December 24, 2007

Memphis Club Members make SEUSKF Team for AUSKF Nationals

Congratulations to Jeremiah Mazurek, William Thornton-Leonard, Yuka Kamimura, and Masumi Kamimura who were all selected as members of the All-Southeast U.S. Kendo Federation Team.

They will compete on the weekend of July 4th, 2008 at the All-U.S. Kendo Federation National Tournament in Las Vegas.

The Southeast U.S. Kendo Federation (SEUSKF) covers 7 states and includes more than 20 dojos and programs.

Of the more than 350 kenshi belonging to the SEUSKF, only 32 were selected for the team.

Again, congrats!

November 06, 2007

Kajitani-sensei and An Giang (Arkansas Kendo) in action...

Just found this video from the 2007 Nabeshima Cup held in Dallas earlier this year.

Several good shots of An Giang and Kajitani-sensei (wearing white hakama/keikogi) in action here...

Enjoy!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-w2IMhpBI_I

November 02, 2007

2007 SEUSKF Senior Division Finals - Maeda v. Hyun

An Giang of Arkansas Kendo has forwarded this link to a video of the 2007 SEUSKF Senior Division finals between Maeda-sensei (7.dan) and Hyun-sensei (5.dan).

Check it out!
Maeda-white (starting on the left side of the video)
Hyun-red (starting on the right side of the video)


http://youtube.com/watch?v=OUfvsqrRoCA

October 31, 2007

Attitudes toward Shiai (Part 1) - Dr. Satori Honda-sensei

This article by British National Kendo Team Coach, Dr. Satori Honda-sensei, can be found at its original location: http://www.kendo.org.uk/pmwiki.php/Main/Attitudestoshiai

_____________________
Introduction
In the previous two articles (BKA news April and June 2004), attitudes to Ji-geiko and how Ji-geiko in Kendo should be approached were covered. In this BKA news and the next one, Shiai in Kendo is examined from various angles. Kendo can be either a competitive sport or a Budo according to a Kendo-ka¡'s understanding of Shiai, and his or her attitude to fighting, watching and supporting. Having a proper comprehension and attitude to the Shiai should bring about a better understanding to the essence of Kendo as a Budo and the wonderful relationship between you and other Kendo-ka. The purpose of this article (part1) is to examine 1) the purpose of Shiai in Kendo, 2) competitors' attitudes, 3) spectators' and team mates' attitudes and 4) teachers' attitudes towards Shiai.1.

The Purpose of Shiai in Kendo
Shiai literally means, "to try each other". In Kendo, Shiai basically means "to try skills, manners, attitudes and spirit learned and acquired in Keiko, with each other in a competitive situation".Inoue (1994, p. 162) explains, "The purpose of modern Kendo is to refine one's heart which is invisible by training in Waza that are visible. Shiai in Kendo has to take place in line with this purpose." We, as Kendo-ka, therefore have to recognise Shiai as an important opportunity to develop our skills and personality and to acquire the correct attitudes to Shiai.

Attitudes of high school students to Shiai, whose only aim is to win at any cost, are quite often criticised in Japan. It is quite embarrassing to take myself as such an example, as my biggest purpose in Kendo was also to win competitions when I was a high school student. My Kendo at that time never deserved to be praised and I did not care what people really thought about my kendo, I only cared about winning. Of course, there is nothing wrong with trying to win in Shiai. You have to do your best to win, if you are taking part in a Shiai and it is also quite impolite to your opponent if you fight without doing your best. As mentioned earlier, however, aiming to develop the skills to win and to develop an understanding of the essence of Kendo and one's personality is strongly related to the concept of Shiai, how to fight in the Shiai and the results of the Shiai. Moreover, there are manners which one is expected to follow when doing one's best to win in Kendo as a Budo.

The following points discuss the various attitudes to Shiai that we are expected to take from the standpoint of competitors, supporters and teachers.

2. Competitors' Attitudes to Shiai (before, during and after the Shiai)
It is not my intention to discuss how to fight in a Shiai. It depends on who you fight against and the particular situation. Also, all of the decisions should be left to competitor[s] once a Shiai starts. It used to be quite often the case that Japanese high school teachers were constantly giving their students advice or orders on how to fight before and during a Shiai. This is an act that ignores the students' autonomy and hinders the smooth running and progress of the Shiai and the Taikai. From my experience, nowadays such acts do not seem to occur at official Taikai, but it can still be seen at practice matches. I would now like to discuss attitudes to Shiai that competitors are expected to take before, during and after the Shiai.

Irrespective of what the stage is in the Shiai, the most important thing is to control yourself. How can you control your opponent without controlling yourself? You need to calm your excitement to a certain extent before the Shiai. You need to focus only on the person in front of you during the Shiai.

You should again calm your excitement and reflect clearly on how you fought after the Shiai. You should also show gratitude and appreciation to the opponent who you just fought. It is important to be able to do all of these things if you are to be good at Shiai and learn something from the Shiai.

I will now describe these concepts outlined in more depth. The important point before Shiai is, firstly, to imagine your best Kendo, increase your confidence and start focusing only on your own individual match (in the case of a team fight, the team's score also needs to be kept in mind). Here, if you think too much about winning, you will lose patience and also be lured by your opponent's trickery and start attacking too hastily. Haste makes waste! Tell yourself that a satisfactory result will follow if you do your best and believe this, rather than thinking of winning. It is also important to know who you are fighting against and what your opponent's Kendo is like. Undoubtbly there are some people who believe that it does not matter who they fight against and that just trying to do their own Kendo is the best approach. Thinking this way is also important, especially for beginners who can use only a few techniques and may not have much tactical ability. For others, I would still recommend to increasing their concentration, imagining their best Kendo according to the opponent's type of Kendo and making tactics (but do not think too much and end up by confusing yourself) before the Shiai. By doing these things again and again before, during and after the Shiai, you will start realising what you need to think about before the Shiai and what tactics you need to adopt.

Secondly, during the Shiai, you are often driven by the necessity to modify your tactics and to control emotional stress. Off course this has to be done within a moment. The ability to cope with this is not something that you can acquire sufficiently in Ji-geiko, but you can acquire it by taking part in Shiai and gaining a lot of experience under pressure.

