Sunday, 13 December 2009

Saburo Iwatate Sensei and Tatsuo Hayashi Sensei Seminar Day 2

'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This kendoka is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-KENDOKA!!
14 hours of kendo over the last few days has broken me. Lots of suburi and kihon was really hard work (but fun in a perverse way). After a hot bath i'm having trouble typing out these words due to lack of energy.

Today was a mixture of recapping Saturday and learning some new techniques. We went though the basic kote, men, do drills as before but also practiced hiki waza. Iwatate Sensei instructed on the following aspects of hiki waza:

  • Receiving Taiatari
Must step into the taiatari keeping his/her arms low to meet the aite's tsuka. Motodatchi must NOT step back while performing this.

  • Creating Opportunities
Must move the motodatchi's kote to create an opening to cut. The one I remember clearly is for kote, kakarite must try and lip their tsuba under the aite's tsuba and push/roll the opponent's kote up and to the right using their own hands. Once this opportunity has been made, the kakarite must step back and cut the kote using a straight cut (not angled in). Zanshin is shown by retreating at speed and immediately pointing the kensen to the aite's throat.

Zanshin for men and do are also performed at speed with the kensen to the aite's throat. Iwatate Sensei encouraged us to strike using big cuts.

We were asked to perform repeated kote, men, do then hiki men, do, kote as a single string during mawari geiko. After this we practiced repeated kirikaeshi and men cuts across the width of the dojo.

After a break for food and water we had to perform a mock grading. We were sorted into grades and asked to treat it like a real shinsa with the hachidans providing feed back at the end. For my two jigeiko fights I was told that I need to seme more and show stronger attacking spirit. I wasn't creating or reacting to enough seme responses, thus relying on preconceived men cuts. This is something I should work on. On a good note my kiai pleased them.

After the gradings Iwatate Sensei ran though reigi. The main point he highlighted was that the three steps in then sonkyo must be done in a fluid action. Not three steps, pause, then sonkyo... but as a single unbroken string.

The final part of the day was an hour sensei jigeiko. This time I made sure I got to fight Iwatate Sensei. During my turn he conveyed the need to seme, he didn't let me cut unless I created pressure and made an opportunity (well, enough for him to let me cut anyway!). It was a pleasure to fight him even though my kendo is so basic compared to what he is used to.

It was also fun to see him practice with the kids, he always seemed to have a grin on his face as he dodged and weaved to make them cut with precision.

Due to the queues I only managed a short jigeiko with Hayashi Sensei. This was very intense and Hayashi Sensei doesn't let up for lower grades (within reason). It was amazing to fight with such skilled opponents.

All in all it was an enjoyable few days. The aim now is to try and integrate what I have learned into my 'every day' kendo.

All photos taken and kindly provided by Jeff Martin:

Mock grading (me on right)

Nishioka, Hayashi and Iwatate senseis observing.

Final group photo.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Saburo Iwatate Sensei and Tatsuo Hayashi Sensei Seminar Day 1

The first day of a two day seminar run by Saburo Iwatate sensei and Tatsuo Hayashi sensei was enjoyable but tiring. Most of the seven hours was concerned with kihon and basic men, kote and do cuts.

This is a list of what was taught (what I can remember anyway):

  • Suburi
We were told to swing the cut over our head so the shinai hit between the butt cheeks. With timing of one the shinai was then swung over the back head to finish the cut. Making sure the arms were extended at the end (but keeping correct posture). This was done for shomen and sayumen suburi.

  • Posture & Fumikomi
We were formed into lines and told to place our shinai across our lower back and in front of our arms (straightening our posture). We were then told to push with the left leg (straight knee) and fumikomi, making sure the foot is only lifted a small distance and 'stomped' with the whole sole. No lifting the foot so the sole faces forwards or backward with the toes pointing to the floor, the sole must remain parallel with the floor at all times.

We were constantly reminded to look up at all times, our neck much touch the back of our kendogi collar. Iwatate Sensei said it should be as if we are looking at a 'far away mountain'.

  • Men
For a small cut we must start the cut as if we are attacking tsuki but at the last moment lift and cut the men, snapping with the wrists. The follow though must be straight and the arms not too high (right arm parallel with the floor). Iwatate Sensei stressed we should not run though at an angle after the cut.

  • Kote
For a small kote we were told that when we push forward, we must align our right foot with the aite's right foot then cut with a snap. The kensen must be pointed at the aite's tsukidare to show proper zanshin.

Iwatate Sensei insisted that there should be no body twisting or spinning to the side for a correct kote cut.

  • Do
Iwatate Sensei instructed how to perform nuki do with motodachi cutting men and kakarite stepping forward/right cutting do.

The main exercise came in three parts:
  1. Motodachi lifts their shinai above their head and kakarite steps forward/right and taps the aite's left do with his left hand. This is to understand the body movement.
  2. Motodachi lifts their shinai and kakarite steps forward/right and completes a do cut.
  3. Motodachi cuts men and kakarite steps forward/right and performs nuki do.
The do cut itself was a small action with the hands lifting about face hight, the left hand sliding up the tsuka to meet the right hand, then cutting the do at 45 degrees (just below the aite's elbow). The cut must involve the body, not just the arms.

