Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Kiaaaaaaaaai


One of the most “embarrassing” things for begginers in kendo is kiai. Many people, when starting kendo feel ashamed and avoid “yelling” loud. This is normal and a very common behaviour either because people are naturally more shy or because don’t like to attract attention. But, can you imagine kendo without kiai? Weird thing, right? As all martial artists know, kiai is one of the most important parts of practice. When in a kendo shiai your strike will only count as an ippon (point) if you make a convicent kiai. More than just “yell” to intimidate the opponent”, kiai expresses your spirit, your will, your strength. It’s also a way to get yourself ready for shiai. 

Besides being important, it is a beautiful thing to watch and listen. A shiai is much more interesting if the opponents express their will and strength making good kiai. So, I’ve been working on this lately. I must confess that I’m not a very shy person and I only felt uncomfortable about “yelling” in the first month of training. After that, I started to use my vocal cords to make a big noise but, of course, this is a wrong thing to do (it’s wrong in terms of technique and it’s bad for your throat - trust me!). But I’ve been working to improve my kiai and make it come from my stomach, as it’s supposed to. I must admit that I did some progress but I still have to work on it. I’m really striving to give the most of me and to show my will to make the perfect strike. 

Thus, I decided to establish a train for my kiai. This consists in: practicing yoga (unfortunately, I only have time once a week) and use relaxation techniques. Kiai has much to do with correct breathing and I learned how to breathe properly before I started kendo through relaxation techniques. These techniques allow you to learn breathing using your stomach and not just your chest. I believe they can be very useful for kenshi because they promote correct breathing and, consequently, a better oxygenation of the body. Yoga also helps with this and that’s why I finally decided to give it a try. As some of you may recall, I chose kendo because I wasn’t very enthusiastic about yoga. But, after falling in love with kendo, I resorted to yoga as a kind of “complementary training”. From what I read, among other things, yoga promotes a better posture and breathing. For these reasons, I thought this modality could help me improve my kiai and my center of gravity. I can’t tell about the results because I started recently, but I will keep you updated ;)



Monday, September 2, 2013

Shinai Maintenance


Hello everyone!!! :)

How are you doing? Are you on “kendo vacation”? Well, I was (for 2 weeks). But now, I’m  back to practice. When I arrived from my vacation the second thing I did (the first was take a shower) was take care of my shinai so I was ready to practice the following day. While I was doing that, the idea of making this post came to my mind. What I’m going to show you is the way I take care of my shinai. There are other ways to do so, but I prefer this one. I apply oil once a week and sand it occasionally (unless I see some damage that need to be fixed).I hope you enjoy this little “guide”. Any questions, just ask!


How to disassemble your shinai












What do I need to proceed with the maintenance?

Well :) I have my own kit. In the future I want to buy proper instruments to do this but, for now, this things will do. 


Like you can see in the picture, I use:

Sandpaper (medium grain) - to sand the staves if needed.

An amazing kitchen knife ;) - to cut splinters that can appear on shinai.

Shinai oil - I bought some shinai oil when I was in Japan but it came in a bottle, so, I put it in this spray bottle to make it easier to spread. I don’t no where the original bottle is anymore, but the oil is specific for shinai maintenance and is similar to the one in the picture bellow (it can be found on almost every online kendo stores). 

Shinai oil
If you don’t have this kind of oil you can use cedar oil, olive oil, or other. My senpai also taught me to rub some vaseline on the staves. 

An old stocking - this is used to rub the oil along the staves.

So, once you have your homemade kit (or a proper one :)) it’s time to carefully observe the staves looking for any damage. 






Now that you have done this, it’s time to assemble your shinai:












Finally, I wonder how long will this first shinai last...



Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sorry!


I’ve been a very bad girl! I’m sorry I just disappeared... But I have an excuse: I was injured all this time... in the hospital. But I’m fully recovered now and ready to practice and to write again :)


My Kendo Routine


Hi there people! How have you been? Good, I hope :)
Today, I decided to tell you a little about the kendo exercises I usually practice at home. I know we can’t “do kendo” at home, but we can, and we should, try to improve our techniques by training them repeatedly. Besides, my husband also practices kendo and, sometimes, we do, the ... jigeiko thing ;) Oh well, but, let’s get to the point. Below, you can have a resume of the exercises I practice more frequently at home. Enjoy!