What competitors should concentrate on during the Shiai is: try to make the best decisions and perform to their best ability against their opponents in each particular situation.

An act, such as looking at Shinpan to confirm if you or your opponent has scored should not be done during Shiai. Even if you think that you made a perfect strike, you should concentrate only on your opponent until the opponent turns their eyes and Shinai away. In a high level Shiai, both you and your opponent will try to control each other and you can hardly see an opportunity to score. In this situation, the winner or loser can be decided by a small tactical error, made either by you or your opponent, such as dropping concentration during the match. It is important to develop the ability to keep your concentration for the duration of the whole match and to make appropriate decisions under pressure by gaining experience in the Shiai.

Thirdly, it is also important to get into the habit of reflecting on how you fought after each Shiai. In the case where you have your next match in a short period, it is recommended that you quickly and simply reflect on your previous Shiai and get ready for this next match. It is quite often the case that you do not remember how you fought if you were very nervous or you won in a very close and long match. It is very important, however, to reflect on how you fought when you were under a great deal of pressure. It would be ideal if you could watch a video someone taped. If this is not possible, ask people who were watching for their comments, and reflect again on how you fought.

In a Shiai there are always a winners and losers. What we aim for is to become a good winner and a good loser. As the author (2003, p. 141) discussed elsewhere, a good winner means one who fights with the spirit of Sei-sei-doh-doh (fair and square), is modest and has an understanding of the meaning of Shiai. Even if one wins a Shiai, one is aware of the loser's feelings and never shows off one's victory. A good loser is a person who did not win the Shiai, but still displays the same attitude and understanding as the good winner. On the other hand, a bad winner is someone who shows off his or her victory and a bad loser is someone who shows off his or her frustration as the result of losing and cannot praise the opponent's victory. These are people who have forgotten the essence of Shiai in Kendo.

We are only able to do Shiai and learn something from Shiai because there are other competitors who we can fight with, Shinpan to judge our Shiai, people who support our Shiai: recorders, timekeepers and ribbon tiers. We should never forget the purpose of the Shiai and show our gratitude to these people.

3. Spectators and Team Mates' Attitudes to Shiai
At a Taikai, we are not supposed to give competitors vocal support and advice, or to make sounds to cheer them up; we are instead supposed to support them by only clapping our hands. Spectators and teammates should be considerate so that competitors and Shinpan are able to focus only on the Shiai in the Shiai-jo and enable the management of the Taikai to proceed smoothly. It is quite understandable that everyone wants to give competitors as much support and encouragement, cheering and giving advice. However, as described earlier, all decisions should be left to the competitors once the Shiai starts. Moreover, competitors are expected to show mental strength by coping with all stressful situations by themselves as they experience the Shiai.

The most annoying thing for Shinpan in Shiai is a camera flashlight. It is again understandable that you want to take photographs of your club members fighting and that you want someone to take photographs of you fighting, but the Shinpan might miss a critical moment if you take a photograph with a flashlight as the competitors attack.

Competitors, Shinpan, spectators and Taikai officials should all have the feeling that they want the Taikai to be a wonderful experience, which they can all enjoy. The clapping of hands with all your heart and showing consideration to the Shinpan are the attitudes, which spectators should adopt.

In team fights, the correct etiquette is for team members, the manager and coach to watch or wait for their match in Seiza. It would be awkward, however, to do a Shiai if you kept sitting until it was your turn and kept rubbing your numb feet again and again while you were watching and waiting. This also does not look good. Nowadays, it is usual for team members, manager and coach to do Seiza only when Senpo and Taisho fight (and when there is a fight-off as well) and the member who fights next will wait in a standing position (of course this does not apply to people who have difficulty in doing Seiza). In team fights, it is important to feel totally involved when you watch your teammates' fighting. Although I previously stated that competitors are expected to cope with all situations by themselves, when all team members become "as one" and support their team mates, it's as if they were also fighting, the competitor will feel the strength of this support behind them and this gives the competitor both courage and confidence. If you really feel as if you are also fighting, you will find yourself moving your hands and upper body in spite of yourself as you observe your teammate's every action. One's own victory is everyone's victory in team fights.

4. Teachers' Attitudes to Shiai
It is the responsibility of teachers to make their Dojo members fight fairly, encouraging them and giving them feedback. The important thing for teachers to demonstrate during Keiko in their Dojo is how to fight and support in the correct manner. When giving feedback, teachers should consider giving the appropriate amount of feedback according to the members level. According to Aoki (1996), it is the most effective if feedback is given immediately after each performance in the practice. In the case of Shiai, however, feedback needs to be given at an appropriate time when their members are ready to accept it, taking into account the result and content of the Shiai, each member's personality, situation and so on.

5. Summary
It should be now be fairly evident that Shiai is not everything in Kendo, but another part of it. The results of Shiai do not show everything about a Kendo-ka. What is important is the way in which a Kendo-ka deals with their Keiko, fights in the Shiai, reflects on the Shiai and approaches the Keiko again, aiming to score the Ippon he or she dreams of. It totally depends on each Kendo-ka's attitude whether they develop character through doing Shiai. I would also like to mention that it is important to try to enjoy your Shiai without thinking too deeply about what I have discussed in this article. Shiai is fun and exciting. There is nothing wrong in thinking that.
We feel like we are in seventh heaven when we score the Ippon we have dreamed of. One who has experienced this would dream of having this same feeling again and again, doing Keiko very hard, repeating the same practice hundreds of times or even thousands of times.

It is my hope that many Kendo-ka will become interested in taking part in Shiai and that Taikai will become fascinating events, when lots of Kendo-ka will have the opportunity to learn and experience many valuable assets to add to their kendo.

In the next article, I would like to introduce some ways of doing Shiai practice in the Dojo. I would also like to introduce some forms of Shiai practice that take place at squad training and explain the aims behind these Shiai practices.

