Thursday, April 29, 2010

Rain Rain Rain

My walks for the past couple days have been rained out, but I was able to get in a nice long walk and suburi Tuesday evening. I find that I'm actually kind of enjoying walking now. It gives me a chance to relax, be relatively alone, listen to music, and think about everything that happens to cross my mind (which is mostly Kendo, since I walk to get better at Kendo).

Practice last night, in a nutshell, was tiring, but very satisfying. I had a couple of opportunities to work on my Do strikes with Takado Sensei, who gave me some really good advice on how to approach it. It's all about going back to the basics and starting from there. She had me step in and strike while my back foot came forward, being sure to put a lot of power into the hit and using my hips to drive forward and to the side, thus putting even more power in. By the time she was done helping I was able to get a very solid hit. Hopefully if I keep working on this I can translate it into my normal hit, complete with Fumikomi.

As usual, we started with warm-up drills and a few rounds of Kirikaeshi. I've really been working on using left hand for power and being more accurate and snapping my hits lately, and bringing the shinai all the way over my hit for nice big hits. I think that all the at-home suburi helps with this, as I feel that I'm controlling the kensen a lot more now. At least when I'm fresh and not tired =). Still need to have more speed for later, but that will come in time.

Takado Sensei had us all together as a big group (except for the Nito Kenshi, they are off doing their own training now. On a side note, it will be interesting to start incorporating Nito into our practices, and being able to face Nito players to get a feel for that). We went over basic hits (kihon), including Men, Kote, Do, Kote-Men, and Kote-Taiatari. I appreciate all the Taiatari drills we've had lately, since I'm a bigger guy and feel I can use this to my advantage, not only to drive opponents back but also to stand my ground when someone else runs into me. I've been trying to practice what Sean (McNally Sensei) and Takado Sensei have told me, about using my whole body for power and being sure to not stop myself but act as if I'm going through the opponent when I do Taiatari. It's going to take some getting used to.

Men strikes felt good. I did a few big Men before moving to doing small Men strikes, and again all the at-home practice feels like it's starting to show through. Kote also felt pretty, good, but still I need to remember to step across at the opponent's right foot when I strike. Every once in a while I still hit people's Shinai because I'm not stepping over while striking. It's a subtle movement, I just need to remember to do it.

Do. Where to begin. Still my big problem area at the moment. I'm glad for Takado's advice on this strike, and I'll be working a lot on it. I still feel very weak with it, but I guess one good thing is I feel that my follow through is pretty good. Or after I hit I move out of the way pretty fast, lol.

We had a couple of rounds of Uchikomi, in which we did 2x each Men, Kote-Taiatari-Hiki Men, Do, Kote-Men, and finally a good strong Men to finish out. I was actually pretty tired by this point already, but I gave it my all. Afterward Sean talked to me and said that my basics are so good he's starting to get picky, and that I should make sure that when I turn around immediately ready to go again. I know this is hard for me to do when I'm really tired, but I'll do my best from here on to practice it. I know that in taikai it will probably be a lifesaver.

After a short break we jumped into Kakari-geiko and then some jigeiko to finish things out. I was able to get through a couple of rounds of Kakari-geiko before I had to step out for just a while to catch my breath. I definitely need more endurance...

Jigeiko was very good tonight, even though I was very, very tired. I tried not to let it show but I'm sure that I was a bit slow. I tried some Oji Waza today, and I think I did ok. Some Nuki Men and Debana Kote mostly, but also some Suriage Men. I wonder, if I do Nuki Men and do the Fumikomi in place, will it still count as a valid hit? I tend to do this with people that are faster than me (Marek, I'm thinking about you buddy!). Right now I feel that I am still very new to all of this, but I'm starting to get in a few good hits here and there, and I'm happy for that. If I can get in a few now, and a few more later, and keep building on that then I'll be satisfied. As long as I can do my best Kendo than that's all I can ask for.

Some things to note:

Men: I don't know if I'm leaning or not. I kinda feel sometimes that I am, and that I have to try and sneak forward a bit before launching a Men strike, especially against taller people. Will have to check with a sempai to see if this is the case.

Do: Still working on it. Takado Sensei suggested breaking it down to the basics and working up from there, which I think I will do whenever I get the chance to do waza-geiko with people.

Kote-Men: Make my feet match my Kiai on this. Also the Men hit is the most important, so I should concentrate on getting their Shinai out of the center with the Kote hit. Right now I'm trying to hit both Kote and Men, and I think I'm missing the point of this drill a little bit.

Hiki Waza: I don't have to bring my hands up on a Hiki Kote, because they are already in a "loaded" position. By this I imagine a spring that is compressed and ready to strike. I just need to Fumikomi back and hit. Also for Hiki Men, I still need to lift my hands a little more.

