Keiko with Yanai Sensei and Kathryn!

Yesterday I met Kathryn in Tokyo and went for keiko with Yanai Sensei!

I left Kamisu at 11:50 (I was delayed watching my students preforming at part of the local festival) arrive in Tokyo Station at around 1:15 (not bad, right??) From Tokyo Station I took the Yamanote line to Akihabara, and the Sobu line to Asakusabashi, from there it was a short walk to Kathryns hotel. I stayed in Asakusabashi the last time I was in Tokyo, so it was easy to find!

I met Kathryn and we went for some KATSUDON!!! I havent had it in a long time, and it was delicious!!!!!!!!
We then headed for the station to go to a Kendo shop in Ueno, by the time we got there it was about 2:40 and we were supposed to meet Yanai sensei back at the hotel at 3:30. I bought a new keikogi and 2 shinai, and Kathryn bought two shinai. We met a guy from London called Dillon too, which was pretty unusual!! We legged it back to Asakusabashi, just as we arrived at the station, Yanai called, so we ran!! He was happy to see us and seemed in good form, Kathryn went for the bags, and I entertained Sensei for a few minutes.
We then jumped in the car and headed for Keiko! Yanai Sensei drives a HUGE Honda, with lovey leather seats (heated even in the back!) It has a very fancy satnav/TV but it wasnt set to TV this time!
It took nearly 2 hours to drive to the Dojo, its almost in Kanagawa so it is a long drive, but also the traffic in Tokyo was very congested. We got to see alot of Tokyo which was pretty cool!!

When we arrived at the dojo it was lashing rain and starting to get dark (around 5:30pm). My self and Kathryn went ahead while Sensei looked for a parking place, the Dojo is in the gym of an Elementary School and the practice is usually kids first for an hour and and then adults for about 2 hours (with a break in the middle). There were not as many kids there as before, probably due to the summer vacation. We got changed and were just a bit late for the start of the adults class.

The class was lead by Kubota Sensei 7 Dan, who is Hachi dan level in Yanai Senseis opinion. His kendo is pretty amazing!
2x Kirikaeshi - striking shomen with no blocking.
2x Kirikaeshi - normal
2x Do Kirikaeshi
1x Men men do do - Kirikaeshi
2x Men uchi x 4
1x Fast men x 4 - Making sure to use correct footwork and turning so that you can cut as soon as you turn
1x Men-taiatari-hiki men - x3
1x Men-taiatari-hiki men, kote men-taiatari-hikimen, men-taiatari-hikimen
3~4 short jigeiko

After this practice there is about a 20 minute break. But Yanai Sensei starts his jigeiko durning this time. Some JHS students take their keiko with him at this time.
Safe to say my self and Kathryn were pretty wrecked at this stage, but as we both discussed, its not like it was the hardest practice we had ever done. We have both been to 3-4 hour national team training sessions in the past, and even keiko in Ireland with Yanai Sensei that was more difficult. The difference however, really is the heat and humidity, there is just nothing like it in Europe, it really zapps your energy!!

During the break it really started to rain heavily, the sound of the rain pelting of the metal roof was pretty cool! And then, flash of lightning! clap of thunder! Wow! Doing kendo in Japan, durning a thunder storm with the doors and windows open letting in the sounds and the breeze, pretty special!!

Jigeiko lasted about 40 minutes, and I think I did maybe 5 or 6?? I did ok at the beginning, focusing on trying to move my feet and not get caught standing still. Ive been practicing harai waza in Kamisu alot and I managed to create a few openings with it. I scored two nice men in the first two fights, both when the opponent stepped in. From there I did two more, one with an ES kid, Hodai was his name, I just let him to A small jigeiko and kakarigeiko, he had nice tenouchi for kote!!

Next was a Sensei whos name I have forgotten! He gave me some advice for men, saying that my Kamae wasnt in the centre enough. He then had me do Tskui a few times and explained that when attacking men, it should be as if you are coming for Tsuki (this has been said to me by another sensei in Kamisu, and its very apparent from watching Yamamoto in Kamisu that this is how he does it, I must practice this hard!) the cut should then pop up and snap to men. He then said that after cutting men, I should punch people in the face. Im not sure if he said this to stop me going sideways, but ive never been told to do that before. I was always told that if you can go through, try to bring your hands down and make taiatari. I think it was said more to stop me going sideways.... I appreciated his advice, it really made a difference and he made me do it about 5-6 more times!

