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The End of 2014

Let's talk about kendo!

This year has been an interesting one.  A lot has been happening, mostly in my personal life, but throughout it all I was able to keep a fairly regular kendo schedule.  I feel good about the progress I made this year, even though it's been very subtle to me.  Not a lot of giant breakthroughs or new insights into anything, but a lot of smoothing out and polishing what I know, and trying to improve the mental aspects of my kendo.  I believe, for the most part, that I've been doing a good job of it, although in practice I definitely notice that I get hit a lot more.  That's ok, though!  Practice is there for a reason and if I'm not getting hit I'm not doing it right.  One of the things I've been focusing on is trying to act with a purpose.  Not throwing attacks out here and there without thought, but really trying to focus and do everything purposely.  My attacks have become fewer, for the time being, but I feel like more and more of …

Kent Taikai 2014 - The Power of Ian Morgan and The Rise of Spokane Kendo

Two weeks ago the Spokane team and I participated in the 18th Annual Kent Taikai.  What a time we had, too!  A few surprises, a few gasps, laughs, and loads of spirit and energy throughout the entire day of kendo.  We had competitors strewn across the 1-3 Kyu, 1-3 Dan, 1-3 Dan Seniors, and Women's divisions, and overall our members did extremely well.  I was able to cheer on and witness a couple of our members in the seniors group take both first and third place, and our women's and kyu competitors do some excellent kendo in their matches.  My division, and the bulk of my dojo mates, weren't fighting until later that afternoon, in the 1-3 Dan group.

The afternoon came, and finally I was up.  My first opponent was Chaney, from Sno-King.  I don't know if he remembers but I fought him in my first appearance at this taikai, four years ago in the team division.  We ended in a 1-1 tie then, but I knew that this match would have to end with a clear winner.  I readied myself,…

The Power of Motodachi

Hey hey!  It's been a while.  A bit too long for my tastes, but I've had many personal things going on, as I have had this whole year.  First things first - I have a new son!  He was born about four weeks ago and he's been a little bundle of joy, wrapped up in some typical baby antics.  But he's finally here and it's a joy to have him be part of this world and my life.  So while I've still been able to practice pretty regularly, most of my free time has been devoted to him and not to doing things like writing regular blog posts.  But I hope that anyone out there (hello?) that is still reading this can understand.


With that being said, there's something that really struck me last night, as I sat talking with one of my friends and kendo teachers.  That being the importance of being a good motodachi.  It's always been one of my goals to be the best at kendo that I can personally be, and that includes all aspects of it.  One of the roles that we all play, …

Fast and Slow

So I've had some thoughts on my mind lately, regarding my techniques.  Even though I'm just coming to these realizations, I remember that these are things that Sinclair Sensei has mentioned to us (and me) time and time again.  It's funny how things can be brought up and taught over and over, and yet it doesn't truly sink in until you are ready to hear it and receive that knowledge.  That is what happened to me over these last few weeks, regarding speed.

It started with hiki waza.  I'll be the first to admit, my hiki waza is not great, and I definitely need to work on it.  This last week or so I've been focusing on hiki waza as much as I can.  Something occurred to me, though, as I would strike and fly back, only to reset and do it again.  Most of my strikes were not hitting the target, and even when they did they were sloppy.  Too shallow, too soft, no snap to them.  It was like I was just flinging my shinai out there and hoping it would hit.  I finally figur…

Thoughts on Kaeshi-Dou

Wow, has it really been almost two months since I've written a post?  Time sure flies, and I didn't realize that it had been so long.  I have been busy with life, and kendo, and lunch training, so at least that's all going well.  Lunch training takes up 4-5 days of the week now; almost every single day that I'm at work.  I have to get in as much as I can before we move offices, because once that happens I won't be just around the corner from the dojo and those trusty hitting dummies.  Once we move, though, I'll be sure to get together a new lunch training regimen.  For now, though, I'll continue to work hard and put in that extra time as best I can.

Last night was a good practice.  Monday night was a good practice, too, even though I've been dealing with a heel injury this past week.  Actually, two heel injuries.  My left heel is acting up, I'm not sure why, but the heel/Achilles tendon are starting to get sore.  Then about a week ago I stepped on …

Balance

Marsten Sensei said something at my last shinsa, back in 2013, that has stuck with me ever since.  He was addressing the group of us and explained that kendo is like a chair, with the four legs being made up of shiai, shinsa, keiko, and kata.  He said that we needed all of them to have successful kendo.  Now I know that this won't apply directly to everyone, but the idea is the same for people that have no desire to compete.  What is a chair with 3 legs?  A stool!  I believe whole-heartedly that these four elements (or three, in some cases) are needed to create full, rich kendo in someone, but I'd like to add that all of them need to be balanced to reach full potential.  Have you ever tried to sit on a chair with uneven legs?  What happened?  I'd make a guess that the chair would fall over, or break. 

I enjoy all aspects of kendo.  I train a lot, by myself and with my dojo members.  I enjoy kata in the same way, as a solo endeavor and with a partner.  I also regularly co…

Layers and Curtains

Kendo is an interesting art.  There's not much to it, physically.  The footwork and attacks are all relatively simple, compared to some other martial arts out there.  There's a handful of different movements and even less targets and attacks, but all is not what it seems.  Kendo is about layers, and curtains.  You peel back one layer, peek behind another curtain, and all of a sudden there's more than you first realized.  A men strike is a men strike is a men strike, but it can mean vastly different things depending on if you are a beginner, upper kyu, or upper dan.  I love this aspect of kendo.  Easy to learn, difficult to master, and when you think you've got one thing down you discover another dimension to it which makes you see it in a whole new light and gives you more to think about and practice.

