Summary of class, 6/11

Class started as usual: running, stretching and suburi.

During seiretsu, Heeren-sensei indicated that we will be using the next few weeks to prepare for the NKR shinsa (25th of november). This means that we will not be focusing on shiai kendo, but on clean and proper kendo. Focal points for the next few weeks are seme, ki-ken-tai ichi, and zanshin. Pay close attention to your posture, to your footwork, to your strikes, so you can demonstrate your ability at its best.

In accordance with our study goals, today’s class focused on kihon practice just like last week. Using the motodachi system we practiced kirikaeshi, oki men, chisai men, oki kote-men, chisai kote-men, oki dou and repetitions of men, kote-men, dou, kote-men-dou. Students were encouraged to display proper kiai and to the timing of their footwork, which should match their strikes.

Heeren-sensei took a little time to demonstrate that oki dou starts out looking like a normal men strike. You start going for men and when your opponent raises his shinai to parry, you bring your shinai to your shoulder (or sometimes higher) and strike dou. As always it is important to:

  • Strike dou on the side and at the proper angle, coming down from the center line at a 45 degree angle.
  • On your strike, your hands are still at the center.
  • While stepping outward to the right, “cut” open the belly while keeping your left hand lower than the right.
  • On passing your opponent, the “cut” is finished by pulling it “through” opponent at which moment the shinai snaps into your center.
  • Show zanshin and then turn to face your opponent once more.

Heeren-sensei indicated that, to practice this dou strike, it is best that motodachi does not open up dou beforehand but that motodachi should only start opening when shidachi moves to strike men. He also suggested that, when paired against someone considerably shorter than yourself, you can slightly lower your posture by sinking down on your legs a bit.

Kihon practice was followed by fifteen minutes of jigeiko and of course kirikaeshi.

After class, Heeren-sensei reiterated that we need to practice proper and good kendo for the examinations. He also informed us that, starting next Saturday, class will include kata geiko which is also needed to prepare for the exams. He advised everybody to prepare by researching the kata they need to know and to watch a few videos. He also asked the kendoka with kata experience to provide guidance to their classmates.

NKK results: wow!

Last sunday the dutch national kendo championships were held in Vlaardingen. A few weeks ago Heeren-sensei had told us all he had an ambitious goal set for our dojo: at least two Renshinjuku members in the finals. Well, our 22 kendoka fought long and hard and we achieved this goal! Not just in the gentlemen’s competition, but in almost every competition there was!

The results are as follows:

Juniors  11-14 years old

  1. M. Tanida (RSJ Amstelveen)
  2. Y. Tanida (RSJ Amstelveen)
  3. B. Waarheid (RSJ Almere)

Juniors 15-17 years old

  1. H. Bediar (RSJ Almere)
  2. B. Verhaegh (?)
  3. ?. Akabu (?) and B. Smit (?)

Ladies

  1. K. van Riel (RSJ Amstelveen)
  2. M. Wouters (Museido)
  3. C. Tanida (RSJ Amstelveen) and S. Chung (Fumetsu)

Gentlemen

  1. J. van de Burg (Fumetsu)
  2. M. vd Woude (RSJ Amstelveen)
  3. K. Tsubota (RSJ Amstelveen) and  R. Nieuwenhuizen  (Fumetsu?)

Fighting sprit

  • S. Tanida (RSJ Amstelveen)

 

Great work everyone! That’s really impressive!

Summary of class 1, 3/11

This summary is about the morning practice in Almere.

What with tomorrow’s dutch national championships being right around the corner, obviously we spent some time on practice shiai. Aside from that class followed its usual structure.

Kata practice was very cool, because today we introduced five of our newbies to the first kata. Until now they’d been doing footwork practice and suburi before warming up, while the rest practiced kata. No more! They spent twenty minutes practicing the shidachi (受太刀) side of kata #1, first as a group and then one-on-one with experienced kendoka.

