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Showing posts from 2018

Training Through Adversity

We are officially out of the old dojo and into our new (temporary) location in the valley.  Fortunately we were able to keep the same schedule in the same location, instead of having to change the training days and/or locations throughout the week.  We were also able to continue training from the old dojo to the new location without missing a beat, as we only took a day off for Independence Day last week before we were back at it that weekend. 

All is not fun and games, though, depending on how you look at it.  The new location comes with its own challenges and we're all going to go through some growing pains as we adjust and learn to use the space effectively.  This change has made me think about the way I train and how to put a positive spin on it and use it to continue to improve, hence the reason for this post!  Hopefully this will shed some light on my thought process when it comes to training in conditions that aren't ideal or optimal. 

Two of the biggest issues that I&…

Silence

This past Monday was our last practice at our dojo.  The owners are tearing down the entire building soon.  Fortunately, we have a new spot already lined up, and we start practices up again on our normal schedule of Monday, Wednesday, Saturday, but it will take a little time to adjust to the new location.  Not just because it's a farther drive for me, but the whole feeling of the dojo will be different for a while.  We'll have to get used to an entirely new floor, new space, where to park, where to change, etc.  Anyone that has gone through a change in locations knows this.

This will be the fourth location we've trained in since I started in 2009.  We started out at a small church gym just down the road from the location we were at recently.  I remember the floor wasn't the greatest for kendo, and we ended up having to patch it up several times because the boards would break.  It got so bad that the church had to come in and re-do the floor , and even after that we en…

The Ups and Downs of Kendo

Anyone that knows me knows that I love kendo.  I don't think I could do as much as I do with it if I didn't.  But loving kendo doesn't mean that it's easy.  Far from it, in fact!  If anyone says otherwise I would honestly question if they're doing it right.  From the first day where everything is brand new, to years down the road where you're trying to figure out the mental side of things, it's a challenge.

I've often had times when I just wasn't getting something.  Whether it was a new waza, or a new timing for an existing waza, or any other number of things that came up during training, sometimes things didn't click with me, and I would have many, many practices that felt fruitless.  It seems that every time that happened, though, If I kept at it and practiced, it would eventually click with me.  I'd wake up one day and "get it".  Not to say I'd be perfect at it, but the overall shape or timing would suddenly be there.  It r…

Harai Waza

Another month down, another new focus for training.  This month we'll be focusing on harai waza.  Here are some of my personal thoughts on it, from my own training and experience.

I really had trouble figuring out how to start this entry.  Normally I just open the page and go to work, letting whatever ideas and thoughts I have flow out onto the screen, but this one really had me stumped for a while, mainly because everything I started to write sounded really negative and I didn't mean it to, so I think I'll just go with it and try to get to the point that I was trying to make in the first place.

When I first started learning harai waza it was part of kihon kata three.  If you want to be fancy, that would be the Bokuto ni yoru kendo kihon waza keiko ho, kihon san - harai waza.  The idea was simple: strike the motodachi's shinai out of center and deliver a men strike, all in one smooth movement.  It was one of the physically minimal  kata that we did, as it just require…

Debana Kote

I've written about this before. I know I have.  But, just like anything in kendo, my understanding of techniques evolves and changes as I gain more experience.  I read something earlier which goes along with this.  Sinclair Sensei talked about painting a line, and every time you come to practice you paint over it and over it, until the faint line starts becoming more solid and more vivid in color.  If you'd like to read it, it's here:

The Red Line

For this post, though, I'm not going to talk much about how to actually perform debana kote.  I'm sure I've done that enough in the past, plus I'm sure anyone reading this will have their own way of doing it, or their own instructions on the intricacies of it that work for them.  If not, I encourage you to talk with your sensei about it!  I believe that debana kote is one of the most effective waza out there, no matter your rank or skill level.  The waza is simple enough to grasp at first, but as you practice, lea…

PNKF Shinpan Seminar

Last weekend one of my dojo mates and I drove across the state to attend the PNKF Shinpan Seminar, hosted by the Bellevue Kendo Club in Bellevue, WA.  Let me tell you, if you've never driven 10 hours in a day, and attended a 5-hour seminar on top of that, you aren't living.  Or, perhaps, you're living more than I did that day!  I was a zombie when I got home, but we had a successful trip over and back, complete with our routine stop for sushi on the way out.

