Yonsei, Sungkyunkwan, Yonsei…

Posted in Uncategorized on October 27, 2008 by kendokorea

Group photo with Kim In Bum Sabumnim at Sungkyunkwan University Kumdo Dojang

Today was my last day in Korea, and I had a Kendo marathon. I practiced three times today at difference places, first at the Senior practice at Yonsei University, and then at Sungkyunkwan University with Kim In Bum Sabumnim 7th Dan, finishing off with the students practice at Yonsei…

It was a long, long day, but a fantastic finish to what has been an amazing and truly eye opening experience here is Korea. I have seen new ways of practicing, new ideas, and trained with some Kumsha of wonderful quality. 

I have been lucky enough to train at four different University Dojang (Yonsei, Korea, Seoul National, Sungkyunkwan), A Professional Dojang (Bucheon Shi Chong), A High School Dojang (Shim Won High School), and Seoul Police Dojang…

I’ve had keiko with two Korean National Team members, the Korean Mens Coach, 7 Korean high grade Sensei (7th and 8th Dan), and the Sensei’s at Seoul Police…

Before I came to Korea I would never have imagined such a diverse and busy month of training, and although at times it has been hard, every hardship has reaped more than it’s fair share of rewards.

At Sungkyunkwan today Kim In Bum Sabumnim took me apart, after the practice he smiled and said thank you I really enjoyed that, you are very strong… I couldn’t believe it. I hardly felt strong after the punishment I received, he was a really fantastic Sensei and a very nice man. Very friendly, kind, and gave me lots of positive feedback on my Kendo. 

After that practice I headed to Yonsei and got to fence with my friends there one last time, which was really great.

I don’t know when I will be coming back to Korea, but I do know for sure that I will return…


Final practice at Yonsei


FIK 2008 Asia Zone Shimpan Seminar Day 2

Posted in Uncategorized on October 26, 2008 by kendokorea

Group Photo with the Delegates

Day two of the Shimpan Seminar proved to be just as intensive and focused as Day one. Shorter in length running from 9am-1pm (instead of 9am-5pm), the sessions ran at a smooth and speedy pace. 

This morning I met the Sabumnim from Seoul Police, and said hello over Coffee. I seem to have a habit of meeting different Korean Sensei’s a multiple events here, and they all seem genuinely surprised and happy to see me, which is really nice. 

There was another brief lecture today about Hansoku and awarding penalty points to Shiai-sha, as well as news about forthcoming anti doping regulations an practices that are due to come into place shortly. it seems that as part of the GAISF move recently (hence the IKF name change to FIK) doping is a big issue and future events will have enforced anti doping policies and drug tests. There were also some interesting murmurs about the Olympics, although it was not made clear if FIK had any plans to move towards joining the Games. However joining GAISF and bringing Anti Doping policies into place all seem to be preparatory actions for such an eventuality. 

Again the level of Shimpan and instruction was extremely high, and after the practical sessions we had a chance for a Q&A session.

More Ji-geiko again today and I got to practice with another 3 Korean 8th Dan Sensei, which puts my total to 6 this weekend. Practicing with the Korean 8th Dans was very interesting, compared to Japanese 8th Dans they seemed to have a different approach to Ji-geiko. They really fought, and I mean fought. Not just wait for you to move, cut Kaeshi Dou all day, and acted like a Sensei, calm and collected (as some Japanese high grades do)… but really were up for a fight. They kept on me and always maintained the pressure of the fight throughout, they also used lots of renzoku waza, and took me to pieces. It was a fantastic experience.

The Shimpan Seminar was a great weekend and something that I felt very lucky and privileged to attended. It was an experience that ‘ll remember for a long time.

FIK 2008 Asia Zone Shimpan Seminar

Posted in Uncategorized on October 25, 2008 by kendokorea

Me and Do Jae-Wha Sabumnim 8th Dan, Korean Men’s National Coach 13th WKC

The first day of the Shimpan Seminar was tough. We started off with 2 lectures on Yuko Datotsu, Shiai regulations, and the role of Shimpan. Then moved onto an afternoon of practical Shimpan experience overseeing matches between Korean University Kumsha (Incheon College Kumdo Team). Finally we ended the day with a large Goodwill practice, Ji-geiko.

