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The Beauty of Kendo is ...


Saturday 3rd September 2022 Keiko Reflection - Janet

Today we had another fruitful keiko led by Marleen Sensei. Again started off with double Shinai warm up & Suburi which not only helped to condition our body & muscles to adapt to the increased weight but also made us more aware of using our left hand, arm & shoulder more dominantly & more aware of using our finger grips more precisely to achieve proper Tenouchi. We increased double Shinai Haya-Suburi to x30. For some Kyu grades like myself it’s still a tough challenge to keep up with everyone else & made our arms feel very heavy. 

Sam Sensei reminded us that in order to perform effective & efficient Haya-Suburi, it’s extremely important for the body & arm to not be too tense for the entire time but rather we need to semi-relax some muscles during the Shinai swinging motion to allow the natural weight of the Shinai to help us to swing downwards & forwards then only tense up the muscles when near end of the swing to perform Tenouchi to stop the Shinai from going further. When Tenouchi is done properly, the Shinai should naturally bounce back like recoil & should reduce some efforts required to pull the Shinai up & down in quick succession.

Todays Kihon training menu for Kyu grades:

  1. Footwork Suriashi drill backwards & forwards while maintaining good distance.
  2. Kirikaeshi x3
  3. Big Men 3 times x3 
  4. Rensoku Men 10 times x3
  5. Big Kote 3 times x3
  6. Big Kote-Men 3 times x3
  7. Big Dō 3 times x3
  8. Big Kote-Men-Taiatari-Hiki Dō-Men several times with Sensei & senpais.

Finished with Ji-geiko & then Kakari-geiko with our wonderful Marleen sensei🙏🙏🙏

The focus for us today is to have a good posture with chin tucked in & keep good kamae. Then Kakarite need to not rush & be fully prepared before executing each strike with commitment by fully rotating our shoulders, engage our core muscles, fully extend our arms, perform proper Tenouchi & follow up quickly with swift footwork.

For Motodachi, focus was to better observe, recognise & adjust correct distance to better follow up the Kakarite following each strike so they can quickly step into Issoku-Ittou-no-Maai & strike again without losing Ki. 

We also need to continue practicing Taiatari by feeling with our bodies to learn. Remember to quickly lower our arms & hold the Shinai in front of Dō after striking before coming into contact, then both the initiator & receiver need to tense up the lower & upper body & core muscles to perform effective Taiatari, almost similar to performing Tenouchi with the entire body.

Today there was also a revision on Fumikomi-Ashi during beginners class.

We were reminded to have about 60% of our weight on our left foot in order to be able to lean & move the body forward to stamp with our right foot. We do not need to lift the right knee & foot up too high over the ground & should never bend our right knee over 90 degrees over our toes during Fumikomi as this would produce wrong & unintended forces on our knee & ball of foot causing injuries. Imagine the right foot hovers over the ground slightly then an imaginary line tied on our right knee pulls us forward to take a big lunge, then just before the sole of our foot touch the ground imagine we are clapping or doing high five 🙌 with the ground before following up quickly with the left foot. At this stage, Kyu grades only need to focus on the correct mechanics of the movements & shifting of the weight to avoid getting hurt & don’t be too concerned about the need to produce a loud Fumikomi or Stamping sound yet, as this would naturally come with more practice & time.

Today we were reminded of: Ichi-Gan Ni-Soku San-Tan Shi-Riki.

Ichi-Gan (一眼 or 1st is eye):

The most important element of kendo is to be able to see, observe, analyse & anticipate your opponents movements in order to react properly. We also learn a lot simply from watching each other train or demonstrations from higher grade Senpais & Sensei’s by Mitori-geiko.

Ni-Soku (二足 or 2nd is footwork):

This emphasises that Kendo strikes, particularly the “slicing or cutting” power comes from our legs & lower body hips & not with our arms & hands alone. So foot work is extremely important as it not only allows us to cut with the whole body, but also enable us to move around swiftly to maintain good distance from opponent & to perform Zanshin.

San-Tan (三胆 or 3rd is courage or bravery or determination):

Kendo teaches us to overcome our fears by confronting our opponents no matter of their strength, as well as confronting our inner weaknesses & dare to try harder without doubts or fears of failure. So when making any strike in kendo, it should always be fully prepared, determined & committed to the best of our current ability without regret.

Shi-Riki (四力 or 4th is strength or technique):

Last but not least is the actual kendo striking techniques or wazas & Kihon we’ve learnt & constantly repeated during each Keiko. Obviously it’s important to learn correct striking techniques in Kendo, however, if we can’t observe & analyse our opponents properly & don’t see the opportunity or opening, or can’t move smoothly & quickly with our feet, or are too scared to face our opponents & lose our Ki right from the start, then we’ll never be able to do justice to these techniques & will just be wasting our time doing random ineffective strikes & may even unnecessarily reveal our weaknesses.

The beauty of Kendo is that people from all different ages & backgrounds comes together with a common goal to improve themselves through kendo, & in that process we all become like family or Kendo Nakama (friends/ comrades) helping to lift each other up. Through kendo we not only develop improved physical but also mental resilience. During each Keiko, we can briefly forget about the challenges & busy stressful everyday lives we may be facing & our minds can be free from other thoughts & just concentrate on doing kendo. Through Kendo we learn to be humble of successes & to never give up or get depressed when we fail & just keep trying to become better. This has helped me to learn to have Heijoushin (平常心) in everyday life which means to have a peaceful & ordinary mind by having true peace of mind in all that we do. Instead of worrying about outcomes before action or think we aren’t good enough or concerned about what others might think of us all the time, we should just be ourselves & love who we are without comparison. We should dare to take the leap to act instead of withdrawing without even trying. But once we’ve decided to do something, we should be fully committed to it & give it our all without regrets & just try to enjoy the process regardless of the outcome. It will definitely make us happier & grow stronger & better as a person🙏🙏🙏

Many thanks to Marleen & Sam sensei’s instructions at Keiko today & thanks to every senpais & all the others who turned up today to make this keiko possible🙏🙏🙏


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