Detroit kendo tournament
Last weekend, I went to the 2017 Detroit Kendo tournament. Although I wanted to take the shinsa on Saturday, I couldn’t because I changed federations from KKA to AUSKF and haven’t gotten an AUSKF number yet. I’m not too pleased with the direction KKA is going, which is why I changed. AUSKF also has a bigger and more advanced field of practitioners, and the judging is more… legit. I’ll take it in the AEUSKF April one, since the logistics of that are easier to work out.
Anyways, that aside, the biggest disappointment with Saturday was not being able to attend the godo-geiko, mainly because I wanted to geiko with Sugawara sensei and learn from him, him being a big factor in my continued passion for jodan.
Sunday was fun. I got to the finals of the nidan division, which had a LOT of young kids. It’s good to see that the future of midwest kendo is so bright. NYC did well. NYC A got to the finals. In my team, NYC B, I went against Oinishi? Onishi? Something with an O, from Columbus JLS with Katayama sensei as Taisho. Strong player, I think I could have gotten him. As it was, we tied, and NYC B lost to them. AND NYC A lost to them in the finals. I strongly believe Kang sensei could have gotten Katayama sensei, but he was wayyyy off that day.
What’s very interesting is that as I progress in kendo, my ability to observe and notice the small details are becoming exponentially better. I think that’s because I’m starting to have more of a concrete idea of what I want my kendo to look like. Meaning, I actually have an ideal to work towards. So far, it’s only with regards to my own kendo and not anybody else’s.
Things I noticed:
- Need to stop ham-fisting left hand when I’m nervous or tired
- More relaxed hit
- Better footwork needed
- I “pop” my shinai too much & grip it with my arm & not my wrist
- Hit through more
- Right arm to stiff – not flicking the shinai, but muscle throwing
- Raising shinai UP above head after raising shinai to set and “sink” the shoulders works really well for me
- More fling with body – hit with the body, not with arms
- Morote kote SUUCKKSSSSSS
- But not in geiko. Weird, because in geiko, I get it 8-9/10. I think it’s an issue with my tightness in shiai.
Advice I got and things I noticed from other jodan:
- Better suri-ashi
- Keep kamae while moving back instead of breaking it
- More wrist flexibility
- Reset to kamae QUICKLY
- Wisconsin jodan guy:
- Interesting alternating feet technique & bulldoze through technique
- Throw my shinai for kote, not hit DOWN.
Homework for me:
- At home:
- Suburi with heavy oar bokken thing
- At practice:
- Attack with no hesitation
- Be aggressive
- Kote practice
Kang sensei’s guide to Suburi
- Don’t dip up & down on forward and backward steps
- Don’t straighten arms – keep them bent, but they shouldn’t move from this bent position
- Bend right elbow OUT and not IN to the side – this allows for more flexibility for debana waza and do-uchi.
- Lift shinai up with your upper back muscles
- And lift the shinai UP and not back – keep arms in their position (keep elbow position the same)
- Think of lifting the shinai up with your left wrist
- Hold breath
- Flex abs, use your back, keep it tight.
- Should feel tension in the back and hands.
- Keep shinai lower (personal issue for me)
- My shinai was high because I was bending my elbows too much
- Hold more tightly with 3 end fingers.
When he first explained this, I didn’t get it, but after a while, I started to feel that tension he was talking about. I think a better way to describe it might be “tautness”. I could usually do about 200 suburi no problem. With this method, even 10-15 is difficult. I think it’s because when I’m doing suburi this way, I feel like a bow that’s being drawn and slightly relaxed, then drawn fully again, and then relaxed a little bit again. It’s super tiring. But I can definitely feel an improvement.
Kang sensei also told me about fumikomi. Typically, people stomp DOWN, in an effort to make more of a sound. That was the case for me for my jodan (and chudan LOL). But he says that during fumikomi, the body should have a “눌르는” feeling. 눌른다 is like pressing down, but the way he used it is like suppression. Almost like compressing what’s in front of you forward and down. Effectively, it’s less of a vertical stomp and more of a horizontal motion. Done correctly, he says it should feel like the skin of your toes are splitting. When I got it done correctly, according to him, I felt the slapping sensation on the front third of my feet, as if the force was pushing the skin of my toes off from the toenails. I have yet to get this feeling with my left foot fumikomi for jodan.
I’ve seen katate jodan before on youtube, particularly with Shodai’s geikos against other jodans. Recently, I tried it in practice, against jodan, and it’s really good. With the recent heavy bokken practice, the shinai’s been feeling super light, so it was no problem.
There were several noticeable advantages:
- It can be very sharp, and sort of forces you to use your body since you can’t throw your shinai with the right arm.
- Takes away one big target (the right kote)
- It was very effective for all three strikes: men and both kotes
- Lower hand position = harder for opponent jodan to hit
The single biggest con that I can see is that it can be tiring, but for somebody like me, it was a good thing to go for. It is, essentially, limited by how physically fit you are. Another con is tsubazeriai, but just being smart about it should be all that’s needed. But yeah… I think I’m going to play around with this for a while.
Form wise, you can rest it on the head or do it like shodai
I tried both. I think the resting it on the head gives it almost a nito daito-esque form because of how off to the side it is. Because of this, the left kote is way back in comparison to the regular jodan. If you’ve ever gone jodan vs nito, you know how hard and annoying that low, far back kote on the nito is to hit from jodan. But holding it more in front allows for really sharp strikes, almost like jabs. I think I could work with either.
- I could NOT hit the do-uchi like the sensei in the video.