Ashi-sabaki


Yes, I do this at home, especially now that it is too hot. My floor is very fresh and I like to walk barefoot along the corridor. At the same time, I try to do all the kendo footwork I already know. Believe me, it’s never too much. I feel that this kind of exercise increases leg strength and, because of that, all movements become gradually more light and flexible. This exercise is not scheduled. I do it many times when I have to walk in the corridor.

Suburi


My shinai is always ready in the corner of the room and I grab it to do suburi many times. I prefer to do suburi at a moderate speed because, this way, I can improve my precision and learn the movement mechanics properly. Thus, I use to do 80 suburi at a lower speed and, then, increase the speed till I complete 150. Once a day, I do 200 katate suburi alternating between left and right hands.

The basic techniques: Men - Kote - Do


When my husband practices at home with me, we do Men, Kote and Do exercises - These are done slowly and focused on the correct technique. We do it for about 30 minutes.

Kirikaeshi

Image from: http://kendoinfo.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/winning-the-world-kendo-championships-with-kirikaeshi/

We also practice kirikaeshi and kirikaeshi-do about 50 times. I particularly like  this exercise and it really helps me improve my, coordination, precision distance, and breath control. I believe it’s a very good exercise involving the basics of kendo technique.

Kata

Kendo Kata: Ropponme

Even when my husband doesn’t practice with me, I do kata exercises. I have to admit: at the beginning, I didn't like kata. But now, I love them! I do kata every week, more than once. Kata are a good way of understanding more profoundly the art of kendo and they certainly help me to relax. My favourit kata are the sanbonme and nanahonme. 



And that’s all! I don’t have the time to do more, but is better than nothing, right?

What’s your kendo practice routine?

* Images taken from the internet.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Blisters and calluses


Ashi-sabaki (kendo footwork), intensive trainning, etc. These are reasons enough to let your feet as if you had walked barefoot on tarmac. Many kendoka have calluses and blisters on their hands and feet. In my first month of training, every day I left the dojo with blisters on my feet and on my hands. Those blisters were already burst... Sometimes they bleed, other times they don’t. Today, this doesn't happen, except in very intensive training sessions. But there are some ways to prevent and to treat them. Thinking about this, I decided to write this post, that might be useful to anyone starting kendo or, to anyone who, like me, is affected by this little problems.

Blisters


Blisters emerge due to the constant friction of the skin on the floor. Since the organism percieves this as an agression, the imune system starts to act increasing the blod flow on the affected area. Thus, the blood vessels dilate and the transparent part of the blood accumulates between epidermis (the surface layer of the skin) and dermis (skin layer immediately below the epidermis) forming a blister. This liquid contains inflammatory properties that fight the invasive agents. This is why we shouldn’t burst the blisters.


How can we treat them?

  • As I said, we shoul not burst the blisters. But kendoka know that this is almost impossible because they burst during the kendo practice... If this happens, please, don’t cut the skin!
  • First, we should clean the affected skin with an antiseptic (I use liquid Betadine). If the blister didn’t burst we should wash the feet with water and soup.

  • In any case, it is important to protect the area with gauze.


Can they be prevented?

I don’t use any of these methods because blisters aren’t that frequent on my feet. But if it happens a lot to you, you can try two things:
  • Wear a feet protector like the one in the picture below. You can find it in almost every online kendo equipment stores and it is not too expensive. 

  • You can tape your feet. There are several kinds of tape that you can wear to prevent blisters and they are sold at any pharmacy. Keep in mind that this tape shouldn’t be used if the skin is already injured.

    All I’ve said about the feet is valid for the hand blisters as well!

    Calluses

    Calluses affect almost every kendoka. They appear on feet or on hands (or both; I have calluses in my hands and in my left great toe). It is a part of the skin that became hard/rigid in order to protect that area from the constant pressure against something. In kendo, calluses appear on the left foot due to the constant pressure it exerts on the floor and they also appear on the hands due to the pressure exerted by the shinai. Calluses can be treated but they can’t be totally/permanently removed unless we completely exclude their cause (for us, this means stop doing kendo - yeah... of course...).

    How do we treat the calluses?

    There are many types of treatments for calluses. The kind of treatment I do only treats the symptoms, not the real problem. Also, my calluses don’t give me any pain. If they did, | would see a doctor instead of doing home pedicure :P
    I know that there are people how cut the calluses but this is absolutely wrong.You shouldn't do this because it can get infected or bleed a lot.

