Sunday, October 28, 2012

Chicago October 2012

I am back in Chicago, only three months after my last coming. It was great, I was invited by a group fro the Northwestern Cancer Center to a full week of brain storming and discussion on their projects to find common elements of work. I had five days of intensive work but, as usual, I managed to practice kendo at the Choyokan and at the Chicago Kendo Club. I had two very useful nights. At the Choyokan I had keiko with Hudi sensei both playing chudan and jodan no kamae. I got from him very useful tips. He highlighted that my left hand was not correctly gripping the shinai, the lower part of the hand was not perpendicular to the body, thus my left elbow was opening and the posture was not correct, this was actually quite evident in the jodan no kamae. Hudi sensei told me that that error could cause problems to my wrist. Sakamoto sensei instead told me that when I am in jodan no kamae, sometimes I step back and that is a big error since I loose the strenght of the position. He told me tha with Jodan no kamae,  I cannot show to opponent any weakness and I have always to behave like a tiger.
I put in my pocket these useful suggestions and I have immediately applied them when I went to practice to the Chicago Kendo Club. It was particularly nice night because the sun of my friends, which is 5 years old, and he is my godson came to see the training. He is fashinated by kendo and he followed quite a long part of the training with deep attention. Furthermore, it was a very nice night because I knew that various person of the dojo pass their exam at the taikai organized by the Choyokan dojo the week before and my friend Andy got the yondan. I was very happy for him because I know that is a quite difficult step that I will try to pass next year.
I was very glad to practice kendo no kata for 30 minutes with Andy that provided me very good suggestions for the practice. It is funny to note that I practice most of kendo no kata this year in my trips to Singapore and Chicago with respect to my dojo.
I manage to have jigeiko with Takana and Condon sensei. I immediately try to apply the suggestions of Hudi sensei to my jigeiko with Takana sensei. I found very pleasant the jigeiko, I had the feeling that I managed to get a certain connection with Takan sensei and it seems to me that I was not simply trying to make a good strike but I was trying to find the right time for the attach interacting with Takana sensei. I do not know if he had the same feeling but I liked very much the keiko with him. After I had keiko with Condon sensei, that I have to admit I recognized only when I saw his name on the zeken. I have little memory of faces and since he restyled his hairs I did not manage to recognize him immediately.  But he recognized me and asked to go to jodan no kamae. I tryied to apply the suggestions of Sakamoto sensei and I took also advantage of the suggestions I got on June by Condon sensei on the kote from jodan. Furthermore, my sensei in Torino gave me some suggestions on the attach from long distance with the kote and in the last few months I managed to push more with the back right foot. Putting everything together I was quite satisfied of my behaviour during the keiko.  As the years pass I am always more convinced that the opportunity I have to practice in different dojo all over the world is an invaluable opportunity to improve my kendo. Due to my work and family duties I cannot participate to many seminars but the keikos around the world are for sure very very useful to me.
 I can say that the interaction with many kendo people all over the world  is invaluable for me to improve not only in the technique but also as man in this complex world.
I have  not to forget that after keiko I had a very pleasant night with all the people of the Chicago Kendo Club enjoying Chicago beer and Kendo stories!

Friday, October 5, 2012

September 2012: visiting Kendo Club at Carpi (Modena)

I was invited to make a course on RNA-seq for the European COST-action EuGESMA. The course was held in Modena from September the 17th to September the 18th. It was a good occasion to meet other European scientists and off course to practice Kendo. I found that a section of the Modena Kendo Club practices on Monday in Carpi, a little village 20 Kms from Modena, Kendo Carpi. I contacted Luca Canovi the instructor of the Carpi Dojo and I went there at 9:00 PM. As previously highlighted to me by Luca, the club is new and the dojo relatively small. We were in 7 persons for the Monday training, considering also me and Luca. Actually it was the right number of persons, due to the limited size of the dojo. Since the majority of the students is at the very beginning, Luca focus his lesson on the basic concepts of kendo. After warm-up and suburi we practiced kihon-no-kata that actually results quite good for beginners to build the right posture. After we spent other time in basic big techniques and on kirikaeshi. Students were beginners but very committed. They never stop and practiced with high concentration. For me was very useful because I could spendmuch of the time as motodachi which is important to me to learn more about opponent timing and reactions.I had a very pleasent time in Carpi and I hope to visit the Dojo again.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


The seminar was led by Ushioda Takeshi – Kyoshi 7th Dan, Ushioda Hiroshi – Kyoshi 7th Dan and Lancini Livio - Renshi 7th Dan.