After warming up we spent roughly fifteen minutes footwork practice: okuri ashi. First with normal slides, then with intervals (small-normal-large), then with fumikomi. Eight laps in total. We’ve discussed the most common mistakes:

  • Left overstepping right
  • “Horse stepping” with the right foot
  • The power of fumikomi driving upwards instead of forwards

Seiretsu was followed by kihon practice, where the beginners are again teamed up against motodachi in bogu. Sadly I cannot report on the exercises performed as there was a small, medical emergency to attend to. When the beginners joined the newbies with Ton-sensei, those in bogu (ten or evelen in total) practiced kihon and waza: chisai kote-men, chisai men, ai-men and kaeshi-do, followed by six rounds of ippon shobu jigeiko.

In practicing kaeshi-do Kris-fukushou explained that the do strike actually does not involve a step, but only fumikomi. You receive and parry the attacking strike in place and then strike do while doing fumikomi, standing in the same spot. You then finish your counter by moving forwards and showing zanshin. Of course, “standing in place” does not equal simply standing there and slapping a strike on do! No, you have to show proper attitude and aggression, you have to show intent and zanshin, and your strike should be technically perfect.

The shiai geiko was done with two teams. Every kendoka received some individual pointers from the teachers, to help them in their fights tomorrow. We were also advised to prepare properly for tomorrow: sleep early and well, don’t practice too hard the day before, check all your armor and shinai (repair any splinters etc), make sure you are properly dressed and make a good impression.

Japanese culture events

Japanese cultural center Shofukan in Rotterdam has a diverse offer of cultural events. On the 10th of november they organize an ikebana event. The text below was paraphrased from their newsletter (full details in the dutch version of this post):

Ikebana, manga and chanoyu  10th of november 2012

On saturday the 10th of november, Shofukan hosts a unique Ikenobo ikebana exposition, combined with manga. At our tea house Senshin-an you can take part in a special tea ceremony. In the span of this afternoon we provide plenty information about manga and will also sell books. The programme is as follows:

  • 13.00 – 17:00: ikebana– and manga exposition (entree € 3,- p.p.)
  • 14.00 – 15.00: presentation by  Noriko van der Linden-Momose on the origins of manga
  • 14.00 – 14.45: workshop manga for children (registration required, €3 per child)
  • 15.00 – 15.45: workshop ikebana for children (registration required, €3 per child)
  • 15.00 – 16.00: Robiraki tea ceremony (max 6 participants, €30 per person, registration required)
  • 16.00 – 17.00: Robiraki tea ceremony (max 6 participants, €30 per person, registration required)

Courses in fall of 2012

Shofukan also organizes a number of courses.

  • Shodo calligraphy at all levels, friday nights
  • Ikenobo ikebana flower arrangement, thursday nights
  • Language courses, beginners on wednesday and advanced on monday night
  • Zen meditation, friday nights
  • Shinto practice, every third monday
  • Do-in balance exercises, wednesday nights
  • Shiatsu massage, wednesday nights, by appointment
  • Urasenke chanoyu tea ceremoney, one sunday morning by appointment
  • Kenso ryu gyakute do Jujutsu, every first saturday afternoon of the month
  • Kobudo martial arts for children, thursday afternoon

Summary of class, 30/10

Tonight’s session included a group of junior kendoka training under Fukuyama-sensei, in preparation of this weekend’s taikai in Düsseldorf. This made for a pleasantly busy training.

The normal group was led by Kiwa-sempai, in absence of Heeren-sensei. After warming up (which included running for a change) the rest of class was spent on kihon. Why stick to the basic movements in kendo? Because the focal point of tonight’s training was footwork and seme.

Using the mawari geiko system, we went through all the kihon you can think of: ookii men, ookii kote-men, ookii ai-men, chiisai men, chiisai kote-men, ookii dou and chiisai dou. In all of these exercises two key points were emphasized:

  1. Solid footwork. Once you have stepped in, do not fiddle with your feet, but solidly kick of with the left foot. Your right foot should “float” forwards low above the ground, only going up for fumikomi when your strike is about to connect.
  2. Seme. Our practice was split roughly half’n’half between motodachi providing an opening and motodachi sensing when aite was “ready” to make the strike (and only then opening up).

