some feedback on my kendo

1. Breathing: for instance one breath kiri-kaeshi - where possible try to do a many cuts in one breath as possible. But also monitor your breathing during gi-keiko - try to follow a routine of sharp inhale and long slow release: only cut on release and be guarded on inhale. This is of course much easier said than done.
2. Focussed cuts: I would almost say lighter but this is not quite the correct description. But if your cuts use less strength then it allows combination passes/attacks to be made more effectively, and to deal with those coming from the opponent egg: kote-men-tai-atari-hikki-men, and easier kakari-geiko. Footwork timing with your cuts is important here i.e: fumi-komi.
3. Become more mindful of your ken-sen and observe how your opponent is effected by application of pressure.

the start of 2011


Another year of kendo begins.

Several weeks ago Charlie mentioned that it would be useful for me to play against people sitting on my left (lower ranked) as this would give me an opportunity to see if I could make various techniques work. I mostly end up training with people who are very much more advanced than I am (quite often I am the only non dan level person there) and it is very hard getting attacks to work against them. So while they a lovely and say nice things about how I am progressing – the actual reinforcement of being able to make a successful attack/move/whatever is not always there. This can be a bit frustrating, as my SCA squires can probably tell me…8-P

So the first training session of 2011. There was a bit of free sparring at the end and I had the opportunity of playing against other kyu grades. I still am too static but I was starting to understand some of the timing and range things. I even managed to make some good attacks. So very happy with how I am going. Still total crap but getting there.

I am hoping to be able to attend the grading in Picton at the end of the month. The last grading I attended was in October 2009 so I should at least give it a go.

Eva and Felix were up from Adelaide over the Xmas shutdown week. Felix has really taken on the new (to us at least) style from Hauoc and I am reasonably happy to follow in his wake…8-).

This means a return to a metal basket hilt. I managed to get the balance right this time. My stick post Prova was awful and I went back to a plastic hilt to make it usable.

So a reasonably think bit of rattan planed down and about as short as I have been in a long while. I like it. You do not require that much speed to get shots to stick and it allows you to look at the timing of the fight rather than just racing to find a gap in the defense.

This has been matched with a small shield. I have not noticed any lack in defense moving to the smaller shield and as Rob the Vet pointed out – you cannot be lazy. Beside the small shield is a great deal of fun and will help me improve my fighting.

Added to all of this is a new leg harness. Again modeled from what Hauoc and Mari have at Prova. A single poleyn over a riding boot with a cuisses under the top of the boots. Simple to make and upkeep and looks like they will work very well.

I have also commissioned a new couter and vambrace in spring steel from a chap in Brisbane. I will probably make a shield side couter to go with the new one once it is completed.

Also with this new kit binge is a purchase of a reasonable amount of leather and a new shield gauntlet. We have a very good leather worker (non SCA) who has been advising me on what to use. The standard plain embossing leather that most folk use is not really the best stuff for making straps etc. Redhide is probably the thing to use and I will be getting a side of this at some point. In the meantime I picked up some buffalo leather to make the straps for the new legs.

Well that is almost a totally new kit. I am thinking I should keep going and replace all the other bit of kit over the year. I am already looking to do a new arming doublet, so a new ½ gauntlet , gorget, coif and helm is all I would need to do….helm could be a big issue…8-)

This may all have to be post Festival as I have some sewing I need to get into and I do need a new surcote.

Wish me luck!..C.

Some notes on kendo footwork

Stand with more weight on the back foot with forward pressure. This gives you the ability to spring forward with the right foot and bring up the left faster. I should ain to get a quick forward stamp in a da-dum timing (half beat) rather than a dum-dum (full beat).

Some quick notes on kendo

I have been limited to how many trainings I can get to due to having to be at the shop on Thursday nights – sigh.
Anyway here are some notes to myself so I remember them.

There is a time when you can sense your opponent wants to attack and you wait for them to go so you can do a counter strike. Try this I am always too slow. I need to apply some counter pressure to control the timing of their attack. I understand the theory of this but may take a while to get the practice down.

I seem to be doing a little half step before striking men. This is giving away my intention to the opponent. I need to work on attacking in a single motion rather than doing this pause in closing the range.

Range – again I tend to allow my opponent to be too close. I need to do something (like attack) if they come in.

