Summary of class 2, 27/10

This summary is for the afternoon session in Amstelveen.

This was another training that was led by Fukuyama-sensei. The content of the training was very similar to that of last training, but this time there was a lot more focus on shiai techniques. Fukuyama-sensei again stressed the necessity to make all your hits an ippon. Herbold-sensei was also present for this training.

After the warming-up that was conducted by Onno-sempai, with the absence of Kiwa-sempai, kihon for the adults started with another long series of kirikaeshi exercises, followed by a similar men exercise as last time:

  • Kirikaeshi
  • single-breath (fast) kirikaeshi
  • Men uchi, big or fast, the decision was up to you.

The explained points for this time’s kirikaeshi were mostly the same as last training. This time he also added that when doing fast kirikaeshi, you should still try to make big swings in order to keep your shoulders relaxed. He also told us we shouldn’t pull our shinai too far behind our backs. Ideally the shinai should not drop below your head.

He also told us that when we strike the normal men during kirikaeshi, we should refrain from making correctional steps with our feet before we make the hit. After you do the sayuu-men strikes you should end up in a proper kamae, especially with your feet. Then you can immediately strike the normal men, instead of first having to make all these little correctional steps.

Then the class was split up in 2 groups, one group to do more kihon and another to do shiai training. The following is a summary of the exercises of the shiai group:

  • Men taisuru oji waza
  • Kote taisuru oji waza

These 2 exercises were basically oji waza (nuki, kaeshi, uchiotoshi and suriage techniques) against men and kote respectively. The object was to come up with your own response to the motodachi’s men attack.

  • Hiki men
  • Hiki kote
  • Hiki dou
  • Tsuki
  • Mawarigeiko, rounds of 30 seconds, and you could stop if you scored an ippon before that time.

When doing hiki techniques make sure to point your shinai upward to joudan vigorously enough in order to be able to move backwards quick enough.

At the end of the training everybody joined in for jigeiko. At this point in the training Vitalis-sensei also joined in.

Summary of class, 23/10

This summary is for the evening session in Amstelveen.

This training was lead by Fukuyama-sensei and focused a lot on kirikaeshi and self reflection, and less on explanation. Afterwards there was jigeiko as usual to make for a very conventional training (and a subsequently very short summary).

After the warming-up the kihon started right away with kirikaeshi. And afterwards some exercises where you had to decide for yourself how you would do them. The order was as follows:

  • Kirikaeshi
  • single-breath kirikaeshi
  • Men uchi, big or fast, the decision was up to you.
  • Decide amongst 2 other equals what exercise you are going to do.

Fukuyama-sensei likes to add the single-breath kirikaeshi to his trainings because it’s a good way to not only improve your overall technique, but since we have to conduct the entire kirikaeshi with only a single-breath, it also becomes an interval training. He also said that the last stroke was the most important, so your kiai should be the loudest or most intense during that time.

As for the exercises where you could decide the factors for yourself, he said that the point is not to just do the exercise but to really intend to hit your opponent. Especially during the men exercise, it doesn’t matter if you hit your opponent. As long as you hit them the way you want to hit them, making a proper ippon in the process.

During the last kihon exercise, where the object was to come up with your own exercise in groups of 3 of equal level, everybody was doing something else. The group I was in practiced a lot of debana kote and some hiki kote. Since the national championships are just around the corner we conducted the exercises with that in mind, and would comment on it when we felt that the shidachi didn’t score a proper ippon.

Then there was jigeiko after which the training ended.

Summary of class, 20/10

This summary is for the afternoon session in Amstelveen.

In preparation of the upcoming national championships this training consisted of shiai kihon, enjingeiko and jigeiko. A lot was explained about what a shiai is like and what things to do and don’t.

Before the warming up there was another shinai check. The warming up itself was the same as always except that this time there also was a ki-ken-tai ichi exercise where the object was to first raise your shinai to joudan and then strike, slide forward and do kiai at the same time. This usually is an exercise that beginners do, but since the kendoka do not show proper ki-ken-tai ichi it is good to sometimes do this exercise with all the present kendoka.

Then it was on to kihon. In preparation for the championships the strikes delivered during kihon had to be real ippon strikes, i.e. striking to kill. The order of the exercises was as follows:

  • Kirikaeshi
  • Ookii men
  • Ookii kote men
  • Men as fast as possible
  • Kote as fast as possible, using tai-atari as zanshin
  • Ai-men. While doing Ai-waza, both should move ever so slightly to the side (centimeters) to make sure you can pass each other.
  • Ai-kote, shidachi immediately does men afterwards. The motodachi must score an ippon on the kote.