Common mistakes in footwork when striking include:

  • Lifting and setting down your left foot again before jumping (“feeling for your footing”).
  • Stepping through with your left foot before jumping.
  • Swinging the right leg backwards before going forwards.
  • “Horse stepping” with the right leg, making a high step instead of a low float.

Class was closed with the following remarks:

  • Roelof-sensei is disappointed that in jigeiko people still persist in ignoring the day’s lessons. Instead of practicing the kihon and waza we learned today, people still treat jigeiko like shiai geiko: focus on defending, focus on scoring points. This is not how it should be.
  • Roelof-sensei also remarked that, in jigeiko, a lot of people show disturbingly little seme. Instead of setting proper posture, building tension and pushing inward, people simply bash into each other.
  • Kiwa-sempai reminded everyone that the footwork practice we did should also show up in jigeiko. This was a great time to practice it more! She also urged everyone to pay attention to eachother’s kendo during mawari geiko. In the motodachi system your teachers will point out mistakes or points of improvement, but in mawari geiko it’s your own responsibility.
  • Fukuyama-sensei encouraged the juniors to give their best at the Düsseldorf Cup. He acknowledges that a shiai (especially your first one!) can be very scary and that people get nervous. That’s completely normal. Don’t let your opponent intimidate you. Enter the shiaijou promising yourself to show your best kendo, because when your kendo is at its best, you have the best chance to win.

No Furuya Cup in 2013

Dear kenshi,

I am very sad to report that we will not be able to organize a Furuya Cup in 2013. Despite great successes of past years, we couldn’t manage to complete the required sponsoring so after conferring with Furuya-sensei we decided to cancel the tournament. We sincerely hope that we can organize a new Furuya Cup in 2014.

Sincerely yours,

Bert Heeren sensei

Lexicon: seiretsu and dojo

For many of our new members, all the Japanese terms used in class can be confusing. From my own experience I know it’s taken me months to get to know most of the common terms. Of course students can find help in the glossary compiled by our teachers, but at times a bit of extra explanation may be helpful.

We continue our series of explanatory articles with commands from the line-up. We will also provide an explanation of dojo layout.

As noisy and violent kendo class may be, there are two moments that form a stark contrast: at the beginning and end of class all students line up to thank their classmates and teachers and to meditate. The dojo is plunged into quiet, while students prepare their armor and ready themselves. Usually it’s the highest ranking student (not the sensei themselves) who call out the following commands.

  • Seiretsu (整列) Literally, “form a line“. While the sensei are seated on their side of the room, the students line up according to their rank (see explanation about dojo layout). Everyone holds their shinai in their left hand, hanging gently downwards. Those who have armor, wear their tare and dou, while holding their men under their right arm (with kote and tenugui inside the helmet). In our case, the lowest ranking students sit on the left and the highest ranking students at the right. Visitors will always be on the right-hand side of their rank group. Sometimes we change the order a little bit, by lining up based on age.
  • Seiza (静坐) There are two distinct and applicable ways of writing “seiza“: 静坐 “to sit peacefully“, or 正座 “to sit kneeling“. If you are not yet sure how to properly sit down into seiza, Kendo World made a great video about seiza. When seated, the kendoka place their shinai on the floor (lying on the tsuru). Those with men take the kote from the men and place them on the floor. The men is then balanced on top, with the tenugui draped over it neatly.
  • Shisei wo tadashite (姿勢を正して) Literally, “straighten yourselves“. While seated, you are to sit upright and with a straight back. Do not slouch, do not fiddle with your uniform, just pay attention and sit up straight.
  • Ki wo tsuke (気を付け) A call to “stand to attention“, similar to “shisei wo tadashite“. Again, it means you should focus and pay close attention to the proceedings.
  • Mokuso (黙想) The word mokuso refers to meditation in general. While there are many kinds of meditation, in our case we know two kinds: EITHER try to empty your mind completely (mushin), OR focus your thoughts on today’s lesson or on specific points of improvement. Don’t close your eyes completely, cup your hands in your lap and think about what you need to learn. For more details on mokuso, watch this great Kendo World clip.
  • Mokuso yame (黙想辞め) As in all commands issued in class, yame means “to stop”. It is the call to stop meditation, to bring your attention back to class and to be prepared.
  • Rei (礼) Literally means “to express gratitude“, so while the word rei is used as a command to bow it is actually a request to show thanks.
  • Shomen ni rei (正面に礼) Not used in our dojo, but included for completion’s sake. “Bow to the front“, which includes the “highest” seat in the room (see below). One could say that you are bowing to the dojo itself and to the spirit of budo, to thank for the lessons learned and the protection provided inside the dojo. You also bow to shomen when entering and leaving the dojo.
  • Shinzen ni rei (神前に礼) Not used in our dojo, but included for completion’s sake. A call to “bow to the altar“, which is usually only used if the dojo has a kamidana (see below) and if the dojo is non-secular. One bows to thank the ancestors, sensei from the past and possibly a deity.
  • Sensei ni rei (先生に礼) Literally “thank your teacher“.
  • Sensei gata ni rei (先生方に礼) Literally “thank your teachers“, with “gata” being the honorific for a group of people.
  • Otagai ni rei (御互いに礼) Literally “thank each other“. You thank your classmates for practicing together and for learning from each other.
  • Sougo ni rei (相互に礼) Literally “Show mutual thanks”, quite the same as the previous command.
  • Men wo tsuke (面を着け) “Put on your mask“, the command to don your tenugui, helmet and gloves.
  • Men wo tore (面を取れ) “Remove your masks“, the command to take off your protection (except dou and tare). In September Heeren-sensei explained how to properly take off your helmet, showing enough respect (at the bottom of this summary).

