Saturday, 24 November 2012

Injury Update

After regular visits to the physio things have started to improve.  I can now rotate my wrist with minimum discomfort, only occasionally tweaking it when opening doors or lifting something heavy.  Its also a little stiff and achy when cold.

Considering my whole wrist and forearm was in bits earlier this year, the pain has now localised to a very small area near the ulna.  This is a major improvement in regards to everyday life, not just kendo.

During the last 4-5 months i've been strengthening both wrists using weights and a claw hammer.  The hammer is used to twist the wrist left then right, building up rotational stability.

I'm pretty confident that I'll be able to return to practice late January.  How long I can last is another matter.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Disappointing News

Just back from the specialist who explained my wrist situation.

First my left, he outlined a series of bruised bones in my lower palm area, where the bottom of the shinai tsuka sits and you squeeze with the bottom fingers.  The doc explains this is the result of an impact injury.  I suggested this could be the result of tenouchi and the sword slamming into my palm from cuts and tsuki - he seemed to agree.

The doc said this should recover after a few more months of rest.

News about my right wrist was more depressing.  He highlighted a slight tear in the cartilage which is the suggested cause of the pain.  He has referred me back to the physio so I can return to rehab work.... however, if this doesn't improve I have to make a decision whether to live with the pain or give up kendo.

The realisation that I may not be able to continue is only just dawning on me.

Anyway, i'm out of action to January 2013 and will assess the situation then.  Until this time I doubt i'll post many more messages.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Still out of action

Over a month has passed since my grading and still no kendo.  My physio suggested I get an expert opinion on the injuries so have since seen a rheumatologist and completed MRI scans on each wrist.

I've posted a few example pics, sadly you need to be an expert to know whats going on as I have no idea.  My next appointment with the specialist is late September.

During this down time i've discovered road cycling which will hopefully keep me fit while i'm out of training.

Monday, 16 July 2012

..... and breathe.

Sandan done and dusted.

Now to take some time off to try and fix my wrists.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Surprise Visit

Nice surprise at Mumeishi last night!

I wandered into weekly practice at the usual time only to find Sumi sensei taking the class, it was a bit of a double take moment I have to admit. He was in the UK as a 'stop over' before travelling to a seminar in the Ukraine.

Sensei taught the use of footwork to create pressure in chudan/seme. First of all we all partnered up and placed a shinai between both lower abdomens (on the tare or bottom of the do). The idea was to use the hips and left foot to push the opponent, with the feeling of power in the hips and abdomen - NOT leading from the shoulders.

The next stage was to hold the shinai in chudan and try to create the same feeling as before, forward attitude/seme from the lower abdomen, hips and footwork. We were also instructed to 'feel' the opponent's sword, quick sharp pressure on left or right to generate an opening for a men, kote or kote-men cut. We practiced this for 15 mins or so and progressed on to men kaeshi do.

With both people generating the feeling of pressure, motodachi then pushes and opens for men cut, shidachi reacts by cutting men and motodachi completes with a kaeshi do. I was unable to cut do due to my wrists so I cut men instead.

I was a bit nervy during Jigeiko with Sensei. It's not everyday you cadge a practice with one of the best known kendoka on the planet.... he commented after that I need to attack more from distance (I'm still falling foul of this). However, It was ace to be able to talk in english to a Japanese sensei.

I've also had another trip to the physio. He thinks the problem originates further up my forearms, tightening all the tendons which means they fail in the weakest location under stress (the wrist area). The physio also demonstrated how to tape up my arm with kinesiology tape to try and support the forearm muscles.

IF I pass my grading then i'm planning to take a few months to recover.... its a big if. 4 days to go... pecking it.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Sueno Sensei Seminar 2012

This year's seminar was hosted by Mumeishi Kendo Club and planned as a two day event.

Sueno Sensei is an established Hachidan Hanshi teacher who has many achievements over his long career, including success at the all Japans.