Tsubazeriai: While here I need to do something to open people up. I wait too long for them to do a Hiki Waza or to back down and I try to launch an attack from there. I need to get in, try to find/create the opening and get out, and not spend so much time waiting.

That's all for today! This weekend is Saturday practice/team training, and then our Kendo demo during Bloomsday on Sunday!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ando: The Man, The Myth, The Sensei

Considering I'm still sore from last night, it must have been a good practice =)...

After some warm-ups (those Hayasuburi are easier and easier every time I do them....I think all the at-home suburi is paying off), we jumped straight into our Men and straight into quite a few rounds of Kirikaeshi. Again, as always, we focused on slow, accurate, clean hits before speeding up. When I compare myself to other people in the dojo, especially Sean (who said to me when we started, "Just block as fast as you can"), I feel I'm still really slow at this part, but also I can tell I'm faster than when I first started, or even 6 months ago. Sometimes the climb is only one step at a time, which is ok.

We did a few rounds of basic drills next, with Takado Sensei leading the way. Let me just say, if anyone doesn't know Takado Sensei, she is a great teacher, but I'm pretty sure she is a robot. Or like the Energizer Bunny. She just keeps going, and going, and going...Anyway. We went over Men, Kote, Kote-Men, and Do, before doing all out Uchikomi which included all of these hits at once, with a little Kote-Taiatari-Hiki Men thrown in for good measure. My Kote hits felt good today, I didn't catch anyone's Shinai, but I still need to work on Do. I feel that it's too weak still. Maybe I'm still not fully committing to the hit when I do it. I took some time during waza-geiko to work on it, but I'm still not satisfied with it right now. When no one is in front of me, I can do the hit and the motion just fine. Put someone in front of me and all of a sudden I pull my hits on Do. Definitely a major issue and one I will want to correct ASAP.

Afterward we had time for some Kakarigeiko. Unfortunately I wasn't able to take part because my tape was pulling off of my foot, so I decided to just ditch the tape and wait for jigeiko. I still have a tender spot from where I had a blister last week, but I felt it was good enough to do jigeiko on. But all the moving and turning involved in Kakarigeiko would have done bad things to it for sure.

Jigeiko...my first opponent was probably the hardest person I've ever faced. Ando Sensei. Let's just say it was a humbling experience. I felt as if I had no defense against him. Even when I did block one of his Men strikes he was gone before I could even think of counter-attacking. He tells me I need to hit more. This is true! In my mind I was thinking, "When I try to attack you hit me three times before I can move!!" But on the bright side, this is something I want to strive for. To have such good Kendo that I can see openings and react on them in an instant, that I can hit multiple targets, accurately, as they open up. That I can have the speed to act faster than my opponent, and demonstrate good Zanshin after each hit.

My other opponents in Jigeiko were closer to my own level of experience by comparison, and I fared better against them. I took some good hits, but I also gave some good hits, and I was able to play a bit and get some reactions I was looking for. For instance, in one round I brought my hands up as if I were going to hit Men. When my opponent went to block/counter, I switch and hit Kote as their hands came up. Also played a bit with Nuki Men. I would really like to use this more as I start doing more tournaments (taikai), so I really want to work on it and get it down really well. Last night it was hit and miss, but I felt pretty good when I would do it. I was stepping back far enough to at least get out of the way of my opponent's attack, even if I didn't always have the speed to follow up with an attack of my own. Might need to learn to make my Fumikomi step a LOT shorter on these hits, or even in place. I feel a lot more comfortable doing Jigeiko now. I remember when I first started doing Jigeiko I was so nervous, and I was very hesitant to actually hit people. Now I am able to jump right in, although I still need to make sure I'm not pulling my hits...

After class I went up to thank Takado Sensei for a good practice and we talked a little about my shins. They are definitely feeling a lot better these days. Instead of taking days to feel better, they take an hour or so at the most. I'm able to move around without much pain at all, and even when I walk long distances now I have a mild discomfort, but no pain. Hopefully in a few more months they'll feel good enough for me to try running again.

Some thoughts:

Men: Make sure that I'm using left hand for power, right hand to direct the shinai. I don't know if I was successful at this last night or not, I was concentrating more on making good hits and snapping my wrists back and forward when I swing, but it's always something I want to try and work on whenever I can.

Kote: I was doing better with hitting the opponent's Kote and not their Tsuba, or their Shinai. I need to be sure to step across, like I'm stepping towards their right foot when I strike. This will put me in the proper position so that I can just lift my hands up and bring them down for the Kote hit.

Do: Oy....starting to become my problem area. Don't pull the hit, hit with meaning and commitment, follow through smoothly, and remember to bring my left hand back down to center, just like in Kote when I hit. While doing Do Kirikaeshi I felt good with this, but our regular Do drills were still very weak.

