federation chooses people in their area to represent them by participating in the tournament.  Naturally, that means that each federation will send what they consider their strongest Kenshi to vie for the top spot and bragging rights (to an extent).  Taking this into consideration, the fact that I will be participating in something like that gives me feelings of happiness, excitement and some nervousness as well.

The fact that I’m participating in this is something that I’m not taking very lightly.  This is a great opportunity to learn a lot of new things about myself by putting myself in this situation, and come out a stronger person in character and ability.  However, knowing that I will be going against some very strong Kenshi from other parts of the country that I’ve most likely never fought before at a tournament in which I want to represent our federation’s and my strengths does fill me with some feelings of nervousness.  I may be up to the challenge, but will I improve enough by time the day comes?  Will I be able to fight in the manner I want to and, whether or not I win, come out of it pleased with myself by knowing that I did myself?  These are really great questions that, unfortunately, won’t be answered until the day comes.  At the same time, I know that preoccupying myself with questions like these really doesn’t help matters, since it really has very little to do with the actual steps I need to take to improve myself, and it also casts doubt on myself, which will only bring myself down to where I don’t want to be.

At this point, all I can do is do my best to augment my strengths and strengthen my weaknesses.  Through past experiences of successes and failures, I have been able to identify what they are at this point.  Of course, through training, I’ll most likely discover new things about myself that I need to learn to deal with before, on and after tournament day.  Whatever the case, I’m prepared to cross those bridges when I get to them.

The biggest lesson that Kendo has taught me is to face unknown challenges head-on.  Opportunities open up for a reason, so it’s best to walk in those doors if I plan on moving ahead in my life and career.  This is something that has worked quite well for me at work.  Now I must go back and use what I learned from Kendo…in Kendo.  Despite how I’m feeling at any given moment, I am ready to face the challenges, successes, failures and frustrations that tend to come with this kind of training.  It is funny how some lessons can come full-circle like that.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tightening Muscles

Doggie Massage

First of all, I apologize for the long delay in making a post.  I blame it partly on my own laziness (hey, I did hear about that two-year slump where bloggers tend to get blogging fatigue) and the fact that I made my plate a bit full with other things and interests.  Hopefully, I can try to be more frequent in the posts in the future.

These past few weeks have been rife with various musculoskeletal problems that lead to issues with my shoulders, lower back and, in some cases, my knee.  At first, I wasn’t entirely sure if it was just tight muscles or signs of an injury, so I even opted to take a week off from Kendo and Iaido practices to give my body some rest and see how it would react when I’m not putting in the stresses that I usually do when practices get rigorous.

The results for the first couple of days really wasn’t all that much different than when I started the hiatus.  My shoulders were still feeling tight and I could feel some knotting in my lower back.  Various stretches and a heating pad seemed to help temporarily, but the tightness would just come back after a few hours.  After a bit, I decided to make a visit to the massage therapist one Saturday morning.  At that point, the issue at hand became more clear.

As she was giving me the massage, she was asking me whether or not I was feeling any tenderness in my muscles and remarking on how my neck, arms, back and shoulder muscles were pretty tight.  Due to the limited time of one hour, she wasn’t able to get everything, but I did notice big improvements to how I was able to move around.  My muscles felt looser and my shoulders didn’t hurt when I moved them in certain directions.  In the end, I just decided to return to practice the following week.  I probably could have used a few more days, but practices haven’t been to bad as of late.

I did do a little research on the subject to see if I could get a little information about causes, treatment and prevention of any muscle problems.  Pretty much, there are various reasons why muscles tend to tighten up, whether it be through poor stretching, poor posture or automatic protection from micro tears of the muscles from exercise.  This can cause the muscles to not get everything that they need to repair themselves if they aren’t treated which can cause further issues.  Along with the discomfort throughout the body that can come from muscles operating differently, there can be a higher susceptibility to tearing because flexibility would be lost. [1] [2]

The most important thing is that I was able to catch this issue early enough to fix most of the problems that have been ailing me for the past few weeks.  I was only gone for a week, instead of letting the problems fester and end up being out for a much longer time, similar to what happened to me last year when I was having problems with my back.  Another mantra that I keep telling myself throughout all of this is that I won’t stay young forever.  I’ve been able to run around and rely on my youth to push my body to lengths I haven’t experienced before and get a quick recovery.  However, a time will come where that just won’t be possible, and it will be even more important to make sure that I know how to adapt to the situation.