The preceding paragraphs have already mentioned a lot of terms describing parts of the dojo. Below is a drawing of the Amstelveen dojo, with the most important terms shown in the right location. Both the drawing and the lexicon below could only have been made because of Dillon Lin’s excellent article on dojo layout.

The following list is ordered from the entrance, towards the highest and most important position in the room.
  • Genkan (玄関) The entrance foyer, leading to the dressing rooms. Officially the term genkan is reserved for a foyer where one takes off ones shoes, but apparently it’s not incorrect to apply it to the tiled section of the gymnasium we train in.
  • Hikaenoma (控えの間) The perimeter of the dojo nearest to the entrance is used as temporary storage space. Shinai are put down here when not used and the kendoka place their men and kote here before class. Kendoka who need to quickly drop out from an exercise (for example to fix their armor) will also sit down in the hikaenoma.
  • Shimoza (下座) Consisting of the kanji for “bottom” and “sit”, this is the junior side of the dojo. All students line up here, according to their rank.
  • Shimoseki (下関) This is literally the lowest seat in the dojo, at the far left of the shimoza.
  • Keikojo, or embujo (稽古場, or 演武場) Literally, “training place“. The center of the dojo is used for training.
  • Kamiza (上座) Consisting of the kanji for “top” and “sit”, this is the senior side of the dojo. The teachers in charge of class will sit on this side.
  • Joseki (上席) The “highest seat” in the room, which you could say is the VIP seat. In our case, this is on the right-hand side of the kamiza (in the picture that is). This seating is reserved for visiting sensei, high-placed visitors and officials, who are to observe class.
  • Shomen (正面) The “front” of the dojo, the wall along which the kamiza is aligned. We bow towards shomen when entering and leaving the dojo.
A few other elements often seen in dojo, but not ours are:
  • Kamidana (神棚) In Japan’s religion Shinto, the kamidana is a small shrine or altar kept inside the household, office, dojo or various other places. A kamidana consists of many objects, all of which are very well described by the aforementioned Dillon Lin in this article about budojo no kamidana.
  • Tokonoma (床の間) In Japan many rooms have a niche in the wall, containing a piece of calligraphy, a work of art or an ikebana arrangement.

Our Amstelveen dojo may have neither of these two, but one could argue that the flag replaces the kamidana. Our flag is there to remind us of the dojo motto and to act as a reminder of the required frame of mind.

As always, I would like to thank Zicarlo for reviewing this article.

