Category Archives: Fencing

First Club Practices of Semester & NRA Membership

It takes a while to get back going after the winter break. First it was learning all my new classes, then it was University of Kansas basketball games making practices impossible. This week I finally got to my sport clubs at KU, and I also started jogging again. It sucks having to jog with a knee brace on, but until I can come up with the money to get my surgery that’s just the way it’s going to be. I haven’t done much exercise since I hurt my knee, the last thing I really put a lot of effort into being the Chicago Kendo Tournament. When I started jogging I was surprised that I easily made my goal for that workout. I wasn’t surprised when I hurt so much afterward. But the next day (yesterday) I did two hours of fencing and two hours of kendo. KU Kendo is fast and hard, and coming after the fencing class I burned out quickly. I could barely lift my arms to swing! It was great to be back, though.

Also, I got my National Rifle Association membership kit in the mail the other day. I got a membership card and a hat. The hat was fairly decent for a cheapo thing, and I actually wore it to school yesterday. They also sent me a bunch of papers asking for more money, which is funny because I just bought my membership. You’d think they’d at least put those requests in a second mailing. “Thanks for your annual dues, give us more money!” But supporting the Second Amendment is something I firmly believe in. I’ve been reluctant to participate in national organizations in the past, and I still am, but the NRA seems to be a solid thing. Not to mention that I’m dreading a repeat of the Clinton era anti-gun legislation. I took a class with my younger son at the Lawrence community center, where the local gun club has an indoor shooting range, so now that I have my NRA membership I can get my club membership at a discount, and my NRA membership will help them keep their NRA insurance. I’ve got two new pistols I have yet to shoot, and it’s driving me crazy.

I am so sore today…


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Filed under Budo, Fencing, Kendo, Right Living

Electrified Foot Stomper

Thursday at fencing I had my first electrified bouts. During the practice we were fencing dry, and I did well enough to win a bout against a senior student. Once we got electrified I wasn’t sure what was going on anymore, and my newness became much more apparent. Often times I would hear the buzzer go off and look and see that I had been touched, and I never felt a thing. Which is frustrating, because I was looking at it expecting it to register the touch I felt my blade make on my opponent. The worst part of all this is just not knowing what is going on. The rules of right of way are not too hard to get in theory, but when you’re out there flinging the blade around it’s very easy to lose track of who’s legally attacking. It’s frustrating to come flying in with the blade, feel the blade bounce off the opponent’s head, and then find out that it wasn’t my turn to attack and I’ve lost from a touch to my arm that I didn’t even feel.

I’ll figure it out.

One thing that may end up giving me problems from kendo is fumikomi, the foot stomping. In kendo you time your blade to land at the same time as your right foot lands during the forward attack motion. You also time it with your kiai, your shout. I haven’t had any issues with suddenly erupting in “woooOOOOOOOOOOOTHR!!!!!!!!” during saber fencing, but it was pointed out to me that I’m stomping my foot while the saber blade lands. This is problematic in that when the forward foot touches while lunging, that signals the end of your attack phase and you lose right of way. In the dry bout it caused me to give up a touch, but that was the only instance. It’s something to think about, and a habit I don’t know if I’ll be able to get over.

One thing that I have figured out about saber fencing that crosses over from kendo is the aggressiveness. Saber is an aggressive weapon style, I’m told, more so than epee or foil. So what happens is that from the words “ready, fence!” the two sabreur typically come flying at each other straight in to see who can initiate the attack first. Kendo taught me that when in doubt, let go of everything else but coming in for a men strike. What happened more often than not last Thursday was that we would close and end up with simultaneous strikes, mine to the opponent’s head, the opponent’s to my side. I think this helped me get comfortable with bouting, and have some confidence in it. I don’t hesitate to strike, and I think that alone has gotten me some of my points.

