Saturday, December 10, 2011

December 2011: Visiting USG Kendo club in Copenhagen

This is the last trip of this year. I was in Copenhagen for the second time in my life. This time I was at the BRIC research centre for a talk and for some discussion about a collaboration project going on. I was invited by Giorgio,  which is a very smart PhD student that I met few years ago in Italy. Although December is not the ideal time to visit Copenhagen I had few hours to visit the town.
The trip was a bit tricky. Normally I fly with Lufthansa, but this time I had to use Air France since it was the cheapest flight. The connection between Torino and Copenhagen, via Paris CDG, is not the best. I arrived in Paris about 1 hour before the departure of the flight to  Copenhagen but, the connection  between the 2G terminal and the 2D terminal is a nightmare at CDG airport. The only way is taking a shuttle bus and pass again the security check. The result of such procedure was that I got on the plane few minutes before departure. Off course, my luggage, i.e. my bogou!, was not loaded on the Copenhagen plane. So at the Copenhagen airport I had to ask to deliver my luggage to the hotel. Fortunately I arrived on Sunday evening and the training was on Monday evening so I was expecting to be so lucky to get the luggage on Monday morning.
I spent the evening in a nice sushi bar with Giorgio and I learned some things about leaving in Copenhagen. First of all bicycles are the most used method of transportation, it is amazing to realize that the main noise in the street is made by the bicycles' wheels rolling on the street!
Furthermore I learned that, as Christmas is approaching, Xmas parties are organized between colleagues, friends and gym people, so the period is very busy! It is notable that Xmas parties are sort of standardized, you start with a "gloog", a wine hot punch, and the party continues with a lot of food and drinking snaps! The party ends with a very good cake made by cream, nuts and cherry glassa. I tested the cake at the caffeteria at lunch time and...I am still digesting it ;-).
In Copenhagen everything is extremely well organized, you can also find indication where pets should walk!
 On Monday I spent some time with Giorgiotalking about our research project and later in the afternoon I had a brief walk in Copenhagen. It is really a nice town. I had an early dinner, at 17:00 with Giorgio. This is really very early for an Italian, but since I had to go to the dojo at 20:00 I had to eat early, also because after 22 it is practically impossible to find any food in Copenhagen, unless you look for a kebab.
About 19:30 I walked to the USG Kendo Club, it was only a couple of Kms away from my hotel. I got to the University gym where the USG people practice on Monday, see picture below, the entrace is on the right side of the building. When I arrived I spent some thime talking with two young kyusha that are practicing at USG Kendo Club. I learn from them that there are few little Kendo Dojo in the country. After a while few other people arrived and I met Martin, that was my contact to attend to the practice. Martin told me that, since there was a very nice Christmas party on Saturday
 probably we would not have too many peersons at the practice. We started about 20:00 we were six with the bogou and about 10 beginners without bogou. We started a warm up all together. Warming up was very similar to our training in Torino, a little bit of run, stretching and basic suburi. After, one of the students with the bogou took the very beninners, as instead we continue some basic techniques with some the advanced beginners. We worked a bit on the foot work and on big techniques: men, kote, do, kote/men.
After we did the Mentsuke and we had various rounds of kirikaeshi, followed single and combination of techniques. About 21:30 we stop for few minutes and we made a full round of mawarigeiko. The two young students were very committed, and although they need further practice, the were showing a good timing and attitude. Also the jigeiko with the more experienced people was very nice.
It was a very nice to practice. We finished few minutes after 22:00 and a grab all my stuff and decided to have a shower at the hotel. I really hope to get back in Copenhagen in the futere and practice again at the USG Kendo Club, mybe in Spring when the weather is more pleasant.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