  •  First thing I do is soften the feet/hand skin. I put my feet/hand in worm water with camomile tea for 10/15 minutes.





      • Then, without drying the skin, I apply some baby oil (like Johnson’s Baby Oil) and I gently press the towel on the feet just to absorb the excess water (don’t rub).
      • Now it’s the time to gently massage the calluses with a pumice (no not scrub!).



      I do this routine once a week and, also, put baby oil everyday after bath and moisturizing cream before going to bed.



      Prevention?
      Well... There isn’t much to say about this. You can’t avoid calluses (I will not quit kendo because of some calluses - lol). I think the solution is to deal with them in the better way you can. That’s what I do.

      And you? Do you have many blisters and calluses? How do you treat them?


      * Images taken from the internet.


      Thursday, May 16, 2013

      Do for women or traditional Do?


      When choosing a Bogu, we probably pay more attention to the Men and the Kote than the other components of these japanese armour. This happens because we worry about the durability and the degree of protection  these parts may provide. Still, many women are specially worried about the kind of Do they should acquire. And why? Because we have breasts...

      As many of us already know, the Do is the Bogu part that protects the abdomen and the chest. The Dodai part (see the picture above) is traditionally made of bamboo but, more economical versions use other synthetic material. There are, also, many types of finishing (but I will talk about that on other post). However, regarding the Do design, there aren’t many differences between them. In fact, as Do are originally made for men body (as almost every kendoka equipment) some women have difficulties in finding something that really protects the chest area.

      I know that there are risks in Kendo, as in any other physical activities. But the Bogu function is to protect us and, I know, many kenshi women have this concern: “What if I get hit in the breast?”. This may not be a problem for small breast women but, in this case: The bigger the breast, the greater the problem!
      So, thinking about this, I decided to write this post hoping it would be useful for women!





      Above, you can observe: the picture on the left, that shows a “normal” Do; and the picture on the right from a Do specially designed for women. As you can notice, the main difference between them is the lateral part of the Mune which is higher in the feminine Do, thus, providing better breast protection. Let’s see the pro and con of this type of Do.


      Pro:
      • This is, without doubt, an excellent option for the protection of the breast that tends to be exposed in the lateral part of the traditional Do.

      Con:
      • The major con, for me, is the price (this is not a problem for everyone, thought).
      • Accessibility - it’s not easy, especially if you live in a European country, to have access to  this kind of Do. I could only find it on one online store.
      • Because of its different design, some women are not comfortable with it and they fear that they may draw too much attention.

      Concerning the traditional Do there are many ways to solve the problem:


      • Saying “No” to the bra!



      I know, I know! You were shocked or intrigued by this apparent solution. As some of you should know (and others, like me, discovered this recently), the tradition demands that we wear nothing under the kendo uniform (yes: no pants, no bra, anything). I don’t personally know anyone who doesn’t wear pants under the Hakama, but, regarding the bra, I know someone who doesn’t. She says that, because of this, the breast is a little lower being best  covered by the Do. It is important to say that her breast has a medium size. For me, this seems uncomfortable, but it works for other women.



      • Wear a very good sports bra

      I’d seen it all! Girls that wear two bras so the breast stays still and firm (giving them a sense of better protection); girls that wear padded bras under a tight training top (sensing that the padding provides some protection); or girls that just wear a good sports bra that flattens the breast. These are some reasonable options that does not prevent the breast exposure but can offer some additional protection. 


      • Wear the Do higher



      This and a good sports bra is the technique I use. It conists in tying the Himo (himo are the strings we use to tie the Men, Do and Tare) in a way that the Do satys a little higher, thus, covering more breast. My breast is not huge. It is medium-big, and, doing this I can protect him effectively in an inexpensive way.

      For those girls/women that are thinking of buying a Bogu/Do pay attention to que measurement options your supplier offers. Not all suppliers ask for the hips measurement. Although, women generally have the waist thinner and the hips larger than men. Thus, if Do just contemplates the waist measurement, the hips may be a little squeezed by the lower part of the Do, which is uncomfortable.

      I hope this was a useful post for you. If you know other tips, please tell me ;).

      “Kissus” and keep on training!



      * Imagens taken from the internet.

      Monday, May 13, 2013

      It’s not Fumikomi but “THE Fumikomi” - makes a big difference!


