Queen Mary Kendo Club

The Christmas Session

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DSC01844 DSC01856 DSC01902 DSC01943 DSC01946 IMG_0093 IMG_0123 IMG_0125‘Twas the season to be merry! Sooo I haven’t updated here for a while but now, as we approach Easter comes the rebirth of WordPress posting…. and announce that this will be more ‘Major event update’ time.

So the Christmas session, was great, we had fun, we had food, we had drinks… then more food and good solid fun kendo! I thank all who came, saw many new faces (check our Facebook!) and in retrospect I feel we all got closer!

Was also great to see you all come back post-Christmas!


This gallery contains 9 photos

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Session #1: A hearty (if belated) welcome and welcome back!

So this is my first post here and I just wanted to say hi and welcome to QM Kendo! Hopefully you all enjoyed the first session we had last week and are raring to go for tomorrow. We should be expecting quite a few new faces this week as well. Thus far not much has happened outside the club, we’ve had a pre-session meet and went to the Matsuri which was fun but don’t worry, we’re moving into festival season with MCM, Halloween, movies, Winter Wonderland and much more to come this semester!

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Session #11: Returning after a break

I was happy to see such a great turnout at our first session back. Three new beginners came to try kendo out (though whether we’ve scared them off is yet to be determined).

Our coach ran a more relaxed session, emphasising the importance of easing yourself back into practice and not pushing too hard straight off the bat, as that’s how injuries can occur. Snapping the Achilles tendon is not that uncommon an injury for kendoka!

As pretty much all of us at the club have taken some time off kendo over the holiday, I thought I’d note down some of my personal aims on returning after a break of 6-8 weeks. Maybe you’ll find something you can relate to below.

  • Relax my shoulders and upper arms
    I always find myself especially tense on my first sessions back and I have to keep reminding myself before and after every cut to stop hunching up my shoulders.
  • Don’t worry about the speed of my cut
    Speed comes with eliminating muscle tension in the cut, so unless if I can relax my shoulders, arms and wrist, it will only make matters worse to try to make a faster cut with brute force.
  • Focus on pushing with my left leg
    Kendo footwork is an unintuitive thing, and after a break, my legs always feel like lead. However, this is also a great time to throw away all my bad habits from before (well, I can’t move my legs anyway) and start consciously trying to do the correct thing (so pushing off with my left leg and not pulling with my right).
  • Breathe in when I lift my arms to cut
    This is something I only remembered after almost crashing out at Hizen last night. I don’t breathe in enough. Sounds silly doesn’t it? I was doing motodachigeiko (paired practice with a senior) as a junior, so I tried to put in 100% effort in every cut, and after 5 cuts, I could barely lift my arms to finish half a set of kirikaeshi, and I was gasping for breath like a drowning swimmer. What I realised was that by trying so hard to do my best cuts and loudest kiai, I had completely forgotten to breathe in and hence my body couldn’t really function for more than a minute. Next time, I’m going to tell myself explicitly to breathe in every time I lift my arms to cut. Hopefully it’ll become second nature someday.

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Happy new year! First session and Welcome Back Fayre

Hope you’ve all had a good break!

Two important dates for the coming fortnight:

Sat 11/1/2013, 15:50-17:50, Qmotion Sports Hall
First training session of 2014! Work off that all that holiday eating. ;D
Beginners and seasoned kendoka are all welcome. Click here to read more about joining. Just turn up!

Wed 15/1/2013, 12:30-16:00, Student Union HUB
QMUL students, please spare us an hour or two to help recruit new club members at the Welcome Back Fayre. We’ll set up the table so all you need to do is show up and tell the passersby how much fun kendo is!

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Last practice of the year: 07/12/2013

MerrChristmas everybody!

(Photos courtesy of Wimpy)

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Session #10: All cuts start with the same action

This week our coach emphasised that all cuts (men, kote and do) should start with exactly the same action:

  1. The body remains still and upright throughout steps 2 and 3.
  2. Push the shinai forward along the line of the shinai with both hands.
  3. Continue to raise the shinai as if trying for tsuki (thrust to the throat).
  4. Once the shinai has been raised high enough for the respective cut, bring the shinai down to cut the target and step forward at the same time.

This is a very advanced way of cutting, so don’t worry if you can’t grasp it just yet. We’ll continue to work on this in the coming semester.

To practise the concept above at home, if you should wish to do so over the holidays, our coach introduced us to the following exercise that Jeff Humm-shihan (Hizen Kendo Club) recommends:

  1. Sit in seiza facing a wall with your shinai in chuudan, shoulders relaxed. Position yourself so that the tip of your shinai is 2-3 inches away from the wall. Make sure you are not hunched forwards or arching back (see Fig. 1).
  2. Push your shinai forward along the line of your shinai until it almost touches the wall.
  3. Lift the shinai along the wall, making sure the tip of your shinai is raised vertically (see Fig. 2).
  4. When you can no longer lift your shinai along the wall without leaning forward (this is when your right arm is parallel to the ground), lift your arms to do a men cut as normal
  5. The men cut should stop at the height of a usual men, with the tip of your shinai just touching the wall.
  6. Return to chudan and repeats steps 2 to 6.
Fig. 1: Correct seiza posture is upright but natural.

Fig. 1: Correct seiza posture is upright but natural. (Image drawn by Wayne Muramoto.)

Fig. 2: The red line shows the approximate path that the tip of your shinai should follow.

Fig. 2: The tip of your shinai should approximately be tracing the red line as you lift your arms.

If you have any questions about the above, please leave a comment below and we’ll try to clarify.

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Session #9: Watch and think

A big welcome to our four newcomers, who coped extremely well with being thrown straight into the deep end.

The emphasis this week was on using your eyes and brain.

Kendo is extremely difficult and as a beginner, you can make up for lack of experience with lots of energy and enthusiasm. But that doesn’t mean you should allow yourself to expend energy without evaluating your actions. After every kendo session, you should feel both physically and mentally exhausted!

(1) Eyes

  • Watch the important part of the demonstrations: This might sound obvious, but make sure you are watching what the coach is highlighting, sometimes you will need to watch the feet, sometimes the wrists, sometimes the whole body movement.
  • Watch the people training around you: When you’re stood at the end of the rotation waiting for your turn, look out for those with good form or look out for common mistakes (such as landing the foot before the shinai). The more you can recognise good/bad kendo in others, the more you can recognise the same things in your own kendo.
  • Watch yourself: Recognising postural mistakes in yourself is very difficult, but there are many things that you can easily start to look for, such as:
    • Is my chudan too high/too low? Is my shinai extending towards my opponent’s throat?
    • Am I actually hitting the target on the correct spot?
    • Is my right arm too straight?

(2) Brain

  • Evaluate what you’re seeing: Following on from above, stay focussed and make sure you’re actually thinking about what you’re seeing; it’s easy to get distracted in training.
  • Choose only one thing to work on each session: In each session, you will hear a million and one comments on what you can do to improve your posture, movement, spirit, and so on, but don’t be overwhelmed. If the coach tells you specifically to work on one thing (such as relax your shoulders), then try to work on that one thing. If you haven’t been told anything specific, then it’s up to you to choose something to work on. Concentrating on one small point is more effective than trying to change everything at once.
  • Ask questions at the end of the session: Feel free to ask the coach after the session if you don’t understand something, or you have an injury you can’t explain, or you just want to get a deeper understanding of a particular point. Speaking is not allowed during the session because we want to keep up the flow of training and get as much done as possible in the limited time, but after we get out of the sports centre there’s all the time in the world for questions (and drinks, of course)!