October 2011: Singapore Kendo Club

It was totally unexpected, I got an invitation to participate to the 1st NGS Asia Meeting in Singapore in October.
I was in Singapore the first week of October, a very busy week, a lot of science and talks at SiGN. It was a very useful trip and off course I managed to have two session of Kendo!
I was very glad to be back at the Singapore Kendo Club. Going to the SKC is now like visiting some old friends and I have to thanks a lot Yeo sensei and all the students for the warm welcome I get every time I go at SKC. This time I managed to practice twice, on Sunday and on Wednesday, at the Dojo in the Japanese Changi School. This time was my first time on Sunday training, a lot of people, very impressive! On Sunday morning are present many sensei and it was very nice to practice. On Sunday the first hour is dedicated to kendo no kata and I am very grateful to Yeo sensei since he introduced me to the kodachi kata 8 and 9. It was very useful and interesting. Since it was my first time I only managed to acquire the basic movements but it was a very useful start. After we started the usual warn up and suburi. After men-o-tsuke we started kion and jigeiko. During jigeiko I managed to practice with Takamori sensei ->
As suggested by Doug sensei from Seattle Kendo Kai, during my trip in Seattle on last July, I am trying to improve my seme. I tried to make pressure to Takamori sensei but it did not work at all. After the training I asked him about the jigeiko and he told me that I was getting too near before attaching and the seme was not present. I knew that seme is not an easy task, but I am very far away from a correct application. On the basis of sensei comments I realized that, trying to apply pressure to the opponent, I was mainly getting near to him instead to create the right occasion to attach. I have to add to the work with the body also the work with the shinai, to create an opening that will make more easy the attach....I will continue to try.
I really enjoyed the training on Sunday. After I was very grateful to Yeo sensei for the invitation to participate to the lunch for the departure of one of the Japanese sensei. We went to the restaurant where the chef have invented the curry crab. I also learned some new things about Singapore. Specifically Yeo sensei told me that all the Changi area was produced transferring the soil from the internal hills to grab new space from the sea.
We had a very delicious lunch with a lot of food that I never tried before. I had a very pleasant talk with a Kendo student sit near me and with my Greek friend Periklis that is now living in Singapore and practice Kendo at SKC. It was a very nice Sunday.
On Wednesday the training was pretty similar to the one on Sunday although the number of students was little less. The training was very nice and I managed to have some jigeiko with various students that I met during my previous trips to Singapore and also with Renata.
I got back in Italy on Saturday and I was grabbed by the teaching duty and working routine.
Now I am waiting to meet again Yeo sensei and the Singapore Kendo team at the Kendo Championship that will be held in Novara in May 2012.

Friday, September 16, 2011

September the 12: Visiting Seishinkan Dojo in Bologna

Last week I was in Modena to run a course on Microarray data analysis for one of the European ECOST actions. It was interesting, students were all very motivated and I enjoyed a lot the interaction with them. As usual I took the chance to practice Kendo. Unfortunately the dojo in Modena had a training that was not fitting my schedule but I was very lucky since I found that the Seishinkan Dojo in Bologna was training right at the end of my teaching day. It was ideal to get relaxed and enjoy Kendo. I contacted the Stefano Betti, which is the instructor of the Dojo, and he agreed for my visit. Unfortunately the day I went to Seishinkan Stefano was in holiday and I could have the chance to cross the shinai with him. Anyway he put me in contact with Gianandrea Maccaferri, which is the President of the Dojo. I finished my teaching duty at 17:30 and I departed to Bologna. The distance is very limited but roads were very crowded and I managed to arrive to the Dojo just few minutes before the 19:00.
The Seishinkan Dojo practice is at Scuole Grosso, via Cristoforo da Bologna, 29 - Bologna. At my arrival I fund immediately a very nice and warm atmosphere.
Gianandrea gave me some information about the dojo and he also told me that they were starting a new course for children.
The week I went in Modena it was surprisingly hot, but it was shocking the temperature in Bologna. My car thermometer was indicating 32 Celsius at 19:00. Therefore, since the Dojo is located in a gym made of concrete, I let you image the temperature.... I was wet already after the initial stretching.
The training started at 19:30 with a brief run that was followed by a very complete session of stretching. I found it very very useful also because this was only the second training after the summer holidays. After stretching we moved to basic suburi and after we did some basic kion without the men, in part because there was a mixture of experienced and beginners and also because it was HOT!
I got some interesting tips about the kion. Specifically I found very interesting the kirikaeshi made doing the yokomen on the kote of motodachi staying in jodan no kamae. It was very useful to control the right inclination of the shinai and the strength of the hit.
After we did men tsuke and we started mawarigeiko. That was very hard! I was feeling a lot the hotness and I was already tired after the second jigeiko. I think this is the effect of the good food I had during the holidays in Sicily.
Sweating a lot I managed to get to the jigeiko with Gianandrea, which is a quite tall person. I was very much at the end of my energy but I tried my best. After a bit in judan no kamae a moved to jodan also because the change of the kamae provided a bit of time to recover. I liked a lot the jigeiko with Gianandrea but I was also glad it was the last one.
After the rei we got food and refreshing drinks because it was the birthday of one of the students. I was so so thirsty! It took me about half an hour and some litres of water to refill me.
At 22:00 I was back on the way to Modena where I directly went to sleep.
I hope to visit again the dojo in Bologna it was a nice experience!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

29th of July: Visiting NORTHWEST KENDO CLUB

Yesterday was my last night in Seattle and I visited the NORTHWEST KENDO CLUB. I got there thank to the transportation kindly offered by Steve from the Seattle Kendo Kai. The sensei of the dojo is Koike sensei (7th Dan). He travels a lot and I was not sure I could meet him. But fortunately he managed to come back on time from a summer camp in California and yesterday night he was driving the training. The number of members in this period is about 15-20 since many people is in holidays. Steve also told me that, since all the dojo belong to a common association, a student from a dojo that goes for a keiko in an other dojo is treated as guest and he has not to pay any extra cost for the training. Very convenient situation in Seattle. Also at NORTHWEST KENDO CLUB after the warm up we started basic suburi and we finished with three repetition of 30 choyaku men. We then did the men tsuke and we started with kirikaeshi and few other basic kion. Since many of the people of the dojo has to undergo to grading examination we had a mawarigeiko of about one hour. During the mawarigeko I had the opportunity to practice also with Koike sensei. It was very very instructive and useful.