Taiatari: Sean (McNally Sensei) mentioned to me that our Taiatari is really weak, and demonstrated for us that we should come in and crash into our opponent and not stop. He said they should be the ones stopping us, not us stopping ourselves. I'll need to remember to start doing this, as I've always had a habit of stopping myself. Takado Sensei also pointed out that I need to put more of my whole body into the hit, not just my hands.

Hiki Waza: In general, I need to use this more. I have a tendency to try and get my opponent to do Hiki Waza when I'm in Jigeiko, and I need to remember what a valuable technique it is and practice it more myself. If I crash in, take a second or two to look for/create an opening and then go for it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Blisters = No Fun

Oy....Had my first blister in a long time last night, and let me tell you, I DO NOT miss that feeling. Ended up having to tape up my foot pretty heavily for the end of practice. but I pushed on, and I'm glad I did. I didn't do as well as I think I would've without injury, but I'm proud of myself for continuing on. Now, let's get down to business...

Last night was a very good practice, indeed. The focus of the night was on big, proper strikes and cuts. When I say big, I don't mean big as in Jogeburi, where you bring the shinai all the way back to your tailbone and all the way forward. I mean big and is hands over the head, equal distance from the shoulders, wrists back, and shinai no lower than parallel with the floor. After warmups (which we did in 4 lines instead of in a circle like we normally do), Sensei elaborated on proper striking technique for a while, which is always very welcome. Even if I think I know something in Kendo, there's always so much more to learn.

We started with a LOT of Kirikaeshi. At least twice as much as we usually do, and we really focused on bringing our hands up over our head and doing proper strikes throughout. Wendy pointed out that my left hand was slightly out in front of me, which in time will cause me to use too much right hand. I'll be mindful of this in the future, and work hard to correct it.

Next we did a lot of Men drills, and Men variations, such as Men-Taiatari across the dojo floor, and Men and go through, then turn and immediately hit Men again. During these strikes I really focused on my left hand (bringing it all the way above my head before striking), and on my follow through steps. I think the follow-through steps are starting to feel better; I'm getting more comfortable with the shorter steps. I was a bit embarrassed during practice, though. We did a Men drill where we hit Men and go through and then turn to hit Kote immediately after. Sensei had me demonstrate to the class a couple of times, and then pointed out that even though I'm not the fastest person in the dojo, in a shiai setting I would be able to pick off a lot of people that are faster than me if I demonstrate good technique like that. He said a lot of people will be looking for the hit when I turn, not expecting me to be hitting back. Very kind words which I hope I will be able to honor with my continued devotion to improve myself.

We next moved on to some Men-Debana Kote drills. Sensei had us perform the Debana strike while moving backwards and to the side, so he said in that situation we'd really have to be sharp with the Kote strike. Not hit harder, but just sharply and with a lot of commitment (sutemi), to show that we really meant to hit their Kote. I felt really weak today with my Debana strikes, but on the last couple of rotations I really picked it up and put my all into the hits.

We had some time after this for free Waza-geiko, where we get to pick what drill we want to do with our partner. I used the time to focus some more on my Men strikes, and on my Do strikes. Do is still very weak for me, I'll definitely have to pick it up to be able to use it in taikai (tournament) situations.

I had to step up at this time to tape up and jumped back in for a few rounds of Jigeiko. I fought with Jeff again. I'm still trying to figure out a good way to fight such a wall of an opponent... The main things for me right now are to not back up against such an opponent and to try and find an exploit a weakness in his technique...at my experience level that is a tall order, indeed.

We finished class with an interesting drill that I had never done before. We had one person stand in the middle with 3 hitters on each side. Hitters would take turns trying to hit Men on the person in the middle, which the person in the middle would counter with Do. They would hit on one side, then turn in place and hit on the other side. The drill was very fast, and I have to admit that I downright sucked at it. My problem was taking too many steps. Sensei pointed out that I should take one small step to the side as I strike, and then turn and hit the next person. I knew what I needed to do in my head, I understood it, I just couldn't get my body to do it. I kept getting a feeling that I needed to step out of the way, even though the hitters were instructed to go around me. Oh well, practice, practice, and more practice!

Overall a great night, and I hope that my wound heals soon. Some points that I took away from last night:

-Men: When doing big swings be sure to bring my left hand all the way above my head, don't leave it hanging out in front of me.

-Do: Needs to one fluid motion from start to finish. Right now I have two motions: The hit, and the follow through with a very tangible pause between the two. I need to commit to the strike and commit to following through after, I think this will help bring the two motions together for me.

