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Better fumikomi revisited or how to make your toes sting.

There is a kendo saying that says as a kendoka you should concentrate and persist at one thing.
Just like any good scientist, a good kendoka is always looking for new insights into already established theories and methods and as such this is something I hold on high regard throughout my training.
Previously I have focused on my kiai to great effect. It improved dramatically but also made me focus on breathing as a whole and now am finding myself much less out of breath.
Recently I’ve revisited my technique of fumikomi as I’ve always felt a little lacking in that area. This came about during a session when we were watching each other perform a cut going through and watching our fumikomi technique. Now mine has always been a little soft in terms of sound but I know that I do not land heel first. Someone very helpfully pointed out that I was lifting my toes at point of impact and was not bending my knee enough.
As usual with these small subtle changes, it requires a whole rethink of the technique. As such I am now trying to bend my right knee a little more and now my fumikomi is much louder and feels better, apart from making my toes sting like hell. Apparently this is a good thing. It means I’m actually doing the fumikomi properly and landing more flat footed. More work is required.

On a final note, Chris and myself are attending the Level 1 coaching course this weekend, which means I’m learning how to teach people. Initially we went in for this just so we can provide backup if sensei cannot make it one evening, but it’s made be think quite heavily about how to teach people kendo. I’m usually pretty good with the newbies, one on one, offering helpful advice but when it comes to talking to a whole room of people, I get a little tongue tied and nervous.
Sensei has been very helpful with tips and methods and I’m quite looking forward to it despite the course being iado and jodo lead. Sod’s law I’ll come back wanting to learn iaido as well.

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Keiko, koi ponds and bad wiring.

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The last couple of weekends have been a big amount of hard physical work in very different ways.

Last weekend I went over for a training session in Cambridge with Jackson Sensei and Gowland sensei in the morning and had a quite different session. It’s a little session that Matt has put together incorporating all 3 of the joined clubs in the area.

The format was really simple. Warm up, three lots of suburi, one round of kirikaiesh then jiegeiko for the rest of the session and a full rotation. Turn out was good, around 14 of us so it took a while to do a full rotation. Eric was doing jigeiko, ichi-gomi-geiko and then ippon shobu. I started and finished with him so I did it twice. Then just to finish off, we did one more round of kirikaiesh.

Now I’d hit that point during my last lot of ichi-gomi-geiko where my body was beginning to flag somewhat. Not really surprising seeing as I’d done a full round of 15 bouts of gigeiko. So when Eric called at the end to do one last round of kirikaiesh, I was really not all there but threw everything I had left into it. As I’ve mentioned before, bad motodachi can really make kirikaiesh crap to do, but up against someone of Eric’s level it’s a pleasure. My first cut was spot on and my saiu-men cuts were quick and on target. As I made my distance back for the next 10 cuts, I felt myself scrape the bottom of my energy reserves and I began to slow down. The first 5 cuts were really slow, but I dragged a bit more out with louder and stronger kiai speeding up towards the end. Making distance, I did my last men cut and skipped down the side of his men. Damn.

We finish and Eric tells us not to take our men off yet, only he is taking his off. ‘What now’, we all think.
Jackson sensei, takes up a place on one side of the dojo and we all have to line up on the other, and do ippon shobu. Nice.

All in all it was a really good training session. Doing that much jigeko really allows you to settle down and concentrate, get into the zone so to speak.

This weekend just gone was a little different. I’ve been building a koi pond in the garden and it’s the first bit of serious garden landscaping I’ve done. Along with digging the thing, 6ft square and 2m deep, I’ve lined it, filled it and put decking all round. This has also been complicated by the completely dodgy wiring going to my garage.
To cut a long story short, in trying to fit the pond pump I found some pretty serious wiring issues going to my garage meaning that I had to lay a complete new bit of armoured cable and install a new RCD unit.
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Saturday I worked solidly from 9am to 6pm and finally got it all ready for the fish, kindly donated by my father in law.

I felt a little connection there after the long hours of work going into the pond when I went outside after dark, turned on the outside lights and relax. Mokouso.

As with any activity, I’m beginning to understand the nature of mushin a little more. While working on the majority of my projects, be they work or home, I end up mot really thinking about doing it because I have enough experience that I no longer have to actively engage my mind to the task. When I do this is as Yagyu Munrnori describes as a stop in your mind. You are doing a task or learning something and when you have to think about it, you stop for an instant or even longer.
As you get better at things these things no longer occur and you simply do the things you have been trained to do without thought.
I have lots to think about round the pond now.

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!m!

Merinkan 2nd Anniversary

Meirinkan September 2013:Dave Keech (Nidan), Harrison Marley, Scott Young, John Hollingsworth , Neil Rogers (2nd Kyu) , Steve Ivins, Paul Roman (Ikkyu),Andy Cakebread (2nd Kyu), Trevor Trleven (3rd Kyu), Matt Marley (Sensei, Sandan), Juno Doran (3rd Kyu), Chris Gordon (Shodan), Marc Beaumont (Shodan)

Meirinkaan September 2013:
Back Row: Dave Keech (Nidan), Harrison Marley, Scott Young, John Hollingsworth , Neil Rogers (2nd Kyu), Steve Ivins, Paul Roman (Shodan),
Front Row: Andy Cakebread (2nd Kyu), Trevor Trleven (3rd Kyu), Matt Marley (Sensei, Sandan), Juno Doran (3rd Kyu), Chris Gordon (Shodan), Marc Beaumont (Shodan)

On Saturday 31st August 2013, Meirinkan, Bedford Kendo Kai, celebrated its 2nd anniversary. It was made even more special that we were able to have the celebration on the actual anniversary and in Bedford’s new Japanese restaurant, Hoku Hoku. Even better was seeing our more sporadic members there as well to add to the festivities.

Following this on the Thursday we managed to get a great turnout at the dojo for keiko and our club picture (see above). As we are often reminded, it is us who keep the spirit of the dojo alive. We turn up, sweat, shout and train hard and that what makes Meirinkan.

At this time, I should go back to the beginning and describe how I have seen the evolution of the club. I still remember that first open day and the fact that I nearly missed it. I had been out getting dinner for the evening, at the local chipy, and there on the wall was a poster advertising the first open day. It was that very night and after a couple of quick discussions with my wife while waiting for food, I decided to go along while my wife went shopping that evening.

To be honest, evening was a bit of a blur as I really only had time to be there for about an hour and it was all so new that I barely remember any of it, but I do remember thinking that I would be going back. I reflect on that night thinking that we were a group of fairly dissimilar people in most ways, that probably would not have met other wise, but we would be spending at least one whole evening a week with for the next 2 years. Many of the established kendoka where there helping out and demoing to us and although we’ve lost a few along the way, the same faces and familiar people will always crop up and be around. I’ve already discussed the fact that as kendoka, we are in a minority.

Sensei always tells us that it is not the hall that makes a dojo, but it is us kendoka who bring our spirit to the dojo and make it a place that means something. The spirit of Merinkan is strong for the simple reason that there is a dedicated core of us that train week after week and when we do, we give it everything we’ve got.