________________________________
References
Aoki, T. (1996) "Sports to Kokoro¨CShinrigaku-Shiten- (Sports and Mind ¨CPsychological Views)", in S. Nisugi et al (eds) Sports-Gaku no Shiten (Views of Sports Study), pp. 114-128. Kyoto: Showa-do Publishing Co., Ltd.

Honda. S. (2003) Budo or Sport? Competing Conceptions of Kendo within the Japanese Upper Secondary Physical Education Curriculum. Ph.D. Thesis. Unpublished Paper.

Inoue, M. (1994) Kendo to Ningen Kyoiku (Kendo and Human Education). Tokyo: Tamagawa University Press.

Attitudes toward Shiai (Part 2) - Dr. Satori Honda-sensei

This article was written by British National Kendo Team Coach, Dr. Satori Honda-sensei, and can be found at the original source: http://www.kendo.org.uk/pmwiki.php/Main/Attitudestoshiai

__________________________

Introduction
In the previous article, I discussed attitudes to Shiai in terms of competitors, supporters and teachers. Reflecting on these briefly, Kendo can be either a mere competitive sport or Budo according to a Kendo-ka's understanding of Shiai, and his or her attitude to fighting, watching and supporting. Whether you are able to enjoy Shiai, build up a wonderful relationship with others and make Taikai memorable depends on your attitude to Shiai. In this article, I will introduce some ways of practising Shiai in your Dojo and the purpose of each Shiai practice. I will also introduce some Shiai practices that take place at squad training. Moreover, I will also introduce what squad members are expected to learn through Shiai practice and how and with what attitude the GB Kendo team is aiming to fight at various international Taikai.

1. Shiai Practice in the Dojo
Here I would like to introduce three kinds of Shiai practice. The first one is an effective way of Shiai practice based on the official rules and regulations of Shiai. The other two are different from the official one and Shiai practice takes place using modified rules with some particular purposes in mind.

1-1. Several Phases of Shiai Practice (especially for beginners)
It is important for Dojo leaders to organise Shiai practice regularly at their Dojo so that beginners can experience Shiai and learn the rules and etiquettes essential for Shiai. It is also useful for both Dojo leaders to see how the beginners are progressing and analyse what needs to be worked on. It is quite time consuming, however, to do Shiai practice using only one Shiai court in the Dojo and Dojo members will spend much more time waiting than fighting. The following example of several phases of Shiai practice probably depends on the number of Dojo members and the number of Kendo-ka who are able to referee. If it is possible, however, it may be better to start by dividing Dojo members into a couple of groups, having one referee for each mini Shiai court and having Shiai practice in a relaxed atmosphere. By doing this, Dojo members will be able to experience many Shiai by rotation within a limited time.

At the beginners' level, once Shiai starts, they are only able to focus on attacking and defending and not being able to have time to think of rules and manners even if they fully understand them when they are not fighting. It is important for Dojo leaders to create lots of opportunities for beginners to experience Shiai and learn the rules and etiquettes by making mistakes again and again and being corrected during each Shiai practice. Off course, it is also necessary for Dojo leaders to give feedback about technical and tactical points (at an appropriate time) as well.
After beginners come to understand the rules and etiquettes, Shiai practice moves towards a more formal type and beginners should be expected to learn new things such as Jogai Hansoku, Wakare and taking positional advantage in the Shiai court. It is also important for Dojo leaders to create an opportunity for beginners to experience fighting under pressure by having everyone watch them. After getting used to this type of Shiai practice, members of an intermediate level should be encouraged to do refereeing while Dojo leaders observe them and support the smooth running of Shiai and referee practice. This does not just mean encouraging them to learn how to referee, but is a means of encouraging them to learn what is Ippon and where there are opportunities to attack.

1-2. Shiai with a Handicap
There are some ways of doing Shiai practice by modifying the rules and giving more experienced members a handicap if there is a big difference in level between members. This is not only to prevent the Shiai finishing within a few seconds, but also, by modifying the rules, Dojo leaders can intentionally make Dojo members realise certain points that they want their members to learn. For example, experienced members are told that they can only use Tobikomi-men and Debana-men. By doing this, less experienced members can challenge more experienced members in Shiai with confidence. Less experienced members are advised to try to use all the techniques they possess without hesitating. At the same time, they are also given an opportunity to learn how to use Ashi-sabaki, Tai-sabaki and Shinai to control and defend the attack of experienced members (they are not expected to use Oji-waza at this level). As the target to be attacked is only men, they will be able to deal with the attacks of experienced members without confusion and with confidence. On the other hand, experienced members are required to focus on how to create opportunities to strike Tobikomi-men and Debana-men. Beginners tend to be very defensive even if an opponent only shows a small intention to attack and their men striking tends to be quite big. In the case where an experienced member and a less experienced member try to strike men on each other at the same time, the experienced member will end up hitting the less experienced member's Shinai that he /she swings up even if the experienced member's attack is faster. Through this type of Shiai practice, experienced members will also be able to learn a lot of things such as distance and when and how to make less experienced members attack.

1-3. Modified Shiai
In this handicapped Shiai, Dojo members are divided into two groups. One group is the attacking side and the other group is the defending side. Shiai time is set for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. The attacking side has to try to get Ippon by using any means of attacking without worrying about Ouji-waza within this short period. On the other hand, the defending side has to focus only on defending by using Ashi-sabaki, Tai-sabaki and Shinai control. Winning and losing is decided when the attacking side scores Ippon or the defending side keeps defending for the whole Shiai time. This Shiai practice will be useful for Dojo members to develop their skills in Renzoku-waza (continuous attacking), Tai-atari, making feint attacks and surprise attacks, and defence. In the case of the defending side they have much more experience than the attacking side, but the area that the defending side can move within is limited. In the case that the attacking side they have much more experience than the defending side, but the targets which they can attack are limited. The attacking side should not fall into the trap of starting to strike lightly and swing the Shinai randomly as a result of getting too excited and trying too hard. The purpose of this Shiai practice is not just to compete with winning and losing in mind, but to acquire and develop the skills of Renzoku-waza, Tai-atari, making feint attacks and surprise attacks, and defence. It is the Dojo leaders' job to point out and correct any attacking and defending methods that are against the essence of Kendo.

