Wednesday, January 23, 2008

April 2007: Singapore Kendo Club

In April last year I was part of the training staff in a microarray course in Singapore. Unfortunately, I stayed there only four days and could not manage to visit that beautiful country.
Moving from Torino to Singapore it was a bit of shock since I passed in 10 hours flight from 5-7 C in Torino to the 32-35 C in Singapore. I had to buy some shirts and shorts to feel comfortable outdoor. However, my Torino's cloths were very useful for the training, since in the training room the air conditioning was a sort of winter thunder storm.

Searching over internet, just few days before departing from Torino, I find out the Singapore's Kendo Club, which is located in the Japanese school very near to the International Singapore Airport. I contacted them and I packed my Bogu.
Since my hotel was located quite in the center of Singapore town (the pictures show night/day view from my room),

I had to get to the Japanese School by car. In Singapore taxis are quite cheep there fore are the best way to move around. Sigapore has a lot of traffic and the trip to the Dojo was about 60 minutes long. Even the trip to the Dojo was very interesting since the driver was a martial art maniac and he told me many stories about local martial arts.
I arrived to the Dojo a little late, but fortunately they have only started the warm up with the beginners, so I managed to prepare myself. As usual every body was very kind with me.
A other wonderful characteristic of the Singapore Kendo Club is that the Dojo is conditioned. Trust me, the air conditioning is a wonderful invention if you are wearing the bogu and on the street there are 32 C and 100% humidity.
We started the training together with the beginners and subsequently the beginners continue their training with an other teacher. The training was quite nice and a bit exhausting especially because I was suffering for the jet-lag and I did not know their training schedule. Therefore, I did all my best in the open gigeiko, which I was expecting to be the end of the training but... after we did a lot of mawarigeiko, which finish to destroy me.
I got back to the hotel exhausted but very happy, the way back was again with the martial art maniac taxi driver but was only 30 minutes long. My night ended searching a still open restaurant, at the end I was eating in a sort of Chinese food market but I have to say that I could not manage to recognize what I have eaten, even though it was good.

March 2007: Choyokan Dojo, Chicago/USA

In March 2007 I had the opportunity to travel a lot. I was in Chicago at Northwestern University for a brief lesson on "microarray data analysis and mining" as guest of Platania's Lab. During my stay I had the opportunity to visit two dojos.
I contacted Sakamoto Sensei at the Choyokan Dojo and I joined their Sunday Practice at UIC Sports and Fitness Center 828 S. Wolcott Avenue, (South of Polk near Damen).
In my opinion it was an high level training session and I was very happy that they allowed me to participate even if I was a beginner. In March 2007 I had only one and half years of kendo practice and I was still 2nd kyu. As usual everybody was very kind with me.
The lesson was two hours long and it was hard, at least for me.
We started with some basic kion techniques. That part was easy, but after we started uchikomi geiko with a lot of practice on complex actions to counteract an attach. I found this part very complicated due to my limited coordination to keep a correct tsuba-zeri-ai and my poor hiki waza techniques.
After that there was mawarigeiko. At that time, I was mainly doing kote since I am quite short and I found difficult to reach the speed and the correct position to make a good men on a tall opponent. Furthermore, I was unable to create the right timing and occasion to perform a good technique.
The jigeiko with Sakamoto Sensei was very useful. After it, he told me that my feet were feeling to be too young with respect to my age (I was 46 years old). After his comment I realized that I was just moving my feet back and forward on the same place without any effect on the full body and it was useless. An other very useful observation was related to the need to keep the center of the opponent with the shinai. Those hits were very useful to improve my overall way of doing kendo.
At the end of the training I was a bit depressed and embarrassed of my low level of Kendo but happy to have practiced with persons more experienced than me.
Anyway the two hours of training were exhausting.

