Sensei Says, “Renshuu This…” (All of This!)

The beloved sempai whom I had previously spoken about in past entries I now have been calling ‘sensei,’ and deservingly so because he taught me his kendo these past 8 months. So the “sensei” in this segment can now be any of my senseis  locally and abroad (I have made ‘friends’ with a few who had been giving me feedback and pointers. One of them is 6–dan). I’ll now just consider them all as one.

So I keep developing bad habits of late, therefore  I have the painful task of undoing them, and of course, there’s just so much stuff to learn and re–learn!! Below are the advice/admonitions/comments/observations/assessment of my senseis of my kendo:

“Correct your footwork. You have a bad habit of showing the soles of your foot upon fumikomi. Keep your right foot parallel to the ground when you stamp.”

“Your feet show,… no good!” (Also referring to my bad habit above).

‘”はね足”. 左足のひきつけを早くして!!’ (You may as well Google Translate this one).

“On a good day, [you] can hit from far distance [before shokujin no maai]. So height has nothing to do with it. It’s in the hips; the push off the left leg.”

“VJ, your tenouchi… place the [butt of] shinai [on the pads of your left hand below the thumb]. Hold [little finger and ring finger] tight. Can you feel the difference?”(Yes. I’ve been doing tenouchi wrong all this time).

“Good tenouchi does not hurt. So when you hit, your shinai tip should go up so that even if you miss, your tip is still pointing at tsuki and ready to attack again. You can accomplish this with a slight flicking of the wrist.”

“Work your partner’s shinai tip. Is his tenouchi soft? Then harai. Is it hard? Then slide shinai up and hit.”

“Try learning your distance by hitting with only the hasuji.”

“Know your distance! You are already within your opponent’s range, so you get hit. Find a way to invite your opponent to come to you.”

 “For kote, you move forward but move like you do for dou. Don’t hiraki ashi, the angle is no good. Just step forward to the side like doing [migi] dou.”

“Please TAIATARI! after DEGOTE… . Most important is move yourself to separate widely from Aite after DATOTSU. That will change depending on situation. If there is Aite right in front of you, you should TAIATARI,and chudan-no-kamae,zanshin! If you can move yourself far from Aite, that’s best, I think.

On kata:“Good. At the time of posture, I think that you should acquire the angle of the sword a little more.about 45°. And your posture is stately more if you set up the left fist in a little more front of the sum.(No idea what he meant by ‘sum.’)  



The red ‘tai’ is an auspicious fish, which is believed to bring good fortune.


Last August, kendo had become extra hard. Ever since I came back from my first taikai experience in Vietnam that month, my senseis (and myself included) noticed changes in the way I do kendo, and with that came changes in the way they treat me or jigeiko with me too. One of my senseis, for instance, now does his ‘normal’ kendo with me, which is very fast, sharp, and very painful. No more slow, beginner treatment for me. For the first time, he has no qualms pushing me back with some extra strength after I make a hit and close in on him for taiatari. This shocked me the first few times. He has never done that before. It scared me a bit because it had that feeling of murder with it. So now, every time I jigeiko with him, I am training myself to bounce back/suriashi backward immediately after a hit and a body attack (that is, to not linger in front of him) to avoid that killer push–back of his.

So when I say kendo became hard, I meant it got too real. It became really serious. It was no longer ‘fun’ anymore. I felt rather singled–out too. While my dojo–mates were given praises and encouragements, I received none. During jigeiko, the senseis were tougher with me than they are with my colleagues. It was unfair on the one side, but at the same time it felt like I was being treated like a mature kendoka.

My spirit was totally crushed for an entire month; this sudden change in their treatment of me. And for a good while, my kokoro (heart and mind) was out of sorts. I still worked my hardest doing kihon correctly, giving my all in jigeiko, learning and unlearning the essentials, etc., but I felt like no matter how much I improved and how well I did a waza, it was not acknowledged and I felt a bit lost and I couldn’t understand why. Have I done something wrong? Did I say something mean? What happened?

It did enter my head to take a break from kendo again. Everything was too hard.

Kendo was no longer fun.

But I kept showing up anyway.


Then, the re–emergence of old members who had not done kendo in a really long time proved very challenging. To certain extents, I’d say my kendo level is a degree or so higher than theirs even though they have a ‘kyu’ to their name, and yet I couldn’t hit them! The reason I think I’m higher level than them is because they couldn’t even cut straight nor hit the target with the correct part of the shinai, let alone do zanshin correctly. Their arms are stiff, they cut with their elbows instead of shoulders, and their strikes are too weak and often miss the target. Apart from that, they don’t seme, and they also block and step back a lot. So yes, it perplexes me why I couldn’t land a nice, good strike on them, except for a few (very few) instances.

I obviously need more practice with seme myself, more practice reading intentions, and more practice in speed and sharper footwork.

So because of this, I just let them hit me… like when a sensei does to a beginner. ^^

I have also been told that I hit too hard. That astounded me and briefly offended me because when you are told that, it means you’ve been using your right hand, ergo you’ve been chopping. But I don’t believe I have. If anyone is doing the chopping business around here, it’s the beginners and members who returned from long hiatuses. But then I realized… perhaps my tenouchi has changed afterall. One of my senseis commented last week that my hits are sharper and had more power now after he corrected my tenouchi. If that’s what she meant by “you hit too hard,” then I say it’s a good thing. She clearly had not been hit “too hard” yet by two of my senseis (they probably had been giving her the soft and slow ‘beginner’ treatment) because if she had, she’ll know that the power of my strikes is nothing compared to theirs.


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