In kendo on Thursday I had a really good night. Monday I had felt a little discombobulated, but I think Thursday I had a firm grip on my ki. It was one of those rare practices where everything seems to go right. I was very happy in that I managed to score a do strike to an opponent’s left side by putting pushing his hands above his head from tsubazeriai (hilt clashing contest), and then stepping diagonally and slashing his left abdomen. I even remembered zanshin and fumikomi, something I typically can’t bring together in a do attempt. That was my one golden moment for this week. Maybe even for this year. Drakey sensei showed me this move a few weeks ago when Anton had got me to show sensei what turned out to be an illegal move I had used on him. Sensei showed me this proper technique to achieve similar results, and it’s been rattling around in my head ever since, and Eunmok sempai(sensei?) even had used it against me a couple of practices ago at KU. I’m jazzed that I could pull it off finally.

Busy budo weekend coming up: today meeting and dinner with iaido folk, tomorrow Greater Kansas City Japan Festival with kendo and iaido demonstrations and workshops, and meeting with representative from Des Moines kendo folk, Sunday iaido practice and fencing at KU. Egan sensei is coming to Kansas City this weekend for the GKC J-Fest iaido demo, and I’m looking forward to meeting my sensei’s sensei. It will be a good weekend all around, I’m excited by all of it.


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Filed under Budo, Fencing, Iaido, Kendo

“Getting old is hell…”

Pa told me that the other day when we were sitting in the Chinese buffet and talking about our medical issues. When we were all younger, we’d talk about cars. Now I sit with my father talking about all the times we’ve hurt ourselves and the latest things to go wrong with our bodies.

I’m only thirty-three, so it’s not like I’m old. But then again, I’m not the young man I used to be. I’ve been thoroughly unkind to my knees over the years, and they’re starting to fight back. My left knee is a hazard, because when I twist it just so, there is an awful popping noise followed by a wild change in attitude and distance in relation to the local planetary surface. I fall down, in other words.

My competitiveness and ambition far outstrips my physical ability. I can be a stubborn piece of work when I really want to do something, but that only takes you so far. But handball, of all things. I hurt myself doing something I didn’t particularly want to do trying to warm up for something that I did want to do, because this little voice in my head says, “you HAVE to beat this guy!”. And so I get a little crazy about a fun little game and end up sitting on the floor holding my knee, and that damn little voice is still jabbering away at me, “alright, that was good hustle, just a bit unlucky. Wait for the pain to die down, then go out there and stomp on someone’s instep to even things out. That way both teams will be down a man…” But I don’t do that, though that little voice is there speaking to me from my lower brain stem, no matter what sort of values my frontal lobe tells me I believe in.

“You’ve got your whole life ahead of you to do this, so don’t permanently injure yourself trying  to do it just for today, and risk your whole lifetime of enjoying this sport.”

I’ve repeated that bit of advice numerous times over the years. It’s easy to say to someone, but hard to follow through with myself. On my second day of collegiate fencing I hurt myself pretty badly warming up, but limped over and put on a lame, mask and glove anyway. After testing my knee through some footwork, I was determined to go ahead. And I’m glad I did, because I got to experience three saber bouts last night. I won against my first two opponents, fellow beginners, and felt I didn’t embarrass myself against the senior student who was instructing us (on a side note, the rules of right of way are sort of a pain). That would be a theme for the night, as it carried over to the kendo club later on. Yep, I also went and did the bamboo dance for two hours afterward.

So yeah, I ignored my own advice about not being stupidly gung ho, and today I’m dragging a heavy book bag all over campus with a swollen and bum knee. I’m lucky that my iaido instructor is going to be out of town for the next two weeks, because there is simply no way that I would be able to even sit in seiza, let alone practice seiza no bu, ippon me repeatedly for forty-five minutes.

Was it worth it? You bet it was. But it’s not a behavior that is going to continue to be worth it the older I get.

I need to go to the book shelf and find some reference to being a hard headed, passionate fool in budo.


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Filed under Budo, Fencing, Kendo, Personal Reflection, Right Living

Am I a sabreur? I AM a kendoka!

