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.