Saturday, 31 July 2010

Homeless Wanderings

Summer plays havoc with regular practice. My regular club and emergency Tuesday practice are both closed so I've had to experiment with a few new places.

I was up in Glasgow on Tuesday for work. Faced with an evening of sitting in a hotel room with crappy TV I searched to see if the local Kendo club practiced that night.. they did - result!

I contacted Gerry Kincaid sensei to see if I could visit, he arranged for me to be picked up from town by a fellow dojo member. David (one of the clubs seniors) kindly drove me in and leant me one of his shinai, as I could only bring one bag on my flight.

The class was taken by Jim Corey sensei who taught us taiatari and how to keep moving our feet in chudan for shiai situations.

Corey sensei explained that taiatari should be performed with body and that the force should be directed downward, if the 'body strike' pushes upwards then there's a chance that you can lose balance or even injure your back.

I found constantly moving my feet while in chudan quite difficult. I have been taught to 'lock' my left foot ready to launch in a split second, changing this feeling took me outside my comfort zone.

I really enjoyed practice and the guys up there are a top bunch. I hope to visit again in the future if i'm in Glasgow again for work.

Thursday was Mytchett practice. O'Sullivan sensei is currently working on improving our cutting speed. This involves us practising a wrist based 'tap tap' exercise on a partner's shinai. The aim is to create a fast, powerful but light cut, not slow and heavy. I'm finding this very difficult as I tend to hit heavy when trying to cut faster.

Friday practice involved visiting UCL which is another new club for me. Unfortunately many of the regulars are in Japan for their annual summer gasshuku, so the session contained mainly visitors from other clubs. However, luckily a few visitors were dojo leaders from other clubs (Katsuya - Wakaba, Will - Tora) so there was plenty of experience at hand. Kihon was good and I had to perform quite a few unfamiliar techniques/drills.

Sharpe sensei gave me a few pointers. I need to use my wrists more with do cuts and i'm stretching my arms out too far (raising my hands too hight) against shorter opponents. My cut should terminate with my hands around mune height.

I had a quick chat with Katsuya after class and asked why i'm having difficulty relaxing my arms/wrists which is destroying my 'snap'. He suggested my body's tension is focused on my arms and hands making them stiff. Therefore, I need to redirect my tension down to my stomach muscles and core. This should loosen up other parts of my body.

I shall try this next week.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Nidan Passed

I've had a couple of busy weeks due to work, combined with the summer closure means I only managed a few practices before my grading. Not ideal preparation.

The grading went ok. My two jigeiko fights weren't spectacular. I managed a few kote-men nidan waza and got a few solid men cuts. However, my seme wasn't brilliant. Nerves turned my legs to jelly... it didn't feel like I created much pressure on my opponent. Anyhow, it must have been enough as I was one of the only three that passed out of 10.

Kata was a skin of the teeth job. Luckily I was Uchidachi for nanahome so didn't have to do the 'kneel down of death', unfortunately for my partner (a dojo mate) he fluffed the knee and has to retake the kata section again. I felt bad for him as he was 99% there.

I think this is a good opportunity to revisit my basics and try to develop a sharper seme and cut.

Luckily i've managed to find a vid of one of my grading jigeiko. I did ok I think, I just seem really slow! I was happy with the kote men at 2:07 until I realised I didnt kiai for the inital kote.

Maybe I should have attempted a few hiki waza? I didn't want to get into a in-out brawl or spoil the fight by blocking, so kept my composure. However, this allowed my opponent to get a few hiki cuts in.

Note for the future, don't break off and walk back to the middle otherwise i'll fail.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Chiba Sensei and Tatsuo Hayashi Sensei Seminar 2010- Day 2

The second day and my feet were prepared for another pounding.

We started off with a recap of the techniques we learned the day before. Chiba sensei emphasised the importance of observing the opponent and using the reaction from the seme.

We then progressed to taking it in turns to cut men while the opponent cut kote. The idea was to beat the opponent. Sensei introduced a surprise intensive, whoever lost had to perform 20 hyasuburi. However, most of the time both sides admitted defeat and did the hyasuburi together (I suppose no one wanted to appear superior).

O'Sullivan gave some advice to me which struck a chord. He said that seme should be indication that i'm ready to cut, not an indication that I will cut. Therefore, I should use it for pressure rather than the first part of a men/kote etc..

The following technique we learned was Hiki waza. By now the soles of my feet were raging and my fumikomi suffered. Chiba sensei showed us ways of attacking the opponents kamae in tsubazeriai.
  • Hiki men - Keeping the body active with the top of your tsuba pressed against the edge of your opponent's. Push the tsuba against your opponents body then quickly step back left then right foot, then cut men while performing fumikomi moving backwards.
  • Hiki do - Same as above but lipping your tsuba over the top of the opponent's. Quickly jam it downwards causing the opponent to fight and push up. This allows you to step back and cut do.
  • Hiki kote - Push the sword left across the opponent making them fight back, let go making them move to the right. Step back and strike the open kote.
I think this is how we were instructed - my memory is a bit hazy on this.