This mindset comes up to me all the time, as a lot of the advice and instruction I get are things that I've heard before.  Maybe not in the same way, but along the s…

Rose City Taikai 2014: The Road to The Top

It's that time of year again!  Time for the Rose City Taikai, hosted by the Obukan Kendo Club in Portland, Oregon.  Our dojo took some very excited members down this year and participated in the kendo fun this past weekend.  As I've mentioned before, this is always a special trip for me.  It was the first taikai I'd ever participated in, so I always use it as a watermark to see how far I've come since the last year.  It's also a great extended trip with my friends and dojo mates.

This year we were only able to take five competitors, due to work or school or personal schedule conflicts, but I believe that the five of us showed strong kendo all weekend.  We started the trip early on Friday morning, departing from our home here in Spokane and made a ton of new memories in the AC-deficient kendo van (yes, the AC was out in the van, but that didn't kill our spirit!).  We made the long drive down to Portland and arrived in time for training with our f…

Let It Go!

First, I must apologize to everyone that came here looking for the next big Frozen remake.  You'll find no such thing here, so move over Elsa, I'm taking the scene!







I've been working a lot on some new things this past month, but last week I decided to do something that I don't think I've ever done before.  I decided to let it all go and just focus on kendo.  We have a tournament coming up, and instead of polluting the waters with new things that I'm not used to or proficient with, I wanted to take a step back and just work on what I know and focus on strengthening what I've already got.  For as long as I can remember, I've always been working on something.  They say that kendo is easy to learn, but takes a lifetime to master, and this is so true.  I see it more and more every day that I practice.  Kendo is definitely a multi-layered beast, and just when you think you've perfected a certain technique or movement or theory, you peel back to reveal ev…

UW Taikai 2014: Fighting Fire With Fire

This past weekend our club participated in the University of Washington 38th Annual Invitational Kendo Taikai, and all throughout the day we managed to show strong kendo.  This year we had the smallest group from our club that I think I've ever seen; only four of us went to compete.  We ended up having to borrow a fifth person to complete our team, and he turned out to be a great asset.  I would like to say thank you to S. DeBlieck from Sno-King for fighting with us this weekend!

We started out with our usual tradition of driving over on Friday, and were in time for a bit of training at Bellevue with the locals there.  They have such a large group at their dojo, it was wonderful to practice with so many new faces!  This time I came away with fewer bruises and injuries than the last time I practiced there, so I was grateful for that.  After a late night of Telemundo with my dojo mates, I finally got some rest in.

We awoke early on Saturday, ate, and then headed to the college.  As…

The Benefits of Solo Training

I was a little divided on what I should write, because I have a few ideas going through my head.  A lot has been going on lately, much of which has involved me running the main class.  It's been fun, exciting, and kinda challenging on my part, but I think I did well.  I definitely talk a lot.  What little knowledge of kendo and techniques that I possess, I try to pass on when I teach.  It's not much, but I do my best and I think all of the people that were in on my classes had fun and I hope they learned a bit in the process.

Recently, I have been focusing a lot on my "secret lunch training."  These are times when I go to the dojo, during my lunch break from work, and work on things by myself.  I do fully understand that kendo requires tutelage in a dojo setting, but I also believe that time spent practicing on your own is very valuable.  Since my home dynamics have changed and my time in the dojo has been cut down a little bit, I'm finding other ways to try and …

Highline Taikai 2014

Ok, so the whole "keeping this updated regularly" idea is failing right now.  I do apologize to anyone else that reads this for not keeping up.  I have a lot of things going on right now that are taking up my small portion of free time these days.




That being said, I do have an update!  Our Spokane Kendo Club participated in the 2014 Highline Taikai this past weekend.  I've always enjoyed this tournament for it's friendly atmosphere and small dojo.  It always makes me feel like I'm reconnecting with old friends for a weekend of fun.  This is second year that they have included a 1-2 Dan division, as well, so it was fun to compete and rub elbows with some old and new friends.

The day started off well, with a couple of our mudansha competing in their division.  One of them had his very first taikai experience, and was able to get his feet wet with some real live competition.  I think he learned a lot and will hopefully use that experience to the best of his abiliti…

Kendo, Straight Up

I have a problem.  It's not a huge problem anymore, as I've worked to improve it, but it is a lasting problem that I've had since about the time I started kendo.  I lean.  I'm not talking about the Fat Joe kind; I'm talking about leaning my upper body into my strikes. 


Since I'm a firm believer in proper technique over getting points or strikes, I want to fix this in myself as soon as I can.  I can go back and watch videos of old matches and see just how bad it used to be.  It was terrible!  Especially in my kote strikes.  I can say that it's gotten a lot better and I'm usually able to carry myself fairly properly, but in the heat of a match or jigeiko I still tend to lean in just a bit.  Luckily Monday night this was the focus of our training, and Billy presented some points that I'd never thought about and ways to fix it.  The main idea that came up was that people tend to lean when they try to strike from too far away.  When we come up short f…

Spokane Kendo 2014 - Refinement In Motion

Ok, I'll be the first to say it.  A month and a half is WAY too long between posts.  One of my first goals for this new year is to be more consistent with writing.  This blog is an excellent tool for myself, and hopefully a source of entertainment and/or inspiration for anyone that has come along to read an article or two.  I've seen far too many blogs fall to the wayside and die out prematurely and I don't want to be one of those.  I still have a whole lifetime of training and experience to gain.


That being said, I've entered into the new year of 2014 and have some great kendo goals in mind.  First and foremost, I want to tighten up everything that I have right now.  I think I can say comfortably that I have pretty good technique for where I'm at.  Maybe it's nothing stellar in the grand scheme of things, or if I was measured up against all of the other nidans in the world, but for how long I've been training (coming up on five years!), my age, my health …