We were split into 9 groups of three Shimpan and each group rotated after three matches, so we all got a chance to be Shushin as well as Fukushin.

Some interesting points that stood out from the lectures:

  •  Shimpan must always act fairly, honestly, and with honour at all times. The goal of a Shimpan is to promote good Kendo during a match, to encourage the Shiai-Sha to be their best, and to control a match. Other than that Shimpan must not influence, steer, or interfere in anyway. It is not the job of a Shimpan to judge an Ippon based upon their standards or belief, but to simply reflect fact, to acknowledge actions when and as they happen. As a result Shimpan have a serious duty and obligation to the Shiai-Sha. They must always pay attention and report Ippon accurately. 
  • It is not acceptable for a Shimpan to award a point if the Shiai-Sha’s Shinai (monouchi/cutting edge) is not on the Datotsu Bu. Timing is irrelevant, A Shimpan cannot award a point that missed the target by saying that the timing was good. This is the excuse of bad Shimpan and it affects not only the confidence and faith of the players, but betrays the trust of the audience and managers/coaches in the Shimpan and subsequently the Shiai itself. All Ippon must be on the Datotsu Bu with the correct cutting edge, a Debana Kote that misses the Kote Bu is not a Kote, it is as simple as that.  
  • Shimpan must always form an isosceles triangle, however Shushin does not always have to be the head of this triangle. As long as the triangle is maintained Shushin can be next to a Fukushin, sometimes events during a Shiai force the Shimpan to move quickly, it is only important for the shape of the triangle to reman intact, the placement of the Head Referee and Assistant Referee’s is secondary to this.
  • Areas of control for a Fukushin or a Shushin are not simply halfway across the Shiai-jo Horizontally down the middle of the court, but should be thought of as being cutting across the Shiai-Jo at a 45 degree angle through the court. This reflects the occasional need for Shushin to move around the court and form an edge of the Shimpan Triangle, rather than always being the head of the Triangle. 
  • Maintaining a united front as Shimpan can be important, to show unity and clarity of judgement. This impacts positively upon the spectators, players, and managers/coaches. If Shimpan often regularly disagree with each other over points scored then this can have a negative impact. If two Shimpan have raised their flags, the point is already scored, consider this and the wider context before you wave your flags to disagree. Only disagree if you strongly feel there is a case, and do not use it to cover your own lack of perception or unpreparedness. 
After the Seminar we had the Ji-geiko and I got to practice with Do Jae-Wha Sabumnim the Korean Coach at the 13th WKC in Taipei. I also practiced with two other Korean Hachidan’s, which was a very interesting experience. 
The level of the Shiai-Sha today was amazing, and judging their matches was no easy task. It didn’t help that the Head Sensei would regularly stop the matches and chew people out for making wrong calls. Despite this and the obvious nerves I enjoy my matches as a Shimpan and performed as best  could. Afterwards a 7th Dan Sensei from Taiwan told me that he thought that my Shimpaning skills had been very good, which was really nice to hear given the high quality of all the other referees present. 
One interesting thing was the warmth and friendliness between the Japanese and Korean Sensei’s. At the beginning of the Seminar the Head Japanese Sensei made a point of congratulating the Korean Team at their victory in Taipei, and joked that the Japanese Team were now training very hard for Brazil. Everyone laughed and you really didn’t feel that there was any bitterness at all between the two camps. This perceived enmity between Korea and Japan really is a Western myth. For example today all the Shiai-Sha used Korean Kiai, however no one was bothered, and points were always awarded. At no point did anyone stop and say “No this is Kendo, you can’t say Sum mok, it’s Kote! No point” Also during translation into Korean from the Japanese, Kumdo terminology was used and encouraged. There was a strong respect for each nation between the Sensei’s present and the Seminar was a fantastic success.
This friendship was further shown during the Saturday night party hat was sponsored by the Seoul City Kumdo Association. The Sensei’s all shared drinks, and laughs together, and even sang songs together round the table! 
The first day had been an amazing opportunity and a really informative experience. Getting to see the Sensei’s prepare the Shimpan for the 14th WKC was a great honour, and also very helpful for me as a competitor. I’m very much looking forward to day two tomorrow.

