Thistle cup

Posted May 3, 2008 by MarcoAT
Categories: Kendo

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The list about things I have learnt and, above all I have to improve, it is so big that I would be months writing. So, more practice and less writing, JODER!

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One year ago….

Posted April 28, 2008 by MarcoAT
Categories: Kendo

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Hi all. Today’s post is not about kendo basically. Today’s post is about my daughter’s first birthday. Yes, she is turning one already! Gosh, time goes by so quickly. I know one of these days I’m going to wake up and she is going to be fifteen. Happiness is the world which could define “almost” everything around her -I could complete the list with words such as concerns, worries, tantrums, smiles, surprises.

But my point today is not about my daughter, is about her mother, so my partner, and what she showed me one year ago. Women are the forgotten ones in this story.

One year and one day ago, my partner was, as any other pregnant woman, the most beautiful girl in the world; and she knew that. Showing off her massive tummy, a voluptuous goodness, she was a radiant reincarnation of the mother nature. One day after, she was “just” a new mum, another one. Her body was deformed by having a baby nine months there, she couldn’t walk, hormones going down and down made her be depressed. She wasn’t important anymore, any care, attention, hour, minute second moved from her to that wonderful baby she had inside. As any other new mum.

What happened in between? Nothing bad, only a labour. Maybe for a midwife or a doctor, labours is a common practice. It is their work. To me it was complete revelation about women. How strong they are, how committed, gosh, I could see a authentic fighting spirit. Ten hours in terrible pain: and pushing and pushing and go forward, there is no step back. As bigger the pain, as closer the end is.

My girlfriend had always told me she couldn’t cope with pain, she couldn’t do it, she was really afraid. But she did it, of course she did it. I saw her in every contraction, from the very first one until the one before she experimented the morphine’s pleaser nine hours later. I was next to her the whole time, I was so lucky of being there, I was so lucky of assisting her and watching …. that. That was fighting spirit, the real one.

She wasn’t just a new mum the day after: she was the strongest and most beautiful girl ever. As any other new mum from they partners and beloved’s eyes.

Today it is my daughter’s birthday, a wonderful day, of course, but, also, it is, to me, my girlfriend’s day.

Thistle cup is coming!

Posted April 24, 2008 by MarcoAT
Categories: Kendo

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Oh yes! The Thistle cup, the most important shiai placed in Scotland is coming, Saturday 3rd of May, Aberdeen. So the shinais are being oiled, kiais tunning and teeth are being sharpened. Yes. I recognize it: I like the “sport face” of kendo. I love it, actually. There are people in Kendo who dislike the idea of competition. They believe that competition infects kendo with a sporty attitude, leaving the martial art aspects just for the books and kendo kata. Ok, fair enough. They have their reasons, they probably are right in some aspects and, of course, they are respected by me.

But I don’t need to agree with. This feeling is great: being in the court, step in, bowing, sonkyo and go! You have two or three minutes -depending on competition- to beat your opponent and not been beaten. If you win, you think for a few seconds you are the king of the world, if you are defeated, you fell miserable. I haven’t had a lot of experiences in shiais, just the Kyusha shiai in London and some casual shiais that the uni guys state every fortnight. Love at first sight I must say.

If I talk about my preparation I should talk about my lack of preparation. I have just moved house, so two weeks out of kendo, plus personal and professional duties make me train just a week. This week, promise, I do some suburi, at least.

How is this related to my “way to shodan”? I believe shiai can have a didactic approach: You must control your nerves, you have a short time to show what you know and there is no second chance if you don’t offer your best. And, even doing your best performance, you can not get it. Do your best whatever the match end up and control yourself, basically.

Honda sensei brings us very good information about attitude to shiais in this document. As usual.

Sensei’s hangover (I)

Posted April 17, 2008 by MarcoAT
Categories: Kendo

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Definetely no, I am not going to talk about how senseis use their secret super geiko to overcome a morning after a night plenty of beer, friendship and popular songs. No, I am talking about my feelings after a few sessions with high skill senseis. With tons of new concepts and basics revisited, my mind remains blur for a few weeks until that knowledge is assimilated (or completely forgotten).

Last month we have been pleased to hosted Kobayashi sensei, Murata Sensei and a well known kendo-ka in the UK, Honda sensei. Very different styles, indeed. In this post, I’m focusing my attention in Kobashi’s teaching, leaving for a next one Honda’s visit.

Kobayashi sensei (nanadan kyoshi, Assistant Professor Sport Science, Jintendo University) and Murata sensei (rokudan renshi, Italy) visited us thanks to our sempai, Andrea Fontanot and his guys from Edinburgh University Kendo Club. Kobayashi sensei is a mature man, versed both kendo and koryu, who with you can feel the old tradition of Kendo. He worked in the very basics and enlighted us with some very useful concept about kamae, grip or eye contact.