Ashi Sabaki: I'm feeling better with the follow-through steps. Still working on them, though. When I turn to face the opponent I still tend to bring my left foot in front of my right before I turn.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sick and Tired

Practice last night was very bittersweet, but mostly sweet. I saw bitter because a few rounds into jigeiko and I had to step out because I felt extremely tired. I sat for a while, catching my breath, hoping to feel better. I didn't. I ended up feeling pretty nauseous so I decided it would be safer to sit out the rest of the time then try and push it. Not sure what caused it but hopefully I'll do better on Wednesday.

I arrived at the dojo early and did some warm-up suburi and stretching while the beginning class was in session. A LOT of katate suburi. I want to really get used to delivering power using my left arm so I don't have to think about it. I can focus my mind on other aspects that I need to work on.

We started off with 4 or 5 rounds of Kirikaeshi last night. First nice and slow, then we picked up the pace and went all out by the end. I think that I'm getting better with being faster. I didn't notice my shoulders tensing up as much last night. The last time we did super-fast Kirikaeshi I could definitely feel the tension in my shoulders. For me it seems like a step in the right direction.

Next we moved onto some basic uchikomi with Men, Kote, Do and really emphasized good clean hits. I felt good with a lot of them, but my follow-through steps are still a little weird. I'm trying to keep my left foot from going in front of my right when I go through, and that is hard to do while also trying to speed past my opponent. More practice.

We continued on with some Kote to Taiatari, and then Kote-Taiatari-Hiki Men, and finally starting at Taiatari we did Hiki Men-Men. I need to remember to step into the Taiatari to receive it. I was doing this for the most part, except a couple of times against Marek because he is way faster than I am and he seemed to hit and then be right there in my face. The next drill went well. I was able to hit Kote, come to Taiatari, and then bounce back with my Hiki Men pretty well. If anything I would say a little more fumikomi when I go back. And always to make sure that my feet are in the right position when I'm in Tsubazeriai.

Hiki Men-Men felt good, too. I really think the advice I got from Billy is helping me a lot on this one. I used to be really slow stepping back and then launching forward again, but last night when I did the drill I was able to spring forward a lot faster. I still need some work, but I think I am on the right track. But, who am I kidding, I could work on this stuff for a lifetime and still find things to fix =).

After these we did Men Debana Kote and a drill where the receiver would hit Kote and the hitter would hit Kote/Men, first to knock down the Kote and then to hit a good Men strike. I didn't get to do much of the Debana drill, since we only did a couple rounds of it, but what I did felt good. Although for myself I would say that I need to bring my hands up a little further for the Kote strike. my fumikomi was basically in place for it, since my opponent was very fast on his strike. I would fumikomi in place, do the Kote strike, and then push through and past him. But yes, need more movement when I do Debana Kote. Little more lift, little more wrist snap.

For the other drill we were supposed to keep the center. Sensei Wendy said to make the opponent afraid of our center and force them to go to the side while we keep the center and hit Men. I wasn't too successful with this. I mean I could do the drill ok, but it felt kinda sloppy to me. Not sure if it was any certain part, or all of it as a whole. It's a good technique, but I will need a lot more practice with it if I hope to use it sometime. Might've just been my shinai speed. I felt really slow while doing the Kote and Men strikes...

All in all, a good practice. We had some birthday Kakarigeiko last night for one of our students (Happy Birthday, Mark!), and that is always fun to watch. Some thoughts:

Men: Don't lean! Wendy pointed out that when I hit Men I was leaning forward a bit and leading with my shoulders. She said that the movement, the power, should come from my center and my hips driving me forward. Also, Mark pointed out earlier that when I hit I was turning my right shoulder into the Men strike, to try and get a little more distance on it. He said this was a dead giveaway and that my shoulders should be square and moving forward together.

Kote: Like I pointed out earlier, I need to be a little bigger with my Debana Kote. Also during normal Kote strikes I need to remember to step towards my opponent's right foot. This will put me in the proper position to hit their Kote. Something that I normally do, but lately I've been forgetting to do it...

Do: I need to commit to the strike more. I was very soft on my Do hits last night, which I don't like. I need to fully commit to it (sutemi).

I talked to Wendy after class and she said that I was looking really good in practice. I just hope to keep doing the best I can.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Japan Week!!




Japan Week started today, with a big opening ceremony at the downtown mall, which we were a part of. Unfortunately my camera was dying so I was only able to get pictures of our Kendo demonstration, but they also had Taiko drumming, singing, and traditional dancing, including the Bon dance which I took part in. It was definitely a lot of fun!





We start with Kata. My partner and I did Kata 2 & 3, and we had other Kenshi around us doing two Kata, as well, so we showed all the Kata up through 7.

