New Bogu Bag

So I finally got tired of fixing my last non-kendo bogu bag (see http://www.iheartkendo.com/fixing-a-zipper/), and after a few months of searching I purchased this bad boy from Thule.

The Thule Subterra 25 inch/63 cm Spinner combines a soft front and reinforced sides and a textured skid plate in a stable vertical platform. It has an extendable handle on the rear of the bag and has two locking positions. While most handles have a release button on the top, the Subterra has two buttons on the side to prevent accidental release. You can press either button to release the handles. Two reinforced ballistic nylon handles on the top and on one side of the bag opposite the zippered opening. All zippers have reinforced eyelets. The front wheels are smaller so that they do not encroach on the internal cargo space. There is a mesh pocket for a business card to be used as ID. Comes in black, blue and burgundy.

The svelte Subterra has outer dimensions of 12.5 x 17.3 x 25.0 inches (31.75 x 43.9 x 63.5 cm) and is quite compact compared to my last bag, Planet Eclipse GX Split ‘Compact’ gear bag which was quite bulky (35 x 40 x 65 cm). I don’t know anything about capacity but the Subterra is 63L and the Split was 91L. The Subterra can also expand two inches via zipper extension. The main compartment can fit my XL E-bogu do and men (10.5 x 16.5 x 19 inches, self measured). I put the hakama and gi in the bottom zippered compartment and the tenugui and other stuff (contacts, tools, first aid kit, tasuki, probably shinpanki too) in the top compartment which can be accessed from the inside of the bag and also from the top of the bag.

It’s pretty light since it’s not a hardside and should be easy to wipe down both inside and out.

The bag is pretty stable upright and I have not had it tip over yet.

When full, there is a little bit of resistance on one side of the zipper which you have to be a little patient to close the bag. I might put a little candle wax or chapstix on it so that it will be easier to pull.

Right now, I haven’t really figured out if I am going to put wet gi/hakama back in the bag or carry a separate drawstring bag.

At 399.95 (430 USD with tax) it’s a bit pricey but I’ve been told the kendo traveller bags from tozando are about $300 (after shipping) but are a bit heavier.

It does the job while looking great. There isn’t any really extra wasted space. But I wished it came with a few more pockets and maybe a velcro panel or two for my patches.

Some other bags I had considered:
Virtue High Roller v4 – too small (15 x 16 x 31 in; 38 x 40.6 x 78.7 cm)
Ruthless Pro Duffle Backpack – too small (12 x 12 x 25 in; 30.5 x 30.5 x 63.5 cm), not rolling
Dakine 365 Roller 75L bag – too small (11.5 x 14 x 28 in; 29 x 35 x 71 cm)
Northface Rolling Thunder 30” Roller – (13 x 16 x 30 in; 33 x 40 x 76 cm) not a spinner

4 Dan exam question

So last November, I was fortunate to have passed the yondan exam after the Covid hiatus.

Part of kendo exams are the essay questions. I chose “Describe the benefits of the Kendo kata (剣道形)검도형 and its relevance to shinai keiko (竹刀稽古)죽도계고;.

Kata is defined as prescribed, choreographed movements or a training exercise meant to preserve and pass on knowledge or techniques of a martial art. It is not only a physical but a mental and spiritual exercise. With much practice, the elements of kata can be incorporated into shinai keiko.

Prior to the development of kendo bogu and the shinai, students of the sword could only practice kata and engage in live duels. But with modern kendo, new techniques were adapted for bogu and bamboo swords that were not true swords. To remain true to the study of the sword, it was necessary to continue the practice of kata with bokuto that simulated the heft, feel and dynamics of a katana. Otherwise modern kendo would become a sport rather than a martial art.

Like shinai keiko, kata requires two participants. For there to be set patterns of behavior and choreographed movements, just like dancing you need someone to lead. So, in kata we have the uchidachi or striking/attacking sword (the one that leads/acts) and the shidachi or doing/receiving sword (the one that follows/reacts). In shinai keiko, the participants assume these roles, alternating between uchidachi and shidachi in the same match multiple times but less formally and less choreographed.

Kata and kendo training start with respect (reiho). It begins and ends with a bow. Respect for your partner translates to caring for the other person because we don’t want to injure them while practicing with a wooden sword and no armor. This should also reinforce respect for each other during shinai keiko.

In order to be safe during kata, we learn the correct distance, timing, posture and correct body movements through repetition. Correct distance, timing, posture and correct body movements or mechanics also translate into better striking during shinai keiko. With enough repetition, these mechanics become internalized or muscle memory and the mind can become free (mushin) from surprise, fear, doubt or confusion.

We learn to harness our spirit or energy through proper breathing, kiai (yaa and toh) and zanshin. We also learn to conserve energy by becoming efficient and minimize unnecessary  movements by keeping things simple.

Kata teaches focus. There should be no relaxation of concentration. The same goes for shinai keiko.

While kata relies on repetition, it is not a static or rigid process. The kata forms have been revised multiple times (1906, 1912, 1917, 1933, 1981) since being instituted. Although there are prescribed movements, they are slightly different for each person (and for even for the same person) each time they are performed. It is the mental focus, the spirit, and the response that should remain the same.

Kata as a part of kendo fits in well with the purpose of practicing kendo as espoused by the All Japan Kendo Federation. It molds mind and body through intense mental focus and physical repetition. It cultivates a vigorous spirit through “yaa and tou” and response of the tachi/kodachi. It is correct and rigid training through carefully choreographed movements, striving for improvement with careful attention to courtesy and honor (respect), sincerity (seriousness) and cultivation of oneself through ten kata that we practice and continue to improve.