A collection of videos from Choyokan Dojo

March 2007: Chicago Kendo Dojo, Chicago/USA

During my staying, in Chicago, march 2007, I also contacted Mizuuchi Sensei at Chicago Kendo Dojo to ask for the possibility to practice at their site. The dojo is located at Bethany United Church of Christ, 4250 N Paulina Street, Chicago, IL 60613.
The dojo is very near to the house of my friends in Chicago. Gianni, my friend, drove me there about 45 minutes before the training, I always prefer to arrive early than late :-).
In front of the Dojo, we met a Japanese man with a broom. I thought he was a caretaker of the gym. He asked me why we were there and I told him that I asked for the opportunity to practice at Chicago Kendo Dojo.
He also asked me how long I was practicing Kendo and I told him about two years...... I was shocked when he told me that he was practicing Kendo from 74 years! That phrase was amazing, he had a very young face and I was not expecting he was over 80 years old.
He introduced himself saying that he was Frank Matsumoto. Since nobody was still there Mr. Matsumoto told me and my friend something about his long life. It was wonderful to know the many things he did during his life. He was in Europe during the second world war, it was an amazing story. But, still I did not realized who was the man in front of me.
In the mean time somebody start to show up and greeting Mr Matsumoto saying "Sensei". Furthermore, a young japanese man asked to Matsumoto Sensei to have his broom and he had to discuss a bit to avoid that the Sensei continue cleaning the Dojo.
In few minutes, about 8:00 PM, many persons arrived and finished to clean the Dojo. Many of those were Japanese. Also an other old japanese man arrived, Mr. Kadoi, the administrator of the Dojo.
When everybody was ready, we started the training and also Sensei Matsumoto participated to it. Together with Matsumoto Sensei there were other three teachers.
We started with basic techniques and suburi to warm up, then we practiced kirikaeshi and some basic kion. Subsequently, I practiced with an other student how to keep the center of the opponent to make aiuchi-men. After, we practiced a bit of gigeiko and I had the honor to practice kakarigeiko with Matsumoto Sensei as motodachi. He told me that I have to push with the left foot to make a correct men. All his comments were very useful and I still keep them in my mind during my Kendo practice.
At the end of the training all the other teachers were making general comments on students behavior. Unfortunately, due to my broken english, I only got part of those useful hits.
One of the teachers told me that I have a reasonable kirikaeshi as uchitachi but I have to work more on the motodachi side. Actually it was an important hit on which I am still working.
It was a very nice training and I was really feeling as I was always been practicing at the Chicago Kendo Dojo.
At the end of the training Mr. Kadoi and Matsumoto Sensei gave me their business cards, and I knew that Matsumoto Sensei was a 7th DAN Hanshi.
It was an honor for me to ear his stories and learning from him.
Furthermore, any time it happen to me to speak with other kendokas on my time in the Chicago Kendo Dojo, I say that I wish to be as Matsumoto Sensei when I get older than 80.
Definitively, if I will manage to come back to Chicago I will do my best to visit again the Chicago Kendo Dojo.

Dicember 2006: Nenriki Dojo London

In December 2006 I was 2nd kyu. Since I was in London to teach in a course, I took the opportunity to see if it was possible to visit a Dojo. I decided to ask to participate to a training session at the Nenriki Dojo, since there was a training on friday, which was my first free day after the course. I contacted the secretary of the Dojo and I also got the opportunity to borrow one of their bogu instead of bringing mine.
Nenriki Dojo is situated in central London, near to Elephant & Castle underground station. The Dojo is located in the Geoffrey Chaucer School.
I was a bit nervous before to attend to the training. It was the first time a was training in a new dojo. Took me some time to find the dojo, but following a tall man that was carrying a shinai finally I found the dojo.
Everybody was very kind with me and they told me that friday was a day in which less people are practicing. However, it was amazing to see the ethnical diversity present in the dojo. I even meet an other Italian.
Thinking on what I did during the training, I realized that my performance was very poor, e.g. I was stepping back when attached by the opponent, being inefficient in controlling my body, thinking too much, etc. Despite all my errors it was a very nice training and after I joined Victor Harris Sensei and the Nenriki people for few beers in a local pub.
This is a video about nenriki Kendo dojo I found on Youtube:

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Why I started this Kendo blog.

20 Janury 2008
I started practicing Kendo in September 2005 at Shubukan Dojo after 10 years of martial arts black out.
It was really a new experience after having practiced Judo, JuJitsu and Karate. When I started I was thinking that Kendo was simply a way to fight in a more safe way with respect to other martial arts, but, after a while, I realized that there was something more in Kendo practice.
At the beginning the concept of KI-KEN-TAI NO ICHI was very loose in my mind as the idea that Kendo Jigeiko is a crosstalk between the two opponents, searching for the opportunity for clean and perfect strike.
The training in my Dojo is exciting but since we know each other it is very nice to practice with guests coming from other Italian towns or from abroad.
These visits offer the opportunity to learn from the differences existing between the training of different Sensei. An other way to test the improvements in the way I do Kendo is, off course, given by the participation to Kendo competitions, but, since I have a quite busy life it is nearly impossible for me to do that.
However, I learned that that Kendo is a large world community and anybody is welcome to practice in an other Dojo as guest. Since my work give me the opportunity to travel through the world two/three time every year I decided to see if I could learn more about other way of doing Kendo visiting Dojo trough the world.
In this blog I will try to describe what I got from any of the practice I did during my trips.