Afterwards we put our Men on and did some uchikomi geiko. We started with Kirikaeshi, and then 2x each of Men, Kote, Do. Then we switched to Kote-Men and Men-Taiatari-Hiki Do-Kote-Men (That's a mouthful!).





That was the end of the demonstration for me, but we had a few jigeiko matches after our part was done. They did a good job of demonstrating to the crowd what a real match would be like. Overall I would say that our demo went very well. We were all very loud and full of spirit and demonstrated good, clean Kendo.


After the demonstration we all went out for sushi. What a great way to end our day together!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

6a.m. Suburi!

It was not easy getting up this morning. I didn't get to bed until about 11:30 last night, after a quick bite, cleaning my armor, hanging up my keikogi and hakama, and getting ready for bed. 6a.m. came WAY too fast, but I'm glad I was able to drag myself out of bed and do some suburi. I had a nice view of the sun coming up over the hills and houses as I went through my various drills (9 different drills with 30 strikes each, plus some extra Hayasuburi at the end, because, well, I wanted to!).

Practice last night was really good, although my mom didn't show up. I was hoping she would come and catch my practice, but since she'll soon be moving over here then she'll have time to come another time. We started with our normal warm-up exercises and suburi, then moved straight to some Kirikaeshi, really focusing on making good clean cuts. After a few rounds of that (both slow and faster at the end), we did a lot of work on Men strikes. Katate Men, to help us focus on driving the shinai with the left arm and using it for power instead of the right arm. I really liked these drills as we seldom do them, so it's nice for a change of pace here and there, and it definitely helped me focus on my left arm the rest of the night.

We also did some Kote and Do, and then Kote-Men and Kote-Do drills. I felt comfortable with the Kote-Do, but my Kote and Kote-Men strikes were off for some reason. I was trying to go too short on the hits and kept hitting the tops of people's Shinais =(. Oh well. I just need to relax and focus on the cut more, maybe make my movements a bit bigger for now.

We also focused on Taiatari during a lot of the later drills, which was very helpful for me, as I learned some more about the proper way to do Taiatari and where my feet and hands should be. Ando sensei pointed out that we should be taking a slight step forward when we receive Taiatari, to kind of brace ourselves for the impact. Left hand should still be at center, right hand should come up above the left, and palms should be facing the opponent to give more surface area to receive. A lot to think about when someone is rushing in at you after a hit, but hopefully with practice it'll become second nature.

*for those of you who don't know, Taiatari is a term used to describe when one Kenshi crashes into another one, usually after attempting a strike. Taiatari is the actual crashing that happens, and can often be a very violent action*

Jigeiko went well. I think I gave just as much as I received. Maybe. One lady in our dojo, Jean, really beat me up, though. She is a very sneaky lady, I could learn a lot. At one point she hit me two or three times with Kote, so when I saw her motion for it again I went to block and she hit my Men!

I was able to use a Men block that my buddy (and Sensei) showed me before class very effectively, following it up with a solid Men strike afterwards. I was very proud of this one moment, and I'll continue to work on that block so I can use it more effectively.

Men: Use it more! I tried concentrating on this during jigeiko last night, and I think I was doing ok with it, but I definitely need to look for more openings or create more opportunities to use it.

Kote: Don't be in such a rush, take my time, make a slightly bigger swing so I'm sure to get over the opponent's Shinai. I'm pretty good at going under their Shinai, but I don't want that to be the only way I can hit Kote effectively

Hiki Waza: Bring my hands up a little higher when making the strike. I did catch myself doing this a couple of times, and it was reinforced by Sensei's wife pointing it out. I'll be sure to work on this, so that I can land my Hike Men strikes on top of the Men instead of on the Mengane (grill).

Taiatari: Be sure to have my feet in a proper position when going into Taiatari. Sensei's wife pointed out that my left heel was up too high when I would crash into my opponent. I need to have it down close to the ground a good stance so that I can move wherever I need to out of Tsubazeriai.

Ashi sabaki: I'm still working on my follow-through steps, making sure that they are nice and smooth and that my left foot isn't going in front of my right foot. I definitely feel like I'm shuffling around more when I do this!

After practice I spoke with Sensei's wife, and she said that I move very fluidly and that I have really good basics, but to be sure to pay attention to where I'm hitting. Make sure if I'm going for Shomen that my Shinai strikes right at the center and on top of the Men. Likewise for Kote and Do. I appreciated her kind words and advice and will be sure to utilize it in future classes. She says a lot of this comes from using the left arm/right arm for power. If I continue to work on using the left arm for power, then my right arm is freed up to direct the Shinai to where I want it.