The summer camp is 5 day long but unfortunately me and my son could only stay three days. The kendo seminar is held in the Gymnasium of the Bedollo elementary school. Although the gym is not very big the floor is ideal for kendo. The location is particularly nice even for persons not practicing kendo, there are a lot of walking and cycling paths and a very nice lake.

Day 1 Afternoon:

The lessons were two hours long. One in the morning starting at 10:00 and the other in the afternoon starting at 16:30. Each lesson started with a warm up led by Hiroshi sensei. Then we moved to suburi. The first lesson was very basic and focus on on the correct posture necessary to perform suburi. The videos below give a brief overview of the  suburi training.

Takeshi sensei stressed the importance of a correct body posture, which is the basis for all kendo practice.
After the men tzuke the practice of the first lesson was mainly focused on kirikaeshi, big men and kote men. The same main points observed in the suburi were also highlighted in the keiko: straight body, seme, hit and rapidly pass on one side of motodachi.

After the lesson continue with 20 minutes jigeiko with motodachi at least 4 Dan. In this occasion I managed to cross the shiai with Lancini sensei twice one the first day and once the second day. As usual I try to do my best. I focused during the jigeiko on the search of the right time to strike a good men or kote. Later after the end of the lesson I asked to Lancini sensei about suggestion and he was telling me that in the complex was ok although I was loosing the center during the attach, thus making easy the counter attach by the opponent. After motodachi continue the jigeiko between each other and kyusha and yudansha continue the jigeiko between each other.

Day 2 Morning

In the morning of the second day keiko was very similar to the first day and it was still based on kirikaeshi. We performed few rounds of standard kirikaeshi and we also did kirikaeshi do and kirikaeshi men do. An important tip related to kirikaeshi do was the way of striking the do. In general in kirilaeshi do we tend to focus mainly on speed. Takeshi sensei highlighted that an important step of the do technique is the cut. Each do cut needs to be finalized with the tenuchi to give the correct position to the shinai. Another intersting tip was relate to the kirikaeshi posture. To keep the body straight we did kirikaeshi walking on bent knees, this forced the body to be straight. Unfortuantely I do not have video related to this part of the keiko. After keiko we had the 20 mins jigeiko with motodachi and 20 mins  free jigeiko in two groups: below 4 Dan and 4 Dan and above.

Day 2 Afternoon

In the afternoon we started with warm up and suburi and then we moved to keiko with bogou. The lesson was focused on making the correct attach.  A basic exercise is shown in the video below.
Furthermore, we practice with the same concepts tsuki as an exercise to obtain a good little men. The over all idea was, seme, then  keep the kensen in direction of tsuki till the very last time and then strike little men. I have already practice this exercise and I found it very useful. At the end of the day  Takeshi sensei showed a summary of the effects that a good seme could induce in the opponent.
I found very useful also because although I know that I have to construct the condition for a strike in my mind was not clear at all how I can do it. This presentation open to me new paths to investigate in the incoming year.

Day 3 Morning

In the morning of the 3rd day I waked up  with the feeling that a truck was passing over me all the night. I discovered many muscles that I did not know they exist. Fortunately warm up and suburi did their job making me able to practice the keiko. The morning keiko was based on the application seme to construct an action that will induce a reaction in the opponent (see video above). It was great, very very useful. For me and my son the summer camp ended with the jigeiko at the end of the morning. I managed to practice with Takeshi sensei and I tryed to applied what we have done during the keiko.