2. Shiai Practice at Squad Training
Shiai practice for squad members during squad training involves modified matches, team matches and squad league matches on a regular basis. Shiai practice is important for selecting team members to take part in various international Taikai. More importantly, however, it takes place for the purpose of improving technical and tactical abilities, forming teamwork and making fighting spirit stronger, and also for bringing about the proper attitude of Kendo-ka through Shiai practice. I would now like to briefly introduce three types of Shiai practice that take place at squad training and the purpose of each Shiai practice.

2-1. 3~5 Minutes Shiai
In this Shiai practice, no matter how many times you score or are scored against, competitors continue fighting until the Shiai time runs out. Shiai time is usually 3~5 minutes, but this changes according to the number of squad members and guests, their levels, their physical condition at the time, and what international Taikai the team will take part in next. The purpose of this Shiai practice is to give squad members a chance to fight to their heart's content, make their bodies remember what a 3~5 minute Shiai feels like, make them develop their concentration so that they never get distracted whatever might happen and make them develop their spiritual strength so that they never give up the fight right up until the end.

In Shiai, it is sometimes the case that referees do not raise their flags even if a competitor thinks that he or she has made a perfect strike. It is also the case that an opponent does strange, violent or annoying Kendo. So anything can happen in Shiai. But whatever happens, being upset and annoyed by the referees' judgment and by an opponent's Kendo and attitude will always result in one not being able to do one's own Kendo. It is impossible to control an opponent without being able to control yourself.

2-2. Conditional Shiai
This Shiai practice begins with one competitor already having Ippon and only 60~90 seconds left of Shiai time. The purpose of this Shiai practice is to develop squad members' tactical ability of how to fight in such a situation and to make them realise what techniques they need to acquire to deal with such a situation, also to make them able to fight without losing their heads and make them develop their never-give-up spirit. As I described in the previous article, I believe that all decisions should be left to competitors once a Shiai starts. Therefore, I do not tell squad members what to do during this type of Shiai practice. Of course I will warn them if they become too keen on winning and fight in a way which is against the spirit of Kendo, which will make them give up their Shiai before the Shiai time is up, and display bad attitude to anyone because of their unsatisfactory result. I also give advice such as "You could do or could have done this and that in the situation." "You can take (could have taken) advantage if had done this." and "You need to acquire this technique if you want to do that."

It is not my intention to keep actual advice secret, but I have to omit it here due to limitations of space. Shiai time in this type of Shiai practice is quite short. Squad members are required, therefore, to fight again and again at short intervals. They are also advised to keep thinking positively and to take part in the next Shiai whatever happened in their previous Shiai. In fact the interval between Shiai becomes shorter as one or one's team keeps winning. This type of Shiai practice is quite important for training so as to be able to keep one's feeling positive before a Shiai.

2-2. Team Shiai
This Shiai practice is the closest to real Shiai as it adopts the official rules, has the same size of Shiai court as the official one and has three referees. The purpose of this Shiai practice is to make squad members experience Shiai in an atmosphere that closely resembles the real international Taikai, and to make them learn how they are required to fight as a team, how they are required to fight in the various situations in each position within the team and how to support their team members. In fact, how to fight as a team is emphasised the most in this type of Shiai practice. In a team match, just winning one's Shiai does not mean that one has done the job perfectly. How one passes a baton of fighting spirit onto the next competitor in one¡¯s team is equally important. Generally speaking, one has passed the baton on successfully if one can make the next competitor feel that you have done your best. Doing your best ideally means that you have fought so that you do not feel that after a Shiai you should or should not have done that or one could have done that. In reality, however, this is quite difficult or may be almost impossible to achieve. In the case of team members, they have been doing Keiko and having Shiai practice together for a long time and they know each other's best Kendo. They can also see, therefore, whether or not other members are trying to do their best Kendo in the Shiai.
In the team, therefore, successfully passing the baton of fighting spirit is not based on whether they could do their best Kendo in Shiai, but succeeds only when one of the team members makes the next member feel that they tried his or her best to do their best Kendo.

As for supporting other team members, squad members are required to change their way of thinking and "do their best" to support their team members whatever the result of each member's result (see BKA news August for how to support members in team matches).
What I have placed the most emphasis on and spent the most time in training on before the 12th World Kendo Championships was how each member should try to do his or her best in each situation in each position within the team and how to pass the baton of fighting spirit, support each other and fight as a team. In fact, I believe that the men's and women's teams both fought wonderfully and that all the team members got to know each other's strengths and weaknesses, encouraged and helped each other, and developed together through the team Shiai practices.

3. Conclusion
Shiai has been discussed from many angles in both articles. What I would now like to emphasise again is, as described in the summary of the previous article, that Shiai is not everything in Kendo, but only a part of it. But I do not wish to belittle "Shiai", by saying that it is just a part of Kendo, since it is such a very important part of it. It would however give me great satisfaction, if Kendo-ka came not to think negatively about Shiai and not to harbour the wrong ideas about the purpose and nature of Shiai, also that they come to a deeper understanding of the effects of Shiai and Shiai practice through these two articles.

Arkansas Kendo Club

The Arkansas Kendo Club, led by Dr. Michio Kajitani-sensei (6.dan), is quickly developing into the Memphis Kendo Club's "brother dojo."

They have a very nice website here: http://www.arkansas-kendo.com/ ...with many nice pictures, too.

Please visit the site when you get a chance!

October 08, 2007

2007 SEUSKF Shinsa/Taikai Results

Congratulations to all members of the Memphis Kendo Club for a successful venture to Atlanta for the 2007 SEUSKF Tournament and Testing!!!!

Shinsa results (successful candidates):
Kazuto Yasuda - 4.dan
Masumi Kamimura - 2.dan
Larry Runnels - 1.dan
Jeremiah Mazurek - 1.kyu
Salman Ali Abidi - 3.kyu
Chris Cole - 3.kyu
William Thornton-Leonard - 3.kyu
Nick Runnels - 4.kyu

Tournament Results:
For the second year in a row, the Memphis Kendo "A" Team tied for 3rd place, being defeated only by the eventual champions (again, for the second year in a row), Georgia Kendo Alliance "A" Team.
Team Members in order:
An Giang
Walter White
Don Crittendon
Kazuto Yasuda
Pat Register

In the individual divisions, preliminary reports are that Masumi Kamimura took 1st Place in the Youth B division (13-15 yr olds), while William Thornton-Leonard tied for 3rd Place in the Youth A division (12 yr olds and under).