I'm very much looking forward to this weekend. Japan Week starts here and we are doing a Kendo demonstration as part of the opening ceremony. Hopefully I'll get some good pics and be able to post some here!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It's all about the follow-through

Practice last night was really good. I paced myself and was able to last the whole time. My mind is totally set on Obukan in June, so everything I'm doing in practice right now has the focus behind it. I want to do my best, win or lose. If I can do that, I'll be happy. Plus it will be fun to test my Kendo against others and see what is good and what needs improvement. I'm sure I need a LOT of improvement. I can see things that are obvious to me, but it will be interesting to be in a taikai setting and see what other things come out to work on.

Kiai: Mine is getting to be very loud and forceful. I was playing with different timings last night, but still it's something that I have to consciously do. If I keep practicing though, using different variations and timings then hopefully one of these days it will just flow naturally, without thinking.

Fumikomi: I'm getting a lot better with keeping my foot down while doing Fumikomi. Sensei said that he didn't notice me lifting my foot way off the floor anymore, which is good. I'm getting to that point where I don't have to think about it as much anymore, which is really good. It frees up my mind to focus on other areas that I need to improve.

Follow-through: Sensei pointed out an interesting issue that I have now. He says that after I make a hit, on my follow-through steps the first few are ok and then my left foot starts going way out in front of my right foot. I've never noticed this before, and it's never been mentioned to me before, so I can only assume it's a new issue that's popped up. I'll need to work on keeping my left foot from going in front of my right foot while stepping through, up until I turn around.

Men: Not a big deal, but Sensei's wife pointed out that when I was doing Kirikaeshi my Shinai was not in the center when I did my Shomen strikes. I focused on that for the rest of the drills and was able to bring it back. But it's something to be mindful of for the future.

I felt really good during Jigeiko practice, too. I was moving around more, I had more of an aggressive approach to it, compared to before when I was more defensive and reacted to what my opponent would do instead of initiating attacks myself. I could be totally wrong, though =).

I had a very good Men strike on one of my opponents. No tricks, no nothing, just a beautiful Shomen strike. his shinai tip left the midline for just a second and I sprang forward. I felt really good with that one. I know that I still need to work on openings for Men, and for Do, but this one little strike made me feel good, and hopeful for the future.

Current at-home Exercises:
  • Walking - 30+ minutes, 4 - 5 times/wk
  • Suburi - 30 times each, 3 - 4 times/wk (not including normal practice)
  • Core exercises - 3 times/wk
  • Metal bar - 3 times/wk

3/18/2010

I've been productive on my blog this month! Yay for me!

Footwork: This didn't use to be an issue, but ever since I started wearing my bogu I've been doing weird things with my feet. Namely lifting my right foot WAY up during Fumikomi. Sensei gave me some advice to fix it. He said to slide my foot forward about six inches or so and then Fumikomi and it should help keep that right foot down where it's supposed to be. I know that when I consciously think about it I can do it right, but when I start thinking about other things I start lifting my foot up.

He also said to snap my left foot into place faster. He said that I should almost be hitting as my left foot is coming up to my right foot after the Fumikomi, that's how fast it should be. When I started thinking about this, it also helped to keep my right foot down during Fumikomi. I'll just have to practice this until it becomes natural again.

I'm also still working on turning with my weight/direction forward, instead of stepping back when I turn. I was pretty sloppy with this last night.

Strikes: We did a lot of Kote/Men Waza last night. Sensei pointed out that I am too big on my Men strikes. Again, when I think about it I can fix it, but when I'm not thinking about it I tend to let my Shinai go too far back. Again, something to practice. He said that I have strong forearms and shoulder muscles, and that I'm using the right groups, but that I just need to shorten up my swing and get rid of the wasted movement.

Hiki Men: Mark Bedell noticed that I wasn't bringing my left hand up far enough when I do Hiki Men, so I will try and remember to do that next time we practice. And that when I'm in Taiatari and do Hiki Kote, I can hit straight from where my hands are. Since they are already bent at the wrists all I need to do is Fumikomi back and snap my wrists forward to hit; I don't need to lift up and then bring them back down. Again, wasted movement.

3/16/2010

Had practice with Takado Sensei yesterday.....oh my goodness. THAT was tough! It felt really good, even though I was tired beyond belief. She said it was the curriculum she was putting together for national team training, so I feel pretty accomplished because I was able to get through...mostly. I still am not wearing my Men so I didn't do Jigeiko (well, I did, but just without my Men, meaning I got hit in the Kote and Do a lot).

-Footwork: I was working on turning last night, with my weight forward again. I think that I was doing a pretty good job for just starting. Now I need to move past my opponents a bit more before turning, because I have a different distance since I'm stepping into them when I turn instead of stepping back.

