Blogs from our Members and other drivel!

10th Kodokan Ladies Seminar

by Garance Cogitore

Posted on August 8, 2016 at 13:00 PM

Please click the link below for a .pdf of the report on the seminar.

Click here

11th Sensei Ozawa Seminar 2016

by Garance Cogitore

Posted on June 25, 2016 at 09:00 AM

  • Hiroshi Ozawa 8th Dan Kyoshi
  • Tsuneho Takatera 8th Dan Kyoshi -> Sandan and above group
  • Itaru Ninomiya 7th Dan Kyoshi -> Nidan/Shodan/Kuysha group
  • Yoshio Miyazaki 7th Dan Kyoshi -> Nidan/Shodan/Kuysha group
  • Kazuyo Matsuda 6th Dan Renshi -> Support/Translation
  • John O'Sullivan 7th Dan Renshi-> Support High Grade team

Takatera sensei is an imperial guard, he visited the UK 15 years ago and was involved in coaching the UK squad.
Explanation on Dan Titles (称号 shōgō?) - From Wikipedia
These can be earned in addition to the above dan grades by kendōka of a defined dan grade. These are renshi (錬士?), kyōshi (教士?), and hanshi (範士?). The title is affixed to the front of the dan grade when said, for example renshi roku-dan (錬士六段?). The qualifications for each title are below.

Title Required grade Conditions

6-dan After receiving 6-dan, one must wait 1 or more years, pass screening by the kendo organisation, receive a recommendation from the regional organisation president then pass an exam on kendo theory.
renshi 7-dan After receiving 7-dan, one must wait 2 or more years, pass screening by the kendo organisation, and receive a recommendation from the regional organisation president then pass an exam on kendo theory.
kyōshi 8-dan After receiving 8-dan, one must wait 8 or more years, pass screening by the kendo organisation, receive a recommendation from the regional organisation president and the national kendo organisation president then pass an exam on kendo theory.


After the usual etiquette, Dojo start up procedures and warm up exercise, we were called over to sit informally around him and explained on how happy he was to be back this year.
Taking Sensei O’Sullivan as an example he insisted that one of the most important quality to develop in Kendo is tenacity. Sensei O’Sullivan has reach the age of 70 before he managed to get his 7th Dan after several failures. Kendo is not an easy Martial Art and it needs consistency and dedication. Kendo is not just practice, shiai or kata. It is all of it and only regular practice of all of it can improve the overall level of the practionner.
Kendo also needs regular visit over the basics. Our theme was set.
He decided this year to work on the basis of two groups and separated us into Sandan and above (most of which were senseis from different dojos and GB Squad members) and the rest of us Nidan and below. This group included Barny Booth and myself.


Before and after every single bout, we were asked to Rei to Shomen, to our opponent and to Sonkyô. This meant that everytime we did something this was requested from each one of us. Even if we did not change opponent. The idea was to instill the idea of respect and etiquette. We ended up doing more than 200 Sonkyô that day.


First major exercise was Kirikaeshi Men. Nonstop. Then changed into Kirikaeshi Dô. We were asked to hit each target precisely and correctly. Tatari was expected. For the Dô this involved doing it while looking at the receiving partner in the eyes. Not the Dô. More in depth instructions were given on where the Shinai should hit and also on how to receive correctly with the Shinai. Making us practice this on the spot. The Shinai has to be placed side by side and held upright. Again this is a different way of doing it that I have never seen. My advice to anyone having to grade would be to discuss prior to the grading what are the attributes of Kirikaeshi that the judging panel are looking for. When visiting other dojos, to apply what the Senseis and Sempais from those dojos tell you to do.


The main issue with lower grades is the grip on the Shinai. Most of us get too intense with the pressure of a Shiai or exercise and grip the Shinai too tight. Hence the wrists are locked, the arms, elbows, shoulder end up being too stiff to facilitate a good cut. We were asked to hold our Shinai so that it could be pulled off our hands without any effort. We went over the correct position of the hands on the shinai.


This lead to the next exercises of Men, Kote cuts. Nonstop. Oji Waza cuts on Men and Kote.
We were asked to start at Tomai and creep-creep to cutting distance and strike with one single Men cut. Things to look for were:

  • Correct grip on Shinai
  • Correct posture throughout
  • Correct cutting distance achieved by gradual approach
  • Correct footwork on approach and cutting motion
For the Kote cuts we did several exercises. Continous Kote cuts on each other without moving. Letting the shinai loose and striking 10 times on the spot without moving. Then same exercise with Fumikomi Ashi on the spot without moving 10 times per person. Importance was made on the fluidity of the wrist movement, the loose grip and the fact that only the Zenken touches the Kote. Not the shinai. This can be checked with the sound of the strike. We need to listen to the difference and know how to adapt.
These exercises were repeated several times, changing partners and always with Rei to Shômen, to opponent and Sonkyô before and after each bout.