I'll try to write down all I can remember of his instruction.

Attitude to training.
Sensei split the stages of training into a number of parts.  We provided extended explanations on the following:
  • Suburi
  • Uchikomigeiko (inc kirikaeshi)
  • Kakarigeiko
Sensei emphasised the need to establish a strong base in these three aspects in order to improve jigeiko and in turn competitive kendo.

Sensei explained that the key to improvement is correct suburi, in particular the correct use of shoulder, elbows then wrists.  He's explained in great depth the use of each joint and described it using terminology which i'd not heard before, I can recall the following:
  • Shoulders must be used when performing big cuts, with hands above the head, elbows in and ensuring you can feel a 'tug' on the triceps and bottom of the forearm.  Biceps and top of forearm should not be used for a cut.
  • When cutting, don't think of extending the elbows to gain extra distance, you will only benefit from an extra inch or so and it will make you lead with your right shoulder.  Elbow extension should be used in order to generate power.
  • If you lead by the right shoulder you will stunt footwork - therefore, creating a net loss of distance (two inch gained with elbows but a foot or so lost in footwork).
  • Relax elbows immediately after cut, then point your left thumb toward the opponent.
  • There are three wrist position (I cant remember the Japanese terms). 'Blocking' which is used for receiving kirikaeshi and is signified by wrinkles on the top of the wrist. 'Cutting' wrist which is used for chudan etc.. this should not show any wrinkles.  Finally, 'extended' wrist which is the final part of a cut.
  • Cuts must be performed with relaxed upper body and arms.
Sensei had us run through a number of drills during the day.  These mainly consisted of men using the basics taught during suburi.  

Sensei introduced an interesting way of performing these cuts with a partner.  Kakarite would cut in the usual was but motodachi would step backwards two or three steps once hit before stepping to the side.  This encouraged people to cut centrally instead of sideways because of motodachi stepping too soon.

These drills were performed for big men, small men, kote and kote-men.

When we progressed to hiki-men and hiki-do is when I experienced a major problem.  My first hiki-do twanged my left wrist in a similar way to my right.  I instantly knew i'd damaged it. That was my day over and I lost my chance to practice with Sueno sensei.

In conclusion, I iced my wrist but it was obvious I couldn't return for the second day.  I hope its contents are covered by Salmon sensei's blog in the near future (edit:// here ).  I also hope Sueno sensei returns again in the future as I enjoyed his teaching style and explanations.

I now have two knackered wrists and 14 days until my grading.  I think the writing is on the wall and will give it a week before deciding to call it off or not.  I feel crushed :(

Edit:// 03/07/12 - After visiting the physio I found out that I have tendon and ligament damage in my right wrist and fresh ligament damage in the left.  I have to rest for most of this week, keep icing and perform light weight and flexibility exercises.  With wrist taping and pain killers I might be ok for grading.

Friday, 8 June 2012


Short injury update.

After two visits to the back quack the pain has gone and my muscles are relaxed again *touches wood*.  However, I've suffered a setback with my wrist injury. I received a strong uchiotoshi strike last week which battered my shinani down and to the right, violently twisting my wrist in process. This seems to have set me back a couple of months and I really struggled during practice last night... gutted.

I was also told during kihon that i'm not gaining enough traction from the back foot (losing forward drive), which is also causing me to lean forward slightly before making my cut (telegraphing). I can't resolve this posture conundrum.

36 days until grading. Application now submitted and paid for.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Pain is Back

I seriously think something is plotting against me. After a great Tuesday last week I managed to pull my back 5 minutes before the start of Thursday practice. I wasn't even doing anything energetic at the time, just a few light swings of the shinai. FML.

I'm now suffering ANOTHER enforced break.

I visited the quack yesterday and they manipulated my back. Apparently one the vertebrae just below the level of my shoulder blades was very slightly twisted, this locked the surrounding muscles. The guy messed about poking and twisting the affected area, which seems to have helped ease it off a bit. He suggested I give it until the weekend before performing a light practice. I need to keep my back moving though.

