Sensei Says, “Renshu This…” (Senseis’ Feedback)


I have been sitting in front of my netbook, gazing at the monitor, wondering what else to write on my term paper, which is due tonight before midnight and I can’t concentrate on it.

I may look calm from the outside. I may be taking an overdose of chill pill to refrain myself from panicking unnecessarily, but my mind is a wasteland of thought clutter… and I am the overwhelmed garbage person just staring at the dump I would have to go through eventually. And yes, I am just taking my sweet, sweet time just staring.

Anyway… so much for imagery.

While I procrastinate, let me share some stuff I caught myself saying to my students during a painting activity yesterday, and how I found myself sounding more and more like my J-sensei (or kendo-sounding) :

“Don’t let the brush control you. You control the brush!”

“You have the best kind of brush for painting straight lines. Look around you — everyone is using a round brush, while you are using a flat one. Use it to your advantage! Treat each brush stroke like an art form!”

“If your painting was a person, it is weak! It lacks character and heart. Fix it!” 

“Remember how Chinese calligraphers paint with their brushes upright? Well do the same thing! Just move the tip of your brush like so!”

“This is something I cannot teach you, …but I can show you. So watch carefully!”

“What is red plus yellow, you say? Why don’t you find out? You’ve got paints in your mixing plate. Mix them!” 

So while I dispensed these critiques to my students, hoping  they’d eventually figure it all out for themselves — and oh, the joy in their eyes when they made their own discoveries — some teachers had also given me feedback on my kendo, which is refreshing because these came for different teachers from other countries and are therefore observing me with different eyes:

“When you hold the shinai …it’s important to hold it correctly …turn your left hand in more ,.so much that you are actually looking down from the top of your knuckle when you look down on your grip.”

“Use a bokken …hug the tsuka with the inside of your left and right palm …the power lies in the tanden and an extension from the tsuka gashira up to the tip of the kensen.”  

“Also …do not nod your head forward … keep it straight…”

“Your power distribution is from the left leg …70% and 30% distribution… try to launch from the left toe and the right feet will dig into the opponent leftheel[sic]…”

“We should try to launch from chudan kamae and from issoku ito no maai …many times we take a small step first and then do fumikomi. This is not very effective because it means we cannot surprise our opponents and also we send a signal to opponent that we are going to strike.”

Finally, my favorite of them all:

“Remember to keep the center and also to attack with all your heart, no hesitations or doubts.”

…It’s my favorite because I needed reminding of this essential thing, which I had obviously forgotten. When I keiko’d with him, it was half-hearted and not my 100%. I felt so guilty of it afterwards that I wished I gave him my best keiko and that’s something I truly regret.

After this week (which is the final week of my studies), I can begin training again for my next shinsa, which will be held in one year, and help my fellow dojomates train for their own shinsa, which will take place at the end of this year in Bangkok. I am so thrilled that all of us wants to get better now and pursue kendo a bit more seriously than before.

I will train with a different mindset this time: more attacking heart!!


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