Yesterday (24Aug09) I started my club activities at the University of Kansas. I’ve only the one class on Mondays, so I spent most of the day holed up in the student union and reading the assigned text for my classes. But come evening I went on over to check out the exercise facilities on KU, and then participate in fencing.

First I met with the KU Fencing Club in the Robinson Gymnasium. We were introduced to footwork, the smelly, ill-fitting equipment and shown “three, four and five”, which are the basic strikes. Let me back up for a second. The three types of Olympic Fencing were demonstrated to us, and then we were asked which style interested us and told us we could pick whichever that was to do. KU seems to have a heavy concentration of saber fencers (termed sabreur), which works out because the saber is what I am interested in.

It remains to be seen how much kendo is going to help or hurt me. Initially it seems like there are concepts that are similar, it’s just that the executions are technically different. For instance, in moving forward in kendo the feet are both pointed forward at the opponent, and in fencing only the right foot is pointed at the opponent and the left is turned sideways, but the movements and balance are similar. I imagine it has something to do with the attacking techniques required by the differences in the weapons. I’ll figure out all that kind of stuff later.

I’ve decided to make a commitment of one semester to fencing, to see where my interest with it goes. Currently my interest lies with familiarization, and trying something new. I figured that if I was going to practice swordsmanship, trying out a different style would be a good thing. I’m not sure how to put exactly why into words yet, but it’s something I want to do. I’ll be going once a week, and in that time I hope to learn whether or not I develop an interest in fencing as something on its own, or if I tell the club “thanks for the experience” and not come back in spring. It works out well for me because both clubs meet on the same days, only at different times. My Mondays are going to be pretty action packed for a while. You would not believe how sore and tired I was last night.

Which leads me into the KU Kumdo/Kendo Club. After fumbling around with the fencing club for a while, it was nice to go back to something I felt more confident with. This is the second new dojo I’ve been to. It’s a little weird practicing at a different place, because the routine is different. The KUKC is less formal than the Kansas City Kendo Club, being mostly students and Korean kumdo folk. In kumdo the rules are the same but the style is different, and the kumdo folk tend to drop a lot of the formalities of the Japanese. There were four or five returning club members, a visiting scholar who is the senior member, three absolute beginners and myself.

I introduced myself and everyone was pleasant, and then we got to warming up individually and I felt pretty good about myself. The group warm-up was brief but intense, and I probably sweated as much just with 150 hayasuburi with KUKC as with 600 hayasuburi with KCKC. The Tae Kwon Do Club warmed up the room for us before we got there (it’s in the Martial Arts room in the new Student Recreation Center), and it was like exercising in a very stinky sauna. On a side note, the new Rec Center is really nice. The MA room has these “pseudo-tatami” foam mats, and its not like a wooden floor, but it’s much better than outside.

I started off with kirikaeshi with the senior member, then back and forth with kihon waza. Then we moved on to jigeiko, and I got to spar with just about everyone who had bogu. We finished off with one point knock-out competition, and I ended up getting to try my hand as a shinpan for the first time. Which was a whole new level of difficulty, and not something I was real comfortable with. BUT, I managed to score men on my first match, so I feel like I didn’t show up and make a fool of myself. Lost the next two, of course.

Everyone at both clubs was friendly. I had a really good time at both, but especially at KUKC. The sparring was fast and aggressive, and in a style that I’m not used to. I feel like I have a lot I can learn from them, and look forward to participating with KUKC for the rest of my stay at KU. There was brief talk of maybe arranging a dojo visit/special practice between KUKC and KCKC. It’s just idle talk at this point, but I think it would be beneficial. One, to get more diverse experience for club members, and two, to help build good kendo relationships in the area. I put up the KUKC contact information on the KCKC website, and will mention to sensei this Wednesday about it.

This was an excellent start to student non-academic life. I believe that success lies with involving yourself at many levels, and committing yourself to the school. Investing in the school on a personal level, and outside of just wanting to get good grades. I don’t want to show up, do class, and then bail afterward. I want my life centered on KU, so that I will have a better chance of doing well in the school.


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Filed under Budo, Fencing, Kendo