46 Days until Grading. Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!

Well done for those successfully grading at Watchet. You've done us proud..... please help me with my kata :P

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Tenouchi Practice

Finally, after six months of visiting Mumeishi I have finally finished a night feeling positive. Holt sensei has been pressing me on my basics, namely opportunity, tenouchi, footwork while turning (left and right) and zanshin. While i'm not claiming to have cracked any of these, I feel that I am making progress.

Prior to class Holt sensei demonstrated a method of practicing tenouchi. This is how I remember it, this may not be 100% faithful to the original instruction.

Hold the tsuka in the middle of the handle without a gap between the hands. Next, 'bounce' the kensen up and down (top of head down to throat level) by flexing the left wrist/hand while pivoting with the right. The downward part of the bounce is created by a sharp squeeze of the hands to produce a snap. Repeat this 1... 2... on 3 lift the shinai up and forward with the shoulders and snap a small cut with the wrists, pushing from the hips and completing with fumikomi. The kensen must not rotate 90 degrees so it's pointing to the ceiling.

The correct hand grip is needed for this, the base of the tsuka in the heel of the left palm with it running past the index finger. Axe handle style grip will not work.
I felt this exercise helped me stretch during my cut and provided more of a snap. It's something i'm planning to practice at home.

I have also bought a new bogu bag. for the last two years i've used Ebogu's Tozan backpack ordered for the US. While its dimensions are perfectly suited, its fabrication and materials are woeful. I have spent hours stitching up the seams with thick thread in order to stop it falling to bits... stitching failure started as soon as six months after purchase. It's finally given up the ghost with the actual fabric ripping around my bodges.

I've since been scratching my head about what to buy as a replacement, finally settling on an ice hockey backpack due to similar weight and size of armour. It took a while to find one that will fit my do measurements, I ended up buying an Alkali CA9 backpack. Its reinforced and made from tarpaulin, so hopefully wont rip.

The only problem is IT'S MASSIVE. The width and length are perfect but the height is a good 10cm too long. At least I can use it as a sleeping bag if I get locked outside. I'll update later on how successful this purchase has been.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

London Cup '12

My uni project deadline is this Friday which means i've been kendo-slack for the last few weeks, only managing a couple of practices. After my hand in I'm planning to take advantage of the short inter-module break and make a few additional weekend practices.

I fought in the London Cup team event a few weekends ago. Nenriki entered two teams this year and I felt ours was pretty strong, three of us are similar grade/experience and the final two are old hands at shiai.

I was fighting Jiho (second) and our first match was against Mumeishi B. Due to my regular practices at their club I knew my opponent, he's an Ikkyu so was less experienced than I. Nevertheless, he proved a tough guy to break down. I managed to beat him with a kote nuki men before the final bell.

Like previous years, people commented that I didn't 'claim' my points enough so most of my opportunities were not scored. This is a reoccurring issue I need to rectify, otherwise fighting in competitions will be a waste of time.

Our pool only contained two teams so both went through to the next round, where we faced Team GB 2. Again, I knew all our opponents due to squad training and faced their Jodan fighter. I knew this guy was quick and aggressive so set my stall out early to try and unsettle him, I chucked in a few rubbish tsuki just to let him know I was willing to give that target a go and tried to maintain a forward positive attitude. He kept working away at my kote and was told after I was in for a shout for a nuki men... however, at one point he managed to clip the bottom of forearm when I was lifting for a cut which was scored by the shinpan - I could tell it missed my kote due to the pain! My opponent then followed up with an identical cut which hit kote plum, no complaints about that one.

At least I put up a good fight and didn't disgrace myself. The final score was x KK x x x, which mean my result lost it for the team. I was gutted. GB 2 went on to win bronze.