After the kihon there was enjingeiko. The object of this exercise is to train maai and timing. Since the opponents are coming in from behind, there is only a small amount of time to get it right. The motodachi have to give the shidachi as little time as possible, but enough for the shidachi to conduct his techniques properly. The enjingeiko consisted of ai-men and ai-kote, shidachi men. Just like the last two exercises of the kihon.

Then it was on to jigeiko after which Heeren-sensei explained some things about shiai:

  • The moment to strike is when your opponent is not in kamae. For instance, when he did some waza on you and he is passing you to turn around afterwards, the moment he is turning around he has several openings you can utilize to make a nice ippon.
  • Be convincing in the way you conduct your kendo during a shiai. Make sure you stand out to the shimpan so they will pay more attention to what you are doing. If you have their attention, your opponent naturally does not, so if you do waza, the chance the shimpan will give you an ippon is greater. Heeren-sensei said you have to help the shimpan raise their flags for you. And this is easier if you basically show them you scored (through spirit and intensity) instead of just doing a proper technique and scoring.
  • Do not celebrate your scoring. This is punishable by hansoku.

Heeren-sensei also explained a few things you should do right before and during a shiai:

  • Stay relaxed. Don’t lose yourself in things happening around you that are not in your control. For example, don’t get flustered because the tournament officials have ordered a break right before your shiai. Let your opponent get worked up over it, but just make the best of it yourself. This is part of heijoushin and mushin.
  • Take your time right before you have to step into the shiaijou. If you don’t feel ready yet you can still postpone it for a small amount of time to get ready. Step in when you are, the shimpan and your opponent will wait for you.
  • When you go down for sonkyou, go down a little later than your opponent. Try to project your spirit over your opponent.
  • When you go up step to the right immediately to cover your kote. If your opponent follows you to the right (their left) go for his kote.
  • Again, do not celebrate scoring an ippon.

Summary of class, 16/10

Today’s training was again about seme and the special feint kote-men technique.

After the warming-up that was conducted by Makoto-sempai, he kicked off the training with a few rounds of kirikaeshi. By then Heeren-sensei had taken over the training and he had us do kihon. Like previous trainings the waza became progressively faster and smaller. The kihon proceeded from ookii men to seme-men and finally feint kote-men.

Some pointers for the kihon part of the training:

  • Make sure to turn correctly. After you attacked and have passed your opponent with suri-ashi, bring the tsuba to your mouth, pull your hip around and immediately end up in the correct chuudan stance in order to be able to attack again.
  • When you do ookii waza it doesn’t mean you also have to do them slowly. Strike swiftly but keep your move large.
  • For seme-men, bring your kensaki almost to your opponent’s navel. And then continue for a men strike.
  • For feint kote-men, try to hit between your opponent’s kote.
  • Because feint kote-men requires one suri-ashi and then basically two attacks (a feint and a real attack) the fumi-komi for those two attacks are almost in exactly the same place to keep the correct distance.
  • The objective of feint kote-men is to startle your opponent because an attack on the left side of your opponent should be unusual. The consequence is that he might open his men for you to strike.

After kihon there was a long period of jigeiko.

At the end of the training Heeren-sensei explained about the correct way to tighten the men himo for safety reasons. This was because he saw quite a few people had their himo wrong. The parts of the himo that go from the chin to the back of the head should be tightened first. It is very important to make sure your chin is firmly placed in the part of the men that should hold your chin. If this is not the case there is a risk of serious neck injury. Heeren-sensei said that the more difficult it is for you to move your jaw the better.

Then, while holding that part of the himo taut, grab the part of the himo that are hanging down the front of your men and pull them backwards. Finally tie your men firmly on the back of your head. If you feel your men is too tight, pull at the upper part of your shoulder flaps behind your ears to loosen it slightly.

At the end Heeren-sensei also told the kendoka that all those who wear bougu must apply for the upcoming national Dutch kendo championships early November. And that all those who are ready to take their first exams will be supervised and that they should participate in the central training next Sunday.

Summary of class 2, 13/10

This summary is for the afternoon session in Amstelveen.

After the shinai check and warming-up, the training, as lead by Tanida-sempai, started right away with kirikaeshi and big kihon exercises followed by small and fast kihon exercises. The training ended with kirikaeshi after jigeiko to, all in all, make for a very conventional training.

During the big kihon exercises we did ookii-men, ookii-kote, ookii-dou. Then followed the ni-dan waza ookii-kote-men. The exercises were done in sets of 3 for both shidachi and motodachi.

After this exercise the adults were separated from the children to practice some tsuki.

Point of attention for the big kihon exercises:

  • The motodachi should open the targets properly for the shidachi to strike. This requires the motodachi to be in tune with the shidachi in order for the shidachi to have a good exercise.

Then, the big kihon exercises were followed by small fast exercises. Basically we did everything we did during the ookii kihon but smaller and faster.