This was by far the most fun part of day one.
Again, still practicing the Rei to Shômen, to opponent and Sonkyô before and after each bout.
Far side started with 3 large men cuts, near side was asked to pare with Nuki Waza ( avoid cut by moving and striking -> emphasis on Ashi Sabaki (moving sideways)) , Suriage Waza (as in Kata No5) , Kaeshi Waza (as in Kata No4), Harai Waza (flip your opponent’s shinai up or down with your shinai) , Debana Waza (strike men or kote at the moment when you sense your opponent’s intention to execute his/her attack)…
Then the roles were reversed.
We were asked to apply Zanshin and be in total attack mode. So cutting, going through and turning around ready to cut and attack straight away. With emphasis on the Kiai which has to be howled in ascending not descending manner.
First of all it Men strike with Men only waza. Then Kote strike with only kote waza. Then it was Men strike with everything manly possible and Kote Strike with everything manly possible.
It was a lot of fun and for my part I managed some really good Kaeshi Waza and Debana Waza as we had practiced them a lot within our dojo recently.
We had also a word about how Seme works with Sensei Ozawa. It seems that this can change from grade to personality. In short there is no definition for it. It can be mental, physical or emotional pressure. But it is some kind of pressure to push the opponent to panic and react. It can be as simple as the knee making the Hakama move slightly.
The day finished with Uchikomi Geiko with our senseis. Now, if you failed to recognised the target, our Japanese senseis would screamed at you like in the army. On the other hand if you did well, they would really encourage you and push you further.


Day two was going over the same exercises done the previous day for 1 ½ hours.


Emphasis was made on the importance to read the opponent’s mind by using the creep-creep method before striking.


There was not many Ikkyu taking part. Actually there was not many lower kuy grades taking part in the whole event. One chap only done kendo for 8 weeks when he came to this seminar. It was his very first time putting on an armour and fair play, he did all the exercises and improved a lot for it.
Therefore, my partner Anja Koenig from Munich and I were “promoted” to the Shodan group. We were expected to do the ful set of the first 5 katas, but actually to make it fairer, the Japanese judging panel restricted it to only the first 3.
We practiced for an hour. Emphasis made on complete fluidity and exact line management. I was not at all nervous. Our dojo is well known for our kata knowledge. I was just hoping I would not be the one member to kill that reputation.
It went very well and we won. Feedback was that it was “perfect”.


Sanponme -> Shidashi receives the Ski from Ushidashi on the blunt part of the blade
Yohonme -> The crossed shinai must be at eye level and in the middle of both Bokken
Nanahonme -> The Dô cut is done on the second step and finished on the third step with the arm outstretched and horizontal with the Bokken as its extension – Horizontal – Immediately, it must be flanked back ready to be drawn upwards and meet the Ushidashi’s bokken. There must be no gap.

The second day was concluded with Jigeiko all grades against one another. 3 minutes bouts. Follwed by Uchikomi Geiko against all senseis involved.


I went to this seminar on my own last year and came back with new friends and new knowledge. I know my kendo improved from it. Not because the dojo does not give me enough opportunity to get better, but because seminars are the best option to get 14 hours of training with exceptional teachers from Japan and different people you do not know and cannot predict. It pushes your boundaries. It is slightly scary when you are not used to it. The GB Squad/Higher Grade side of the dojo was totally boot camp as far as I could see. I was glad I was not yet part of it. Our side was a mixture of hard work and humour, which made it very much enjoyable.
My Gi and Hakama were drenched and I had to change my Tenuguis 4 times. So it was hard work.
I would like to encourage all our members – all grades included – to take part in next year’s seminar. I will organise it again. So in due course, I will be calling up for participants.
This year, it paid off and I came home with a nice 1st Place certificate signed by Sensei Ozawa. Maybe next year, it could be you?

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Ladies Seminar June 2016

by Miranda Upstone

Posted on July 28, 2016 at 13:00 PM


On Friday 24th June I began my first ever seminar as well as first time for practicing kendo outside my own dojo. Nevertheless, I was greeted with smiles from Matsuda and Budden sensei when I entered the dojo. We began with learning the Kobayashi Method. This involved an uncountable number of Men strokes followed by various exercises involving men cuts. However, the main focus of the Men cuts involved an especial focus on the tri-cep muscles and we would lift our shinai all the way back behind our head. This was to help us to focus on the rotation of our shoulders when striking Men. Additionally, I was surprised to learn that I was the only girl there under the age of 18. We then ended the evening with Jigeiko. This was really exciting as we were able to spar with the two Sensei’s and a yondan lady, who was also the captain of the Belgium team.


For Sunday we were situated at the Watford leisure centre. This began with a competition. For this we were split up into all people above and below the grade shodan and all the people below the shodan grade. During my first competition I managed to make it to the second round with a kote cut which I was not only proud of but also surprised as I was youngest and one of the least experienced people there. After the competition we then continued with the Kobayashi training method, where we continued to do various cutting exercises with Matsuda Sensei explained to us. We then finished with a final jigeiko.

Overall, I really enjoyed my experiences at my first seminar, as well as befriending some of the other ladies attending. I’m sure I will want to participate in many future seminars to come.

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