A bike update

For some time I have been looking at getting some new forks for the bike. Something lighter and a bit less travel up the front. So I decided on a new Magura Thor for the bike. German engineering goodness and I also was shallow and got some new brakes to match.

So several rides in and it is a new bike indeed. Climbs very well but I will need to get used to the shorter travel and lower front end.

So - hit the main trail at Stromlo today with Dr Nick.
The good doctor had his new machine - a very nice red Kona Dwag. The Dr. now has something that he can peddle up things...

We scooted up to the top. There was some nice fixes to the trails. They are playing with some new base materials and it lends for a solid trail surface that you can rail. Another change was Skyline. The rocky bits in the last bit near the downhill bridge has the new surface down and they have changed the lines with some new grade reversals. This makes that section much faster and a lot fun fun.

The bike ran brilliantly. and climbs like a climbing thing. I am now getting all the bit together to change over the drive train. So - almost a new bike - WOOT.


back onto bike stuff

kendo training last night was cold, very cold. As a result my back is suffering and I am going to ramble on about bike stuff for a change.

Back in very early 2007 I built up my Santa Cruz heckler. It was, and indeed remains my dram bike. My comments and pic are here

The heckler and I have done many miles, had a few offs and a heaps of fun. But the front end was always a bit of a bother. The 66 forks were heavy and I was feeling had too much travel. While the heckler was a better climbing bike then the old ‘dale, it did have its limitations. The front end being so high wandered about on steep climbs making it very techy in the steering. Added to this, I am simply not the sort of rider who would use the 66 to the level they were able to do (big drops off and jumpy stuff).

Despite Dr Nicks comments, we as a riding group mainly did the sort of riding that did not require armour and big travel bikes.

So I have been looking at changing out the forks on the heckler for something a bit lighter, less travel (around 150-140mm as opposed to the 170mm of the 66). This is also (I admit it) looking on adding some new bling to my ride.

So the research was on. I had to add to my criteria list the capacity for a 20mm though axle, as I was not keen on having to get some new hub/wheels.


Marzocchi 55 I looked at these and passed them over very early in the process, not sure why though.

DT Swiss – some lovely carbon fibre and the right colour. I ended up feeling that these would no be robust enough and they only can with 15mm axles.

Fox – this was looking good but I was having difficulty in working out what was what...also I was not keen on the grey..

Magura – hmmm German engineering.....I was initially looking at the Wotans but thought that it was going to be too much in the way of travel. This then brought me to the Thors.

The Thors got some very good reviews in several mags and it meet all the other criteria. Only problem is that they only came in white.....grrrrrr. Anyway - I managed to find them for a resonable price and they arrived last week.

So after figuring out how to swap them around the heckler has a new front end. The first two rides and things are looking good. The bike is going up very well (sorry Nick for those hills) and is going down in a suitable manner. Over all I think it has moved by bike into a much more ‘do-it-all’ sort of ride.
Very happy indeed.

Nagayama Sensei - part two

Monday was the big session with Nagayama Sensei.
I am going to just try to note my recollections on what we did/learnt. If anyone has any other comments/input please let me know…

Footwork – again we started with footwork. This was mainly about keeping our front foot low during fumikomi. I need to develop a sliding motion, driven from the centre/hips rather than a foot lifting stamping step.
I found the exercise of sliding/stepping over an exercise mat very useful and I think I should be able to do some thing similar at home with a carpet mat.

An odd thing was the timing of lifting the shinai. Sensei had us doing this as we stepped forward. I think this was to get the timing happening at slow speed.

Kamae ( and sword position) – Sensei showed us how holding the shinai lower can help with giving you extra range and also allows you to control the centre.

Tenouchi- we did a far bit on grip and how the hands are used to do the small cuts.
I am going to think of the small cuts as ‘popping’ the kensen onto the target. It is not a downward cut but a forward pop and cut motion. Hard to explain in writing but obvious one you see it done properly.
You start by pushing the left hand down and out just a little (about a fist distance), then striking out with both hands. This causes the shinai to whip out and pop the tip down and then out from the target. Important here is to run through with the shinai held high and your left arm parallel to the floor.