After the training we went out to a restaurant near the dojo for a beer and an hamburger.
I was sitting right in front to Koike sensei and catching his advices. He told me that he observed my posture and he saw that my posture has two main problems. The heel of the back foot is too high and this does not allow me to push enough with the back foot during the attach. The second point is due to the fact that when I do fumikomi I am elevating too much the front foot.
I took in strong consideration the points raised by Koike sensei and I will work, starting from next September, on them.

This is the link to the FB accountof NW Kendo club:

Friday, July 29, 2011

28th of July: Keiko at Sno-King Kendo Club

This is my third day in Seattle, I have not seen very much of the town since I am too busy with the Conference. Also this morning we had quite interesting talks and the afternoon tutorial was useful although not so well organized. Also today I left the meeting at 4.00 PM and at the Hotel I had a little nap before the arrival of Jeff Marsten (7th Dan), the sensei of the Sno-King Kendo Club. The Sno-King Kendo Club is located in the north part of Seattle and we strugled a little to get there due to the heavy traffic. Jeff sensei if a very direct and clear person I liked his very direct way of speaking. When we arrived to the dojo all the members introduced themselves to me and before the start of the training Jeff sensei told to the students that I was coming from Italy and I was enthusiastic to cross the shinai with them.
After the Rei we started the warm up and the suburi. The participants were very variegated there were students with/without bogu and children with/without bogu. In total we were about 30 people. We finished suburi with three rounds of 50 chōyaku men. After men tsuke we started various rounds of kirikaeshi followed by big men, small kote-men and iki-waza techniques. After we had free jigeiko. In Sno-King Kendo Club people from sandan mainly act as motodachi during the free jigeiko and I also started with them. I did not expected to be so popular, in the sense that I was continuously having persons asking to practice with me and jigeiko after jigeiko it was getting more and more difficult. The student quality level is quite high and the vast majority is YOUNG! Never the less I tried my best. Specifically I tried to apply the pressure to the opponent, one of the points raised by Doug sensei at Seattle Kendo Kai club. One think I realized from the keiko I did was that this time the fighting distance was good, I cannot be not sure that it was due on my "pressure" or simply by the fact that they can manage to make a good stroke even from longer distance. The critical issue I found in my behaviour was the lack of control of the opponent at the end of the attach. After an attach I was loosing attention and the opponent frequently managed to apply multiple iki techniques. I have to work on this point. An other issue is the fact that I focus everything in a single attach as instead the Sno-King kendokas always tried to apply multiple techniques. I have to admit that this is actually an issue for me since if I apply multiple techniques I loose precision and posture. Fortunately at a certain point people stop to ask for keiko and I could managed to take off the men and slowly bring back the breath to normality. It was hard, challenging but also wonderful!

I like the training very very much, but, as I highlighted at the end of the training, I was also very happy that it was finished! After , we went out for dinner and it was the first time I tried a Korean Barbecue, it was a delicious dinner with a lot of beer and nice talk about kendo and other general topics. Great night! Jeff sensei was also so kind to bring me back to the Hotel. It is clear that also this night I had no problem in finding my way to the arms of Morfeo.

27th of July: Keiko at Cascade Kendo Kai

This night I slept like a baby and I weak up at 7:00 right on time for going to the Developer day at BioC2011. Very interesting day, I got a lot of interesting information that will be useful for my work in Italy. I left the Conference at 4:00 and I got back at the Hotel. At 6:00 PM Gary Imanishi sensei picked me up and we went together to the Cascade Kendo Kai. Cascade Kendo Kai is located in Mercer Island, which is in the middle of the Sattle lake. It is a very beautiful place, where buildings are very well integrated with the environment. During the trip to the dojo I had the opportunity to talk to Gary sensei, he is a very pleasant person and we had a very nice time discussing about Kendo. When we arrived at the dojo I met again Brian, which is the sun of Gary and run the dojo together with Gary sensei. Brian was at the training at Seattle Kendo Kai the day before. I met all the other people of the dojo and at the time we started the training we were about 15. Also here the environment was very pleasant. Gary sensei is tightly linked to very traditional Kendo. After a warm up and suburi we started practising Kendo no kata and we focus only on Ippon me, but not simply repeating the movements, but trying to get the mental contact between the opponents. Gary sensei told us that shitachi should press uchitachi in a way that uchitachi is forced to attach. It was very difficult but very interesting. After we put the men and after few rounds of kirikaeshi and basic techniques we practised Ippon me with the bogu. It was very very difficult, I was unable to get the right distance from the opponent, timing was no was a little disaster, but useful since it highlighted the critical points in my Ippon me, which were less visible with the boken practice. After we did few round of mawarigeiko and I nearly managed to practice with all the people. I had a very nice keiko with Brian which is very smart and quick.
Unfortunately we run out of time and I could not managed to practice with Gary sensei, but I had the opportunity to see the last keiko that Gary sensei had with his sun Brian.