Congrats to everyone!!!

September 20, 2007

Memphis Kendo Group

Here's a picture of the Memphis Kendo Club after last night's practice (minus a few absentees!).
Thanks to Emi Tanaka-san for taking this picture! (Click on the picture to enlarge it)



First row, L to R: Kento Takahashi, Seth Patterson, Rowan Troyer, Garrett Patterson, Shinnosuke Taniguchi

Second row, L to R: Kazuto Yasuda, Kentaro Tanaka, Masami Kamimura, Yuka Kamimura, Conrad Delancey, ____(?)______

Third row, L to R: Kenji Takahashi, Wayne Edge, Bill Delancey, Jeremiah Mazurek, Chris Cole, ____(?)_____, Salman Ali Abidi, Yushi Matsuura

Fourth row, L to R: Harry Dach, Don Crittendon, Rogers Gossett

(Apologies to folks whose names I can't remember!)

August 06, 2007

KENDO FOOT

*** WARNING ***
*** GRAPHIC PICS IN THIS POST ***
*** AVERT YOUR EYES IF YOU HAVE A WEAK STOMACH ***

Memphis Kendo Club has been very fortunate in the past couple of years to have many people start kendo and, more importantly, stick with it long enough to get into bogu.

Since we have so many newbies now taking part in full keiko practice, this seems to be a good time to explore the most common type of "injury" in kendo --- BLISTERS (aka "kendo foot").

No matter who you are, you WILL deal with this at some point although you may actually be fortunate enough not to experience the full glory of the pictures I've attached below.
At the end of this, I'll provide some information on how to deal with these minor inconveniences so that you can get back to practice as soon as possible.

You can click on the pictures below to expand them. I've labeled 3 areas of the foot for ease of reference. While kendo foot is not limited to the left foot, blisters and well-developed calluses typically occur there.

(A) big toe
(B) ball of the foot
(C) the whole area of the upper foot, beneath the toes


(A) is unremarkable and typical of a well-developed callus on the big toe. By expanding the picture, you may also notice a very nice callus in the crease of the big toe. This is also a common area for blisters to form... think of that area as "(A), Jr."
(C) reflects a relatively large blister that formed and either ruptured on its own or was popped/sliced by the foot's owner. In any case, the skin has dried and this is -- in my experience at least -- the best way to deal with blisters of all sizes. Pop the blister and get all the pus out of the thing, allow it to dry and then cut away the dead skin. The time it takes for this to occur will vary from person to person. More details to follow...




Now, this is a real beauty. Every kenshi should WANT to get one like this at some point in his career. (Insert gratuitous comment about "REAL kendo people..")

The area at (A) is slightly remarkable in that the toe has a callus, yet a blister still managed to form. It is starting to heal very nicely with this foot's owner routinely removing dead/dried skin from the area. This will help in the callus-building process.

Area (C) is really choice. In the previous picture, it was obvious that a blister was formed and properly addressed when there was no significant ripping of the skin. In THIS picture, the blister may have ruptured significantly on its own such that the foot's owner needed to actually clip it off. Major tearing of the skin can happen in the course of practice and on this point, I speak from personal experience. It is NOT cool. If you experience this and there's just a small rupture, you might be best served to leave it alone and let it dry out (per picture 1). If you've got a flapper, best thing is to just clip off the skin and follow these steps:

To help with the drying process, be sure to clean your blister with hydrogen peroxide first. Follow that up with a nice bandage, making use of an antibiotic gel like Neosporin, for example. This is good for when you have to wear shoes all day long at work. At night, take off any bandaging and let the blister dry. Repeat this as often as necessary. You should be good to go for practice the following week.

If by the time you get back to practice the blister hasn't healed (or healed well enough), you're probably going to need some kind of protection if you want to take part in class. Some people like to use a tabi-like thing such as this: http://www.blitzsport.com/images/shop/07-08sml.gif

These things are designed with a small patch of leather on the bottom to help grip the floor a little bit. The one time I used one, I didn't like it because it was actually slippery and made pushing off with the left foot virtually impossible. Your mileage may vary on the use of this thing.

Without question, though, a time-tested solution is plain ol' athletic tape.

This website: http://www.evl.uic.edu/spiff/KendoBlog/docs/taping.html shows step-by-step a very effective way of taping up blisters that occur in the middle of your foot. Be careful to follow the instruction on placing tape in between the toes. If you just wrap tape around your foot, it will tend to move up or down during the course of practice. Using the method from the provided link will prevent this from happening, however.


July 25, 2007

Memphis Dojo 3rd Largest in Southeast Federation

Latest update on SEUSKF membership totals puts the Memphis Kendo Club as the THIRD LARGEST in the federation out of 26 member dojos covering 7 states. Memphis Kendo Club is also the largest kendo dojo in the state of Tennessee!

1. Georgia Kendo Alliance (GA) - 61 members
2. Koryo Kendo Club (VA) - 28
3. MEMPHIS KENDO CLUB (TN) - 22
4. Triangle Kendo Club (VA) - 20
5. Tennessee Meiji Gakuin TMG (TN) - 17
Nashville Kendo Club (TN) - 17
7. South Florida Kendo Club (FL) - 16
8. Charleston Kendo and Iaido Club (SC) - 15
Il Kum Kwan (GA) - 15
10. Charlotte Kendo Club (NC) - 14
11. Orlando Kendo Club (FL) - 13
Northern Virginia Budokai (VA) -13
13. Georgia Nihongo Gakko (GA) - 12
14. Shuokan (VA) - 11
15. Baltimore/Annapolis Kendo Club (MD) - 10
16. Annapolis Kendo and Iaido Club (MD) - 8
East Georgia Kendo Club (GA) - 8
18. Meguro Kendo Club (FL) - 7
19. Renshinkan Kendo Club (FL) - 6
20. North Raleigh Kendo Club (NC) - 5
Peachtree City Kendo Club (GA) - 5
Shi Sei Kai (FL) - 5
23. Gulf Coast Kendo Club (FL) - 1
24. Emerald Coast Kendo Club (FL) - 0 (has not sent in any information)
Heaven Kumdo (FL) - 0 (has not sent in any information)
Ken Shin Kai (VA) - 0 (has not sent in any information)

By state....
1. Georgia - 101 members
2. Virginia - 72 members
3. Tennessee - 56 members
4. Florida - 48 members
5. North Carolina - 19 members
6. Maryland - 18 members
7. South Carolina - 15 members

Info on Promotionals

I have just received word from SEUSKF President Ken Strawn on the topic of promotionals.