Regarding general practice, i'm still struggling with posture. I'm over compensating my leaning back by leaning too far forward, leading to my back leg flicking up. O'Sullivan sensei says my posture is still looking a bit ungainly and awkward, i'm unsure if this is due to my leaning forward/backward issues or something different.

59 days until grading....

Good luck to those grading at watchet this weekend!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

It's Tough Finding the Time

Wow.. its been longer than a month since my last entry.

Nothing major to report really, my life is still under the jackboot of uni work. I'm trying desperately to shoehorn kendo into any available time but its proving difficult both physically and mentally. I find myself exhausted after only 4-5 hours sleep some nights (i'm up for work at 0550) .....generating enough energy for kendo can be a struggle. I keep telling myself I've only got until Feb next year and this nightmare is done.

I also visited the physio about my wrist. She said that the injury has improved and what remains is residual pain. Apparently this pain doesn't mean i'm 're-injuring' my wrist, I simply have to work through it until it gets better. This can potentially take 12 months. I explained that I practiced kendo and she advised that I should ease myself back into training, the unnatural bending of the wrists during chudan means I'll feel discomfort. I'm taking paracetamol before practice which can just about get me through a 2 hour session, I think it will be a while until I can attend two day squad training again.

On the kendo front, Holt sensei has highlighted my posture as I'm still bending too far backwards. Therefore, I'm attempting to straighten up and lean forward a few degrees. Work in progress.

I'm also working on zanshin and turning effectively. This is bloody hard work because I have to maintain concentration and not take cheeky breathers. I've also discovered, like Zoolander, I'm not an ambi-turner - I can't turn right. More work in progress.

On a positive note, Salmon sensei commented that my footwork has improved slightly over the last few months.

Finally, I'm entered into the team comp of the London cup. I feel we've got quite an experienced team this year, I hope I can keep my end up as my shiai record is ubergash. I've had to duck out of the singles comp due to uni *yawn* work.

81 days until grading

Monday, 12 March 2012

Grading buildup now on...

Just realised i've not updated for a while, been very busy with uni work. Couple of things of note over the last few weeks....

I attended a Fuji sensei mini kata seminar. We managed to work though all 10 forms to a reasonable degree, I reckon i've got the basic kodachi kata movements sorted now. However, i'm still pretty raggy. I have four months to clean them up before grading in July.

My weekly practices are an up and down affair. I've managed a few weeks of three sessions but they swing from absolute toilet to feeling good, there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. E.g. last Thursday I felt very secure in my seme and concentration yet the very next day I was all over the place and couldn't 'switch on'.

I've been continuing my practice with abdominal breathing. I'm kind of getting it to work at times, but when I start to breathe hard I'm unable to maintain it.

Salmon sensei commented that i'm leaning too far backwards again. He advised that I straighten up, then seme with the feeling of attacking my opponent's left eye with my lower abdomen (hara). This feeling should carry me forward seme -> men without breaking it into a two step process (which can leave me vulnerable). I also need to think "forward, forward, forward" and immediately take an opportunity. I think i'm currently creeping forward with a backwards mind, which means I hesitate if my opponent flinches and provides an opening.

I practiced with a Japanese lad at Mumeishi who recently finished third in the Paris taikai. He was shit hot with the stamina of the energiser bunny. He noted that i'm not turning into zanshin fast enough so missing opportunities to catch my opponent off guard (but be careful of the debana kote!). On a similar note, I recently watched a few sandan shinsa vids from last weekend's Glasgow grading. The guys that impressed all possessed straight, powerful seme (e.g. no bending over for kote), all turned quickly for zanshin displaying focus and control.

Something to note for myself.

On the injury front, im still battling with my wrist problem. I saw the doc again last week who has booked me in to see a physio. The only problem is I have to wait four weeks. Its squad training again this weekend but i'm unsure if I'll manage two full days. It currently aches after just two hours of practice.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Fitness Fail

I know this is starting to sound like i'm making it up but I managed to pick up another cough/chest virus late Jan/early Feb. That makes three since the end of November... i've never picked up so many illnesses in such a short space of time before.

