My favorite tenugui from Kyoto featuring kitsune and torii of the Fushimi Inari shrine.

Yesterday, I posted a comic strip I painted a few months back with regards to bruises obtained from kendo. It received some feedback from fellow kendokas, about how they, too, took bruises home with them or remedy it with ice, cooling patch, or ointment.  However, there was one particular comment which had totally taken me aback because it came from someone I admire as a kenshi, writer, and budo photographer.


His comment made me think really hard. If what he says is true, then… why on earth do I keep getting bruises? It really can only mean two things:

A) I am doing something wrong, or

B) my partners are doing something wrong, whether its bad waza or they’re chopping down their strikes.

Come to think of it, last night didn’t leave any bruises on my skin, which is a first. Well, except for a couple of spotted ones from kote hits but they’re not black n’ blue and they’ll disappear by tomorrow. They also don’t hurt. So that means my partners and I are doing ‘good’ kendo?

Which brings to mind ‘WHO’ is giving me bruises? There’s one particular bogu beginner I can think of whose weird timing and strikes had left bruises on me in odd places on several occasions… even recently. He chops down a lot too and for a time, I reeeaaallly dread doing keiko with him. But little by little he’s improving.

Then there’s my senseis. They hit really hard too, and I sometimes wonder if they’re even aware of it.

Obviously not.

I know that there’s a difference between ‘hard’ strikes and ‘sharp’ strikes. Unfortunately, I can’t tell the difference. Whether it’s because no one has yet shown me the difference or not, one thing is for certain… they both hurt! One of my senseis, who says good tenouchi doesn’t hurt, has left bruises on my kote a few times. Does that mean he has bad tenouchi? Both senseis have scary dou–uchi, and when they hit us, we more than just flinch… we writhe in pain.

So yes, it shocks me to be told that I shouldn’t have any bruises after keiko. Well, that will be the day! I sure hope to have more of those days.  …and soon!

Something has got to change.




Speaking of last night’s keiko, my other sensei remarked that my tenouchi has improved. Yay! It now produces that “oishii” popping sound we all strive to make. He was also surprised to see me, for the first time, doing a sharp, solid kaeshi–dou.

We practiced ni–dan–waza last night and I was amused that sensei chose my favorite waza (he doesn’t know it’s my favorite, and I didn’t know it’s my favorite waza either until now that I’ve mentioned it). You see, I watched one of my keiko videos from last month and was gobsmacked to see that I was doing kote–nuki–men–kaeshi–dou… and my strikes were sharper than normal!!  I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was all reflex… and I used it more than twice throughout the jigeiko hour.

Of course, zanshin remains the bane of my life. I still struggle unplanting my feet and following through after a successful strike. I obviously still carry a shikai with me which is doubt! I doubt the success of my strikes, so sensei told me last night to give 100% forward body movement with no thought of being struck because I was only giving 50%. So true!

I also can’t figure out why I can do a nice ai–men with my sensei, but not with my colleague. Is not ai–men a simultaneous strike towards each other’s men? Then why does it feel like kiriotoshi from my colleague all the time? Good for him for taking over center all the time, but all throughout the drill, I found myself thinking, “How do I hit this guy’s men who keeps killing my center?” It doesn’t feel like teamwork anymore, but more of “winning at all costs” on his side.  So my thinking led me to observing how he strikes and how I strike, which surprised me because this is the first time I did keiko this way.

So I observed that when he strikes, he does it from chika–ma and he moves his head a lot to the side to evade my hits, which I thought is not okay! That kinda defeats the purpose of ai–men, doesn’t it? But I said nothing and so my observations led me to the conclusion that when I hit, I have to extend my arms higher to reach his men and evade the block of his arms. I can’t fully explain it, but basically, I can’t do my normal men hit. I had to adjust my angle. Timing is of the essence, because I can’t overpower his strength… which is interesting because it worked! I landed a nice strike on his men, but of course I only managed to pull it off once.

Anwyay, it was an interesting experiment and thinking processes during keiko. I was quite thrilled to be able to finally do that!

So yeah, this month is way better than August. I am getting more encouragements and more ‘validation’ in my improvements from the sensei. I can also see those improvements myself.

It’s been 8 months since I began doing kendo regularly. 8 months has brought me very far!

Share your thoughts?

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