Some points for training hayai and chiisai waza:

  • Decide for yourself what your best distance is.
  • Also consider for yourself the speed and size of your strikes.
  • When you are told to do an exercise, don’t just conduct the exercise, but also keep in mind the above. If you don’t do that your kendo won’t grow.
  • For small dou, the motodachi doesn’t have to pull his shinai all the way up to joudan. Slightly raising your arms should be enough as this is usually what room an attacker has during shiai.

After the regular training there was jigeiko for the adults and shiaigeiko for the kids. This part of the training lasted somewhat longer than usual, so there was a lot of opportunity to spar with many different opponents. As Mark Herbold-sensei joined us for the day’s training, there was an especially good chance to do mitorigeiko when Herbold-sensei and Tanida-sempai were sparring with each other.

The jigeiko ended with kirikaeshi.

As today’s training was relatively low on explanation and emphasis was placed on self-awareness and self-correction. It is even more important to have a good concentration and an alert mind (zanshin). Don’t just do, but intend to do, and do so with commitment. Afterwards consider the outcome of what you did.

Summary of class, 06/10

This summary is for the afternoon session in Amstelveen.

As is customary this season, the training started with a shinai check and a warm up that included stretching and suburi. More specifically jougeburi, shomen and a shomen exercise where hiraki-ashi is also utilized.

After the warm-up the group was split into three groups. The beginners, those who are going to participate in the Düsseldorf taikai and would do shiai training, and the rest who are in bougu who were going to do the regular moto-dachi system of training. This summary is for the bougu group.

Kihon was again the same as the trainings that have been given so far this season. But this time there was a certain progression to the exercises. This time the exercises were alternated with kirikaeshi as well.

The progression was roughly as follows:

  1. Ookii-men
  2. Katate-men
  3. Double Katate-men
  4. Seme-men
  5. Kote-men
  6. Kote-men, tai-atari, hiki-men

The exercises that were altogether different this training were the katate exercises. The reason Heeren-sensei told us to do this exercise is to get rid of the bent left arm that most kendoka still have. If one does the katate-men with the left arm, this arm will almost automatically be stretched into the correct position.

Points for katate-men:

  • If the shinai comes down in a wobbly fashion, the left arm is still not properly stretched.
  • Hold the shinai as if you are holding a little bird. Squeezing too hard will kill it, and holding it too lightly will cause the bird to escape your grasp.
  • The double katate-men should be done calmly. If it is rushed you will not be able to strike a proper men.

Heeren-sensei also commented on the feeling a kote-men attack should have. He said you should have the feeling of being a big wave crashing onto a rock, with the opponent being the rock. A wave doesn’t stop its movement, even if there is a rock. Your attack should be the same in the sense that you can’t stop in the middle of your movement.

As for the tai-atari he said that the moto-dachi should not move backwards. The only part of his body that should move to brace for the impact is their left heel that goes down to dissipate the energy of the incoming opponent. However, when the opponent is exceptionally powerful in his tai-atari this might not always be possible.

He also said that when, as shi-dachi, your opponent is smaller than you are and your tai-atari is so powerful that the moto-dachi cannot remain in position you, as shi-dachi, should move forward instead of backward in order to still be able to make a proper men attack after the tai-atari.

The physical training ended with kirikaeshi after about 30 minutes of jigeiko.

During the line-up Heeren-sensei again expressed the necessity to step in all the way in order to do proper seme.

Summary of class, 02/10

This training started with a shinai check followed by a warming-up that included running a few laps and side-stepping exercises around the hall. Then just before the kendoka had to put on their men, as a follow up on the tenugui explanation of last training, Heeren-sensei asked a couple of kendoka if they knew the meaning of their tenugui to illustrate the importance of the proverbs that are usually written on them.

Then it was onto kihon, which started out with regular men, followed by seme-men and then a yakusoku-geiko where the object was to hit men 3 times in quick succession. The exercises were separated by kirikaeshi.

Some points for seme-men:

  • Step in far enough, this seems to be quite difficult since many kendoka thought you have to take one slide-step but you can make more if that is not enough. See the next point.
  • Take as many slide-steps as required to get your kensen above your opponent’s kote. If you try to take one big step you usually won’t end up in the desired position. This will cause you to having to leap too far, or you will simply fall short before striking your opponents men, or hitting their men-gane. There are exercises where you have to make men from too-maai (as they like to train in Korea) but this was not the exercise at this moment.
  • Try to do the men fast. This time, instead of waiting between your seme and your attack, you make it one continuous movement where you step in to the required distance and immediately go for the attack. In order to make this work your footwork has to be correct so as not to fall short on your fumikomi and your actual attack on the men. Heeren-sensei made a point of this by stepping backwards so your maai became even larger, so you were forced to step in further and more often.

