Zoom seminar with Jang Sung-Hong sensei (K7 dan) and Kim Tae-Ho sensei (R7 dan)

Today the VKR held it's first group Zoom training session, organised through MUKEN (Melbourne University Kendo Club). Daniel Jeong sensei and Richard T'en were facilitators and Jeong sensei was the translator. Thank you both for your hard work and organisation.

The seminar started off with a presentation by Yano sensei who is the current Australian national team coach and head instructor of the Kenshikan of the basics of yuko datotsu from a theoretical point of view. This was very interesting and I will bring you more detail about this presentation in the future. 

First, a quick bio for the two Korean sensei:

Tae-Ho KIM Sensei, Renshi 7th Dan 

- Head Coach of Buk-gu District, Gwangju Metropolitan City Kendo Team

- Member of 12th WKC (Glasgow 2003) Men’s Team 2nd place


Sung-Hong JANG Sensei, Kyoshi 7th Dan

- Head Coach of Seong-Nam High School Kendobu

- Head instructor of Yeok-Sam Dojo, Seoul

- Graduated from Chosun University, Gwangju

- 14th WKC (Brazil 2009) Men's team 3rd place

- 17th WKC (Incheon 2018) Men's Assistant Coach

These sensei and others from Gwanju have an ongoing relationship with MUKEN; they have visited Melbourne in the past and MUKEN members have gone to Korea to train with them as well.

I want to just summarise here some of the main points of the seminar because they introduced some very useful home-training techniques which anyone can use. 

These drills form an excellent yet simple basis for a training regime that will maintain dynamic, Kendo-relevant fitness, in both body and mental attitude.


Kim sensei's routine

50 wrist squeezes - hold arms straight out front and open and close your fingers in a big action, while also pulling back with the wrists, like using the throttle of a motorbike.

10 push-ups - place your hands quite close together on the floor (shoulder width or less) and keep your elbows tucked in against the sides of your body while you do the pushups.

10 calf raises - go up onto your toes and then let yourself down again. As you get stronger try lifting not only your heels off the ground but also the balls of your feet.

This is one set. Rest and repeat.

double shinai men suburi - with a shinai in each hand, hold your shinais out in front with arms straight at shoulder height. Alternately cut men with each hand. The non-cutting side stays in this outstretched position. Can be done standing or sitting depending on your location and overhead clearance.

Do 10 and then rest. Repeat.

Take care to cut with correct technique. Try doing this while holding each shinai at the end of the tsuka (shinai handle). If you find it too hard adjust your grip to be further up the handle.

Image training - While standing in kamae (or sitting if you need to), imagine performing kakarigeiko against and opponent and practice small, precise cuts to men, kote and do, as well as combinations. The important thing here is to not just do the movements but imagine your opponent or motodachi. You do not need to do footwork or use zanshin. Just using the shinai movements as a way to train your concentration.

Do for 10 or 20 seconds. Rest, then repeat.

Jang sensei's routine

Big okuriashi - take a big step forward using okuriashi and quickly bring up your back foot. Just use a sliding action. Repeat with a backwards step. 

Do 5 times, rest stretch out and repeat.

Big fumikomiashi - same but this time with the right foot stamp. Do going forwards without zanshin but with a big step and very quick bringing up of the back foot. 

Do 5 times, rest, stretch out and repeat.

Men cuts in kibidachi - in a horse-stance, start with shinai in finishing position for a men cut. Straighten legs with the backswing and then cut men as you come back down into horse-stance. Keep an eye on your posture and focus on your core muscles.

Do 5 times, rest, stretch out and repeat.

Men cuts to lunge - start with feet side-by-side and sword in chudan position. Swing up and cut men as you lunge deeply with your right foot forward, going down on your left knee. Come back to starting position and repeat on the other side.

Do 5 lunges on each side, rest, stretch and repeat.

Relaxed shinai swings - using your core rather than your hands, stand in kamae and loosely swing the shinai in one hand: circles big and small, figure of eight. Do for 20 secs and then change hands.


Tips on image training

Both sensei emphasised the current lockdown as a chance to practice image training and make this a focus of your approach that can bring long-term benefits to your Kendo.

Before competition - as both sensei are very experienced in competition both from a competitor and a coaching side this was their primary focus for image training tips.

Before a big competition, prepare at home by imagining the moment of attack. Do this with shinai in hand and with body movement. Imagine your opponent clearly. Imagine the ma-ai. Imagine building your seme and seeing the opportunity before you strike. 

To go even further, imagine the actual stadium where the competition will take place. Imagine how many shiaijo are there, what it feels like to walk in and see the crowd, etc. Imagine scenarios like being one-point down, facing a taller opponent, being in various playing positions on a team, etc.

Here's an interesting point that Jang sensei made: always imagine yourself winning and having confidence in your Kendo. Try to avoid being defeated or overwhelmed in your imagination. If that happens, take a break and come back to the exercise later. Always imagine yourself winning with proper technique.


What you should do to prepare to face a strong opponent?

Jang sensei said that every time he thinks of it like that he loses! If you think about how strong your opponent is then you will lose because you have already broken your concentration. 

[This is one of the 'four sicknesses' of Kendo: doubt. The other three are confusion, fear and surprise]

Against a strong opponent have the mindset that they are human like you. They are not a Kendo god! They are human and have weaknesses too. 

Jang sensei also said that from a practical point of view, against a skillful opponent, be careful of ma-ai. Maintain a 'difficult distance': not necessarily just far distance, but one from which they can't strike easily. 

What is the best way to fix bad habits in Kendo?

First understand what your weaknesses are, and then train to correct them every day. Not just in the dojo but in daily life, e.g. if your left foot does not stay parallel to your right foot, practice your footwork when you are at home or waiting for the the bus. Bad habits in Kendo are usually to do with movements of the body that are part of your everyday movement, therefore practice to correct your everyday movement.

What is the difference between someone who makes it onto the national team and someone who doesn't?

The difference is actually very, very small. Those who are chosen are often chosen because they have shown an ability to perform at big competitions, and this comes from experience. Also it comes down to your attitude to learning and the effort you make in training. That's what sets national team members apart from the others.



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