Summary of class 1, 27/10

This summary is for the morning session in Almere.

Class got off to a slow start. People came in a bit too late, so we only got things on the road by 0925. In the end, turnup was not bad with eight guys in bogu and about a dozen beginners without armor. We started with the usual warming-up, after which we quickly went into seiretsu. While Loyer-sensei took the utmost beginners aside, the novices joined the more advanced group for kihon practice. The guys in bogu acted as motodachi, while the novices practiced oki-men and oki-kote-men.

Then, waza practice! We started with basic kirikaeshi, men and kote-men drills, then quickly moving onto more advanced materials: double hiki-men, hiki-kote-men and hiki-men-kote-do. As Kris and Hillen explained, the object is to push the envelope on our grasp of distance and footwork. In these drills it’s no use to over-think your actions as a lot of it comes down to feeling what you’re doing. You do an exercise, then you very quickly analyse your actions and then go on with another drill. The basics come down to:

  1. Start in taiatari.
  2. Your left foot moves backwards while your shinai moves back just enough to get a clear shot.
  3. You fumikomi when striking and land about a foot behind where you started.
  4. The second strike is made with fumikomi in the exact same spot.
  5. The third strike is made in the same spot, with the fumikomi launching you backwards.

As was said, if you overthink this then you’ll just get stuck as I did. I tried to do the exercises in slow motion, but then everything fell apart. Instead, try it at 0.8 or really just 1.0 of the desired speed.

The latter part of practice was spent on reacting to motodachi’s men and kote attacks. For those people joining the NK next week, we did short practice shiai.

Class was closed with some reminders from the teachers.

  • Loyer-sensei warned the beginners that they’re hitting with right way too much. This makes for huge movements, instead of properly small movements.
  • Hillen and Kris-fukushou repeated the need for tension in a shiai. Stay close, don’t let up! If something goes wrong, don’t care and definitely do not show frustration. If you allow frustration to set in, you will ruin your chances. This also goes for practice in class: if you let yourself get discouraged, it will affect your whole training.

Lexicon: warmup & suburi

For many of our new members, all the Japanese terms used in class can be confusing. From my own experience I know it’s taken me months to get to know most of the common terms. Of course students can find help in the glossary compiled by our teachers, but at times a bit of extra explanation may be helpful.

We continue our series of explanatory articles with words and phrases from warming up.

We will start with a list of common stretching positions, which you will hear every week when training in Amstelveen as large parts of class are conducted in Japanese. Funnily enough, in Japanese “stretching” is a loanword from english: ストレッチ (su-to-re-chi).

  • Koutai (交替) “Alternate”, “switch”, or “change”, this word is used in class to indicate you need to switch between left or right in stretching. You will also hear it in mawari geiko, when it’s time to move to another partner.
  • Te or tekubi (手首) Your hands and wrists.
  • Ashi (脚) Your feet. Make sure to loosen your ankles and toes.
  • Hiza (膝) Your knees. Bend your knees and make rotating movements, flexing and stretching your knees.
  • Suwaru (座る) Squat, by sitting in a crouching position.
  • Mae ni kagamu (前に屈む) Bow deeply touching the ground. First with feet together, then wide-legged.
  • Ushiro ni kagamu (後ろに屈む) Bend backwards.
  • Koshi wo mawasu (腰を回す) Make circles with your hips, like a hoolahoop.
  • Akiresu ken (アキレス腱) The Achilles’ tendon, at the back of your foot. Step forward and sink a bit through your knee while keeping the back leg straight. Goal is to stretch the tendons on the rear leg.
  • Shinkyaku (伸脚) Stretch your inner leg, by crouching down and putting one outstretched leg to the side.
  • Shinkyaku fukaku (伸脚 深く) Stretch your inner leg, by crouching down and putting one outstretched leg to the side and pointing your toes upwards.
  • Yoko ni nobasu (横に伸ばす) Bend sideways, with one or both arms above your head.
  • Ookiku mawasu (大きく回す) Make large circles using your upper body, by bowing front-side-back-side-front in a fluid motion.
  • Ude (腕) Your arms. Stretch arm and shoulder by holding one arm across your chest using the other.
  • Ude ushiro (腕 後ろ) Your arms again, this time stretch the shoulder by putting your arm behind your neck and pushing backwards gently.
  • Ue ni nobasu (上に伸ばす) Stretch your body’s full length, by stretching your arms over your head and standing on your toes.
  • Ude wo mawasu (腕を回す) Turn your arms in circles, to the side of your body.
  • Kubi mae ushiro (首前後ろ), or unazuki (頷き) Nod your head up and down
  • Sayuu (左右), or kubiwofuru (首を振る) Shake your head from side to side.
  • Yoko (横) Tilt your head and bring your ear towards your shoulder.
  • Atama wo mawasu (頭を回す) Rotate your head gently, rolling it over your shoulders, neck and chest.
  • Janpu (ジャンプ) Jumping in place. We usually do jumping, followed by jumping jacks, followed by front-to-back jumping jacks and ending with squatted landings.