After the training It was a very nice surprise the invitation for dinner, we went to a pub were we got very good food and gorgeous fresh beer! We spent the evening talking about Kendo and other topics like very old friends. The time passed very quickly and Gary sensei was so kind to take me back at the hotel.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

26th of July: Keiko at Seattle Kendo Kai

Flight from Frankfurt to Seattle was fine and, most important think, my bogu arrived in Seattle with me, giving the possibility to have keiko at Seattle Kendo Kai. I got a lift from Steve, a second generation Italian living in Seattle. At the dojo I met Doug Imanishi sensei (7th Dan) which told me that he met in the past my sensei.
As usual I found a very friendly environment.
Before starting Doug sensei presented me to the dojo people and he said a very important think in my opinion. He highlighted that anybody practising Kendo visit an other dojo he will find friend to whom he can exchange knowledge and he can practice with the others without any problem because Kendo is "Kendo" everywhere.
The training started together for people with or without bogu. After a brief warm up followed by basic suburi we did basic ashi sabaki training with the beginners. Subsequently the training was splitted in two groups: people without the bogu and people with bogu.
We put the men and started with slow kirikaeshi to acquire the right posture and zanshin. We also executed single and multiple techniques as, big men, kote men, kote men men and some counter attach techniques as debana men.
After we started mawarigeiko, changing partern every 4 minutes. This part was very hard also considering the fact that I had 11 hours flight and 7 hours je-tlag (it was 8 PM in Seattle but my body was still feeling I was in Italy at 4 AM!).
I was trying to find the right opportunity to attach but I only succeed few times. I realized that I was loosing rapidly the right distance as the opponent was entering in my space.
After the mawarigeiko we had the opportunity to practice with the sensei and I had a brief keiko with Doug sensei.

After the end of the training I asked Doug sensei for some suggestions and, on the basis of his answer, I realized why I was loosing the right fighting distance during mawarigeiko.
He told me that he was not feeling any pressure from me and this is expected from a sandan. I realized that, during mawarigeiko, I was too much thinking on the search for the opportunity to strike and I completely forgot the seme.
At the endo of the training Steve took me back to the hotel and I rapidly searched a restaurant to eat a quick dinner. I found I nice fish restaurant on the 4th avenue and I got a very good wild Alaska salmon cooked perfectly and very tasty. I finished the dinner with a creme brule' and I got back to the hotel. I had a quick shower and I have to admit that I lose conciousness as sonn as I got in the bed.

Below the video, kindly provided by Seattle Kendo Kai, that gives an overall view of the training:

SEA Jul-26 2011 from Seattle Kendo Kai on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

On the way to Seattle

I am at the Frankfurt airport nearly ready to board to Lufthansa flight to Seattle.
It is my first time in Seattle and is also the first time I participate to the Bioconductor Meeting in USA. I am very excited of that, since the meeting program is very very interesting.
As usual when I travel I bring with me my bogu and this time it is going to be also very very interesting for the Kendo side.
Seattle has a high number of Kendo Clubs and in the four days I will spend in Seattle I will visit four of them:
Seattle Kendo Kai
Cascade Kendo Kai
Sno-King Kendo Club
I think this time jet-lag will not be an issue since I will be so tired every night and I will sleep like a baby.
The first impression I got was incredible nice. I got an enthusiastic answer to my request to practice in the various dojo and people were so kind to provide me also transportation from the Hotel to the dojo and to lend me a shinai.
Shinai transportation actually became an issue since the majority of the airlines move to the one piece concept that mean only one piece of luggage can be loaded on the plane. It mean that a shinai has to be shipped as extra luggage and a round trip on overseas flights is going to cost 300 euros. Therefore it is really not feasible to carry it any more.
Thank to the kindness of Seattle kendokas I will get one for the training on each dojo. Actually I am looking forward for the one I will use at the Seattle kendo Kai since Doug Imanishi told me that: "We will make sure to let you borrow one that is guaranteed to hit your opponent!"
Now is time to board.......