Chiba sensei gathered everyone around and spoke about keiko and fighting shiai. He said he'd let us into the secret of winning shiai, this was translated as:

"The secret to winning shiai is to practice until you are good enough to win"

Ha! I think he was saying that we wont be good enough after a weekend seminar, we must go back to our dojos and practice hard on the techniques we have learned. Then we'll be good enough to win.

The latter part of the day involved a mock grading and I was paired with a good fighter from Hizen. I was hoping for a good performance considering my nidan is only two weeks away... however, disaster! I choked at the critical time and failed to score a good ippon. Very disappointing as I know I can do better.

Hayashi sensei took notes during the mock test and explained that I showed good posture and a strong kamae (he said I initially looked threatening). Then it all went wrong, my men cuts were feeble. Hayashi sensei said i need to work more on my men cuts - worrying!

The day finished with sensei jigeiko. I managed to get my men on early and queue for Chiba sensei. The fight was inspiring, but again I didnt cause any upsets. He could see right though my attempted seme.... how do you fight someone so strong?

I also practiced with Hayashi sensei. I started ok with my seme but I then switched to 'headless chicken' mode, sensei stopped this by blocking away my pointless cuts which made me consider pressure again. He said that I managed to cut him once when I spoke to him afterwards, but I don't remember it.

All in all it was a very enjoyable seminar. I hope they return again next year!

A better explanation of the two days can be found on Salmon sensei's blog here.

Chiba sensei jigeiko

Hayashi sensei jigeiko

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Chiba Sensei and Tatsuo Hayashi Sensei Seminar 2010 - Day 1

The first day of a two day seminar run by the famous Chiba sensei supported by Tatsuo Hayashi sensei and based in Reading, Berkshire. During this session we concentrated on basic men, kote, do and maai/seme.

I have listed what I can recall from the lesson:

  • Suburi
We instructed on how to hold the shinai correctly. The left hand must grip the end of the tsuka with three fingers, ensuring that the bottom of the shinai its on the 'ball' of the palm (unsure the correct term). You shouldn't have any part of the tsuka poking beyond your palm.
The right hand must have a loose grip with the index finger about two finger widths from the tsuba. No hand should hold the shinai in a 'axe handle' grip.
Chiba sensei then instructed us how to 'snap' a cut using soft hands but powerful wrists. Its was amazing to see the power he can generate with such little effort.
Sensei instructed that we should aim to cut to the chin to 'pop' the cut. The cut must snap and not land heavy.
  • Men, kote & do
We instructed in how to make small, sharp cuts. We started at chikama with one step cut (no run though or tsubazeriai), then progressively moving back to find our own comfortable cutting maai and running though after cut. This exercise was repeated for men, kote and do.
  • Seme
Chiba sensei then instructed us to create pressure with our opponent when cutting a target when the opportunity presents itself. This was done by stepping into distance, motodachi then waits for approx 3 seconds (building pressure) before reacting and providing either a men, kote or do opportunity. It is then up to the shidachi to immediately cut the target using the small cut technique taught earlier. The aim is to cut without hesitation.
During this period I asked Chiba sensei on his opinion of seme for taller people as I am constantly told to cut from distance (being 6ft 4). Hayashi translated simply "do what works". This topic lead to a discussion between 4-5 sensei. I'm unsure if I got the gist of the full conversation but to my understanding Chiba sensei meant that I should try to create pressure from distance, if it is ineffective then I need to move in closer to disturb my opponent and create an opportunity.
  • Oji Waza
Our seme work moved on to a higher level of kendo. Instead of motodachi simply presenting a target, they were told to cut either men or kote. Shidachi's job was to step in with seme to create pressure then perfom oji waza (defensive waza) when motodachi cut. We were instructed in:
  • Men kaeshi do - Sensei told us to thrust the shinai forward above his head to collect the parry before the do cut. The parry had to be with the monouchi and not too far down the shaini.
  • Men suriage men - Again the parry had to be with the monouchi part of the shinai. This was to be performed with forward motion.
  • Men, kote men - Sensei emphasised we must step forward with the right foot only for kote cut (dont move the left forward). The left is then brought up after the men cut, this results with a quick pow-pow footwork.
  • Debana kote.
  • Kote nuki men.
  • Men nuki do.
After a period of rotating kihon with these techniques we took a short break in preparation for jigeiko.
For the final hour of the day we had rotating jigeiko. During this time I was lucky enough to practice with Chiba sensei for 5 minutes. I attempted to use what we had learned during the lesson but of course I couldn't connect with anything I tried. I did manage to touch his kote once but it was well messy, no way ippon worthy! One thing that struck me was when I attempted harai or suriage I couldn't move his shinai, my weak attempts just bounced off hahaha.

I did gain some success of a few other people I fought, connecting with some good fake kote men and suiage men.

Looking forward to tomorrow's session although my feet aren't.