Visiting friends and heading to the Shimpan Seminar

Posted in Uncategorized on October 24, 2008 by kendokorea

Me and Cho Sensei’s Sister

This afternoon I headed out with Jin to visit Cho Sensei’s sister. We had a nice afternoon together and had tea and cake, spending most of the time chatting about Cho Sensei and her Husband Will (who is very popular in Korea)! After some snacks and photos me and Jin set off for the Olympic Park Complex where the Shimpan Seminar was being held.

Check in at the Hotel was from anytime after 5pm, with a welcome dinner and introductory address at 7pm. The room was great, on the 15th Floor with Fantastic views of the City and Han River. Overall the quality of the accommodation was very high, and I was very impressed. The time before the dinner gave me a chance to read through the delegate list and see the names of the other people present. It was a sea of Japanese, Korean, and Taiwanese 7th and 8th Dans (around 13 8th Dan and 7 7th Dan!) all of which were prospective Shimpan for the 14th WKC in Sao Paulo Brazil. 

Going through that list and seeing my name there amongst all those legends was very nerve wracking, these people really were the cream of Asian Kendo, and extremely experienced Shimpan. 

The opening address and dinner was provided by the Korean Kumdo Association who took care of us all very well. The food was great and everyone was formally introduced, I also was called up to say hello and give a bow (which was unexpected) and introduced as a special visitor (Since I’m sure alot of the sensei were wondering why a UK delegate was on the list)!

It was a pleasant evening and we all headed back at a reasonable time since we had an early start in the morning. I went to bed quite anxious about the next day, but also excited about the great opportunity to share this seminar with all these fantastic teachers.

Seoul National University Final Practice

Posted in Uncategorized on October 23, 2008 by kendokorea

Ji-geiko at Seoul National Uni

Tonight was my second and last practice at Seoul National University. As always the level of Kendo was very high and the students showed remarkable dedication and passion for their Kumdo. I learnt this evening that Seoul National Uni came third in this years Korean University Championships, losing to Yong In in the Semi Final, quite an achievement for a club with no regular teacher!

I had a great evening tonight and really enjoyed getting the chance to practice with these guys again before I left. I met many new people both Sempai’s and students, and tried my best to try and incorporate some of the new things I learnt from yesterday’s trip to Bucheon Shi Chong. Mostly keeping my upper body and shoulders relaxed and working on better fumi komi. 

All in all I was very happy with what I managed tonight, and it was a great send off before the Shimpan seminar this weekend. 

After the practice we all went off to have dinner in a local restaurant and I was treated to the Seoul Nationals hospitality and friendliness.  

I can’t believe I have finally come so near to the end of my visit here. It seems like only yesterday that I first arrived and joined Yonsei. I hope that the Seminar will be fantastic icing on top of an already brilliant cake.

Pucheon Shi Chong Professional Kumdo Team

Posted in Uncategorized on October 22, 2008 by kendokorea

Pucheon Shi Chong Pro Team Group Photo

Today’s Keiko was tough… really tough. I visited Pucheon Pro Team in the afternoon, and immediately after the practice joined the Shim Won High School Team again (Both groups share the same Dojang). Four hours non stop Kendo.

The quality of the Pucheon Pro Kenshi was amazing, I had watched them at the National Sports Festival Tournament and they had put in a fantastic performance there (ranking in the medals for sure, they may have even come first?). Watching them practice, joining their keiko… opened my eyes to new levels of Kendo. They performed unlike anything I had seen before in Europe or Japan. Everything was extremely light, their muscles, their shoulders, every cut flew like water. Renzoku waza and multiple hit combinations just appeared out of no where… again they used the smooth deep seme coming in close, barely lifting their feet from the ground, and giving the most powerful slapping fumi komi I have ever seen. 

They had flawless footwork, posture, and control of their centre of balance. These Kumsha train three times a day 6 days a week. Having started Kumdo in middle school (Primary School). Watching them made me better understand the Korean National Team members, and I could see traits in their practice that I’ve seen on WKC videos. 