Thursday, July 14, 2011

July 2011: Visiting Vienna Kendo Club

I am in Vienna for the HiTSeq workshop a satellite meeting of ISMB/ECCB 2011. Today was a very long day I departed for Torino by car at 5:oo AM to go to the Malpensa Airport. This time I had to depart form Malpensa since Torino airport is closed for maintenance. Getting to Wien was a long trip, I had to travel via Zurig and finally at 3:00 PM I got in Vienna. MY hotel is practically in the centre of Vienna.
I had just the time to have a currywurst and I had to move to go to practice kendo at Vienna Kendo Club. I was in contact with Vanessa a nidan from the club that take care of the contacts. She was absolutely wonderful! She was so kind to offer me a lift to the dojo. I met her and Stephan, another kendoka of the dojo, underground station that was suitable to get to the dojo.
I knew by them that in Vienna there are two dojo that share the trainings, therefore during the year it is possible to practice kendo every day of the week. However, in summer, since many people is in holidays they have only two days of training every week.
I got with them to the dojo and Vanessa was so kind to lent me a shinai and a booken since, due to the recent changes in the transportation rules of Lufthansa,I was unable to carry my shinai, due to the fact that bring a shinai as extra luggage cost 140 euros, therefore is much cheaper to buy a new one un Vienna and leave it there.
The training was in a dojo located a little outside Vienna, since, due to school holidays, the dojo in Vienna is closed.
Fortunately it was quite fresh and ideal for a training with the bogu.
I had the possibility to meet Ryutaro Kamemoto sensei (nana dan) that was directing the training.
The training started with bokouto kata. I have heard about the that specific practice but I never did it in my dojo.
The sequence of the kata was quite complex:
  • me, kote, do tzuki
  • kote men
  • arai men
  • men hiki do
  • men nuki do
  • kote suriage men
  • debana kote
  • men kaeshi do
  • do otoshi men
I am pretty sure that I forgot some of the kata.
I started to practice with Kromp, a nice lady that introduced me to the kata.
Initially, I was simply memorizing the kata, since each technique has to be followed by zanshin and by a controlled step back to get to the initial position.
I was very lucky since Ingo, a yondan of the dojo, highlighted to me some critical issue of my way of doing the katas.
The main issue for me was that I place to much of my weight on the right foot. Instead during all the steps of the kata the weight should be more located n the back foot to allow an efficient step forward. Furthermore, all the timing was incorrect and I have to relax the shoulders. Definitively I need to practice bokuto kata to improve my overall posture.
After we put individually the men and we had open jigeiko. I practice with Ingo, Martin (the Chairman of the dojo), Stephan, Vanessa and with few other students.
It was a very nice time, I found really very challenging to strike men to Ingo and to Martin since they are very very tall!
The only regret is that the jigeiko with Vanessa was very short since the training ended. Vanessa has a very strong seme and very clean techniques.
After the training Vanessa and Stephan took me back to the underground station. During the trip they told me that will be in Alessandria in October for the Trofeo Internazionale Citta di Alessandria which will be held in October. If everything will go smoothly I will also be in Alessandria for the individual competition and I will take the chance to bring Vanessa and Stephan to visit Torino and to enjoy some of our local cuisine.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

June 2011: Ken Zen Kan Dojo

Back again in Heidelberg for the course on Whole Transcriptome Data Analysis. Another great time at the EMBL training facility. The course was very demanding this year. A lot of questions and a lot of information to be provided to students. The organization was perfect and I managed to run the course also thanks to the help of one of my students, Matteo, that was extremely helpful to supervise the exercises and providing support to the course participants.
I have finished the course few hours ago and now I am at the airport waiting for the boarding. Also this year I could not miss the possibility to visit the Heidelberg kendo Club. This was my third visit and I was very happy to meet Volker sensey and all the other persons I met previously. During these three days in Heidelberg we had an incredible nice and hot weather. I would say that Yesterday, when I went to the dojo, was really too hot, aprox. 35°C.
The training started at 20:15 with a brief run, some stretching a basic suburi. After we put the men and we started the training. I was happy because Volker gave me the opportunity to record the training using my videocamera. Because the lesson was in German I had to make all my attention to understand the Volker’s explanation of the exercises. This was very helpful since I managed to catch some interesting tips that I have always missed till today. The training, that is summarized in the videos below.