There were a few main concepts that were covered during the seminar.  First off, almost all of the matches that we practiced with were either junior kids (10 and under) or high school kids.  The reason for this is because these are, a lot of times, the hardest matches to judge correctly.  A pair of ideas introduced to us were ichidori and sakidori.  I don't know if these are kendo-specific terms or not, but in the context of our seminar they helped us to understand what was being presented.  Apologies for my defini…

UW Taikai 2018

Last weekend was the 42nd Annual UW Taikai, held each year in Seattle, WA.  Thinking back, I believe this is just one of two taikai that I've competed at every year since I started at it, with the Kent Taikai in December being the other one.  This year was a bit special for me, as it was my first  time in the 4Dan+ division.  I'd be fighting the top-ranked people around, including many regional and national team members.  It made me both excited and anxious to think about it, as the level of competition for me was about to jump drastically from what I'd been used to before.

Our trip started on Friday, as we took our trip across the mountains and the state to Seattle.  We had our usual fun along the way, including celebrating our sensei's 70th birthday.  J Marsten Sensei was hosting a special kodachi kata seminar that evening, though, so we hurried to try and make it to that.  We pulled up to the dojo with just enough time to get dressed and out on the floor to go over …

Palouse Kendo Club

This Sunday a few of my dojo mates and I traveled to Moscow, ID to visit the Palouse Kendo Club, a relatively new club to the area that was started by my friend Maina.  The club has been active for a little over a year, if memory serves me right, and we'd always talked about having visitors to the club, but we were finally able to put it together and schedule it.  Six of us traveled over, ranging from 3 kyu up to, well, me! 

We pulled up to the dojo about 20 minutes before training was scheduled to start, and after greeting my friend and getting a quick tour, we were suited up and ready to go.  All in all, they had six people that showed up to train with us, and we trained for a good two and a half hours.  We started with warmups and suburi, then moved straight into footwork drills.  I have to make a confession:  I don't particularly like footwork drills.  I don't like running, either, but I do both because I know that they're both good for me and will improve my endur…

The Long Game

If you've been training for any amount of time, you probably have a laundry list of items that you are working on.  Our dojo has an established process for addressing how to tackle these items to try and keep them manageable for each person.  This works great for short-term goals and improvement, and can help build good habits for later on.  I, of course, have a list of things I'm working on, but I also have a set of long-term goals that I'm working on developing.  These are goals that I feel are a bit more complicated than basic corrections.  A lot of these goals are multi-part, and I'm working on breaking them down into edible pieces that I can use to build on each other, similar to the system that we already use for improvement.  Here are just some of the thoughts I have an how I'm thinking about approaching them.  Maybe by outlining them here I can solidify my plans.  Perhaps I just might find a new and more efficient way of approaching them, as well.  Who know…

Hiki Waza

Hiki waza have never been my specialty, but every once in a while I have a moment of clarity and an alarmingly high success rate.  The moments are few and far between, but they are there.  I've always believed in having strong hiki waza, even though my personal preference is to attack forward using shikake or oji waza.  I like having the ability and confidence to use techniques that work in any given situation I'm in, and since there's a lot of time spent in tsubazeriai having a strong hiki waza repertoire just makes sense.  This month our dojo is going to be focusing on hiki waza, and on some main points to make them work.  As always, this is just my personal experience and opinion on things, so take it as you will.

When discussing this subject with my sensei, there were a few main points that we came up with that help to create successful hiki waza.  The first we touched on was proper tsubazeriai.  I'm sure we've all seen scenarios where one (or both!) competit…

PNKF Winter Shinsa 2018 - Yondan

Yondan.  It's what I've been working towards for a while now, and it's what I tested for last weekend at the PNKF shinsa in Seattle.  For any that don't know, yondan is 4th degree black belt in kendo.  I've heard that it's one of the harder tests to pass, somewhere around 25% pass rate if I remember correctly.  The test itself isn't long, timewise.  I simply had to do two rounds of sparring, 90 seconds each, and nihon kata 1-10.  Total time on the floor is roughly 8-10 minutes.  Everything I'd been working on would hopefully shine through in those precious few minutes.