      Fumikomi,fumikomi, fumikomi... one of the hardest things in kendo. As you already know, I’m a newbie, so, for me, everything is difficult, but, at this moment, fumikomi is the most hardest thing I’m trying in kendo. When I look at my fellows I find this fumikomi stomp so beautiful. It is such an elegant, hard and straight movement. But when I try it, well... I keep trying because it just s*cks. This is my main difficulty in kendo, but I think it is a little better now that I think less about it.

      One of the things that intrigues me the most is the fact that I know all the “theory” about fumikomi. I know what it is and how it should be performed “step by step” but, when doing it, it never comes out like it should... I believe, and I heard from many kendoka, that fumikomi is something hard to learn and that many people has difficulties with it for a long time. So, I decided to write this post about fumikomi based on things that I know and that I read about the subject believing that it could be helpful for those who, unlike me, have good capability to apply theory to practice ;).

      What is fumikomi?
      It is a way of reaching your opponent in a single step by performing a forwards jump. By doing this, the front feet, that hits the floor, makes a stomp noise. 

      Looks easy! (Innocence) How is it performed?

      Well, here are some tips that I collected from books and from my Sensei and Senpai:

      • Avoid lifting your right foot too high. Don’t raise too high, just the sufficient to take it from the floor.
      • Don’t stomp the floor with your heel. When moving forward your right foot must be parallel to the ground and you must advance with you right knee, not just your foot.
      • Don’t try to make a big noisy stomp. The goal is to achieve your opponent with one step. This is a very useful tip. I started to notice some improvement in my fumikomi since one of my peers told me this. By knowing the aim of this action you avoid trying to “just hit hard on the floor” which is a common mistake (I was also commiting).
      • “Forget your arms!” This is one thing my Senpai keeps yelling at me. He says that, if I keep thinking in synchronize my arms with the stomp, I won’t be able to do it right. He also says that I should just think about the foot and forget the arms because the natural tendency is, when I hit the floor, the arms will strike at the same time. 
      • Don’t bend forward. It is true that you want to strike forward but you should do it straight. In fact, if you bend you are putting your energy into your upper body. But to perform fumikomi, you should put your strength in your hips and left leg, because it’s the leg that pushes your body toward your opponent and not your arms. So, once again, forget your arms!
      • Don’t think too much. One of the things my Sensei told me is that, knowing the theory is important and useful but we shouldn’t think too much about it. He said that, sometimes, it’s easier to learn by watching the others and repeat the same movements over and over. In fact, it’s just like we were copying their movements. So, in fumikomi, it may be better if not to get obsessed with all these procedures and, instead, just watch your experienced colleagues and try to do like them.

      So, summarizing, to successfully fumikomi you should:
      • Keep your left foot straight while you move your right knee towards keeping your right foot parallel to the ground. 
      • Keep your back straight and concentrate your strength on your lower body (hips and left leg) to give the impulse.
      • Remenber you are aiming to achieve your opponent. 
      • Just do it as naturally as you can.

      Well, I will continuing with my fumikomi training. Hope you have a nice week and train hard!

      * Images taken from the internet.

      Saturday, May 11, 2013

      Buying a bogu - my first one!




      Buying a bogu is not an easy task... at all! And, when you are a newbie like me, this mission gets harder to be accomplished. But I had to do it because of several reasons, such as: bogu rental in my club is very expensive wich doesn’t make it an advantajeous option; I’ve tried three kinds of bogu and could experience the differences between them, what made me decide to buy my own with the features I like most; and I’m very short and having a customized bogu set is way better then the one I wear now (wich is too large, but there were no other). These were the main reasons why I decided to buy a bogu. There are other less important ones (but I won’t bore you with that ;)).

      So, how did I chose my bogu set?
      I tried three kinds of bogu sets last month:
      • A 6 mm bogu (the one that I’m renting);
      • One 3 mm bogu;
      • And a 2 mm bogu.

      As far as I know, they where composed from different materials being the 6mm set the most weakly built of them. This, of course, makes a big difference since the distance  between stitches is not the only factor do consider when selecting a bogu set (as I have learned).