The International Kendo Federation (FIK) has passed down new rules concerning promotionals.
The new ruling is that for ranks 6.kyu through 2.kyu, the board of examiners must consist of FIVE 4.dan (or higher).

The official current SEUSKF promotional policy is for the board to consist of a minimum of three 3.dan (or higher), therefore, the new FIK rule invalidates the SEUSKF policy.

The SEUSKF Board of Directors will discuss this issue on August 11, 2007. You may assume that the SEUSKF policy will officially change in order to parallel the FIK rules/procedures.

The SEUSKF Board of Directors recognizes that our regional federation has a shortage of 4.dan+ people and that there is more distance between individual dojos throughout the federation than any other federation of the AUSKF. For this reason, the Board will also discuss the possibility of an additional new policy to allow more promotionals in every part of the SEUSKF rather than just the one that takes place annually at the SEUSKF regional tournament.

That said, there was much discussion between Murakami-sensei (AUSKF VP-promotions) and Hori-sensei (AUSKF President) regarding the poor skill-level among many people who tested for 1.kyu at the Atlanta Summer Camp. There was some discussion regarding people being allowed to test for 1.kyu without having tested for any prior ranking.

As a result, the SEUSKF Board of Directors will also consider a new policy that no one may test for 1.kyu without a prior rank.

Updates to this topic as a whole will be forthcoming after the Aug 11 Board of Directors' meeting.

July 18, 2007

Kendo Reigi --- Etiquette

Sometimes folks can get a little lax in displaying proper kendo etiquette in the dojo.
Recently, the Memphis Kendo Club has been concentrating more on this very, very important aspect of kendo and so I thought I'd take a couple of minutes to list 20 items of importance.
Kendo reigi is not limited to just these 20 items, but these are very common and every kenshi should be well-versed in how to properly behave in class (and out).


1. When entering or leaving the dojo, bow to the front (shomen).

2. After you put on the keikogi and hakama, examine your appearance. Be sure to straighten the keikogi so that it is as flat as possible and not hanging over the koshi-ita (the small stiff section of the lower back) of the hakama.

3. Stack all your personal items neatly against the wall as not to take up too much space on the floor.

4. Many dojos have everyone line up in seiza (kneeling) with bogu immediately in front and to the right. Because Memphis Kendo Club has so many people and our floor space is not overly wide, it has become our custom to line up standing without bogu, preferring instead to keep all bogu off to the side. When setting up your bogu, first place the kote on the floor with the kote heads pointing to your RIGHT. Next, place the men face down across the wrist joints of the kote. The men should stay in place and not rock over. Place the men himo (strings) INSIDE the men. You may optionally put your tenugui (head towel) either inside the men or across the top -- at some dojos, this is not an option. It's either one or the other. If you visit another dojo, watch everyone else and follow their lead.
You should be wearing the tare and the dou by the time you line up for class.

5. Always carry or hold the shinai or bokken properly. Do not lean or rest on it; do not use it as a cane or walking stick.

6. If your bokken or shinai is not in use, store it, or alternatively, you may rest it against a wall. If you do this, be sure to do so with the tip pointing UP.

7. Do not step over anyone's equipment -- including your own.

8. Do not TOUCH anyone else's equipment (even to move it out of the way) without first asking permission.

9. Do not step over a shinai or bokken that is on the floor. If your shinai or bokken is not in use, it is probably better to refer to rule #6 above so that people do not have to maneuver around the equipment area trying to avoid stepping over anything.

10. Do not walk in front of anyone, but if this cannot be avoided, politely bow and extend your hand slightly forward, saying, "Please excuse me."

11. When you put on full bogu for class, follow these rules --
a. Put on the tenugui such that when you tie on the men, there is no "flap" sticking out from the back of the men. This is affectionately referred to by some as a "rooster tail."
b. After you have tied the men on, examine the men himo such that they are together, parallel, and not twisted.
c. When putting on the kote, put on the LEFT kote first, followed by the RIGHT.

12. During class, after you have finished an exercise with your partner, return to the center, pause, return your shinai to the sheathed position (osame to), take 5 steps back, and bow, saying "Thank you!"

13. If you MUST take a break during class, politely bow out. Take a moment to catch your breath or cool down if necessary and then work your way back into class. It is perhaps more proper that you ask permission to bow out AND bow back in, especially if you are visiting another dojo and are unfamiliar with their customs. No matter what, though, DO NOT take off the men unless you absolutely must do so. If you have to leave the floor for any reason, please let someone know.

14. During class, refrain from idle talk. Pay attention and concentrate on the lesson. If you are waiting for your turn to participate, much can be learned by simply observing others.

15. If you are sitting in class, sit in seiza (kneeling). If you are unable to sit in seiza (try to do so as long as you can), then sit properly. Do not "lounge back" with your legs extended.

16. When lining up at the end of class (as well as at the beginning of class), do so QUICKLY. Make sure the line is straight by checking the person immediately to your right.

17. The head instructor will call for the instructors to seiza, but the student line should wait for the head student to call, "SEIZA!" before kneeling. Start to kneel when the person to your right starts to kneel (much like a domino effect). Kneel quietly without moving until the head instructor calls for everyone to remove the bogu.