We arrived to the venue around 11:30am.  There was quite a large group of us there for testing, to challenge a whole range of different mudansha and yudansha ranks.  I'm happy to say that overall it was good for everyone else, as we had a lot of success.  Personally, though, I knew I would be facing a tough challenge and it didn't help the nerves much.  After suiting up, getting m…

Nuki Men - A Personal Look

This month we'll be focusing on nuki waza at our dojo, specifically nuki men and nuki kote.  Here are just a few of my own (emphasis on own!) thoughts on the subject.

I, personally, love nuki men. It's been one of my favorite techniques for years and years, and I used it a lot when I was a mudansha.  I still use it now on occasion, for that matter, but in order to become and stay effective with it I had to learn a few things.  These are things which work for me and your mileage may vary, as one of my friends like to say.  First off is the movement itself.  I'll start with the "classic" version with kote-nuki men.  One person attacks the kote, and their opponent responds by raising the shinai up and countering with a men strike of their own.  In this scenario there are a few things I like to keep in mind.  The first being to get my hands out of the way!  I can't just lift my shinai and expect to be ok, I have to also get my hands (and my kote) up and out of h…

Free Flow

I love training.  It's obvious if you know me in person.  I love working on my kendo and making both big and small improvements.  I regularly check in with people around me to assess where I'm at and what I can work on, on top of reading articles, blogs (like this one), forums, and watching videos.  I'm always looking at new ways to improve and grow my kendo, but sometimes I think it's beneficial, and even healthy, to put that aside for a while.

What does this mean?  to me, this means I let myself stop worrying about all the details and let my body do what it does without thought...or perhaps, with little thought.  I think of it as a supervised auto-pilot;  I'm still in control of what and when I'm doing something, but instead of thinking about all the small points of hitting a kote, for example, I just think, "here comes my kote," and let my body do the rest.  This allows me to not only get comfortable with where I'm at at that moment, but also …

Kote-Men - The Swiss Army Knife of Waza

In the Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon Waza Keiko Ho (Kihon Kata, for short), kote-men is the second kata performed, and is used to illustrate renzoku waza (continuous attacks).  I believe there is a very good reason that kote-men was chosen to exemplify this.  I may be wrong.  It wouldn't be the first time, nor will it be the last.  In my experience, though, kote-men is not only a useful technique in and of itself, but it's a very versatile technique and can be used in a whole range of different situations.  Obviously in order to use it effectively you have to have a solid grasp of the individual attacks of kote and men, but with that part under your belt you can begin to use it to learn about continuous attacks, multiple strikes, and stringing together other attacks into useful techniques. 

Kote-men does a lot to teach us about the rhythm and flow between attacks necessary to combine other attacks.  Want to strike men a few times in a row to catch your opponent off guard?  This …

Suburi

I've joined an online club.  Many of you, if you are reading, may have seen it or are even members yourselves.  It's called the Hundred Suburi Club 2018, on Facebook.  Check it out if you'd like!  This may be a shameless plug for it, but that's ok, it's my blog.  It's been fun joining in with other like-minded people around the world to share this experience.  I didn't necessarily join for the suburi itself; I've already been doing that consistently on my own time anyway.  For me it's more the community aspect of it, and being able to cheer on and motivate others, as they do the same for me, and share our stories back and forth.  Kendo really is a friendly group, and this gives me another way to meet and greet new people.  With that being said, though, it does make me think of my own suburi and practice and small tidbits of info that I've collected or realized throughout the years.  I want to present some of that, BUT please please please, if y…

Return to Form

It's been a while.  At first it was because I was just busy with work and life and training (always training!) but then I let this blog slip away from me and it kept slipping and slipping...and here we are, a full year has passed without any new entries.  It's time to change that!  I have always loved not only reading blogs myself, looking for little pieces of info or advice or a new take on something to give me another perspective, and I've also enjoyed sharing the information that I have, as well as the experiences and the ups and downs of kendo life.  I'm not perfect, it's definitely not high-level stuff, but I have a passion for it.  And hopefully I can keep that going for many years to come. So today it's time to get back to it!  I'll do my very best to keep this updated regularly with new entries.  This is also a perfect chance to reflect back on the last year.

2017 was a HUGE year for me, kendo-wise.  So much happened that I'm actually pretty bu…