We then formed into groups and performed Mawari geiko using only the techniques we'd been taught. I was told by Nishioka sensei that I should turn to my right after my run though.

After a short break we had sensei jigeiko for the last hour. I managed to practice with Davis Sensei (BKA Kendo Bucho) and Hayashi Sensei. The queue for Iwatate Sensei was huge and I ran out of time.

Hayashi Sensei was very strong (as you would expect from an 8th dan!). I tried to keep my posture and use seme, however he saw me coming every time. They're like bloody yoda these hachidans.

Hayashi Sensei indicated that I should immediately follow up and cut if an opponent retreats. Just like what Young told me on Friday night. This is obviously something I need to work on further.

Mixed Bag

I was a bit hit and miss this week with the same old problems reoccurring.

Young (3rd dan who has very strong kendo) returned to practice after his trips to Japan and Korea. He took me to task and basically beat the stuffing out of me. At only point he was scoring multiple kote men and even knocked my shinai out of my hands - I had no answer to his onslaught. He explained afterwards that I was not effective in my seme as I was leaning forward and not using my whole body (pushing from the hips). I should also immediately follow up and cut if he backs away, no multiple steps forward are needed. Just one step then cut. In addition, I need to use my wrists more at the end of the cut as i'm striking the mengane too often.

Lots to consider.

During Thursday practice Geoff Salmon Sensei commented that my right arm tends to waft a bit when I raise for a cut, this effects my posture and cut success. This was reaffirmed on Friday when Tony said my kensen tended to drift to the right as I lifted for a cut. I must concentrate on maintaining my kamae and keep the kensen central during my cuts.

Therefore I still need to:
  • Drive with the hips;
  • Push with body for seme; and
  • Snap the wrist forward more for my cuts.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Damn Right Toe

I rarely suffer with foot blisters but I have been plagued by a split right big toe for months. Its where the callus meets the softer skin. This can feel quite uncomfortable at times.

If you don't like skanky feet then don't click on the pic.

I found this guide on youtube that may help others who are suffering with split feet. Ive not tried this method yet but it looks effective click here.

Kiai from the Tanden

Friday practice was taken by Tony, one of the seniors at the club. He demonstrated the benefits of dropping our kiai down to the tanden instead of shouting from the throat/upper chest. We had to push our stomachs out so it touched the tare as we breathed in, clench our abs then kiai from deep down. We had to maintain the kiai until after the cut to display proper zanshin.

As an exercise with a partner we were told to wedge a shinai horizontally between us at lower abdomen level. One of us then had to move the other using a combination of kiai, stomach tension and push from the hips. This helped us understand that all cuts and movement originates from the tanden.

After 25 minutes of kihon we went to jigeko. We had visitors from two other clubs (Shinichido & Kenseikai), this swelled numbers to about 40 kendoka. This resulted is a brilliant night and was a shame we didnt have longer. So many people, so little time!

I tried to put what I learned about seme on Thursday into practice, with mixed results. I had a good practice with Manny (a visiting 5th dan high grade). I scored a few men cuts but had trouble dealing with his debana kote, I cut fresh air on many occasions as he nipped in, cut then moved away before I could react. My biggest revelation was that recognised a few of his seme as I kind of know what to look for now, I just need learn how to deal with it. Manny told me to be more observant with my kote men cuts, if the first cut is successful then don't go for the second as it can spoil the point.

Friday, 4 December 2009


We spent most of Thursdays practice in Surrey performing and reacting to seme. O'Sullivan Sensei instructed kakarite to initiate the attack by sliding the right foot forward a few inches with a sense of pressure. This is done while keeping the left foot still and the left leg energised, ready to cut in an instant. Motodachi was asked to cut men when they felt threatened by the seme, at which time kakarite performed debana kote.

This was a test of posture and reaction time. I found it difficult to 'snap' a kote cut instantly as I tended to hesitate at the critical point, thus losing time.

Key points which were raised during the lesson:

  • Seme and kote/men cut should be a complete movement. There should be no break between seme and the cut.
  • Do not reach out with your arms during the seme, keep a solid centre as you push forward.
  • Snap the cut with the wrists.
  • Arms during chudan should not be pressed against the Do, leave a small gap.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

On my arse

Tuesday's practice in London was a bit of a mixed bag. It was good to see the beginners course finish with all the new guys passing their kirikaeshi test, let the hard work begin! Hopefully we will get back to our regular kihon on a Tuesday.

However, afterwards we had a 10 minute jigeiko bash-up and I lined up against Oli, the strongest shodan at the club. We usually resort to 'agricultural' kendo when we fight each other to let off some steam, its not very pretty. This week he caught me with a good taitari which knocked me onto my arse (my arms were raised). I should have got up, dusted myself off and kept my cool, instead I steamed in with predictable men cuts which he dismissed with a couple of ace Kaeshi dos.