      I can say that I felt great differences between them:
      • The 6mm one was really soft but it performed a bad role in reducing the power of the hits. I know this is kind of controversial thing to say but it was what I felt. This bogu set is not new and it belongs to the club. I know that it was a very cheap set and I believe that had some influence on its actual condition (it seems too worn). It also felt heavier than the 3mm set.
      • The 3mm set I tried was a pleasant surprise. I don’t know why but it gave me this “lighter” feeling. The owner said it was bought 7 months ago (so, can I say this is a new bogu set?). Regarding the power hitting absorption, I didn’t notice any difference between the sets, except for the kote hits. What a difference between 6mm and 3 mm kote. This one reduces the power of the hits way better. I can’t talk about the quality of the materials and construction because this was a new set unlike the others. Thus, the main differences I noticed were the kote and the weight and that’s enough for me.
      • The 2 mm set, well... I didn’t dislike it, but I think it’s not “that incredible thing” I was expecting. I don’t know, too much expectation, perhaps? The truth is that this set (with two years) seemed just a little better then the 6mm one regarding the way it absorbs the knocks. I can say, for shore, that I felt the Kote hits harder than the 3mm set. Regarding the Men, I guess this set is as protective as the 3mm one. But one thing I liked about this set was the Men weight. It was lighter than the others wich is due to the mengane material (it was IBB Duralumin instead of the traditional duralumin). I felt it lighter but the owner said it wasn’t that lighter and that what I was feeling was the better balance this kind of mengane provides.

      So... I’ve read about this (I did a lot of research on the subject and I will post about it later), I’ve worn different bogu sets and I decided what I want. I ordered a 3mm orizashi bogu set with IBB mengane. It is a customized bogu set, so I will have to wait some time (about two months, more or less). As soon as it arrives I will post pictures and do a review about it, ok? 

      Have a nice weekend :) 

      *Image taken from the internet.

      Wednesday, May 8, 2013

      1st post


      I have so much to say that I thought a lot about my first topic. I don’t want to start this blog with the question “Being a woman in kendo” or something like that because I don’t want this to turn into a segregation blog between kenshi women and men. To me, when practicing kendo we are all in the same boat. All of us strive for continuous improvement. Obviously that there are differences between men and women, just like there are differences between men and between women. Every human being is unique.

      So, my first topic will be about little things kendo is showing me slowly. 
      How did I find kendo? One of my senpai use to say that kendo found me :). To tell you the truth, I’ve always loved the asian culture, particularly the japanese culture, but kendo was completely unknown to me. I was never an athletic person and I have some health issues. My doctor said that I should try Yoga or Tai Chi. I didn’t dislike the idea but it wasn’t interesting enough for me, either... So, I decided to look for something that always intrigued me on google. I remember I googled this words: “Martial arts with weapons” and the first result was the link to the page of the nearest kendo club (wich, by the way, is far from my home :)). I decided to try it and I was fascinated by the rigor, the discipline and the constant striving for perfection that kendo demands. At that moment I thought: “This is something that I can do for the rest of my life; this is something for which I’m willing to sacrifice myself.”. And that’s how I began to do kendo.  (I’m sorry if I disappointed you but there is no romance behind my motivations for kendo - all the passion I feel for it was only raised by the experience I had).

      But, how did this affect my life till now? Well, I can say that I’m a little anxious and perfectionist. Thus, sometimes I get really frustrated when I realize that I can’t achieve excellent results quick. However, this is getting better since i started kendo practice. I find myself everyday thinking about the long road I have to walk and I get surprised by the fact that doesn’t seem to bother me (I think I’m becoming more patient). This is why kendo is a life style and not a sport - it is a constant learning and improvement of yourself as a kendoka and as a person. Everyday I remember there are to many things to learn. Due to this, I’m learning to deal with frustration, stress and pressure. I’m not aiming to be perfect anymore - Perfection doesn’t exist. Now, I just want to improve myself a little everyday. That’s it! And I love how simple it is (despite the fact that it is hard).

      Every practice is a mixture of satisfaction and frustration. This is constantly happening and leads me to accept that things aren’t always like we would like them to be. But if I give up, then things won’t even come close to that. This tells me that the really important thing is to never give up. Ever!
      I feel I’m progressively becoming more tolerant and motivated, and less anxious. I still have a long way to go but I will get there. One thing I’m sure about: with kendo practice I’ve won a new smile. A stronger and more confident smile. A smile capable of accepting new challenges! 

      I know that I’m such a newbie! In fact, who am I to talk about kendo? No one. But this is the way I see it now.