As I highlighted at the beginning, this was the first time for me at the Bedollo Kendo Summer Camp. My son and me had a great time with all the participants, my only hope is to be able to participate again next year.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Chicago June 2012: Chicago Kendo Club and Choyokan club

Also this year I traveled to Chicago. This time I participate to the ASCO meeting, the most important meeting on Clinical Oncology in USA. I was guest of my friends, Gianni and Antonella, in a nice apartment at N Pine Grove. The meeting was incredible, about 35000 persons were present and there were too many things to learn. It was a bit frustrating make decision on what to listen since many of the parallel sessions were all interesting.
Althouhg I was busy with the meeting also this time I took with me the bogou and I visited two if the three dojo of Chicago:  Chicago Kendo Club and Choyokan Dojo.
I have been many times to the Chicago Kendo Club and this time I met again Andy, which takes care of the dojo web and represents the contact to visit the dojo. Andy and me practiced the kendo no kata, it was very good for me, since in about a year I could try the yondan exam and we do not practice very frequently kata at my dojo. He gave me some useful suggestions, expecially for the kodachi kata, which I practiced really very few times. I know that the yondan it a very challenging exam and I am not so sure I will manage to pass it, but I continue practicing and trying to implement all the suggestions I get at my dojo and in the places I visit during my trips.
I also met again a very kind Japanese lady sensei that run the training, but unfortunately I missed her names.
In the complex the training was very similar to the others I had at the CKC. This time I tried to focus on having a live shinai tip and using the seme to induce the opponent to attach. Both targets are still very far away but I keep trying. At the same time I am also practicing jodan. I like a lot the strength of the jodan no kamae. It is roughly three year that I have inserted in my practice also jodan no kamae and it was nice to see that also at the CKC a student and Condon sensei were practicing jodan.  I am actually trying to obtain a decent kote from jodan. Although my sensei show me the critical tips of the kote I found it very difficult and frequently my kote is not precise. Condon sensei provided me a very good tip on the kote, he suggested me to focus on my left thumb. He told me that if I end my kote technique with the thumb facing the floor kote get more precise. It was true the precision of my kote improved and I felt more conformtable on it. Great suggestion!
Off course I crossed the shinai with Andy and it was challenging as always!
Antonella, my friend, and her little sun Lorenzo, 5 years old, took me to the Chicago Kendo Club and Lorenzo wanted to stay to see his God father, me, practicing. It was amazing, Lorenzo was completely captured from Kendo practice and even if the practice was two hours long he did not want to leave and watched with great attention all the training.  Maybe in a couple of years I will go with him to the CKC for the practice ^_^.

Two days before flying back to Italy I also visited the Choyokan kendo Dojo. My first visit to the Choyokan was in 2006. Actually It was a Sunday practice at the UIC Sports and Fitness Center. It was a very difficult training for me, since the level of the students was very high.
This time I visited the dojo located at the Ravenswood Fellowship United Methodist Church, which is very near to the CKC. I was a little shy, as it normally happen when I visit a new dojo. It was nice to meet again Sakamoto sensei. Before the training Sakamoto sensei was showing the differences between various type of shinai and talking about one having a large tsuka I said that it was particularly convenient for jodan, since the balance is more near the tsuba and the tip is much ligher. Sakamoto sensei then asked me if I was a jodan player and I said that I was learning it. It was so kind to ask me to practice also there. I appreciated a lot the invitation because I do not play jodan when I visit a new dojo for the first time. Essentially my technique is still poor and I do not want that people think I am arrogant. But the offer to practice was so kind that I did my best trying also jodan techniques. After a warm up and some suburi we focus on various shikake and ojii waza technique. Then we had about 40 minutes jigeiko. I had the possibility to practice with Sakamoto sensei and also with other students. As I do normally I start in chudan no kamae only in the last part of the jigeiko I play jodan no kamae. One of the various problems I have with jodan is the difficulty of keeping the ideal distance from the opponent. This was a point that Sakamoto sensei highlighted at the end of the jigeiko. He told me that stepping back, to get again the right distance, is affecting all the strenght of the jodan kamae, that mean that I have to rebuild again my spirit to be ready to attach and defend, which is clearly a strong advantage for the opponent. So I have to work more on avoiding to step back and try to build a more strong spirit to avoid to be pressed by the opponent. I will work on it!
As normally happen the jigeiko time ended to rapidly, but I felt very happy to have visited the Choyokan Dojo.