The yakusoku-geiko was a good opportunity to train turning around properly since the exercise had to be conducted as fast as one could and ideally using a single breath.

Some points for the 3 x men yakusoku-geiko:

  • Use a single breath in order to prolong your concentration without breaking it. This is also good for improving one’s stamina.
  • To turn around properly:
    • bring the tsuba to your mouth (like you’re going to drink from it as if it were a cup of tea)
    • turn on the ball of your right foot
    • pull your hips around to spin around quicker
    • finish your movement by bringing your shinai towards your opponent
    • end up in a correct chuudan position at the same time as you plant your left foot on the floor with the correct spacing as per a proper chuudan stance.

After the yakusoku-geiko there was free jigeiko which ended with another kirikaeshi as a cooling down.

At the end of the training there was praise for those who participated in the Fumetsu Cup. Especially Davin received compliments for his use of the seme-men technique during the tournament. Even though the seme-men technique has only been taught to him during these few short weeks since the season has started, the effectiveness of the technique was proven as he was able to score several clean men hits with it during his very first tournament.

Summary of class, 29/09

This summary is for the afternoon session in Amstelveen.

After a regular warm-up, training started with an inspection of the shinai. Just like last Tuesday emphasis was placed on proper upkeep of especially your shinai so that you won’t cause injury with any splinters that might come off it.

Afterwards there was a shuugou during which Heeren-sensei explained the importance of courtesy during training. He felt that the kendoka were not showing enough respect towards each other, and especially towards those who rank higher.

  • When greeting an opponent of equal rank, a small bow is sufficient.
  • When greeting one of higher rank, especially a sensei, you should bow deeper than your opponent.
  • Bow whenever you finish an exercise to thank your training partner for that round “arigatou gozaimashita”, but also bow at the beginning, to ask for good guidance, or to wish for a good exercise “(yoroshiku) onegai shimasu”.
  • Conversely, the training always starts and ends with a kneeling bow, and with the same words (onegai shimasu for the beginning and arigatou gozaimashita for the end). Shiai and jigeiko also start with a type of bow called sonkyo.

Then it was on to kihon exercise. The points for this Saturday were roughly the same as last Tuesday’s training during which we focused on seme-men and feint kote-men. These exercises were alternated with kirikaeshi.

  • From maai, step all the way in until your kensen is on your opponent’s right kote. Hit men from there. The point is that your opponent will only see a small object coming towards them, causing them to react later than when they would be facing the entire edge of your shinai.
  • Make sure to pause for a split second between your seme and your actual attack.
  • The object of the seme is to take the center between you and your opponent. Control the center and you control the fight.
  • The mental requirements to be able to make this attack are courage and determination.
  • Since most kendoka are not very proficient yet, the exercise should be executed in a large fashion. This is the best way to develop the finer motions that are needed to make your shinai snap using your wrists. This will also automatically cause you to make better use of your left arm.

After the kihon there was uchi-komi, and kakari geiko for those kendoka who were going to participate in the Fumetsu Cup on Sunday. The kakarigeiko was supervised by Fukuyama-sensei, Herbold-sensei, Heeren-sensei and Tanida-san in that order.

The sensei all had a slightly different style of taking the kakarigeiko. Fukuyama-sensei tended to hit your shinai away and block your attacks. Herbold-sensei was more lenient in the way that he did not hold you back, but you had to continuously attack as much as you could, and the strikes had to be proper. Heeren-sensei would swing your shinai away from you if he could, often making you spin around the wrong way. Tanida-san was like fukuyama-sensei, except that by the time the Fumetsu-contestants had to do kakarigeiko with him they would be tired and were not able to conduct proper kendo anymore.

Points for kakarigeiko (and uchi-komi geiko):

  • Continue your attack regardless of your environment.
  • Do what attack you feel you should do.
  • Don’t give up.
  • You should have the same attacking attitude during shiai, meaning that you should have an incredibly alert mind, and a lot of kiai. It does not mean that you must always and continuously attack.

After the uchi-komi and kakarigeiko there was jigeiko.

  • Make sure your kendo is proper.
  • Practice what you learned during kihon.
  • And don’t forget to focus on courtesy as you have been told at the start of this training.

At the end of the training Heeren-sensei explained another part of etiquette on folding your tenugui before you do mokusou. He told the kendoka that one’s tenugui is not just some piece of cloth to wipe one’s sweat with. A tenugui often has something written on it, such as a proverb or some other sort of encouraging message. And if there’s nothing written on it, it probably has a meaning to the kendoka personally. Therefore you should not just pull your tenugui off of your head after you’ve taken off your men. But you should fold it properly and carefully place it back inside. This is also a part of heijoushin.