18. When removing the bogu at the end of class, follow these steps --
a. RIGHT kote is removed first, slightly to your front and right, with the kote head pointing to your RIGHT.
b. LEFT kote is removed and place IN FRONT of the right kote.
c. Remove the men. Do NOT let the men himo flail about haphazardly. When finished, place the himo INSIDE the men.
d. Before placing the men on top of the kote, hold the men with one hand in front of your face. Remove your tenugui with the other hand and use it to wipe away any sweat from your face. Finally, place the men on top of the kote (as previously described). Place the tenugui either inside the men or across the top. REMEMBER -- at other dojos, this may not be optional. Watch others and follow their lead if you are visiting another dojo.
e. Remove the dou, placing it in front of the kote and men. Be sure that the dou himo are not scattered about, but rather are neatly concealed.
f. Remove the tare. There are at least a couple of different methods of folding the tare obi, but the point is, do not just set the tare in front of your dou, leaving the tare obi lying out.
Although some people at Memphis Kendo Club (myself included) occasionally tie the dou and tare together at this point, the traditional custom of the club is to place the tare in front of the dou (which is in front of the kote and men) so that your name --- if you had a zekken with your name on it --- can be easily seen by the instructor.

19. After removing all the bogu, remain in seiza with your back straight.

20. After class has been dismissed, it is customary to come forward and bow once more to the head instructor individually. Also take the opportunity to bow to your dojomates individually. Again, this is customary and should always be done from seiza.

June 15, 2007

Dach-sensei's trip to California



(Kneeling: Harry Dach-sensei (center), "Big Tony" at Sensei's right)




Last weekend, Memphis Kendo Club's head instructor Harry Dach travelled to the land of fruits and nuts (California), where he had been invited to teach a seminar (gasshugu) to a group thirsting to understand CLEAN kendo. There he met quite a diverse group of eager individuals, including, among others, a serious practitioner named 'Filthy' and an American-born Japanese player learning to speak Japanese at a U.S. college.

The California dojo sensei is a giant of a man. At 350+ lbs, "Big Tony" towered over Dach-sensei. His kind personality and eagerness to learn dwarfed his physical stature. All of his students had the respect that all true martial artists come to know, and their ability to pick up what was taught, as well as their fearlessness in asking questions, made the overall experience a real joy.

Evenings were spent at Big Tony's house, with Tony's love, Barbara, there, too. She and Tony were great hosts.

Training started with Dach-sensei sharing his thoughts on the arts, including his feelings on an unwilling-to-help Federation of which he is a member. Afterwards, they jumped right into practice with basic footwork and the importance of kicking off with the back foot. Then they went on to make sure that the swing of the shinai and the stomp of the front foot all came together (ken-tai-ichi). Many explanations were given and from there, they moved onto drills both with and without the use of men and kote.

At the end, sensei led the group in kakari-geiko and jigeiko. A few problems arose when participants had problems kicking with the back foot and coordinating the hand, shinai, and the stomp (fumikomi-ashi) into one movement (ki-ken-tai-ichi). That will all resolve itself with practice, practice, and more practice.

Dach-sensei reports that the experience was fantastic and that he's grateful to have had the opportunity to meet and train with Big Tony's group.

At the Memphis Club's last practice, Dach-sensei passed on Big Tony's open invitation to all Memphis Club members to come and train with them if they ever find themselves in California.
Anyone who might be interested shoud speak with Dach-sensei for contact information and coordination efforts.

June 04, 2007

Inaugural Mid-South Taikai Results




Congratulations to Kajitani-sensei and the Little Rock Kendo Club for winning the inaugural Mid-South Taikai team championship which took place on Sunday, June 3rd, 2007!!!

And congratulations to Ken Tanaka (Memphis, pictured above) and David Biggins (Little Rock) for capturing Kanto-Sho (Fighting Spirit) awards!!

This was a great opportunity for the Memphis Kendo Club to practice with the Little Rock group, especially since both groups do not regularly get to travel to larger tournaments in light of their geographical locations. I think it's safe to say that through this event, we have all made some great new friendships.

Little Rock is to be commended for actually putting this idea into action and I think I speak for everyone in our group that it was a really great time. This takai -- the first of hopefully many, many more to come -- was designed much different from a typical tournament. Indeed, the team competition for more formal tournaments calls for a maximum of 5 players per team. For the inaugual Mid-South Taikai, however, the formal rules were altered such that both clubs would field only one team comprising as many members as could travel for the event, with the total number of match wins determining the victor. Likewise, only the students would fight for the championship, leaving the instructors and asst instructors the tasks of timekeeping, scorekeeping, and refereeing. This was a great example of a "goodwill" tournament between the clubs.

For this event, Little Rock fielded a team of 8 players, while Memphis fielded a team of 11.
Even with shimpan duties falling to the three Memphis instructors, Little Rock was on fire, winning the first 5 matches, putting the Memphis team in a very precarious position from which it could not recover.


It is hoped that, over time, both clubs will continue to grow and its members will gain more kendo experience such that this tournament will develop into a more formal setting. There really is quite a bit of potential for this to become an excellent annual event for the Memphis Club.

Congratulations to everyone who took part in the effort!
Despite having a team with 3 fewer members, Little Rock represented themselves quite well, and hopefully that will serve as a powerful motivator for our club to exact revenge next year!!

May 25, 2007

Nashville Group Practice Photos

Some recent pics from the group practice in Nashville with Maeda-sensei....







Good luck to Yasuda Kazuto-san, who will be trying for 4.dan at this year's AUSKF Summer Camp in Atlanta!!!!

April 09, 2007

Lot of food for thought...for beginners/low Kyu-ranks

Some of the things we at Memphis Kendo teach our beginners is the importance of footwork, moving forward, basic seme, big swing techniques, big voice, and ki-ken-tai-ichi. On top of all that, there is the old addage: THERE IS NO DEFENSE.. THERE IS ONLY ATTACK.