  • Kamae: straight, looking forward, your head, shoulders, even your toes. Showing confidence, discipline, authority, you show your kendo even before than adopt chudan.
  • Eye contact: Looking at the eyes of your opponent from beginning until the end. When you are moving forward, your eyes show your spirit moving forward, when you are moving backwards, your spirit is still moving forwards. Your eyes reflect your spirit.
  • Grip: always in the same place. Do not release your grip when you raise your arms to deliver a cut, no “off/on” in your gripping. Always on, and when doing tenuchi “more on”. Loosing your grip when raising your arms provokes you need an extra effort, time and movement when you try to cut, loosing speed and, over all, power. It makes your cuts more defined, more real.

He taught us, of course, more things, included who old koryo forms are related to modern kata and Kihon ho. However, my focus is just in the mentioned points. As you can imagine, it is hard, very hard when your very basics are taught again.

Seme, seme, seme…MEN!!!!

Posted April 8, 2008 by MarcoAT
Categories: Kendo

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This is my third attempt to write a post about seme and I’ve just realized of one thing: how can I dare to write about something which I have not idea at all?

Acording to my sensei, the simplest definition of seme (presure) is to provoke someone to do something. Nothing else. And he does it, he moves his kensen one inch or moves his body slightly, and I rise my arms instictivily, opening my do, or my kote, or I lost the center pointing my shinai somewhere else, or my kamae. When I try it, there is not answer from my counterpart at the moment, of course. Why??? I move my shinai and nothing, showing my loudest and most enthusiastic kiai, nothing, move my body forward, result: nothing. Am I not scary enough? Surely not. Is it, perhaphs, a matter of confidence, attitude, good kamae, good waza and, my biggeste weakness, calm and cold blood?.

Seme is one of those misteries I’d like to discover. Or, at least, scratch its surface. Or scratch the surface of the surface of the surface. I think a good starter is calm me down and think twice before going bersek looking for any hit. In fact, good seme seems that work; one of these days I’ll post a video from my very first shiai: the only moment I stayed calm and I did “something like seme”, it was the moment I got my first point ever.

By the way, I’m moving home, my flat is a mess plenty of boxes. This, plus catching up a lot of things means 10 days with no kendo. NO WAY!

Breathing (Kokyuu)

Posted March 29, 2008 by MarcoAT
Categories: Kendo

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Sometimes, it looks as the world spins about the same topic. In this case is breathing (in a kendo way, of course). Recently, I read again Honda sensei’s articles about Attitute to Jigeiko (reading these articles is a must for any kendoka) and, among a lot of stuff, Honda sensei spots that kata-geiko is the best way to learn breathing. The night before my last practice, looking for new links to this blog, I found these articles about mokuso and correct kamae (spanish only) which remarks the importance of breathing and, surprise, surprise, first half of my last practice was about breathing. What is going on??

I am not very interested about this aspect at the moment, I have more important aspects to improve and to be focus on, but, once I got some basic information, why not keep on eye? Who knows, maybe, one day, it becomes natural…

Kendo breathing is based in diaphragmatic breathing and, for a number of reasons, it isn’t new for me. In fact, I have a good basic knowledge about how it works and I practice it almost everyday for five minutes with one of my students in the High School. A good diaphragmatic breathing provides your body a bigger income of oxygen, therefore, it can help you to have more energy, recover quicker when exhausted, be more concentrated, sing and raise your voice without damage your throat (perfect for teachers), relax yourself… (nothing about understanding your partner when she is in a mood, sadly)

Trying to do kata or kihon with an adequate breathing pattern (some ideas clicking here) drives you to a another mind state. I am not talking about karma or something like that, but who have practiced apnea before knows what it is about. On the other hand, being concentrated in this new way of breathing, made me have a lot of silly mistakes such as footwork or proper cutting. Kirikaeshi is ok, I am not able to do it in just one breath but I try to use one of the pattern that Honda sensei taught us last year (Breath, men, Breath yokomen, men, breath yokomen men turn finish breath). However, attempting Ji-geiko using this breathing is, to me at this moment, rocket science. Enough with my footwork, kamae and wazas to try to discover the rhythm of my opponent’s breathing and keep mine.

Kirikaeshi study

Posted March 25, 2008 by MarcoAT
Categories: Kendo

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Right, first proper post. 

I’d like to have a quick look to my grading a few weeks ago. To begin with, I must say I am very happy with my performance, I did my best in spite of being nervous. I couldn’t make it better so this is the best kendo I can offer you.

I am kakarite. I was lucky enough to have as motodachi Dez, probably the finest kyu of my Dojo, so it made things really easier. 

Today I would like to focus in the kirikaeshi stage, leaving the jigeiko to better moment.  

Good things I can spot: Concentration, spirit, kiai (always!), breathing, cuts (maybe).

Areas to improive (so not good things): kamae, correct maai and footwork, footwork, footwork… Gosh, I had not realized how bad my footwork can be at the moment. Above all the first mens before the yokomen. I’m crossing legs 50 cm!!! I’m raising my arms where I’m moving my left foot!! I don’t need to do that, it’s the other way around. And I have strong legs, I can reach without that impulse.

Any other comment it is more than welcome.