After stretching, we proceed to suburi (素振り), lit. “practice swing“, from 素 (plain, natural) and 振り (swing). You will often also hear this called “empty strikes” as we are performing strikes without hitting any target. There are many kinds of suburi, where the following are the ones most often performed in our dojo.

  • Jōge suburi or joge-buri (上下素振り) Large strikes, where the upswing reaches your back and the downswing stops at knee height. In Amstelveen it is taught that the upswing should touch your buttocks, as this will tell you whether your swing went straight through the center.
  • Shōmen suburi (正面素振り) Large strikes where the upswing reaches your back (see above) and the downswing stops at head height, as if striking men.
  • Zenshin kōtai shōmen suburi (前進後退正面素振り) Like shomen suburi, but stepping forwards and backwards with each strike. This is the actual shomen suburi performed at our dojo.
  • Sayū men suburi (左右面素振り) Like shomen suburi, but alternating strikes between the right and left side of the head. Sayu men suburi is often incorporated in what we call the “vierkantje“/square, or “kruisje/plusje“/cross exercise where you move forward,backward,right and left.
  • Haya suburi (速素振り) Literally “fast practice swing“, where you make small jumps or fast slides while striking at men height. Depending on the exercise, the upswing either reaches your back/buttocks (slow haya suburi), or the upswing stops in jodan no kamae (fast haya suburi).
  • Dou suburi(胴素振り) Practice swings where you aim for the torso, dou. We alternate between oki dou and chiisai dou.
  • Naname suburi (斜め素振り) Like joge buri, but alternating between right and left diagonal strikes.
  • Katate suburi (片手素振り) Literally “one handed practice swing”, where you perform any of the above mentioned exercises but with only one hand.
  • Shin kokyuu (深呼吸) Literally “deep breath”, where you step in and perform a large upswing while breathing in, then you breathe out during a slow downswing into sonkyo.
As part of the instructions for suburi you will often hear additional commands.
  • Kamae to (構えと) Stand in chudan no kamae.
  • Mae & ushiromae (前 & 後ろ前) Respectively forwards and backwards. You will hear these in exercises like the square/box or cross.
  • Hidari & migi (左 & 右) Respectively left and right. You will hear these in exercises that incorporate sayu men strike, like the aforementioned square/box/cross.
  • Ni-ju pon, san-ju pon, yon-ju pon etc. Literally “20 count”, “30 count”, “40 count”. Basically, the amount of suburi you are expected to do. It is suggested that you learn to count to at least 100 in Japanese.

With many thanks to Kiwa-sempai for providing the list of stretching commands and to Zicarlo for providing more help on kanji on missing terms.

CT cancelled!!

Quoting an email sent out by the NKR tonight.

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Dear all,

Unfortunately the central training of Sunday October 21st (tomorrow) has to be cancelled. The hall is not available to us because of the Amsterdam Marathon. We were not informed about this until just now.

Please inform your dojo-mates (especially the beginners) as much as you can!!
We are very sorry to bring you this news but wish you a nice Sunday anyway.

On behalf of the NKR,
Marije Wouters

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