Friday, June 8, 2012

15 Worl Kendo Chanpionship: Novara 2012

This is a report not on a trip visiting a dojo around the world but a brief description of the "behind the scenes" of the 15 WKC.
I was part of the volontiers involved in the 15 WKC. I started my work abount three days before the start of the WKC, provinding support to the arrival of teams, delegations and referees. I share this work with other four volonties. We collected people and orginized their bus transportation.  I  also used my car to bring referees to their hotels. It was a very nice job it allowed me to meet many high rank kendokas. It was very nice to meet Yuge sensei, the president of the Southern California Kendo Federation, the owner of e.bogu, Kumpf sensei and many others.  I was also present at the arrival of the Japanese delegation, 36 sensei, encharged of the supervision of the WKC event. It was impressive.
I worked at Malpensa airport from Monday to Wednesday, and Friday morning I arrived at 6:30 at the location where WKC was taking place. I was assigned to the recording of the results of the shai at one of the four shai-jo (shai-jo A). I was a little worry since I never did it ,but the chief of the table and one of my friend help me to handle the paper work. It was exciting to see  shai of people from all over the world. Being at the table I had the opportunity to record a lot of shai that are collected in this You Tube playlist.
The most impressive shai for me was the Male individual final between Japan and Korea. More then 5 minutes of tight contact betwenn the fighters, very few strike but very impressive. In my modest opinion was really a fight showing what kendo is.
In the video below you can see the final part of the shai  where Japan won with a tsuki.

I met a lot of friends and it was very nice to meet again Marsten Sensei, from Seattle, and many others.
Furthermore, every day, before the competitions started, I made a lot of pictures of the people present at the WKC. So if you were there, maybe you are in one of these pictures:

At the end of the first day there was a brief open jigeiko it was absolutely GREAT to cross shinai with referees, competitors, etc. I had a great time during the three days of competitions. Being part of the volontiers I can say that, although not everything was perfect, the Italian Kendo Confederation did a very good job in organizing the event. Kendo in Italy is run on volontary basis and the strenght of the WKC in Novara were really all the volonteers that did their best to make everything work as perfect as it was possible. In conclusion, I would like to  report the very professional behaviour of people from the SANKEI company that were at the 15 WKC with a stand for bogou repair. I left them a pair of kote with two holes and I asked for repair of the holes and not the total replacement of the leather. I went to pick up the kote on the last day of the competions and, instead of closing the holes, they exchanged all the leather. In practice I got two new kote. I said that it did not matter if they did a full repleacement and I could pay for the repair, but they say that it was their mistake and therefore I had not to pay anything. I said that it was ok and I could pay anyway for the good work, but there was no way to pay them. In my opinion this was a very professional behaviour that should be taken as reference.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

May 2012: Visiting Kuma No Kai kendo Club, Catania

Although Sicily is the place where my father was born, for a long time I did not want to go there. When I was a child I was visiting my grandparents in Comiso, a little town quite far away from the sea, and I only remember that I was unable to understand the local dialect and it was very very hot!  On the basis of this memory Sicily did not seem to be an appealing place to be visited. About three years ago my sun strongly wanted to go in holidays in Sicily to see the place where his grandfather was born. So we when in holidays in Noto, a wonderful baroque town in the south of Sicily, and I got completely conquered by the place, the sea, the food, the people.
At the beginning of this year May I went to Catania for the meeting of the Bioinformatics Italian Society (BITS). It was a good occasion to get back in Sicily. I had a talk on the second day of the meeting and off course I took the chance to practice kendo in Catania.
Kendo in Italy is spread from west to east in the north part of Italy, with a lot of dojo. Moving from North to South, dojo are reduced and, below Rome, you have to jump to Sicily to find other kendo clubs. In Catania it is located the Kuma No Kai club. The Kendo dojo is located in a fitness club in Gravina di Catania, Orient Fitness. The instructor of the kendo club is Junio Borghese.
I knew the club because I crossed my shinai twice, at the Italian Kendo Championship, with one of the senior students of the club: Giorgio Masaru. I have a very nice feeling about the shai with Masaru because it is a clear example that highlight the fact that kendo fight can be done even if there is a very big difference in size between the two opponent. This is actually the case for me, 160 cm tall, and Masaru about 190 cm. Shai with him was challenging expecially from the mental point of you and in my opinion it was not so important to win or loose but putting all my effort to keep high my spirit. 
Since Masaru is a very kind person, I contacted him to have the opportunity to practice at their dojo. Since the dojo is not inside Catania he kindly offered me a lift to the dojo. He picked me up at my hotel at 18:00 and we got at the Orient Fitness in few minutes. As tipical of Sicily behavour, everybody was very friendly with me and I met Junio and Orlando, which is in the Italian kendo team for the incoming World Kendo Championship, that will be held in Novara. 
The dojo have a nice floor for kendo, but the mobility is a little limited by the presence of two pillars in the middle. Never the less people is well trained to have a clear idea of the available space during the practice.
We were about 15 persons with the bogou and 4-5 persons without. Junio and the senior students took care of the training of the people without bogou in a way that they could practice also  with the people with the bogou. I had the sensation that they are a very tight group that know very well how to run efficiently the training. We started with a warm up with Orlando and after mentsuke we did few round of kirikaeshi, big and little men. Then we had a long session of mawarigeiko. The dojo follows the Korean Kendo approach, they work a lot on shai optimization and everybody I met show a very high spirit in the fight. It was challenging, I only stopped once but it was very hard expecially with Orlando and Junio, which are very strong fighters.  