This is also one of the first places where I received some real solid teaching and instruction. Perhaps the only problem with this trip so far is that I’ve had very little feedback and teaching (Aside from the Police Dojo) from Sensei or high grades. Most of the University Practices I’ve attended have been run by the Captains. However here everyone gave me brilliant feedback, bizarrely the Kumsha ended up giving it to me in Japanese as he preferred it to English. So here I was in one of Korea’s famous Professional Kumdo Dojang… basically being taught Japanese Kendo. I think it sums up the differences and the feelings towards Kendo/Kumdo in Korea nicely. Essentially they are absolutely the same. 

Today the Pro Athletes Identified three areas for me to work on:

1) Correct Fumi Komi – much as these Kumsha do I was told to keep my foot as close to the ground as possible, barely raising, pushing forward and then slapping the ground when I stamp. With a sharp upward and forward motion and not a downward motion. This proved to be extremely difficult, as I am lifting my right leg too high from the ground and stamping downward. This is going to be one of my main priorities for improvement when I get back to England.

2) Kamae – The players here prefer a slightly lower Kamae when in chudan and recommended me to keep my left hand a little lower, this is interesting as Japanese teachers I have met have always suggested the opposite and told me to lift my left hand slightly higher. I could understand their justification for the kind of Kendo that they liked here however. The Kumsha said that the way  was doing it was not wrong, however they find lowering the left hand slightly better. 

3) Shoulders – The Sabumnim who took me today told me that my shoulders were too tense and my cuts had too much power. When you look at the Pucheon Athletes you can see what they mean, their cuts are very light, snappy, and effortless. The Sabumnim told me to try o completely relax everything in my upper body and right hand, and just use the left hand. He also said that this is the biggest barrier to my Kendo growth and something I had to work on extensively.

Practicing here today I understood what makes these Kumsha the level that they are and it opened my eyes to watch and made me realise what I have to do to take my own Kendo to the next level. I won’t be able to grow until I can address my footwork, fumi komi, and relax my upper body to the same fashion as these Athletes.

After the session I joined the Shim Won High School Team for practice and Shiai Geiko. I had five matches against the Shim Won students, who once again impressed me with their speed and aggression. I had mixed fortunes in the Shiai, two matches I lost 1 nil (holding on fairly well), two matches I lost 2 nil, and my final match I won 2-1. Which puts my total results in Shiai here at 4 wins, 1 draw, 8 losses, and gives me 9 Ippon scored total.

I also realised that  wasn’t losing to the High School Students because they were technically better than me, or necessarily faster, just because they went for more opportunities and I was too hesitant. When I had confidence and just attacked I scored Ippon and won. Like the Sabumnim said to me today, just always attack, forget everything else. 

After this the Sabumnim gave me a lot on instruction on Tsuki (Chirum), using the Dojangs Tsuki pad. This was a small target mounted to the wall on a spring mechanism. We practiced Tsuki for a long time, both Katate and Morote, and he recommended me to practice 100 times a day everyday, and use Tsuki much more in Shiai. 

A long and difficult day, and for the most part I was torn to shreds, but I learnt a great deal, and my eyes were opened to a new world of possibility.

Seoul National University Practice

Posted in Uncategorized on October 21, 2008 by kendokorea

Group photo at Seoul National University Kumdo Dojang

This evening I had a great practice with the guys at Seoul National University Kumdo Club. It was a small Dojang split in half and shared with the Tae Kwon Do Dojang, this gave the practice a great atmosphere at we could hear the Tae Kwon Do members practice next to us. 

Despite the size of the Dojang there were a large number of members and many Sempai (Old Boys), giving the session an overall very high level. The excellent level of the Kumsha was even more remarkable given the fact that they do not have a regular Teacher, infact he members told me that there had not been a Sabumnim for the last three years. It’s a real testament to the Students hard work and the continued work of the Sempai and Graduates, that the club has maintained such a high level of Kendo and such a strong team spirit regardless. 

I had some fantastic Ji-geiko this evening and all the members were very welcoming. I hope to go back later in the week before I go home. The rest of the week is very busy, on Friday I visit Cho Sensei’s Sister and then in the evening head off to the Shimpan Seminar for three days. This leaves me only Thursday free, and I expect that Chie Sabumnim has already planned something for this day. I’ll have to see and hopefully I can go back. 

Fantastic Kumdo and a really lovely experience to practice there.