References:

Bennett, Alexander C. Kendo: Culture of the sword. University of California Press, 2015, page 44.

Donohue, John J. Complete Kendo. Tuttle Publishing, 1956, pp 110-12.

Inoue, Yoshihiko. Kendo Kata: Essence and application. Kendo World Publication, 2003, page 156.

Ozawa, Hiroshi. Kendo: The definitive guide. Kodansha Intl, 1997, page 98.

The creative process

Maybe you are wondering what it takes to come up with a new patch or sticker.

So I thought I’d go through what it took to come up with one of the latest drops.

I get inspiration from random things in pop culture. Sometimes they can be well known. Other times, they may be more obscure. Sometimes current themes, but other times you might not get the reference.

So, for the latest inspiration, I took it from Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly:

There are a few fist-bumping Shake and Bake items out there but none relating to kendo. So I thought I’d put my spin on it.

First I set up the shot by taking a picture of my kotes on a white background.

There is some shadow but we will get rid of that later.

The photo was cropped.

Then the image was traced and processed using vectorizer.io.

Instead of using Illustrator, I use a vector program called sketch. It’s a vector design and prototyping app for Macs for apps and web interfaces. But you can use it to do basic vector design. Much cheaper than Illustrator (no subscription).

Added an indigo background and inverted the kote color.

Then I added text and added racing stripes,

Finally I added a starburst to give a sense of motion/impact.

Spryng compression sleeves

So I took a chance on an indiegogo campaign and purchased these compression sleeves from spryngme.com.

Spryng claims to decrease the recovery time for calf muscles after exercise.

SPRYNG™ contains an innovative, patent-pending WaveTech® graduated compression pattern that prevents leg swelling and improves blood circulation. It does this by mimicking the skeletal muscle pump that occurs following strenuous exercise, aiding in the return of blood to the heart so swelling and muscle injury is reduced.

So what you get is a pair of one-size-fits-all pair of active compression sleeves, carrying bag and charger.

The dimensions of the bag with sleeves and the charger is about 14 x 7 x 4 inches, so this can fit in a backpack and easily into carryon luggage.

Each sleeve is labeled either right or left and is placed on the top of the foot and attached by velcro on the back of the leg. At first I had some difficulty putting on the sleeves because I have thick calves and didn’t realize that I was wearing the sleeves too high (I did contact customer support and they did notify me that they would be shipping out extensions for those of us who are well endowed).

Label on the inside of the compression sleeve.

Operating time after charging (about two to three hours), is about 15 minutes with up to 10 cycles of use between charges. The sleeves are turned on by holding down the center diamond button until the LED indicators come on. They are turned off by holding down the same button. The arrow up button is used for adjusting pressure and the double diamond button is for adjusting the compression pattern.

What makes this product unique is that it is active compression mimicking the natural compression in your leg without being tethered. The sleeves can be worn with or without clothes and you can even walk around while using them. However, they are not meant to be used while being active (only for recovery ) and not to be immersed in water.

Sleeves can be worn over clothes (jeans).

I have used them for over a month now, two cycles after coming home from practices (and after a shower) and I can say my legs feel much better the next day and I have not had any muscle spasms (Charley-horses) waking me up in the night since then. They are easy to clean since the material is nylon and the inner liner which is attached by velcro to the sleeve is washable.

Some caveats. They aren’t cheap. The current price for a pair is about $250 in the US (includes shipping). It took me awhile to receive my sleeves mainly because they were having trouble with the FDA importing them into the US. I still have a couple warning letters from the FDA that I may or may not need to respond too (still waiting for spryng to respond but in a blog post prior to delivery, they had said I would not need to).

[Update: after back and forth with FDA, FedEx and spryng, FedEx finally agreed to take back the units so they could comply with the FDA. I received two BRAND NEW units, one of which was also quickly replaced for a malfunctioning sleeve with another brand new set. All of this without their knowledge I was reviewing their product. Kudos to you guys!]

Also, when first charging the units, the charging ports are really shallow. So don’t try to force the charging receptacles on the charging, they just barely hang there.

Charging port at top.

Pros:
Compact active compression sleeve that just works
Wireless
More or less one size fits all
Portable
Untethered

Cons:
Expensive
Took a long time to receive (warning letters from the FDA)
Charging port is shallow
May not fit as well for those with really thick calves (but extensions planned)

[Update: I received two sets of extensions free also. These also attach by Velcro.]

Price:
$249.99 USD (free shipping in US)

Warranty:
1 year against manufacturing defects

Timing

From last night’s/this morning’s toshigoshi practice:

Your kendo is like 3/4 or 4/4 time [its predictable].

Try 1/8 or 2/4 time.

Paraphrased from Steve sensei, [kendo is like music, mix it up]

Sen

I keep coming back to the meaning of sen.

/sen/
awareness; anticipation; readiness to act

It’s not that I’m overly forgetful but it’s useful to review.

Sente. “First move , initiative ”, abbreviated as sen. The idea of sen is that one is“ready to act”. 

An essay I found by Stephen Quinlan from 2011.


From sen we get the mitsu no sen:

  • sen no sen – I strike you as you begin your attack
  • go no sen – I strike you while you are attacking me
  • sen sen no sen – I strike you just before you begin your attack

One of the references I find most useful is this one from George McCall back from September 2015.


I think this is worth reviewing over and over.