With Junio, Orlando and Masaru I worked a bit in Jodan and a bit in Chudan no kamae. There were also four ladies practicing and all of them practice, at various levels, a very effective kendo. Since, in a little more than a year, I would like to try the yondan exam I am practicing to improve the seme, have a live shinai tip and I am trying to construct an opportunity for oji waza, but practicing at the Kuma No Kai was very hard, because they were all extremely fast! So it was a very nice training. After I went with them for dinner in a pub.
The after-kendo was very nice, I spoke expecially with Masaru and with the girlfriend of Orlando, which is a surgeon. She spent part of the his training in Korea first and now she is on the way to go for practice in Japan for 6 months.  Off course she had practiced kendo in Korea and she will do the same in Tokyo. Orlando instead was going to fly to Torino for a three days training with the Italian Kendo team with Koyama sensei. After dinner, Masaru took me back to the hotel, where I slept like a baby.
Very nice keiko and dinner, looking forward to meet them again.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

March 2012: Visiting Shumpukan Dojo in Milano

At the end of March I was in Milano to run a course on RNA-seq data analysis at the Istituto Tumori. It was a two day full immersion course. It was very nice, with a lot of interaction with the 12 researcher participating to it.
Since I live in Torino is very difficult that I spend two nights in Milano, since I can reach Milano in 45 minutes by train. However, due to the tight schedule of thecourse I had to stay in Milano to avoid a very early wake up.
The course gave me the opportunity to visit the Shumpukan Dojo. I was very glad to Matteo Chersi that gave me a lift to the dojo. I met him at the Sumi Sensei seminar the week before my trip to Milano.

The training was run by Franco Sarra (5th Dan) and Giuseppe Piva. Giuseppe is also the instructor of the Iaido section of the Shumpukan. Frequently the training at Shumpukan is run by Lorenzo Zago (7th Dan) but he was not at the dojo the night of my visit.
In the video below a jigeiko of some years ago between Sarra and Zago.
We were about 15 persons. We started with a brief warm up and suburi. Subsequently the lesson was held by Giuseppe Piva. The focus was mainly on the use of seme ashi in the construction of an attach. We worked with big and small techniques practicing the use of seme to get the right occasion for a good strike. The lesson  reminded me part of the training I had during the seminar of Sumi sensei at Shubukan the week before. I will add a report on that seminar in the next days.  After the above mentioned work we practiced a bit of jigeiko and I had the opportunity to practice with Giuseppe. He has a very powerful seme and the jigeiko with him was very challenging. I also practiced with a student that works in jodan, and, since jodan no kamae is my prefered kamae, it was nice to work with him. We are both beginners of jodan no kamae but it was very useful.
Since three persons had to go to the Lombardia Kendo Cup on the next weekend we practiced a bit of shiai. I had the chance to be part of two shiai, it was very useful also because we practice a lot of jigeiko but very little shiai at our dojo. I found very significant a phrase of Franco, he said that when someone enters in a shai-jo he enters to win. So it is important the spirit in the interaction with the opponent, we should not be afraid, it is important to go there to get the good strike and even if we do not win we have to place any effort to get the good clear strike.
It was a very nice night. Looking forward to meet again Shumpukan people!