The training was mainly focused on practising attach and counter attach techniques cleanly and with the right posture. Specifically I realized that in the men (attach), debana men (counter attach) I was doing a big mistake when performing the debana men. I realized that I was raising the tip of the shinai during the attach of the opponent and this make me loose time in realizing the debana men. I realized that simply stretching my arms in direction of opponent he will be at the right distance for debana men before he manages to finalize his men. Another counter attach that is quite well suitable for me is debana kote in men/debana kote kion. During the kion, kakaritè, the one that has to do debana kote upon attach of men, is making a little seme moving the tip of the shinai ahead but lowering its level, this make the opponent thinking that he can strike men, and suddenly the kote is at the right position for debana kote. I am normally very frustrated by debana kote, because although I am able to make debana kote with a reasonable timing the shinai always touch the tsuba instead of the kote. Now following the indications of Volker sensei I managed finally to strike a reasonable debana kote.
The last 15 minutes were dedicated to jigeiko and I had a very nice time. After we had a little party for a birth day of one of the student and because many of the students succeeded in passing the grading exam the week-end before.
After a refreshing shower Volker offer me a lift to Bismark platz were I finished the evening with few beers together with one of my friends that was also present at EMBL for another meeting.

Monday, May 30, 2011

May 2011: Great time in Singapore Kendo Club

I arrived on Saturday the 21st and I stayed there for one week. Time in Singapore flew away. At my arrival I had a nice week end with my friend Francesca, that recently moved to Singapore. I enjoyed very much Singapore city and its food. On Monday I was quite nervous about the talk I had to do at Singapore Network of Immunology (SIgN). Fortunately everything went smoothly. Also the talk I did on Tuesday was OK. On Tuesday evening I went out of dinner with my friends. We had delicious pepper and chili crab. On Wednesday, after various meetings at SIgN finally arrived the time to go for keiko at the Singapore Kendo Dojo.
This was my third time at the Singapore Kendo Club and this time was really special.
On Wednesday the keiko is at the The Changi Japanese School. The training is both for beginners and advance students.
I met various students I knew from my last year visit and it was very nice to meet again Periklis, an IT person I met during one of my visit at the Cambridge Kendo Club in UK. He is actually working in an IT company in Singapore and he regularly practice at the Singapore Kendo Club
This time I also met Yeo sensei, that introduced me as guest from Italy.
We started the training with warm up that was followed by various rounds of kirikaeshi. Subsequently the training was focused on multiple techniques application. From a certain point of view the training remind me some of the kion we did during last visit of Sumi sensei at our dojo last April. We also did some rounds of kakarigeiko.
After there was about 30 minutes of open jigeiko. Normally when I go to a dojo I try my best in the keiko, but I avoid to push forward, I am normally quite shy.
This time, I invited for the jigeiko a student I have met on my previous visit and suddenly a queue of persons waiting to have keiko with me appeared. I was very surprise since normally I the queue as the other students to practice with sensei. This was the first time I acted as motodachi, it was a very interesting experience. I tried to follow the suggestion given from Sumi sensei during his last visit in Torino: "press the kakarite' with the body but leave them able to express themselves". I tryed my best and I hope the other students enjoyed the keiko with me. It was really a special keiko although quite physically demanding. At the end I was very tired but extremely happy. The night did not finished, since I was invited by Yeo sensei to join him and the students for a beer and something to eat. Great! Good food and beer and very nice talk with Yeo sensei and students.

I met again mr Jafar which is maintainer ofg the web pages of the dojo and a young lady that came in Singapore from Korea. I also knew from Yeo sensei that during the Kendo World Championship in USA he fought with my sensei Walter Pomero (I asked my sensei and he remind him and the shai in Santa Clara during the kendo World Championship). Yeo sensei is also friend of Lancini sensei, from Brescia dojo.
I told the Yeo sensei that I am writing my kendo experiences on a blog and that I have set up a videocamera to record during practice. I asked him if I could use it during the keiko on Thursday and I was very happy when he agree with it.
It was a very nice night and I left them with the promise to meet them again for the Thursday training at the The Japanese School in 95 Clementi Rd.
Thursday training is for advance students, at least shodan. The training was very demanding for me since the dojo does not have ear conditioning. At the end of the training I swet so much that it seems that my keikogi was soaked in water.
Since I had the possibility to use my videocamera you can see a summary of the overall keiko in the video below.
We started with kirikaeshi then we move to single big techniques and after to ouji-waza.

After we practice Jigeiko and due to the hotness I managed to do only two. After I did some mitorigeiko.

Very kindly, Yeo sensei organized a nice picture at the end of the training.
Very nice training!
After I got back to the hotel, had a shower and went out for a dinner snack. I stopped at the Mariott bistro' at Orchard rd (tempura oysters and chiken/beef satay delicious)
My stay in Singapore ended with a dinner at my friend's home, on Friday.

I was very glad to test the Durian, the "king of the fruits".