One a happier note i've been practicing without an ankle support so at least that injury is on the mend (touch wood). My wrist is improving but i'm still wearing a support during the day.

Last week was the first time I managed three practices since the start of December. It was horrendous. My cardio was virtually non-existent, the cough has done a proper number on my lungs. My visit to Mumeishi was also horrible, i've not felt that out of breath since my beginners days and I felt a bit of a dick gasping in front of the locals. My thursday and friday sessions were also very uncomfortable but what upset me the most is i've lost the 'mobile' feeling I'd discovered in December. Gutted, hopefully I can find it again over the next few weeks.

Mumeishi last night was another difficult one. Holt sensei was out of armour and observed my jigeiko, he pulled me up on a number of worrying fundamentals, many are very familiar:
  • Attacking far too close;
  • When I try and maintain distance I don't engage with my opponent;
  • Too much right hand, practice tenouchi;
  • No zanshin;
  • Weak attacking presence;
  • More confidence!
  • Dont flick my kensen about; and
  • Work on getting my fitness back.
One crucial point he raised is that I seem to treat jigeiko as shiai (i.e. I don't want to lose). This is worrying as I didn't realise I was doing this. Sensei was kind enough to explain that losing is part of learning and to view it as a necessity.

Other than that everything was ok.. Ha!.

So much to fix it's hard to know where to start. Sensei suggested I work on my distance to begin with as it's my biggest advantage. I've been pulled up about my distance so many times over the years but I never learn, will I ever get it?

//edit: After an improved end to the week I was planning to visit squad training in Birmingham. Unfortunately, soreness after Friday training convinced me that two days of hardcore training wasn't the best method of recovery. Fingers crossed I can attend in March.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Torn Wrist Tendon

As I mentioned in my previous post, i've managed to injure my right wrist (fnarr fnarr). For once this was outside kendo and can be blamed on lugging heavy boxes around during my house move. I'm able to move my hand up/down and side to side, but if I try to rotate (like twisting a door handle) I get a stabbing pain in my wrist below the little finger.

I visited the doc earlier this week who said the tear should clear up in 3-4 weeks. I did't tell him about my kendo habit though!

Thursday's practice passed without incident. However, I managed to whack sensei on the nipple twice - dunno how the hell I managed that! It was a bit embarrassing.

Friday on the other hand proved more painful. I was uchiotoshi'd twice which zapped my wrist... it's been aching pretty bad all weekend. I really don't want to take time of AGAIN! These last 2-3 months have proved very frustrating.

On the upside, I practiced with Katsuya sensei for the first time in about 4 months. He said he noticed an improvement which is nice.

Monday, 16 January 2012


At last! My first practice of the year after a month away... loved it.

I've been tied up over December with uni work and unfortunately Kendo had to give, only 9 more months and i'll be free of studying. After 5 years it can't come too soon!

During practice I suffered the usual rustiness and my cardio was shot to hell, but it was great to be back in the saddle. There was also the bonus of a few new faces, one is a new Japanese 6th dan visitor who started attending before xmas. I gave him a shot and he proved a very difficult customer, breaking my distance and hitting me with quick suriage men when I reacted. I got a "nice men" thumbs up when I thanked him at the end of the session.

I have another enforced break this week as i'm moving house, so instead of swinging a shinai i'll be packing and lugging boxes of crap about. Should be back on it next week though. Can't wait.

//Edit: 23.02.11

Well... I was planning to edit my post to report a wrist injury incurred during my move, but I recently heard that a bloke who I met though squad has sadly given up Kendo on health grounds. News like this makes my pains and niggles seem pretty trivial, it's also made me contemplate what life would be like without this activity which we devote so much of our time to. I wish him the best of luck with regaining his health.

Sunday, 8 January 2012


Stuck doing uni work every night so no practice since mid December.  I'm pining for teh kendo :(