When beginners start to transition into a more active participation in class (read: wearing bogu and taking part fully in jigeiko) they sometimes tend to forget everything they've learned the first 3-6 months. Many times, people get into bogu and fall back to a basic human instinct of defense only. Some people are able to effectively carry over the concept of "ONLY ATTACK!", and they do so without regard to the consequences of their attack. In essence, they attack without fear (which is good at that level), but one of the drawbacks of this --- especially when they face someone of equal experience and rank --- is that one side attacks using a big men strike from always the same distance and with always the same timing. When this happens, the other side typically falls into the same pattern and the end result, usually, is that both sides continue to hit each other's shinai before reaching the men and a successful strike eludes both players for, seemingly, an eternity.


It is important that beginners use what they learn in regular practice, attacking without hesitation or fear, however, they cannot learn opportunities for attacking by repetitively using the same technique from always the same distance and with always the same timing.

Keep in mind that jigeiko is not "regular/kihon practice". Jigeiko is a real opportunity to work on what you've learned in class in a very practical way. It's not enough to simply kiai, push seme, and attack.... you will soon learn that that doesn't always work when the opponent is not acting simply as a target for your practice, and some real frustration can result from this.

Once you know how to do a very basic men strike in regular practice, try to use jigeiko to experiment with how to actually pull off a very basic men strike. Pulling off a very basic men strike is not as easy as some think!

PART II:
So, you know how to do big men... you have great voice... you have decent timing and ki-ken-tai-ichi. Works great in practice, but now you're having trouble in jigeiko.

What to do?

Gain the center and create an opening to attack!

Whoa. What does this mean? What is center?

In case you don't know, "center" is perhaps most simply described as "keeping your shinai pointed at the opponent" (i.e., your shinai is "in the center").

Great. Now that I know what center is, Why do I need to break it?

Basically, if your opponent controls the center, then you will not be able to attack.

Why?

Because --- without going into greater detail --- if you move to attack without getting your opponent off center, the opponent can do a number of things to nullify your attack, one of which being if he doesn't move at all and just holds his kamae, you could just kill yourself on the tip of his sword.

Ok, so how do I break the opponent's center?

Well, now you're starting to think like a kenshi. HOW to break the opponent's center is the basic, most important tactic in kendo and, regardless of how simple the concept is, pondering the "how" is what develops into more complicated and effective waza (technique) as you advance in kendo.

There are several ways to break the opponent's center, but the simplest way is to physically move the opponent's shinai off the centerline by using your own shinai.  For example, you can attempt to push the opponent's shinai down/to the side (called OSAE-WAZA) or you can attempt to push/knock it left, right, up (called HARAI-WAZA).

This particular concept of manipulating the opponent's shinai is known as "Killing the Sword" or "Killing the Kensen"...

If you regularly kiai, push forward, then attack.... You can attempt to ALTER YOUR TIMING.  Try: kiai, kiai, push forward, kiai, push forward, then attack. Or you might push forward, kiai and stomp your front foot to see what kind of reaction you get from the opponent. This is what is meant by "changing your timing".

If you experience some frustration with your attacks in jigeiko (Can't Seem to Land ANYTHING!), try experimenting with timing variations.... alter your footwork, play with your kiai (when you attack, is your kiai significantly different from when you're NOT attacking?), attack the opponent's shinai (Kill the Sword!), try to avoid the same patterns (1-2-3-GO!) of attack and change it up a little (1-GO!... 1-2-3-GO!... 1-2-GO!... etc.)

PART III:

As you progress in kendo, you will start to develop a better of sense of reading the opponent, recognizing his patterns, recognizing opportunities for attack, and so forth. You'll also learn different types of waza and over time, you'll get better at knowing what to use and when to use it. You'll discover that you can use some waza better than other waza. The kendo learning process is neverending, so, don't get too ahead of yourself.... there's plenty of time.

High-level kendo players use the same kendo basics that beginners use. The difference comes in their understanding and application of those basics which are ONLY able to develop through experience over time. There is no "quick path" to strong kendo. If such existed, 1.kyu-level players would defeat 5.dan players on a regular basis. So in the early stages of your kendo journey, continue to work ONLY on what you know and try to perfect it. THAT is the natural progression to "advanced kendo."


+++++++++++++++++++++++
Some of the items in this post were taken from Dr. Sotaro Honda's article "Learning of Tactics for Kyu-grade Holders". Honda-sensei is the head coach of the British National Kendo Team.

March 29, 2007

Memphis Kendo Club one of the largest in the Southeast US Kendo Federation

According to the most recent stats from SEUSKF President Ken Strawn, Memphis Kendo Club is the THIRD LARGEST dojo (out of 24) in the Southeast US Kendo Federation.

Stats are based on the number of people who signed up to join the SEUSKF/AUSKF.

We had 22 people sign up and since we do not force members to join the SEUSKF, this is an excellent number. Some clubs might require all members to join the federation.

The Top 5:
1. Georgia Kendo Alliance (Atlanta, GA - Arai-sensei) -- 61 members
2. Koryo Kendo Club (Richmond, VA - Hoang-sensei(s)) -- 28 members
3. MEMPHIS KENDO CLUB (Memphis, TN - Dach-sensei) -- 22 members
4. Triangle Kendo Club (Raleigh-Durham, NC - Yasuda-sensei) -- 20 members
5. NASHVILLE KENDO CLUB (Nashville, TN - Ms. Honda) -- 17 members
5. TENNESSEE MEIJI GAKUIN (Sweetwater, TN - Maeda-sensei) -- 17 members

The SEUSKF has member dojos in 7 states:
Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, and Florida.

Excellent job, everyone! Thanks for joining!

February 16, 2007

SEUSKF/AUSKF Members from Memphis Dojo

Thanks to everyone who joined SEUSKF/AUSKF this year.
Here is the final list of 22 members (our largest ever):

Harry Dach
Kazuto Yasuda
Rogers Gossett
Don Crittendon
Wayne Edge
Walter White
Billy Delancey
Larry Runnels
Adam Wilson
Nick Runnels
Corbin Runnels
William Thornton-Leonard
Conrad Delancey
Rowan Troyer
Darren Williams
Thomas Davis
Joshua Schoeneberger
Seth Patterson
Christopher Cole
Salman Ali Abidi
Jeremiah Mazurek
Jonathan Kahre

 
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