After this it was time for Yanai Sensei. I really wanted to do better than last year!!! It was 36 degrees and I was absolutely bolloxed! It wasnt so hot this time, so I gave everything I had left in the tank. I didnt think I did so well, I wanted to show what ive been practicing for the last year, but I ended up doing stupid things, men without seme or from too far, silly stuff, trying to give as much energy as possible and ending up going to fast! Sensei did say it was an improvement from last year, so Ill take some heart from that!!

Lastly I went to Kubota Sensei. Last year he showed me how to cut men, and I have been really practicing it hard. I feel like ive got it pretty good over the last year and that ive been able to do both  my suburi and men uchi with relaxed shoulders and really snapping the cut with the elbows and wrists at the end. Ive found that using relaxed shoulders and the snap from the forearms really speeds up the suburi, as the last part of the down swing is extremely fast. I combined that with the advice I got from the students in Takasaki, who said to use a light or shortened shinai to practice extending my wrists and using tenouchi, so that my cuts would be less hard and more to the futon. Unfortuatly, I couldnt transfer this into the keiko!! I have this idea in my head that when you do keiko with this level Sensei you should do like kakarigeiko! I did men and kote men, but he was knocking them away or stepping to the side. Again, my footwork was letting me down and I wasnt making Seme, I was also cutting from too far, and making it too obvious! After all my hard work, I didnt land a single cut! Except when he let me of course!! He kept saying something to me though, I didnt understand, but Yanai sensei said that he was saying "sharp" and talking about my cuts, and that they were sharp and quick at the end. Im fairly happy with that! Since its what ive been trying to do all year!

I dont know how Kathryn got on, but she seemed happy enough by the end, and Kubota Sensei commented on her Kiai (which was louder than everyone else during kirikaeshi!!! clap clap clap!!) She was also asked to come to Keiko again the next day, which starts at 9 am! haha! She said she is still alive :D

After keiko we too a few photos, I look absolutely gross in this picture!! But thats a sign of good hard practice!

Once we were changed and packed up, Yanai Sensei kindly drove us back to Tokyo. We parked up near the Hotel and went for an AMAAAZZZING Yakitori meal, it was sooo good! I even ordered nankotsu (cartilage) so Karthyn could try it, its growing on me!! We had beer too that came in these smoking glasses, awesome!

Im proud to say I ate a whole fish with Hashi, my mother would be so proud!

Yanai Sensei, once again took the bill, どもありがとうございました!Thank you very much Sensei. 
We walked back to the car, dropped Kathryn back to the Hotel, and he drove me to Tokyo Station, on the way we had a fairly good conversation, we talked about my new job and plans for my time in Japan as well as some things about kendo back home (It was nice to talk to him on a personal level and have him ask me questions rather than the usual conversation of student to Sensei!) He parked up quickly in a bus stop, helped me with my stuff, and we had a quick farewell, I gave him my deepest of bows to try and express my gratitude. I think I will send he and his wife a Christmas present this year?

I got on the bus for Kamisu with no problems, at 10:50pm, and arrived back sweaty and sleepy at 12:20. The bus was packed, and there were loads of BABES on it. Must find out where they hang out in Kamisu....

All in all I had a great day! It was brilliant to see Kathryn, and I now cant wait to see Martin!! Im going back to Tokyo on Tuesday, will stay the night and go to keiko in Michinoko and Noma Dojo!!

Just one last thing. 

I should explain, Yanai sensei lives about 1 hours drive from Tokyo, and the dojo is about another 20-30 mins. This means that he drove 1 hour into Tokyo to collect us, then 2 hours back, then back into tokyo 1.5hrs, and then back home 1 hr. Thats 5.5 hours of driving..... as Martin would say, he is a GREAT GREAT MAN! You can see he is proud to bring us to the dojo though, and we both did our very best during the practice to try make up for everything this great man has done not just for us personally, but for Irish Kendo as a whole.

I sometimes wonder what I could do to repay him??



  1. Very nice... You are looking thin ;)
    Yanai Sensei, will be very happy if you continue to visit his dojo on occasion and try your best to practice what he teaches you ;) Simples and cheap ;)

  2. Great post indeed! Keep going, I'd like to forward this to everyone in the club

  3. Love to see You working so hard on Your Kendo (I wish I'd meet Yanai Sensei :D)- The training (+ dinner) sound incredible, if You can, say hi to Kathryn and Martin if You see them - from Tomas.
    (I'm still not registered, that's why "anonymous")