-Debana Waza: I SUCK at this. Will have to work on it a bit more. Takado Sensei pointed out that on Debana Kote I can strike from my normal Kote position instead of having to bring my hands all the way up and then strike. I have the right idea, I just need to focus more, Sutemi, commit myself to the attack.

-Jigeiko: Had my first round of Jigeiko with Takado Sensei, and she schooled me good... This one, I think, just comes down to practice. In order to see those openings and opportunities on an opponent that is actively trying to do the same to me, I need to practice. To be able to recognize the subtle hints and read them clearly.

3/13/2010 - Bogu!!


FINALLY!! I have my armor! I received it on Monday, and I absolutely LOVE IT!!! But now the real work begins. Monday practice involved me fighting with my Kote the whole time, trying to hold a proper Kamae and grip on my Shinai when I'd swing. This led to a lot of weird issues I was having with...well....everything!

Wednesday was a lot better. I was able to concentrate on things other than my Kote, so I was able to fix the abnormalities that popped up on Monday. Sensei gave me permission to wear my Do whenever I wanted, too....

...which I did today. It actually felt really good. I thought my arms would be way out to the side, but they weren't. It didn't restrict my movement or anything at all...BUT, it did make me tired a lot faster, since it's more added weight. I'll just keep practicing with it and pretty soon I'll be used to it.

-Footwork: We did a drill today where we hit various targets, and push through, and then immediately have to turn around and hit again. I REALLY need to work on being ready to move and strike again after I turn. this might be my biggest weakness right now. Having my feet in the proper stance, and being ready to explode after I turn. Also I need to not leave my left foot trailing behind after I do Fumikomi. I worked on this on Wednesday night and I think that I got the idea, but I need to be mindful of it.

-Kiai: I think it's sounding better. I'm definitely loud enough now. I still need to vary it a bit. Mix it up, change it here and there. I'll keep playing with this.

-Endurance: I really need to work on my endurance. I get tired way too fast sometimes. This is an issue that will take many things to fix. Changing my diet, more exercise (although I am running and doing team training more, so that helps a lot), sleep, etc, etc.

3/2/2010

Had a nice blood blister on my hand last night....didn't notice until halfway through the very last drill. Oh well. No pain, no gain, right? I also was asked to lead the intermediate class. I was so very nervous, but I did my best and heard I did a good job with it.

-Footwork: I need to remember to move from my center. Wendy pointed out that was a leaning ever so slightly last night. Remember, lead with my center, move with my center. As she says, imagine that I'm going to go in and give someone a "chest bump". I can do it when I think about it, now to move that from conscious thought into unconscious action.

-Strikes: Still need to work on my small strikes (Men, Kote, Do). I think I'm lacking in that department. Maybe I will have someone go over it with me before class one of these days.

-Kiai: I still need to vary my Kiai....Still working on that one.

2/23/2010

-Strikes: I think I'm doing better with keeping my sword a bit higher and not going all the way back when I swing. I've been very mindful of it lately. Also I was having an issue with keeping my left arm tucked in when I strike, so I've also been trying to remember to bring it out even with my right arm. Not sure how well that is going, but at least I'm aware of it and actively trying to fix it.

-Footwork: Not sure if this is an issue, and it hasn't been brought up by Sensei or anyone else, but I think I might be raising my right foot too high up when I do Fumikomi. Again, not sure on this one, but sometimes as I'm striking and going through it feels like it's way up off the ground. I read a suggestion by someone that said to "pretend that you are trying to kick the other person in the shin with your right foot." When I thought about this on one of the drills it felt like my foot was lower in the Fumikomi, so maybe a good piece of advice to hang on to.

Also I need to work on turning and being ready to go in a split second. A lot of times I catch myself off balance or taking an extra step to get the proper stance again.

-Kiai: I have varied the length of my Kiais, but I need to vary the Kiai itself, too. Will play with this at the next practice.

-Do Strikes: Need to not be in so deep on the cut. I'm hitting with the middle of my Shinai. Need to hit with the tip. I need to remember Billy's advice to turn my upper body as I strike which will give me more room to play with.

1/19/2009

Wow...been a while since I last posted...

-Harai-Kote: Figured out, after some pointer from Mark B, that I was "flourishing" my shinai too much when coming around to the left side. He pointed out to try doing a kind of sideways "Z" movement, where I move down and to the left, then up and to the right (knocking the opponent's shinai out of the way at this point), and then down again and center to hit Kote. I worked on this quite a bit and was actually getting pretty fast with it. Sensei says to knock the opponent's shinai out of the way a bit more, but other than that my technique is looking really good.

-Kiai: Sensei pointed out today that my Kiai is very even, which is good for hitting and going through, but he said to switch it up a bit before I go. I have a tendency to fall into a pattern, and he said that can be harmful if I start doing it in tournaments. I will have to work on changing up my Kiai a bit (adding different ones, being longer, shorter, spacing out times from when I Kiai to when I strike, etc). I'll be sure to play with it in the next practice.

