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Kent Taikai 2018: How to Deal with Disappointment

A sobering entry today, but hopefully a valuable lesson for me and anyone reading.

Last weekend my dojo mates and I participated in the Kent Taikai in Kent, WA.  I look forward to this tournament as it's a little smaller and more intimate than the PNKF Taikai we attended last month, and it's a chance to catch up with my kendo friends in the area as well as participate in some good matches.  This year delivered in that regard.

We had six competitors this year, ranging from 1-3 kyu up to the 3-4 dan divisions.  One of our new-to-us members participated, as well, so that was fun to welcome him to our crazy taikai weekend trips.  The trip itself went well, and the pass was clear for us so we had a smooth ride to the Seattle area and to training at the Bellevue Kendo Club on Friday night.  It was a good night, and I was able to have a lot of quality keiko with the kodansha over there, as well as received some helpful feedback and advice that I'll be putting into practice soon.

PNKF Taikai 2018

Last weekend a few of my dojo mates and I loaded up and headed to Seattle for the 44th Annual PNKF Taikai.  This is the biggest tournament in our region and sees many, many people from not only around our federation but also from Canada, Hawaii and beyond.  This year I heard we had around 300 participants and welcomed a couple of new participating dojos, including a new dojo from Canada and from as far away as New Jersey.

Our trip to the tournament began the day before.  Friday three of us headed over for training at Bellevue Kendo Club.  J Marsten Sensei welcomed us with greetings and a good, hard practice.  I picked up some new things to try for my own improvement, and after warm-ups and some basic drills we broke into open floor.  I was able to practice with some of my long time friends before I was grabbed by one of the members and pulled over to own line.  I relished the chance to practice with her, since I haven't had a chance throughout all of these years, and she did not …

Active Teaching, Active Learning

Most of my kendo life I've been happy and content being a student.  Don't get me wrong, I'm still very much a student and I don't think that will ever change.  That's part of the beauty of kendo; there's always more to learn and more to improve.  Three yeas ago, though, I started teaching the beginning class as their main instructor.  That mantle has only recently been (mostly) passed onto another member.  Here and there I would lead the other classes, as well, including our main class, where the bulk of our members come to train.  I never thought much of it, though, and would either follow a set plan or I would run basic drills and our basic format.  Most of the time I tried to follow a coherent plan of drills that would build on top of each other, i.e. kote, kote-men, then using kote-men as a counter to kote.  I also liked to build drills around a theme, such as kote drills, or counters effective for men, or other things of that nature.

Lately I've been …

Quality Over Quantity

Over the last few weeks we've had a few fun events at our dojo.  We hosted a shinpan seminar a few weeks ago, headed by Yotsuuye Sensei of Bellevue, and shared our dojo with a lot of visitors and kendo friends from the Seattle area.  It was a wonderful event and we all learned a lot, plus it's always good to cross swords with my friends that I don't get to see that often.  We've also welcome a couple of new members that came to us from Hawaii and Pennsylvania/Maryland/California, and each of them bring their own unique spirit and take on kendo, which is always appreciated.  This week we are hosting a visitor from Northern Virginia Kendokai and had a great practice with him last night, and are looking forward to another practice on Wednesday before he heads home.  That's one of the joys of kendo for me: making new friends and seeing new connections being made between our dojo and the rest of the kendo world.  Even while watching the world kendo championships this w…

Childish Spirit

This might be just a little different entry, but I believe there's a lot to be extracted from it. I know that I've found a lot of inspiration in it, already, and hope that anyone reading it extracts their own thoughts and feelings.  Here we go!

This is a story about one of my dojo mates, and a fairly new one, at that, and also one of the only kids we have at the dojo right now.  This particular kid, though, has a situation which might keep anyone else from practicing, or doing a lot of other activities, because he only has one leg.  I don't think anyone has ever mentioned this to him, though, because the way he practices you wouldn't be able to tell, at all.  He has been regularly attending practice since he started, and never once lets something like a missing limb stop him or even slow him down, no sir.  He pushes himself to keep up with everyone, and even surpass some of them.

This on its own is amazing, if he were doing it as part of a kids class.  But he's not…

Kendo Heroes

I look up to a lot of people in kendo.  Some of them I've met and know personally.  Some of them I've only seen in videos or read about in magazines or online.  But there are some that I've dubbed my "Kendo Heroes" (working on coining that term!).  These are people whose skills on the floor are things of beauty to me, and I would love to attain someday in my own training.  People that stand out from the rest, in my opinion, and offer not only entertainment to watch but also goals to achieve for myself.

One of the first heroes I happened upon was none other than Masahiro Miyazaki.  I'm sure everyone has at least heard his name before, but if not, go find him.  You won't be disappointed.  He won the All Japan Kendo Championships seven times, if I remember correctly, and is continuing to show strong finishes in the All Japan 8-dan Championships these days.  He is, in my opinion, a living kendo legend, and his technique is amazing.  I would love to have a m…

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…