  1. “Tight Muscles of the Upper Back and Neck”. Sports Injury Clinic. 2011. March 3, 2011.
  2. “Tight Hamstrings”. Sports Injury Clinic. 2011. March 3, 2011.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I Don’t Like Your Kendo Style

One of the most common pieces of advice that we are given while we are fighting other people is to be aggressive.  It’s common to overthink the situation and start to play defensively, especially if we’re familiar with oji-waza.  The former case causes delayed reactions while the mind shifts back and forth between the internal consciousness and the fight at hand, while the latter case only prolongs the fight, and even presents openings that an experienced person might be able to take advantage of.  Instead, we’re told to give our 100% devotion to attacks and go for whatever we might see being open.  As we gain more experience, then we are taught to read the opponent’s kamae—posture, balance, shinai position—and create openings to take advantage of them.

When we attack, we all know that some hits are successful, and some hits aren’t.  The ones that aren’t successful can result in either receiving a hit or missing the intended target, whether it’s a complete miss that causes the shinai to fly to random places, or accidentally hitting an unprotected part of the body.  No matter the kind of miss, we both know what it’s like to be on both sides of the fence, so we usually tend to blow it off and laugh about it later…while possibly waiting a few seconds for the pain to subside.  We all know that accidents happen, but we still must attempt at attacking or nobody is really going to learn all that much.

However, there are those that might cross the line.  The excessive pushing and overly hard hits can really do more damage than help, especially if accuracy isn’t part of their repertoire.  Once that line is crossed, then the potential for injury goes up from getting knocked down, pushed the wrong way, or getting hit in all the wrong places.  When faced with these kinds of people, the benefits can be low since the attacker just only knows how to hit and the receiver might not know how to respond.  However, once you find out how to deal with the situation, then you can most certainly learn more about yourself and the style of Kendo that you would like to achieve.

One of the first things that we might try to do is fight fire with fire.  While the sentiment is very common, and most certainly understandable, it’s only going to just make the situation worse.  Trying to increase your aggression to get revenge on the other person might only ignite the other person to just do the same.  Also, you end up doing the other person’s kendo and not the kind of kendo that develops you and makes you feel good.  Besides, we are taught that Kendo is an exercise in controlling yourself and, through that, controlling your opponent.  If you get angry and start getting into “revenge mode,” then that means that your opponent is controlling the match which, in the end, means that they are winning the battle.

There are various ways in which you can deal with fighting against that style, and maybe even turn the tables in your favor.  One such example is keeping a strong kamae if you happen to be in chudan so that the other person can be kept away by use of the shinai tip.  However, each situation is different and your sensei or senpai would probably be able to tell you what to do based on the situation you’re in.

Over our Kendo careers, we are faced with many different kinds of kendo; the kinds we respect and the ones we don’t.  While the situations can be different depending on if this is just general practice, tournament or testing, there are various ways to be able to deal with the kinds of kendo that might not be what we “like.”  However, the most important thing to remember is that your own Kendo development should come first.  Spending too much time worrying about defeating or getting revenge on the other person is that much time less available where you can develop your own techniques and your own style.  When you think that way, then you’ll always come out on top.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Yearly Retrospection


2011 is now here.  When the year is ending, I like to go back through the year and evaluate what happened and how I performed throughout the year and think about how I can improve myself the next year.  Since martial arts is such a goal-driven activity, it’s especially important to think about these things to give yet another frame of reference for where I want to go.

The biggest achievements of the year were in the grading realm.  In Kendo, I successfully got my 2nd Dan rank in March, followed by getting the rank of 4th kyu for Iaido.  The Kendo rank is much more surprising for the fact that I was able to get it on my first try, when it took me three tries to get my 1st kyu and 1st dan ranks, each.  The differences between my dispositions for my 2nd Dan exam and the other ones brings up another issue.  For the previous ones, I was very nervous to the point where it really affected my performance.  Not being able to think straight caused me to not perform based on how I usually would in class and get very concerned afterwards before the grades came out.  However, this time, I had a plan to go out there and do what I wanted to do and feel satisfied with my performance.  Obviously, whether or not I passed or failed depended on how the judges thought I did, but it was one of those things where passing would be excellent, but failing would just mean that I need to fix some things and try again later. 