It has an interesting taste but it has a very strong smell.
The time in Singapore was really amazing, I hope to be back there soon.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

April 2011: Sumi (8 Dan), Tashiro (8 Dan) & Sotaro (6 dan) sensei in Torino

On Friday the 22nd of April Sumi sensei, from Fukuoka, visited our dojo in Torino. Everybody in the dojo was looking forward to learn from him. Sumi sensei usually comes together with Tashiro sensei, but this time also Sotaro Honda (6th dan) came. Honda sensei was the coach of the British Kendo team some years ago and now teaches at the University of Education in Fukuoka. Furthermore, the Italian Kendo team, that will be part of the European Kendo championship (Poland May), was also present.
Friday Sumi sensei started a training session that continued also Saturday and Sunday. The main topics of the lessons were:
On Sunday morning the seminar ended and in the afternoon there was a special training dedicated only to the Italian kendo team. I will describe here the events on Friday and Saturday since on Sunday I could not be present to the final part of the training.
On Friday the 22nd we put immediately the men and started with few rounds of kirikaeshi made of three repetitions, then we did Do kirikaeshi. Sumi sensei told us that the Do kirikaeshi was useful to improve the diagonal position of the sayu men in normal kirikaeshi, which should be done with an angle of about 45 degree.
After we move to kion on men + tsubazeriai. After few rounds, Sumi sensei told us that the critical issue in the above mentioned kion was the body posture: body should be always strait to keep the body balance in a condition that allow to make men and then to move to a correct tsubazeriai. Furthermore, we have to carefully consider the beating distance, since if we are too near and we bit the opponent with the shinai below the naka-yui we are too near to make a good tzubazeriai. Next exercise was as men + tsubazeriai but motodachi has to step back to avoid to be bit. An other tip on the kion was related to the men cut, that have to stop at the throat. The stop is controlled mainly by the posture and specifically by the back muscles, as instead very little work should be done by the arms. After we made a bit more complex kion; men + tsubazeriai, kote + tsubazeriai, do + tsubazeriai. All series done with a unique breath. After we move to jigeiko. Motodachi were alowed to practice only oji-waza.
In the following video you can see pieces of the training that are related to the above description.

After also Sumi and Tashiro sensei joined the jigeiko.

On Saturday morning the lesson continued focusing on the opportunities to attach: SEME. Specifically all kion were based on the use of "far seme", the one that is normally used to practice big techniques starting from long distance and of a "near seme" that can be applied when kensen are in contact. The second seme was particularly intriguing. Sumi sensei said that when both opponents have the kensen in contact the spirit is very high for both of them. The attention of both opponents is very very high and therefore it is difficult to make an effective attach. Therefore a very little seme, made stepping few centimetres with the right foot, will disrupt the concentration of the opponent facilitating the attach. We then applied these two types of seme using various combination of kion. Subsequently the topic was the KIAI. Essentially the point is that kiai keeps high the spirit and when we stop it spirits and attention are reduced and this is an opportunity for the opponent. Therefore kiai should continue even after the end of the technique. When the kiai stops we have to keep the concentration high not giving the opportunity for an attach.
These concepts were tested in uchikomigeiko, kakaritè has to make at least five consequent attachs without interrupting the kiai. In this specific exercises motodachi made a very particular kamae, with the tip of the shinai pointing up to the left, i.e. pointing up to the kakaritè right eye. This kamae allows kakarite to attach easily men kote and do. After the same approach was made mixing the above mentioned specific kamae and ojiwaza by motodachi. Then the morning training finished.
Unfortunately the video for this part had a very bad quality and I could not upload it.
In the afternoon after a brief break for lunch Sumi sensei run a very nice lesson for our little group of children. In Torino we are running various courses for children but, since we were during the Eastern holidays, the vast majority of them could not come. However our little five kendokas got a wonderful lesson with Sumi sensei helped by Tashiro sensei (8 Dan), Moretti sensei (7 Dan which is also the President of CIK) Pomero sensei (7 Dan) and Honda sensei (6 Dan).

After children lesson we started a one hour of training on kendo no kata focusing on the important points of the katas. This part was very similar to the one given by Sumi sensei two years ago:
Kendo no kata tips part 1
Kendo no kata tips part 2
After we put men again and we warmed up doing kirikaeshi, three set of sayu me, sayu do, sayu men. After motodachi used again the particular kamae used in the morning that allows kakaritè to attach men, do, kote. Motodachi was allowed to move back and forward and kakaritè has to make, with a unique kiai, at least 6 attachs. This kion was repeated three times. Subsequently motodachi were allowed to make some oji-waza during the attacks of kakaritè. More important motodachi has not to press physically kakaritè but only using the spirit. I found very interesting the ability of Sumi sensei to make a lesson that works at different level for kakaritè and for motodachi. Both were very pressed to make their best on the basis of Sumi sensei advices. The next step was normal jigeiko but with motodachi allowed only to make oji-waza and pressing kakaritè with strong spirit. Sumi sensei highlighted that it possible to make pressure to kakaritè even stepping back. Finally motodachi has to keep the centre but occasionally also making opening.
The video below summarize the afternoon session with Sumi sensei.