Again Sensei talked about seme and controlling the opponents sword before you cut. I am going to use terms I am familiar with – so my apologies for not using the appropriate Japanese terms (if you can help that would grand).

OK –
The idea is that you work from opposition of your opponents blade.
Range (maai) is everything. Think about closing to were just the tips of the shinai (kansen) are touching so you can feel the intent on the blade (‘knocking on the door’). If your opponent is weak in this (not holding/controlling) centre then you start your strike. Stepping in you keep your sword in the centre and keep the end (kensen and monouchi) on your opponents blade. This will move the opponents sword out of centre allowing you to strike men. It is important to keep in contact with the blade. If they lift to strike your then your can ‘follow’ there blade up, striking as well – this should allow you to retain the centre deflecting their attack.
If they push back on your blade then you have the opening to strike kote.
Each of these also allow you to tsuki…

So – knock on the door – if they open it (do not control centre) come in staying on the blade with your tip. If they are weak, strike men. If they are strong, strike kote. Always stay in contact with your opponent’s blade when you are in this close.

It is also important to continue the attach though. Mainly this is how you establish the strike (ippon) but by moving though you take away your opponents opportunities to attack.

As always – many variations to this (cutting do etc) but this is the main idea.

A reminder to myself about distance – we tend to want to be too close. Try to stay out at toma or just to were the kensen are touching.

Training – I need to do at least ten minuets a day practice. I can probably do the footwork stuff at home with a mat and also practice the small cuts…

So – back to normal training tonight. It will be interesting to see how Nagayama Sensei’s visit will change what we do….

Finally a big thank you to Nagayama Sensei for all the time he spent with us and I hope the next time he is visiting we are playing kendo and not being chicken fighters…8-)
  • Current Mood
    chipper chipper

Nagayama Sensei

This week we have a gust from Japan. Nagayama Sensei is from Miyagi Prefecture (Kendo kyoshi 7 dan, Iaido kyoshi 7 dan & Jodo kyoshi 7 dan) and is in Australia teaching and training.

We had our first session with him today. We just worked on cutting men. He made some very good comments (I hope remember these correctly)-

Fumikomi - this should be like jumping over a big gap in the foot path. Do not lift the knee in some stomping sort of movement.

There is also the normal reminders about staying upright and not hunching as you cut and follow though.

One interesting points was that you can be judged by the shape/space of your back. This is about maintaining the correct posture.

When following though after the cut make sure your left arm is parallel to the floor.

The target is the centre back of the men button.

We do not train anywhere near enough or hard enough.

As you seme, drop the kansen ever so slightly and maintain the centre. This allows you to push your opponents shinai out of centre allowing you to cut.

We are not practicing kendo without proper focus/attitude.....(the chicken fighting comment)

On a personal note - I seemed to be getting better extension on my men cuts.

We have a big session with Nagayama Sensei on Monday afternoon - should be good!

Some thoughts on excellence.

One of the conversations I had on the weekend was about excellence in the SCA. There were a few comments that Peers have this sort of god-like levels of skill and knowledge that most people could never achieve. I was making the point that our Peers are mostly good amateurs and not awe inspiring experts in their field. Naturally this got a few people wondering what sort of iconoclasm I was sprouting.

There is an argument that it takes about 10,000 hours of considered activity to reach a credible level of mastery in a particular field.
For referances see “Outliers – The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell or

So let us look at some numbers. If I was to be very keen about my fighting then I could go to the three weekly training sessions on offer in Canberra. This would make up for about 5 hours (I am being generous here) of training. Lets also say I did ½ hour of pell work a day. Add in another hour and half of reviewing/thinking about fighting stuff. This is about 10 hours a week. How many of us would spend ten hours a week committed to training and practice (not just chewing the fat at a meeting)?

So ten hours a week, 52 weeks a year. That’s 150 hours. Lets add in another 30 hours of tournaments, wars etc. That’s 550 hours a year. At this level of activity it would take about 18 years to get to the 10,000 hours we need to put in…

So 18 years of very full-on commitment.

So you can see my point. New Peers normally have put in 4-7 years of involvement in the SCA. Peerage is only a quarter of the way to mastery.

Now, I am not going to say that Peers are crap far from it. Most have a very good level of knowledge and skill and we can learn a great deal from these folk. Just keep all of this in some level of perspective…