Some analysis on that fact makes me think of a few reasons as to why I might have felt more calm under pressure than I usually have been.  First of all, I have been instructing classes and helping out with Kendo demos pretty often.  Over time, I began to get used to performing in front of people which started to carry on into other points in my life, even promotional exams where the stakes are much higher.  Because I was able to think more clearly, I was able to go out there with a plan and execute that plan and just leave it up to fate whether or not I passed or failed.  Another reason could just be as simple as just being used to the grading environment after going through the cycles quite a few times.  While the stakes are still pretty high, sensory adaptation could be present.  In other words, going through the same processes bring out the same sensations which begin to have less of an effect on me.  Whatever the case may be, I hope that this is able to continue so I can put my focus on the things that really matter when doing a performance.

This year seemed to be the year of learning how invincible my body REALLY is.  I’ve been able to go through Kendo for seven years without any major injuries until I messed up my back in April.  Luckily, all it took was some trips to the chiropractor and a little time off of Kendo and Iaido to make myself as good as new.  Then, about a week after I was able to go back to classes, I sprained my ankle while doing suriashi-men early during Kendo practice.  While it was painful due to not being able to take any medication for it, the injury wasn’t too severe and I was as good as new by the following week.  What I’ve learned from these events is that doing martial arts as often as I have been doing requires much more work with maintaining my body than usual.  More care has to be taken to take preventative measures so that I can avoid injuries as much as possible, especially considering that problems will only be compounded as I get older.  Unfortunately, the information I have now is pretty small, but I would like to try to find out more and report those findings on the blog when I do.

Now is the time to think about next year and make goals or resolutions that I would aspire to achieve over the next 365 days.  Before I begin that, there is a small concern that I would like to address when it comes to making them.  When making goals, we have to be very careful of the kinds of goals that we make for two important reasons.  First, there needs to be a metric of improvement when the goal is being made.  For example, some common goals for Kendo would be to be able to hit men better or perform better seme when going against an opponent.  Well, both of these are things that even 8th Dan people are working on so it’s not like there’s much of a clear end goal for improvement.  Second, the things that we work on tend to change pretty constantly.  One practice might be spent working on men, but another practice could change to working on fumikomi due to other issues that might crop of.  Of course, you could go back to working on men, but then there’s the chance that the derailments become too numerous to where it’s hard to go back…or the original goal gets forgotten in the mix.  Thus, when I’m making these goals, I’d rather try my best to provide a metric of improvement and/or base my goals on events that will happen next year.

In Kendo, I don’t have any promotional exams to take next year.  However, there are a lot of tournaments and perhaps a seminar or two that will still be occurring.  What I would like to do is work on improving myself so that I can do better in the tournament setting.  I can see that my basics are very sound, as evidenced in the video taken of me during the Johnson Cup.  But, due to some weak strikes, anything that I was making contact with wasn’t convincing enough for the judges.  Thus, I would like to be able to do what I can to make my hits more solid so that there’s no question to the quality of the attacks that I’m making.  Also, there’s this issue of me lowering shinai before I make an attack, which needs to be addressed as it’s making me lose precious seconds in attacking and tips off the opponent that I’m about to do something.  They may not know what it is, but it’s just enough to react and nullify my attempts.

Iaido is looking to be pretty void in terms of events going on.  There is the seminar going on in the summer in Cleveland which includes a tournament and promotional exam, which are things that I would like to try for.  As I don’t really have any specific issues that I can think of that are holding me back from anything, I’ll just continue training like I have been and addressing any big or small issues that tend to crop up after during practice.  When I’m out there, my body is going to just do what I have practiced for months and months through practice so there really isn’t much additional that needs or can be done.

From what I can see, next year will be filled with the usual events of Kendo and Iaido events that are within reach for me.  Whatever the case, I’ll do what I can to just continue training to reach my goals for improvement and take care of any issues that crop up during training.  However, no matter what the result at the end of the year ends up being, I will be happy as long as I feel decent improvement over the previous year.

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