I left at the end a bit annoyed with myself. I need to keep my cool in those situations and enforce my centre.

Im also still wearing my homemade kote padding. I think i'll keep it on until after xmas as my knuckle is still a tad swollen.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Move with the Hips

Sensei Geoff Salmon took the second half of our Thursday practice last week. Instead of an hour of Jigeiko we performed Kirikaeshi, five minutes of Jigeiko and finishing with Kakarigeiko with each new opponent every rotatation. Im sure there is a japanese term for this style of practice. I was completely knackered by the end but enjoyed it!

After final rei Geoff suggested that I push more with my hips for my cuts. I have a nasty habit of raising my right foot too high to 'stomp' for fumikomi. This plants my body and limits my forward movement after the cut.

Footwork is my primary concern at the moment. I must work on it further.

I also visited Portsmouth Kendo on Saturday which I thoroughly enjoyed. I like the guys down there and always have a good practice. A British squad member from London was also visiting who took me to the cleaners.... he destroyed my maai which caused me to 'panic' cut. I was defeated both mentally and physically.

I think it will be a few years until I can give kendoka like him a proper challenge. However, he did say I fight with 'clean kendo' which I take as a complement.

Kote Query

I have been in contact with Michael from Chiba Bogu and asked about the correct sizing of my Mine kote to protect the knuckles.

After trying a number of dojo mate's kote on for comparison I came to the conclusion that the upper portion of the Kashira should also protect the knuckle, this is wrong. Michael drew me a nice diagram and confirmed that the knuckle should sit underneath the fold, between the upper portion and the Keri to aid flexibility (which mine does).... it seems I was unlucky to catch a heavy cut at this point.

I need to inspect the padding to see if I should send it back to have more deer hair inserted. Expensive, but worth it? IT does worry me that I could hurt my hand in a similar way again.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Dodgy Elbow

Ive spent the last few weeks practicing in Jodan due to my bad right hand. Due to my duff technique I think i've over extended my left elbow and strained the tendon.

Reading up on the symptoms I think i've strained the Common Extensor Tendon which is the main cause of tennis elbow. Therefore, I need to keep an eye on it so I dont make it worse.

[edited 30/11/09] It seems that the BKA posted an article explaining a similar injury here.

Monday, 9 November 2009


Welcome to my new blog.

There's lots of Kendo blogs floating around on the net so I thought I'd do something a bit different. All kendoka know that injury is a familiar part of this martial art, this blog will list mine as they occur.


I started kendo in November 2005. Since then I have damaged the following:

April 2006 - Broken right thumb.
This occurred when I caught it against my aite after it was sticking out during a cut. I fractured it at the MCP joint.

It was my my fault and as a result I quickly learned that i need to tuck all fingers in.

I visited the hospital and they x-rayed then strapped it up. They used fabric tape and cut it into short strips. The strips were wrapped around the bottom of my thumb and crossed at the top, creating a ridged herring bone effect. I had to maintain this strapping for 3-4 weeks.

In the mean time i used single hand chudan and jodan, which was tough after only a few months training.

December 2008 - Torn left shoulder rotator cuff.
I did this after some over enthusiastic kagarigeiko. I felt my shoulder go after I hyper extended it ( I think i 'threw' my arm'). Stupidly I used freeze spray and returned to practice only for it to go again. I need to listen to my body more.

I visited the GP who refereed me to the hospital. After a series of in conclusive x-rays (it was soft tissue damage), I was told to rest it completely for a few months.

I then started a program of physio at the hospital that lasted from February to August 09. I was instructed to use weights, theraband and stretching exercises to build up strength. Unfortunately I was unable to return to full fitness in time for my intended Shodan Grading in April.

After my physio program I had an MRI scan. This wasnt an enjoyable experience as it involved a long needle being inserted into my shoulder joint. This showed that I have a small tear in the rotator cuff which has caused some slight thickening around it.

I had an option to either have surgery now which may not produce any improvement or wait until I get older where i may feel the effects more. I still experience an achy shoulder but you get used to it.

September 2009 - Damaged right hand knuckle
I caught a painful kote from an opponent fighting Nito. I have a feeling it caught my knuckle between the rolls of padding on the fist part of my kote - therefore I had about 2mm of leather protecting it!

I should have rested it until the bruising disappeared but I kept training for the following few weeks (stupid again!). Sods law I seemed to get hit on it during every subsequent training session which resulted in a lot of swelling and shooting pains up my arm when i bent my wrist down. Not good.

To remedy this ive been icing daily and applying voltarol. I've also been fighting in Jodan.... an interesting experience which I would like to study further. However, my lowly shodan status means I need to fight chudan for a fair few more years until i can practice Jodan seriously.

To try and increase my kote protection in the meantime it was suggested that I stitch a tsuka stuffed with tights over the problem area. It works but looks a little odd as I am currently fighting with a big white sausage attached to my right hand.

Phew.. that was a bit of an essay. Bye for the mo.