-Footwork: Need to work on my footwork for Kote-Men. With as tall as I am, and my reach, I need to do the first Fumikomi in place, and then a short step into the Men strike.

-Strikes: Sensei says that big swings are too basic for me at this point. I need to start incorporating more small strikes into my practice, so I get used to them. Also during Kirikaeshi, remember to shorten up my swings a bit. It doesn't feel like it, but he says I'm going all the way back on my swings. need to go back just far enough for my sword to be parallel to the ground.

10/29/2009

More practice. I'm happy to say that my shins seem to be getting better. Still sore and tender to the touch, but I haven't woken up to the throbbing pain and having to limp about for days after, which is a very very good sign. Also the breathing exercises are going quite well!

-Maai: I'm getting better at using the tip of my shinai to hit. A little too well last night; during Kirikaeshi on the first Fumikomi Men hit I was just a fraction of an inch too far back and totally missed the receiver's shinai....but I have the right idea! Now need to work on correct distance for Do hits. I find that I am always too close, no matter how far back I start. Sensei says I need to shorten my steps, but even when I do that I feel too close. Billy suggests that I turn my hips more when I hit. The technique and swing will be correct, but the turning of the hips will bring my shinai to the side more, and hit further out toward the tip. I will have to try this at next practice.

10/22/2009

Practice, practice, practice. Here are some more thoughts:

-Spirit: The last practice we worked on keeping our spirit really high, and this helped immensely with my technique. After doing Kirikaeshi, Sensei pointed out that it was the best he'd seen us do it so far (there were a handful of us in the class at the time). He said that when we concentrated on Spirit and keeping it high, the rest of our techniques fell into place. Not perfect, but loads better.

-Maai: I still need to work on my distance. Hitting with the tip of the Shinai. I need to use that reach and the full length of the sword. The further out I can hit from, the better advantage I will have. I catch myself thinking about this a lot, and I'm working towards a point where it will come naturally.

9/25/2009

I will be moving over what little entries I have from my previous site. They are all in rough draft form. Just ideas flowing freely after class...

......Thinking about what I need to work on in my Kendo training. Mayhaps it will help if I jot them down here:

Maai: Not only proper distance from my opponent, and learning to adjust my steps to compensate for longer or shorter distances, but also learning to hit consistently with the very tip of my Shinai (Kensen). This starts to become a problem when I'm tired.

Footwork: Always a big issue for me. I need to learn to be lighter on my feet (I'm sure my feet will thank me, as I will begin to eliminate blisters). Also need to be sure to have proper footwork and technique all throughout practice. Also on the step to Fumikomi. to the sides isn't too bad, but stepping back and then lunging forward is VERY slow for me.

Striking: Small strikes, especially small Do strikes. Need to get that down and then add in my Fumikomi and work on them together. Also need to work on not popping up my left hand while doing small strikes. It's a bad habit and one I hope to correct early. Also need to work on Hiki Waza, especially Do and Kote. I suck at those...

Tenouchi: I've been concentrating on this lately, but I need to be more consistent with it.

Kamae: Get used to stretching out more. Hold the sword away from my body, about a fist or so away from my center. Sensei pointed out that I hold Kamae too close to my body.

Stamina: Need to work on this a lot, so I can go and go and go and go....you get the point. It's slowly building up through practice itself, but I want to do some other things to build stamina, as well.

A journey begins

Hello all,

I have been keeping a Kendo journal of sorts, to record my experiences in keiko and to have a reference to look back at later on to see what I've improved, what still needs work, what has changed, what hasn't, and everything in between. Since my previous blogging tool decided to stop recording entries for me (grrrr....) I will now be using this site.

I have been doing Kendo, all in all, for about a year and a half. I started in 2005 at the Spokane Kendo Club, and was there for about 6 months before life, and my job at the time, took me away. It took me 4 years, but I finally got back into Kendo last May, and have been doing it ever since then.

For me, Kendo is a great thing in my life. It helps relieve stress. It pushes me to exercise and get myself into the best shape that I can so I can be better. It helps form friendship and team-spirit with my fellow Kendoka. The list is endless.

It's definitely not an easy road. Kendo takes discipline, time, and a whole lot of effort. It takes a humble spirit to realize that you know nothing, so that you can be filled up with the knowledge and experience offered by your Senseis and Senpais.

I make no claim to know everything about Kendo. I know very, very little, and will be the first to admit it. I'm of the mindset that Kendo is an art that would take many lifetimes to master, but in this one that I am given I will do my best to learn all that I can and try to understand all that I can.