Last but not least I got three videos of the jigeiko between Sumi sensei and Tashiro sensei, Pomero sensei and Honda sensei.
Sumi versus Tashiro

Sumi versus Honda

Sumi versus Pomero

Sunday, March 6, 2011

March 2011: Cambridge Kendo Club

Arrival in UK on Sunday the 6th of March, no Kendo till Wednesday, sigh!.
It is incredible, I am again in Cambridge, this time for the Hands-on training at EBI - Advanced RNA-Seq and ChiP-Seq Data Analysis. The course is held at EMBL-EBI, Hinxton, Cambridge, CB10 1SD, UK.
The course will cover very important topics related to the use of Massive Parallel Sequencing technology, which is getting very important for the research works I am involved in.
I departed from Torino on Sunday the 6th of March (today) with RaianAir. This was my first time with this low cost company. RaianAir is very convenient to arrive in Cambridge from Torino. Only with two hours flight and 30 minuts train and you are in the middle of this lovely town.
The flight was OK although I had the sensation that RaianAir is trying to get as much money as possible from you keeping the cost at the minimum. I was really surprise when I realized that the seats are fixed in a unique position, I think because they cost less than a conventional airplain seat or more simply because the space between sets rows is not enough to allow to change the position of the seat back. Furthermore, you are soaking in a constant advertisements to buy food, duty free and lottery. Even in the toilette you get such advertisement just in case you are not realizing that you are loosing an incredible opportunity to win something with the flight lottery.
The flight was also teaching me something else. I was flying with a group of students from the high school getting to UK for a cultural holiday with some of their professors. I realized that I am getting really old, because I am unable to understand this young generation. They were 16-17 years old but the brain age was much much lower, maybe 6-7 years old. I am pretty sure of this because I help teaching Kendo in an elementary school and those children are behaving in a way very similar to the students I met on the flight. I have a very high consideration for theirs teachers that have to control and take care of them.
As you can see I was a bit shocked by the flight. But finally I arrived in Cambridge, drop down the bogou at the hotel and I had a walk in the town. Weather was fresh but quite sunny. I stop for lunch in a Cyprus's restaurant.

It was a quite small restaurant, but the Cyprus chicken brochette was very good and the feta salad was seasoned perfectly with a very good olive's oil.

Now I am back in the hotel and I will get over some work that has to be done and I will refresh my broken Japanese since in about 20 days I will go in Japan for a 10 days of Kendo at Fukuoka.
For today is all. I will be back on Wednesday when I will join again the Kendo training at Tsurugi Bashi Kendo Kai Club.

Monday: first day of course. I arrived at EBI-EMBL in Hinxton by taxi. It is a very nice research centre.

We were about 40 people participating to this course.
I do not want to border you with technical stuff, but it was very very interesting.
The course ended at 17.30 and I got back to the hotel room to fix at least part of the work that is necessarely left behind since I am attending to this course.
I am very tired.... I will go to sleep.
Tuesday, Whoow Sun shining in Cambridge! There is little to say about tuesday, I spent all day in the Computer room for the course. Everything was very interesting. At 6 pm I went out with a frend of mine working at Sanger and we had Japanese dinner. I decidend for a ramen since was a long time I did not eat it.... It was reasonable but never as the Fukuoka ramen, that was really delicious.
Wednesday was the last day of the course very very interesting the part on chip-seq. Finally the day I am back to the Tsurugi Bashi Kendo Kai dojo. It was nice to meet again the Tsurugi Bashi Kendo Kai student and Frank Stajano the sensei of the Dojo. Getting back to the training.
After the warm up, we started suburi:
  • Jo ge suburi
  • Men uchi ni kyo do suburi
  • Zenshin kotai men suburi
  • Zenshin kotai sayu men suburi
  • Sonkyo suburi
  • Matawari suburi
  • Kote men suburi
  • Katate suburi
  • Haya suburi
we did 30 times each suburi.
This time the training was fully held by Stajano sensei. The focus was basic kihon also because there were a lot of new beginners. Frank highlighted the importance of the kihon as the basic for an efficient and consistent growth of kendo performance.
We spent about one and half hour on basic kion and kirikaeshi then the persons with the bogou wore the men and we did mawarigeiko. After since were left only few minutes we practice katas and I did the first seven katas with Frank. He gave me some interesting suggestions how to improve the 6th kata. It was a very nice night. Furthermore, thanks to my friend Cinzia, that was with me at the dojo. I assembled some photos and video that she did and are summarizing the overall training.